Former Pro-Wrestler Reflects on Career, Film "The Wrestler"

Apr 24, 2009

The Oscar-nominated film "The Wrestler" came out on DVD this week. KSMU's Jennifer Moore spoke with a former pro-wrestler on the highs and lows of the industry, and also what he thought about the movie.

Jules Strongbow, also known as "Chief Jules Strongbow," was the ring name of Francis Huntington. In 1982, he joined the WWF—the World Wrestling Federation--and teamed with Chief Jay Strongbow, changing his name to appear as Chief Jay's brother. Together, they won the WWF World Tag Team Championships twice, appearing in New York City's Madison Square Garden.

After leaving the WWF, he later competed on the independent circuit for several years before retiring in 2001.

Mr. Strongbow now lives in Springfield, and joined me in the studio.

The movie "The Wrestler" depicts a professional wrestler—played by Mickey Roarke—who has his heydey as a wrestler, then who struggles to pay the rent and keep his identity.

Strongbow said the first part of the film--the glamour and the excitement of the crowds and fans--was a very accurate depiction. He said everyone, however, has a different experience once their "heydey" is over.

Strongbow says when he left the WWF and started wrestling on the independent circuit, he felt relieved--he could finally get some rest. The money wasn't as good, but he says he got an education that some college professors would envy: he traveled the world and met people from every creed and background. He says wrestling gave him an excellent education in psychology.

Strongbow said his biggest glory moment as a professional wrestler was a few hours before a match in Madison Square Garden. He went down into the arena by himself, and there wasn't anyone around. He stood there, he says, and asked himself how he had arrived at that place.

His lowest point, he said, was when he signed up for an event in New Orleans, and after the match, the booker told him and the other wresters there was no money to pay them with.

In the early 80s, Strongbow added, if you got hurt, you paid your own medical expenses out of pocket. He said even though the matches are scripted, injuries abound. His favorite way to put it is from his former wrestling colleague: "It's all fake, and it all hurts."

He added that professional wrestling has changed tremendously since the early 80s: he says today there's a lot more emphasis on entertainment and filling seats, as opposed to the actual wrestling. He says he believes it's no longer viewed as a "sport," and that there are too many distractions from the actual wrestling.

Strongbow retired in 2001 because, he said, "it just wasn't fun anymore." He now works the night shift at a large retailer in Springfield, and volunteers his time with the Native American Students Association at Missouri State University.

He says he has no regrets, and that he is perfectly content with his life today.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.