By Mike Mooneyham
Published in September 10, 1994
Terry Taylor smiles at the notion of being labeled the “Taylor-Made Man.” Of course, it’s all part of his latest gimmick in the gimmick-filled world of professional wrestling. Last year as a member of the York Foundation, he was tabbed the “computerized man of the ’90s” and symbolized a stylish, aggressive Wall Street figure much like the man whose place he took, Michael Wall Street (Rotundo).
Taylor, well-proportioned on a 6-1, 238-pound frame, looks much the part of the character he portrays in the ring. He’s articulate with a polish about him that might be found in a lawyer or businessman. But among his peers in the grunt-and-groan trade, he’s considered one of the best workers in the game.
The York Foundation was composed of Taylor (now referred to as Terrence), new partner and former Rock ‘N Roll Express member Richard Morton, recent addition Thomas Rich, and administrative director Alexandra York.
Gimmicks are not exactly new to Taylor, who spent more than a year in the World Wrestling Federation strutting his stuff as “The Red Rooster,” complete with purple hair spiked like a rooster’s. Taylor, who for most of his career relied solely on his wrestling ability, scoffs at critics who claimed he sold out during his WWF stint.
“When I first went to the WWF, a good friend of mine named Chief Jay Strongbow and I made a few trips together,” Taylor relates. “He told me if (WWF owner) Vince McMahon gives you an idea for a character, go with it. If he tells you to paint your hair purple, do it, because he has the most powerful media vehicle ever – the WWF. If he wants to make you a star, he can. And if he wants to murder you, he can do that, too. But if you don’t give him a chance, he’s just going to murder you anyway.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“Well, Vince pulled me in and said, `Terry, I’ve been watching what you do. I’ve seen you walk, and you kind of bob your head and it reminds me of a rooster. I want you to be `The Little Red Rooster.’ For more than eight years I had been working my tail off trying to make people believe that what we did had some sort of credibility and that we do work hard. When he did that, my heart sank.
“But I had been working for the Von Erichs for eight months, my wife was pregnant and we were broke. I had to have a job. So I said OK. For a year and a half, I swallowed my pride doing what I had to do to provide for my family.”
Fortunately for Taylor, the Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling recognized his ability and came calling last year after Taylor had had enough of the rooster character. But the damage had been done, and he’s still trying to put the past as far behind him as possible.
“I still have more people calling me Red Rooster than Terry Taylor. I even changed my hairdo, but it hasn’t helped. Maybe someday.”
In the meantime, Taylor enjoys working for the Ted-Turner owned WCW.
“I like it. It’s almost like a whole new company. It’s a breath of fresh air; there’s new life. I have conflicting feelings, but it’s like were all on the bottom floor of something new and good that’s going to grow and develop, and its nice to be a part of it.”
Taylor, 36, whose name is actually Paul W. Taylor III, is a native of Vero Beach, Fla., and was weaned on wrestling as a youth watching such stars as the Briscos, the Funks and Cowboy Bill Watts.
“It was a good time for wrestling, a golden era. What a neat thing to do, I said to myself. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”
Taylor earned his degree from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
“When I graduated I had a job in a restaurant and I really didn’t like it. I had a buddy (Steve Travis, also known as Steve Muslin) who I played football with at Guilford and he asked me to show him some moves, and he later got a tryout and made it in Florida. So I went to see the matches and there he was.”
Taylor says he got his break in the business from the late Eddie Graham, a top Florida star in the ’60s and ’70s who later became a top promoter in the Sunshine State. Graham offered Taylor the chance to wrestle when a performer failed to show up for a television taping.
“He (Graham) asked me if I could wrestle and I said I could,” recalls Taylor. “I borrowed a guy’s boots and tights. I wrestled Bugsy McGraw and he beat me up in three minutes and 13 seconds. He could have beaten me by blowing on me, I was so nervous.”
That was Sept. 28, 1979, and Taylor has come a long way since.
“I guess they must have liked my work,” he says. Taylor was voted the National Wrestling Alliance rookie of the year in 1980 and became an instant success on the highly regarded Mid-South circuit, where he won the TV title from “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and the North American crown from Ted DiBiase.
Upon his return to the NWA in 1985, he captured the National title from Black Bart, but dropped the belt to Buddy Landell at Starrcade ’85 on Thanksgiving night in Greensboro, N.C.
Taylor returned to the Mid-South area, which had become the Universal Wrestling Federation, and teamed with Chris Adams to defeat Sting and Rick Steiner in the finals of a tournament to fill the vacant tag-team title on Feb. 7, 1987. Taylor turned on his partner after losing the belts to Sting and Steiner on April 12.
Taylor suffered a temporary setback when he was injured in an automobile accident in June of 1987 and had to have his appendix removed. But he returned to the World Class organization and won the Texas title from Matt Borne on Feb. 26, 1988.
It was later that year when Taylor ventured to the WWF, where he became The Red Rooster under the management of Bobby Heenan. He defeated Heenan in the ring at Wrestlemania V on April 2, 1989. In 1990, Taylor returned to the NWA, minus the rooster gimmick, as Terry Taylor.
Taylor, despite the gimmicks and setbacks along the way, still thinks it’s a great sport, but adds that reality of the changing business has gradually set in and some expectations may never be realized. He’s seen the upper echelon of wrestlers change from those with sports backgrounds to bodybuilders, from athletes with considerable in-ring ability to muscled giants with little wrestling talent. His goals are no longer world title belts, but leaving the sport without sustaining much more damage.
“I used to think I would someday be the world champion, but I don’t necessarily feel that way anymore,” says Taylor. “Both of my knees are gone. I have no ligament left in either knee. That’s why you don’t see me on the top rope very often. One time I came off the top and landed on Sting’s foot and just tore everything. And another time I was doing a leapfrog and protect ing my bad knee, so I made it on one leg and it just gave. I guess my goals now would be getting out of it without any more knee operations, two dollars in the bank and staying married would be nice.”
Taylor, who considers himself to be among the top 10 workers in the business, lists Ric Flair, Bobby Eaton, Curt Hennig, Arn Anderson and Randy Savage as the best pure wrestlers in the game today.