Orton on bumps, Japan and his son
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling
Cowboy Bob Orton has been wrestling a long time. Now, at 49, he can look
back at his career with ease, savouring the good times, but not dwelling
on the problems, the could-have beens.
'Cowboy' Bob Orton
These days, he plays golf during the summer, and helps to coach high
school wrestling during the winter. And three or four times a month, he
puts the trunks back on and is a pro wrestler again.
"I love wrestling. I've wrestled since I was nine years old. It's in the
blood," Orton recently told SLAM! Wrestling. His father Bob Orton Sr.
was a well-known pro wrestler, and Junior knew that he had to follow his
It wasn't an easy path to follow. Senior "was against it at first," said
Orton Jr. "He thought I was too small. But once I started going, and was
successful, he got on the bandwagon."
Orton Jr. started as a referee in the early seventies. "Eddie Graham
was the promoter down in Florida, who I started wrestling amateur for
when I was about nine. He had a wrestling school down there. So I got
married, and decided that school wasn't going to work. [Graham] wouldn't
let me wrestle, but he would let me referee. I got up to a couple
hundred pounds, I think it was -- there weren't any 'roids or anything
back then, or at least I didn't know about them."
Orton Jr. trained with Hiro Matsuda, Jack Brisco and Eddie Graham. He
lost his first match in Florida to George McCreary.
For the next twenty years, Orton was on the road. His base was the
American southeast, mainly Florida and Georgia. His favorite promoter
was Sam Mushnick in St. Louis.
He made many trips to Japan, even though he didn't enjoy it. "After I'd
been [to Japan] once or twice, it got to where I just wanted to go
home," Orton explained. "It's an annoying country, if you can understand
what I mean," going on to say that everything is smaller - especially to an American the size of Orton - and he didn't speak the language. Yet for three or four years,
all that Orton did was travel to Japan because he made good money.
Being away from home was tough, but it wasn't strange to him - his
father had led the same nomadic lifestyle.
"[My father] was gone a lot, just like my kids when they were younger, I
was gone a lot," Orton Jr. said. "I didn't really know my dad until I
was probably out of school. It's tough. You've got to take care of
yourself a lot. Of course, my mom was great. You know, it's just the way
life is. You've got to go with what you're dealt."
Cowboy Bob Orton never got to be a world champion, though he battled
many of them. "I guess I wasn't ready for it," Orton surmised. "I had a
lot of regional championships, and world tag team championships and
stuff. So, I've been on top and looked down the hill at everybody."
He also never got to see his brother Barry rise much above jobber status
as Barry O.
"He never got a break," said Orton of his brother. "It's a shame,
because he was a pretty good hand." He said that his brother now does
computer work in Las Vegas.
When asked about his regrets, and whether he would do it all again,
Orton offered an interesting response. "I wouldn't take the goofy bumps.
Maybe the back wouldn't have went out and I wouldn't have had to needed
to substance abuse there for a while to keep going, there's so much
pain. I would've done more with the weights, I never was a real big
weightlifter-type. I think it will protect your frame. I think that's
where I kind of ran into a problem. My son, now I'm grooming my son to
start. He's 19, 6'5", probably weighs 250 [pounds]."
Turns out that just as he followed his father Bob Orton Sr. into the
squared circle, and now he's training his son Randy to be a professional
There's no talk of Bob Orton Jr. Jr. as a gimmick though. Orton said
that Randy will "be whatever Randy wants to be." 'Ace' Orton is not a
big fan of today's wrestling scene, and said that on Monday nights he
has to leave the house because his son watches so much of it.
Orton would like to see his son go to WCW. "It seems like they wrestle
more down there and they've got the more qualified guys in the ring. It
seems like New York, they have kind of gone towards that extreme thing,
FAN Q & A
Q: I've never asked anyone this, but I've always meant to.
What was it like to have a doll of yourself? I loved that you could take
off the hat! [Greg Oliver]
A: My kids have a couple of them lying around. Heck, man, it's
pretty neat. You see all them other dolls, and then you're right there
with them, you know, Space Rangers and all that other stuff. Hey, great.
Q: Who were your great friends on the road? [Neil Harris,
A: Ah, Piper and Muraco were probably my two best friends.
Dickie Slater maybe. And we were together a long time.
Q: What was the highlight of your career? [Matthew H. Gardner]
A: The highlight of my career, I guess, was stepping into the
ring in Detroit, 93,000 people. That was just phenomenal.
Q: Did you have any idea when you stepped into the ring at
Madison Square Gardens for WrestleMania I of what it was going to
A: I never gave it a whole lot of thought. McMahon took care
of all that stuff and I was just there to wrestle. You know, I thought
it was great, and the crowd reaction and everything was phenomenal. The
newspapers even got behind wrestling for a while. So it was a turning
point for sure.
Q: Would you consider returning to one of the Big 2 for a
backstage job, or as a manager for somebody like Bradshaw, or the West
Texas Rednecks? [Matthew H. Gardner]
A: Manager or something like that. I don't know, I'd just have
to talk to somebody. Probably not. You know, once or twice, three, four
times, whatever I go a month, that's plenty.
Q: Did you save your money? Are you in good financial shape?
A: Not too bad.
Q: In my opinion, some of your greatest matches were with Ric
Flair, Jimmy Snuka and Dick Slater. Who do you feel you had your best
run/matches against? [Terry Harris]
A: Well, I fought so many great wrestlers. I really had a
whole, whole lot of classic matches ... I think Jack Brisco I had some
of my best matches with. Flair and Snuka, yeah. Bobby Backlund. There's
a lot of guys that I had very good matches with.
Q: Did you feel being Roddy Piper's bodyguard at all tarnished
your career, usually rookies start out as bodyguards, not full fledged
heels? [Terry Harris]
A: To be honest with you, in the mid, early 80s, I hurt my
back real, real bad. And to do that stint with Piper was really, really
good for me because I didn't have to do what I normally did in the ring.
At the time, it was just like easy money. And at the same time, it was a
lot of fun being with Piper. My god, the guy's just mad!
Q: Do you still keep in touch with him?
A: Yeah, I talk to him every once in a while.
Q: Who else do you keep in touch with?
A: Muraco, Piper. That's pretty much it. I do talk to George
'The Animal' Steele every once in a while.
Q: What was the Grand Wizard like to work? [Terry Harris]
A: That was fantastic because he took care of everything. You
didn't have to do a thing. Any place you went, everything was ready. He
was a very, very shrewd manager also so I learned a lot from the Wizard.
It was a great thing for me.
Q: Who was your favourite manager to work with? [Terry Harris]
A: Favourite manager to work with? I was with Bobby Heenan for a number of
years, a year anyway. I was with The Grand Wizard, of course. Gary Hart
in '72 or '73, way back when. They were all the top guys in their
profession. But, I guess if you talk about humorous, it would have to be
Heenan. Down to earth, the Wizard. Gary Hart was methodical, serious,
Q: The promos you used to cut I think would be very over
today, your interviews were almost ahead of their time, any thoughts on
that statement? [Terry Harris]
A: I never thought that I was a very good interview. I left
that to Piper and whatever manager I was with at the time.
Q: How is the arm? Are you still wearing the cast?
A: I was playing golf the other day, and the ball was kind of
behind a tree and I tried to do one of those Sergio Garcia shots, and I
hit the tree! So I don't know. I might have to wear the cast down there
[at Heroes of Wrestling]. I have to see how this thing gets to feeling.
But it was doing great until I hit that tree!
Q: You were one of the first to really use a cast in the ring,
using it as a gimmick. How did that idea come about?
A: That was all McMahon.
Heroes of Wrestling headlines
Oct. 11, 1999: Heroes PPV a disappointment
Oct. 8, 1999: Orton-Snuka to clash once more
Oct. 5, 1999: One Man Gang still going strong
Sep. 30, 1999: Reasonable goal for Heroes of Wrestling