Wrestlers You Need to Know: Southern Stars

Page 2 of 5
September 05, 2012

"Wildfire" Tommy Rich

"Wildfire" Tommy Rich

In the late 1970s, a blond-haired, baby-faced grappler from Tennessee captured the hearts and minds of wrestling fans across the South. Tommy Rich’s red-hot offense earned him the nickname “Wildfire” as he blazed across the territories, building up a rabid fanbase that includes former Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes.

“Nobody was as great as ‘Wildfire’ Tommy Rich in the 1980s in Georgia,” Rhodes told WWE.com.

Rhodes’ argument is difficult to dispute. Rich was one of the most popular wrestlers in Georgia Championship Wrestling, teaming up with fellow do-gooders like The Junkyard Dog, The Crusher and Dusty Rhodes to take on The Fabulous Freebirds, Ivan Koloff and Ole Anderson. (WATCH)

However, it was one fateful night in Augusta, Ga., where ”Wildfire” burned his name into the history books. Up against NWA World Champion Harley Race, Rich used his speed and agility to counter the tough veteran’s technical know-how. Slithering out of Race’s attempted suplex, Rich caught the WWE Hall of Famer with a Thesz Press to capture the championship. Though he lost it back to Race four days later, Rich’s fans were elated that their hero had reached the top of the mountain.

“I think it’s often forgotten that he won the World Championship,” Rhodes said. “The same one that we tout on WWE TV.”

While Rich’s time as World Champion was short-lived, it was his rivalry with another grappler on our list that made sure fans in the South would remember his name.

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