Sunday, March 18, 2018
News Roundup

WWF mastermind and promoter George Scott dies at 84

He came from a world of men in black trunks wrestling in local arenas, of clear-cut heroes and villains inflicting spinning toeholds and figure-four death locks to cheers and boos echoing off the walls.

By the time George Scott left professional wrestling, he had greatly transformed the billion-dollar enterprise then known as the World Wrestling Federation, riding a wave of insanely muscular celebrities he had helped or molded at key points in their careers.

You've heard some of their names — Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Jack Brisco, the Ultimate Warrior and "Macho Man" Randy Savage among them. Mr. Scott, a former wrestler who became the medium's most prominent matchmaker, helped elevate dozens of careers in the 1970s and 1980s.

His signature achievements with WWF king Vince McMahon also paved the way for Mr. Scott's exit from wrestling, which thanks to his own efforts had become a cult of celebrity and never-ending demands.

Mr. Scott died Jan. 20 at Hospice House Woodside, of lung cancer. He was 84.

"He was a starmaker," said Lanny "the Genius" Poffo, 59, who wrestled under Mr. Scott alongside Poffo's brother, Randy Savage, in the 1970s and 1980s. "He let the cream rise to the top. He never did anything except try to help me and my brother and my father (former wrestler Angelo Poffo)."

Mr. Scott's legacy runs even deeper, said Mark Beiro, a longtime Tampa boxing and wrestling announcer.

"Any fan of wrestling has to credit him as being one of the top people who structured wrestling, not just the stars but the story lines," said Beiro, 62. "He was excellent at that. He gave the fans what they were looking for, created all of the expectations, and it culminated in some of the greatest wrestling cards of all time."

As a booker, Mr. Scott put competitors together, sketched out plot lines and planned interviews. He created the elements of great battles months and years ahead by crafting the characters themselves.

A prime example: In the early 1970s, Richard Fliehr, better known as Ric Flair, was a former college football player who had attended a wrestling school. Mr. Scott, who was working in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, saw potential.

Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers, an old-school wrestler friend who had once broken Mr. Scott's back with a kick, offered his own handle to the rising star, who had wanted to wrestle as a cowboy.

"I remember when Ric first started, he was a promising young 'baby face,' a hero. He steadily evolved into a champion you could hate and admire at the same time," said Beiro of Ric "Nature Boy" Flair, whose website describes the wrestler as "the most decorated world champion in history."

In 1983, Vince McMahon hired Mr. Scott as his chief booker. The brainchild of that association, WrestleMania 1 in 1985 in New York, would feature Muhammad Ali as a guest referee, Liberace doing leg kicks with the Rockettes, and Mr. T and Hulk Hogan against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in the finale.

"Vince told George, 'If this thing doesn't work, we're bankrupt. We're going to have to close the company,' " said Jean Scott, his wife.

Within a few years, it was McMahon's competitors who were closing up shop.

Mr. Scott and McMahon followed up in 1986 with WrestleMania 2, featuring the recently retired Jesse Ventura, in whom Mr. Scott saw a future as a color commentator.

George Scott was born in Dalmeny, Scotland, in 1929, the son of a milkman. He grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, and first appeared in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens in 1950.

He would wrestle in Calgary with his brother Angus as the Flying Scotts, as well as in the United States. In the meantime, he married the former Lillian Ezeard. The marriage lasted more than 20 years.

Mr. Scott moved to booking in 1973 after breaking his neck in a match.

"One of the white hats in a world of hustlers," said Tedd Webb, a former ring announcer now with WFLA-AM 970.

The success of the WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) created headaches. Some wrestlers were making $100,000 to $200,000 a week and were difficult to control, Mr. Scott later told Slam! Wrestling. He didn't like steroids or over-the-top events such as televised wrestler weddings in place of a plot.

Mr. Scott left the business in 1986, the same year he married the former Jean Manning. Long before cellphones, wives of wrestlers called the home looking for their husbands.

"Then their girlfriends called," said Jean Scott, 65.

In 1987 the couple moved to Indian Rocks Beach, where Jean became a city commissioner, serving three terms. Mr. Scott golfed and fished and gave generously to Eblen Charities.

His back injury flared up again in 2003, when someone drove over him in a golf cart. Mr. Scott went home, irked but refusing medical treatment.

He had mementoes of wrestling in his wallet, on the walls and in more recent photos of Mr. Scott with other elderly men, all built like sequoias.

In recent weeks, he told his wife he was ready to go. She had a ready reply: "If God needs a wrestler, he's gonna get you."

"I told him that all the time," she said. "So finally, God needed one."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

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