Brad Armstrong, R.I.P.
by Mike Lano
Brad Armstrong’s passing really saddened everybody when we heard and read about it. Such a young guy who never fully, to my mind, got the credit he truly deserved in this industry. Like Bobby Eaton and other incredibly talented players and athletes, those within the wrestling industry (and obviously all of you) primarily knew what great athletes these young legends always were. But casual and average fans may have thought in Brad’s case, because he only won some smaller titles (Ole’s National championship, tag straps with his dad and various other partners like Tim Horner who he just teamed with on an Alabama indie show last weekend), that he wasn’t a (cough) superstar.
Brad Armstrong was a total superstar and an incredible athlete. This is a bit of a rushed tribute to one of our family member brothers because we still don’t know the actual cause of death for someone so young. The Armstrong family (like that of the Burke’s for example) is one of the few dynasties out there in wrestling that really had little controversy (the Hart family with all that happened to Owen and Bret, the Adkisson/Von Erichs of course, and the Guerreros basically with the terrible loss of Eddy). Sure JJ/Roaddog had a couple things here and there, Bob had the accident circa ’84 with the weights, but he and his boys remained terrific people and talented wrestlers. Not sure why Brad wasn’t a road agent with the Whiff or TNA/Impact because he (and Eaton) always deserved that kind of respect and job/whatever/security for all they did to better this industry.
Most became aware of Brad when his dad Bullet Bob brought him aboard the always incredible George Championship Wrestling (circa ’81, as our Dave Skolnick corrected me on the year). I’d photographed Bob many times in the 70′s, primarily in Georgia where he had his biggest rep, and was a mainstay as a legendary singles and tag performer with the likes of Robert and Ron Fuller, Wrestling 1 and 2, Steve Keirn, Stan Lane, Big Bill Dromo, Bobo Brazil and other greats at the Atlanta City Auditorium and later The Omni. He was always one of Solie’s faves there, Gordon once told me in an interview. A no-nonsense, hard working babyface. The whole great angle for months with great build by booker Ole with heel color man/announcer Roddy Piper insulting Brad and his dad, and Piper feuding with Brad was great stuff. You never knew what was going to happen angle-wise, or who was going to come into GCW on any given Saturday at 3:05 pm PDT, and Brad grew as a wrestler and quiet talker before our eyes with the Tommy Riches, Wahoos, Kevin Sullivans, Freebirds, JYDs, Debiases and more. Sure there were his various stints in the NWA and Watt’s UWF, in the middle of the absorption of the latter by Crockett/Turner’s “NWA.” Freebird Fantasia under the hood. But then he went on to putting people over in the 90′s for what the NWA turned into — ala WCW. His brother, JJ Armstrong went from total WCW jobber to soon becoming a name and then going to the WWF, and you know the story there, with him becoming perhaps the biggest Armstrong name, and he’s loved as a road agent or whatever they’re calling that position now (agent? house show finish guy?).
Since that time, Brad attended quite a few reunions and fanfests and worked the indie scene irregularly. The Armstrong family even had their own family promotion (ala the Poffo’s great ICW) in the early 90′s that had some syndication on low-power satellite-receiving UHF stations along with SMW and the Savoldi family WCCW.
I’ll write more on Brad’s life and send Karen photos. But we’d like to hear from you guys, with his loss coming so soon after the loss of another young legend in Mike Graham. Two great guys in their 50′s and totally respected in the biz. Gone. It’s really hard to fathom. 1984/Los Angeles’ Olympic gold medal wrestler and all around amazing MMA brain Jeff Blatnick died as well to make it a trio, as we sadly and usually see in wrestling. Jeff was the voice of UFC for over a dozen years since its Bob Myerwitz debut PPV with Manny Yarborough and of course Royce Gracie, later the UFC commish and even reportedly came up with the terming of “Mixed Martial Arts” to replace the trite expressions of “no holds barred fighting,” John McCain’s “human cockfighting,” and the like. Calling it MMA coupled with Jeff’s full credibility and S.I. cover, etc helped get the UFC over like few others could do and until the Fertiti/Dana White buyout.
Brad Armstrong, Mike Graham and Jeff Blatnick. All three I’d met and interviewed and all three great, class and decent guys. All sadly gone. Please keep them in your memories for all the good they contributed to athletics.
– Mike Lano