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Biofile Johnny Rodz Interview

Status: Hall of Fame World Wrestling Federeration professional wrestler from 1965 to 1985.

DOB: May 16, 1941 In: Puerto Rico

Ht: 5-11 Wt: 240

First Memory Of Wrestling: The one that sticks out – the first time I worked in Madison Square Garden in 1963, the old Garden, not the new Garden. I wrestled a fellow from Pittsburgh, a friend of Bruno Sammartino. Both of us were substitutes. We wrestled for over fifteen minutes. It was a great opportunity for me, my fourth pro match. I think my arms, shoulder, chest and my head all grew a few inches. It was an important moment for me. My first pro match was in Commack, Long Island. I almost missed the call from Arnold Skaaland, who said he needed a sub tonight.

Wrestling Inspirations: Miguel Perez and Antonino Rocca, from Argentina, the tag team. My mother (Juana) would jump up and down when they were in the ring. She was a real wrestling fan. If you made her mad she would punch your lights out [laughs].

Greatest Career Moment: When I won a 22-man Battle Royale at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1976. It was like Wrestlemania today, one wrestler from every territory. I was champion for one year, I was champion for the entire world for that.

Most Painful Moment: When I had to leave my championship, end of 1976. I had to come home (to Puerto Rico) and get divorced. A rough year for me.

Funny Career Memory: Is trying to get Gorilla Monsoon’s $20 after saying that he can’t body slam me in Asbury Park Arena. Gorilla Monsoon was 6-5, 450 pounds. 20 minutes in the ring he couldn’t pick me up and body slam me. He cheated! In Virginia, Mr. Universe Earl Maynard bet that I couldn’t body slam him and then he put oil all over his body so I couldn’t slam him.

Favorite Movie: Taken with Liam Neeson. His daughter gets taken in the Middle East. Great movie, great action.

Last Book Read: I’m reading now Dr. D David Schultz, Don’t Call Me A Fake.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: I have two. First I like pistachio, then strawberry.

Funniest Wrestlers Encountered: [Laughs] Will be Red Bastien and Pete Sanchez. He’s a character. Gorilla Monsoon used to love his jokes and gestures, his belly went up and down. It made him feel good. Dominic Denucci was funny…he would say: “I’m an old Denucci bag!” A sweetheart. We miss the guy.

Favorite Sports To Watch Outside Wrestling: Anything to do with fighting. I did Jiu-jitsui when I was fourteen, I did some wrestling and boxing. I like anything to do with grappling and fighting.

Three Athletes You Like To Watch & Follow: I like all, and no favorite. There’s a whole slew of them. Nobody special. You like one but there’s always somebody better out there.

Favorite Arenas To Wrestle In: Madison Square Garden is the first one. Then the Spectrum in Philadelphia is one of the greatest. And Boston Garden. And I can’t leave out the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles where that memory sticks with me till the day I die. You can only be champion once but once you are champion you are always a champion. I was champion of the world. You gotta be proud of that.

First Car: Chevy Vega.

Current Car: Hyundai Tucson. I like it.

Quote: Vince McMahon used me a lot of years (1965-1985) to help him make stars. I helped him to make a lot of stars.

Why Do You Love Wrestling: Because I had nothing else to do. My story goes back too far. I was born in the hills of Puerto Rico with nothing. I didn’t go to school till 12. Life goes different ways, you never know which way life will go. I was married, boy and girl, married again, boy and girl, eight grand children.

Worst Injury: A fractured left ankle. I was wrestling Luscious Johnny Valiant in the old Spectrum on Market Street, 14,000 people. I went to bear hug him and lift him, my foot got caught in somehow. I missed three months. Hurt my achilles in Madison Square Garden wrestling The British Bulldog. Groin injury. A few here and there.

Nickname: The Unpredictable. (How did you get it?) Because the way I grew up. The way I am. I never planned to get into the business. How I got in, how I survived. When I went in the ring, I was not a regular wrestler, do the same things over and over. In my head, my world, whatever character I’m with, that’s how the match will go that I’m going to do. The fans pay good money to see good matches, this is entertainment, I want to make fans happy and be unpredictable, make action. I did a lot of matches for Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. On the TV shows Vince Jr. started to say, “Uh oh, here comes the unpredicable one Johnny Rodz…” It became my original thing.

People Qualities Most Admired: Sense of humor is good. But also tell the truth whenever the truth needs to be told. Don’t get angry if I’m trying to tell the truth. Good attitude.

Hall of Fame Induction: 1996. They asked me if I wanted to be inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame. I was inducted with Arnold Skaaland, who gave me my first job, with Vince Sr., Pat Patterson, Mikel Scicluna, Lou Albano, Killer Kowalski.

(Thanks to Steve Devito for setting up this Biofile interview done by phone with Johnny yesterday while enroute from home in Staten Island, NY on his way to his wrestling school at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, NY.)

Johnny Rodz vs WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund

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