In the old Mid-South Coliseum, brutal and chaotic matches between The Moondogs and The Fabulous Ones left the ring apron stained with blood night after night. The matches were revolutionary in wrestling, as Moondog Rex (Randy Colley) and Moondog Spot (Larry Booker) garnered their hardcore reputation across the country.
“People still talk about those matches,” says Colley. “I’d seen Lance Russell, the guy who used to do the commentary in Memphis, and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Boy, these matches that you guys and The Fabulous One had were somethin’ else.'”
But it was years before, in the WWWF, that The Moondogs — with their trademark cut-off blue jeans and knarled bones they brought to the ring — captured gold in 1981 as the World Tag Team Champions, after Rex and Moondog King defeated then-champions Rick Martel and Tony Garea. Shortly after winning the titles, Moondog King was replaced by Moondog Spot.
Larry Booker, while working as Moondog Spot, died in the ring at the Mid-South Coliseum during a tag team match on November 29, 2003.
To commemorate the upcoming 10th anniversary of the death of Moondog Spot, WrestleNewz.com tracked down Randy Colley to chat about The Moondogs, hardcore matches, and the good old days of territorial rasslin’.
WNZ: First off, take us back to that violent and uncontrollable feud you and Spot had with The Fabulous Ones during the Memphis territory’s ’80s heyday.
RC: Oh yeah, that was unreal. We set box office records, and you know, that territory had been around forever and ever before we got there. And we had records for constant sell-outs in Memphis week after week after week. We sold-out a lot of places. And you know, Bowling Green (Kentucky) used to be one of those towns where no matter what you put in there, you weren’t going to draw nothing. But we had a $12,000 house one night in a little, bitty building. And prior to that, if it was a $1,200 house they were happy.
Then we went to New York and they didn’t have nothin’ for us but money (laughs). They told us, you can come here and make $2,500 a week, or you can go somewhere else and bust your ass for $1,500 a week. So we took the $2,500 a week and went to New York, and it was a big mistake, the way it turned out. If we had just said no and waited to go back to the WWF within a few months time, we probably would’ve made the super big money, y’know. Well, hindsight is always 20/20.
WNZ: Tell us about the origins of The Moondogs.
RC: Well, the thing about The Moondogs is it was me and Sailor White (Ed White) to start with. I did the first New York TV and Vince McMahon (Sr.) said, “Everybody thinks you’re Moondog Mayne (Lonnie Mayne).” I met him one time in passing, and Vince said, “Would you mind if we call you Moondog?” Because I first started as Ripper Hawkins in New York, and at the next TV I went as Moondog Hawkins (laughs). And at the next TV, Sailor White was there and I told Vince that I’ll carry a bone and wear cut-off pants, and he thought that was a great idea, ’cause he was trying to make us into the Valiant brothers. And I just said, “That ain’t me, y’know.” So that’s how The Moondogs came about.
WNZ: What was Sailor White like to work with?
RC: When he came in as Moondog King, I didn’t really know him, but he was good for the gimmick and he had the look. But he was unpredictable and he had this attitude where if he woke up one morning and he was champion, that was fine. And if he wasn’t, that was fine too.
But Sailor, after about three months, he went to Canada and he couldn’t get back across. I don’t know what the deal was, I didn’t get the details about it, but they gave him a couple months to get things straightened out but he didn’t. So that’s when Larry Booker came in, because Andre the Giant had seen him in Louisiana and told Vince about him. And from the moment we met, it just clicked ’cause he was from Tennessee and I was from Alabama, so we were two Southern boys. We got along a lot better than me and Sailor White ever did. And Sailor wasn’t a bad guy, it’s just that he was from Newfoundland and I was from Alabama and there was just a lot of differences, y’know. But I was sure glad to see Spot come in. We were much more alike in the way we worked hard, tried to succeed and make things happen.
WNZ: Moondog Spot never spoke on television. What was he like behind-the-scenes?
RC: He was a really nice guy, y’know. We was good friends right from the start. He was a big fan of Willie Nelson and a big Bob Segar fan as well. Outside that, with rasslin’, you hardly had time to do anything, you know what I mean? When we came up with some time off, he’d go his way and I went my way, and it wasn’t ever for very long. Like, we’d have a week off and then I’d meet up with him in a town somewhere. I’d ask, “How was your time off?” and he’d say, “It went by too quick,” y’know. It was a brutal schedule that didn’t leave a lot of time for anything outside rasslin’.
WNZ: During The Moondogs’ second run in the WWF, you and Spot often wrestled in singles matches against the likes of Dynamite Kid and Davey-Boy Smith or Bret Hart and Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart…
RC: Yeah, and sometimes they’d put us with different partners as well, then on the next card, I’d be wrestling Tony Atlas and Spot would be in a match with S.D. Jones. They had this thing one night where we were told that nobody could go out and watch the matches, I think it was in Philadelphia. Me and Spot were on two singles matches, like the fourth and fifth match, and Gorilla Monsoon comes back afterwards and says to me, “Larry did the exact same thing as you did in your match.” And I said, “Well, we’ve been a tag team for so long, what would you expect?” So even though I wasn’t watching his match and Larry didn’t see mine, we wrestled the exact same match against our opponents, according to Gorilla Monsoon. So I told him it certainly wasn’t planned that way, and anyways, we couldn’t remember all that anyways. It was just one of them things that happened. “This ain’t gonna work,” he said, and I said, “Well, do whatever you have to do, but that’s just the way it is.”
WNZ: Moondog Rex had plenty of success as a singles competitor, and some memorable televised matches, like the time you earned a title shot against WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan on a 1984 episode of Maple Leaf Wrestling.
RC: Me and Hogan were actually tag team partners for a while, years before, when my partner Moondog King was out. I had many different partners who filled in at that time — Hogan was one night in Pittsburgh, Sgt. Slaughter in Washington, DC, and even Lou Albano in some towns.
WNZ: Then there was your match against Andre the Giant from the Philadelphia Spectrum, immortalized on the WWF Coliseum Home Video (and later WWE-produced DVD) Andre the Giant…
RC: (laughs) It was during another match I had with Andre that I lost my favourite bone I brought to the ring. I had two or three back-ups in a situation where I might lose a bone. Actually, the one that I carried for so long, somebody threw that thing into the ring and it still had meat on it, in Totowa, New Jersey. I took that thing and laid it out by the garbage dump and the maggots cleaned it — I’m talkin’ smooth. It looked better than the one I had that I actually boiled to work with, but it weakened, and this new one was a lot stronger. So I hung it up to cure for a while and it was my favourite, and then somebody stole it one night in New Jersey when I was wrestling Andre.
I remember Andre laying on top of me — and when he lays on top of you, there ain’t nothin’ that you’re gonna do — and I looked up to see some kid snatch the bone right off the ring post where I hung it. By the time I could get up, the kid was gone. A week later I was in the Boston Gardens and a guy comes up to me with a paper sack and says, “A kid gave me this paper sack and says something for you is in it.” And I’m thinkin’, “What the hell is this? Did somebody shit in a sack or something?” I was gonna throw it in the garbage until I felt it and thought, “What the hell is so hard inside this sack?” Then I looked inside and there was the damn bone (laughs).
I went out and there was the kid, and he looked up at me and said, “My mama said to tell you that I’m sorry.” I took a couple steps toward him and he took off, y’know. It amazed me that he must have told his mama that he stole my bone, then she whooped his ass and made him bring it back. I had always thought that I’d lose that bone somewhere sooner or later, but I never did.
WNZ: You did lose something arguably more important: the opportunity to have a run as Demolition Smash, even though the Demolition gimmick was your idea, right?
RC: Well, yeah. I had known Bill Eadie (Demolition Ax, The Masked Superstar) for a long time, and I had come up with the idea for Demolition, and I was gonna be Smash.
What happened was, the first night we (wrestled as Demolition) was in the Meadowlands, there were a few wrestling fans who used to go to all the rasslin’ in the area, regularly. During the match, they start chanting, “Moondog! Moondog! Moondog!” Them die-hard rasslin’ fans who went to all the shows could recognize me through the face paint. The next TV tapings would have been in Tampa, and nobody would have known me there, and the next one in Arizona — same thing, nobody would have known me. So if it hadn’t worked out that way, I would have been Demolition Smash from then on.
It was the worst place to start up the Demolition thing, y’know, right where I had been rasslin’ night after night. The next night was Hershey, Pennsylvania and there was the same guys chantin’, “Moondog! Moondog! Moondog!” And that pretty much wrapped it up, we only had two matches and then Barry Darsow would replace me.
WNZ: Long before your success as a Moondog, you wrestled under a mask as Assassin #2. What was it like teaming up with Jody Hamilton (Assassin #1) back in the ’70s?
RC: I knew Jody from a long time back when I first started wrestling as Jack Dalton. That was in Georgia, before that I was in Knoxville, Tennessee doing the mountain man gimmick as Randy the Mountaineer. Then a guy called me from Atlanta and he said, “Do you want to be Jody’s partner?” and I said, “Hell yeah!” ’cause I grew up watching Jody and Mr. Wrestling II and all that bunch. I said, “You got to be joking,” and he said, “No, I’ll put you down right now.” So I was really, really happy about that.
Jody and his previous partner Tom (Renesto) had split, when Tom got to a point where it was time for him to go. Jody was great in singles matches, but he was much better as a tag team, and I fit the part. We were just like the best of friends.
WNZ: As The Assassins, you and Jody Hamilton would go on to hold the NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship on two occasions.
RC: Yes, and I learned so much from him. He was an amazing ring general. It was unreal. I’d be watching the match and he’d come over to tag me in and I’d be like, “No, I got the best seat in the house here!” (laughs) It was great, and it was such a good learning experience. And that’s why I did so good as The Nightmare in Louisiana, I think. It’s because I copied a lot of stuff, like timing, from Joe.
And when me and Jody couldn’t get together, me and Roger Smith took The Assassin thing to Tennessee and around Alabama, and they used to call us The Assassin Brothers. And that was really good too.
WNZ: In the decades to come, you would take on various personas, from Moondog Rex and The Nightmare (in Mid-South) to Detroit Demolition and Deadeye Dick (in WCW)…
RC: Being Deadeye Dick was enjoyable, as I was part of a stable known as The Desperados. Black Bart and Dutch Mantel were good guys to work with and everybody there was really nice. When we came up with the gimmick, everybody loved it except for one person, of course — Jim Herd. And it was Jim Herd who decided how far everything went and he just didn’t like it, even though everyone who had seen the promo loved it. He had no idea what the hell he was doing there.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2!
(Featured image courtesy of Christine J. Coons)