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Rob McBride continues the Boogie Woogie Man tradition

by Ben Holder

PHOTOS BY JON CARTER

For more than 30 years, Rob McBride has worked as a professional wrestler all across the Carolinas, and he has participated in hundreds of matches. On any given weekend, McBride can be found wrestling for local promoters in places like high school gyms and community centers in front of small crowds. He risks his body, takes pain, and sometimes drives for hours just to put on a show for local fans.

McBride is a crowd favorite in and out of the ring and has become somewhat of a celebrity. He has been featured in commercials for local businesses, made an appearance on the TV show “Lizard Lick Towing,” and a video of him kissing a WXII reporter during a live segment went viral. He has also played an important role in several of Rock 92’s “Bubbalymipcs.”

McBride credits a lot of his popularity to the shrine that is hanging on the wall at Beef Burger on West Lee Street in Greensboro. Several pictures of McBride can be found taped to the glass at the Beef Burger counter. Ralph Havis, the owner of Beef Burger, fondly recalls the time he watched McBride body slam several people in the Beef Burger parking lot.

“I saw him out there slamming these boys in the parking lot and they were just fighting like crazy. He slammed them around until they just laid there. When Rob came in, I asked him what was going on and he said that he was just visiting with his family. I hope I don’t ever have to visit with his family like that. Those boys took a whipping,” Havis said.

Standing six feet tall and weighing in at a robust 325 pounds, McBride is hard to miss. It seems that everywhere he goes he is recognized by someone. He has long salt and pepper hair that is bleached blonde in parts, coupled with a long brown beard.

His right arm is covered with several tattoos that pay tribute to McBride’s favorite TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The tribute includes tattoos of the General Lee flying across a Confederate flag, Roscoe with Flash, and of course, Daisy Duke. On his left arm, he has a tattoo of his favorite professional wrestler, World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Jimmy Valiant, the original Boogie Woogie Man.

McBride was like a lot of North Carolina professional wrestling fans that grew up in Guilford County during the 1980s. He was captivated by the larger than life figures that fought the battle of good versus evil. The 80s is commonly referred to as the “Golden Age” of professional wrestling.

During that time, the wrestling industry exploded with popularity all over the United States. Advancements with cable television gave professional wrestling organizations the ability to reach more viewers than ever before. Professional wrestling organizations promoted their brands at a feverish pitch all across the United States.

Greensboro was one of the hottest wrestling venues in the country and hosted hundreds of high profile events. Thousands of fans packed the coliseum to watch championship fights. Dreams, as well as bones, were shattered, and countless scores were settled in Greensboro. It was good ol’ fashion hate, and at times it seemed the entire town would be wrapped up in it.

One of the biggest crowd favorites to ever wrestle in the Greensboro Coliseum is Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant. Valiant was a fixture on the big cards at the coliseum and his fights were always against bad guys that had evil intentions.

During his 10-plus years at Jim Crockett Promotions, Valiant feuded with the likes of Paul Jones, Abdullah the Butcher, Superstar Billy Graham, Gary Hart, The Great Kabuki and a host of other evil characters. Valiant became McBride’s inspiration to pursue a career in professional wrestling.

While attending Southern Guilford High School, McBride found Greensboro wrestling promoter Barry “Marvin” Cohen. Cohen, a mountain of a man, also hosted a television show on cable access TV that targeted suspects that were wanted by local law enforcement agencies.

McBride began training with Cohen in 1985 at the Folk Recreation Center off of Clifton Road in Greensboro. At that time, Cohen was training wrestlers to compete in his Southern States Wrestling promotion.

“Barry had us wrestling on mats because he didn’t have a ring. He had the other wrestlers beat the hell out of me the first couple of times I went to see if I was going to quit. Obviously, I didn’t,” McBride chuckled. He trained for months at the recreation center before being put in his first match with Cohen’s Southern States Wrestling.

“My first match was at the boxing club at Lindley Recreation Center. I was wrestling as the Libyan Assassin, and I wrestled a guy named Harvey Biddy. It was a decent crowd,” McBride said. McBride continued to wrestle for Southern States Wrestling for almost a year, mostly at the old Cosmos II on Florida Street.

“Barry had us help him build a ring that was way too big and it was harder than brick. I wrestled there one night for the opening match and I took a bodyslam and I shot right through the bottom of the ring. Put a damn huge hole right in the middle of the ring,” McBride recalled. “It was so dark in there I’m not sure everybody could see what had happened. The whole show had to end after the first match because there was a hole in the ring.”

Andy Durham from GreensboroSports.com recalled seeing a young McBride wrestling as the Libyan Assassin. “Robbie was very young when he started, but he was good. He really worked the Libyan Assassin character and knew how to get the crowd going. I think he was always liked by the fans and was easily one of the top three wrestlers in that group back then,” Durham said.

While wrestling for Cohen, McBride met another local promoter named Harold Hadnott. McBride says once he started working with Hadnott, he really began to learn about how to be a professional wrestler.

Hadnott sold insurance on High Point Road, and also operated a wrestling promotion called the International Wrestling Express in the same building. Hadnott wrestled for the IWE as part of a tag team called the Dream Warriors with Mark Vance.

“Harold taught me how to take a bump, how to fall “¦ he just gave me a solid understanding of the basics. He did that for a lot of the guys that went through there,” McBride said.

Hadnott’s IWE held matches at local venues with reasonable success for several years. By the mid-90’s, Hadnott’s IWE fizzled out, but the local wrestling scene was continued by Chris Plano and New Dimension Wrestling.

Hadnott went on to own and operate two gentlemen’s clubs in Greensboro named Lost Dimensions North and Lost Dimensions South. Hadnott’s old tag team partner, Mark Vance, continued to wrestle and eventually made an appearance during WCW’s Monday Night Nitro.

In 1988, McBride moved to Georgia so he could pursue bigger opportunities in wrestling. It was there that he met up with wrestler Shane Mackey.

“I was just trying to find a way to get involved once I moved to Georgia. Luckily, one of my friends knew Shane and he was able to hook me up with some opportunities,” McBride said.

Mackey recalled how McBride could work the crowd to build up his following.

“We hit it off great together and really had a lot of fun. His gimmick when I first met him was a convict. We created this rap sheet that would be read before his matches. We blamed him for all kinds of crazy stuff like the Challenger explosion, or the Waco, Texas shootings. It was always fun to wrestle with Rob. My heart sank when Rob left the area because I really liked working with him,” Mackey revealed.

McBride was able to meet and compete against some big names during his time in Georgia. “I wrestled Kevin Sullivan, Paul Orndorff, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and eventually I got on with WCW,” McBride said.

At the time, WCW was one of the biggest wrestling promotions in the country. McBride wrestled eight times and lost eight times for WCW. “I was a jobber. You know, the guy that gets whipped,” McBride said.

While wrestling five to six nights per week in Georgia, McBride also held down a full time job.

“I wasn’t making big time money wrestling and I still needed to pay bills. It was a tough time, but I wouldn’t change anything. I met my wife in Georgia, so I am pretty damn glad I went there.”

Rob married his wife, Reba, in 1995, and she became his valet. Together, they balanced working full time jobs, wrestling multiple times a week and while taking care and parenting two children, one eight-years old and the other seven-years old.

Soon after they were married, the McBride’s had to leave Georgia and come back to Guilford County because Rob’s mother had fallen ill.

“When my mom got sick, I had to wrap everything up and come back home. I didn’t have time to wrestle and do everything else I needed to do. I couldn’t make time for wrestling so I had to take a two-year hiatus. I got back into it in 1998 and began wrestling locally again,” McBride said.

In 2004, McBride’s childhood hero, Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant, was working a tour of events before he retired from wrestling. Rob and his wife decided to promote a show in Greensboro at Rider’s in the Country in honor of his career. It was the 20th anniversary of the original Boogie Man Jam that was held in the Greensboro Coliseum.

By this time, McBride had gotten to know Valiant well from working various events together and the two became close friends. The main event pitted McBride, Valiant and a member of the band Fair Warning against three other wrestlers in a six-man tag team match. The match had the crowd’s undivided attention and brought everyone to their feet. Valiant and Rob’s team won, earning them the right to shave the hair off of their opponent’s heads.

After the matches were completed and the long goodbyes between wrestlers and fans began, Reba and Valiant stepped away from the crowd and had a private conversation. After they talked, Valiant decided to pass the name and legacy of Boogie Man onto Rob.

Since McBride took on the Boogie Woogie Man persona he has successfully worked the independent wrestling scene. He has held countless titles, helped dozens of young wrestlers and even operated a very popular wrestling promotion called Rider’s Championship Wrestling.

However, Valiant has come out of retirement and has even teamed up with McBride when situations called for two Boogie Men. Valiant continues to wrestle today at the age of 72.

“Hey man, I’ve been wrestling for 51 years and I’m still lacing the boots up. In fact, I’ll wrestle this Friday in Kingsport, Tennessee, and this Saturday in Bluefield, West Virginia. The Lord has been good to me. Rob has been wrestling for 30 years and I have done it for 51. I hope he can wrestle long enough to beat my record,” Valiant said.

Valiant also said during a recent telephone interview that he gave Rob McBride permission to become the Boogie Woogie Man and why.

“I’ve always liked Rob and his lovely wife Reba. Rob is a good performer, a good worker. Rob does the Boogie Woogie Man just as good as I did. I take my hat off to him. I think that it’s great that the Boogie Man character can be carried on by Rob,” he said. Valiant says McBride is family to him and he is also an honorary graduate of Valiant’s Wrestling School located at 2916 Alleghany Springs Road in Shawsville, Virginia.

Valiant owns and operates a school of professional wrestling called Boogie’s Wrestling Camp. For 24 years, Valiant has trained hundreds of people to become professional wrestlers.

“I love working with young people and helping them get into this great sport. This sport has been very good to me and I want to give back as much as I can. My wonderful wife Angel and I make sure the camp is open to the public every Sunday from 12-4. It’s free for anyone that wants to come. We do this for the fans. Without the fans of this sport, or any sport, we have nothing,” Valiant said.

The camp is marked by large amounts of memorabilia, including thousands of pictures he has collected over his career. !

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