Barry Buchanan has every reason to feel bullish about his pro wrestling legacy.
He enjoyed six-plus years (1997 to 2003) performing under the name Bull Buchanan in WWE. He then regularly toured Japan. And now he works on the independent circuit in the Southeast while also training aspiring talent at the B2 Wrestling School in Franklin, Ga.
Combined with the travels he took before making it to the big time, Buchanan has fulfilled the dream he had as a Georgia youngster watching Championship Wrestling with his father in the late 1970s.
“All the stuff you couldn’t do in real sports you could do in pro wrestling,” Buchanan said.
“Back then, you never heard people in football trash-talking each other. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
Although he had the size to play football, the 1.98-metre, 131-kg (6-foot-6, 290-pound) Buchanan was a small-school college basketball player before beginning his wrestling training in North Georgia. Buchanan caught the eye of legendary manager/matchmaker Jim Cornette, who was running his own Tennessee-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion before joining WWE’s front office.
When SMW folded, Buchanan headed to Memphis to grapple in a company (United States Wrestling Alliance) that was helping to develop young WWE talent.
Buchanan, though, said his big break came after a tryout match in Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Buchanan said he wasn’t ECW’s first choice but got the shot because Billy Black’s regular tag-team partner, Joel Deaton, was wrestling in Japan. Buchanan received an invitation to join the ECW roster after he and Black impressed in a bout against The Eliminators (Perry Saturn and the late John Kronus).
Buchanan told Cornette, who relayed the news to WWE owner Vince McMahon.
“That’s how I finally got my foot in the door,” Buchanan said. “Jim told Vince, ‘Do you remember that kid I was telling you about in Smoky Mountain (Wrestling)? He did TV for (ECW) last week and Paul is pretty big on him.’ That’s when Vince said, ‘Sign him here.’ Bada-boom — I had a contract in the mail.
“I was a big guy who could move around a little bit. I fit the mold of some guys they always had there, like the Big Boss Man.”
Sure enough, Buchanan and The Big Boss Man (the late Ray Traylor) formed a tag-team in 2000.
“I still think about him,” Buchanan said of Traylor, who died of a heart attack in 2004 at age 41. “I guess because of what we did on TV together that people think we had been friends for years. I had never met him until before the day I was on TV with him for the first time.
“It was like a dream come true. He was one of the guys I looked up to and we lived about an hour away from each other in Georgia. We became friends outside the business.
He really helped me with getting financially sound, which is something they really ought to teach the guys more about. The money is so fleeting. . . . If you don’t plan for it, a lot of guys have a rough time.”
Traylor’s financial lessons served Buchanan well following his WWE release in early 2003. After a stint in the Right to Censor faction that included a WWE tag-team title reign with The Godfather (Charles Wright), Buchanan was paired with an up-and-coming John Cena.
Renaming himself B2, Buchanan became an enforcer as Cena taunted his opposition with freestyle raps that ultimately helped elevate him to stardom. Buchanan, though, believes his change to a more light-hearted character — that included delivering the finishing line to Cena’s raps — turned off McMahon and led to his WWE demise.
“The fun part of it probably boomeranged on me,” Buchanan said. “Everything I had done to that point in my career had been so serious. I took this as something where I could be a little more tongue-in-cheek. Vince, though, had always seen me as a killer brutalizing people in the ring and throwing them around. This was different.”
After his release, Buchanan landed a spot with All Japan Pro Wrestling, along with fellow WWE castoffs like D’Lo Brown, Taka Michinoku and Matt “Rosie” Anoa’i.
“To be honest, I really take a lot more pride in what I did in Japan” than with WWE, Buchanan said. “It made me a better worker. I didn’t have someone waiting behind the curtain telling me, ‘You should have done this or that,’ right after my matches. Sometimes (in WWE), that made you question yourself and ask yourself if you even knew what you were doing.
“It was nice getting back to just having matches where I could be who I wanted to be with a lot more freedom in the ring.”
When pro wrestling’s popularity began to wane in Japan, Buchanan was wise enough to realize his days as a full-time grappler there were coming to an end. Buchanan became a supervisor at a SONY distribution and packaging center in Carrollton, Ga. When he isn’t working, performing in the region (predominantly for National Wrestling Alliance affiliates) or spending time with his wife and four children, Buchanan enjoys teaching at his training center.
“This is something I always want to do,” said Buchanan, 43. “What little I know, I’m happy to pass along. I look at myself as a guy who had a little bit of talent but a whole lot of drive. I got to be in the ring and Wrestlemanias with the best wrestlers in the world at a time when wrestling may never be that big again. Sometimes just to amaze myself, I go through the list of names of guys I got to work with and be around.
“I really do feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” That’s no bull.
For more information on Buchanan’s training center, visit www.b2wrestlingschool.tk.
Alex Marvez takes a ringside look at the latest in professional wrestling in LIFE on Thursday. Contact him at email@example.com