Foley: Remembering Bob Armstrong
Mick Foley posted the following Via Facebook:
REMEMBERING BOB ARMSTRONG
It was the fall of 1989 when I first had the chance to see the legendary “Bullet” Bob Armstrong in the ring. It was in the final days of Continental Championship Wrestling, maybe a week before or week after I made my fateful drive to #WCW television tapings at Center Stage Theatre and was told to return in two weeks for a try out match. The Continental territory had dried up, but I learned so much every single night, and it was there that I met three of the Armstrong boys – Brad, Scott and Steve, who all worked the territory with me. Several months later, I would meet baby brother Brian, would go onto WWE Hall of Fame
status as the Road Dogg. But on this one night, I had the honor of seeing Bob Armstrong work in the ring for the first time – an experience I will never forget.
Bob would have been 50 years old at the time, give or take a few months, and was in incredible shape; and the owner of an especially formidable set of guns (I am talking biceps and triceps here). He was not part of the regular Continental crew at the time – having retired from full-time wrestling a year earlier. I’m not sure this one particular show was booked under the auspices of Continental Championship Wrestling, and may have been an independent show in the area. Bob’s opponent that night was The Panther, a worker I had never heard of before, and I’ve never seen or heard of since. But brother, on that one night, The Panther was badder and better than he probably dreamed he ever could be… thanks to the Bullet, who put on a Wrestling clinic in front of my wondering eyes.
I was certainly not a seasoned veteran by any means in the fall of 1989. I had all of four years of experience to my credit. But despite my relative lack of experience, and almost complete and total absence of muscle tone on the Foley frame, I had been coming along pretty well as a wrestler. I had been very fortunate and worked with people who brought out the best in me, but I don’t think I ever saw anyone pull a wrestling rabbit out of his hat in the way that Bob Armstrong did on that particular night. Indeed, this was the closest thing I’ve seen to an actual magic act in the ring in my entire career. The Panther was green, really green, with a physique that certainly was not going to win any contests – and his mask did little to hide his nerves before battling the legendary Bullet. . Little did he know that he would be made to look like a superhero that night… or, more aptly, a super villain, as Alabama was Armstrong country, and the fans just loved Bullet Bob.
Bob Armstrong took that green, nervous wrestler and for one night made him look like the conqueror of worlds. I was watching by the locker room door in amazement, expressing just how in awe of Bob Armstrong I was. The other guys, who had either grown up around Continental, worked with Bob previously, or were his children, were just kind of laughing at my comments. They were saying things like “that’s the Bullet, brother – he’s the best”, or “Bullet could work match with a broomstick brother.!” Well, I’m not calling the Panther a broomstick by any means, but following the match, even the young masked wrestler seemed amazed at what had taken place inside the ring. The young man was ecstatic. I thought about the match often over the next few weeks – thinking of how Bob had fed for the kid, how he had talked him through the match, bringing a performance out of the Panther he probably did not know he had – and, in all likelihood, has not had since. I thought about how one day, I would like to be able to perform that same magic inside the ring.
I moved onto World Championship Wresting from there, and worked alongside Scott and Steve, and Brad – who to this day, might be the most underrated guy in the business… and maybe the funniest in the dressing room as well. One day, I was playing hangman in a dressing room that had a chalkboard, presiding over a particularly long hangman entry – with only about half the letters full. Something that looked like this:
I L_V_ _H_ N_G_TL_F_ _V_ G_T T_ B__GI_
I think I was playing with Dennis Knight and Mean Mark Canterbury, who couldn’t make sense of my hangman mystery no matter how hard they tried. Brad walked into the room, took one look, said the words “I love the nightlife, I’ve got to boogie” and walked out. We were mystified. He was exactly right! It is one of the darndest things I’d ever seen.
By virtue of being around Bob’s children, I had a chance to see the Bullet every now and then, as he stopped in to admire his boys at work. But the next time I got to see Bob practice his craft was in Smoky Mountain Wrestling in the winter of 1994, and the payoff of a big feud with Jim Cornette, that culminated in a “Kiss My Feet” match. Yes, the loser of this particular match would have to kiss his opponents feet. It was either Thanksgiving night or Christmas night – but definitely one of the big shows in Knoxville, where I would have the morning hours with the family, and then make the four hour drive from my home outside Atlanta. Bob Armstrong made each minute of that eight hour round-trip drive worth it!
The fans in Knoxville were overjoyed when the Bullet prevailed, meaning that Jim Cornette would have to pucker up and kiss Bob’s feet. Talk about getting every single drop of emotion from every little body movement, every facial gesture; these guys were masters. I was ringside for the match – meaning it was probably a lumberjack match or something of that sort. But I got to experience Bob close up. The ovation when Cornette kissed The Bullet’s foot was thunderous, bordering on Road Warrior-esque; an amazing moment to watch and observe. And then, just when you thought they’d gotten every pop possible from the Knoxville crowd, milked each moment for all it was worth, the Bullet took the microphone. Bob was such a great promo guy. I remember Robert Fuller raving about Bob’s verbal skills – no small compliment coming from Fuller, who himself was among the best in the business. ”The stipulation says ‘kiss my feet”, Bob said, measuring his words, waiting for just the right time to drop the hammer on the line that would bring the crowd to its feet. “I’ve got two feets!” And for a second time, I got to experience the glory of Jim Cornette selling, the mastery of The Bullet owning that arena, and yet another pop bordering on Road Warrior-esque.
In 1996, I made the move to WWE. No longer working for WCW, I was no longer tied to Atlanta, and so I moved the family to the beautiful little town of Navarre, Florida, where for four years, I had the great pleasure of practically being neighbors with the Armstrongs – who lived just one town away. I think it’s pretty telling of what a great father Bob was, that all his boys chose to live within a short distance of their dad. We would do little things to help each other out. Brian appeared at the grand opening of my gym (yes, I actually owned a gym) and I would make a surprise appearance at a wrestling show the family was running. Best of all, I got to see Bullet Bob on a regular basis at Foley‘s Gym. He was always the consummate gentleman, always a pleasure to have around, and even approaching age sixty, still had that impressive physique, with that formidable set of guns. He and Scott were two of our most regular customers, along with “Exotic” Adrian Street and Miss Linda. When the Bob, Scott, Adrienne and Miss Linda were in the gym together, the gym would take on the feel of a Continental Wrestling reunion. I was always so happy to have them at my place.
Rest in peace, Bullet Bob Armstrong – wrestler, trainer, United States Marine, father, husband, trainer, friend. I was so proud to know you.
(Photo credit: WWE)