Why do some wrestlers know when to quit real early and invest their money in real estate? Or retire to enjoy the rest of their lives. Yet some others either blow their money on drugs and alcohol. Or partying and end up wrestling in some high school gym or local fairgrounds every weekend. Or every month wrestling into their fifties and sixties. It is a question that boggles the minds of many fans and has for years. And after Mickey Rourke’s riveting portrayal of Randy ”The Ram” Robinson in the Oscar nominated film The Wrestler, more people have grown curious.
”The Wrestling Pro” Leon Baxter worked as a deputy sheriff in Houston County, Alabama. He came into wrestling knowing it was for the money and treated it like any other job. He wrestled one of his first matches against Danny Hodge. Then going on to feud with Cowboy Bob Kelly and Ken Lucas. He then wrestled one of his final matches against a young rookie named Terry ”The Hulk” Boulder (later became Hulk Hogan, a huge star worldwide). He saved his money from his wrestling days and left the business around the age of forty.
Other than the annual Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunions in Mobile, Alabama or the occasional legends show in Dothan, he has not had much to do with wrestling in over thirty years. There was a time in the mid to late nineteen eighties where he broke his son into the business. Yet it did not work out and his son left the business after a personal falling out between the two of them. He learned his lesson. In fact, he barely ever talks about the wrestling business around family and friends. To him, it is a thing of the past.
On the rare occasion he did mention the business, it was often the local Dothan-Panama City wrestlers on WTVY and at The Houston County Farm Center such as Dick Dunn, Mario Galento, and Greg Peterson. No mention of feuds with Bob Kelly or Ken Lucas. No mentions of Mobile-Pensacola or Mississippi. No mention of Lee Fields or the Gulf Coast. Nor was there any mention of other wrestlers he feuded with, much less the other territories he wrestled in during his career.
”Bullet” Bob Armstrong worked as a fireman in Marietta, Georgia. He thought he was going to be the biggest deal in the wrestling business since Gorgeous George. So he quit the day job to wrestle ”full time” and became such a big star all over The Southeast. He even received national exposure by appearing on Georgia Championship Wrestling that aired on TBS. In fact, he also booked matches and feuds in the Georgia territory and for Ron Fuller’s Southeastern/Continental territory. He also worked further behind the scenes as a locker room enforcer for both territories and was later a WCW Road Agent.
All four of his sons later became wrestlers. The oldest three are best known for being solid lower level talent in WCW for over a decade. Yet his youngest son became a huge star in WWE as one of The New Age Outlaws. However, years of forsaking a day job that provides health insurance and a retirement plan has come back to haunt their father. Over two decades after the old territories in The Southeast have dried up, he is still wrestling near the age of seventy. He now makes his home at high school gyms and local fairgrounds in front of just a few hundred people and earning a small fee each month.
He is looked at as a hero and a role model by those in locker room. Many rookies on the independent scene in The Southeast. In addition to many veteran wrestlers in the area whom he took under his wing over the years. While Leon Baxter on the other hand often discourages young hopefuls from entering the wrestling business. Often reminding them of how all those years of wrestling in the ring screwed up his body and his family life.
A couple months ago at the end of May, both of the aforementioned wrestlers appeared at a legends show. It took place at The Civic Center in Dothan, Alabama. Leon Baxter appeared in a brief segment after the first match. He discussed how growing up in Malone, Florida, he came from nothing and wrestling gave him everything, such as land and a home to live in for the rest of his life. It was also mentioned how he saved his money and left the business. He did the smart thing by just doing a segment near the start of the show and collecting his appearance fee on the way out.
However, Bob Armstrong was in the main event, it was all about him. This night was dubbed his ”retirement show”. Video tributes aired on a big screen and wrestling legends came out to honor him throughout the night. Of course, he was the big attraction on the last match of the card. All this hoopla for a guy who did not save his money and stayed in the business well past his prime? He has since tried to make a buck on a couple more independent shows in Andalusia along with a couple other towns in and around Southeast Alabama. The main lesson here is to save your money and know when to quit.