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Bobby Collins is Manitoba's ageless rebel
By EVAN CLARK - Central Plains Herald-Leader


"Rebel" Bobby Collins. Courtesy Ring Masters Entertainment

GLADSTONE, MB - As the opening banjo chords of Johnny Hartford's The Battle of New Orleans crackles through the patchy P.A. system, near 30 children lose their minds.

Fanatical chants of "Rebel, Rebel" quickly overtake the underpowered stereo speakers in the Gladstone Curling Rink. A sound tech tries in vain to squeeze a few more decibels out of his equipment, but the crowd's volume rises to a crescendo as Plumas, Manitoba's "Rebel" Bobby Collins emerges from the locker room.

Walking with purpose, a Confederate flag resting on his shoulder like a musket, Collins makes his way to the ring, high-fiving children, giving one his confederate-flag embroidered hat, another his flag, and a third his leather jacket, once again with the General Lee's standard stitched between the shoulders.

Collins, though not a large man by any standard, gives the impression of a mountain man who'd just as soon split your lip as buy you a beer. His hands are calloused, with a grip like wrought iron. His face, carved with a steely stare as he awaits his opponent in the main event during the Ring Masters Entertainment Fall Brawl held in Gladstone.

He faced RME Heavyweight champion and 380-pound behemoth, "The German Juggernaut" Moses Luke. It was an overmatch by any stretch of the imagination, as the 5-foot-10 Collins with 180 pounds of meat on his frame was pinned following a power bomb that probably registered on the Richter scale.

In case you hadn't guessed, Collins is a pro wrestler and has been involved in the business for more than 15 years. At 38 years old, he shows few signs of ring rust or fragility.

"I pretty much do the same things I did when I started," he said.

Growing up, he idolized The Crusher, one of the stars of the American Wrestling Association's travelling show, which made frequent stops in Winnipeg.

The Crusher was a brawler type, reliant on his fists and flair for popularity, more than pure technical skill. His is also the wrestling style adopted by Collins.


Bobby Collins in 1998. Photo courtesy Vern May.
"People say I wrestle kind of like 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin," said Collins. "But I was doing it before he was. At least before he was in the WWE."

"I guess it's just the way I was brought up. I was brought up rough and that's the way my life pretty much went," said Collins. "I've used these moves (outside of the ring.)"

For Collins, the road to pratfalls and pile-drivers began in high school, where he wrestled Olympic style. A chance meeting with a former AWA wrestler gave him his first break with a small independent wrestling organization in Winnipeg, and from there, the body slams just kept coming.

"I used to play the bad guy. In fact, for 15 years I was the bad guy. I used to like doing that. It gives people pleasure to laugh at me or to yell at me," said Collins. "It's a real stress reliever. I like doing things for the kids now."

Children are Collins' biggest fans. Perhaps it's because he's a quintessential underdog, or because he gives out free hats or because leads a "rebel march" after every match where children from the audience follow in rank behind him to his entrance music.

His alter ego, however, does not illicit the same response. It's a little known secret Collins also wrestles as one half of the current tag team champions the Sharp-Dressed Men. They are a pair of anonymous masked men, referred to only as Number 1 and Number 2, who wrestle in "$3,000 suits". They turned heel (wrestling lingo for bad) on Saturday night.

Collins and his partner, whose identity he refused to reveal, won their match using their title belts as weapons, much to the chagrin of the children populating the front row.


Bobby Collins ties up an opponent. Courtesy Ring Masters Entertainment
"You don't know what to expect until you're actually in there," said Collins. "A lot of people tell you its fake, but when I'm in training ... I go home at night thinking what the hell am I doing. But I do enjoy the physicality of it."

Perhaps Collins' most memorable match was a garbage can match against "Caveman" Broda about seven years ago. The goal was to keep the other wrestler inside the garbage bin, full of garbage and murky water, for a count of 10.

"It was a filthy dirty match. It was disgusting actually," he said. "I ended up getting an infection in my hand because of it."

Nowadays, those are the types of stories Collins passes on to his pupils at the Ring Masters Entertainment Training School in Plumas. Collins recently started the school of hard knocks, the second of its kind in Manitoba, to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of wrestlers.

But until his knees go out, Collins is not ready to hang up the tights just yet. RELATED LINK

  • The Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
  • Ring Masters Entertainment website