Fans of the Attitude Era will likely remember Debra McMichael as a valet to a number of stars from the 1990s, from the Four Horsemen, to Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart, to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. They may also remember her as a former WWF Women’s Champion, or perhaps most infamously, as the inspiration for Jerry Lawler’s “puppies” catchphrase.
With Spandex: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Debra McMichael: Oh, you’re welcome. I’m just sitting here being so boring. I’m such the different Debra, because you know I’m getting my Masters at the University of Alabama. I’m about to graduate. I’m very studious now. I mean, I’m getting my Masters in Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama.
Oh that’s awesome. Roll Tide. So what are you going to do with your Criminal Justice degree?
I don’t know! My expertise, I do a lot of jury study so who knows. I may go on to be a jury consultant. I’ve actually already worked on two capital murders and I picked the jury. How about that? Me going from wrestling to doing this?
Well, you know, you’ve worked with a lot of sketchy figures over your time I guess.
Well, you know what I figure is that the courtroom’s kind of like wrestling. You know, you’ve got your heels and your babyfaces and all that.
So you’re going to be at Wrestlecon in Orlando this year. When people come up to you at these wrestling conventions, because you know, you’ve been doing them for a while now, what do they come up to you, what do they talk to you about? What do they tell you that they remember most about you? What do they share with you?
Well, what I notice about the fans, they’re very loyal. A lot of these people, I’ve seen them for years. You know, or they’ll … There’ll be some [fan] even from the ’90s that I remember at a convention. But then they’re very personable and, um, and they all remember my characters, you know? They all remember Queen Debra, and then they all remember the puppies.
You know what, I just have to be thankful to my fans, because I would’ve never had a job if it wasn’t for the fans. You know, and even doing stuff like this, you know? Wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for fans. I mean, the fans, I owe everything to the fans. Because without fans you wouldn’t have wrestling.
That’s absolutely right. At UPROXX, we have a weekly column where our pro wrestling editor, Brandon, goes back and he watches Nitro and writes about it every week. Is it cool if I talk to you about WCW for a little while?
Yes. Oh, absolutely.
One of the things that we wanted to ask you the most, we wanted to ask you about Pepe.
Oh, Peppy. Little Peppy. How did you say it?
I said Pepe. Is it Peppy?
“Pepe,” that’s cute. You’re probably saying it right. We would call him Peppy.
Was that actually your dog?
How did it come about that Pepe got on the air every week and was dressed up in those costumes and everything?
I’m trying to remember how that happened. Because I know Steve McMichael and I, you know, we were almost … We were very childlike. We would do things just to laugh all the time. I’m sure we just thought it up to bring him because he’s so ugly, you know. The ugly little old chihuahua. He was so ugly!
That was actually Steve’s dog and those were actually the outfits that your friends made for the dog?
Yes. It was so cute. It worked really well because it was just crazy, you know.
How long did Pepe live?
I think he died probably in the mid-’90s, so he lived a while.
How old was he when he passed away?
You know what, I don’t even know. It was probably maybe ’99 when he died or something, so he had to be … Heck, you know, he had a long life. He was probably halfway into his life, so I don’t know. I’m just guessing, 10-12. I don’t know.
Well that’s a good life for a chihuahua.
Yeah. He was a little star.
Did he like being on the road?
He could care less, that little dog. You could just dress him up in whatever and Steve could hold him, and he would just sit there like a puppet.
That’s great. You were in this angle with Jeff Jarrett and with Mongo and it just went on forever. What are your memories about that time with the Horsemen and this love triangle, or whatever it was?
I remember when I started into wrestling … you know, my background, I’m an actor. You know I trained in New York at Lee Strasberg. I’m a theater actor. I never really watched wrestling, so I really didn’t know … I didn’t know how it all worked on the inside. Whatever I did, I just thought outside the box and was kind of just created my own character. I just went with the flow … I guess I just didn’t think of it as just going on and on. It was work, and we were all over, so it worked. It was an interesting and fun storyline.
Do you remember who it was week-to-week putting together the Horsemen stuff, the Jarrett stuff, the Debra stuff?
No, I know I wrote my own stuff. When I would talk and I was so annoying you know and I would … That was what was so funny, because me being new to wrestling, me being a heel and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, everyone’s booing me.’ But then we got cool after a while because, like, yeah, I wanted to get booed. Then I’d think of things that I could be more obnoxious. I would write my stuff just to get the most reaction.
You saw my character. I mean, she was so rude, but I wrote my stuff. But you know back then it seemed like [I have] always been, as a heel, more creative at being spontaneous what I’m saying. A lot of the guys were like that, too. They didn’t have things written for them. I mean, we’re there with Ric Flair. You know what your job is to get done, but in between that we would [be] very spontaneous. Which would make it so fun.
Why was it that every week, every finish of the match, it was the Halliburton?
Well, because you know, it’s wrestling. You got to get hit with something! It was kind of like, well, [it’s got to make sense]. It’s kind of like the whole thing with the money and the briefcase, and it was just one of those little things that went [together] with the character.
No, I think we thought that up and went and bought it … Those WCW days, it was fun.
Right. Now, you had that very long thing with Jeff Jarrett and WCW. Then when you went over to WWE, you were also with Jeff Jarrett again. Was it just a familiarity or do you guys feel like you work really well together? What was that relationship like?
Well I remember that, you know, back then you could keep things real secretive. But [you can’t do that] now with the internet. But they hired me, then nobody knew they hired me. You know how they just surprise everybody when you just show up? But I didn’t even know who I was going to work with when I showed up. Because I showed up in Chicago, and then that’s when they brought me out in Milwaukee, you know. They changed me to more of the office [manager type]. The savvy businessperson.
Once I got there, then I found out I was going to work with Jeff. But I think we do work well together ,and I think that’s part of what brings an audience. I believe you’ve got to be matched really well. I mean, I had the easiest job. I’m not out there breaking my balls like the guys and the other girls. You know, my job was just kind of being a manager. It was great.
You were with Jeff when he was feuding with Chyna. Do you have any memories of Chyna or her legacy in the history of wrestling?
Yeah I mean I knew Chyna. She was very, very … I got along really well with her and we would get there really early for the show. As my character, I could not wrestle even though … You know, my character. You know how we hit demographics?
My character was there to hit a certain demographic, so I could never wrestle. But then like, say, during the day [Chyna’s] out there practicing, and I would go out there and she would, like, I’d practice with her. But she’s very gentle. I’m not a real wrestler, but I’m athletic. She would make sure she wouldn’t drop me real hard, but she was just a good friend. I have fond memories of her. She was very much of a team player.
[laughs] Yeah. Well you know, [I say that out of] respect to the ones that [were primarily wrestlers] … You know what I’m saying? I mean, like I said I didn’t come up from the world of wrestling, but I am very athletic though. I do know with my character, [I] was pretty limited to where it … I don’t know if the audience would buy it if I would’ve been all over the place.
It’s like my character would be more the sexy one, to where I don’t think I could do a backflip in that dress and those shoes and the audience [would] buy that one. You know what I’m saying? They’d be kind of like, ‘No.’ In respect to the fans, because they’re all smart. You know, they know what is believable and what’s not. [That] one thing I just knew. I was very respectful of the other [women]. I just knew my spot, and what I needed to do to put the best show on as a team player with all the other ones.
Do you keep up with current WWE at all and what they’re doing with the women’s wrestling these days?
No! This is awful! No because, you know I mean, since I’ve been going … I mean, I go to class on campus and so I really haven’t had a lot of time. You know, every now and then I might have the TV on. I don’t even have the TV on in the house today because I’m working on a paper, but yeah, I don’t know a lot of people [in the business] anymore.
One thing I found out, even being, say when I’m in the class there at the University of Alabama; all those young kids, they all love the Attitude Era. It’s crazy. They don’t even know the [wrestlers] now. They know the ones from the Attitude Era.
Right, and they weren’t around for it.
No. Most of them weren’t even born. I think that keeps us alive. But seriously, I thought when I left wrestling, especially with my character, you know, I’m not a … I was Debra the manager/wrestler. But I figure oh well, life will go on. Time moves on. Everybody will just forget me … But they don’t. I get recognized everywhere.
Does that make you feel good that people still remember you so well?
Yes. You know what, it really shocked me, because I just thought well, you know, that was just something I did in a little spot of my life and now I’m moving onto something else. It makes me feel really good that, I’m not kidding, every day I can go … This is even if I’m traveling somewhere, people know me. I think too because I look like me. I don’t, you know … You know it’s me.
I do in real life wear a lot of, not those short skirts like that but I do wear business suits, you know what I’m saying? The way I dress and what I dressed on TV is very similar you know. My stuff is not low-cut like that or real short. That doesn’t go over very well [for] doing stuff in the courtroom here.
To sort of change gears a little bit here, you were in the arena when Owen Hart fell and passed away. Do you have any memories of that night or do you think about that a lot?
Yeah, I still remember that. It’s funny how you remember just little details, and I just remember we were in Chicago the night before and I just remember he was acting a fool. He was so funny. He would make you laugh. We would go take pictures before or after the show with fans. Then Owen would always grab the camera and then he’d be like, “Oh, the camera’s not working,” so he’d make me stand there with somebody with their arm all wrapped completely around me like for 10 minutes, acting like the camera’s not working. He would do stuff like that.
I still remember that day like … I remember seeing that [technician] from WCW there that was doing the rigging, and I remember seeing him and I hadn’t seen him in years and I was like, “Oh I’m so glad you’re over here,” and then I remember Owen didn’t really want to do that [stunt]. I remember I had the belt, so I had to wrestle, so Jeff was with me and therefore, Owen had to do the other thing.
Good gosh. I mean … It was really fun working with those two guys, because they worked so well together, and I kind of knew how their bodies all moved. If that makes sense. But I mean it’s just been like, like I said, it would just be fun memories like [the photo prank]. We would go on a lot of autograph sessions together, and then they were always playing jokes on me.
Like one time we were in Florida, and we were doing our autograph session and I went to put on my sunglasses to leave, and Owen had switched them and they were some raggedy, hideous-looking pair, and I didn’t even notice when I put them back on. We were leaving with the crowd of people [and I didn’t notice] until I got into the car. It was hideous.
Was that the road crew? Was it you and Owen and Jeff? Who traveled together?
No, no. I traveled with Val Venis and Test.
How was that?
You know, it was great, because I always would have to work out two hours a day, and then those two guys liked to work out two hours a day. You would figure out people that you would get the same likes as [you]. And then they didn’t go out to the bars. I didn’t go out to the bars, so we were on the same workout routine.
Jeff and Owen didn’t hit the gym quite as much?
No, they hit the gym too, but they just kind of … They just did their own little thing and I think I just … Just kind of like a job. Like you gravitate towards certain people that have your same schedule, and maybe they had other things going on. I can’t remember. Maybe you know, maybe. I just don’t know why I didn’t [travel with Jeff and Owen].
I’ve never been asked that question before! That was a good one! I just kind of went right with those two guys right at the beginning, and it worked out really well. I can remember we were in Colorado Springs one time, and I was driving. They did not like how I was driving, so that worked out good for me, because then I had to sit in the back seat. They wouldn’t let me drive, which was great because I don’t like driving anyway. That plan worked out.
That’s how you’ve got to do it right? You’ve just got to drive as bad as possible.
Yeah I just sat in the back seat with the luggage. I didn’t mind that. It was good because my job too, like, it was one time — I forgot which one fell asleep driving, so that really scared me, because then my job then was, I made sure I had them Fireballs. I was always, I couldn’t go to sleep then after that [incident], so whoever was driving, I would make sure I kept giving them Fireballs, so they wouldn’t go to … You know, to keep them awake.
If you’re sleepy driving, I swear you eat those fireballs and it’ll wake you up.
That’s a good tip. I never thought of that before.
[The travel companions] worked out good because, you know, when you travel like that you split the gas and you split … We’d always stay, whatever hotel, we’d get a cheap hotel. Everything just worked out good. Your own room of course but everything you just split it. We’d eat real healthy. We knew how to eat at Denny’s. We just sort of were very similar.
That’s some great pro-wrestling knowledge right there: Fireballs. That’s a good tip for all of our readers.
Just be a poor driver and they will demote you to the backseat so that way you don’t have to drive. You can just sit there and relax.
Drive bad, eat Fireballs. That’s what Debra says.
Well like I said, when one of them went to sleep though and I said oh no, I got to stay awake now and hand out the Fireballs.
A lot of fans tend to agree that the best WrestleMania was WrestleMania X-Seven. You were a big part of that buildup leading up to that main event. What was that like?
I didn’t know that [fans think that]. Really, I didn’t know that they still talk about that one.
Yeah that’s pretty much every time they do a ranking of the best WrestleManias, people always say X-Seven.
I can see that with Steve and The Rock. I mean, I would say they were … I mean, they work really well together and then I was, you know, I married Steve and I would always see Dwayne so it was kind of like fun … Because they were just fun. Well most of those guys are fun to be around because they’re all like little characters.
Do you have any good memories of the guy who’s headlining the Hall of Fame this year, Kurt Angle?
Oh yeah. I still remember the first day that they brought him into the WWF. I remember we were in Chicago and I was on the treadmill or something next to him, and I introduced myself and he was on the treadmill. That was the first time I met him, and then speed it up forward with when I was working with Steve and Kurt and all that, and it was fun, because
I was the one that thought up the little hat, the little [cowboy hat]. It was just fun because he was so cool. He’s so dynamic in all his little characters that he can pull off. Kind of like Pepe.
That’s right. Same thing, you just dress up Kurt Angle and hold him and he’ll just do whatever.
Yeah, Kurt’s just a little bit bigger then Pepe.
Debra McMichael will be appearing at Wrestlecon in Orlando on WrestleMania weekend as one of the Title Match Wrestling guests on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1. You can pre-order autograph and photo op tickets at their official website.