Erik Watts Reflects on Creating the Hardy Boyzs’ Look, Says He Left ECW Over Paul Heyman Not Paying the Boys

Jun 16, 2021 - by James Walsh

Show: Wrestling Epicenter
Guest: Erik Watts
Date: 06/16/2021
Your Host: James Walsh


Erik Watts is the son of the “Cowboy” and, just over 15 years nearly to the day after we had on Bill Watts to promote his “Cowboy & The Cross” autobiography, we welcome son Erik to discuss his life and times in pro wrestling including some incredible stories about his interactions with his father, Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman, Jeff Jarrett, Vince Russo, and beyond. This is a truly special listen!


This is an epic interview. Too much to include in just one transcript. So, read it all!


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On if Bill Watts’ time running WCW in ’92 and ’93 was a success:
“Well, lets look at it this way. I was raised in the business. The key word there that a lot of people seem to forget is “business”. It isn’t just what you see or don’t see (on the TV show) but the financial success. So, when my father came in, I forgot what they were losing. Something like $5,000,000 a year and had consecutively for 7 years. They were looking to not go out of business. “Cowboy” Bill Watts comes in, father or no father, and he proceeds to, square one, break even. Ted Turner was blown away! They were like, “Can we turn this thing around in 3 years? 5 years?” Year one, broke even!”


On why the perception was negative on Watts’ WCW campaign:
“What people are talking about was his want to re-teach people of the true art of pro wrestling to where the opening match was 5 or 6 minutes, no one jumped off the top rope, no one outside of the ring. Just your basic good guy versus bad guy. It was basic because that is what you did to warm up the crowd! Lets just be honest, an epic movie is told a certain way. If End Game started with the last scene, you wouldn’t sit around and watch after that. (laughs) So, when he came in, he said, “I’ll tell you how I’m going to do it. I’ll pull the mats off the floor. No, you can’t fly on the same airline. No, you can’t share cars. No, you can’t share a dressing room.” He just wanted to bring it back so everyone could just kind of breathe in.”


On some of the push back on Watts from the locker room at that time:
“Well, you had a lot of new guys, like you said, who were starting to do things differently – Starting to call it in and back and not call it in the ring. And, you had a lot of spoiled guys too. I’m not saying anything bad. I’m not! But, I’ve been around. I worked for WCW, WWE, TNA, ECW… Guys in WCW were spoiled! They were! (laughs) You had your contract and it didn’t matter if you wrestled one time or 30 times. So, I remember when you got the booking sheets – What told you what dates you were working… I remember guys were like, “Oh yes! I got 3 towns!” And, I was like, “What are you talking about? I got 13 towns! That is awesome!” How was I ever going to learn if I wasn’t on the road? It was so reverse pathetic! But, I was also the only guy on the road, and I don’t know if it ever happened again afterwards, I got a bonus in my contract if I worked more than 23 days in a month. So, when we would do the Twin Cities, I would try and get booked on the Saturday morning show and then on Saturday night. If I could get two shows in on one day, I was the happiest guy you would ever see in your life! I wrestled over 305 events my first year.”

On returning to WCW in 1998:
“I was having some success with speaking engagements and different business ventures but I went to WCW as long as I could do and dress how I wanted. So, I went to a place called Hot Topic. I got some jeans with the zipper down the side. As a matter of fact, I was in the best shape of my life! So, I don’t know why I chose to cover up some. But, I wanted my jeans, my tight shirt, and I loved my boots from Tekno Team 2000. So, if you see some of those matches from WCW, you’ll see the last 0 at the bottom of them. (laughs) So, I’m on board. I signed on. I’m excited! Bischoff’s excited. Everyone’s excited. Two shows in, I get a call. “Can you change your outfit.” (sighs) “After all of this?” At this point, I’ve been to WWE. I’ve got myself in incredible shape. I’ve got my hair in a double ponytail. My glasses on… Came out as a heel. I’m just having a freaking blast. And, that is your response? It was actually Dallas Page that called me. Eric asked Dallas to call me because he knew me and Dallas were tight. I said, “I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m not changing shit.” He goes, “Bro! Bro! They love everything you’re doing.” I said, “They don’t love everything I’m doing. I’m the one who designed the outfit, I’m the one who came up with the outfit. And, I’m the one wearing the outfit! That is what I’m doing! They’re not WWE. They didn’t design the costumes. They didn’t trademark anything. They didn’t do shit. This is Erik Watts now!””


On the hardy Boyz using his outfit:
“So, the reason I told you that is to tell you this. I ran my own show for charity in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I got some WCW guys, I got some other guys, and I called Vince McMahon himself, everyone says Vince is impossible – He’s not. I got all the WWE guys I wanted. I do all the promotions to do the show. From Atlanta, Georgia, I flew in for one night only to do a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We did $38,000 in ticket sales. To the rafters! I brought back “Dr.Death”, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, Michael Hayes… All these people! So, Vince goes, “Hey, I am going to send down some other people to get some work.” I go, “Sure.” Prince Albert with the nose ring comes down, nicest guy in the world. He says, “E Watts! I have these two kids. Can they come and talk to you?” I’m like, “Sure.” So, now I know there is something they want to talk about but I don’t know what the Hell it is. So, they go to me, “Sir, we have been taught not to steal moves or steal things. Would there be any way that you would allow us to use your outfits up in WWE? Bro, when I say I was laughing so hard. Listen, they’re not Matt and Jeff Hardy yet. They haven’t even blown up yet. But, I’m thinking to myself that I didn’t give a shit if they made it. I was just so happy. So, I was like, “Sure you can! I’ve got some more designs!” So, they came out in the shirt and pants. That was all off my character! So, I called Page one time and said, “Ask Bischoff what he thinks of the Hardy’s outfits, mother f***er!” (laughs)”


On his brief stint with the short-lived WXO:
“You’re exactly right! It was the WXO! Ted DIBiase told me, “I’m starting this new promotion. We’re going to put X number of hours in the can. He had already shopped the federation and had huge interest. He flew me down and we did, I don’t remember how many tapings. And, on the last day of the tapings, there was a tournament to crown the first XWO Champion. I didn’t know anything about it going in. But, Ted came up to me and said, “Son, you earned it. You did this, you did that. We’re making you the WXO Champion. It was awesome! I was honored! And, plus, all the history with Ted DiBiase and Mid South Sports. I mean, I was like, “I’m honored!” So, we do the taping and after it, he says, “Listen. It is probably going to be a couple, two, three months but after that, we’re going to do house shows and there is going to be a huge contract. So, be ready!” “No problem!””


On how working with ECW complicated things:
“I was helping out with Dusty Rhodes’ Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, I believe…I believe… And, I was with Dusty in the office. Dusty always had a story about my dad. (laughs) So, I was sitting there with Dusty having a great time and Dusty says, “Hey, baby. Lets go down and see Paul E!” I was like, “Paul E?” He said, “Yeah, Paul E! He’s got that ECW, baby!” (laughs) Now,my first match ever was at Center Stage for Saturday Night. So, I was like, “OK, I’ll jump down with you.” I guess Dusty didn’t say anything about bringing me down with him. I didn’t bring any clothes. Rule number one is you don’t go anywhere without your ring attire. But, I didn’t! So, I get there. And, I know 90% of their card. So, I’m there and Tommy Dreamer comes up to me, “ERIK WATTS! ERIK WATTS!” (laughs) I was like, “Man, that is about as over as I think I’ve ever gotten!” He was like, “I watch all of your stuff!” I kind of laughed because I used to always dig recording ECW. I’d record it and watch it when I got home. So, I knew all the guys but I didn’t personally know them. I love Dreamer! And, I had a million matches with Raven when he was Scotty Flamingo so I knew him. Sandman, o my God I was the biggest Sandman fan. Rhino! Dreamer goes, “I didn’t know you were coming to the show.” I said, “Well, that makes two of us!” Then, here comes Raven. Raven is just different. I love him. He’s one of my good friends. But, he’s just Mr. Different. He’s like Willy Wonka! (laughs) He goes, “Ah, Dusty brings his young prodigy!” And, starts doing his Raven bullshit. (laughs) Then another person comes out, and another, and (Bubba Ray) Dudley comes over. And, all these people are there. And, Dreamer goes, “Can I ask you something? Is there any way that you would just come out and light me up with a chair and split my head open and leave me in blood?” (laughs) I was like, “Excuse me!” Honest to God, I didn’t know what to say! He was like, “Ive watched you. It would be an honor if you would just come out and split me open with the f***ing chair.” (laughs) “It would be my honor!” I didn’t know what else to say!”


On Paul Heyman’s reaction to him being there with Dusty:
“Dusty says, “You should do it, baby!” Then, Paul Heyman walks up and says, “Hey, Erik! I didn’t know you were coming to the show.” Dreamer says, “I just asked him if he would split me open with a chair at the end of the show.” Paul goes, “Oh! That’s awesome!” I was like, “Wait a minute, guys! Isn’t this stuff booked already?” (laughs) Little did I know that is just the way ECW was! Things could change 44 times before it was all said and done.”


On nailing Dreamer with the chair:
“It was odd. I had been the good guy for a while. But, I went out and did it. And, I whacked the dog crap out of him with that chair and the people and the guys in the back all went berzerk! I walked back through the curtain and Paul E came up to me and he goes, “I’ve got to have you!” I said, “You got to have me what? That sounds kind of weird.” (laughs) He is like, “No, I’ve got to hire you!”””


On the complicated history between Paul Heyman and the Watts family:
“Paul E didn’t get along with my dad. Not at all. But, I liked Paul E because he was brilliant. But, he was a shit disturber. He got into trouble because he… Lets just say he made up some expenses. (laughs) And, he got caught. My dad was like (to Paul Heyman), “You’re just so smart. You’re the dumbest smart guy I’ve ever met!” (laughs) My dad was like, “I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like bullshit artists.” But, I love Paul E!”


On working ECW while under contract to XWO:
“So, Paul E was like, “I have to have you.” I was like, “Here’s the deal. I’m working with DiBiase.” He was like, “Oh, I’ll call Ted!” So, Ted told him he could have me because he didn’t know if it was going to be 3, 4, 5, 6 months before we weer up and running. But, he said, “Here’s the deal. You can have him but we have to talk about matches where he’s not going over because he’s my champion and I can’t have him be a pigeon on your show. It would be bad for my business.” Paul E said that was no problem.”


On the heat he got from the ECW fans:
“They fly me up somewhere in the northeast. They did the deal where they hide me in the trunk. So, I can’t remember the guy with the bull horn there but he was going to do all the talking. And, Paul E was going to cut a promo on me. So, I’m there, I’ve got my jeans on and my tight shirt and sunglasses. And, I go out there and the place erupts! I mean, that Philly place went nuts! I think i still have hearing damage from it to this day! (laughs) It was off the chain! When I say that, I mean 6 year old kids telling me to stick my privates inside myself. (laughs) I was like, WOAH! That’s a vocabulary! I I wanted to be verbally abusive. I learned something from 3 kids aged 5, 7, and 9 and I don’t even think they were brothers! People were spitting, throwing shit, it was nuts! Paul E then cut this epic promo on me on what a piece of shit he thought my dad is and that he always hated me. And, I was walking back and forth for what felt like 10 minutes looking mad as he did it. It was insane. And, I loved every second of it!”


On why the hot build didn’t lead to much in ECW:
“Then, the political bullshit started. Paul was like, “We’re going to sell shit out from dusk til dawn with you.” So, I’m excited for the pay per view. They said they were going to put me with, I think, Dreamer. Six hours or so before the show, they pull me from the card. I’m like, “What’s up?” They said, “Erik, we just don’t know who we want to put you with first. Rhino wants you. Dreamer wants you. Raven wants you. Sandman wants you. They all want you. We just don’t know who we want to put you with.” I was like, “Don’t kill yourself! You just named 5 guys! That’s a years worth of stuff! Just keep me hot and lets go!” But, it just kept happening and they kept stepping on me.”


On why he left ECW:
“Then, I started to hear that Paul E was getting behind on pay. I had to make a stand. I said, “Listen, if everyone is not paid up before the pay per view, I’m not coming.” Paul E called me 20 times, “Hey Erik, I’m sorry.” I said, “I love you. I’m having a blast. But, no.” He says, “The money’s right around the corner.” I said, “No, no it is not. These kids have been hearing it.” When people didn’t get caught up, I just said, “Man, I appreciate it. But, I’m good.””


On the final days of Chris Candido:
“I was on the road with Sunny and Chris Candido right before he died. I was with him on that WCW (he means TNA) thing. I had left out the night before he had the fracture and died. I’ll tell you a story. Chris and I, two goof balls, were like, “Valentine’s Day is coming up. We’ve got to get something for the girls!” The only place that was open was Walgreens. Sunny, she loves frogs. She has a tattoo of one. He found one with a heart in it. I found a little gorilla with a heart in it. So, I’ve got a twelve pack of beer and I’m holding this ape and he’s got the frog and they’re both holding hearts that say, “I love you!” (laughs) I put the stuff on the thing and this guy is looking at us, “This is Candido and Watts!” (laughs) I go, “Hey, bro! “We’re not together!” (laughs) “As a matter of fact, the beer and the monkey thingy. That’s mine. The frog? That’s his!” (laughs)”


One Response

  1. Kyle Christie says:

    I don’t know a whole lot about the Watts family apart from the odd story I read hear but this was a really good interview. Erik told a lot of good stories. Nice work James!

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