Where Are They Now?: Scott Norton
Many memories have gotten lost in the mind of Scott Norton, the monstrous Minnesotan who dominated New Japan Pro Wrestling before returning to America to bulldoze the competition in WCW. However, many of those extraordinary moments — from his stint as a bodyguard for Prince to his dominant career in Japan —are resurfacing as the man known as “Flash” gets ready to publish a book chronicling his crazy career.
For Norton, wrestling never seemed like a career path. Still, as a kid in the Midwest, watching squared-circle action was almost a habit every weekend.
“It was AWA wrestling, the pre-game show and then football,” Norton told WWE.com. “Everybody watched it.”
Norton hadn’t given any thought to stepping into the ring himself. He took to other sports, though his big size may have prevented him from reaching his full potential.
“I grew up playing football, baseball and a little basketball, but hockey was probably my favorite sport,” he said. “But when you have size 16’s when you’re 12 years old, you’re screwed.”
The youngster did find a unique way to turn his strength into a profession. Norton entered the world of competitive arm wrestling and quickly found success.
“The first time I arm wrestled, I won a pretty good-sized tournament, which was covered by theMinneapolis Star Tribune,” Norton explained. “I was on the cover of the sports section.It was unbelievable.”
Earning the nickname “Flash” for the speedy manner in which he won, Norton quickly moved up the ranks, capturing a regional title in the Midwest and earning a place in the world championships in Las Vegas, where he quickly got a reality check.
“I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “I wasn’t even 25 matches into my career and I’m in Vegas pulling Virgil Arciero, one of the absolute best of all time. He showed me that I needed a lot of work.“
Norton learned from the experience and went on to have a successful career in the world of arm wrestling, capturing many titles and earning a role in Sylvester Stallone’s cinematic ode to the sport, “Over the Top.”
While arm wrestling, Norton also pursued a career as a bodyguard , working for Prince during the eccentric musician’s “Purple Rain” tour. Yet Norton’s prowess in arm wrestling earned him the attention of scouts in the professional wrestling world. It also didn’t hurt that some of his childhood friends were tearing it up in the squared circle.
“ Road Warrior Hawk and I grew up together, me and Rick Rude went to junior high school together, Curt Hennig was a very good friend of mine, plus John Nord and Wayne Bloom,” Norton said. “But Hawk was such an unbelievable friend. He made sure everybody knew about his buddy Scott.”
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When Norton decided the time was right for him to jump into professional wrestling, he found himself in the training camp of Brad Rheingans, an amateur grappler who turned pro shortly after the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics. The camp was one of the hardest things Norton had ever been through.
“It was a struggle,” Norton recalled. “It was a tough camp.”
Rheingans prepared him as best he could before Verne Gagne plucked Norton from camp a month later to enter the ranks of the AWA. Though he had been through grueling training, Norton wasn’t sure how he would handle actually wrestling in front of a crowd.
“Oh, man, that was my biggest fear,” he said with a laugh. “I wasn’t intimidated, but I probably wasn’t ready for it. I wrestled Wayne Bloom in Mason City, Iowa, but to me it was a sold-out Madison Square Garden. You blow up, get nervous … It’s just brutal.”
Though his first foray may not have been a five-star classic, Norton soon settled into the ways of the ring. “Four or five matches later, you start relaxing, you start to get a grip on what you’re doing and you start having fun with it,” he told WWE.com.
Norton soon found himself donning plaid and teaming with his good friend John Nord as The Lumberjacks. AWA fans may recall the silly interviews where Norton’s ability to consume mythical amounts of pancakes were touted. Those who stepped in the ring with The Lumberjacks, however, have very different memories.
“We were just killing guys; nobody had a chance,” Norton recalled. “I mean, absolutely running them over. It kind of labeled me as someone a lot of people didn’t want to be anywhere near in the ring.”
His hard-hitting style may not have been appreciated in America at the time, but Norton soon found a place where it would be welcomed. After the AWA fizzled out in the early 1990s, the big man made his way across the Pacific to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
“It was 10 times more physical,” he said. “My second tour there, I got on the bus one day and ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams was there. He was finishing up the last week of his contract with New Japan. He told me, ‘You can have this, Scott.’ “
Norton thrived in New Japan, forming a successful tag team with former WWE Superstar Hercules known as The Jurassic Powers. Soon after the formidable pair became IWGP Tag Team Champions in 1993, WCW came calling for Norton.
Looking for a challenger to their top hero, Sting, WCW worked out a deal where Norton and The Stinger would clash in Japan and in the U.S. on pay-per-view. Unfortunately, a disagreement between “Flash” and WCW officials led to the rivalry never reaching U.S. soil.
Norton returned to a full-time schedule in Japan before heading to WCW in 1995. The powerhouse clashed with “Macho Man” Randy Savage on an early episode of WCW Nitro before forming a short-lived tag team with rookie grappler Ice Train. He really hit his stride in late 1996, when he turned on WCW to join the renegade New World Order, just as it was beginning to explode in popularity.
“It was absolutely awesome,” Norton said of his time with the black-and-white rebels. “It opened so many doors for me in Japan and here in the States.”
He also formed another tag team that resonated with fans, a pairing with Buff Bagwell that came to be known as “Vicious & Delicious.”
“We were just so unalike,” Norton said of the tandem. “He was the pretty boy and I was this big, rough and tough guy. He’d get the people all stirred up, then tag me in and I’d hit my stuff. He was a great showman and a hell of a tag partner.”
“Flash” also brought The nWo’s revolution to Japan, helping to found a chapter that raised hell in New Japan Pro Wrestling. That created a unique scenario for Norton, who wanted to compete as much as possible in both promotions.
“I would go on a three-week tour of Japan, fly back, land at 11 a.m. Monday morning and wrestle on Nitro, then we’d tape Thunder on Tuesday,” Norton explained. “You got the weekend off and all of a sudden, you’re back on a plane to Japan.”
Norton attained a great deal of success in New Japan during this time. In September 1998, he captured the promotion’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship, becoming one of the few foreign competitors to do so.
“It meant a lot to me,” Norton said of his big victory. “New Japan was so good to me. They really went out of their way to give me a successful career and every opportunity to succeed.”
Unfortunately, the breakneck schedule caught up with Norton.
“You wear out, basically,” he explained. “I was jetlagged for 20 years. There’s just no way around it. Your body gets beat down.”
Norton left WCW in 1999, but continued his successful run in New Japan until 2006. He competed for other organizations in Japan in recent years, but has slowed down since.
“I haven’t been in the ring for a couple years,” he told WWE.com. “It just makes you miss it. You find out how much you loved it.”
The process of putting together his book, “Scott Norton: Strong Style,” has also helped “Flash” rekindle his love for wrestling. He’s working on the book with one of his biggest fans, Adam Randis. The two met through the internet years ago, as Randis would translate Japanese articles featuring him. At first, Norton thought his career wouldn’t translate well to the printed page.
“We talked for three hours on a Wednesday night,” he explained. “I remember hanging the phone up, putting my head in my hands and saying, ‘God, I’m the most boring person on the planet. This is going to suck.’ “
When Randis sent him some sample chapters, Norton’s tune changed. “It just blew me away,” he said.
Norton’s passion for telling his incredible story to the world shows.
“You get to talking about the people that meant so much to you and helped you along the way, I’m so excited for the book to come out,” he said. “I’m just really proud of it.”
Norton currently lives in Houston with his wife. When he’s not putting the finishing touches on his book, he enjoys working on his golf game, following sports, hunting and fishing. Recently, he has been catching up with some of his nWo running buddies on the autograph signing circuit. And he has never lost his burly physique, thanks to his dedication in the gym to this day.
“I’m staying active,” Norton said. “I have this crazy idea that one of these days, I’ll be back in the ring.”
He would love to tour Japan again once his book releases, but for Norton, being near a wrestling ring is good enough.
“It’s been a nice transition out of wrestling, but I really want to get more involved in the business,” he said. “It’s in my blood.”
To keep up with Scott Norton as he gets his book ready for publishing, follow him on Twitter @scottnorton