Bruce Mitchell on local ‘rassler “Boogie Woogie Man” Robbie McBride

This piece has several Beef Burger references so we had to put this on our Tuesday list of things to read, and we hope that you enjoy it too. If you don’t like it then go see Ralph Havis, Robbie McBride or Bruce Mitchell.

We really like the home-grown stuff and feel there’s just not enough of it anymore, so we put this on your plate as the Tuesday afternoon special and you can take it or leave, I suggest you try it and you might just be hooked on the and their red-hot ‘rassling reports.

My Favorite Independent Wrestler – an example of a forgotten type of character

I’d be the last to say I’m any kind of expert on independent wrestling in the U.S., or even in the Carolinas. Matt and Jeff Hardy’s Omega Pro Wrestling may have birthed the careers of Hardy Boys, Gregory Helms, and Shannon Moore, but most of the local promotions in the Carolinas these days are small and not on what passes for the cutting edge of the indy scene these days.

(I did get to see the Omega crew regularly as they toured the state back then for other promoters. I thought the Hardys had something unique, but I didn’t know if it was what the national companies in the ’90s particularly wanted. I had no idea that fifteen years later they’d be two of the biggest wrestling stars/idols in the entire business.)

The CWF Mid-Atlantic runs mostly every-other Saturday night in Burlington, N.C. at the Carolina Sports Arena, which is actually a warehouse in an industrial park tricked out like an old territory wrestling TV studio. They’ve done this consistently for the past eight years, and it’s a professionally run operation. Their nods to old-time wrestling, the flags hung from the ceiling, the nostalgic mission statement on their website, only go so far. The shows attract 200 to 300 regulars – many of them families with kids, and most of them know the CWF wrestlers and their storylines. You don’t get the sense they’re there out of any sense of nostalgia for the by-gone days of Jim Crockett Promotions..

The CWF has their own crew of modern-style wrestlers, with their standouts being Joey Silvia, whose smooth work impressed a lot of people on the Ric Flair Highpots Greensboro/Charlotte tour that weekend, their own version of Jeff Hardy in the pierced-up Brass Munkey, who got his own girlie screams last Saturday night, and Ric Converse, who has played the champion wrestler character well enough over the years it’s hard to understand why he hasn’t gotten much of a chance, one way or another, with one of the national companies.

None of these are my favorite independent wrestler, though.

That would be “The Boogie Woogie Man” Rob McBride.

You may have seen McBride kiss that local NBC anchor on that morning show a few months ago in a clip that was a YouTube sensation for several hours. I’ve known who McBride was for years and years. Anyone who ate at Greensboro’s throwback fried food joint, Beef Burger, had to. Beef Burger’s longtime owner/counterman Ralph Havis let McBride post pictures on the delivery windows showing him hamming it up with everyone from Ricky Morton to John Cena over the years. It’s that kind of place.

I don’t have much problem understanding why McBride hasn’t gotten much, or any, chance over the years with the national promotions. He’s a short, dumpy redneck with a ridiculous peroxide blond frizzled dye job, and he’s been wrestling indys around here under names like The Libyan Assassin and Robby the Bull for over 20 years. He’s the epitome of what Vince McMahon is thinking of when he sneers “rassler.”

A few years ago McBride somehow got WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant to “pass on” his street people, rock’n’roll preacher gimmick to him. (I’m a little unclear on how McBride got Valiant to do this. It’s said, and CWF plays the video on their screen during shows, that Valiant just gave McBride his blessing, but Valiant, who bows to no one, including Jimmy Hart, in his passion for the honestly hustled buck, is not known for his largesse.)

McBride may look more like the lost Moondog than he does the cool-daddy Valiant, but he plays the hell out of the Boogie gimmick. He’s a face-twisting man of the people, barking and growling, kissing babies and ringsiders, and, like Valiant, he’s authentic to the character. How many indy wrestlers can get little kids to follow him around the ring? He even competes in the local Bubbalympics every year, and you can imagine what that entails.

He’s the type of wrestler who knows what he can do in the ring, and does it, and knows what he can’t, and doesn’t. (So was Jimmy Valiant, but then he couldn’t do anything.) Everything he does in the ring is to do get over his man-of-the-people gimmick, in a way that most indy wrestlers just don’t do any more.

It’s that the Boogie Woogie Man does what no one does anymore that makes him unique in today’s wrestling. No one wants to be that type of character anymore, even though it’s still an easy way to get over to rural fans. Since Vince McMahon hates “rasslers,” either today’s wrestlers have never seen this type of gimmick, or they know it will never get them to national television. That leaves it wide for McBride, and he makes the most of it.

McBride is in his 40s, and he’s past worrying about when he’s going to get the big call. (At least, I hope so.) He’s over with the people that matter to him, and he’s clearly having a hell of a time performing for them.

I’m having a hell of a time watching him. The guy’s a riot.

Bruce Mitchell has been a PWTorch colunnist since September 1990.