Barry Darsow also known as Smash, alongside Bill Eadie (Ax) were Demolition, one of the greatest tag teams to ever step foot inside a WWE ring. Winning their first WWE tag team titles at the grandest stage of them all WrestleMania, before going on to hold the titles for a record 16 months.
The Minneapolis grappler also had several gimmick characters as a singles competitor with the most recognizable being The Repo Man.
We catch up with Barry to talk about his record tag team title reign, the current state of tag team wrestling and his son making it in the business.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
I started out alongside The Road Warriors and Rick Rude, we were all working as bouncers at the same bar and Eddie Sharky was a bartender there. He is the one that got us into wrestling and we all went to the same wrestling camp which was run by Eddie.
Who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you to get into the sport when you were growing up?
I watched wrestling all the time when I was a kid, I grew up with Curt Hennig and his dad was Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig. I use to go over to their house, and that is one of the reasons why I got into it, because I knew some of the people that were on the TV.
I was also a big fan of Harley Race. Ken Patera was one of the biggest guys in wrestling, so when I first started out Ken was someone I wanted to mould myself on.
You grew up with the likes of, Curt Henning, Rick Rude and the Road Warriors, what was that like?
It was really neat growing up with all of those guys and for all of us to make it at the top level of the wrestling business is incredible. When Rick Rude, the Road Warriors and myself went to training camp we all went to different places, and then we would see each other once in a while at the airport or if we were on the same card in some towns. It was pretty exciting to see each other because we were all good friends.
You had a stint in Florida Championship Wrestling where you worked closely with Jim Neidhart and held the United States Tag Team titles, what was that experience like?
It was fantastic and I was really good friends with Jim when I was in Bill Watts territory, when I left there he was in FCW and I ended up becoming roommates with him, and then we became tag team partners.
Hector Guerrero was someone else I knew from way back in the Jim Crockett territory, Jim and I beat Hector and Cocoa Samoa to win the titles, but all of the guys were great.
What was your time in Jim Crockett Promotions like?
At first, I did not want to go there because I was in Florida and I was making really good money there. Ric Flair used to come into FCW all the time because he was the champion so he wrestled in all of the different territories, I became really good friends with Ric and he was one of the first guys that I met in the business because he was also from Minnesota.
Ric called me up one day and asked if I wanted to go to Jim Crockett Promotions and he was honest saying there wasn’t a lot of money to be made at the time but the territory was on the up and was going to become incredible, but I said I wasn’t sure, (Dusty Rhodes was the booker at the time).
I told Ric if I go, I need to have a guarantee that I would be on good money and I wanted Dusty to call me and ask. A couple of minutes after coming off the phone to Ric, Dusty called and said they needed me there, so I made the move and it was probably the best move I ever made.
You then joined WWF to replace Randy Colley as Smash in the tag team Demolition alongside Ax. What was it like stepping into someone else’s boots?
It was kind of different. The reason why I left Jim Crockett Promotions was because they screwed me out of some money. When I quit there I didn’t have a job and I called up Earl Hebner who I was good friends with and his brother David was a referee with WWE at the time and he talked to Vince McMahon and told him there was a guy that’s available to come up here if you want to take a look at him and Vince agreed because it was right at the time when it wasn’t working out for Randy.
Vince then asked Bill Eadie if I would fit in as his partner and he said yes, so Vince called me up and they flew me up there, but I didn’t have a clue what was going on and they had me sign a non-compete contract, and I was given six months off with pay to go and train to get ready – but it was a really exciting time and it felt as though I had really made it in the big leagues.
What was the reason behind Demolition’s iconic look?
Bill and myself were the kind of guys that didn’t really want to be recognized by people, so when we put the face paint on we were two completely different guys in the ring compared to outside of the ring.
We would fly on the plane with 30 other wrestlers and when coming through the airport no one would know who Bill or I were, and that was kind of nice. But as soon as you put that paint on it was pretty wild.
Ax and yourself won your first WWE tag team titles at WrestleMania and also hold the record for the longest-reigning tag team champions. What were those achievements like?
To win the tag team titles at WrestleMania, that was the biggest thing that could have happened in my career. We hold the record for a single reign and also our combined reign of all three title runs we had. I don’t know if it will ever be broken because they really don’t have tag teams anymore, so those records might stand for a long time to come. I don’t know if Vince will ever have two guys that can be the tag team champions for that long anymore.
What do you feel the lack of tag team wrestling is down to in both WWE and TNA at the moment?
It seems like tag team wrestling isn’t as big a deal to the companies anymore. When Ax and I were the champs it really meant something and we were one of the main events on the card on every show and PPV and there were about eight or nine really good teams. Now it’s like they just throw together two main single acts and make them a tag team.
I think one of the main reasons for this is down to money, because it can’t be because it wasn’t exciting, I thought the tag matches were more exciting than all of the singles matches apart from the main event they had been building for two or three months and I think fans really miss good tag team wrestling.
When you have two wrestlers in the ring you’re only paying two guys, but when you have a tag team you have four guys you’re paying plus usually a manager, so it probably cost the companies more money to pay for the tag teams. WWE and TNA are still drawing the crowds without the tag teams, so why have them.
You have recently teamed up with Ax again at a few independent shows, what has it been like bringing Demolition back?
It’s been fun, we can’t wrestle like we use to and the people know it too, we are getting old and overweight but I think they just want to see us. All those years touring with WWE, we never got the chance to talk to the fans and now when we go out we sit and talk for hours with the fans. I think they can really appreciate it and we appreciate the fans.
After Demolition, you became the Repo Man, what was it like playing that character?
It’s quite funny because a lot of people always asked me why I did that, well for me I liked playing a character. It was a real hard character to get into so I had a lot of fun pulling it off and one of the reasons why I did it was because I was going to end up being a babyface and I wanted to do things like hospital signings for Make A Wish Foundation and I really enjoyed it!
In the past, we got to see great characters including the likes of Sgt. Slaughter, The Mountie, Doink The Clown etc however nowadays there is a lack of characters, what do you put that down to?
It’s probably down to the fact that a lot of the guys can’t be the characters anymore, and they actually have a hard time even being themselves. When you go to FCW now all they are looking for is big monster guys with bodies that have never been in the ring before and don’t care about wrestling, they are just out to make money and it’s not the wrestlers anymore like it used to be. I think it’s been hurting the business because there is so much focus on the entertainment now, even when we played the characters we knew how to wrestle.
After your time in WWE, you joined WCW, what was the comparison like between the two companies?
It was like going from the biggest grocery store to a little corner shop. WCW had everything and they paid all of the money but the show just wasn’t the same as the WWF.
Eric Bischoff came up with such good ideas with the NWO but what was hard is that if you weren’t an NWO guy you were really nothing in WCW. Everybody else was opening matches except ‘those’ guys and there was no way to break into a top spot with Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and all of the nWo guys. It was great for ratings but for the rest of the guys in the locker room it became just a job and it didn’t feel like you were a part of the organisation.
Having worked for both Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, how would you compare the two with their similarities and differences?
Eric and Vince were running their companies in different ways. Vince and WWE were drawing people at the house shows, whilst Eric with WCW was more focused on the TV ratings. When you went to the WCW house shows there weren’t as many people there, so one was a TV company and the other was a house show company and it makes a big difference. Eric wanted every show to be the best show on TV whilst Vince was using his TV to build the show and draw more money at the house shows.
What did you make of the recent Raw 1000th Episode?
It is great to have had wrestling on TV for this many years and it is incredible what Vince McMahon has done.
Your son Dakota has featured recently on TNA, what has that been like for you seeing your son wrestle?
He fought Zema Ion recently on IMPACT! and my son can really wrestle like the old school wrestlers, but he now has to change to a completely different style. I spoke to him the other day and he said it was really hard because he was trained by the old school guys and can wrestle the English mat style and now it’s just about the high spot. He can do all of that stuff but it’s hard to get in your head what you’re supposed to do compared to know what you have to do, but he’s doing pretty well, so hopefully, he will get a full-time job now.
Your son has come through TNA’s Gut Check system, what have you made of that concept?
I think it is a great idea from TNA because it does give the guys an opportunity to get on TV straight away. The only problem is that a lot of the guys they are having their matches with haven’t been in the company that long themselves, you’re not getting really good matches right off the get-go. If they put the Gut Check guys in the ring with guys like Kurt Angle you would see some really good matches.
For more information on Barry follow his Twitter @RealDemoSmash.