The Wrestler Snapshot #4: The Big Boss Man

A beloved character, but how was he in the ring?

The Wrestler Snapshot #4: The Big Boss Man

One of my favorite type of wrestler groups is fat men. I’ve always been drawn to watching the huge guys squash the little guys. Looking back, one of the fat guy wrestlers that I have a great fondness for is The Big Boss Man. I grew up a WWF guy and he always seemed to me like a big guy that could go. Later on, in his WCW run, he showed that he could really go. So let’s have a look at the big man from Cobb County, Georgia.

Ray Traylor was a real-life prison guard before making his debut as a jobber for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1986. After a match with Tully Blanchard, in which he went up for the Slingshot Suplex, booker Dusty Rhodes decided to pull Traylor from TV for 12 weeks to repackage him. He re-debuted as a silent bodyguard for Jim Cornette. He didn’t have too many matches, although he did face Ron Garvin at Starrcade 1986. In 1987 he went to the Universal Wrestling Federation and won the UWF Heavyweight Title from the One Man Gang. After another short run there he made his debut in the WWF.

With the WWF being the land of gimmicks, Ray Traylor became the Big Boss Man, a character taken from his real past. He debuted in the summer of 1988 and was given Slick as a manager. Shortly thereafter he started a feud with the Man himself, Hulk Hogan. On the Brother Love show Boss Man handcuffed Hogan and beat him with his  knife-stick. This lead to the match below.
Big Boss Man vs Hulk Hogan – WWF @ Boston Garden, December 3, 1988

To start things off we are going to look at The Big Boss Man in his original, traditional role of monster heel. Who better for a monster heel to face then the slayer of monster heels himself?

The match starts off really hot as referee Earl Hebner steals the nightstick and Hogan throws Slick over the top to the floor. Hogan is pissed from the Brother Love incident and goes straight to punching Boss Man and then hits a huge atomic drop in which Boss Man bumps to the floor. Boss Man does a great job of selling being pissed off more than hurt.

The story of the match flows well from here. Hogan is pissed and goes after Boss Man, however Boss Man is such a monster that it’s really difficult to knock him down. Boss Man does some really great wobbly selling during these segments and keeps using Slick to get the advantage back while using some pretty cool offense to keep in control. This includes an Arn Anderson spinebuster, dropping all his weight on Hogan while he was draped on the bottom rope and the Boss Man Slam.

His resthold of choice in this one is the bearhug, which usually kind of sucks. In this case Boss Man keeps working it and Hogan is pretty great at receiving the move. He keeps trying to power out and Boss Man keeps wrenching it in. They do the normal arms drops twice punch out of it segment that we all know. This part did not bring down the match in any way. In fact it leads directly to the finishing sequence.

After he punches out of the bear hug, Hogan goes for a lariat only for Boss Man to duck and hit his own Boss Man Slam. Now, Boss Man celebrates that it is over for a while and then Hogan hulks up. While a boot to the face does not bring down the big man, however a kick to the gut, eye rack and body slam does. Two elbow drops, a foot rake and then another lariat to the corner followed. Boss Man thumbs him to the eye, and tries to handcuff Hogan to the ropes but Hulk outsmarts the monster and handcuffs Boss Man to the ropes instead. A huge lariat knocks Boss Man to the floor, where he is counted out because he can not get into the ring due to the constraints of the handcuffs. Clever finish there. It set up future matches very well.

Final Rating: ***

After Boss Man’s run with Hogan and after a run in a very fun tag team with Akeem called The Twin Towers, Boss Man went babyface. At this point he started to slim down and worked a completely different style as an underdog gaining sympathy from the crowd. His iconic theme music of “Hard Times” debuted during this period as well.

Big Boss Man vs Earthquake – WWF Survivor Series Showdown, October 29, 1990

Speaking of awesome fat guy wrestlers from the 1990s, one opponent he faced many times was John Tenta, known at this time as Earthquake. This match is during the “Heenan Family making fun of Boss Man’s mom” feud, and that will come into play later on.

The match starts with a lock up and Earthquake uses his mass to throw Boss Man into the corner and then flexes multiple times. I really love when fat guys with no physique flex in wrestling.

After that fun start we get Boss Man’s shine sequence and it is great. He does the Bob Backlund wrenching headlock and he’s super intense. He then ducks a lariat and hits one of the best uppercuts I have ever seen and then follows it up with another. Earthquake bails to talk strategy with his manager Jimmy Hart, but when he gets in the ring he hits a bodyslam with ease and tries to follow it up with two stomps, only for Boss Man to roll out of the way. Boss Man decides it’s time to chase Hart around the ring, but then Boss Man slides in and surprises Earthquake. Boss Man gets a school boy for two and then goes to the top rope where Earthquake catches him diving off and powerslams him for a dramatic two.

As Earthquake takes control, Bobby Heenan decides to venture to ringside. Boss Man does an amazing job of selling including taking a vicious looking whip into the corner. The beating continues with splashes and kicks. Heenan even gets some slaps in for good measure. There is some nice hope spots by Boss Man, like him punching Earthquake’s back. However, as long as Earthquake is standing and Boss Man is on the ground, Earthquake will keep his advantage. He gets cocky after a huge elbow drop and tries to pin him with one foot and then just decides to walk over him instead.

Heenan makes his away to ringside as he is in the middle of his feud with the Boss Man. Boss Man gets whipped into the corner and sells it wonderfully. Earthquake with a stink face now and again and again with a jumping sit down splash. Heenan slaps him a bunch of times. A jumping kick by Quake and Boss Man tries to punch his way back into it, but Quake is standing and he is on the ground, so he keeps the advantage. A huge elbow drop by Quake and he follows with a pin with one foot, but then just steps over top of him again. Awesome. A headbutt to the chest and now a bear hug by Quake follows and Boss Man’s selling here is great as he looks absolute frantic in his escaping of the hold.

Boss Man keeps getting the crowd’s hope up by getting in a single punch, but he keeps getting cut off. It really ramps up the crowd. The crowd is just begging for a comeback which comes after Earthquake drops his head and Boss Man hits an enzuigiri. Some more great punches and Earthquake gets trapped in the ropes, ala Andre the Giant. Boss Man knocks out Jimmy Hart as he gets on the apron and then charges Earthquake only to get dumped to the floor. After a few more Heenan slaps, Boss Man chases him off, getting himself counted out. This was a surprisingly awesome match and I really need to see more of these two together, as they have great chemistry. What makes it more interesting is that it is not a monster against monster match, it’s more of a monster versus an underdog babyface.

Final Rating: *** ½

After leaving the WWF and before entering the WCW, the Big Boss Man did some tours with All Japan Pro-Wrestling. Akira Taue is one of the most underrated guys from the 1990s boom in Japan. Everyone agrees that he was in a lot of great matches, but because they thought he was less of a worker than Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kwada the perception was that he wasn’t all that great.
Big Boss Man vs Akira Taue – AJPW, July 29, 1993

Boss Man is still wearing his Boss Man outfit here and Taue is a good match up on paper because he is also a big power guy. They feel each other out for a bit and an awesome in an awesome spot, while Taue is going for a test of strength, Bossman kicks away his hand. They go for another lock up and Taue kicks him in the face. Awesome again. The early part is all about feeling out each others power and Boss Man hits this upper cut that the crowd goes nuts for. Boss Man has such a great punches.

Boss Man misses a corner splash and gets taken over with a hip toss which is pretty cool. Boss Man keeps punching out of everything and finally goes to work on Taue’s arm. Chops in the corner just piss off Taue who comes back with his own chops. He whips Boss Man into the corner, who slides to the floor and back into the ring behind Taue, then hits him with his awesome wind-up uppercut punch.

They battle a bit on the floor and then back into the ring. Stinger splash by Boss Man is followed by his normal spot of splashing Taue who is prone on the bottom rope, although this time he does it three times. On the fourth attempt he slides to the floor and punches Taue instead. He hits the Arn Anderson spinebuster, a nice lariat, a splash and a bodyslam and then goes to the top. He misses the Superfly splash and Taue makes a comeback with a huge DDT. A chokeslam (Taue’s finisher) gets two. Taue picks up Boss Man and rips him neck first on the top rope and follows it up with a second chokeslam for the win. This was a really solid big guy collision here.

Final Rating: ***

After his brief run in Japan, Boss Man found himself in WCW. He debuted as The Boss with the exact same WWF outfit in a match against the NWA Champion Rick Rude. After his initial debut he switched to a black outfit that is identical to the blue version. He even still used the nightstick. After a brief period in that role and his great feud with Vader he switched it up (check out our podcasts on WCW 1994 which featured this feud). He became The Guardian Angel. After a while as a babyface, he turned on Sting and went back to his original name of Big Bubba Rogers. This is their first big singles match.

big bubba and sting
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Big Bubba Rogers vs Sting – WCW Uncensored, March 19, 1995

Since this was built as a big grudge match it was strange to see the bout start with Sting stealing Boss Man’s hat and leg dropping it. It’s so corny. After a long and not very exciting shine sequence by Sting, Bubba takes over when Sting hurts his knee. The only good thing coming out of this shine sequence was Boss Man’s awesome selling walking around dazed and trying to regain his composure.

Bubba turns into an Anderson here and just works over the knee all match with submissions and kicks. I’ve never seen a Bubba match that revolved around limb work before and it seems like a weird choice for such a big guy.

The comeback begins with Sting moving away from the sliding to the floor punch spot. Sting gets on a sleeperhold and Bubba counters by using his tie to nail Sting with a jaw jacker. The Sting offense continues with a huge belly-to-back suplex and a flying splash. The comeback is cut off when an elbow by Sting which knocks Bubba down and he falls onto Sting’s knee. Bubba goes for the Stinger Splash only for Sting to move and go for a body slam where his knee gives out and Bubba falls on top for the finish.

This obviously sets up future rematches and is a solid enough match, but it was lacking something. It really was a weird layout with Bubba using limb work instead of power moves.

Final Rating: ***

After his run in WCW in 1997, he returned to the WWF to be Mr. McMahon’s security in The Corporation. He wasn’t the focus of the show or anything, but was always there. This included a WWF Tag Team Title reign teaming with Ken Shamrock. It also included a WWF World Title match.

show and boss man
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Big Boss Man vs Big Show for the WWF World Title – WWF Armageddon, December 12, 1999

I’m not going to pretend that this is some lost epic or anything, it is a three minute match, but this match does show The Boss Man can still go later in his career.

The match is real simple, as you would expect a three minute match would be. Big Show destroys Boss Man and then chokeslams Prince Albert (Boss Man’s corner man) through a table. Boss Man uses the steel steps, takes out Show for a few minutes, then Big Show does a kip up and a chokeslam for the win.

There are two reasons why I wanted everybody to see this match. First of all it shows that The Big Boss Man was still pretty agile and was a really smart worker later in his career. There were moments were Boss Man really struggles to get Big Show into the ring. A very smart spot that I have never seen in a Big Show match. Also, his selling and punches were as good as any other wrestler at the time. I would love to see more longer matches from later in his career.

The second reason is to have everybody remember the ridiculous angle that took place with Boss Man making fun of Big Show’s dead father, including stealing the coffin and making some hilarious poetry. Memorable stuff!

Final Rating: **

In conclusion, The Big Boss Man is one of those interesting wrestlers that can go from a monster heel to an underdog babyface. His punches and selling are top notch. He knows how to put a match together and can produce fear or gain sympathy from the crowd, depending on this  situation. It’s unreal to see a man that big play an underdog babyface. There is even a match at MSG where Ted DiBiase puts Boss Man into a bearhug and the crowd gets behind him.

His series with Vader is one of the top rivalries of the 1990s and everybody should check out those matches (the Spring Stampde 1994 match I have at ****¼). Actually a lot of his matches need to be checked out as he is very unheralded. He may not always have a top notch match, but he always looks good in the ring himself and plays his role to perfection.

What do you think of Ray Traylor? What are your favorite matches of his and do you think he’s under-rated? Comment on Facebook here or message me on twitter @StevenGrahamTWS.