Watching my son, Matthew McFarlin, interview my old pal Rhino prior to the IMPACT! tapings in Windsor at the end of October brought back some memories and flashbacks.
I first met Rhino, then billed as Terry Richards, in 1995 at a live show for the Indy group I worked for at the time, Midwest Territorial Wrestling. At that time he was a really green rookie.
His job was very simple — to put over Bruiser Bedlam (Johnny K-9), who I was managing in my other role, as “Handsome” Johnny Bradford. It went quickly. Bruiser was not going to be stopped at that point and Terry did his job. Just to be mean, I did my take-off of Ric Flair’s strut, and stepped right on Terry’s stomach. (I hope he was waiting for that!}
For whatever the reason, we formed a bond, a friendship that has lasted all these years. After my group folded, I hooked up with my good buddy, “Sweet Daddy” Malcolm Monroe. He gave me two young guys who were calling themselves Sex & Violence — then billed as Sexton Hardcastle and Christian Cage. They were, of course, later became Edge and Christian. I also asked for and got two other green guys named Joe E. Legend and … Terry Richards. Terry slowly evolved into Rhino Richards.
Malcolm continued to run his shows, Insane Championship Wrestling, in various locations in the Metro Detroit area. My “group” which, Edge dubbed “Thug Life” hit it off very quickly, and because Edge, Joe and Christian came all the way from Toronto they would crash after shows in my basement, which they nicknamed the Buddy Rogers Room because of all my “Nature Boy” memorabilia. But before hitting the hay, of course, it was time to hit one of the numerous topless bars. At that time none of us drank — except Terry — so we all had pop or coffee. After that, it would be time to view wrestling tapes on my monster (at that time) 50-inch TV. They would all bring their own VHS tapes to watch, and offer suggestions on how to get better. This went on for a number of years with all of us becoming good buddies. For fun, and to impress the fans, I would often rent a limo which would transport us to the show, to the bar, and then back to my house.
I was actively working for Bill Apter’s various magazines at that time, under my real Brad McFarlin name, and would always try and plant stories and photos on Thug Life to help the boys get a leg up. The big break came when Pro Wrestling Illustrated ran a huge story on Sex & Violence. The end of the year came with Rhino being named one of the “top 50 strongest wrestlers in the world.” Life was good.
We all understood that the goal was to get into the “big time.” I did all I could to help with those pictures and stories as well as dubbing VHS tapes that they wanted to send to other promotions.
I believe Rhino hit it big first, becoming a star for ECW. It wasn’t that hard, as Paul Heyman was a friend and supporter, and he took my word on talent. Maybe that helped.
Then Edge and Christian got a big break, and were invited to train with Dory Funk Jr., in his Funkin’ Dojo, which was affiliated with WWF at the time. It’s tough to say just how much I had to do with that one although I was continually sending express mail packages to Pat Patterson. The boys didn’t ask me to do it, and they didn’t pay me either. I did it to be a friend.
I forget the circumstances but Joe Legend followed shortly after. Alas, that gig didn’t last long (anyone remember “Just Joe”?) and returned to Toronto and continued working shows for Malcolm. Eventually he wound up a top star in Europe.
And what about me? They all kept in touch. Back then the more primitive way was using e-mails. Terry did me a special favor by coming home on break with the ECW World title belt; I got to manage him that night holding the belt. I remember two things: The belt was damn heavy, and Terry could not stress enough that I was to not let the belt get out of my hands.
Fast-forward to 2019, with Edge and Christian retired, but Joe and Terry are still going strong. In fact, we’re all on a show together later this month. (See the poster below.) Wonder what Sexton Hardcastle and Christian Cage are doing that day?
And me? I still manage as “Handsome” Johnny Bradford on occasion, but my main role seems to have been mentoring another talent, and this one I can take 50% credit for creating — my 15-year-old son, Matthew McFarlin, who has an active interest in all things pro wrestling. He’s been writing stories and covering shows for SLAM! Wrestling four years now, and I’ve been by his side the whole way, taking photos at the shows he’s covering or interviewing someone at. He’s also an accomplished martial artist and holds a yellow belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and wrestles in high school; in one cool interview, he talked to Matt Riddle about fighting.
I guess it’s not a stretch to say that one of these days, Matthew may become “Handsome” Matthew Bradford, perhaps as a wrestler, maybe as a manager — it’s not a really great name for a writer, though!
He’s continued to learn and absorb along the way, soaking up advice from SLAM! Wrestling Producer Greg Oliver, and, occasionally, listening to his Old Man.
Believe me, nothing gives me greater pleasure than taking him to local wrestling shows and telling the boys, “This is my boy, Matthew.”