I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with the man who started training Fandango (Curtis Jonathan Hussey) when he was just a teenager. Larry Huntley is an indy wrestler and trainer from Maine who performs as Cousin Larry, a member of The Scufflin Hillbillies. I took him out to lunch before a local Big Time Wrestling show, and we had a great talk specifically about Curtis and the wrestling industry as a whole.
KB – So, when did you train Johnny Curtis?
LH– I’m going to have to guess, because I don’t know the exact year, but I’m X amount of years old, and I’ve been at it for 14 years, that would put me at Z minus 14, so we’re looking at probably 10 years ago.
KB – Okay.
LH – And I mean literally, he’d done nothing. He’d gotten in touch with somebody, the guy that actually trained me, Matt Webber. Then Matt got in touch with me, maybe it was one year earlier, and so it was 10 or 11 years ago. And Curtis was 5’10″, and he weighed 165 lbs, and he 16 years old. Even at 18, he might have been 6′, maybe 6’1″.
KB – Really?
LH – After 18 he still grew like four inches. He’s like 6’4″ and weighs like 240lbs, and god, I wish I looked half as good as him. Holy mackerel!
KB – Were you training a bunch of guys at that time?
LH – He was actually from a neighboring town, and there was four or five kids from the same little development where he was from. They all trained together. Started off as six, then weeded down to four, and then it just ended up being Johnny Curtis and his friend were the only two who were left, and for some reason his friend’s name was Dumpy.
KB – Did he deserve the name?
LH – Ah, from what I heard the reason was, yes.
KB – Okay!
LH – Hahahahaha! Johnny Curtis started out with EWA [Eastern Wrestling Alliance], after 6-8 months, he got a spot as one of the followers to Dr. Payne, he was Jonathan. I don’t remember the name they gave Dumpy, because he didn’t get to be Dumpy, that’s for sure. And the third one was actually Kid Krazy. Kid Krazy, at that point, had only been wrestling for four years. Kid Krazy started at 14. When they first started off they were followers, Curtis and Dumpy weren’t good enough yet to do matches quite yet, but they had all the – they weren’t good enough to put it all together, but they knew their stuff, so they filled a spot and enhanced The Hardcore Institute pretty well, and they took beating [laughing], after beating, after beating, and the funniest part about the story was, it was just part of The Hardcore Institute, but what group does this sound like? They had white shirts, black pants, there was multiples of them, and they all came out with a book in their hand. And not eight months later, Right To Censor showed up [laughing]. So anyone who doesn’t think that Vince McMahon doesn’t have his ears to the railroad tracks, and back then the internet wasn’t huge, but things still got around, and any who says it didn’t come from there, haha, I won’t question you.
KB – Like Zeb Colter, where he came from…
LH – He came from Tennessee, haha.
KB – Meaning where the character came from, and the man who originated it has spoken out about how he is his character. Dutch Mantel fits that role so beautifully.
LH – He [Dutch] has got to get more facial hair. [Larry grew a full beard since the last time I saw him a year ago. That's very common in Maine in the winter.] He trimmed up some of that to go to the Fed [WWE]. He’s got to grow that old facial hair back.
KB – He really is doing well with that character.
LH – He does well with anything.
KB – He’s amazing.
LH – That’s why he’s been around for 40 years.
KB – Oh yeah. But the problem is that there’s no action figures out there for him.
LH – He hasn’t been around long enough. You mean for Zeb?
KB – No, for Dutch in any carnation. He was never in any of the big companies as anything big.
LH – You know, that’s why I respect him more, he was a territory guy. He was never national anywhere, but he was king of territories. He was a great heel.
KB – Everything he’s done has been great.
KB – How early did you see anything in Curtis, I mean really see something.
LH – When he was done doing the Jonathan thing, he actually put on a mask and he wrestled as the Portuguese Sundragon, and they put him with Dumpy who was Kamikaze, and they put them with a manager, because they were too young to be out there. Their voices weren’t even…
KB – (squeaks in a girly voice)
LH – It wasn’t that bad, but they weren’t forceful or anything, so they put them with Josh Shay, and they turned Josh Shay into The Iron Chef. They had the foreign guy, and the foreign guy, and The Iron Chef who came out with the pepper, and that was when he first started to wrestle other places. And that’s when I think he really started to get it.
KB – Okay.
LH – You can only learn so much where you start, you need to get the…
KB – Seasoning?
LH – Not just the seasoning, but you have to go learn from other people. You have to go watch. You know, if you watch the same 14 wrestlers every night wrestle, everybody steals from each other, but if you’re seeing the same guys every night, you don’t want to steal their stuff, but you’re thinking of different ways to use their stuff to help you. So he did that for a couple years, then he started wrestling as Johnny Curtis. When he was Johnny Curtis was when he really started getting it because he showed more intensity in the ring. He started teaming with Brian Black, who was Palmer Cannon [WWE]. He was the TV guy for Smackdown. The Programming Consultant.
KB – Yes, I know who you mean.
LH – They started wrestling as, they were babies, they were good guys, but they wrestled no nonsense, almost MMA style, and their name was Team Tap Out. It was more of the intensity, more of really making people tap out. That’s when it really started to click is when he started to tag with Brian. He moved down there, moved to the dirty south and lived with Brian. Brian was already under contract to WWE, but he [Curtis] wasn’t. But he went down and lived, and paid rent, and lived with Brian. Brian helped him a lot. Brian got him into training. You ever heard of Danny Inferno?
KB – Yeah.
LH – He was there. They were the three guys who basically hung out together down there. And Danny helped him a lot too. I actually worked up here with Danny some with On Fire [NWA On Fire] and he’s pretty good.
KB – When did you know he had that something?
LH – When he was in Tap Out, before he left. At that point he was 22, already 6’2″, and he hadn’t really grown into his body, but you could see it happening. Before it was move A, move B, move C.
KB – But he got the flow?
LH – It was the flow, then you could see the intensity. The instinct kicked in. You knew once the instinct kicked in, you could see it. Before that, he could have had it, but he was thinking too much. He wasn’t able to just do it. It started with Team Tap Out, and then he moved, and I saw some of that stuff, and I could already tell. I’m surprised it took as long for them to bring him up, because he was there forever, he was in developmental, whether under contract or not, he was down there for 5 or 6 years. He’s been training their guys.