Celebrating Bobby Davis, The Manager of Champions

Celebrating Bobby Davis, The Manager of Champions

CAC and wrestling overall lost a great friend and one of the top early-television era managers recently in Bobby Davis(age 83). He died at his most recent home in League City just outside of Houston as for years he was constantly on the move for work. Most recall his fame managing Buddy Rogers, but he also managed longtime friend Don Fargo(who worked under a variety of names including as a Ray Stevens brother), The Grahams: Dr Jerry and Eddie, Bob Orton Sr, Gorilla Monsoon briefly, and others in a career that lasted from 1956 until 1969 "when I got smart and retired. Although I still wish the Scotts had brought me down to manage Buddy one last time in the Carolinas in whatever year that was, 1978 for one last run for fun when he passed the Nature Boy torch to (Ric)Flair."

I first met Bobby in September of 1991, thanks to my friend Buddy Rogers who was not only Davis' most famous charge but real-life best friend since they first were put together in Bobby's native Columbus, Ohio. Bobby moving around so much in the 80's and 90's was to oversee his Wendy's fast-food franchises he purchased around San Bernardino, Bakersfield and other cities that were near longtime smaller venues for the Hollywood Wrestling Office that Rogers bopped in and out of in the 50's. obby was not that far from me in Southern California and he'd drive out to meet me at the Bob's Big Boy restaurant near Burbank as well as The Smokehouse restaurant there which has always been a mecca for nearby Hollywood stars letting their hair down. Bobby would point out if Bob Barker or one of the Seinfeld cast members were there. One time he was mistaken at Piati's restaurant for Warren Beatty. He sadly never finished a book he kept planning on writing with his wife Sylvia but had a million road stories he kept trying to jot down or record involving Roger's boisterous roving clique of Johnny Valentine, Billy Darnell, Magnificent Maurice and Handsome Johnny Barend and himself who all worked for both Vince Sr on the NEast and at times for Fred Kohler in Chicago plus in other towns and territories like Boston after Buddy and Bobby left Columbus promoter Al Haft. "Roy Shire ending up taking a lot of Al's guys like Ray(Stevens), Kinji Shibuya, Bob Ellis, Pepper Gomez and more when he pushed out Joe Malcowitz to take over promoting in San Francisco and all of Northern California and beyond. Buddy was already a major player all over but we always stayed in touch with Al."

"I quit Ohio State after nearly two years, upsetting my family greatly to try pro wrestling as I was a long-time mark for the business. I'd also played in some country/western bands as a teen and always thought I'd have music as back-up and kept my hand in it. As a wrestler, I wasn't that big and really never that good in the ring but gave it my best until destroying my neck so much Al Haft suggested I try managing since I could speak decently. And hey, no more taking bumps. I was like most at the time in 1956, an Elvis and Everly Brothers fan and tried bringing some of that into my own promos, slicking back my hair like Elvis and copying his sneer. Me liking country music while Buddy and Dr Jerry were always big band swing got us into some arguments so whoever was driving we decided got to pick what was on the radio that we liked. That didn't stop Jerry from screwing around with the dials when I wasn't looking and he sat shotgun though."

Bobby told me at his peak, he owned 15 Wendy's, most partnered with his friend and country music great Merle Haggard and thanks to his even longer friendship with another proud Columbus, Ohio native in Wendy's founder Dave Thomas. "I was always trying to put something into real estate and put money away with an eye towards my golden years of retirement," but he eventually sold his restaurants putting even more money into investment property. "I've done pretty well for myself and my family so far," Bobby told me in 1993. "Buddy would listen to my monetary advise too so I really was sort of a real money manager for him at least." I'd tell him in that sense, he paralled with the 80's Paul Ellering truly managing the Road Warriors. "He's smart and everyone in wrestling should be socking away their money because we're the only ones who'll give ourselves a pension and retirement when we need it as seniors. I always kept that in mind because I saw what happened with Jerry(Graham). So I always wanted to maintain a good standard of living for when I got old."

His bragging quips while managing all those heels, usually to Capitol Sports lead announcer Ray Morgan were well-received nearly from the start. "The audience wherever we went soon began hating me as the cocky, snot-nosed grown-up teen. Especially when I was clicking with Buddy, telling Ray how we were going to destroy Rocca or Chief Big Heart. I always tried to dress up with suit and tie and my Elvis sneer plastered on. Just like my idol Wild Red Berry. I couldn't talk like him at all, so I tried inventing my own way of getting heat on us. I think I was the youngest manager up until that time, the business had ever seen. Certainly younger than Ernie Roth(Mr Kleen, Abdullah Farouk, The Wiz)! And just had a blast and was lucky to have made such a lifer friend in Buddy who in his way, always looked out for me, especially when we had near riots going on around us. Later on, he looked out for me by picking up the tab(laughs)."

I nagged Bobby and Buddy(who flew in from Tampa) to attend our April CAC 1992 reunion which was then just the big one-night awards banquet at the Sportsman's Lodge in the L.A. Valley. When Buddy arrived, Bobby and I dragged him outside to the famous rose and flower outdoor garden there and I posed them for what turned out to be their last pictures together. Bobby helped Maurice Vachon induct Buddy for one of our top awards. Buddy died in that freak accident just months later after slipping on milk on a supermarket floor, ending up in a hospital with a badly broken arm and elbow. His wife Deb told me that doctors accidentally gave him an antibiotic he had a known allergy too unfortunately. Two months later after the shock of losing the always robust Rogers, I asked Bobby if he'd narrate my two hour tv show tribute to Buddy which he did in the ring at Bakersfield, CA's Strelich Stadium(also called Jules Strongbow Dome) recounting how they'd met, how close they were nearly always on the phone with one another. And Bobby introduced Buddy's most famous matches(the O'Connor classic, bouts with Calhoun, Dory Dixon, CAC honoree Killer Kowalski and others)giving the background story and pre-bout promos they did. "Buddy by himself was always a great talker, but when the two of us hyped a match, we got the fans into a fever pitch to where they couldn't wait to see us get what was coming to us." I called our tribute "To A Nicer Guy" which was a take on Buddy's famous mike work end line("To A Nicer Guy, It Couldn't Happen!") after beating Pat O'Connor in front of that historic, giant outdoor crowd in Chicago on a stacked card on 6/30/61. "I really like that, just "To A Nicer Guy." Very clean and appropriate for Budro," Bobby said at the time.

We say it again but now for Bobby. "To A Nicer Guy...we've never known." What a legend, great husband, father and friend to all. Two heat magnets now up in Heaven probably causing worked havoc and chaos all over again