Charles Wright laughed when asked to reflect upon his 15-plus years in pro wrestling.
"I had a good time," he said.
Wright knows he led a charmed life in WWE performing as "The Godfather" from 1998 to 2002. Dressed like a street hustler straight from central casting, Wright guided a train of scantily clad women into the ring every night as part of his pre-match introduction.
The Godfather became immensely popular and came to symbolize the risque "Attitude Era" that helped WWE regain its spot as grappling's top company from World Championship Wrestling.
"(WWE owner) Vince McMahon used to tell me, 'Charles, you ought to be paying me for having so much fun,' " Wright said Monday night in a telephone interview.
Wright was custom-made for the character. He worked at numerous go-go clubs as a bartender and bouncer before breaking into wrestling in 1989.
Wright's wife Denise provided the finishing touches that made The Godfather complete.
"My wife designed most of the outfits," said Wright, a father of four. "She created the look of The Godfather. I was just performing."
He originally worked as The Soultaker in Japan, Germany and the Memphis, Tenn.-based United States Wrestling Association before making his WWE debut in 1992 as Papa Shango. That character made the cartoonish feel of WWE's 1980s "Hulkamania" period seem deathly serious in comparison.
With skeletal face paint and voodoo trinkets adorning his wrestling garb, Shango was given mystic "powers" that included the ability to make The Ultimate Warrior bleed a black liquid from his eyes as part of their feud.
"It could have gone even further," Wright said of a character that ran its course within a year. "Some people laughed at it and some didn't like it, but it was a good character."
Wright's next WWE incarnation took a 180-degree turn in 1995. He became "The Supreme Fighting Machine" Kama as WWE hoped to capitalize on the newfound popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
When that gimmick fizzled, Wright became Kama Mustafa in 1997 as part of the Nation of Domination along with D'Lo Brown, Ron Simmons and an upstart performer named Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Wright quickly recognized that Johnson was being groomed for solo stardom at the same time his own WWE contract was expiring.
"I told my wife, 'We've got to come up with something new because the Nation is doing nothing and we're just building Rocky up to help him,' " Wright said. "I always used to wear hats that were called 'Godfather hats.' Rocky was doing most of the talking for us (on WWE telecasts) at that time.
"One day, I asked Rocky if he would call me The Godfather because I was working on something. He did it. It was true. I was working on becoming The Godfather."
When the character had finally run its course, Wright decided to retire from full-time action following his WWE release in December 2002. Wright, 50, has since returned to his adult-entertainment roots as the general manager of Cheetahs in Las Vegas.
Wright, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound legitimate tough guy outside the ring, still finds himself in demand on the independent wrestling circuit -- but often for a reason that has surprised him.
"More people have said they want to see me as Papa Shango than The Godfather," Wright said.
Wright will provide fans with the chance to see both at the upcoming Wrestle Reunion 6 convention in Los Angeles. For the first time, Wright will participate in pay photo sessions with fans Jan. 28 dressed as Papa Shango. He will hold a separate session in his Godfather attire. Wright also will be part of a 20-man legends battle royal that night along with other ex-WWE stars like Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and "Leaping" Lanny Poffo.
Wrestle Reunion 6 will take place Jan. 27-29. Mick Foley, Maryse, Scott Steiner and Big Van Vader are some of the other prominent talent scheduled to attend. Similar events are coming later this year to Miami Beach (March 30-April 1) and Toronto (April 13-15). For more information, visit www.wrestlereunion.com.
(Alex Marvez writes a syndicated pro-wrestling column for Scripps Howard News Service. He can be reached at alex1marv(at)aol.com or followed via Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexmarvez.)