Old School Spotlight: “Dr. D” David Schultz

David Schultz

In the long storied history of professional wrestling, many spandex clad gladiators have grabbed our attention and captured our imaginations. These colorful characters remain in the deepest recesses of our minds years after their glory days in the ring have passed. The most memorable grapplers from our years of wrestling fandom are often those that we encounter early on in our initial discovery of the mat game. This column will take a weekly look at some of the most bizarre, flamboyant, charismatic, and downright terrifying pro wrestlers of all time.

The 1980s was a tremendous decade in the history of professional wrestling. The sport saw unparalleled growth going from a regional spectacle to a national and later global phenomenon. This era was definitively the “Golden Age” in modern pro wrestling history. Dozens of regional territories were thriving, international promotions were doing good business, and the level of talent involved in the mat game was at an all time high. Not since those days have we seen the amount of top level main event talent across the board. All of these men and women had one thing in common; they all came up the hard way. They paid their dues. They protected the business. Kayfabe was a way of life.

As pro wrestling exploded into main stream pop culture in the mid 80s riding the wave of the Rock – n – Wrestling Connection, the characters we saw compete inside the squared circle became larger than life. The news media also became more keenly aware of pro wrestling and its growing popularity. They poked and prodded around trying to find out what exactly made this unique industry tick. They didn’t realize that they weren’t welcomed by all. The business of pro wrestling was very much still closed at that time. Everyone wasn’t “smart”. Wrestlers were proud of their profession. They treated the sport that they had given their blood, sweat, and tears with great reverence. People were still talking about the iconic angle in Memphis between Hollywood comedian, Andy Kaufman, and Memphis legend, Jerry “The King” Lawler. Was it real? The majority said yes. THAT was how well it was done. It wasn’t until almost two decades later that Lawler confirmed that he and Kaufman had cooked up this storyline together. It was gold. It was everything that pro wrestling should be. Still the question of wrestling being “fake” was on the minds of many. One old school rugged territory star named, “Dr. D” David Shultz became the poster boy for this argument after a now infamous incident with TV reporter John Stossel during an interview for the show, 20/20. That moment ended up defining the career of “Dr. D” and leading to even more publicity for pro wrestling.

David Shultz was born June 1, 1955 in the west Tennessee town of Jackson. He was trained by one of the members of Tennessee’s Royal Family of Wrestling, Herb Welch. Shultz began competing in the Mid-American territory in the mid-1970s before moving on the Canada. He found success in the tag team ranks early in his career winning regional tag team titles with partners: Roger Kirby, Bill Ash, and Dennis Condrey. Shultz began to find himself as a singles star after returning from Canada in the late 70s and making a name for himself in the east Tennessee based, Southeastern Championship Wrestling. There he feuded with “Bullet” Bob Armstrong trading the Southeastern Heavyweight Championship back and forth during 1978.

As the decade of the 1980s rolled around, Shultz returned to the Great White North competing in Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling and later for Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. He held numerous titles in both territories and began to gain notoriety throughout North America. In 1984, while competing in Memphis, promoter Vince McMahon had become impressed with Schultz after watching an interview in which he had made derogatory remarks about Hulk Hogan during his brief stay in the area. He, along with tag team partner “Macho Man” Randy Savage and his brother Lanny Poffo would become part of the first crop of major regional wrestling stars to be signed by Vince McMahon. Within a short time, he had become one of the of the top “heels” in the WWF being aligned with the likes of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in their ongoing feud with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. Schulz also teamed with Piper and Orndorff to face the babyface trio of S.D. Jones, Rocky Johnson, and Bobo Brazil in 6-man tag team matches throughout 1984 on the house show circuit. On June 17, he would have his highest profile singles match to date facing WWF World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan, on a card in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As 1984 drew to a close, Schultz had a notorious encounter with 20/20 reporter John Stossel while Stossel was backstage at Madison Square Garden in New York doing a story about professional wrestling’s secrets and legitimacy. During the interview Stossel told Schultz that he thought pro wrestling was fake and Schultz’s response was to hit Stossel in the head twice with open handed slaps, knocking him to the floor each time. Before the first strike, Stossel said, “I think this is fake” to which Schultz said, “You think it’s fake?” and hit him the first time on his right ear. Before the second shot Schultz said, “What’s that, is that fake? Huh? What the hell’s wrong with you? That’s an open hand slap. You think it’s fake? I’ll fake you.” After the second hit, to Stossel’s left ear, Stossel attempted exit the scene, but Schultz proceeded to go after him, saying, “Huh? What do you mean, fake? What the hell’s the matter with you?” as a man in the background says “Easy, easy” to calm Schultz down. The attack, which attracted a large amount of media coverage, was later aired on national television including ABC News which reported that the network had received more than 1,000 calls from viewers inquiring about Stossel’s health.

Marvin Kohn, a deputy commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission, had been present at the arena during the incident and immediately suspended Schultz for his actions. In those days pro wrestlers were licensed by various state bureaus just like professional boxers. Although called by Commissioner Jose Torres to come to a hearing before the Commission, Kohn later reported that Schultz had written a letter to the commission admitting that he had “acted improperly and apologized both to the commission and to Mr. Stossel” and further stated “I admit the allegations … I want the commission to know that I did not intend to hurt John Stossel. I apologize to the commission and to John Stossel.” Stossel stated that he suffered from pain and buzzing in his ears eight weeks after the assault. Stossel later claimed he was unaware of Schultz’s apology and would pursue his action in a court of law although commented he would be “less likely to sue” if the after-effects of his injury disappeared. He has contended at times, still to this day, that he suffered partial permanent hearing loss stemming from the incident. Stossel eventually filed a lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation, and settled out of court for $425,000.

Although he has consistently maintained that World Wrestling Federation officials told him to hit Stossel, Schultz was fired after the incident on December 28, 1984. Many industry insiders believe that it was not because of his actions against Stossel, but rather because he challenged Mr. T to a fight backstage at a WWF show at Madison Square Garden. Shultz believed that Mr. T disrespected the wrestling business and all those that made a living in it with his “Hollywood attitude” when he was brought in during the buildup for the first WrestleMania event. Shultz wrestled sporadically after being let go by the WWF in Memphis, Canada, and Japan. Having trouble finding promoters willing to take a chance on him, Shultz retired from the ring shortly after the Stossel incident and moved to Connecticut. There he opened a successful bail bonds business and made a career as a professional bounty hunter. Pursuing criminals as far as Egypt and Puerto Rico, he has arrested around 1,700 fugitives and worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and various police departments. Schultz briefly reappeared in the pro wrestling spotlight in the early 1990s when WWF Owner, Vince McMahon, was accused of illegally distributing anabolic steroids to the wrestlers he employed. Although Hulk Hogan was considered to be the prosecution’s major witness, Schultz was one of several former WWF wrestlers called to testify against McMahon at the trial although McMahon would eventually be acquitted of all charges against him. Shultz has seldom been seen since the McMahon trial. He made a few appearances at conventions and banquets and recorded a “shoot” interview for RF video in 2006. “Dr. D” is just one example of a throwback in professional wrestling to a time when the public didn’t know what went on behind the curtain, and that’s just the way everyone liked it.




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