This is a new series where I’ll be checking in with some fond memories of those wrestlers who got over but never got to the top. A mini-celebration of some favorite midcard baby faces that we loved but didn’t love in the main event. We continue this series with “The Ragin’ Bull,” Manny Fernandez
How They Got Their Start
Manny Fernandez played football at West Texas State as a right guard. At a little over six feet and 240 lbs, that’s pretty light for an offensive lineman, even in 1977 (Julius Peppers is 6’8 and 298 lbs, fyi). Manny was constantly getting into fights on the field, so perhaps being the only Vietnam veteran on either team meant he was just tougher than everybody else. Tito Santana was on that team as well, so maybe ask him?
Fernandez’s toughness drew the attention of one of West Texas State’s boosters, Dick Murdoch. Finding out that Manny had an amateur wrestling background sealed the deal and Murdoch implored Manny to give professional wrestling a try.
Trained by Dick Murdoch, Black Jack Mulligan and Terry and Dory Funk, the physical style of education suited the Raging Bull just fine. Suited him right down to the ground. (It must have, because he had a hand in training JBL, Booker T and Stevie Ray some years later in Dallas.)
Flash forward to 1979, and Manny is pinning Terry Funk for the Florida Heavyweight Championship. A few years later he teamed up with Dusty Rhodes to win the NWA Word Tag Team titles from The Koloffs. Again, if you want to be a midcard face for a good long while, hitch your wagon to Stardust.
How I First Became Aware Of Him
Starrcade 1985. Manny Fernandez Vs. Abdullah The Butcher. Mexican Death Match.
Jesus Jumping Christ, I don’t know what’s more horrifying: that Manny gets color in under 15 seconds, or the audio quality of a video that sounds like every man, woman and child in Greensboro received a complimentary vuvuzela. If you think the irony of a butcher being waylaid by a “flying burrito” isn’t enough, stick around for the end, where a stadium full of rednecks loudly cheer a Mexican getting his sombrero back. Maybe America was already pretty great in 1985.
These are the golden years of Manny Fernandez’s career. Coming out to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” having stiff matches on big shows with Abdullah and Chief Wahoo McDaniel, and perhaps best of all, teaming up with 100 percent Certain Future Midcard Face Subject Jimmy “The Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant to take on Paul Jones Army (because Paul Jones needed something to do since his body was broken.) The B and B Connection was a thing of beauty to behold; the serious ass-kicker and the bonkers-as-f*ck man of the people. The Vietnam Vet and The Love Child.
“TONY SCHIVANTO!” is going on my gravestone. I want to know if that Pistol Pez Whatley shirt comes in blue (to really bring out my eyes). Look at Manny trying so hard not to break when Boogie Woogie screams in his face that he loves him. It’s like me and Chris Trew trying to do an improv scene at the Tickle Factory.
Also notice how fast Fernandez gets out of there, because he knows his batshit buddy is going to start running with scissors. Manny finally cracks and grins stupidly when Valiant gives him the hug with the little bunny hops at the end.
Just like Terp 2 It and The Notorious BOC, they were furry and adorable! Which made it all the worse when this happened.
I’ll never give you the ol’ Halliburton, Chris. I promise you it’s Trew. It’s Damn Trew.
Why I Stopped Seeing Him
Um, this didn’t end Manny’s career but if it were any other scenario in wrestling history, it probably should have. I won’t link to the match here, because it’s gruesome and not for the squeamish, but the Raging Bull went through the motions of a match for 5 minutes and then straight-up assaulted a dude with a knee from the top rope and made him spit a torrent of blood that is making me gag just writing this.
I mean, I have no idea how Manny Fernandez made it out of Puerto Rico alive. The promoter stabbed Bruiser Brody to death and The Raging Bull got his revenge in the ring. Re-read that sentence and then take a moment to think of how insane the wrestling business is in the grand scheme of things.
What Are They Doing Now?
Manny currently runs his own independent promotion in Fresno, CA called Lucha Xtreme where Jeff Cobb is currently the world champion. Lucha Xtreme is a combination of American style pro graps and lucha libre theatrics. At a sprightly 63 years of age, Manny is still listed as one of the performers because old grunts die hard.
Here is Long-Lost Martin Short Character Bill Apter interviewing Manny Fernandez about Lucha Xtreme from inside a dark tin can.
When you’re too tough to quit but can still make champions while rocking a bi-colored mullet, you sir are a fantastic Midcard Face.