Blog on the Bobby Fulton vs. Nikolai Volkoff no ring match
by Thomas Leturgey
Get Over Yourself, Indy Workers: Volkoff & Fulton Were Men
November 19, 2013 at 12:03am
For several days the Internet has been ablaze with discussion regarding a “failed” professional wrestling show in Marion, Ohio. By one account there was to be a “Macho Man” Randy Savage Tribute Show (this cannot be confirmed) in Marion, the governmental seat of Marion, County. The Classic Championship Wrestling event was to be held at the Steve Hogg Recreation Center. Marion, Ohio is not a rinky-dink town. There are 36,837 people in the town approximately 50 miles north of Columbus, as of the 2010 census.
One rumor is the promoter made calls to several independent wrestlers and offered low pay days. Some who travel great distances to wrestle, balked. Some didn’t. Nikolai Volkoff, an independent wrestling staple even at 66, was to face Bobby Fulton, a tag team wrestler most famously known as part of the “Fantastics” with Tommy Rogers. Fulton is 53 and no longer has the blond locks that made him a heartthrob to young girls who also liked the more popular Rock n’ Roll Express. Fulton remains in decent shape for an athlete past 50, while Volkoff still looks like a 6’4” giant who could rip trees out of the ground with his bare hands. Both wrestlers enjoyed heydays during the Reagan Administration.
About four dozen people paid the $8 admission. A pre-match poster prominently featured Volkoff and only included his name. A few other wrestlers, in varying degrees of silly gimmicks, posed on the poster. Fulton wasn’t on the poster.
Something unusual happened. Word from several sources was that the rig bringing the ring from an undisclosed location was stopped by the authorities for being too heavy. The truth of that is unlikely and almost assuredly a lie. The facts are simple: the ring never arrived. Someone came up with the idea to place a regulation plastic gym mat on the hardwood basketball floor. The show went on.
Reports indicate that the show went one-and-a-half hours but only one match mattered: Volkoff v. Fulton on a gym mat. Most of the videos of the match have been removed from the Internet, but a few still remain. The next paragraph details the match.
As Volkoff sang the National Anthem, Fulton attacked him with a chair. Fans immediately yelled “cheater” and derided Fulton for his dastardly attack. About the time the Cold War historically concluded, Volkoff has championed the U.S. of A. The 10:00 minute match started on the gym mat with Fulton applying a pinch-nerve hold on Volkoff. The Croatian-turned-Russian powers out of it and drives Fulton to the outside with a series of punches. The referee is decked out in what appears to be black shoes, black sweat pants and a solid black T-shirt. His blond mane is tied into a clever bun. Fulton challenges Volkoff to a test-of-strength. The WWE Hall of Famer obliges, but buries a knee into Fulton’s gut and drops him to the mat. Volkoff retrieves his foe and puts him in a headlock. It’s apparent that even good guys bury a knee into someone’s belly. Volkoff positions Fulton on the mat and kicks him in the stomach again. Then he steps on his hand to pure comic genius. Volkoff pump-handles Fulton’s arm and flips him to the mat. The ref registers a two-count on Fulton. Around the 4:08 mark you clearly hear the gym’s office telephone ring in the back. Fulton is up on his feet and off the mat, arguing with fans. Volkoff is diligent in the ring. The ref tries to get Fulton back on the mat. Fulton, up to his point decked out in red tights, black trunks and red tee-shirt, pulls off the shirt and flexes at Volkoff. Neither man is in their 80’s glory, but Volkoff was always a barrel-chested bruiser and not a veined-up monster. Fulton wanders from the ring and referee counts to seven before he comes back onto the mat to face Volkoff. The telephone is heard again in the background. Fulton shakes the ref’s hand and tries to shake Volkoff’s but is distracted by young kids at ringside who scream at him. It should be noted that the dozen or so people in attendance, some on folding chairs and some standing, are entirely into the match. At the 6:27 mark the combatants tie-up. Fulton rakes Volkoff’s eyes and jabs him in the throat. That drops the Russian to the mat. As Volkoff rolls around in pain, Fulton distracts the referee. Soon the ref checks on Volkoff. Fulton attacks with gouging maneuvers before Volkoff powers out and whacks Fulton in the chest. That drops Fulton. Slowly, Volkoff lies on his opponent and with Fulton’s legs kicking—and only part of him on the mat—the ref counts to three and awards the victory to Volkoff at the 7:49 mark. Those in attendance cheer loudly in the hollow gymnasium. Fulton argues but the ref is having none of it. Volkoff defends himself against the arguing and Fulton storms off to the ring announcer’s table. He demands Volkoff give him another fall. Fulton says if he beats Volkoff, the Hall of Famer needs to call Fulton a WWE Hall of Famer. Volkoff agrees and they start to brawl again. Volkoff bests Fulton, drops him to the mat and knees him in the groin, in full view of the referee. It’s unclear what happens next as Fulton apparently gives up. The ref raises Volkoff’s hand in victory and Fulton tears away. Fans cheer emphatically again.
In reality the match would never have been a high-flying match in a traditional four-sided ring. It would have gone on exactly as described. Who knows what the other matches on the card looked like.
Fact is, it’s easy to deride the athletes and the promoter. The vast majority of small promotions only exist for vanity purposes and they are usually, poorly run. Try to find cards beforehand or results easily afterward. No one promotes anything anywhere. “Pro” wrestlers complain about each other not being “trained” and they are only either in the sport for a (measly) pay day and/or the compliment of a championship belt.
As wrestlers go, only the opinions of Nikolai Volkoff and Bobby Fulton matter. Volkoff released a statement that read, “ Please forward to all newsletters or wrestling websites from me: I want to address what seems many are talking about in regards to a show I worked in Ohio over the weekend where there was no ring. I as you know am strictly a performer. I try to be a man of my word and if a promoter books me and pays me what we agree upon I have no problem working on a mat rather than a ring. It does not matter if 10 people show up or 93,000 plus I have a commitment to my fans and the promoter to give them what they want. I wrestle for fun, to stay in shape, and make a few bucks in the process. Everything that I own and have is because of the great fans of wrestling that allowed me to live the American dream. It was a fun match on Saturday. I would have done it all over again as long I can make you all smile. As a man that escaped a tough government and came here with $50 in 1968, I sure am smiling and that’s due to all of you. God bless, Nikolai.”
Fulton went on Internet radio shows, apparently to defend himself over the derision.
The question really is: “What would you as a promoter have done differently?” A leading indy promoter in Pennsylvania said, “I don’t know what I’d do (if the ring didn’t arrive).” Some promoters have been known to host “Meet & Greets” with “names” that have been hired for appearances. The wrestlers may have been told that they were going to wrestle, but instead the pay envelope was delivered and they shook hands with fans. In a gymnasium what could be done? Might fans have been treated to picture taking opportunities? Volkoff and Fulton would still need to be paid. There wouldn’t be a second pay for Volkoff. Fulton’s home is approximately 93 miles from Marion, while Volkoff traveled from Baltimore, some 449 miles away.
Most “wrestling insiders” ridiculed the promotion. Almost none have a true “stake” in the action. None are true promoters with “skin in the game.” Reports indicate that Fulton took charge of the situation and Volkoff gladly participated.
Anyone who’s been in the wrestling business for any length of time has been stiffed on pay. Anyone in the wrestling business for any length of time has been asked to reduce their (measly) pay so an athlete who used to be on TV can get his guarantee. Anyone who’s been in the wrestling business for any length of time has waved or reduced their fee so a diabetic can have needed medicine or a fire department can maximize their fundraisers.
Who knows if the promoter will ever run again. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that Volkoff and Fulton entertained the fans, happily.
credit: Thomas Leturgery on Facebook