Midcard Faces is an ongoing series where we revisit some fond memories of those wrestlers who got over, but never got to the top. Consider it a mini-celebration of some favorite midcard baby faces who we loved, but who didn’t get love in the main event. We continue this series with universally-beloved boundary breaker, Bobo Brazil.
How They Got Their Start
Houston Harris was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and played in the Negro Baseball League, where he was discovered by wrestling promoters, because wrestling never fails to find the large, crazy athletic guys — no matter where they are.
Harris was trained by Joe Salvoldi, who named him “Bubu Brasil, The South American Giant.” Despite Savoldi’s intended name, initial promotional materials had him listed as “Bobo,” and the name stuck. Sometimes wrestling names are like improv team names: once someone calls you that, that is what your name is. Sincerely, The Happy Time Rainbow Bunny Squad original member, Brian James O’Connell.
I could go long and deep here about how important Bobo Brazil was as a unifying force in professional wrestling; how crowds both black and white rooted for him as their hero and demanded to see him wrestle the important people in the territory. That is not my place. I will let Bobo’s absolutely incredible history in the ring tell it for me.
Here is Bobo in Tokyo in 1957, getting way up for dropkicks. Every midcard legend has to go through Japan at least once. It’s the law.
Here is Bobo rocking a jacket I would kill for, and one he should never have stopped wearing. Oh, and also getting a huge pop against Fritz Von Erich. You know; no big deal. “Bobo breaking The Claw with a Coco Butt!” is the type of verbal exclamation that only 1960s wrestling can give us.
Here is Bobo taking on “brash newcomer” Jerry Lawler in the Mid-South Coliseum. That’s no less of a legend than Lance Russell putting over a giant black man as the babyface in 1970s Memphis, by the way.
Here is Bobo taking on another “German” in Baron Von Raschke in Chicago in 1974, just because I can’t get enough of the eternal struggle of Claw Vs. Coco Butt. THIS is how you do midcard comedy wrestling without making guys look like total geeks. I’ve watched this clip four times.
Here’s Bobo in 1975 vying for that Midcard Babyface staple, the United States Heavyweight Championship, against some dude named [checks notes] The Sheik.
Here is Bobo bringing Madison Square Garden to its feet one year later against ginger professional Rip Taylor impersonator, Gashouse Gilbert.
Here is Bobo in 1981 taking on anti-Gashouse Gilbert Harley Race, nearly 25 years after Bobo started in the business. If Harley Race is letting you no-sell a kneedrop to the head, you must be doing something right.
Finally, here is Bobo in 1982, doing his part in what is clearly the prototype for Tim and Eric’s entire mileu while wearing a suit I would kill for and one which he should have never stopped wearing too, Electric Boogaloo.
Okay, I lied. One last thing to leave you with is this crazy two-ring battle royale from the mid-’70s, featuring Bobo Brazil mixing it up with Andre The Giant. If Andre in his prime is allowing you to look tough enough to have a hoss standoff and give you the handshake of respect, you’re a damn good midcard face.
How I First Became Aware Of Him
Imagine if you will an eight-year-old BOC watching this on the USA Network and saying to himself, “Who are these people Mean Gene is talking to, and why is one of them in their ring gear and the other one seems like he doesn’t want to be here?”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the man keeping it a hundred percent kayfabe by wearing his ring gear to a talk show is Bobo Brazil. I can only imagine he showed up in his gear with no other options — like the person who dresses in a full Babadook costume, only to realize this is a “wine and cheese” Halloween party.
This is from episode 97 of a show called Tuesday Night Titans, which was a loose WWF late night talk show that all of you can feel free in admitting you don’t remember ever watching. It’s like the WWF was hoping to capture the same magic as the Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler David Letterman worked shoot, but forgot that they could just, you know, write that to happen. It started with Vince McMahon hosting to try and desperately be anything other than a wrestling promoter, giving up, handing it to Okerlund, and then shuttering the whole thing. This episode with Bobo Brazil and Chief Jay “Stop Asking Me To Wrestle” Strongbow is one of the very last ones, if you can believe it.
This episode also features Hulk Hogan, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, King Kong Bundy, etc. and the guy who comes off the best is the late era cuddly version of Lord Alfred Hayes and he’s pushing the century mark in TNT tapings on this show. Good for you, Lord Hayes. Well done, chap.
One of the very cool things about Tuesday Night Titans was that they would show old clips of wrestlers you would never get to see anywhere else. Whether it was old territory footage, or clips from WWF’s Japanese partners, it was a real treat to see wrestling folks you knew right next to guys you had no idea about … and then there was footage to go with it!
That photo above there is of Bobo in Madison Square Garden fighting someone my brain heard as “Rocky Tomato” and I refuse to look that up and ruin it for myself. I suggest you do the same, my friend. In that photograph, The Boy Who Is Brazil is delivering his signature finishing move; a headbutt affectionately dubbed “The Coco Butt.” We’ve made mention numerous times of the Coco Butt in this article, but allow me to digress for a moment.
Dude, we let a lot of stuff go in wrestling. Rick Rude’s airbrushed pants. Pastamania. Norman Smiley’s entire existence. You have to be an amazing babyface and an incredible badass to name your finisher “Coco Butt” and have everyone just nod and go, “Of course. Whatever you say, Mr. Brazil.”
At this point, just so you don’t think I’m talking mad shit about a guy it should be abundantly clear I actually genuinely respect, I’d like for you to peep the footage below featuring Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff and Dr. D versus Special Delivery Jones, Rocky Johnson and Bobo Brazil.
(God, I love wrestling for no other reason than nothing else in the universe allows you to write sentences like that one.)
If Bobo is good enough to be the mentor to The Rock’s dad, he damn well is good enough for me.
Why I Stopped Seeing Him
Bobo Brazil retired in 1993 after 40 years in the business, and was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994 by Ernie Ladd. Bobo returned the favor the very next year by inducting Ladd, which is just about the most adorable thing two monster humans who could destroy me with one hand could possibly do.
Bobo opened his own restaurant called “Bobo’s Grill” and it is a crime against humanity that no version of the local commercial for said restaurant exists on the Interweb.
What Are They Doing Now?
Bobo died on January 20th, 1998, after complications from numerous small strokes suffered the previous week.
To prove my long standing point that wrestlers never die, they merely get repackaged into new wrestlers, please enjoy Bobo Brazil Jr. versus Kamala Jr. with Ox Baker in his corner.
When you are beloved by fans the world over, and have shared the ring with everyone from Andre to The King, you sir are a terrific Mid-Card Face.