Bob Holly: How Do You Like Him Now"
September 1, 2005 by Dan Clark
The Alabama native was born on January 29th 1963 in a town called Talladega as Robert William Howard. A young boy, Robert watched the larger than life characters of the sport collide in the ring and dreamed of one day becoming a professional wrestler. As the years passed by he became more and more "obsessed with wrestling". So obsessed that by the time he was 19 he set out to become a professional wrestler.
With a car and a dream, Robert learned quickly that the business was built on respect and trust. More importantly however he learned that he wasn't given these merits, he had to earn them. Robert started by doing odd jobs here and there. Barely making enough money to feed his hunger let alone his dream. Enough was enough and he had to get back to some sort of normality. He became a welder and made enough money to live properly and pursue his dream. He realized that becoming a wrestler wasn't going to happen overnight, years of shaping his training around his job made him mentally and physically stronger than he had ever been before. 8 years after starting his quest he was beginning to make money on the independent scene. He left his job as a welder in 1990 and began to get frequent bookings. He was starting to live his dream, but more was still to come.
By 1993 Robert was hired by Jim Cornette to join Smokey Mountain Wrestling. SMW, in retrospect, was the development camp for future WWF/E superstars. Chris Candido (Rest In Peace), Sean Waltman, Brian Lee, Chris Jericho, Lance Storm and D-Lo Brown all once stepped into the small promotion. Robert, however, was to be one of the first to join WWF from SMW. All the years of hard work had finally paid off, but his gimmick WWF chose to attach to him wasn't exactly filling Robert full of hope.
On January 11th 1994, Robert Howard became Sparky Plugg, a NASCAR racer. He debuted that night on Wrestling Challenge against Barry Horowitz and defeated him in his WWF TV debut. The fact that they gave him a win was a positive sign that Robert, or should I say Sparky, was going to be pushed. The next time WWF fans would see Sparky was eleven days later when he would make his Pay-Per-View debut and enter the 1994 Royal Rumble at number 17. Over the next couple of months Sparky's career stunted and he was involved in a series of matches with the 37-year-old Bastien Booger and the more promising Rick Martel. But then in March of 1994 Sparky was told that he was going to be part of the greatest wrestling spectacular on earth, WrestleMania. At the 10th annual event he was booked to be part of a 10-Man Tag match. This match could have very well shaped the rest of Sparky's career. And it did, but for the wrong reasons. In a WrestleMania where Yokozuna, Bret Hart and Randy Savage (refereed in his second) had two matches, Sparky's match was cut from WrestleMania and moved to the following night, Monday Night RAW. Sparky's next notable match was on a Pay-Per-View (King of the Ring), but due to it being a dark match only the fans in attendance saw it.
By October 1994, Sparky was now becoming Bob "Spark Plug" Holly and he was slowly breaking away from the NASCAR gimmick, which was seemingly holding him down. By this time his only claim to fame was being the 17th entrant at the WWF Royal Rumble 1994. Bob was seemingly destined to become either a glorified jobber or unemployed. In December 1994 things started to look up as Bob was being teamed with fellow former Smokey Mountain wrestler, 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman, X-Pac, Syxx). The team was entered into the WWF Tag Team title tournament that took place due to the former holders (Diesel and Shawn Michaels) splitting up. On WWF Superstars 11 days before Christmas, Bob and 1-2-3 Kid defeated Well Dunn to advance to the next round. After the Christmas and New Year period was over with Bob and 1-2-3 Kid defeated the team of Tom Pritchard and Stan Lane, Heavenly Bodies on WWF Superstars. This gave Bob a lot of momentum going into the final of the WWF Tag Team title tournament. The final was to be held at Royal Rumble 1995, one year after Bob's Pay-Per-View debut. In the main event of Royal Rumble (excluding the actual Royal Rumble match) Bob and 1-2-3 Kid were facing off against the huge Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka. Bob and 1-2-3 Kid walked in the final as a fresh team, and walked out a fresh team with the WWF Tag Team titles. 1-2-3 Kid, who was barely 210lbs, scored an upset win when he pinned Bam Bam for the straps. One whole year after his Pay-Per-View debut, Bob had won his first title in WWF. But Bob Holly didn't have time to brag about it; in fact the next night meant that Bob Holly could never brag about it.
On the January 23rd Monday Night RAW, the team of Bob Holly and 1-2-3 Kid were set to defend their newly won titles against a fresher team managed by Sunny (another SMW talent) called The Smoking Guns. The event that unfolded that night put shame upon Bob Holly's title run. The Smoking Guns defeated Bob Holly and 1-2-3 Kid to become the new WWF Tag Team champions. Any anger that Bob had before would have had to be worse now, and it wasn't about to get a whole lot better. Four more months went on without Bob accomplishing anything much apart from experience until he was given a match against Jeff Jarrett for the WWF Intercontinental title. From the lows of having a 23-hour title run he was about to be elevated when he found out that he would be holding Jarrett to a draw, therefore vacating the WWF Intercontinental title. Bob Holly defeated Jarrett and the referee raised Bob's hand and declared him the new WWF Intercontinental champion, until he noticed Jarrett's foot. The referee then reversed the decision and declared the title vacant. When Jarrett and Holly next faced each other for the title however, Jarrett went over Holly to reclaim the title. It was becoming a screwy year for Holly. His next Pay-Per-View appearance was to job for Jean Pierre Laffite at In Your House #1 on a dark match. The next night however, on Monday Night RAW, Bob was told that he would be part of the King of the Ring festivities. His first match was that night and he was to defeat Mantaur in a qualifying match. The winner of KotR was usually destined for better things in WWF. Former KotR champions included Bret Hart and Owen Hart. If Bob Holly was only given the chance to show what he could do then maybe he too could become a major player" However at the King of the Ring tournament Bob Holly lost in the first round to The Roadie (Road Dogg, BG James) in 7 minutes. For the next year Bob Holly didn't amount to much. Being a lumberjack in a Pay-Per-View main event and jobbing to Hunter Hearst Helmsley at SummerSlam didn't put him to the next level. Beating rookies in dark matches and losing in a Survivor Series match didn't help either. Two years after his Pay-Per-View debut he entered 5th at the Rumble and in the KotR tournament of 1996 he was defeated in the qualifying stages by the very man who won it, Steve Austin. Another dark match win on Survivor Series 1996 and Bob Holly was now being referred to as a veteran of the sport, a veteran who had nothing to show for it.
By 1998 Bob Holly was 35 and he was either in his prime or past it, if he was to reach the next level he had to do it now. In February of 1998, Jim Cornette, the owner of the now extinct SMW became the saviour of Bob Holly's career. He had brought in the Rock 'N' Roll Express to the WWF and within a month of showcasing them to the WWF audience Jim Cornette turned on them and created The New Midnight Express. The New Midnight Express was a team that consisted of Bob Holly and Bart Gunn. Now managed by Jim Cornette, Bob Holly was beginning to build momentum. This momentum was much the same as what he built with 1-2-3 Kid. The New Midnight Express had built so much momentum that they found themselves in the opening match at WrestleMania XIV. Four years after being pulled from WrestleMania, Bob at age 35, found himself finally there. The match was a Tag Team Battle Royal and although Bob came up short again he was only beaten by LOD 2000, and it was the start of his run. The night after the event Bob and Bart defeated The Headbangers to win the NWA Tag Team titles. Bob and Bart would hold the titles until August of that year, nearly 6 months after winning them! Bob finally had a respectable title run. By late 1998 the team separated and Bob was about to become a member of the elite group... the J.O.B. Squad. The J.O.B. Squad consisted of Al Snow, Scorpio, Blue Meanie and Gillberg. They had a successful run but out of all the members Bob was the one who got the least out of it. The group was active from late 1998 until late December when Gillberg disappeared and Scorpio was released. After the J.O.B. Squad era Bob Holly and Al Snow feuded for the WWF Hardcore title. Bob Holly was about to be participating in a career-making match. The date was February 14th 1999 and the event was St. Valentines Day massacre.
Bob Holly as previously stated had been feuding for the WWF Hardcore title for a few months with Al Snow and the climax to this feud occurred at St. Valentines Day Massacre on Pay-Per-View. Al Snow and Bob Holly had a great hardcore brawl, which resulted in Bob Holly winning the vacant WWF Hardcore title and as a result became synonymous with the WWF hardcore style, earning his nickname "Hardcore" Holly. From then on Bob Holly became Hardcore Holly and Bob was finally given a gimmick that he could run with. Although Hardcore was to lose the title to Billy Gunn a month later over the next few months Hardcore Holly was recognised as the uncrowned WWF Hardcore champion. In mid 1999 WWF hired a small wrestler by the name of Michael Lockwood (Rest In Peace). Although 8 years younger than Bob, Michael had been wrestling professionally for 2 more years than him. Michael was brought in as Bob's little cousin, Crash Holly. When Bob introduced Crash to the world it sparked at dispute as to who was the better wrestler. After they got that out of their system they began to tag together as The Holly Cousins. Within 3 months of tagging together, The Holly Cousins won WWF Tag Team gold and became the number 1 team in the WWF. But a couple of weeks later they lost the belts to Mankind and Al Snow on Smackdown! Although previously when Bob lost a title he went off our screens for a few months, this time after his defeat he appeared more regularly. The Holly Cousins were very popular at the time; it could have been Bob's biggest push to date. While teaming with his "cousin" he also worked in singles matches as well. At WrestleMania XVI Bob accidentally defeated his "cousin" Crash for the WWF Hardcore title, a match that Bob shouldn't have won. On Smackdown! In mid 2000 Hardcore Holly suffered a broken arm at the hands of Kurt Angle. Kurt, who botched a moonsault, showed no remorse for the injury that resulted in a metal plate in Bob's arm and put him on the injury table for several months.
When Hardcore Holly returned in November 2000 he found himself jobbing to the newly acquired wrestlers such as William Regal and early the next year former ECW World champion, Raven. Barely a year after suffering a broken arm, he began having trouble with the metal plate that was inserted in his arm. Having all sorts of done with it, he was out of action for 9 months. While recovering he was given the job of training lucky contestants to wrestle on the MTV show WWF Tough Enough II. When Bob returned to WWF television in April 2002 he turns heel and systematically destroys rookies in-ring. He destroyed every rookie that was put in his path, until he reached Brock Lesnar. With Brock being given a monster push and Holly being told to job to him, Holly and Lesnar both lost their cool. Bob Holly has always had the mentality that you earn respect, your not given it. When Bob heard that he was to be cleanly defeated by Brock Lesnar he decided to see how much of a monster Brock was. After a few stiff shots from Holly and a few power moves, Brock snapped and delivered stiff shots of his own. With the match being legitimately intense Brock botched a powerbomb and Bob landed on his head, rupturing a disc in his neck. After picking up the win Brock realised that Bob was selling his neck and in true heel fashion Brock kicked Holly in his head. Whether or not Brock knew that Bob was actually injured we may never know, but Bob was certainly p***ed off!
One year after the incident and vignettes started showing the incident. Brock Lesnar who was the WWE World Heavyweight champion was the target of the vignettes. Bob promised to break Brock's neck and end his career. The incident that almost cost Bob's career had now elevated it to the main event. After a 3 month feud Bob finally got his match at the Royal Rumble of 2004. 10 years after debuting on Pay-Per-View and Bob was finally fighting for the WWE World Heavyweight title. Bob didn't have a hope in hell! Brock, who was still riding his monster push, wasn't going to lose the title to Bob Holly. And although the feud was emotionally intense, Bob lost the match in 6 minutes and was taken out of the main event picture. From then on Hardcore capitalised on his "tough man" image and destroyed many rookies on Smackdown! and WWE Live Events. But instead of his opponents having to sell their injuries, Bob did that for them by being super-stiff. Over the next year Bob Holly legitimately injured the following wrestlers: Matt Cappotelli (on WWE Tough Enough III and on a WWE Live Event), Carlito (Holly caused that separated shoulder he had for seemingly forever) and Rene Dupree (the famous live event incident).
Now whether or not Bob meant to injure those people no one apart from Bob will ever know. One question that comes to mind is: was Bob Holly's violent streak a result of years of being misused and under-rated" I don't know, but what I do know is that Bob has said on numerous occasions "I do what is asked of me". Read the comment however you like but Bob isn't just a hoss. Bob isn't a stiff, bitter, jackass. Bob is misunderstood. The reason I wrote this column is due to two factors. The first factor being that Bob has recently opened a training academy. Bob may very well produce some of the greatest superstars to grace this beautiful sport, or he might just give a 19 year old the opportunity he never had. But one thing that Bob will do is teach his students trust and respect towards the business. My second factor is that on the Thursday 26th August 2005 edition of Smackdown! when Hardcore Holly squared off against Randy Orton I saw a glimmer in his eye that you never normally see in a 40-year-old wrestling veteran, I saw desire. Bob still has the desire to be a main eventer. Bob still has the fire inside him to be number 1. So when you next see Bob Holly on TV, think about what he has had to do to get where he is today, then think about what his opponent has had to do to get to where he is. Then if you see Bob Holly work a little stiff, you'll know why.
by Dan Clark ..
Langdon Beck wrote:
I've always liked Holly, even when nobody else did (wait...nobody else likes him right now!) and I love his old-school attitude, which is one I share (from a fan's perspective). I believe that wrestlers are somehow better if they've paid their dues, respect their business and their fellow wrestlers. I hope his training academy is successful in teaching young wrestlers respect for the business that so few have nowadays.
Troy Tollison wrote:
Very good article. You did a great job setting the tone and showing that Bob Holly is a true underdog in alot of ways. Honestly I think he will produce some great wrestlers as a trainer. One thing is for sure that they sure won't be wimps. Unfortunately you didn't put in his fued with MNM teaming with Charlie Haas which I actually found entertaining. The only thing I disagree with in this article is that when you mentioned Kurt breaking his arm you said he had no remorse. Seriously, how could you possibly know that. I understand that it helps to emphasize that Holly can't seem to catch a break but it's just not neccessary to smear someone like that. Other than that though, very good read.
Truly, I respect Bob Holly for many things. He's accomplished much in the business including actually getting over as a racecar driver, (AAAHH, the early nineties of wrestling, those were the days). However, I do not like that he now has an attitude of an enforcer. For some reason McMahon keeps letting Holly injure the young, up and coming stars of WWE. Not only does McMahon do nothing, but Holly didn't learn after Brock Lesnar broke Holly's neck. I respect Bob Holly, but I'm afraid one of these day's he'll pick on someone who knows how to seriously injure Holly, and that someone will end his career. On a different note, although I doubt this will happen, I'd truly like to see Holly win another title before he retires, because, as faithful as he's been to them, WWE has almost always treated Holly like crap.
Joe "The Hitman" wrote:
Absolutely AMAZING article on Hardcore Holly! He is in my opinion THE SINGLE
MOST under-utilized talent ever in the WWE. I have watched WWE my entire
23-year life (although not so much the last couple years, as I find I don't
enjoy it as I did in the 90's), but Holly has ALWAYS been one of my
favourites. When he first debuted, I just thought he was funny in that he
had a dumb gimmick & an even funnier name to go with it. But I always had my
eye on him, & as the years went by, he became better & better in my eyes.
Once he transformed into Hardcore Holly, that was when he became one of my
all-time favourites. Since 1998, he has consistently been AT LEAST one of my
top 5 favourite wrestlers. I have a buddy who loves wrestling, & I would
ALWAYS say to him how great Hardcore Holly is & that it's such a shame that
he so under-utilized. I have said to him on many occasions over the last 7
years that I honestly feel he should be WWE Champion. I don't care what
anyone says, he is that great. I don't understand why WWE continually holds
him back"" If the fans were given the opportunity to see him in a consistent
main-event level status, I guarantee you my view would be shared by many.
Just take a look at Bradshaw. Everyone always thought he was forever
engraved as an APA enforcer & that's it. Slap on the JBL gimmick & give him
a legitimate main event level run, & he sets the world on fire! If they give
Bradshaw the chance, WHY NOT HARDCORE HOLLY"""
I remember when they gave him the title shot against Brock Lesnar, my exact
reaction was "IT'S ABOUT F***IN TIME!!!" Going into the Rumble, I was quite
certain that he was going to lose the match.....as much as I would have
ABSOLUTELY LOVED for him to win & become WWE champion as he would finally
have the chance he so greatly deserved, I felt confident that with the push
Lesnar was getting, he would come up short. But do you have any idea how MAD
I was when he was defeating in such a short match""" He FINALLY gets a
main-event match & they STILL don't give the guy a chance to shine!!!
Unbelievable! After that happened, I at least hoped that he would stay in
the main event area, perhaps even facing Brock again in the near future. Are
you kidding me" Like the WWE would do that! I just don't get it. It is my
STRONG opinion that Hardcore Holly is an awesome wrestler. I just don't
understand why he never gets the chance to have the ball & run with it. In
my opinion, it is one of the reasons why WWE is not as good as it once was.
As a final a side note, I absolutely loved when he had the "How do you like
me now"" at the start of his music.
I would like to start off by saying that you have written an excellent article and that I agree with it nearly-100%. Bob Holly(I rarely call him 'Hardcore') is one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time right up there with Bret Hart and Kurt Angle and is one of my inspirations for wrestling. While I wrestle now, which isn't too serious, I give credit where credit is due. My ring name is Bob "The World" Hollywood. I'm not just named that because I think it sounds nice, I have a lot of respect for Bob. And another thing, two friends of mine and I have been arguing about something stated. I simply stated that Bob was going to win the 2006 Royal Rumble and got to Wrestlemania's main event and defeat Batista for his first title reign. If JBL can hold the title, then why not Bob. He certainly has a drive and determination that a lot of the younger guys don't possess. While i do realize that the time for the Royal Ruumble is drawing closer, I will not give up hope that he will go to the Royal Rumble at the end of this year and, indeed, win it. Good luck to you Bob!
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