In this rollercoaster tale of success and frustration, replete with missed opportunities, broken promises, and a broken neck — a story of fast bikes and faster cars, lost loves and wrestling bears, bar fights and betrayal — Bob shares his uncompromised views on the present wrestling landscape with fascinating insights into the world leader in sports entertainment.
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The Hardcore Truth
The Bob Holly Story
By Bob Holly, Ross Williams
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2013 Bob Howard and Ross Williams
All rights reserved.
BREAD, GRAVY, AND BABY FOOD
I've never been a fan of bullies.
I know; it's ironic, given the way a lot of wrestling fans ended up seeing me later in my career, but the fact remains that I encountered bullying at a young age and I learned to stand up to it pretty fast.
My brother was always up to no good. We never really had a brotherly relationship when we were kids. Even though he's only a year and a half older than me, we rarely played together. He and his friends constantly picked on me. One of them in particular liked to help him torment me. They were always together and always trying to get to me. They genuinely scared me.
If I was playing in the yard by myself, they would sneak up behind me with a gallon bucket of water and dump it over my head. It wasn't a practical joke between brothers. It was a couple of mean-spirited little shits trying to make themselves feel big by picking on someone younger and weaker. It wasn't a one-time thing, either. They did this again and again — more times than I care to remember.
One day, after this had gone on for quite a while, I saw my brother's friend walking down the street with his mom. At that point I'd just had enough and had to do something. I ran over to them and asked the kid, "Where's your bucket of water now?" He started saying a bunch of mean things, so I drilled him in the mouth, right in front of his mom. I knocked him down and started kicking him. I still remember his mother screaming at me, saying that she was going to call the police and have me arrested for beating up her kid.
I was six. I guess you could say I've been hardcore since then.
I figured that if nobody else was going to stand up for me, I was going to have to do it myself. Maybe I could have handled it in a less violent way but I'll say this — after I stood my ground, those bullies quit coming near me. I didn't have anyone to help me fight my battles when I was young. You hear stories where the oldest kid in the family stands up for the younger ones — that never happened for me. My brother was half the problem. As we got older, we didn't fight much but we didn't hang out or do anything together. The day after he graduated, he went off to join the Marines. I was glad to see him gone.
You could probably say I was unlucky with my dad too. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, so I didn't really know him. I know he was a street fighter, always getting into trouble with bikers and stuff like that. He was a real jackass; he didn't pay child support or anything.
I've been blessed with a great mom, though. My relationship with her has always been good. She's very goofy, very silly, and one of the kindest people you'll ever meet — she doesn't have an enemy in this world. I love her to death.
She taught me all about hard work. After my dad left and my brother started school, she would take me to work with her because she couldn't afford a babysitter. We couldn't afford a car either, so she and I would walk to her workplace. I'd sit on the floor for eight hours each day as she soldered wires on boards. It wasn't an ideal childhood, but she did her best for me and my brother. Every single day, we walked three miles there, she worked, and then we walked three miles back home. I remember trying to keep up with her; she walked so damn fast. I managed, but it sure was tough.
When we got home, all we had to eat were bread, gravy, and baby food. It was all we could afford and what we had for dinner every night. But Mom did everything she could to feed us. She always did the best she could with what she had. Was I unhappy? I didn't know any better. I was just a little kid and I had my mom, so as far as I was concerned, that was all I needed.
I did sometimes wish my dad was around, though. Recently, my mom told me that sometimes he would call to say he would come by but would rarely show up. I don't remember that but it obviously affected me. Mom told me she found me in the closet one day — she heard me talking to somebody. "Bobby, what are you doing?" she asked. "Who are you talking to?"
I said, "I'm talking to my dad." I was so disappointed that he hadn't shown up that day that I had this make-believe conversation, pretending he was with me. I still loved my dad — or at least felt a need for a father figure.
I didn't see him regularly and nothing he did back then created a lasting impact. Honestly, to this day, I don't even remember what he looks like. There were a handful of times when he did come to visit me at the apartment in Glendale, California. I don't recall too much about those visits. He'd turn up, spend a while with me, and leave. He wouldn't pay any child support and his visits became rarer as time went on. As I got older, he vanished from my life completely.
The last time I saw him, I was 16. We'd moved to a different state and I hadn't heard from him in years. Then, out of the blue, he decided to come up and visit his old family — with his new family. He was remarried with two kids. It was kind of awkward since we couldn't spend any quality time together. There was no chance for it to be a father-and-son sort of thing — for either me or my brother — because we were always in a group of people. I hadn't seen him for nine years and I really didn't know him. He was a stranger to me, but he was still my dad. I would have liked to have had a little one-on-one time with him. I didn't get it — they hung out for about an hour, then left to go camping. The next day, we went to their camp site, we all had a picnic, and then they headed back to California. That was the last time I saw him or even spoke to him.
He tried to get in touch with me after I started to appear on TV with the WWF in the mid '90s, and that just hurt. He hadn't been there for me when I was growing up and needed a dad, but now that I'd attained a level of notoriety, he wanted back in? I didn't want to talk to him so I didn't take his calls. I'd always wanted a relationship with my father, but not one that was motivated by my achieving some sort of fame. As time has gone on, I've found myself wanting to find out more about him and to see if we could form any sort of bond. So, I started doing some research to track him down. I found him in the end — but too late. He died in 2008. I wish I'd reached out sooner. Despite his not being there for me when I was a kid, I do regret not getting to know him.
A few years after my parents separated, Mom met a guy named Gary through my aunt Elaine, and he ended up becoming my stepdad. Gary was a racing enthusiast who helped my uncle Don work on his race car, so that was how he knew my aunt. He was basically a workaholic. During the week, he worked in maintenance for the county school district. On the weekends, he was a janitor at a wood mill. He was a hard worker, I'll give him that, but he was a horrible male role model. He wasn't a father figure to me; he was just a guy my mom was married to. I know why she did it. She was struggling to keep a roof over our heads and could barely feed us, so when she found somebody that she could tolerate, they got married. We moved from Glendale to Ventura, California, to live with him, so at least we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. They're not together anymore — right after I graduated high school, they divorced. I don't know if that was her plan all along or if it was because there had been some infidelity on his part.
He wasn't bad to us but he wasn't good. He was very strict. When my brother and I got home from school, we weren't allowed to play, watch TV, or eat; we were given work to do around the house and that's all we did. I don't want to say Gary was like a drill sergeant because that would be too much of a compliment to him. He was always on us for no reason. For example, every weekend we had to cut the grass. If he felt we hadn't cut the grass correctly, he'd make us cut the entire yard again until we'd done it the way he wanted it. If we missed one weed when we were pulling them, we had to start over. It felt like we'd been put on the earth to serve him. Every Saturday morning: "get up, cut the grass, rake the leaves, chop the wood" ... and whatever else he could find for us to do. Even during school vacations, it was the same. I had a summer job, but since that didn't start until 3 p.m., I had to get up at 7 to start working around the house.
If we wanted to play high school sports, we had to buy our own gear. We got no help financially. We got no support of any kind. Our mountain of chores came first and then we had to get ourselves to and from practice. As far as I'm concerned, parents should help their kids to succeed, whether in sports or education. You push them, but you support them and say, "Whatever you need, I'm here for you. All you have to do is ask." I didn't have that. If I wanted to succeed, everything was on me. My mother tried, but you need the whole team behind you. Gary had the financial means to help, and without his support it was damn near impossible for me to do anything in high school. The only things Gary taught me were how to cut grass, chop wood, pull weeds, and wash dishes — stuff like that. I learned everything else on my own.
Gary was definitely hands off. I don't get why he was like that — he knew what he signed up for when he married my mother. She had two boys, so we were part of the deal. Maybe he just saw the marriage as a good way to get some cheap labor. That wouldn't surprise me — Gary was a real tightwad. It wasn't just sports gear I had to pay for; I had to buy my own school clothes. He bought us two pairs of jeans, a pair of tennis shoes, and some white T-shirts, and that's all we got for the year. If we wanted anything else, we had to work a regular job to earn the money. Once I started working, the bastard made me pay rent. Here I was, still in high school and I was paying 50 dollars a month to my stepfather. That was a lot of damn money to a 17 year old, especially back in 1980! I understand paying rent to your folks if you're living at home after you've graduated — but not when you're still a minor.
My brother and I were nervous wrecks whenever he was around. It was horrible. He never laid a hand on us, but he made us uncomfortable all the time. He didn't care if we were upset, if we were hurt, if we had any problems; all that mattered to him was that we were able to work around the yard and the house. I'm sure my mom wasn't too happy, but what could she do? She was as dependent on him as we were, if not more so. She was just trying to keep the peace. Aunt Elaine told me that my mother did stand up for us behind closed doors, but in the end, she had to follow Gary's lead and say, "Well, you gotta work."
It was too bad that we had to work so much, because I could have been really good at football. Whenever we played it in PE, I played wide receiver. I was small but fast, and I had great hands. If I could touch the ball, I'd catch it. The Grants Pass High School Football coach was also my PE teacher, and he told me that if I played for him in my senior year, he was sure I would get a college scholarship — a full ride. I had to tell him I couldn't because my parents were making me work. It was a damn shame that I didn't get to play college football.
Still, for all of the negative thoughts about Gary I had during my teenage years, I did develop a very strong work ethic because of him. I'm very particular — the engine bay of each of my vehicles has to be spotless, for example. Everything has to be in a pristine condition; everything has to look good. All of my tools are in a certain order. Nice and neat — everything clean. I pay attention to detail. This work ethic was reflected in my time as a wrestler. I always strove for the perfect match. You never get it, but you always strive for it. You're constantly working to have better matches. I am a perfectionist and my own worst critic. I may never reach perfection but as long as I'm striving for it, I'll always do the best I can.
Despite how it might sound, and even though Gary made me feel like a slave a lot of the time, I didn't grow up unhappy. He and I didn't have much in common, but we both liked auto racing and we both liked wrestling.CHAPTER 2
THE OPENING BELL
One of the good things about moving in with Gary was that he had a TV. This was new to us because we had never been able to afford one. I discovered roller derby pretty quickly and thought it was great. If you look at it now, it's obviously a work, but back then I thought it was real. Later, when I was in fourth grade, my stepdad's parents and siblings moved from California to Oregon so we moved too. I can still remember flipping through TV Guide and finding Big Time Wrestling.
I tuned in and I was hooked right away. I'd never seen anything like it. Pat Patterson, Pepper Gomez, Rocky Johnson, Peter Maivia, Mr. Saito ... it was the greatest thing on the planet. I couldn't wait for the next Saturday so I could see some more. Pat Patterson was the big babyface. It's mind-boggling to think that I ended up working alongside Pat, and that about 25 years after I first saw him wrestle, I cussed him out in front of the entire WWE locker room.
A while after we got to Oregon, I found out that there were other wrestling groups, including Portland Wrestling. I was in heaven! I still remember the guys who made the biggest first impression on me. There was Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, and, of course, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Those guys were great, but the guy I liked the most was "Playboy" Buddy Rose. His interviews were good, he was a great worker, and he made everything so believable. Even now, I still think that he was one of the greatest workers who ever lived. Buddy Rose never got the respect he deserved. He was such an awesome heel. I had my other favorites — Mr. Saito, Bob Roop, Ricky Hunter, Rocky Johnson, Patterson, Ray Stevens, Kenji Shibuya, and Peter Maivia, but in my opinion, Buddy Rose was the man. He didn't get a shot when he joined the WWF because the owner, Vince McMahon, just didn't like most fat guys. People remember Buddy Rose as the fat guy in Vince's stupid blow-away diet ads and as a wrestler who lost to everybody. I remember him as my first real wrestling hero.
Gary and I tuned in every Saturday like clockwork for Big Time Wrestling at 3:30 and then Portland Wrestling. It wasn't a family thing. Mom never watched and my brother didn't like it either — he was more into Star Trek. He and his friends picked on me sometimes because of the wrestling thing but I didn't give a damn. Come on, seriously, which is nerdier — wrestling or Mr. Spock? Hey, if people like Star Trek, good for them. Just don't tell me I'm a nerd for being into wrestling!
Even though my brother didn't care much for it, some of my friends got into wrestling with me. Whenever Gary couldn't watch with me, Mike Brown would come over and we'd watch the shows together. Inevitably, some of my friends and I would end up wrestling each other. When I was in junior high, my friend Scott Clause and I would take a roll of aluminum foil from the kitchen cupboard. We'd start with a little ball and make something the size of a basketball. Then we'd take it outside and beat it down until it was as compact and hard as we could make it. Then we'd have a wrestling match — an "Aluminum Foil Ball Match." Whoever got to the ball first could use it on his opponent. The problem was, back then, we still thought wrestling was real. We beat the holy hell out of each other. Everybody on TV bled from the forehead, so I'd pound his face with the aluminum ball to try and split his head wide open — until he'd start crying. He gave as good as he got, though: he would get the ball from me, crack me upside the head, and try his damnedest to make me bleed. But no matter how hard we tried, neither of us ever managed to get the job done.
When Dutch Savage and "Playboy" Buddy Rose went on TV and had a coal miner's glove match ... well, that wasn't going to end well for us after we saw that. In that match, there was a pole on the corner post of the ring with a glove hanging from it. The "coal miner's glove" was a welding glove with a piece of steel flat bar attached to it. The first wrestler to get up the pole and get the glove could use it. So, thinking this was probably the best idea of all time, I got myself a glove from the shed at home, found a piece of flat bar lying around, and duct-taped the metal to the glove so we could have our own coal miner's glove match. My friend and I would lay out some garden hose to outline the wrestling ring, stick a pole in the ground, and put the glove on top of it. Then we'd fucking kill each other. We ended up with bloody noses, busted lips, and a few headaches here and there. Our parents never knew. If I got a fat lip or a scraped face, they would ask what happened. "Oh, we were just outside playing," I'd say, and they bought it.
Excerpted from The Hardcore Truth by Bob Holly, Ross Williams. Copyright © 2013 Bob Howard and Ross Williams. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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