A Second Interview With Brawlin' Bo Cooper, formerly known as The Hangman

A Second Interview With Brawlin' Bo Cooper, formerly known as The Hangman

On Sunday, 2/17/02, I got the opportunity to talk with Brawlin' Bo Cooper. Bo used to be known as The Hangman, and I interviewed him four and a half years ago when DDT Digest was still relatively new. He recently discovered that his old interview was still out here, and he dropped me a line asking if I'd like to talk to him again. As you might guess, I wasn't about to turn the opportunity down. (And, given the picture below, saying "no" was not an option even if I wanted to.) So, without further ado...

The Statistics

Ring name: Brawlin' Bo Cooper
Name of organization: Empire Wrestling Federation
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 300 lb.
Professional Debut: May 4th, 1997
Astrological sign: Taurus

The Interview

Start off by telling everyone about Brawlin' Bo Cooper...

I broke away from The Hangman, and the mask, after about a year. I was Bo Rotten for about a year after that, but it really didn't do all that much for me. I then became Brawlin' Bo Cooper. I was a face at first, but little by little I started siding with the heels on things, and became a 'tweener. I eventually became a full-fledged heel and I've stuck with it. It's definitely me...my catch phrase is "Rude, crude and tattooed" and I have that on my shirt.
When you say "It's definitely me", do you think Bo Cooper is an extension of how you personally really are?
Definitely...right off the bat, I love tattoos. Plus, Bo, as he is now, is an extension my personality outside the ring. You'll find that the best "gimmicks" are the ones that truly reflect the individual outside the ring.
You enjoy the boos as much as the cheers?
I like the boos more than the cheers. Actually, with more educated fans, it can sometimes be tough to be a good heel. If you're a good worker, no matter how much you piss people off with your attitude, some people will cheer your work ethic. Just last night, I teamed with the Ragin' Dog against Christian Taylor and Johnny Starr. No matter how hard I tried to get heat, some people were still cheering me. Maybe I'll wind up a 'tweener whether I like it or not.
Ever had any bad experiences with fans hopping the rail or getting in your face?
I've been pretty lucky. I haven't had any real problems with fans getting into the ring. Sometimes, the stuff they yell into your face can get a little personal. When that happens, you've got to give it right back to them.
How has your in-ring style changed since we talked 4 years ago? You've got some four times as much experience now.
My style is still mostly American style. I can work lucha libre style if I need to, but I generally wrestle American. I'm probably 10 times more aggressive now than I was when we last talked. I'm now definitely giving more bumps than I'm taking, which wasn't true back then. I'm using more power moves now, and I definitely think I have more charisma than I did back then.
Do you have a "day job"?
I do some bouncing, but that's not a career or anything. Besides the bouncing and wrestling, all I do is train.
Are you still watching wrestling on TV? [Editor's Note: As I asked this, I could hear the No Way Out PPV on in the background]
I definitely do my homework. However, I look at it very differently now than I used to. I watch the wrestling and interviews and all that, but in the back of my mind I just can't shake my amazement, and respect, and how these guys handle doing all the traveling that they do.
How do you feel about the traveling you do?
I love it. I'm not on a lot of planes like the WWF guys, but I do a lot of driving. One week, I started with an EWF show here in San Bernardino, then to Yrida, then to Eureka, then Crescent City, then Santa Rosa, and then back here. It's fun for me.
Do you have a "trip from Hell" story?
Definitely. We were going to a show in Pahrump, NV. We had to drive 1030 miles through the desert and back. We almost ran out of gas at least once in the desert. The worst part was that at one point, driving through the middle of nowhere, we got overtaken by fumes. They were coming out of nowhere...we couldn't see anything that was causing them. We all started getting sick. I was throwing up on myself while I was driving, but I had to keep going to get out of the fumes.
When we got to the destination, we asked some of the locals what it might have been, and they said it was probably sulfur from the mines. It had to be the worst thing I've ever smelled. We drove two extra hours out of our way on the way back just to avoid that area.
But, when we got to Perrup, I still wrestled. Ironically, the show was great. We had a good 400 people, which was good for that venue.
How close have you come to saying "to Hell with it" and getting out of wrestling entirely?
I've come close. Unlike what I think a lot of the guys go through, I've never thought of leaving because of the money. It's been more "Is the physical punishment worth it?" However, the feeling that I might want to give it up has never lasted more than a day. I can't tear myself away...I'm somewhat addicted. If I don't train for a couple weeks, I go absolutely crazy.
What belts have you held?
Would you believe that after all this time, I've still never held a belt? I've had plenty of title matches, and I've been really, really close to winning tag belts with a partner, but I've never won a strap.
Does that bother you?
Not really. Maybe it's sour grapes, but the man makes the belt...the belt doesn't make the man. When the time is right, it will happen.
Have you gotten a chance to work with anyone that you looked up to as a kid?
Definitely. The first person who comes to mind is the Honky Tonk Man. I did that trip I mentioned earlier driving around California with him. He took a liking to me and I got to wrestle with him for a week straight. It was a real thrill. I just loved seeing him clobber people with his guitar when I was a kid.
I also got a chance to be on shows with Louie Spiccoli before he passed away, although I never wrestled him one-on-one. I also got a chance to work with Salvatore Sincere (aka Tom Brandi), which was great.
In our original interview, you said "Coming out of the entranceway, absolutely. However, once I'm in the ring I'm fine and it's all business.". Do you still get nervous coming out of the entranceway?
Sure. I think everyone does. If they say they don't, I think they're lying to you. How nervous I am depends a lot on who I'm working with. If it's a new opponent, I have no idea what to expect, and I'm more nervous. Also, if there's someone like Bruce Elliot or Tom Pritchard (developmental talent scouts) in the crowd, I'm definitely going to be more nervous.
If you had a chance to send the WWF a tape of yourself, and you could only put one match on it, what would it be?
That would probably be a match I had against the Suicide Kid back in June. He and I always have good matches.
What are you using as a finisher these days?
A splash from the top rope...all 300 pounds of me, right on top of you, from ten feet up. I call it "Hell's Hello". I could probably turn it into a frog splash, but I don't want to look like I'm trying to take something away from Rob Van Dam's version.
When you were wrestling under a mask, you said that no one ever made you outside the ring. Does it happen a lot now?
Very, very rarely these days. I was the AV Brawler on TV for a while, and when I was on TV a lot, people did recognize me. But, these days, it almost never happens since I'm an hour and a half from the school and main arena. I don't get made when I'm bouncing, nor when I'm at the grocery store. In fact, only my really good friends know that I'm a wrestler.
Has being pro wrestler opened any other doors for you?
Oh, yeah. I got a part in a movie, Backyard Dogs. I was Captain Death Wish. It's a fictional story about backyard wrestlers trying to make it big. It's a pretty cool movie. They had a few "name" wrestlers in it as well, such as Hayabusa. It hasn't had a major release, but you can get it on DVD and VHS from Amazon and places like that.
I was one of the wrestlers in a German documentary on professional wrestling. I never got to see it all put together because it was only shown in Germany, but it did get shown over there. I was also on The Man Show about a year and a half ago.

A little facial reconstruction is in order for Captain Death Wish
A little facial reconstruction is in order for Captain Death Wish.
(Click on picture for a full size version.)

The Man Show?! That RULES!!!

It was great. The storyline was about Adam and Jimmy trying to become pro wrestlers. The producers kept telling us "Play it straight...act tough and don't crack smiles." But Adam and Jimmy kept cracking us up. You can see us trying hard not to laugh in the show.
It truly was an "all good" experience. We got to be on TV, we had a good time, and we got paid. What could be better? And, my dad's an actor, so it was a big deal to him to see me on TV like that.
[Edtior's Note: It was episode 201, the first episode of the second season, first broadcast on 6/18/2000.]
When we first talked 4 years ago, you said the vets were playing ribs on you a lot. These days, are you returning the favor?
I rib, but not in the way they did. Some of what they did to me was pretty cruel, like putting my mask on a pole right before my match.
The other day, I called Jesse, pretending to be an Australian interested in attending The School Of Hard Knocks. I had him going pretty good.
What's your training regimen like these days?
I do four hours of ring work every Wednesday, and I'm also in the gym at least three days a week.
How close do you feel that you are to being a "WWF-quality" wrestler?
I'll quote Jesse on this one: "Bo, if you would lose a little weight and tone your body, you'd be in the WWF already".
I've got to admit, he's probably right. The WWF is so strict on how good you look. Mind you, that's not a criticism by me or anything, it's just that they have really high standards for how good you look, as well as how well you wrestle.
One of our best guys, who's got a great, cut build, was told that he'd need to work on his traps before the WWF would be interested. That's how specific they are about your look.
What are you looking to get down to?
My ideal weight is probably 240. I'm at 300 right now. Right now, I'm built like D-Von Dudley.
It's amazing to me that as a six year vet, you're still with the guy you started training with. Why do you think that is?
Bottom line, Jesse's always done right by me. He's always given me the push I deserved, and he's always taken care of me. I truly love the EWF, and I'm proud to be working for Jesse Hernandez.
These days, in Southern California, all the wrestlers are fighting over their spots. There's a lot of competition right now. As a result, guys are wrestling all over the place to earn a buck. For me, wrestling for 20 different promoters every month would kill the name I've built up for myself here, and hurt Jesse's credibility, too. If I were to travel to other territories, I'd be taking one of Jesse's main guys and wrestling prelim matches elsewhere, destroying the reputation he's helped me build. I don't want to be a guy who "overworks" and doesn't have a home.
Are you concerned about Jesse holding you back because of your loyalty to him?
Absolutely not. When the right time comes, he'll do right by me. He is a firm believer in our leaving the nest when the time is right, and he's never held anyone back. And he makes sure we're not going to go somewhere where we'll get mistreated.
Have Jesse's training methods changed over the years?
Somewhat. He's very methodical in his training methods, and that hasn't changed. However, he's normally very quiet, but he's gotten more vocal as of late and has been giving more speeches, which I think is great.

My bloody valentine.
"That's real blood!!"  "Ain't it cool, lady?"
(Click on picture for a full size version.)

How has the action in the ring changed in the six years you've been a wrestler?

I got taught by Louie Spiccoli, Chris Daniels and Suicide Kid. The way I was taught, you could work a slow-paced match and, as long as it was a good match, and still draw the fans into what's going on. No more.
The action has to be more fast-paced to keep the fans interested so, as a result, the training is much more fast-paced now. Jesse's changed the style that he teaches and he's a lot more involved now.
Obviously, you're happy in the EWF, and not looking around. But, if the EWF were to close up shop tomorrow, and there wasn't a spot for you in the WWF, what would you do?
There's plenty of places I could go where I'd be happy and I think I could make a contribution. Mexico, Tennessee and Florida are all places that I would immediately start looking into.
When we talked last time, you'd already had two concussions and a sprained ankle after a year and a half. Now, 4 years later, what have you added to the injury list?
I've been pretty lucky since then. By lucky, I mean major injuries. Right now, as we speak, I've got ice on my ankle, and I don't even know why my ankle's hurting. I wrestled last night, but I don't remember doing anything to it.
I've had bruised ribs plenty of times and I also had a broken clavicle, but that was from a car accident. The only real bad thing I've had was messing up my knee several years ago when I was down in Florida training with Dean Malenko.
I've got lower back problems, which comes with the territory, but I'm only 21 years old and I've already got lower back problems. Unlike acne, it's not a problem that gets better as you get older.
That's right...when we talked last time, you had mentioned you were working something out to go to Florida and train with Dean Malenko. How'd that work out?
Messing up my knee really got in the way of a lot of the training, but Dean Malenko was great. Before I arrived, he got me hooked up with a couple other wrestlers down there so I'd have a place to stay and all that. Dean is just so wise, and knows so much about the business. You can learn so much from just listening to him...I cannot put into words how much respect I have for him.
One of my outstanding goals as a pro wrestler is to get to wrestle at a show that he attends to show him my talent and how far I've come. That would be a real thrill for me.

Captain Death Wish meets The Paperboy.
Captain Death Wish meets The Paperboy.
(Click on picture for a full size version.)

Did the demise of WCW mean anything to you, or were you just like "whatever"?

For me career-wise, it means one less option. However, the demise of ECW was way more meaningful to me than WCW getting sold. I always imagined that ECW was the place I was going to get my big break, so that concerned me a lot more. But, in both cases, as a wrestler and as a fan, it was disappointing.
But, without WCW and ECW, it's not like there aren't options. In addition to the WWF, there's Japan, Mexico, and even Puerto Rico. I'm sure something will come along. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
It's interesting to me that in this entire conversation, you've never made any statements about money. Being able to pay the rent month-to-month is usually such an overwhelming concern of people starting out in any business, including wrestling...
This business, like any business I guess, can be described "Everyone's out for the money." Day to day, I don't do it for the money, I do it for exposure. Sure, I hope to get a big break someday, but fighting for every nickel and dime won't necessarily get me there.
I've been told that some of the older vets are out there, over 40 years old, wrestling practically for free, because it's all they know how to do.
Jesse has always told me, "Never wrestle for free". He's right, I'm a professional, and I never do work for free. Sometimes, I'll drive all night for $100, and sometimes I'll settle for just gas money, but, on principle, working for free is something that I won't do, other than a charity event.
Is there anyone else in the EWF you'd like to give a plug to?
Johnny Dynamite is one of our biggest stars right now. 6' 2", bleach blonde hair, and a high flyer. He's definitely going to make it in this business. It's just a matter of time for him.
Rico Costantino actually just signed with the WWF, and he's been working dark shows with Ron Waterman and Crash Holly. I have so much respect for him because, when he signed with the WWF, he didn't get a big head over it. I want him to know that I wish him the best of luck as he moves forward.
I need to mention Bob Bradley as well. He's retired now, but he is such a professional and has helped me get to where I am.

Credits   Credits   Credits
(Click on pictures for full size versions.)

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