The sum of a man’s life can often be judged by his friends. In the case of Ray Traylor, aka The Big Bossman, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 42, his friends speak very highly of him.
Terry Taylor befriend Traylor in the UWF, after Ray was brought in as Big Bubba Rogers, a bodyguard to manager Jim Cornette.
“He was one of the guys that looked out of place because he looked so young,” recalled Taylor. “But he was so big, so strong, that he had ‘it’, that intangible that a star [has]. It was kind of weird when a guy was that shy, but you could tell. You could tell with Ray that he was going to do very well.”
Traylor was soft-spoken and kept his spot in the dressing room. He was indeed a good ol’ Southern boy from Georgia, raised to be polite to everybody.
“He was kind of quiet. But once he got used to you, he was always fun to be around, always joking and having a good time,” recalled George Gray, better known as One Man Gang and Akeem. “[Ray was a] really nice guy. Just a good ol’ southern boy, didn’t have anything bad to say about anything. Just wanted to have a good time all the time, just enjoy life.”
Gray, as The One Man Gang, would drop the UWF title to Big Bubba Rogers. “I was UWF champion. I was getting ready to go to New York, the WWF. … I worked him in Muskogee, Oklahoma for the title. He won the title before I left the UWF for the WWF.”
Not long afterwards, Traylor made his way to the WWF as well, where he was given the Big Bossman gimmick, playing on his real-life experience as a prison guard in Cobb County, Georgia.
“That was a classic gimmick. It fit him to a ‘T’ too,” said Gray. “In the ring, he was a great worker. He had great talent. For his size, he could move unbelievable.”
The Big Bossman feuded with The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau Jr.) for more than a year. “What a great guy. I never had an argument with that guy, I never had one argument,” Rougeau recalled. “Sometimes in the ring, you get a potato, you get a hot shot, but I never looked at him funny and he never looked at me with anything but respect.”
Rougeau’s most famous moment came in a loss against Bossman. “In the ring, my moment, everybody knows what it is. Madison Square Garden, Jailhouse Match, pay-per-view around the world. I got my ass whupped and put in jail because of Bossman. And that was the best moment in my career, probably. It was so fun doing it-the precinct, being arrested, all the buildup we had, with the cattle prod. Everything we did to build to the last, final blow off was memorable for me.”
The Mountie was managed by Jimmy Hart, who moonlighted on the side coming up with many of the songs the wrestlers used for entrance music. Hart wrote Bossman’s theme, “Hard Time.” “He was a great character. He made some money up there,” Hart said. “He was part of that little southern connection we always did stuff with, all the old southern boys, we all stayed together all the time in New York when we went up there, ’cause that was always different to us.”
Given his massive size-6-foot-6, and upwards of 350 pounds at one point-Traylor was surprisingly gentle in the ring. “Ray was so big and strong, but not weightlifting strong,” said Taylor. “He was one of those country-strong guys that nobody could make him do anything he didn’t want to do. Nobody.”
The Big Bossman and Akeem the African Dream were paired for a while as a tag team in the WWF, under the management of Slick. Gray formed a good friendship with Traylor then. “When we were teaming together, we did a lot of travelling together, spent a lot of time going to gyms, trying to lose some weight because we were both kind of overweight then. Him and I started trimming down, trying to get in the gym every day.”
Akeem and Bossman would feud for a short while after the team broke up. They lost touch when Gray left the WWF, but when he had his heart attack a few years back, Traylor called to check in on him. Today, Gray laughs at the irony of it all-he now works in a federal penitentiary, just like his old teammate used to.
Terry Taylor was a pal of Traylor’s, and spent some time with him in Japan in January for the IWA. “He was out of the business except for here and there, because he was running for political office,” Taylor said. “He had done very, very, very well in real estate. I was in Japan with him in January and he said that the bank had just okayed a loan for $2 million bucks to build storage stuff. He’d done very well with his money, and I thought his health was good. He’d wrecked his motorcycle, I guess, three or four months before that. He hit deer. He seemed really good. He was happy and healthy.”
Top photo by Terry Dart