Interview With American Gladiator Wolf - Don "Hollywood" Yates Interviewed By Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com - April 2008
American Gladiators Wolf Tribute Video
1) CRITICAL BENCH: It is Ben Tatar from Critical Bench and I am here with Don "Hollywood" Yates AKA Wolf of the hit TV Shot American Gladiators! Wolf, it is great to have you here with Critical Bench today. I think everyone knows who you are, but humor us and introduce yourself to the Critical Bench readers.
Wolf: I am a professional athlete who has played about every sport. I'm an Entertainer. I've been singing since I was 7 and entertaining in clubs. And now I am of course one of the top American Gladiators.
2) CRITICAL BENCH: What was the Wolf like before he was a pro athlete and an entertainer? What type of kid were you?
Wolf: I was kind of a rough neck kid. I grew up outside and didn't spend a lot of time indoors watching TV or anything like that. I was always outside climbing trees and buildings and running all over the city on my bike. I played football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and about every sport there is. I grew up as an athlete and in my Grandfathers nightclubs and on horse tracks. I had a very well rounded childhood that taught me a lot of things about life.
3) CRITICAL BENCH: What adversities did you have to overcome as a child and as an adult?
Wolf: As a child, I was actually a smaller kid, short and thin. Being one of the smaller kids on the block at that time, I had to constantly prove myself. I was always getting in fights with kids 3 or 4 years older than me and beating them up to prove that size didn't matter, it was in the heart. After high school I started growing so it all came about afterwards. I also had my first knee surgery at age 16.
Further on in life, throughout rodeo and bullfighting, I've had over 130 broken bones, 3 knee surgeries, and I was also gored by a bull and they had to do emergency surgery to save my life. I had to heal through that and go back to fighting bulls. And actually, a year to the day of being in the hospital was when I was asked to be an American Gladiator, so I went from my death to being a Gladiator in a year.
4) CRITICAL BENCH: You are one of the mentally strongest men on the planet! Wolf, how did you get involved with the WWE? Tell us about your WWE experience! What was it like working for them?
Wolf: When I turned 30, I decided I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I started training with Steve Islas and then began doing independent shows. About a year after training I was being booked to do dark matches for the WWE, which are the opening matches to get the crowed warmed up. Then I also did a couple spots on Velocity and Raw. But I wasn't under contract, I was just an extra guy that they would use here and there. It was a rough business being on the independent scene, traveling, not getting paid a lot of money, and constantly beating up my body. It did teach me a lot about character development and helped me as an American Gladiator, allowing me to be able to "POP" in the first season.
5) CRITICAL BENCH: How did your journey becoming a Gladiator get started?
Wolf: I was in Las Vegas at the Mr. and Mrs. Olympia Bodybuilding Event and was walking through the pit expo when a casting director saw me and asked me to try out for American Gladiators. They told me that I had the look that they wanted, but at the time I actually told them no because I was waiting on a contract from the WWE. But after a couple of days of them continually asking me to try out, I went ahead and did it. Even throughout the first few weeks, I kept telling them that I would do all of this but I would probably be getting a contract soon, so I wasn't really taking things seriously. Then things with the WWE weren't making much progress so I finally decided that if they weren't going to grab me then I was going to try the Gladiators so I started taking things more seriously and luckily I did because now I'm a Number 1 guy on a Number 1 show on NBC.
6) CRITICAL BENCH: You definitely are to Gladiators what Hulk Hogan was to wrestling back when he put it on the map! Wolf, what is it like working with the people you work with on Gladiators and what are some of your favorite Gladiator events?
Wolf: It has been an awesome experience being on Gladiators and being around the same people, because it's like having a new family. It's a lot of fun to go to work every day and be around people you like. I love the physical aspect of being an athlete and competing and the events like the Pyramid and Power Ball where I get to hurt someone and put a hit on them. And I also like the cerebral aspects of other events, being able to destroy people mentally.
7) CRITICAL BENCH: How has being on Gladiators changed your life?
Wolf: Being a Gladiator has changed my life because there is more recognition now. More people know who I am. I did have some recognition through bullfighting in the rodeo circuit, but it has escalated. I will walk by bars and people will howl at me, or I will be in the airport and people will do the same, so that is very cool. The biggest change for me though has been that I am constantly gone from home. With rodeo, I was gone too but with Gladiators, I'm gone 2 months at a time, taping the show, and then flying from New York to LA to Nashville to try and promote. So I don't get as much time to spend at home with my wife and my animals, which makes it a little hard.
8) CRITICAL BENCH: You definitely have a larger than life persona! Even in everyday discussion people are talking about "The Wolf" from American Gladiators! How did you get the name Wolf?
Wolf: The producers were watching me in training, trying to decide what to call me, and they came up with some stupid names at first that were just too one-dimensional and didn't have a lot of character to them. So we kept thinking and I actually went home for a few days. When I came back I had come up with the idea of Wolf, But before I even got to tell them, they had come to me and told me that I looked like a wolf, and the way I attacked people was like a wolf, so they thought "Wolf" was perfect. I knew that it was perfect because that was exactly what I was going to suggest.
9) CRITICAL BENCH: What experience was more intense Rodeo Bullfighting or being on Gladiators? How are the experiences different?
Wolf: Rodeo bullfighting was much more intense because it is more of a life and death sport. With bullfighting, I'm going up against a 2,000 pound animal who's main goal in life is to hurt somebody, so there was the risk of death every single time I stepped into an arena. It was much tougher and more intense. With American Gladiators, I'm only going up against other men, and after fighting bulls for all those years, I haven't run across a man that has scared me too much. I have fought some of the meanest animals in the world and I'm still here, so a man isn't going to do anything to me. Gladiators is a lot of fun with all of the events being so thrilling and exciting, but as far as intensity, bullfighting is much more intense.
10) CRITICAL BENCH: So far in your hardcore athletic journey what has been......
Your most hardcore moment-
Wolf: It would probably be the day I was gored by a bull and had its horn 9 inches to me, almost killing me. It was such a serious injury and happened so quickly though that it didn't seem so hard core at the time. I've had other times where a bull has had me against the fence, trying to mash me into the dirt, and even times where they have hooked me all over the arena. I had one hit me in the head above the ear and almost ripped my ear off. So I've had a lot of moments that have been intense and brutal, but the goring was the more serious situation.
Your funniest moment-
Wolf: There has been so many where it was both hardcore and funny at the same time, but there was a time when a bull had bucked the rider off so I was trying to distract it, and they accidentally let another bull out at the same time. I had my back to him as he came running behind me, and I just caught sight of him at the last moment with enough time to jump straight into the air so he ran under me. Everyone was laughing at the time, but IF it happened to be a second later, I could have been a more serious situation.
Your favorite moment-
Wolf: Probably the first time I won the Salinas, California Bull Fighting Championship. The Sparks brothers were there and some of the best bullfighters in the world, but I went in and won 4 out of 4 rounds and won the championship and the buckle. That Championship is the largest in the world, so it was a great experience -- even better than going to national finals.
The moment that changed you the most-
Wolf: I would say being gored by the bull, because I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to be a physical athlete again and do anything like fighting bulls or wrestling. So while I was laying in the hospital stapled up with tubes in me, I had to start thinking of other ways I could make a good living and still be an entertainer. I tried to learn about writing comedies and focused on what I could do to be a better actor. I also focused on songwriting. It made me focus on something else besides fighting bulls.
11) CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
Wolf: Hopefully to keep American Gladiators going, doing my part to keep them at the Number 1 spot on NBC and to try and stay doing this as long as possible. Also, I would like to start getting some major roles in motion pictures and work on becoming one of the top actors in the country. I would like to possibly win an Oscar or an Emmy. I would also like to work on my music and put an album out within the next year or two and try to win some awards there. I just want to continue with entertainment and expand as much as I can. I enjoy entertaining people so I want to become the best I can in the industry.
12) CRITICAL BENCH: Does your wife and family support you? What do they think about you being a Gladiator?
Wolf: My wife and family support me in everything I do, no matter what, because they know that anything I put my mind to, I'll become a success at it. They all love American Gladiators and they love watching me on TV every week, getting to see me having fun and enjoying life.
13) CRITICAL BENCH: What have been some of the biggest fan reactions that you have gotten before?
Wolf: Some of the biggest fan reactions have been, like I said, just walking through airports or down the street and having fans howl at me from all over the place. The other day I went to the track to run with Beaux Greer, an Olympian Javelin thrower, and as we were walking through the meet that was going on, everyone was howling at me and coming up to me wanting pictures and autographs. They of course recognized Beaux as well because he is one of the top track and field stars. It is just very cool that fans go out of their way to meet me and ask for pictures and autographs. It's great to know that people appreciate me and what I do.
14) CRITICAL BENCH: That's great that you appreciate your fans as well. Wolf, you have great athletic ability and you're built like a super hero. Give us your weight training routine!
Wolf: I try to get up in the morning and do cardio on an empty stomach, just to try and keep the fat burned off of me. Then I will go back later in the day and I'll usually work 2 body parts a day. I split it up differently all the time and constantly change my routine so that my muscles and body don't get too used to a certain routine. Lately I have been working my legs twice a week to try and get them to grow more.
I go heavy lifting and I go anywhere from 8-15 reps. If I get more than 15 reps then I'll add more weight, and if I'm barely getting 10, I'll stay there and try to get more. I just try to go heavy for more reps, I don't do heavy low reps or light with a lot of reps. I always want to push harder.
15) CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your diet and what supplements do you take?
Wolf: I try to eat somewhere around 3,500 calories a day. I eat mostly protein and clean carbs. I don't eliminate carbs entirely, I just eat the clean ones like oatmeal and veggies, and I love sweet potatoes. For high protein, I will eat chicken, fish, steak, and lots of egg whites. My first two meals are usually 6 egg whites, a cup of oatmeal, a protein shake, and yogurt.
Later on I may have something like chicken and rice with broccoli, or a steak with sweet potatoes. I have almost the same meals every day, just trying to stick to high protein and clean carbs. I usually have 2 protein drinks a day and drink 1-2 gallons of water.
16) CRITICAL BENCH: What is your advice for a kid who would one day like to be a crazy WWE wrestler or a Gladiator?
Wolf: My advice would be to eat healthy get in the gym and work out hard. And if you're not seeing gains then you should up your food intake and change your training program. It would also be smart to get someone that knows what they're doing and can help you out with your training and diet. Then: Study. Study tapes, and get character development. The WWE and American Gladiators is about having a character and a personality that is larger than life. If you don't have a character, you won't get hired.
17) CRITICAL BENCH: Wolf, is living the life that you now live the same as you once upon a time dreamed of it to be?
Wolf: Living the life that I live is definitely the same I once dreamed of it to be. From the time I was 7, I wanted to be famous and wanted people to know who I was. I wanted money and all the toys like cars and motorcycles and jet skis and boats. I wanted to be able to afford everything and be in magazines and on TV. Some people want to just be rich and are content with just the money, but I always wanted to have money and be famous and have a good family at the same time. I want it ALL. I have everything right now because I have a great life with toys and cars and great animals and a great wife. I'm living the dream.
18) CRITICAL BENCH: Before you compete in a Gladiator event what is going through your mind?
Wolf: To win and to do the best I can with my abilities and beat the contender in the game. I want to beat them down both physically and mentally so that when I come up against them again, I've already gotten the mental part done. If I've already beat them in their mind, it's easier the second time around. On top of that, I'm also trying to think of keeping my personality going and trying to come up with one-liners to throw out so that it is good TV. I want to keep the producers and the directors happy and of course it makes for a better show for the fans to enjoy as well.
19) CRITICAL BENCH: What makes the Wolf different from everyone else?
Wolf: Everyone else is just mere mortal humans. The Wolf is a creature. He is truly like a werewolf, part man and part animal. He is a creature with no real boundaries. I can do and say whatever I want and get away with it. Other people have to live within a realm with a certain set of rules. With me, there are no rules. There are no limits or boundaries and there is nothing that I can't do. If you try to constrain me, I'm going to be even more vicious and brutal that I've been in the past.
20) CRITICAL BENCH: Wolf, if you could Main Event at Wrestle Mania against any 3 wrestlers or people in this world who would you choose and why?
Wolf: That's tough because there are so many great wrestlers that I would love to wrestle. Hulk Hogan and Rick Flair of course come to mind as great guys. Also some of the newer guys like John Cena and Dave Batista. So many of them could have great matches and put on a great show.
As far as people in general, maybe President Bush, because then I could beat him down for all the extra money I have to put down for fuel costs.
Heck, throw me in the ring with Tyson, THEN throw me in the ring with all of the WWE Divas.
21) CRITICAL BENCH: Hahahaha! I think we'd all love to see that! Away from being a Gladiator, what does the Wolf like to do during his free time?
Wolf: I just like to chill. I like to relax and go to the beach or the lake and sit in the sun and get a tan. I love going to the gym too, but more than anything I just like to chill. Everything is always so intense with me and when I'm performing and competing, I exert so much energy and adrenaline, that it's almost a 180. I don't want to do anything after that but relax and watch TV or hang out. I am a very extreme person. I am extremely mellow, or extremely amped.
22) CRITICAL BENCH: Do you have any creeds that you live by or any favorite quotes?
Wolf: One creed that I live by is to "Believe in Dreams". I have had a lot of them and I have lived them. One of my dreams was to become one of the best bullfighters in the country, and I've done that. Another was to become a professional wrestler and wrestle with the WWE, and I've done that. Then it was to be a Gladiator and be on TV and in Magazines, and I'm doing that. I believe that if you work hard enough, you can do anything you want.
I also heard a quote in a movie once that helped me through bullfighting and then life itself. It was: "Fear causes hesitation and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true." I use this in every day life because I don't worry about things or be afraid that I can't accomplish something. I just put my mind to it and do it. I don't let fear rule my world. I've wiped fear out of my vocabulary, heart, and mind.
23) CRITICAL BENCH: Wolf: Great words of wisdom. When your career is all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
Wolf: I want to be remembered as the greatest entertainer that there ever was.
CRITICAL BENCH: Wolf, it has been a pleasure talking to you today! What a freakin entertainment athletic freak show you have been and we all just can't wait to see more! In closing is there anyone who you would like to thank?
Wolf: I would like to thank my mother for giving me good values and letting me know that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I would like to thank my grandfather for showing me the drive and what it takes to be a real man. And I would also like to thank my wife for sticking with me every time I change my mind on what form of entertainment I want to do, and sticking by me when I'm gone on the road so much. I want to thank her for being the greatest wife a man has ever had. She is an incredible woman and has stuck with me through everything.