Ego, drug problems, a beautiful body, a gigolo side gig, a show-stealing mother … those were the things we knew about Marcus “Buff” Bagwell.

After the most recent Dark Side of the Ring episode, titled “Buff and the Bagwells”, we learn about the time that he shot his father and saved the life of one of his old tag team partners.

What a ride!

The worry going in was that it would be All About Buff and his Stuff, which definitely got a bit grating at times during his run in WCW. Eric Bischoff, head of WCW, called Buff “entertainingly obnoxious.” Of course, prior to that, he’d been a pretty good pretty boy, a five-time WCW tag team champion with partners 2 Cold Scorpio, The Patriot (as Stars & Stripes) and Scotty Riggs (as American Males), who said, “It was not easy being that cheesy.”

But it wasn’t all about Buff, and you come away with an appreciation for the man, Marcus, even if he was a mess for a good portion of his life.

Credit to the Dark Side team for getting some new faces on the scene (something WWE A&E Biography really should consider). Steve Bagwell, father to three sons, was there; a former drag racer, he and the better known Judy Bagwell ran a lumber yard in Marietta, Georgia, until it went under. (Marcus’ two brothers, however were not interviewed.) We also heard from two of Marcus’ ex-wives, Tonya, who married when they were each 18 years old, and his third wife, Judy — not to be confused with his mother, who apparently helped shave her son’s privates.

Yeah, you can’t make this stuff up.

An old friend, Mark “Slick” Johnson, who wrestled and refereed, was probably the key interview for the piece, since he was able to reference the Marcus he knew early and how he changed through the years. Johnson was there when Steve Bagwell lost in a poker game and used a machine gun to shoot geese in their pond, and was the recipient of gifted cocaine from Papa Bagwell.

As the family’s finances start to fade, the fighting between the parents escalated, and at one point, Marcus pulled a gun on his father, who was hitting his mother; Dad went for a gun on the fridge, and they ended up in a standoff … with Marcus shooting his dad. “My plan was to kill my father,” admitted Marcus. Instead, Steve’s wrist took the bulk of the shot, and they made up. “We had a rough couple of years but we’ve been best friends ever since,” said Buff.

A handsome young man with a great body, Marcus was a male stripper noticed by chance by Missy Hyatt. She suggested he try pro wrestling, and pointed him to Steve “The Brawler” Lawler for training. Early on, Marcus was The Handsome Stranger as a gimmick. Hyatt took a tape of Bagwell in action to Jim Barnett at WCW, and he was hired, spending a couple years on the undercard before his first big push alongside 2 Cold Scorpio. “I was very surprised how he was able to step up his game and keep up with me,” cracked Scorpio (Charles Skaggs).

But the dark side was there, and Bagwell’s first marriage broke up from all the temptations a 21-year-old faced with women throwing themselves at him. It was refreshing hearing both Marcus’ honesty about cheating and from his first wife.

Injuries and health issues come up again and again.

A side trip into calf implants was a different side of the gotta-look-good industry, and again, a different take. Bagwell’s body didn’t accept the implants and he came close to losing his legs. The whole incident was documented in a 2006 movie, Vanity Insanity, which also featured a clip from his mother, Judy, talking about the near catastrophe.

Dark Side didn’t get bogged down in the NWO (unlike Biography, which wants to explain things every time), and Bagwell’s heel turn into Buff moves quickly. “The bigger I made it, the more exaggerated I made it, the better I got,” said Buff of his new character.

Judy Bagwell

Judy Bagwell

From there, wrestling fans are familiar with a lot of the story, including the wacky Judy Bagwell coming in as a character after Buff returned from time off for a broken neck suffered during a 1998 missed bulldog by Rick Steiner. Surprisingly, Bischoff admitted something in WCW wasn’t perfect. “Judy Bagwell, we made her a star. … She loved to perform, too. I could see where Marcus got it,” he said, adding he had no regrets about the storyline. “It went a little further and a little longer than it should have.”

When WWE bought WCW, Bagwell was among the contracts absorbed, but he had a training session go wrong with Shane Helms in the afternoon, a visit to a doctor, and then the infamous “bad match” with Booker T that resulted in him getting released within a week.

Then all the drug use and partying that he’d done in WCW changed on the independent circuit.

“I was the best functioning addict in the world, until I wasn’t,” said Bagwell at one point.

It’s almost as much of a blur for viewers as it was for Bagwell as he detailed car crash after car crash, one drug or alcohol-related incident after another. “I’m very lucky that I am not dead,” he admitted.

Broke after one incident, he joins the cast of the show, Gigolos, and ends up heading down that path in real life too — falling in love with a client, and costing him his third marriage. (Again, you can’t make this stuff up!)

Diamond Dallas Page came to Bagwell’s rescue and helped him get clean.

The redemption story that was unexpected, though, was with his American Males tag team partner Scotty Riggs.

“My mom passed away in 2020, and I went through a couple of years there, paying the bills and everything else, trying to keep the house, the whole nine yards. I ended up losing the house that I was living in, and I was sleeping in my car,” said Riggs. “I was in a really depressed place, dark state, and was pretty much maybe a half day away from putting a gun to my chest and taking my life. Marcus called me up and just basically browbeat me to come to Atlanta.”

Riggs too was helped by DDP.

“[Marcus] did not give up,” said Riggs. “If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

There was light at the end of Dark Side.