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Carey Gable

The Return of Legitimacy – The Mike Gunner Story

Mike Gunner is not a hard man to find. 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 wrestling. When Gunner made his return to the ring on August 21st in Paris, Texas, it was not as some special appearance by a former ring warrior, it was, instead, the return of real legitimacy!

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. Wrestling was a part of his family’s life blood. 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 from the 1980’s. 

            All of this played into his budding psyche. Gunner was 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 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. 

            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 8 knockouts over that span. Then, Gunner jumped into the original Tough Man circuit. Over several years, Gunner dominated the scene going 32-0 with 27 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. On the card that night in Asheboro, North Carolina was none other than Jimmy Valiant and Manny Fernandez. “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 training, Gunner hit the road with none other than his mentor, Manny Fernandez. 

Mike Gunner with Manny Fernandez

            Driving those backroads of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas allowed Fernandez to pour an “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 when 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.” 

            The second break came once Gunner had relocated to Texas. He was simply eating in a local restaurant when he noticed that none other than Skandar Akbar was 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!” 

Gunner with manager JJ Hart

            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 resemble Magnum, not just in physical presence but in the way, he moves around the ring. The similarities can be uncanny at times. 

           In August 21, 2021, Gunner returned to the ring after a near eighteen-month hiatus. He immediately made an impact at King of Sport Wrestling. King of Sport is one of the last of the traditional regional territories that runs a geographical area in Texas. Gunner has declared himself to be the apex of the promotion and plans to take on all comers to prove that the legends, the myths, are still true. Mike Gunner is real, he is dangerous, and he has come to King of Sports! 

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