Interview - Billy "The P" Donald

Interview: Billy "The P" Donald, Wrestling Manager (retired): 9th July 2003

Media Man Australia's continues to explore the often misunderstood world of pro wrestling.

Billy Donaly tells of his success in the once hotbed of wrestling in America, Memphis, and the life of a wrestler on the road.

What's your background?

I broke into the business in the fall of 1996. I was friends with Ian Rotten for quite some time before that, and when he told me that he was going to put together a new promotion in Louisville to bring an ECW/Japan type of product to the local area, which was a total departure from the Memphis style wrestling that had been here for over 30 years, he asked me how I would feel about becoming the promotion's top heel manager. Of course, growing up watching Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, and Jim Cornette was a great advantage for me, and it was something I could have only dreamed of doing, so I jumped at the chance, as you could imagine.

What were your highs and lows in the wrestling business?

There weren't a lot of lows, to be honest. I was really my own worst critic, so if I didn't cut a very good promo or if I mildly botched a spot occasionally, I would kick myself over it. That was my own fault. 99 % of the people I worked with were nothing but supportive of me. As for the high points, those include my last appearance at the IWA Mid-South arena, working on the 1997 Eddie Gilbert Memorial brawl alongside guys like Terry and Dory Funk Jr, Tommy Rich, and Tommy and Doug Gilbert, and my favorite memory of all was working the first annual Brian Pillman memorial show in 1998 with Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

How did you get your break?

As I mentioned in the first question, Ian Rotten had complete faith in me to pull off being the top heel manager for the IWA Mid-South when he began the promotion, so that was THE break. I will be forever grateful for it.

Who are your mentors?

I would consider Bull Pain, Sherri Martel, Doug Gilbert, Tommy Rich, Tom Brandi, and Ian Rotten to be my mentors. They taught me more about the business than anybody. Sherri Martel particularly was my most important mentor because she obviously is a legendary manager, so she taught me so much about manager psychology, style, presentation, etc… I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. Everything I learned was "on the fly".

Who are some "bad apples" in memphis wrestling, and why?

I truly don't think there are any bad apples in Memphis, really. They are just unfortunate to have a couple of people within the promotion that don't know when to step down and let their younger talent blossom, and I truly think they have some pretty good guys such as Chris Harris, Kevin White, and Reed Richardson. But the real problem is the booking. I don't really know who is booking, but Memphis is just a broken record. You can watch an old Memphis tape from 1983 and be watching the same product as you are seeing now, including a lot of the same guys on the roster! The angles they are doing now have been done at least 10 times before in the territory. There is no element of surprise. I feel sorry for Brian Christopher and Doug Gilbert, who is a good friend of mine, because I think the pressure is really on them to keep things interesting. Nobody else there is going to draw money for them, including Jerry Lawler.

What is the deal with Erik Estrada and Lawler?

Ha ha! That's just me being a smartass, really. Apparently, I have pissed off a lot of the Memphis supporters because I have spoken out against their product, just as I am doing here. The thing is, I grew up on Memphis wrestling, and if it weren't for Memphis Wrestling in the early 80's, I never would have been in the business. Memphis wrestling was everything to me. Believe me, I want Memphis to succeed. I really do, because it was the last of the great territories. But if they want to survive, they need to bring a fresh perspective in and they need to do some house cleaning.

What media coverage have you previously received?

Mainly just coverage in the underground sheets such as The Lariat, The Wrestling Observer, and things like that. I have done a couple of interviews for independent reporters as well.

What's some funny stories from the road?

Well, I can say that I have gotten to travel with a lot of entertaining people, so I have a few. Mad Man Pondo and I stayed a couple of times at this total piece of shit hotel in Evansville, Indiana, and we stayed in the "penthouse suite" as the owner called it, which was actually just a little room over an old garage! It had an air conditioner in it that was hanging halfway out of the wall, and the only way it would work was if you pounded your fist on it a couple of times, so Pondo and I liked to call it the "Fred Sanford" suite, as in the Sanford & Son show.

Another was the time I picked up Axl Rotten and Jeff Jones (the heel ref from ECW) at the Greyhound bus station in a bad part of Louisville, Kentucky. We would be driving through the ghetto basically to get to the interstate, and when Axl saw black people walking down the street, he would roll down the window and start shit with them! We're lucky the bastard didn't get us murdered that day. Axl was always entertaining. He was crazy.

Another funny story was the day that Myself, Ian Rotten, and The Headbangers were driving together, and we pulled into a gas station to fill up. The Headbangers and Ian went inside to pay while I pumped the gas outside, and Headbanger Thrasher (Glen Ruth) got on the gas station microphone where everybody could hear him and started ribbing me over the loud speaker. It was hilarious. There are so many good stories.

What are you doing with yourself these days?

Nowadays I just enjoy a quiet married life. My Wife and I work together at the same telecommunications company and we still live comfortably in Louisville, Kentucky. I have no desires to get back into the business, so I just have the luxury of sitting back and enjoying my memories and the friends I made. It was a good run.


Editors note: An entertaining, and talented wresting manager. This bloke sounds like a good bloke to share a beer or two with.

Read part b of the interview


Billy Donald official website

Memphis Pro Wrestling Directory (Greg Tingle's)

Wrestling Managers (Greg Tingle's)

Independent Wrestling Promotions (Greg Tingle's)