Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
October 14, 1952
1985 - 1995
Currently Known For:
Waylon Mercy in WWE
There’s certainly been no shortage of former football players that made their way to pro wrestling due to their size and athleticism. One of the many that joined the ranks but has become a bit forgotten is Dan Spivey. Spivey was a defensive end at the University of Georgia, and many thought that he had the skills to make it to the NFL.
It turned out those people were right, as Spivey was drafted by the New York Jets. However, Spivey suffered a knee injury that set his NFL career back, and he moved to Tampa, Florida. “I was going to play football the rest of my life,” he said. “After my injury, that dream went away and I was pretty mad at the world.” He moved to Tampa, where he met wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes who offered to train him in the art of pro wrestling. Spivey started wrestling in a small Florida promotion, and within a year moved to Jim Crockett Promotions.
Spivey was shooting his way up the ladder and joined the WWF in 1985 as part of The U.S. Express to form a tag team with Mike Rotunda. The duo would eventually part ways and Spivey was given the moniker of Golden Boy Danny Spivey. He couldn’t find much success on his own, unfortunately, as he worked low profile matches and left the company in 1988.
Spivey made his way back to Jim Crockett Promotions that would eventually become WCW, where he stuck around for three years. He didn’t win any WCW titles, but he was involved in quite a few storylines that allowed him to make a name for himself. You don’t necessarily have to be in the main event scene to be considered a success, which is why the WWF wanted him back.
Upon Spivey’s return, he became one of the many wrestlers of the 1990s that had a gimmick pulled straight from popular culture. In Spivey’s instance, he became Waylon Mercy, which was essentially a knock-off of Robert De Niro’s character Max Cady from the hit film “Cape Fear”. The only problem was, “Cape Fear” came out four years before the Waylon Mercy gimmick, so it was already a bit outdated.
The character had Spivey acting completely rational and normal, and even quite friendly outside of the ring. As soon as the bell would ring, though, Spivey would brutally attack his opponents and became cordial once again when the match was over. Spivey was getting a decent push on television as Waylon Mercy, but it had to come to an end a bit early.
That’s because Spivey had suffered multiple injuries that were adding up, and he decided to retire within the first year of being Waylon Mercy. “I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “My football days and my wrestling days added up and I wore out.” It was tough to leave the potential behind for Spivey, who said that “Waylon Mercy just wasn’t around long enough. I hate that.”
Spivey’s retirement was very sudden, as he said that he basically just left his last match against Kevin Nash (then Diesel) and flew home to Florida. “I remember outside it was really cold, meanwhile in Tampa it was 85 and sunny,” he said. “I came out of the hotel and the Montreal airport was across the road, and I told them I was flying to the Tampa airport and I was done. I flew home, and Vince called me and told me a bunch of stuff they were going to do, but I was done…Two weeks later I had my knee replaced, then six months later I had my hip replaced.”
There are still some regrets about leaving during what could have been the height of Spivey’s career. “They didn’t have anything for Waylon Mercy. That’s why I left,” he said. “It was probably a mistake. When Vince called me at home and asked me to come back and I didn’t was probably the biggest mistake of my career. With the injuries I had, I could have went on, especially if I was making money. Things just didn’t happen that were supposed to happen.”
Many wrestlers end up making a return to the ring a couple of years after “retiring,” but it would be 20 years before Spivey had another match, and it would be his only one. Instead, Spivey has focused his time in a few different businesses. He started as a male model, then settled down for something a little more permanent. It was his family’s Spivey Utility Construction Company in Florida, and Spivey became the Vice President of Operations.
“It’s run by my mom, my dad, my three brothers, my sister and my brother-in-law,” he said. “We do underground construction for Verizon down in Tampa. We al so the same type of work for TECO Electric,” and there were nearly 200 employees working for him. When not at work, Spivey stays away from wrestling for the most part, opting to spend his time at the gym or out on his boat. He does have a love for the industry, though, and even watches it, saying that “Wrestling was my passion…I still miss it.”
Wrestling did leave Spivey a bit beat up, however. Because of the injuries, Spivey says he started drinking and abusing drugs to numb the pain. In 2007, he was arrested for driving under the influence and was eventually released. Within two years, Spivey had cleaned up his act and started working with both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He also started work for a chain of restaurants called The Breakfast Station.
Spivey has said that if it weren’t for the WWE in the first place, he might not be with us today. The rehab program that the WWE has is top notch according to Spivey. “Anybody who has ever worked for them, all you have to do is call them and say ‘I need help’ and they’ll send you to rehab. I don’t know any other corporation in the world that does that. It saved my life. If they hadn’t been there for me, I’d have been dead.” He added that drugs in the 1980s and 1990s were “just a way of life…By the grace of God, I was given a second chance.”