Pick My Brain Interview: Nichole Rae Fernandez
Daughter of Hercules Hernandez
Hercules wasn’t just a wrestler, but a father, husband, and friend to many people who loved him as a person. As wrestling fans, we never see that side of these performers.
Shortly after Hercules Hernandez tragically passed away a few weeks ago, his daughter, Nichole Rae Fernandez wrote us and wanted everyone to know how much her father had accomplished in this business. And for those of you who thought he was just another heel to feed Hulk Hogan, you’ll be quite surprised to learn about what a successful career this guy really had.
From all of us at The Armpit, please enjoy this very special Pick My Brain.
1. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Many families cannot deal with the constant travel and pressures of the wrestling business, but Hercules, from all accounts, was something of a family man. What was it like growing up as the daughter of a celebrity wrestler, and was it hard on your family?
I loved that my father was a celebrity wrestler. I make sure that any time I am involved in a conversation about sports I tell everyone who my father is. I still do that till this day because I am so proud of him. I understood why he was gone all the time. He had a very large family to support and besides that wrestling was something he loved to do. How many people really go to work everyday and love what they do like my dad did? My family, I feel, handled my father being gone very well. It also helped that we had a wonderful mother at home to support us.
2. Hercules had a pretty good career with New Japan as a tag team with Scott Norton called the Jurassic Powers. It is difficult for some fans in America to comprehend just what a plum position that is, and just how big a star Norton was at one time. How did your father like Japan, and did he ever tell you any good stories from his travels there?
He loved working in Japan and said that the Japanese people always treated them with respect. There is one story that stands out in my mind. He was in Japan on tour and there was a bad earthquake. My mom was very nervous when she heard about it on the news, so she called my dad. He and some other wrestlers had slept right through it.
3. Probably the most famous match of Hercules’ career in the USA was his WrestleMania III bout with Billy Jack Haynes in 1987. Over 70,000 fans packed the Pontiac Silverdome to see a pretty bloody brawl, at a time when WWF wasn’t fond of using blood. Did he ever tell you what it was like to perform in front of so many people?
He was always in awe of how exciting it was to step out onto the mat and have people cheering for you or in his case most of his career they were booing him. He said even when the fans booed him it was still a rush. His most memorable experience was the first time that he wrestled in Madison Square Garden.
4. I remember the Power and Glory tag team with Paul Roma very vividly. It was the first time in a long time that some of my friends in high school thought the WWF was “hip” again, because they were a good undercard heel act. How well did Hercules and Paul Roma get along in real life?
My dad was friends with Paul Roma and they got along very well as a matter of fact Paul is my sister Taylor’s Godfather. We all felt that the Power and Glory were a great tag team and that they should have been pushed harder, but since my dad and Paul Roma did not play up to the politics that go on in the WWF they were pushed to the back. I felt that my dad was in his best physical condition of his career when he wrestler with Paul.
5. How did Hercules adapt to life after wrestling? I know he held a variety of jobs during the last 8 years or so, but I was surprised to hear that he hadn’t wrestled much on the independent scene.
He did some independents, but later decided he’d rather stay home with his family.
6. I was happy that Hercules found work in WCW in 1992, when Bill Watts hired him and they were cutting way back on wrestlers’ pay. Unfortunately, Watts gave him a silly gimmick, nylon to put over his face, and the name “Super Invader.” Was your father happy with that gimmick, and did he enjoy his time with WCW?
He was happy to be working and appreciated Bill giving him this opportunity. He did not like working for the WCW or that gimmick they gave him. He wasn’t the type to be complaining. My opinion on this was that he deserved much better than the terrible gimmick they gave him.
7. Your father had a reputation among wrestlers backstage as a really tough cookie. He beat up Wahoo McDaniel, after all, which in wrestling is worthy of a badge of honor. But unlike most tough guys, Hercules didn’t seem to abuse his power. On the contrary, he seemed to be a caring, selfless guy. What were some of caring, selfless things Hercules did, and would some of those things surprise some people who think he was just a wild, reckless wrestler?
As far as him beating up Wahoo McDaniel my mother and I never heard that. My dad had to be pushed pretty hard to end up fighting someone. He was a very passive person. My dad was a kind and gentle soul who tried to get along with everyone and would help the Catholic Sisters at my school with anything they needed. He was a very spiritual person and a good man. I remember every time we stopped by a church he would make the sign of the cross. I picked up the same habit because he used to do it so much.
8. Our website was critical of how Hercules handled his last match in the WWF on Prime Time Wrestling. He was powerbombed and pinned, and after the match he got right back up and didn’t “sell” the move. Ironically, his opponent was Sid “Vicious” Justice, who had done the exact same thing to El Gigante when he left WCW in 1991. Now is your chance to give Hercules’ side of the story. Do you remember this match at all, and did he ever tell you why he did that?
I do not recall that, but my mom does. She said that there was a lot going on behind the scenes at the WWF around that time and he had just had enough.
9. Right about when your dad left the WWF, many people started coming forward with accusations against the WWF of sexual abuse of teenage boys and heavy steroid and recreational drug use. Hercules worked for the WWF right when those illegal activities were allegedly taking place. Did he ever mention to you about witnessing or hearing about those underage molestation stories?
He did not say anything to me, but he did talk about with it with my mother. She recalls my dad telling her that the molestation incident was true.
10. Hercules had a reputation, true or not, on the road of being a heavy partier with his share of personal demons. Did this ever concern you, or were you generally not aware of it?
Well you could probably say that about 99% of the wrestlers. I was not aware of what went on while he was on the road. I never knew my father to be a heavy partier or to have had any personal demons.
11. Living in Tampa, you and your family must have seen or hung out with lots of wrestlers in the area. Many wrestlers live or have lived in Florida, such as Hulk Hogan, Brutus Beefcake, Bobby Heenan, Terry Taylor, Brian Blair, Steve Keirn, and even Vince McMahon owned property there. Can you share any brief stories about some of those people and how they treated you?
Brian Blair was a great friend to my father. He actually spoke at my father’s wake. He and his wife Toni are very nice people. As for Hulk Hogan, Beefcake, Heenan, and Vince I was always taught that if you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all. I can’t think of anything nice to say about these people.
12. Hercules was largely absent during wrestling’s biggest boom ever, during the late 90s WWF vs. WCW Monday night era. Did he follow the business during that period, and did he ever try getting a job with WCW or WWF back then?
We never watched wrestling in our home again. My favorite wrestler was my father, so when he stopped wrestling there was nothing for me to watch.
13. One of the most notorious promos among old-school Mid-South Wrestling fans is when Hercules went on TV and actually bragged that steroids helped make his arms so big. The drug and steroid use by your father is well documented. In later years, did he ever tell you he regretted taking steroids and that it wasn’t worth it?
I would like to see that promo, it had to have been done in my dad’s younger years. I cannot imagine him saying anything like that. I cannot imaging my father promoting steroid use or any drug use for that matter. He always taught me not to give in to any peer pressure and to stay away from drugs.
14. You have remarked that some of the best times of your life were on the road with Hercules. Hercules worked with scores of famous wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Rick Steamboat, Ted DiBiase, Scott Norton, Randy Savage, and numerous others. Do you have any funny road stories you’d like to quickly tell us? And did you ever get to meet any of the wrestlers Hercules worked with?
My best times were with my father on the road not with any of the other wrestler. I loved that I was able to travel Florida during the summers with my dad and the rest of our family. We also use to take my friends and I to the wrestling matches when the WWF was in Tampa at the USF sundome. It was great to have all my friends there watching my dad wrestle. Then he would take us all in the back to meet all the wrestlers. I did meet all the wrestlers during that time. My favorite wrestler, besides my dad, was Bret Hart.
15. Financially speaking, New Japan treated their foreign talent very well. It also allowed Hercules to spend more time with his family. What do you think Hercules would say was his favorite company to work for?
Financially speaking it would be Japan. I hate to admit it, but I think my dad enjoyed working for the WWF the most.
16. So many wrestlers from Florida made it big, and tragically, many of them have passed away as they got older. Was Hercules ever scared that his friends and peers were dying, considering his own past health problems?
My dad was a little nervous when his friend Hawk died that’s when he decided to get a check up in December. He had a head to toe physical. My dad had no previous health problems. The first time I saw my dad with the flu was last year.
17. Yes or no, did Hercules ever:
Let you hold one of this championship belts: I don’t remember if I ever held his championship belt. It’s been a very long time
Warn you to never go into the wrestling business: No
Let you hold his chain that we was famous for wearing in the WWF: Yes. My sisters and I use to fight over who was going to get to hold the chain. We used to go with him to buy them.
Sign autographs when you guys would go out in public: Yes-Always
Visit his Alma Matter, Leto High School: No
Show you how to use chopsticks: No
Take an interest in your school/college studies: Yes-My father was always interested in my education.
Give you advice about life and lessons he learned in life the hard way: Yes – There are many lessons that my father taught me that I will never forget
18. It was refreshing to read that your father and mother, high school sweethearts, reconciled after their divorce and remarried later on. Any wrestling fan knows how difficult it is to maintain healthyrelationships while on the road. It was also nice reading that he spent so much time with you and that you two were close. Looking back, do you feel you spent enough time with Hercules to make up for those years he was gone?
I do feel that we more than made up for the lost time. He was one of my best friends. We used to talk every day and hang out all the time. I miss that.
19. Hercules had a thyroid problem, but aside from that, doctors found no real health problems. When he was feeling ill the days before his death, the doctor was overbooked and scheduled his appointment for days later. Do you and you your family have anything to say as far as how the doctors treated Hercules and how he had been given a clean bill of health just a few months ago?
Actually, the doctor’s appointment was a scheduled check-up by the doctor and then when my dad got there they said they were too busy to see him. Then they rescheduled his appointment. All I can say is it is being looked into.
20. As I mentioned before, my father is a retired schoolteacher who hated wrestling, but whenever he’d watch, his favorite was always Hercules. We realize what a difficult time this is for you and the Fernandez family. Please use this last question to tell us anything you want, about Hercules the person, the wrestler, or the father. The forum is yours. Thank you so much again for your time, and the thousands of people who will read this only wish the best for you. We all thank Hercules for the memories and we don’t like for any wrestler to be forgotten, especially those like Hercules whom we grew up watching and enjoyed so much.
First, I want to thank you for this opportunity. It means so much to my family and I. My father, like I stated, was my best friend. He was a wonderful person. He was always laughing and smiling no matter what came his way. He had this loud infectious laugh that even if you were mad you could not help but laugh right back with him. He was always there for my family and I. His favorite thing to do was hang out with me and the rest of my family. He was the total opposite of what you saw on TV. He was the good guy. When he wrestled he had a role to play. Just like a movie star plays a role wrestlers play a role as well. He loved to wrestle and he loved all of his fans. If he had only $10.00 left he would give them away to someone who needed it more. That’s just the way he was. I miss him so much. The world was a better place because my dad was in it. He is my guardian angel now and I can be happy about that. The Mighty Hercules will live on in our hearts forever.
We cannot thank the Fernandez family enough for this interview. It takes years to recover from a tragedy like this, so her family could really use the support right now. Thanks to everyone for reading, and thanks again to Nichole for the heart felt interview.