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Carey Gable

Mike Gunner – A Return to Legitimacy

Mike Gunner stands out in any room he walks into. Built like a bodybuilder and carrying himself with the swagger of a street fighter, Gunner has been to the very top of the independent wrestling scene. Then he left, disappeared, and left all of us wondering just what had happened to one of the most legitimate fighters in modern wrestling. When Gunner made his return to the ring this past year, it was in an odd place Paris, Texas. Paris is a community in Northeast Texas, population of close to 30,000, but it often played host to World Class and Mid-South wrestling events during the 70’s and 80’s. There are still stories passed around about how Andre the Giant shut down the local all-night dinner by consuming most the restaurant’s bacon supply. So, when Mike Gunner chose to come back, it was with a purpose. This was not as some special appearance by a former ring warrior, it was, instead, the return of real legitimacy! It was the return of Mike Gunner!

            Gunner grew up in wrestling country, North Carolina. He often recounts how he was “sitting” in the Greensboro Coliseum as a three-week-old child, even then being enthralled by the spectacle. Wrestling was a part of his family’s life blood. It was something that bonded his family as he grew up. However, he was never a fan of the “cartoonish, over the top gimmicks” of the World Wrestling Federation (WWE). Gunner found his niche in Jim Crockett Promotions, the AWA, and the various syndicated wrestling shows that proliferated throughout the 1980’s.

Mike Gunner

            All of this played into his budding psyche. Gunner grew up as a loner, and quickly learned to be a fighter. He broke his first nose at five years old in Kindergarten, defending his buddy from a bully. This willingness to fight, almost desire for it, set him apart from his classmates and ended up forcing him to hang out with an older crowd. At one point, in an attempt to recreate the scaffold matches of the Road Warriors and Midnight Express, Gunner was thrown from his treehouse scaffold twelve times! Yet, he kept climbing back up to be tossed down again. He was not as big as the older kids, but he would refuse to be taken as anything less than legitimate.

Manager JJ Hart and Mike Gunner

            This tenacity found an official outlet when Gunner moved into his teen years and picked up boxing. He eventually won both North Carolina and South Carolina Golden Gloves. He compiled a 14-1 record with eight knockouts over that span. Then, Gunner jumped into the original Tough Man circuit. Over several years, Gunner dominated the scene going 32-0 with twenty-seven knockouts! It was during one of these Tough Man competitions that he encountered Bobby Fulton of The Fantastics.

            Overhearing Fulton in the locker room, Gunner was inspired to attend his first wrestling show, as an adult. Like many teenage boys, he had left wrestling behind for other activities. On the card that night in Asheboro, North Carolina was none other than Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernandez. Reigniting a passion that had been dormant, Gunner wanted to know more about wrestling. “The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez was a childhood idol of Gunner, thus he sought him out following the show. Soon after, Gunner was training at Fernandez’s school and working with Ron “The Truth” Killings (R-Truth). Following months of intense and grueling old school training, Gunner hit the road with none other than his mentor, Manny Fernandez.

Manny Fernandez and Mike Gunner

            Driving those backroads of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas allowed Fernandez to pour an even more “old school approach” into Gunner. This was the formative years that shaped what would be become a mythical career. Gunner explains, “Aggression has always been part of my personality.” Fernandez used that aggression to build the prototype of what he envisioned a wrestler to be.

            Gunner then experienced two big breaks from vastly different people. The first came from Robert Gibson, one half of the legendary and Hall of Fame tag team, The Rock and Roll Express. Gibson brought Gunner into Tuscaloosa, Alabama and over the next four years, he won everything they had to offer! Gunner has high praise for Gibson, referring to him as “a fine man. A friend.”

Mike Gunner facing Tyson Maddux

            The second break came once Gunner had relocated to Texas. He was simply eating in a local restaurant when he noticed that one of the other patrons looked very familiar. That was Skandar Akbar sitting across the room from him. Skandar Akbar had long established himself as one of the greatest minds in Texas wrestling. Akbar invited Gunner to visit his wrestling school to show some of the younger wrestler some holds. “When someone like that (Akbar) invites you to go… you go!”

Mike Gunner vs Bam Bam Malone

            Once again, establishing that “old school approach” was meaningful for Gunner. This allowed him to incorporate a hybrid fighting style, since he had begun training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, quickly rising to a Blue Belt. Akbar recognized Gunner’s talent and paid him the highest of compliments, “I am very impressed with your intensity, focus. The way you work reminds me so much of Magnum T.A. You would have belonged in the territories.” Gunner does indeed resemble Magnum, not just in physical presence, but in the manner in which he navigates around the ring. The similarities can be uncanny at times.

            Then came the hiatus. Building a life after wrestling is something that many athletes have struggled with but Gunner was self-aware enough to focus on the future as well. But the wrestling bug is difficult to shake. This last August 21, Gunner returned to the ring after a near eighteen-month hiatus with King of Sports Championship Wrestling. He immediately made an impact, declaring himself to be the apex of Texas wrestling. He aligned himself with J. J. (Ace) Hart of Hart International and ran roughshod through the KOS Heavyweight Championship tournament. He dispatched each high-end athlete with not just his in-ring skill, but also the psychology that can only come through years of combat sports. His path left the bodies of Bam Bam Malone and Tyson Maddux just to name a few. Finally, Gunner’s return the ring culminated in an epic rivalry with “The Real Deal” Nobe Bryant!

In what an only be described as an intense struggle, Bryant versus Gunner faced off in Leonard, Texas. In what came to be one of the hottest crowds in recent Texas wrestling history, Gunner found a way to score a pin fall win to become the FIRST EVER KOS Heavyweight Champion.

Mike Gunner vs Nobe Bryant

However, the win is rumored to be tainted. Although the head referee Scott Vodrey was incapacitated at the time, the crowd rose to near riot levels when Gunner, aided by Ace Hart, wrapped Nobe’s throat with a bull rope, using the ring ropes for leverage, they choked Nobe unconscious in order to score the win. This prompted KOS President Joe Briscoe to confront J. J. (Ace) Hart post-match. Hart has used this tactic several times before with Angel Camacho. Gunner stepped in front for his manager. In what was a tense moment, Briscoe and Gunner were nose to nose. Yet it was still Mike Gunner’s hand that was ultimately raised and the title belt placed upon his waist.

Mike Gunner has reached the pinnacle of Texas wrestling! But that also means he is a marked man. Nobe Bryant has vowed revenge and Joe Briscoe has promised a rematch. Gunner, however, is the champion and enjoying all the benefits. Mike Gunner is real, he is dangerous, and he has taken over Texas wrestling and King of Sports!

Mike Gunner is the very first King of Sports Heavyweight Champion

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