Last week, it was announced that the Big Boss Man would part of the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2016, which may have left newer fans a bit confused. Who is this Kenny Powers with a brush cut-looking guy in a cheap cop uniform? Of course, if you were watching wrestling in the ’80s or ’90s, you don’t need Boss Man’s induction into the Hall of Fame explained. He wasn’t the most jacked, flashy or charismatic, but few wrestlers could make you love and hate them at the same time quite as well as Big Boss Man. He was a lovable everyman, but could also play the bitter, vicious heel better than almost anybody. Meanwhile, in real life, he was one of the most respected, well-liked men in the business.
Get ready to walk the line with these 10 law-abiding facts about Big Boss Man…
Big Boss Man was an actual prison guard in Cobb County, Georgia.
It’s often said the best characters are just a wrestler’s real personality cranked to 11, and Big Boss Man took that concept about as far as it could go. Born Raymond Traylor Jr. in 1963, the future Boss Man grew up in Marietta, Georgia and really did work for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer before getting into wrestling. In fact, he didn’t give up being a prison guard until well after he started wrestling. Ironically, Traylor only quit his corrections side gig once he jumped to the WWF in 1988, at which point he started playing a prison guard on TV. There was a reason Big Boss Man was a lot more convincing than the plumbers, garbage men and other “side job” wrestlers littering the WWF in the ’80s and ’90s.
He was, technically, a World Heavyweight Champion.
A fedora, beard and aviators? More like the Big Hipster Man.
Big Boss Man had plenty of world title matches over his career, but he never won the big one. Or did he? Ray Traylor wrestled for Jim Crockett from 1986 to ’87, and joined the WWF in 1988, but in between he wrestled for the Universal Wrestling Federation as Big Bubba Rogers. The UWF was Oklahoma promoter Bill Watts’ attempt to go national and compete with Vince McMahon and Jim Crockett, and as part of that expansion, he created the UWF World Heavyweight Title.
Traylor would be the third holder of the UWF Heavyweight Title, beating One Man Gang (who would later team with Traylor to form the Twin Towers in the WWF). The UWF would only last a year-and-a-half, folding up shop in late 1987, but during that time, the promotion had a nationally syndicated TV show, and the UWF belt was an at least semi-legitimate world title. So yeah, put an asterisk beside it if you want, but the man who played Big Boss Man was once called World Heavyweight Champion.
The dude could wrestle like a cruiserweight during his prime.
Big Boss Man is a beloved character, but he doesn’t have a great reputation as an in-ring worker, which isn’t fair. Most people remember Boss Man from his later, Attitude Era appearances when age and injuries had limited his mobility, or his late ’80s WWF work when he was wrestling guys like Hogan and Akeem and didn’t really have to push himself. The reality is, when Boss Man hit his stride in the early ’90s, he was easily one of the best big men in the business. Despite standing 6-foot-6 and weighing well over 300 pounds, Boss Man could charge around like a cruiserweight and had a vastly more varied arsenal of moves than his late-career “punch, punch, kick, punch, Boss Man Slam” matches would indicate.
Just check out the Stan Hansen & Big Bubba Rogers vs. Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa All Japan Pro Wrestling tag match from 1993 above. Now, obviously any tag match from the mid-’90s featuring Hansen, Kobashi and Misawa is going to be great, but Traylor is 100% keeping up. In fact, he may be the most energetic guy in the ring. Just jump to the 2:20 mark for a crazy sequence – Big 330-pound Bubba is moving like friggin’ Neville or AJ Styles. Throughout the match, he’s sliding out under the bottom rope like a seal at every opportunity, getting his legs up higher than his head on big boots and going for friggin’ top-rope splashes. If you want to truly appreciate what Boss Man was capable of, watch the hell out of this match.
Boss Man holds wins over The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Steve Austin and a long list of other legends.
As mentioned, Big Boss Man rarely won when the title was on the line, but he did wrestle pretty much every legend from the mid-’80s through to the late ’90s, and owns victories over almost all of them. The list of guys Boss Man has beaten includes such luminaries as The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Ted DiBiase, Big Show, Undertaker, Randy Savage, Steve Austin, Ric Flair and Mick Foley. If you’re looking for justification for Boss Man being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, well, there you are.
He became an actual Guardian Angel as part of his WCW gimmick.
I’d try a lot more sh*t if this guy was my guardian angel.
After his first run with the WWF, Big Boss Man returned to WCW in late 1993. Originally the plan was to have him play a barely altered version of his WWF character called The Boss, but the WWF’s lawyers weren’t crazy about that, so changes had to be made.
Instead, he became The Guardian Angel, a good guy who dressed like the volunteer crime patrol organization of the same name. Unlike the prison guard thing, Traylor had never been a Guardian Angel previously, so he went out and became one, going through the organization’s full training program and induction ceremony. Big Boss Man, wrestler, badass, hell of a method actor.
He liked to make the ill-fated chihuahua Pepper pee on Al Snow.
In 1998, Big Boss Man returned to the WWF and became one of the most over-the-top heartless heel of all time. This new Big Boss Man wore all black and would feed you your own dog, write terrible poetry about your dead daddy, then drive away with the old bastard’s coffin just for the hell of it. It was kind of amazing.
Well, turns out Boss Man was a bit of a jerk behind the scenes, too. The dog that got served for dinner was Pepper, Al Snow’s pet chihuahua in storylines, and according to Snow, Boss Man would make sure the tiny nervous dog was well hydrated, then would be as loud and obnoxious as he could, so the animal would pee on Snow. That wasn’t terribly nice, but hey, Boss Man got his comeuppance when he had to wrestle Snow in the Kennel from Hell, one of the worst gimmick matches ever. Really, that match was punishment for all of us.
Chris Benoit and him were very close friends.
On September 22, 2004, Ray Traylor suffered a massive heart attack while visiting his sister’s family, passing away almost instantly. He was 41. Occasional prank aside, Traylor was nearly universally loved behind the scenes, and his death sent shock waves throughout the the wrestling industry.
One of the people hit hardest by Boss Man’s death was the now-infamous Chris Benoit. Benoit’s close friendship with Eddie Guerrero and troubling reaction to his death has been well-documented, but he was also very good friends with Traylor, which is slightly unexpected as they came from different backgrounds and rarely interacted on TV. A few years back, wrestling writer Irv Muchnick published a portion of Benoit’s journal, where he described the surprising depth of his friendship with the Boss Man, following his death…
“I would spend days with him, and every half hour or so, though it seemed like every five minutes, he would say ‘Chris Benoit, have I told you I loved you yet.’ And I used to laugh and he would laugh. But by the end of the day, whenever we were done doing whatever we were doing, we would hug I and I would tell him I loved him. I used to laugh when I would hear that from him all day. I used to laugh thinking about it. Now I don’t.”
Less than three years later, Chris Benoit would also be gone.
He was an early mentor to Brock Lesnar.
Well, now we know who inspired Brock’s hair.
As Boss Man’s wrestling career began to wind down toward the end of his life, he took more of an interest in training and mentoring the next generation of stars. One of the rookies Boss Man took an instant liking to was another big stud by the name of Brock Lesnar. Boss Man was close friends with Curt Hennig, who knew Brock through his Minnesota connections, and the three became driving buddies when Brock was first coming up in 2002. On the Stone Cold Podcast, Brock talked about Boss Man and Mr. Perfect’s impact on his career.
“I met Ray [Traylor] through Curt Hennig, and I started traveling with these guys. I wanted to learn from these guys. Best time to learn is in the car, so I started riding with Curt and Boss Man. I’d credit them with giving me some psychology in the wrestling business. How to put a match together. Having those guys in my ear, and grooming me and smartening me up to things.”
Boss Man made himself a sizeable nest egg wheeling and dealing in real estate.
WWE may call all its wrestlers Superstars, but the reality is, unless you’re a real top-level guy, a Hulk Hogan, Rock or John Cena, being in WWE isn’t always that lucrative. A lot of the “Superstars” we saw on TV all the time in the ’80s and ’90s ended up living very modest lives post-wrestling, or being downright destitute. Big Boss Man was one of those guys who could have easily fallen into that unfortunate category.
Thankfully, Boss Man wasn’t just careful with his money, he was one of the few guys who actually knew how to invest it. According to more than one wrestler who knew him, Boss Man was a real estate whiz, and was making multi-million dollar deals as his wrestling career was winding down. Boss Man may have passed before his time, but it’s good to know he more than set up his loved ones before he left.
The Big Boss Man Wrestling Buddy was the best of the bunch.
Was it because I saw the Big Boss Man commercial approximately one billion times as a kid? No, I’m pretty sure the Big Boss Man Wrestling Buddy was just objectively the best. Those cool reflective glasses, all the detail they put into his costume, the fact that Boss Man kind of looked like a Wrestling Buddy in real life – all great. Plus you can throw him in a cop’s face and he won’t even taser you! Everybody loves Wrestling Buddy Big Boss Man!
There you are, a few hard facts about wrestling’s long arm of the law. Know any Ray Traylor facts I missed? Just want to commiserate about Boss Man’s greatness? Boss Man Slam down some comments, below.