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Somebody say something ’bout Hollywood?

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Fired up: Reunited with Rich.

Fired up: Reunited with Rich.


 As I was walking back to my room at the Hilton Charlotte University Place Hotel last Thursday night, I thought I’d stop by the bar to see if perhaps Ric Flair was strutting around wearing only a $10,000 robe and propositioning a cocktail waitress young enough to be his daughter. No sign of the Nature Boy; however, another former NWA World champion was at the bar knocking back a few cocktails: none other than Tommy “Wildire” Rich, whom I managed in Memphis in 1994-95. (Yeah, yeah, shocking, I know, given Tommy’s rep  for…let’s say…having a good time.) People can judge the man all you want, but Tommy’s always been a straight-up guy with me, and I love him to death.

I approached Rich, asking, “Remember me?” About 10 seconds awkwardly passed as his eyes focused on me. Finally, he exclaimed, “Awww, man!,” and gave me a big hug. Rich asked what I’d been up to, and when I explained I was working for an ad agency while trying to make it as a screenwriter in Los Angeles, his eyes widened, and he shouted, “Hey, hey…fuck ‘The Wrestler’—it was pretty good and all, but you should write me and Piper’s story!” I laughed and said, “I would, Tommy…but no one would believe it!” He got a kick out of that one. (Incidentally, my first script years ago was about a tag-team in Memphis in the early ’80s—loosely based on the Fabulous Ones and the Freebirds—showing the fun side of the industry in the MTV era.)

The following morning, I stopped by Rich’s booth in the vendor area and once again he gave me a Joe LeDuc-like bearhug, despite the fact that I had seen him 12 hours earlier. Looking like he’d been through a shoot with Billy Robinson (which wasn’t possible since the former CWA World champion for Jerry Jarrett no-showed Fanfest), Rich wearily asked, “What are you up to nowadays? Somebody told me you were in Hollywood.”

God bless, ol’ Wildfire.

  1. Old School Sammy
    August 13th, 2009 at 13:28 | #1

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you—Tommy ”Wild Turkey” Rich!!!!”

  2. Cal
    August 13th, 2009 at 19:25 | #2

    I was a huge fan of Rich in his later Memphis days, although he was very much past his prime.

    A few years ago he did a couple of shows for a company I was working with, and he was super entertaining, and a great guy. But his demons have long since got the better of him, and it”s very sad.

    I think the fact that he”s such a nice guy makes things even worse.

    Glad to see from your fest updates that you had fun though.

  3. August 21st, 2009 at 11:58 | #3

    Tommy Rich…Wow, I remember going to the TV tapings almost every saturday morning for Georgia Championship Wrestling in the late 70”s/early 80”s, and hollering as a young kid for my fan favorites like Tommy Rich and Wrestling # 2 and heels like Ric Flair and the Andersons..Watching the legendary Gordon Solie..Those were the good ol days. Boy he looks different now..

  4. Chris Cooke
    August 21st, 2009 at 16:41 | #4

    Tommy “Wildfire” Rich….I spent many Saturday nights at the Memorial Auditorium watching Tommy battle “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer, Bill Irwin, Ox Baker, and Killer Karl Kox…great memories. I never thought Tommy got the respect from the wrestling territories that he deserved…he, by far, was one of the most entertaining wrestlers I”ve ever watched. I tuned in to whichever show was on,(in Chattanooga we had several on through the day on Saturdays) to see who “Wildfire” was fighting…he was always my favorite. Thank you Tommy Rich, your legacy is is intact with me.

  5. Kay
    August 22nd, 2009 at 09:09 | #5

    Tommy Wildfire Rich, my all-time favorite “rassler”! I totally agree with #4 that Tommy never got the respect he deserved. Maybe he wasn”t the most talented wrestler inside the squared circle, but he could handle a mic and he could sell a storyline with the very best of the old-school guys, and was the best “bleeder” ever! All of those things didn”t even begin to include his charisma, especially with the ladies!

    It”s a shame that seemingly his Southern roots worked against him (I”m sure along with a few other issues) because given the opportunity in his prime on a long-term basis to shine, he could have and should have been a major player on the national wrestling scene rather than the local circuits throughout the Southeast. Using his talents as a babyface who constantly got pounded and busted open by the heels would have really played well in the 70s and 80s!

    I had the opportunity to see Tommy perform in person on two very diverse occasions — once in the Omni in Atlanta as a main eventer and once in a small town in northwest Alabama, also as a main eventer. He worked just as hard on both occasions — filling in and wrestling a second match when one of the scheduled wrestlers was a no-show in the small town. And in his autograph session pre-match, he was nice and polite and gracious to everyone! Maybe that was part of the problem — maybe he was TOO nice for the industry!

    I sincerely hope that his future is full of joy and happiness.

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