Saturday, October 28, 2023

Archive Interview: Les Thatcher

(originally published 7/27/05)

Not only is Les Thatcher a legend in the pro-wrestling industry, but he is also one of the most diverse people in the industry. Thatcher began his career as a wrestler, and made many accomplishments, including becoming an NWA (Mid-Atlantic) Tag Team Champion. Thatcher later became an announcer for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and also was involved with the production of the shows. During this stage of his career, Thatcher also involved himself with pro-wrestling publications in various capacities, even designing and editing the very first four color WWWF magazine in 1978! In recent years, he started the Heartland Wrestling Association, and has been training the wrestling stars of the future as a part of Elite Pro Wrestling Training.

Q: How long have you been involved in the business?

A: I had my first professional match 45 years ago this past July 4th in Blue Hills, Maine.

Q: Why did you enter the pro-wrestling industry?

A: I became hooked on wrestling at about 8 years of age, and turned pro at 19.

Q: Where did you receive your training to become a pro- wrestler?

A: At what was probably the first wrestling school in the country. It was Tony Santos School of Wrestling in Boston, Mass.

Q: What do you like the most about being in the business?

A: I enjoy using my creatively whether it e in the ring, hosting television, or laying out shows.

Q: Which do you feel was your best match?

A: That is tough to say, I was blessed to be a worker when some of the best ever were in their prime, and had the chance to work with most. Maybe one I remember most was 1975 in Knoxville against Danny Hodge. We went the time limit, and were given two 5 minute over times, and they finally flipped a coin to see who would wrestle Ken Mantel for the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Title, as Ken was champion at the time.

Q: Which was your favorite match?

A: Any match where the fans were up for it, and my opponent and I both had fun, and didn't get hurt.

Q: Which do you feel was your best match that you ever called?

A: You, know I have never been ask this question, and I really don't know. I wrestled the average of 5 nights a week for twenty years, so I have called my share, but that is something you just went out there and did, and you really didn't stop to think about it.

Q: Which match did you enjoy calling the most?

A: I guess I would have to say, any match that was a good one.

Q: How did you come about deciding to start your own promotion?

A: Actually just started the promotion because the wrestlers I was training needed someplace to try what they were learning. Being a promoter in the one thing I enjoyed least in the business.

Q: When did you start the HWA?

A: I started HWA in 1995, and sold the company in 2003

Q: The HWA was fortunate enough to be a developmental territory for WWE and WCW. How did the developmental relationships with these two companies originally begin?

A: Some of my trainees had been used by both companies as enhancement talent, over a few years, and they knew that my people were technically sound, and were trained right. Plus people in both companies that worked in those departments had wrestled with me, and knew my work ethic.

Q: Did WWE give an explanation as to why they ended the WWE-HWA relationship?

A: Yes, very simple, they were showing a loss, they are publicly held, and they had to down size. The relationship was solid, and I still have a good relationship with the company today.

Q: How did the WCW-HWA relationship come to an end? Was it ended before WCW was purchased by WWE?

A: Yes, it was ended almost in the same manner. WCW had lost something like 60 million, and had to cut back. That was about 6 or 7 months before the sale.

Q: During your time running the HWA, the company was known for presenting, "Brian Pillman Memorial" Shows. What was the relationship between you and Pillman? Were you friends, or were these shows done out of respect for a fellow member of the business?

A: Brian and I were not extremely close. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and when he was trying to get back in ring shape after the wreck, he came up to my gym to use the ring, and to workout with some of the kids. The idea for the Pillman shows was out of respect for Brian.

Q: Why did you sell the HWA?

A: I sold HWA, because I was ready to move on to other things, and with my wife retired, I wanted to work from home, and we were just putting together EPWT, and traveling for that and trying to run a gym on a daily basis was just too much.

Q: You have taken your knowledge and experience within the pro-wrestling industry and put it to use as a trainer at Elite Pro Wrestling Training. How does your school differ from others? Also, has it produced any talent that you predict big things for in the future?

A: Actually EPWT isn't a school as such, and we don't have a building in that name. Harley has his school in Missouri, Dr. Tom is training guys at a school in Tennessee, and I am training just where ever we have a camp. I may get a small set-up here near home so i can do some private training because I have wrestlers wanting to come in for just a few days at a time. What we offer that you can't get anywhere else is a combined 150 plus years of pro wrestling experience between all of us. Ricky is offering our style backstage now with WWE as an agent, and between Harley, Doc, and myself we have touched the careers of a huge amount of wrestlers working for WWE, TNA, ROH, Japan, and others. Between Harley and I we have had six athletes signed to WWE developmental contracts this year alone. With EPWT we work with over 250 different athletes over the year, and there are several with bright futures.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: What spare time? Besides the training company I write a weekly column, co-host "Wrestling Weekly", and I am on the board of directors for Cauliflower Alley Club, and consulting for a start up promotion in Oklahoma.

Q: What has been your proudest achievement in the business?

A: I am proud of my career in general, but this year may have the two things I am most proud of. I was awarded the second highest honor in the Cauliflower Alley Club in April by being given the Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award, coming from my peers that is huge, and our training manual will be in book stores in September. It is by Harley, Ricky, and myself, with Alex Marvez, and a forward by Jim Ross, and published by Sports Publishing LLC. The title is "The Professional Wrestler's Instructional and Workout Guide".

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Les Thatcher. In 2003, I began running my own website, World Wrestling Optimum, which consisted of news, articles, and interviews, including this one.

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