An article by Mike Mooneyham
Second of Two Parts
Published in April 1997
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tully Blanchard was one of pro wrestling’s brightest stars during the ’80s. Fame and fortune had come easy for the former standout college quarterback and member of wrestling’s legendary Four Horsemen. But outside the glare of the spotlight, Blanchard was on a runaway train to destruction. Through what Blanchard calls a miracle, his life got back on track with more meaning and sense of purpose than ever before.
Tully Blanchard was one of pro wrestling’s brightest stars. Fame and fortune had come easy for the former standout college quarterback and member of the sport’s elite Four Horsemen. But outside the glare of the spotlight, Blanchard was on a runaway train to destruction.
Too small (5-10, 200) for a pro football career, Blanchard followed in the footsteps of his father, longtime Texas wrestler and promoter Joe Blanchard, and carved a niche in the mat business.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“It was easy because all you had to do was travel around the country, be at a certain building,” says Blanchard. “You had no responsibility. You just worked out, drank, chased women, did whatever you wanted to do. That was great because I was an irresponsible 22-year-old when I got out of college. That’s all I wanted was to get paid for doing nothing.”
Blanchard had been wrestling for less than two years when he got an emergency phone call from home prior to a wrestling engagement in Greensboro, N.C. The news was devastating. His 16-year-old brother had been killed in a car wreck.
“I flew home. It was traumatic – the torment that happened to my mother and my father. I watched my father try to drink himself to death. I watched him try to eat himself to death. I watched him do everything but stick a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. I saw the despair in my mother.”
There was, however, a saving grace.
“Both of my parents got saved because of this event. After the rolling around and the pity and the sorrow and the grief and blaming themselves for letting him drive to baseball practice. Jesus came into their lives and gave them peace and saved them.”
Blanchard would have none of it. Oblivious to the consequences, he continued a fast-lane lifestyle that he now admits was a self-glorifying ego trip. He says at the time he thought it was special to have big parties with all the drug dealers in San Antonio, with the Mercedes and Porsches parked outside his house, and with the mountainful of cocaine in his kitchen.
“I wanted the bright lights and big cities,” he says.
He didn’t realize, however, that all the while the FBI was conducting surveillance.
“I really don’t know how close I came to going to prison,” says Blanchard. “I do know for a fact that my father knew a person on the police force, and that they had a warrant for my arrest at one time, and for some reason they did not serve it. That was a scary thing in my life, to think that Tully Blanchard could actually get busted for something like this. I was just having fun, living life the way it was supposed to be lived, to the fullest.”
As Blanchard became more and more entrenched in his excessive lifestyle, business conversely started to take a dip. The money quit coming in, and Blanchard – at the age of 29 – found himself 10 house payments behind.
“I had been on cocaine for two years. I had been drinking every night. I was running around like a madman with every woman that I could think of, thinking that this was what life’s all about.”
It was during 1983 that Blanchard reached a low point in his life. He walked out of a bar at 2 in the morning, sat in his car and thought about shooting himself. He reasoned that his life insurance could do his parents more good than he was doing being alive. He owed everyone money. He realized he needed to do something.
“And you’d think it was to turn to God, but it wasn’t. It was to turn to Tully Blanchard, because that’s the way I was raised. I quit wrestling and I quit drugs and I quit drinking and I quit running around with women. What I did was get in shape. I turned to working out. I turned into a workout-aholic.”
Blanchard got his mind and body clean, lost weight and worked his way back into shape. But his financial situation worsened, and he ended up quitting his job and the company. Things were so bleak that he couldn’t even afford to buy his parents a Christmas present.
He returned to what he knew best and what he had always succeeded in – wrestling. He made enough in a week to purchase a gift for his parents. It appeared that things were beginning to fall into place.
Blanchard met with promoter Jim Crockett Jr. at the bar of a Marriott hotel in St. Louis in 1984. He told Crockett that he could make money for him if he’d bring him to North Carolina, and that the relationship would be mutually advantageous. Crockett agreed, and Blanchard started work for Crockett Promotions at a TV taping in Shelby, N.C.
“At that time his company wasn’t doing real well, and I started wrestling and I was as good as I thought I was. People started buying tickets and attendance started jumping. I was at the top of the heap.”
Baby Doll (Nickla Roberts) joined Blanchard as his valet the following year, and his career soon vaulted to the top. Twenty-seven thousand fans watched Blanchard battle Dusty Rhodes at the Charlotte Coliseum. That same year at Starrcade at the Greensboro Coliseum, Blanchard made $12,000 for one night’s work against Magnum T.A.
Blanchard’s biggest career break, how ever, was yet to come.
As part of the Four Horsemen with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Ole and Arn Anderson, and manager J.J. Dillon, Blanchard took his place at the top of a pro wrestling wave that was sweeping the nation. But he was smarter this time around.
“I’d go snort some cocaine and drink and chase women and do the things that I used to do, but I stayed on top of it this time. I didn’t let the drugs or the alcohol or the party life control my business life, because I was too smart for that.”
Blanchard says greed begat more greed. He quit Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance and headed north for what seemed like the greener pastures of the World Wrestling Federation. It was his dream to walk down the aisle at Madison Square Garden, with 21,000 fans screaming. That dream was realized in August 1989 when Blanchard and Arn Anderson, known as “The Brainbusters,” went up against Demolition for the WWF tag-team belts in one of the main events at the Garden.
“It was a big thrill,” recalls Blanchard. “That was the mecca of sports stadiums. I got to have my name on the marquee. I still remember it today, but not near as prideful as I did.”
But, once again, Blanchard let greed take over. He struck a deal with the NWA to return for a three-year, $750,000 contract. In the interim he failed a WWF drug test. He went home and worked out and played golf for three weeks. “I thought life was coming out roses,” he says. This rose, however, was to wilt on the vine. On Nov. 13, 1989, at 1 o’clock in the morning, Blanchard got a telephone call from Ric Flair. The message was numbing.
“He said, `They’re not going to honor their agreement with you because of what happened with the WWF … They’re not going to hire you.’ At 1 o’clock in the morning, I was unemployed. I was suspended from the WWF, didn’t want to go back and the NWA wouldn’t hire me. That $5,000 a week was gone. I laid in that bed and tossed and turned and tossed and turned until 4 o’clock in the morning.”
Then came another call.
Relates Blanchard: “The words `Jesus Christ take over my life’ came out. You might think that was understandable and great. But this was a man who hadn’t been to church since he was 5 years old. He didn’t have the knowledge to ask Jesus Christ to take over his life. God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, came down and put the words in my mouth and in my brain, and put me to sleep right after I said that.”
Blanchard says when he awakened at 7:30, he didn’t question what he had asked for just hours before.
“I didn’t say, `Whoa, wait just a minute, what am I doing?’ I got this Bible out that my parents had mailed me and had been sitting in a closet, and I started reading it. I pulled out the tapes that they had been mailing me, and started playing them. I said the sinner’s prayer three times a day to make sure I was saved. No man can describe the feeling that is in you when Jesus Christ comes into your heart and you know you’re going to heaven. You know because you know because you know because you know. My wife (Courtney) got saved six days after I did. God’s blessed us. We’ve been working together learning how to be Christians and Christian parents.”
The transition from confessed sinner to saved Christian was not an easy one, Blanchard admits. His financial problems didn’t immediately vanish, and when a door appeared to open, it always seemed to shut just as suddenly. It wasn’t until he surrendered totally, says Blanchard, that he found the answers.
“I had been unemployed for some time. I prayed for God to give me a job, and this door opened. But looking back on it, you’ve got to assume that God wanted that door shut because even when I tried to open it, it got slammed in my face. God didn’t want me there, so I ended up being in the pressure cooker and unemployed for the whole year. I lost everything that I ever had except my house. I was able to keep my house, I don’t know how, but everything else was gone – life insurance policies, cash values, credit cards maxed out.
“Then the Lord got me to a position where I finally just threw up my hands and said, if it gets done you have to do it. If they repossess my house, they’re going to do it. When I got to that point of surrender, then the spirit of God touched people and I scheduled six months of preaching in a week. People just found my phone number and started calling me wanting me to come to their churches. It was really quite amazing.”
Blanchard has still wrestled on a few occasions, mostly on independent shows, during the past couple of years.
“I don’t have that much of a problem doing anything if whatever I do brings glory to the Lord and my life points people toward Jesus. People understand it (pro wrestling) is entertainment.”
Blanchard is now on staff at Central Church in Charlotte. The church fully supports his ministry.
“Our pastor knows that I’m called to be out preaching and evangelizing. It’s a nice way for them to say do it. I’m gone almost every week. I hit the road at about 6:30 in the morning, and I stay swamped all day long every day. And when I’m not doing that I’m preaching. I want this ministry to be successful, and only God can give the success and only God can give the increase. I’m just taking care of the small details. He’s had to get me in a position where He wants me. I don’t think the Lord wanted to lift up a novice. God has really placed a call on my life. I don’t come and just entertain people”