During my 1992 visit to the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association (USWA), I was able to visit with African-American prelim wrestler Anthony “Cat” Garrett. Garrett, who had just won his preliminary match that night, was standing next to a souvenir table and talking to his family, before he excused himself to talk to me.
Garrett: I’m from Galton, Tennessee. I was a football player in high school and college. I’ve been an athlete all my life, and ever since I was a little kid, ever since I was five years old, I always wanted to be a professional wrestler. The man who I idolized was Bearcat Brown. That’s who got me to noticing the professional wrestlers. Who got me started, though, was “Superstar” Bill Dundee. He was a good friend of mine, and I went to school with his son. I was up to the gym one day, and he walked in and said, “Are you ready, son?” This was after I had got done graduating from college.
I said, “Ready for what?”
He said, “Ready to be a professional wrestler.”
I’m like, “Yeah!” This is a dream come true because that’s always been my second goal in life. My first goal was to be a professional football player, but things didn’t work out that way. But wrestling was my second, and so now I’m here.
Really, the main reason why I got into it is because, like I said, my athletic background, and because of the people and the fans. I like to exploit myself and do things to people to make people happy. I guess also to make myself happy. This is something that young kids can look up to. That’s something I want to leave in life, that Catman Garrett was a man who was honest, who was hard-working, and who loved people. That’s what professional wrestling means to me. Let the people come out and enjoy what they pay their money for. That’s what I do when I go in the ring. I go in and I fight hard, and I wrestle hard, and make sure the people get their money’s worth. The goal is respect, that’s the main thing, the respect.
What I liked about Bearcat Brown was, he had a lot of personality, and he had a lot of character. He had a lot of ability, and his finesse in the ring is what drew me to him. He had a different kind of style. I’m trying to build myself around that, around that style. There’s a lot of wrestlers in professional wrestling today, and everybody’s different, and everybody’s got their own opinion about wrestling. A lot of people think that this is something easy, but it’s not. You’ve got to be in good physical condition, you’ve got to have the right mind, and you got to be able to work hard. And you have the heart for it. That’s something that Bearcat Brown impressed me with when I was a young man. He had a lot of heart, and he had a lot of power. You could just look at him and tell that he had the power. That’s what influenced me. I didn’t know him personally, but watching him through the years when I was coming up as a kid, I’ve been fond of him.
My mother, she’s always been supportive. She’s like, “Go for the gold, work hard, be the best you can be.”
And my friends? Well, where I come from, I’m real well-respected. Everybody looked up to me, and they’re like, “Yeah, go for it.”
Because before then, after I got out of school, I went to work at a plant. It wasn’t me, and everybody was like, “You deserve more, and you’re better than what you’re doing now.” Then I finally realized that. I’ve been in the business now five years. I was off and on because I was doing this and working part-time too. Because I’ve got a family, a wife and three kids I support, so I take care of them.
I put my wife through school, and she finally finished, so she said, “Go ahead and do what you want to do.” So now I’m back again, trying to climb that ladder. That ladder’s never stopped for me, though, because I’m going all the way to the top, as far as I can take it. When the matches are close to my home, like in Nashville, my family can make it, but far away then cannot make it. It’s kind of hard. They’re real supportive.
When I go home, after a tough night, a tough match, they’re like, “Dad, you did well, you did good.”
See, they’re five, and two, and one, but they still understand, and I explain it to them: “Hey, Dad is out there doing something that he loves and he enjoys, and I want you all to respect that.” If I get hurt, I want them to be there to kiss me and hug me. And they will always do that. That means a lot to me, to go home when I’ve been beaten, got hurt or something, I always have my family to help me get back with it.
There’s not many African-American wrestlers. It’s not a racial thing. It takes a lot of talent, and it takes a lot of patience. A lot of people don’t like to take the time out to do things. You have to work hard, because you have to start from the bottom. I’m not trying to put nobody down, but what I’m trying to say is, you’ve got to work hard to be a professional wrestler. A lot of people don’t have that nerve and the guts to work hard. You’ve got to have the heart of gold. You go in there, you get beat up. There’s always somebody better than you. But you work hard to get better than that person. I don’t know what it is, there’s just a few black people that manage to be in it. They like to come and watch it, and wish they were in it, but they really don’t want to give it the effort, give it time. You’ve got to give up the time and your family to do what you have to do to be a professional wrestler. And your family’s got to understand, too. I’ve got a wife who understands what I want to do, and who respects me, and believes in me and trusts in me to know that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt our family.
I’ve been out for a while. I was trying out for the professional sport of World League Football, and I ripped my chest muscle. I was out for eight months. I came back and I said, “Well, my football career is over with. Maybe wrestling would be the place to go back to.”
My wife was like, “Yeah, go for it.” She gave me more support and helped me get back. I got back in the gym and worked hard for about five months. And I came to USWA promoter Jerry Jarrett, and he gave me the opportunity to get back in the ring, and this has been the high point ever since.
I’ve been just striving and climbing the ladder, and I’d like to say, “Thank you, Mr. Jerry Jarrett, for giving me the opportunity, to give me another chance to get back in the federation, to get my life back on the track to where I want it to be.” And that’s the high point of my life right now. That, and my family.
What does it mean to be in the USWA? What it means to me, is, this is where everybody got started. See, a lot of people don’t understand. This is where Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Sting got started. It’s where a lot of guys got started. And they built their way on up. A lot of people don’t know that. The USWA’s been around a long time. This is the very first place that everyone got started, and this is where I want to be until I get the opportunity to go farther. If that opportunity don’t knock, I’m happy here, because I love everybody–Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, everybody has been nice to me, and helped me, and taken me under their wings, and said, “Hey, brother, go for it, you can do it. Be the best you can be.” Like I said, I can’t complain about anything. This is the best federation. Right now, so far, since I’ve been back in wrestling, this is the best place to get started. They treat me well. They respect me, and I respect them.
I hopefully–not to hurt anybody’s feelings or anything like that–hopefully I’d like to move on and go up high. I’d like to be in WCW. That’s my next goal. And then hopefully make it into the WWF. And then, five years, if everything works out for me wife and I (she is a country music writer), we will be somewhere running our own business. I want to open my own fitness center. But in the next couple of years, hopefully I’ll be in the WCW. That’s my next goal, because there’s a lot of good wrestlers, and I look up to them. The wrestler I look up to now is the Junkyard Dog, and Ron Simmons. Those are two great Black athletes that I’ve seen, and they have inspired me to move on and keep going. Hopefully I’ll be able to fill their shoes one day in the WCW or the WWF.
Thoughts from 2022: Garrett apparently retired from wrestling later in 1992, and for a while after that worked as massage therapist for a Nashville professional hockey team.