Tommy Rich in August 2013
|Birth name||Thomas Richardson|
|Born||July 26, 1956|
Hendersonville, Tennessee, US
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Mr. R|
|Billed height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Billed weight||235 lb (107 kg)|
|Billed from||Hendersonville, Tennessee|
|Trained by||Jerry Jarrett|
Thomas Richardson (born July 26, 1956) is an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Tommy “Wildfire” Rich. He is a one time former National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion and Smoky Mountain Wrestling Heavyweight Champion. He primarily appeared in Georgia Championship Wrestling and Memphis throughout the 1980s, as well as World Championship Wrestling, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling throughout the 1990s.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1974–1977)
Georgia Championship Wrestling (1977–1984)
Throughout the 1980s, he alternated his time between Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama territories of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He won dozens of NWA regional titles during this time. He is best known as one of the original stars of the TBS wrestling shows from the 1970s and 1980s. His bloody feuds with "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer, Ole Anderson, Ivan Koloff, The Fabulous Freebirds, and every other major heel to come through the Georgia territory made Rich one of the most popular wrestling stars of the period.
On April 27, 1981, in Augusta, Georgia, he won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He dropped the belt back to former champion Harley Race four days later in Marietta. Race stated in a shoot interview with RF Video that the title switch was to ensure a power struggle in the Georgia territory ended with promoter Jim Barnett victorious (Barnett was a minority holder in Georgia and the booker of the NWA title, and the title switch, with the fan interest and boosted live gates, shored up his position).
He had a feud in Georgia Championship Wrestling with "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer for the NWA Georgia National Title. The feud lasted close to two years, culminating in the "Last Battle of Atlanta," in 1983, which featured Sawyer and Rich in a fully enclosed, "last man standing" cage match. For years no video of this match was known to exist; however, the full video of this match was released on WWE Network on September 5, 2016. Sawyer and Rich tried forming a team for a short period of time afterward to feud with a new team called the "Road Warriors". Rich was later directed into a feud with Ted DiBiase. They had a "loser leaves wrestling" match that Rich lost. So, Rich put on a mask & came back as Mr. R.
DiBiase insisted that Mr R. was really Rich. Then, on a TV match for Dibiase's NWA National Title, Rich visited announcer Gordon Solie during the match. DiBiase unmasked Mr R to find that it was rookie wrestler Brad Armstrong. In all of the confusion, Armstrong pinned DiBiase to become NWA National Champion.
Rich then returned to the Memphis area, where he formed a team with "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert known as "Fargo's Fabulous Ones". The previous Fabulous Ones, Steve Keirn and Stan Lane, walked out on the territory. They held the AWA Southern Tag Team titles in 1984, then dropped them to Phil Hickerson and the Spoiler (Frank Morrell). Afterward, Gilbert turned heel on Rich and they had a brief, but intense feud, which began on television when the two were presented with a "Tag Team of the Year" award by announcer Lance Russell and two guests. Gilbert, unaware his former partner was at the taping, badmouthed Rich, then the International Heavyweight Champion, until Rich came out to confront him. Rich immediately got the upper hand, running Gilbert into the steel ringpost several times, bloodying him in the process before the cameras went to a commercial. After the commercial break, Gilbert told Russell he wanted Rich to come back out so he could apologize to him in person, stating he was wrong for still being bitter about the break-up of the team, and was fueled by jealousy of Rich's championship title reign and new found star status. When Rich accepted Gilbert's apology, Gilbert suddenly turned on him and rammed Rich's head into the ringpost, just as Rich had done to him moments earlier.
After competing in Southeast Championship Wrestling, Rich would again return to the Memphis area in 1987 and contribute to one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history. Austin Idol versus Jerry Lawler went on for over a year and culminated in a hair vs. hair match at the Mid-South Coliseum. Rich hid under the ring for the entire event only to emerge during the cage match, causing Lawler to lose the match and his hair, which led to a heel turn for Rich. After Bill Dundee later joined the feud on Lawler's side, it would climax with a tag team scaffold match that saw Lawler and Dundee emerge victorious and Paul E. Dangerously, Rich and Idol's manager, suffer a broken arm when he fell off the scaffold trying to escape from the fan favorites. From there, Rich went to the AWA and turned face again, engaging in feuds with Adrian Adonis and Kevin Kelly; in one memorable event that took place on ESPN's AWA Championship Wrestling, Rich and Kelly faced off in an arm-wrestling challenge when Sherri Martel, Kelly's manager, interfered on her protégé's behalf, leading Rich to retaliate by tearing off Martel's dress and leaving her in her underwear.
World Championship Wrestling (1989–1992)
In 1989, Rich returned to the Georgia area. World Championship Wrestling, having been bought by Ted Turner in late 1988, was in the middle of a face lift and Rich was part of a host of veteran wrestlers to enter the promotion during this period. At first he was referred to as "former NWA World Champion", etc., but was soon relegated to midcard status. The push received by big names like Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk and young talent like Brian Pillman and Great Muta, essentially bumped older talent like Rich, The Iron Sheik and Wild Bill Irwin to the fringe. Rich would mount an unsuccessful challenge to NWA US Champion Lex Luger in a series of title matches during this time period. He even dropped a match to the much older and soon to be retired Harley Race at The Great American Bash in July 1990. In 1991, in another attempt to revive his career, he joined Alexandra York's York Foundation and became "Thomas Rich". He teamed with the other members, Terrence Taylor and Richard Morton to win the WCW Six-Man Titles. When the York Foundation disbanded in early 1992, Rich was relegated to the lower card.
Independent circuit (1992–1997)
From 1992 to 1996, he wrestled for the United States Wrestling Association (USWA), American Wrestling Federation and Smoky Mountain Wrestling mostly as a heel. Some of his notable tag team partners in the USWA were Doug Gilbert and Gorgeous George III. In 1995, he attempted to regain the NWA World title, from Dan Severn, but was unsuccessful. In SMW, he was a part of Jim Cornette's militia, where he was the top lieutenant. After SMW shut down, he returned to the USWA.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1997–1999)
Rich debuted in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling in January 1997. Later that year, he became the leader of The Full Blooded Italians, adopting the nickname "The Big Don" and the tongue-in-cheek gimmick of a caporegime. Rich both managed The Full Blooded Italians and occasionally wrestled. He left ECW in 1999.
Independent circuit (1999–2015)
Since leaving ECW in 2000, Rich has worked on countless independent promotions as well as legends events and reunion events. In addition to wrestling on the events he has appeared at autograph signings and legends conventions.
On July 2, 2011 Rich was involved in a backstage altercation with independent wrestler J.P. Magnum at a TCW live event in Graysville, TN. Rich was allegedly upset that he was booked to lose an "I Quit" match to a manager, TCW Rhea County Heritage Champion Jay West. Rich ended up losing the match to West, before defeating Keith Hart later in the card.
On November 6, 2015 in Hanover, Indiana, Tommy Rich teamed with "The Rebel" Tom Scroggins to face the team of Big N' Tasty on NWA-Supreme's Event Three Generations of Excellence featuring another NWA former World Champion, Rob Conway, and Johnny Justice.
On December 15, 2015 Rich teamed with Bobby Fulton, Rob Kincaid, and Dallas Davison to face and beat Robert Applewhite, Steven Jones, Wade Castle and Vladimir Alexander at Rose City Championship Wrestling in Richmond Indiana.
Championship and accomplishments
- All-Star Championship Wrestling
- ACW Southern Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- American Wrestling Federation
- Cajun Wrestling Federation
- CWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling
- CAPW North American Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with K.C. Blood
- Deep South Wrestling
- Game Changer Wrestling
- WOMBAT Tag Team Championship (1 time, current) - with Mike Jackson
- Georgia Championship Wrestling
- NWA Georgia Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship (7 times) - with Tony Atlas (1), Rick Martel (1), Stan Hansen (2), Thunderbolt Patterson (1), Wahoo McDaniel (1), and The Crusher (1)
- NWA Georgia Television Championship (1 time)
- NWA Macon Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA National Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- International Wrestling Alliance
- IWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- National Wrestling Alliance
- NWA Hall of Fame (2008)
- National Wrestling Conference
- NWC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Northern States Wrestling Alliance
- NSWA Hardcore Championship (1 time)
- NWA Mid-America / Continental Wrestling Association
- AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- AWA Southern Tag Team Championship (4 times) - with Bill Dundee (2), Eddie Gilbert (1), and Dutch Mantel (1)
- CWA International Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- CWA World Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Bill Dundee (1) and Jerry "The King" Lawler (1)
- NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- NWA Six-Man Tag Team Championship (2 times) - with Tojo Yamamoto and George Gulas
- NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship (Memphis version) (2 times)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Mid-America version) (1 time) – with Tojo Yamamoto
- Premiere Wrestling Federation
- PWF Universal Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Smoky Mountain Wrestling
- Southeastern Championship Wrestling
- NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA Southeastern Tag Team Championship (Northern Division) (3 times) - with Bill Dundee (1), Johnny Rich (1), and Steve Armstrong (1)
- Southern Championship Wrestling (Jerry Blackwell)
- Tennessee All-Star Wrestling
- TASW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- TCW Tennessee Championship Wrestling: TCW Heavyweight Champion. Won title in Graysville, TN
- United States Wrestling Association
- World Championship Wrestling
- World Wrestling Empire
- WWE North American Championship (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling
- XICW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Oliver, Greg (March 11, 2010). "Tommy Rich returns to Atlanta for fan fest". Canoe.ca. SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Russo, Ric (December 15, 2000). "What ever happened to...Wildfire Tommy Rich". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing.
- "Tommy Rich - Cagematch Profile". CAGEMATCH. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
- Melok, Bobby (October 26, 2014). "The match that inspired Hell in a Cell: Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer and The Last Battle of Atlanta". WWE.com. WWE. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Melok, Bobby (September 5, 2012). "Wrestlers You Need to Know: Southern Stars". WWE.com. WWE. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- "Top 50 good guys in wrestling history". WWE.com. WWE. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
- Thom Loverro (May 22, 2007). The Rise & Fall of ECW: Extreme Championship Wrestling. Simon and Schuster. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-1-4165-6156-9.
- John Lister (November 2005). Slamthology: Collected Wrestling Writings 1991-2004. Lulu.com. pp. 26–. ISBN 978-1-4116-5329-0.
- Scott E. Williams (December 13, 2013). Hardcore History: The Extremely Unauthorized Story of ECW. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. pp. 181–. ISBN 978-1-61321-582-1.
- "Solie's Title Histories: AWF". www.solie.org. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- NWA Georgia Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Georgia Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Georgia Television Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Macon Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA National Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA World Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- "Southern Tag Team Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
- Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2006) [2000.]. "(Memphis, Nashville) Tennessee: Southern Tag Team Title [Roy Welsch & Nick Gulas, Jerry Jarrett from 1977]". Wrestling title histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Waterloo, Ontario: Archeus Communications. pp. 185–189. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- CWA International Heavyweight Title (Memphis) history At wrestling-titles.com
- CWA World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Title (Mid-America) history At wrestling-titles.com
- Royal Duncan and Gary Will (2000). "Tennessee: U.S. Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. p. 194. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- "NWA United States Tag Team Title (Mid-America)". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Kreikenbohm, Philip. "PWF WORLD-1 Heavyweight Championship « Titles Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". www.cagematch.net. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI Years". Wrestling Information Archive. Archived from the original on May 15, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- SMW Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Southeast Continental Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Southeastern Tag Team Title (Northern Division) history At wrestling-titles.com
- USWA Southern Heavyweight/Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- USWA World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
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