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DOWNEY - Downey resident Edwin Bray, better known in wrestling circles as Bad Boy Bubba Storm, had an early fascination with pro wrestling after viewing matches from the Olympic Auditorium in the mid 1960s.
"I grew up watching wrestlers such as Freddie Blassie, Buddy Austin, The Destroyer, John Tolos and Mr. Moto on KTLA channel 5 on Wednesday nights with the legendary Dick 'Whoa Nellie' Lane announcing the action," said Bubba.
Bubba's mother and older sister took him to matches at the Olympic Auditorium and Long Beach Arena. After graduating from Mayfair High School in Lakewood in 1974, he immediately began working an 8-5 job, though professional wrestling remained in the back of his mind.
"I would have liked to become a pro wrestler at that time but didn't really know how to get started," he said. "I spoke to a few pro wrestlers at the Olympic but they never divulged anything to me about that mysterious underground world."
But while walking through the parking lot of the Olympic Auditorium in 1976, Bubba noticed a flyer advertising a professional wrestling school in Long Beach.
"I was excited as the flyer provided a phone number and advertised that Billy Rogers, a former professional wrestler, was the instructor," remembered Bubba. "I called the phone number the next day and started classes that same week."
Storm never completed the class in 1976 and enrolled a second time the following year. He quit again.
"I didn't feel that Rogers really showed much interest in me and quit the second time," Bubba admitted.
In 1986, Bubba caught a new wrestling promotion called California Championship Wrestling on television and it sparked his interest in becoming a pro wrestler again.
"The promotion was having an event in Maywood and I attended the matches on the baseball field," Bubba said. "I continued to attend matches whenever they were in Maywood for the next three years."
In early 1989, Bubba spoke to veteran Los Angeles wrestler and trainer Alex Knight at a Maywood match about becoming a pro wrestler.
"Knight agreed to train me and it was a much better situation than with Rogers," he said. "After about nine months, I was ready to have my first pro match."
In January 1990, at age 34, Bubba wrestled the hockey-masked Jason at the Rock Around the Clock Club in Montclair for the AIWA promotion. Bubba lost in a match that lasted seven minutes.
Bubba, who stands 5 feet 8 inches tall and weights 270 pounds, spent the next 11 years brawling on the Southern California circuit, including matches in Montebello, Cudahy, Bell, Signal Hill, Long Beach, Anaheim and other communities.
"I formed a tag team with Desperado Mark Kissell in mid 1991 and we were fortunate to win the AIWA tag team championship in March 1992, beating The Medic and Torbellino Blanco," Bubba said.
In 1992, Bubba was thrilled to become a tag team partner of the great Dr. Jerry Graham.
"Graham had been a major star in the old WWF (then called WWWF) in the late 1950s and 1960s in New York," Bubba recalled. "Graham helped me with my ring psychology and he had a thousand and one stories about the good old days of pro wrestling."
In September 1992, Bubba teamed with Graham and Kissell to beat The Medic, C.C. Thunder and Spike Cantillo for the AIWA's three-man titles. The three-man team held on to the championship until Graham's retirement in 1994.
Bubba went on to win two additional AIWA titles while appearing in exotic bouts such as battle royals, three-way dances and a "Hollywood street fight" against Cantillo.
During his lengthy career, Bubba was managed primarily by the motormouth Johnny Legend. There were also a few stints where he was managed by Luscious Laura and Lisa Keito Lee.
"I had a great working relationship with Legend for years," Bubba said. "Legend was a rockabilly singer, actor, friends with the late Andy Kaufman and Blassie."
One of the most anticipated matches that Bubba did not participate in was against former light heavyweight boxing great Mike Quarry.
"Quarry was a winner of 63 pro fights and brother of the Bellflower bomber Jerry Quarry...", Bubba said. "I challenged Mike to a boxer versus wrestler contest much like the Ali-Inoki or Chuck Wepner-Andre the Giant bouts. We both signed contracts but due to unforeseen circumstances the bout never happened."
Bubba wrestled his last match in California in 2001 at a Montebello street fair before hitting the road to wrestle throughout the Midwest and east coast. He even battled big-name wrestlers such as Rod Price, Moondog Spot and the WWE's Rey Misterio Jr. (in a battle royal).
Bubba moved to Dumagute City in the Philippines in 2004, where he set up a wrestling promotion.
"I had visited the Philippines some years earlier and had invested in some land where I hoped to start a livestock farm," he said. "While in Dumagute City, I also promoted, managed and wrestled during 2006 and 2007, where I retired as the AIWA International Champion."
Bubba has traveled back and forth between Dumagute City and Downey for the past six years and intends to remain here.
"Professional wrestling is a very competitive, cutthroat business where everyone is trying to get to the big WWE promotion," Bubba said. "I did, however, meet some real stand up guys like Knight, Kissell and Legend that really helped me in my career.
"I had my first match at age 34 and maybe that was just too old to begin my career. I never did make it to the big time, however, I did fulfill the dream of that 10-year-old fifth grader at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Bellflower in becoming a pro wrestler."
Published: July 11, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 13