November 30, 2013
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
With the hustle and bustle of Queens, New York behind him, “Luscious” Johnny Valiant talked recently about returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh and back to a wrestling arena.
“It’s been 20 years,” said Valiant one recent weekday. “Wow.”
Most recognized in recent years as the manager of “The Dream Team” of Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Johnny Valiant was himself a 10-time wrestling champion. There were nine tag team championships as half of “The Valiant Brothers” with Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant (and one WWE tag title with the Jerry Valiant). Johnny and Jimmy were so successful that they defeated Dick the Bruiser and Bruno Sammartino for the World Wrestling Association (WWA) World Heavyweight tag team championships on January 5, 1974, and would beat the icons in a rematch.
Johnny’s sole Single’s Title was the WWA World Heavyweight Title when he defeated Dick The Bruiser on November 29, 1980 and lost it to Bob Brazil on July 24, 1981 in Bartonville, Illinois. Fans shouldn’t be too concerned that Valiant’s time at the top only recorded 90 days. Back in the WWA at that time, the belt changed hands about quarterly. Dick the Bruiser held it 10 times.
Johnny and Jimmy won the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) tag team belts on May 8, 1974 from Tony Garea and Dean Ho in Hamburg, PA. Dominic DeNucci and Victor Rivera would win the straps 370 days later in Philadelphia.
Tony Garea and Larry Zbyszko would lose to the Jerry and Johnny Valiant on March 6, 1979 in Allentown, PA with the tag team belts on the line. Johnny and Jerry would lose the belts to Ivan Putski and Tito Santana in New York City on October 22, 1979.
Johnny and Jimmy Valiant would defeat DeNucci and Wilbur Snyder for the WWA tag team titles on March 4, 1978 and lose them to Snyder and Pepper Gomez on December 2, 1978. All of the WWA title changes occurred in Indianapolis, Indiana.
While most of Johnny Valiant’s heyday as a wrestler was in the 1970’s (they were Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Tag Team of the year in 1974) and early 80’s, he and brother Jimmy were the first tag team to ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 (they were inducted by The British Bulldog and Owen Hart). The Class was historically significant for Pittsburgh wrestling fans as "Baron" Mikel Scicluna and Killer Kowalski were also inducted that year. During his early Single’s career, Johnny Valiant was a frequent foe of Scicluna’s and the two had a nice feud.
After retiring as a full-time wrestler, Valiant managed Hulk Hogan in the AWA before taking on the responsibility of “The Dream Team.” Valentine and Valiant abandoned Beefcake at the end of their Wrestlemania III match with the Rougeau brothers. Not long after that, Beefcake picked up clippers and became “The Barber.” Beefcake took revenge on Valiant by shaving him bald.
Valiant was Demolition’s first manager. Valiant escorted Bill Eadie (Demolition Ax) and Randy Cooley (Smash) onto WWF Superstars on January 17, 1987.
“We (WWE) and me parted ways not long after Wrestlemania III,” he said.
In 1989 Valiant lead the Wrecking Crew to the AWA Tag Team Championship in Rochester, Minnesota. Not long after that, Valiant’s wrestling career was over.
In the early 1990’s Valiant began to hone his acting and comedy chops. He has appeared as an actor, including appearances on Law & Order and The Soprano’s (he had a “blink and you missed him“ cameo in Mickey Rourke‘s “The Wrestler“). His one-man comedy event, “An Evening With Johnny Valiant” had extended runs at New York's Theater for the New City and the Bowery Poetry Club. The show received positive reviews from The Village Voice and Upright Citizens Brigade Troop among others. Darren Aronofsky, director of “The Wrestler,” has been a fan and tapped Valiant after catching the stage performance.
Now, Valiant is returning to Pittsburgh. In fact, family responsibility has kept him coming home often, even though he’s called Queens home for 15 years. He doesn’t watch much wrestling on TV and has turned down offers to visit regional federations in New York and New Jersey. However, coming home and getting a chance to visit the Krazies at FanFest has been too enticing.
“I’m looking forward to coming in and seeing everyone,” said Valiant as he dashes off to another Big Apple adventure.
“Luscious” Johnny Valiant will be at KSWA FanFest/Toy Drive on Saturday, December 7 at the Home of Professional Wrestling in Pittsburgh the KSWA Arena. Bell time is 7:30. All tickets are $5 and everyone is encouraged to bring a new toy to be donated to needy children throughout Allegheny County. Also set to appear is Zach Gowen. KSWA World Heavyweight Champion “Dr. Devastation” Lou Martin and Golden Triangle Champion “The Future” Shane Starr headline the event in a Winner Take All Championship Match. Card subject to change.