September 25, 2004
Yet another taken too soon
By BRET HART
Not again. The wrestling fraternity is mourning the loss of another brother. Ray Traylor, aka Big Bossman, died of a massive heart attack Wednesday.
He was only 42. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters, eight and 11.
I've started to become numb to the sad and seemingly never-ending roll call of dead friends. The length of the list became alarming a long time ago.
Why are so many pro wrestlers of my era dying so young? And at a rate close to 10 times higher than football players of the same age.
Traylor's gimmick name became his calling. His friends called him Bossman. He was a big, husky kid out of Georgia, the epitome of all that's good about Southern rasslers. His good ol' boy accent was no put on and, despite being a 300-lb. brute that terrorized Hulk Hogan with a billy club, in real life Ray was a big, friendly southern boy. He was a charming, likeable shy man with a penchant for laughing and joking all the time.
He usually had a big grin on his face and it sounded natural the way he said, "gal dang it" a lot.
The first time I met Bossman was in the old Hart Foundation days. I'd tease him that with his beard, shades and matching flat top he was Anvil's younger, bigger brother.
Traylor got his start in wrestling in 1986 as Jim Cornette's bodyguard, Big Bubba Rogers. He submitted his resume to Vince McMahon, who noticed he'd been a real life prison guard in Marietta, Ga., The Bossman was born.
I could write about Bossman's epic battles with the like of Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Andre the Giant. Or the rare but great matches when Bossman teamed up with Akeem against the Hart Foundation. But I'd rather tell you about the real Ray Traylor, a good and decent family man who lived a clean life.
And he was a good wrestler. In the last part of Hogan's era, he drew serious money and was respected by his fellow wrestlers for being a team player and good ol' boy with a big heart.
How that heart could give out at such a young age scares me.
I used to enjoy looking forward to a time, perhaps at a Hall of Fame get-together or maybe even in my backyard, sitting around my firepit, when I could shoot the bull with Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Flyin' Brian Pillman, Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude, Bossman, and even Miss Elizabeth. But the list of dead friends is yet another name longer.
I like it here. After all I've been through, I want to stay a while.
I took a long bike ride yesterday and thought about Bossman all day, pondering why he left us so early. Ray was especially close with Perfect and Rude and if heaven is indeed such a great place, I find solace in believing they will tell him why.
Goodbye Ray Traylor.
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I can't believe my heart's still pounding