An interview with ....
Brad Armstrong (2005)
Brad Armstrong (left) teams with Tom Z-Man Zenk in 1993 against "Pretty Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and "Pretty" Paul Roma
Celebrating his 25th year in wrestling, Brad Armstrong sat down for a few minutes to discuss his career and a few of the wrestlers he’s met along the way.
Born and raised in Marietta, Georgia (and yes, his father Bob was a firefighter) Brad is a second-generation wrestler. There are four Armstrong boys who have all wrestled at some point in their lives. Brad is #2 son and recently turned 43 years old. He grew up watching his dad on TV, and tussling all over the house and yard with his brothers. He wrestled in high school, and said amateur is harder than pro and the physicality of amateur is different. He knew he didn’t want to keep the amateur pace up, however...
“I was a HUGE mark for the business, so naïve.” He remembers when he was 16, Ivan Koloff called his house one day. His father wasn’t in, but Brad began to tell Ivan about the match he and his father would have that night. Brad didn’t even realize he knew how to speak “wrestlese” so well, but it just came out when talking to Ivan. His dad asked if he’d like to go with him to an arena and help put up the ring. Brad agreed and even had a “match” with his dad after the ring was set up. He was exhausted afterwards and didn’t know how his father did it all the time.
Around the age of 18, Brad drove his dad, Robert Fuller and Joe le Duc to Montgomery, Alabama one evening for an indy card. By this time he knew if you ever rode with the guys, you needed to pack some gear. He had his and one wrestler didn’t show, "so they asked if I’d like to give it a try. I was scared to death to wrestle Jerry Brown, of the Hollywood blondes. This guy is gonna kill me…in public,” I thought. “That was the longest walk to the car to get my gear. As it turned out, Jerry was one of the best workers in the business. He led the match, and I was astounded by the way he was putting me into holds and getting me out of them to make it look like I was doing it all myself. But, I beat him in the end with a small package. I was terrified, I thought I had screwed up by defeating him. But Dad slid under the ropes and picked me up with a huge hug. It suddenly occurred to me at that moment that this was all a game. I knew I never wanted to do anything else with my life! My mom cried when I told her because she remembered the life Dad had, being gone so much and the temptations out there.”
"We had a lot of fun...." Z-Man parodies the "Pretty Paulies"
He continued wrestling in the Southeast Championship Wrestling based in Alabama. As Georgia Championship Wrestling grew, he joined it. (Asked if he thought the family was more respected in GA than AL, he said he didn’t know, but maybe.) As NWA moved into GA territory, they stayed a part of the fed, with Brad wrestling in singles and tag teams with his dad.
WCW proved to be Brad’s best exposure, even with the nutty gimmicks he was put in. Here’s Brad’s take on them:
Candyman– “I hated the tights, but I was able to give tons of candy to kids and they loved that. And the best experience of that gimmick was I participated in the Make-A-Wish foundation with two terminally-ill children. I took them to a candy convention and we tried every kind of candy known to man…those kids were in hog heaven.”
Arachnaman – “This gimmick never got off the ground because Marvel comics issued a “cease and desist” order. They claimed it infringed on their Spiderman character, but I loved playing that one.”
Dos Hombres – “I was covered from head to toe in red gear and boy was it hot! And they even covered the mouth hole so it was tough to breath. But tagging with Ricky Steamboat was awesome.”
Badstreet– “Loved this one because I could be a heel! I didn’t know I had that in me, but put on a mask and you can do and say anything you want! And I got to wrestle against my brother Scott (of the “Young Pistols”) which was a hoot.”
Buzzkill – “I hated this more than any other gimmick. The suits at TBS would ask me what I was gonna say and I said I don’t know.. I could make no references to drug or that culture, but I was in tye-dye shirts, dreadlocks and was this old hippie character. My hands were tied!”
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One memorable thing he got to do in WCW was being on a nationally televised game show. “CBS’ “Family Feud” was doing a special week of WCW wrestlers vs Gorgeous Ladies of wrestling (GLOW). “The front office said you, you, you, you and you are going to Hollywood to do the Feud. Jim Ross, Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, Sting and myself went and had a great time. I looked so dorky in the Elvis shades and pullover and was probably stoned at the time. They did the entire week of shows in one day, which is normally done in two. To accommodate our wrestling schedules, they crammed it in, and so did we trying to do everything we could in one day. We stayed an extra day to have some fun, and that we did. Tom Zenk and I partied all night, and all day while we were out there!”
"Tom Zenk is a Great Athlete, with a Tremendous Physique and one of the Best Workers In The Business…"
Speaking of Zenk, "Tom was good athlete, and great physique, for a guy who didn’t spend a lot time in the gym he looked great! I hated him for that! (laughs) All my life I tried to get big, and now that I’m older, I wanna be small. But Tom would just walk by the weights and get pumped. We partied a lot together, he would come to my house for a few days or I’d go see him at the Falcon’s Rest (where wrestlers stayed while working in Atlanta) and we'd have a lot of fun. Tom and I were comparable in abilities and roughly in same spot in our careers. He felt mismanaged by WCW, and I did too. I was fortunate to have worked for the company that long but I think there were a few people who shouldn’t have been in the business. I felt they didn’t know what to do with me, but I got to wrestle with and against some of the top talent in the world, Tom being one of them."
Tom has been quoted as saying that Brad was his idea of a perfect southern gentleman. He always was polite to everyone, even saying “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.” Brad seemed to enjoy that characterization, but was quick to give credit for it to his upbringing by his parents.
As the new century rolled in, tragedy struck Brad, literally! “In 2000, I was involved in an accident. It happened before the last match of a taping one night. But this incident wasn't taped. A couple of wrestlers were in the parking lot as I was exiting the studios in Atlanta. They were driving across the lot with no lights. When they saw me, they hit the brakes, which didn't work on a gravel driveway. I dropped my bag and jumped to the right and my left leg got hit head on. It popped me in the air and landed on my feet right at the drivers door. That was pretty amazing, I was like a gymnist. I thought I was OK, but later that night I got drunk to kill the pain. A day or so later the office wanted to know who was driving but I promised not to tell (they were foreigners) so I didn’t. But five guys gave testimony about what they saw, so the office knew it was an accident.”
To dispel the rumors, WCW did pay all his medical bills. They even bought Brad this knee brace he wears when wrestling today. But Brad’s contract was up the following month and they released him. He got a small settlement from the rental car company. He holds no hatred or resentment towards the men in the car, but says it was a turning point in his life. Two knee surgeries and rehab on them afforded him time to be home when his child was born and stay home for two years to get to know her.
"I didn’t think I’d get back into the sport but when someone proposed an Armstrong family reunion, I knew I had to be a part of it. I love wrestling with my brothers and dad and will do it every chance I get. To this day at holidays or family gatherings we still give each other cheap shots when passing by or chops, it's all fun. We have been compared to the Von Erichs and Harts, which I consider a great honor. I knew Owen Hart, and he was a funny guy, and I talked to Kevin Von Erich not long ago. We understand each other since we come from similar backgrounds. One family I would have loved to wrestle, and maybe one day we can, are the Guerreros. Four brothers verses four brothers would be awesome, with Chavo, Jr. and Dad in the corners!”
"My career has been a twenty-five year vacation, and every day’s been a banquet. I have been very fortunate."
And with that, Brad excused himself, thanked me for the time and walked out, geared up, ready to tag with his dad on Father's Day 2005.
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