Interview - Les Thatcher

Interview: Les Thatcher, Wrestling Trainer: 1st October 2003

Media Man Australia continues to goes behind the scences of pro wrestling.

This time we we interview Les Thatcher, former wrestling great, and trainer of champions.

Les has recently opened up a wrestling school, Elite Pro Wrestling Training.

We also learn about Les's career, and what makes him tick.

How, when and why did you break into pro wrestling?

I became a pro wrestling fan at the age of 8, began wrestling around the local YMCA's at age 12, then in 1960 at the age of 19 I moved to Boston where Tony Santos was training young athletes for pro wrestling. I started training in Feb of 60 and had my first match on the 4th of July 1960 vs Cowboy Bonnie Hill in Blue Hills Maine. I fell in love with the biz as a child, and looking back I picked the very best to be my favourite...Nature Boy Buddy Rogers.

What do you consider to be your main career highlights?

God ! I might just consider my entire 20 years in the ring as a fantasy trip. I believe I worked with every top guy there was between 1960 to 1980 when I hung up the boots. Maybe going an hour with Danny Hodge and two 5 minute over times to a draw would be the tops. I never won the NWA world Jr Heavyweight title, but was ranked worldwide in the top ten, and I joke that I prepared two of the Champions for their title run as I was tag partners with both Roger Kirby, and Nelson Royal before they each won that belt . On the TV side our programs brought some fresh ideas to the production end back in the late 70's, and I was honored to work the mic next to Gordon Solie, Lance Russell, Bob Culdle, and Jim Ross.

How have you given back to the business?

I hope I've given back by helping young up coming performers sharpen their game, and by always taking pride in being a professional wrestler, and trying to be a positive role model in terms of work ethic, and presenting myself as a professional in public.

Tell us about your current projects, including your great new wrestling school, the EPWT?

Just a few months ago I sold controlling interest in HWA to three other gentlemen, after ten years of building the business, and 43 total in the profession I wanted to slow down just a little. EPWT was an idea that Harley Race and I came up with after doing a 2 day clinic in Vegas this past April..Actually, EPWT can take on several forms. We can arrange to train your group at either HWA here or at Harley's WLW in Eldon, Mo. Or you can select two, three, four, or five of our trainers to come to your school or promotion to do anywhere from a 2 day all the way up to a five day clinic. We combine old school with the current styles into what we hope will be a beautiful art form. Check out"WHY EPWT" on the web site for the best answer to that.

How were you able to secure all of the great talent under one roof - Race, Steamboat, Snow, Kai...

Then main thing with this crew is we all have an undying passion for the business, and all want to help improve the training style of the younger trainers that are popping up, and help so many of these under trained indie workers that are out there with no direction and no idea how to find one, because they have been either self trained or trained by someone who themselves have very little knowledge. Between the five of us there is over 160 years experience, in ever facet of the industry. If you can't pick up something useful here then I'm not sure you need to be in this industry.

Describe your teaching style?

I think I answered that in the last question, a combo of old school and current styles, combined into on style that makes sense.

How do you select your staff? qualifications, ability, respect etc

I think their names answers all this question with ease, the group includes over 50 world and regional titles, and 3 hall of fame members. We do not run a prison camp but we do run a serious balls to the wall training session. All of us had our asses handed to us way back when we were learning, and we are not bashful about cracking the whip. But on the other hand we don't go as far as the trainers did back when we were coming up, and beat the hell out of people. Our trainers are all about timing, and art form, and psychology.

When are your students ready? (other than when you tell them that they are)

You're right, they are ready when we tell them they are, but the main thing is that we allow everyone to learn at their own pace. We push our trainees, but not beyond what they can handle. This is a pressure business, and you have to push buttons to see how people react and handle it. If you can't deal with it down here at the bottom of the mountain, there is no need to try and climb to the top of said mountain.

What is the drop out rate in traditional wrestling schools?

In a tightly run quality run school the drop out rate is quite high, since many young people think that since this is entertainment, and a show that it will be easy, and all fun and games.

What is it about pro wrestling that attracts such a colourful "cast of characters"?

Greg , if I knew the answer to that I would be a rich man.

If we can "name drop" for a moment, who are some of the wrestlers who "made it", that you have trained over the years?

Gosh, you might say way back when, I may have given a word of advice to a Ric Flair, or Brad Armstrong, or even Ricky Steamboat, back then the veterans helped the younger guys, but I wouldn't take credit for training them. Currently, some of the talent you see on the tube I may have been some help to would be Jamie Noble, Shannon Moore, Johnny Stamboli, Charlie Haas, Maven, Harvard Chris, Dlo Brown, Matt Stryker, BJ Whitmer, Chad Collyer, Garrison Cade, Spanky, to name a few.

What do you do to relax?

My wife and I are Law and Order freaks for that TV show, and I enjoy reading and still weight train some.

How would you like to be remembered?

It would be nice to think that when I leave this world and business, which I guess will be at exactly the same moment. someone would said that the old sucker gave his heart and soul to his craft and passed some of it along to the up and comers. That I added something to the evolution of the industry. Some of my students will remember me as that mean old bastard that got in their face and yelled at them. Please, just explain to them that I did it out of love for the business and......for them. Everyone that trains at my place becomes one of my extended family, and I want them all to make it. I'm happy when they excel, and I cry when they cry.


Editors note: An interesting and educational interview. Gee I love hardcore and old school!


Elite Pro Wrestling Training

Wrestling Schools: Greg Tingle's tribute

Wrestling Promotions: Greg Tingle's list

Indi Wrestling tribute

NWA Wrestling tribute

Media Man Australia interviews:

Les Thatcher - 30th November 2003 (

Harley Race

Jake "The Snake" Roberts

Dan Severn

Slyk Wagner Brown

Sue Sexton

Killer Kowalski


Media Man Australia: Sports