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WWE's hometown heroes
Some Superstars are as closely identified with their hometown as their signature finishing maneuver. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is a Texan as much as he is the master of the Stunner. CM Punk’s initials have sometimes been referenced as “Chicago Made.” And everybody knows Mick Foley first wore the Dude Love duds at his childhood home on Long Island. N.Y.
But some towns and cities boast far more than one grappling native. Is it fate? Coincidence? Or is there something in the water of these locales that breeds wrestling stardom? WWE Classics took a look at some of these hotbeds for rearing future ring greats.
These days, Calgary, Alberta, is as much a wrestling town as Cooperstown, N.Y., is a baseball town. WWE Hall of Famer Stu Hart established Stampede Wrestling in 1948, and began training wrestlers shortly thereafter in the basement of his Calgary home, commonly referred to as The Hart Dungeon. But Stu’s famous pupils weren’t just training in Alberta’s quaint oil city. They grew up there.
Stu, of course, is the patriarch of the legendary Hart family, which includes such luminaries as his sons Bret and Owen. All three members of The Hart Dynasty — Tyson Kidd, David Hart Smith and Natalya — spent formative years in Calgary. In addition to the Harts, Calgary natives Bad News Brown and Lance Storm were trained in their home city, among others.
Storm was so proud of his hometown, he’d remind fans by slowly reciting it on WCW broadcasts. The former Intercontinental Champion has since settled back in Calgary where he trains the next generation of Albertans at the Storm Wrestling Academy.
Atlanta may be known as the headquarters of WCW and all things Turner, but the nearby town of Marietta. Ga., has just as strong of a sports-entertainment pedigree.
The patriarch of the great Armstrong family, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, was born in Marietta in 1939. And all four of Bob’s grappling sons — including The Road Dogg and WWE referee Scott Armstrong — were also born in the Georgia city.
Marcus Alexander Bagwell was “the stuff” growing up in the city and was a highly regarded baseball player at Marietta’s Sprayberry High School. And while he’s most well-known as hailing from Cobb County’s Department of Corrections, The Big Boss Man was also born in Marietta, where he laid down the law at an early age. Former WCW Champions Lex Luger and Ron Simmons didn’t grow up in Marietta, but both have settled there in their post-competing days.
But it’s not all retired legends who called Marietta home. One of WWE’s most exciting young stars, Cody Rhodes, was an excellent amateur wrestler at Lassiter High School. Each time Cody dashes to the ring, he is proudly announced as hailing from the city 20 miles north of Atlanta on I-75, Marietta.
Long before Snooki and The Situation hit the tanning beds, Jersey Shore was home to many stars of sports-entertainment, including current announcer and former “Tough Enough” contestant Josh Mathews.
At WrestleMania 2, King Kong Bundy challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship inside a steel cage. Although Bundy grew up in a Jersey suburb outside Philadelphia, he was born in Atlantic City, Jersey’s own mini-Vegas and host city to WrestleMania IV and V.
Diamond Dallas Page was born in the seaside enclave of Point Pleasant, which is just more than 11 miles south of Asbury Park. The former WCW Champion remained on the Shore during his formative years, attending both Point Pleasant Boro High School and St. Joseph’s in nearby Toms River. ECW’s Balls Mahoney was billed as hailing from Nutley, N.J. (an actual town), but was actually born in Spring Lake Heights, N.J. — only two train stops away from Point Pleasant on New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line.
Perhaps the competitor most closely associated with Jersey is former WrestleMania main eventer Bam Bam Bigelow. The Beast from the East famously hailed from Asbury Park, the same beachside town that spawned rock icon Bruce Springsteen. But “The Boss” never made an impact like the former ECW Champion who once crashed through the canvas with Tazz on his back during a match in Asbury Park.
No baseball team except the New York Yankees has won more World Series titles than the St. Louis Cardinals. As home to the winningest team in the National League, it's no surprise The Gateway to the West also claims itself as a hometown to wrestling champions.
Former WWE Tag Team Champion Evan Bourne was born in St. Louis and was on the wrestling team at Parkway West High School, his alma mater. He attended the University of Missouri, only two hours away on I-70, while training for a future WWE career.
One of the most influential competitors in the history of the squared circle, Lou Thesz was famously billed as hailing from St. Louis throughout his career as one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Many Superstars have incorporated his Thesz Press into their arsenal of maneuvers, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and another St. Louis native, Randy Orton. Much like Bourne, Orton was also a high school wrestling standout. While studying at Hazelwood Central High School, The Viper gained the skills he needed en route to becoming one of the most decorated WWE Superstars of all time.
When Verne Gagne graduated from Robbinsdale High School in 1943, nobody could have predicted the enormous number of sports-entertainment legends that would come from this relatively small Minneapolis suburb. There is perhaps no single location that produced more wrestling stars than Robbinsdale.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Nikita Koloff, The Berzerker, Repo Man, Battle Kat and Tom Zenk were all close childhood friends, and graduated Robbinsdale High School within three classes of each other in the late 1970s. Mr. Perfect’s father, Larry “The Axe” Hennig, a legendary performer in his own right, also graduated from the same high school. Even WWE Hall of Famers “Mean” Gene Okerlund and The Road Warriors spent significant time in Robbinsdale.
Whether it was Verne’s influence or the nearby headquartered AWA, the town has become something of a phenomenon among wrestling historians. If someone tells a wrestling fan they hail from a town just outside of Minneapolis, the first thought is always: “Robbinsdale?”
Calgary, Alberta, isn’t the only Canadian city responsible for producing ring greats. Despite being the city that created poutine — an outrageously unhealthy (and delicious) dish consisting of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds — Montreal had produced a number of excellent ring athletes. Oui oui.
Although known by today’s fans as one of Mr. McMahon’s “stooges” during the Attitude Era, Pat Patterson became the first Intercontinental Champion in WWE history in 1979. More than 15 years later, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, signature Montreal accent and all.
In addition to being the hometown of beloved icons like Patterson, Montreal also lays claim to having produced some of the ring’s most notorious villains. Montreal native Maurice Vachon terrorized AWA fans over the course of three decades as the vicious “Mad Dog” before being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
The Mountie, who also competed as a member of The Fabulous Rougeaus and The Quebecers, portrayed his Canadian roots in WWE rings during the ’80s and ’90s. In 1992, he shockingly defeated fellow Canadian Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship. WWE was without a notable Montreal native for many years until Sylvain Grenier debuted in 2003. In the following two years, the impressive Grenier won the World Tag Team Championship on four occasions as a member of La Résistance.
West Texas A&M University
If there’s one place that rivals Robbinsdale for claiming the most wrestling natives, it isn’t a town or city at all. It’s a school. Known today as West Texas A&M University, the institution is in Canyon, Texas — just 20 miles south of another wrestling hotbed, Amarillo, home of The Funks.
Founded as West Texas State Normal College, it became West Texas State University in the 1960s, and was attended by many future ring Legends. One of The Four Horsemen, Tully Blanchard, played football there with Tito Santana and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Almost 10 years before that, Dusty Rhodes, Bobby Duncum, Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody attended the school, as did both Funks — Terry and Dory Jr.
Another Horseman, Barry Windham, also attended West Texas State and later joined forces with Duncum’s son as The West Texas Rednecks in the later years of WCW.
The toughness of this student body definitely forced their opponents to study up.