A painting of his most famous match hangs in the Las Vegas home of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Roddy Piper has a chain wrapped around his face.
The image is from their famous Starrcade ’83 dog collar match, so brutal and realistic it still holds up today as one of the greatest matches of all time.
Valentine, a WWE Hall of Famer, will be in Fresno this weekend, signing at the CVC card show. The show takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel near the airport (5090 E. Clinton Way). At the same time, WWE holds its showcase event, WrestleMania in suburban Dallas.
Valentine won’t say his exact age but does say it is between 65 and 70. His secret for his ever-flowing blonde hair?
“My secret is, I never did steroids, because that makes your hair fall out,” Valentine said. “And just good genes because my dad never lost his hair before he passed away.”
“The Hammer” appeared at the first seven WrestleManias. He shares his top moments and memories of Fresno in the interview below.
Watch: Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine Interview
Top WrestleMania Moment: HOF Induction
Valentine said his top WrestleMania moment did not come in a match, but well after his active career ended.
“I was at Wrestle Mania XX, they inducted me into the Hall of Fame. I guess that would be the top one, 2004 in the Hall of Fame at WrestleMania in Madison Square Garden,” Valentine said.
Valentine was also on the card for WrestleMania III in 1987 in front of 93,000 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome.
“I was in total awe when I went out there. I’ve never been in a front of a crowd that been. WrestleMania III, my wife … actually we were just going steady and I actually took her to WrestleMania III. She couldn’t believe it. That was fantastic,” Valentine said.
His WrestleMania III was “a good payoff,” but “I was expecting a lot more.”
The Legendary Dog Collar Match
Perhaps Valentine’s most famous match was his Thanksgiving 1983 battle with Roddy Piper. A featured match at the first Starrcade, Valentine and Piper settled a long-standing rivalry tethered together by a chain attached to dog collars.
The match was brutal. They bloodied each other with heavy fists, using the chain as a whip, and generally bashed each others’ heads in.
“That match has surpassed all expectations, and all the people just love it because of the reality of it, because we just beat the hell out of each other and nobody had ever seen a match like that,” Valentine said. “I think that’s why it holds up today, and that’s why it is an icon of wrestling.”
Records show that Valentine and Piper took the dog collar match around the horn in the Mid-Atlantic territory, engaging in at least seven other battles.
“It wasn’t like the first one,” he recalled. “We were already sore, beat up, and bruised. It wasn’t as good as that one, we just kind of went through the motions because we were banged up.”
Memories of Fresno
Valentine didn’t step into a Fresno ring until 1986 with the WWF.
“I had good memories. I enjoyed it because I lived out in New York and I lived in Charlotte. So any time I came out to the West Coast, whether Fresno or whether it was Sacramento or L.A., I loved being in California. I really did,” Valentine said.
Although Valentine was wrestling in Peoria, Illinois on the infamous night that Piper, Magnificent Muraco, and Cowboy Bob Orton had their clash with Fresno police, the story quickly spread in the locker room.
“I heard that they are they were inebriated a little bit and they had a Lincoln Continental and I don’t know how, but they drove it on a railroad track and they got stuck on a railroad track. And the police came,” Valentine heard.
Valentine also heard about the incident between Orton and the police — including future chief and mayor Jerry Dyer.
“(Bob) didn’t have anything on, except his cowboy boots. He came out, there was like a big atrium. He came out and the door shut behind him. … Fresno police are okay with us. You know, they were good,” Valentine said.
Developing Toughness and Life on the Road
The son of legendary wrestler Johnny Valentine, Greg really did grow up in the city he was billed from, Seattle, Washington — or at least its suburbs, Renton, Bothell, and Hobart.
He wrestled some in high schools in the Seattle area (and some at Hollywood High in southern California). He said he enjoyed playing baseball more.
Following in his dad’s profession, Valentine broke into wrestling in the 1970s. He made his biggest impact in the Mid-Atlantic area before joining the WWF again (he had prior stints there) during its 1984 national expansion.
Valentine had a reputation for taking punishment and dishing it out. It was just the way he was trained, to be stiff.
“Back in that day, we were all about believability and making it look like a contest, even though it hurt. I really think I enjoyed the pain … because I would make the people believe. I mean, I really was hurt a lot of times, or I hurt my opponent a lot of times and a lot of opponents didn’t like the fact that I hurt them,” Valentine said.
The road schedule in the 1980s WWF was tough. The itinerary according to The History of the WWE website of Valentine’s first match in Fresno in January 1986 saw him on the road, in a one-week stretch, in Oakland, Detroit, Providence, Tampa, Fresno, Anaheim, and Houston.
“I was so excited to be part of that. I just didn’t wear down. I maybe started wearing down when I got into my 40s. It was like a rock and roll band on the road, we just did it. We fly into L.A. and rent a car and drive up to Bakersfield, drive up to Fresno. It was unbelievable what we did and what we put our bodies through, but I loved every minute of it,” Valentine said.
To help “ease the pain” of the road, Valentine’s wife Julie often accompanied him.
After living most of his WWF life in Florida, the Valentines moved to Las Vegas.
“Being a West Coast guy from the beginning, I love Las Vegas. I really do. And so does my wife,” Valentine said.
And, yes, he is a Raiders fan.
Those Beautiful Robes
Another aspect that made Valentine a Hall of Famer was his ring robes.
“There was a lady in Atlanta, Georgia, her name was Olivia. I think me and Ric (Flair) were her best customers. I had 12 robes at one time. They were expensive back in the 80s, it was three grand, we spent. Nowadays, that robe is worth 20 grand,” Valentine said.
That lady was Olivia Walker, wife of famous grappler Mr. Wrestling II, and seamstress to the stars.
“That helped me get main events because I came out with that attire. The fans loved it. That was just part of the deal. (The) rhinestones … she had these stones that were sent from Austria,” Valentine said. “These stones, when the lights hit them, they just go crazy. (I) loved the robes. That was part of my deal.”
In an episode of “WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures,” Valentine’s “Hammer” robe was estimated to weigh 25 pounds and contain 5,000 rhinestones.
As part of the show, a collector and friend of Valentine’s — who owned the robe — sold it back, along with other memorabilia, for $15,000.