The wrestling world lost another one of it’s well known personalities this week, with the passing of Ray Traylor, better known as the Big Boss Man. Looking back at his career, it’s almost amazing how he went from Jim Cornette’s non-wrestling bodyguard to the WWF’s #1 heel in just a little over two years. But before he headlined cards against Hulk Hogan from coast-to-coast, and way before he and the Big Show made one hell of an effort to introduce the world to the soon-to-be Olympic sport of casket-sledding, he gave us one brief stint of enhancement talent life. In honor of Mr.Traylor, today we’re looking back at his role of perhaps the biggest malfunctioning piece of equipment this side of any telescope Nasa has ever shot up into space. That’s right, from Parts Unknown – by way of Cobb County, Georgia – this week’s Jobber Of The Week, the dreaded War Machine.
It was the summer of 1987, and the NWA was in the midst of their annual, month-long summer spectacular, the Great American Bash. The big highlight of the Bash tour that year was the introduction of the first ever War Games cage match. Two rings side by side with a cage surrounding both rings. The only way to win the match was by submission or surrender. In other words, you had to make your opponent quit like a wussy. The first match was set for July 4th in Atlanta, Georgia. It would see the team of the Four Horsemen take on the Superpowers team of Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, and the Road Warriors. The NWA’s eight best wrestlers in a cage at the same time, who could ask for any thing more.
Oops..I forgot to mention something. In addition to those eight guys, the team’s respective managers, “Precious” Paul Ellering and J.J. Dillon, were both going to be involved as active wrestlers. Well, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that one of the physically inferior managers was going to be the one to say “no mas.” And sure enough, the first ever War Games match would reach it’s conclusion when Hawk and Animal hit the Doomsday Device on Dillon to make him say “uncle,” thus giving the Superpowers the win. A War Games rematch was set for 27 days later, at the final Bash event in Miami, Florida. Was the world really ready for another “Beat on J.J.” session?
Well, thankfully we were spared another J.J. Dillon in-ring classic. Seems ol’ J.J. hurt his shoulder taking his whipping from the LOD. Not wanting to see his team go into a handicap War Games match, Dillon went out and got a replacement that he said would ensure a Horsemen victory. He introduced the world to…drumroll please… the War Machine.
Boy, that name sure sounded scary, but wait a second, that guy sure looks familiar. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was Ray Traylor aka “Big” Bubba Rogers. Seeing how he wrestled the previous week UNMASKED, J.J. sure wasn’t too cautious about keeping his new lackey’s identity a secret. Blown secret identities aside, there was something really strange happening with Ray. In a span of a week, the normally 6’6″ Traylor had miraculously grown to almost EIGHT feet tall. Maybe it was one of those all too common late-twenties growth spurts, or perhaps J.J. had fed the Machine a hellacious amount of those Four Horsemen vitamins that Flair and Jim Crockett Promotions used to sell. Whatever the cause, Dillon had his replacement set and his team ready for Miami on July 31st.
Things started off ominously for the Horsemen, as by match-time the War Machine had shrunk back down to his normal height of 6’6″. Nonetheless, any team with Flair, Luger, Tully, and Arn is a force to be reckoned with. A masked, shapeshifting, former bodyguard as their ally could only help matters, right?
Wrong. It was a virtual repeat of the first War Games match. Lots of blood and violence throughout, until finally the Road Warriors cornered the War Machine, and used one of their spiked arm bands to attempt to gouge the Machine’s eyes out, eventually making the big guy tap out. Dillon’s Machine turned out to be one big hunk of broken down dimestore merchandise.
It was the first and only appearance of the War Machine. Traylor wisely
lost the mask, and a less than a year after the War Machine debacle, found himself in the big time of the WWF. As the evil law-enforcing Big Boss Man, he would reach the top of the WWF card. He was so over as Hogan’s biggest enemy, that in time he turned into a hugely popular face, and stayed that way throughout the remainder of his tenure.
After a lengthy stay in WCW that was at times unremarkable, he returned to the WWF in th fall of 1998. It was here where my personal favorite Ray Traylor moment occured. Over ten years since his original debut, and a few years after WCW gave up on him, Traylor ultimately shocked everybody by getting back into the main event scene, challenging the Big Show for the world title at Armageddon 1999. Smack dab in the heart of the “new” WWF Attitude era, and way before the nostagia kick of the early 2000’s, the Big Boss Man was the only oldschool 1980’s superstar on the WWF’s active roster. He picked up a few belts along the way, including the Hardcore title, before slowly drifting away from the WWE’s spotlight.
As this week’s Jobber Of The Week, Ray Traylor portrayed a machine who couldn’t be stopped. In real life, he was literally every bit of a machine that kept on going. Year after year, after year, spanning generations of fans and entertaining millions in the process.
Thanks for all the memories, Ray. You will be missed.