Mike Phillips, a veteran of the wrestling rings of Manitoba, has died.

His daughter, Marie Phillips, confirmed the news with a Facebook post on April 20, 2023: “Today was not the day I was expecting to say goodbye to you. I hope you rest easy and at least you’re not in pain anymore. I will always love and miss you dad ❤️😢

He had a series of names during his career, which began in 1985, including Man Mountain Mike, Sgt. Tom Steele, JR Bundy, Tex Watson, Mountain Lou, Jim Driver, Sgt. Psycho and the masked Bo Nanas.

On the scene based out of Winnipeg — his hometown — Phillips stood out for his sheer size. He was 6-foot-1, and weighed over 350 pounds at times.

Mike Phillips as J.R. Bundy

Size mattered, with the independent rings, recalled Marty Goldstein, who managed Phillips when he was JR Bundy. “Mike once famously broke the bottom rope after being slammed on it by Rick Martel,” said Goldstein. “It was the first time we’d seen that here and people popped.”

In his book, The Central Canadian Professional Wrestling Almanac, historian Vern May (wrestler Vance Nevada), profiled Phillips:

Mike Phillips was introduced to the realities of the wrestling world in early bouts against the likes of Larry “The Axe” Hennig and Terry Gordy on AWA television programs. Having just entered the sport, it was an awakening for him to immediately oppose foes whose size was comparable to his own.

Phillips would also make appearances for promoter Ernest Rheault on Central Canadian Pro Wrestling cards across the prairie provinces. Known as Man Mountain Mike, Phillips weighed in at well over 350 pounds and was often matched with Rheault’s son, Michel who was another 300+ pounder.

After a tour of Newfoundland, Phillips headed west with friend, Doug McColl to appear in his first major headline position for promoter Al Tomko in B.C. Under the UWA All-Star Wrestling banner, billed as J.R Bundy, he campaigned as heavyweight champion, as well as holding the tag-team titles at one point. He met Joe “Pinky” Cagle, an American wrestler, and the two became friends and tag-team partners shortly thereafter.

Leather and Lace were Joe Cagle and Mike Phillips.

Cagle and Phillips took their act on the road, working in Nashville for a time — really Phillips’ only major foray into the U.S.

Goldstein noted that Phillips was a part of an odd piece of history. “Mike was the babyface chosen to wrestle Nick Bockwinkel, when Larry Zbyszko failed to come out for a tag match against two locals, Mike and Monte Black. So Wally Karbo told Monte he could leave the ring, Mike had a fast match and then Larry jumped Nick to turn him babyface in Winnipeg.” The angle happened a month after it had already happened in the U.S.

In a previous post on Facebook, Jonathan Sayers — who managed Bundy in Vancouver — said that Phillips was a “class guy in and out of the ring. Just don’t mess with him at the bar or the club, a legit tough guy. But a real good guy.”

May wrote that Phillips actually took time away from the ring to address his weight problem. That was enough to get a mention in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter: “Canadian indie wrestler Sgt. Steele out of Winnipeg was formerly a King Kong Bundy lookalike named J.R. Bundy Jr. out of Vancouver many years back, but dropped about 200 pounds down to 210 and obviously can’t do the Bundy gimmick.”

Mike Phillips and Doug McColl

Post-weight loss, Phillips primarily worked as Sgt. Tom Steele four years later, at around 245 pounds. “His energy in the ring was noticeable to those who had
wrestled with him previously, and his renewed vigor was immediately apparent as well,” wrote May. Steele dominated River City Wrestling, and was the de facto leader of a a Team USA, made up of U.S. Male, Bobby Dee (Doug McColl), Mike Stone, and Max Impact. “In August 1994, Phillips unseated his partner, Max Impact for the RCW heavyweight title, spawning a heated rivalry which spanned the rest of the year and saw the title traded on a few occasions,” added May.

Marty Goldstein, Chi Chi Cruz, Mike Phillips and Brian Jewel in October 2016. Photo courtesy Marty Goldstein

In the summer of 1997, Phillips was on top of the Canadian Wrestling Federation as its heavyweight champion.

Away from the ring, Phillips had a variety of jobs over the years, including working in security and as a chef.

He had recently been hospitalized, and the news of his passing was unexpected. It is believed that he was 57 years old, born on August 14.


Witnessing the creation of King Kong JR Bundy and other laughs