Billed at 7’3, and 356 pounds, “The American Giant” Buck Brezner stands out in any crowd. Bullied for his awkwardness and lanky frame, professional wrestling became his outlet.
He has traveled many bumpy roads since taking on Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for the WCW tag titles in an empty arena match in ’96, and he has a surprising tale to share!
Buck Brezner: Wrestling’s Humble Giant With a Big Heart
Growing up in Syracuse, New York, Buck Brezner fondly remembers watching wrestling with his father on television.
“Back in the late ’70s, I remember my dad hated the Valiant Brothers, Jimmy and Johnny! But, after meeting “Handsome” Jimmy and having been in the business myself for over 30 years, I have nothing but love and respect for him!”
The wrestling bug bit Buck Brezner a little later while attending a show in 1983 with his parents.
Often bullied during his adolescence for his awkwardness and thin, lanky frame, sports soon became an outlet where he excelled and gained confidence.
“Some people I met helped me become an amateur athlete. So, I started working out at the gym in school and played basketball for several years, and things started to change because I got in shape and filled out.”
But once in basketball, the third round of cuts while trying out for the JV Basketball team sent Brezner into an emotional roller coaster. After that, he barely missed making the team.
Back in the locker room, a crestfallen Brezner channeled his inner wrestler when he threw a sizeable yellow garbage can and sent it flying several feet. It then crashed onto a wall, where debris flew everywhere.
“I didn’t want to hear anything from anybody,” remembers a devastated Buck. “I didn’t know how to handle it. So many felt I’d been slighted and deserved to be on that team.”
After explaining the situation to his dad, he told Buck, “You did your best, and now it’s time to move on to other things.”
One of the few things that made him feel good about himself had been torn away.
“I cried myself to sleep that night,” he sadly recalls.
Meeting Gorilla Monsoon
The following Monday, the school’s wrestling coach, Ron Rock, encouraged a young Buck Brezner to go out for the team.
“I’m like, why in the hell would I want to wrestle?” he remembers, thinking about the surprising offer.
“I heard through the grapevine that you like professional wrestling,” Rock added.
That stopped a surprised Buck in his tracks.
Rock sweetened the deal by saying, “I’ll tell you what. I can teach you the basics. And maybe I can help get you into professional wrestling when you graduate.”
“Yeah, right,” thought Buck.
“I went to college in Ithaca with a man I know you’ve seen on TV,” explained the coach. “Gorilla Monsoon. He used to wrestle, pretty good at it too.”
“Gorilla Monsoon? Come on, coach, stop BSing me,” shot back an incredulous 17-year-old Buck.
But at the insistence of Coach Rock, Buck went to the arena in Syracuse, where the WWF was having a show. The coach told him to seek out Monsoon and send him his regards.
At a time in the late ’80s when the WWF crew was still somewhat accessible, Buck could track down the sizeable play-by-play broadcaster who, earlier in his wrestling career, claimed to hail from Manchuria and was unable to speak a lick of English. But now, he was the beloved voice of the WWF, who often used exaggerated and farcical medical terms to add humor to his comments.
“Mr. Monsoon,” said a nervous Buck introducing himself.
“Call me Gorilla,” offered Monsoon politely.
“Okay. Well, I have a message for you.”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Ron Rock asked me to say hello to you.”
“I know Ron very well. You tell him I said hi back,” said a smiling Monsoon.
Now Buck was very intrigued. He’d seen men of all girths and sizes on TV, so why not him?
As a heavyweight, opponents for the big youngster were sometimes scarce, but his best run at the amateur level was his senior year, where he won a couple of championship tournaments.
In 1988 he was named “Most Improved Wrestler of the Year.”
Encounters with Different Wrestlers
In a matter of months, Buck Brezner soon got to know several people who helped open doors for him, and his confidence was at a new level.
His new coach was Derek Bickford, who’d gone to school with Brad Rheingans, a multi-time medalist for the Pan-American Games and bronze medalist for the 1979 World Wrestling Championships, and later a pro wrestler and respected trainer.
Gino Carabello, who mainly worked as an enhancement talent throughout his career, visited Buck’s school. He also went to Buck’s house one night and explained to his parents that getting into professional wrestling was a real possibility for Buck.
When finishing school, he called a number Mike Rotunda (who later became IRS in the WWF) gave him; it was none other than a legendary athlete and masked wrestler “Destroyer” Dick Beyer. Buck recalls that he was very pleasant to talk with and a “real gentleman.”
“Buck, I got a phone call from Michael (Rotunda),” said Beyer.
“I hear that you’re a decent person and an outstanding athlete, but I’ve just retired from the business. Have you ever heard of a guy named the Great [Boris] Malenko? Malenko has been around a long time and is one of the top heels in Florida. He’s a sweet man and a great trainer. I’m going to refer you to him.”
At the time, Buck confesses that it all seemed too far-fetched but hoped he’d be proven wrong.
Three days later, he got a call from the professor.
“I loved him since the first time we talked,” recalls Buck. “Larry was such a great guy.”
“Bucky. I’ve heard good things about you,” started Malenko. “If you can get down here, I want to get you started training. I want to send you to Japan with the Nasty Boys, Mr. Perfect, and Big Bossman and get you some more experience with the Japanese guys.”
“I got lucky,” admits Buck. “Because of my learning disability, I qualified for a special student loan. So even though I had little income, my tuition for the wrestling school got paid for after they confirmed that it was legit. I was so excited about getting trained!”
How a Chance Meeting with Marc Mero Changed his Life
While still in Syracuse, Buck Brezner worked as a bouncer to try and earn extra cash. But he only had wrestling and Tampa on his mind, and one customer couldn’t help but notice how he was smitten.
That night’s customer was wrestler Marc Mero, also known as Johnny B. Badd in WCW.
“Marc and I know each other very well; I’ve always loved his gimmick,” said Buck.
“He came up to me that night and said in his Johnny B. Badd voice, ‘Bucky, what’re you smiling so much about, baby?'”
“I’m going down to Florida in the next couple of weeks. I’m breaking into the business.”
“So, who’s going to train you?” an animated Marc Mero asked.
His eyes became wide-eyed, and he beamed, “He trained me! You’ll have a blast with him. A lot of the boys came out of there.”
Training in Tampa with The Malenkos
Buck’s family was firmly behind him, and soon they relocated to the Tampa area in 1989 and bought a house.
“Now, people back in Syracuse used to ridicule and make fun of me,” remembers Buck. “You’re not going to make it, blah, blah. But also, many told me to bust my a**, get in there and get it done. Learn from these guys.”
Malenko was a formidable trainer and well-schooled in the old wrestling style, firmly believing in paying your dues and listening more than talking.
And once he saw Buck’s impressive height, he soon had in mind a specific way he wanted Buck Brezner to present himself.
“One night, I had my first match; it was a six-man tag at the Tampa Sportatorium. Larry put on the show, and his sons Dean and Joe, who were like brothers to me, were there. I got the finish, but I went off script and climbed the top rope. I leaped off, and my seven-foot frame came crashing down with an elbow drop on one of my opponents.”
“When I returned to the back, I felt good about myself and thought everything had turned out well, but professor Malenko called me back in a private area. He had this look that I didn’t like.”
What had he done wrong?
“Bucky, come here right now! If I ever catch you on that top rope again, I will fire you right on the spot! Do you hear me?”
A heartbroken Bucky was confused, not understanding what he’d done wrong.
Word of their father’s scolding got back to Dean and Joe. They called Buck over and inquired what had transpired. Their father could be a stern taskmaster, but he always meant well.
After Buck told them, Dean and Joe advised the youngster. “He thinks very highly of you and sees true potential. But he wants you to look strong, like a big man. Use that size. Don’t work like a normal-sized wrestler.”
Since then, the concept of “working like a big man” clicked in the back of Buck Brezner’s mind, and he’s followed that advice throughout his career.
“He trained me properly on utilizing my size like a Big John Studd, Kevin Nash, or Mark Calaway (The Undertaker), but not too much of the technical side. I used to watch a lot of André the Giant matches also.”
Different Gimmicks for Buck Brezner
When looking at Buck Brezner, it’s almost impossible not to think of the Addams Family’s butler, Lurch, which isn’t bad! One fellow student even suggested Buck adopt a persona like the unique-looking Addams Family majordomo.
“You rang?” bellowed Buck Brezner in full-blown Lurch mode in front of all the students and professor Malenko.
“Larry was sitting there laughing his butt off!” Buck remembers.
Then he asked Buck, “Whom do you want your first opponent to be?
“Let’s make Dean [Malenko] my first!”
Dean looked at him and said, “What are you freaking nuts? I’m not wrestling you! You’ll hurt me!”
Buck remembers Dean as a superb ring technician who “cracked me up.”
“I commonly used the name ‘Big Buck’ Brezner, but a friend of mine came up with the idea of calling me the 7-Foot Sasquatch, which went over well for a time. I had people jeering me and booing me out of the building. I enjoy being a heel but can work baby as well.”
Glenn Jacobs (Kane) and His Odd Way of Introducing Buck Brezner to Wrestling!
Early in his career, Buck Brezner worked out in the ring with Glen Jacobs (Kane in WWE), a big man who had an odd way of introducing Buck to professional wrestling!
“We had a great workout and later match at the school. Glen was accommodating and gave me lots of good tips,” said Buck.
“He then told me, ‘Bucky. I tell you what, if you screw up, I’ll give you a special surprise. So don’t screw up!'”
“Okay, sure,” I replied.
Buck admits that working with Glen was challenging because he wasn’t used to someone with a similar frame. But it soon became second nature, and according to him, the match was going well.
Buck did screw up somewhere during the match.
“Bucky, come here; I got to tell you something,” Jacobs said.
“Yeah, what?” I replied.
After a moment’s pause, a fart sound emanated from the middle of the ring!
“You freaking pig!” I yelled at him.
“That’s your initiation; welcome to the Malenko family, brother!” he answered with a hearty laugh.
A Not-So-Nice Encounter with Vince McMahon
Early in his career, Buck Brezner got a little too ambitious with one of the biggest and most controversial names in wrestling, Vince McMahon. Buck related the story:
He continued, “Vince comes out of his car, shakes my hand, and says, ‘Hi, how are you?'”
“And then I politely told him, ‘You know, I broke into the business. If you ever need an extra jobber or whatever, let me know, and I’ll be more than happy to work for you.'”
“He suddenly slapped my hand and said, ‘Get the f*** away from me! We don’t deal with jabronis like you!'”
McMahon walked off.
“About a half-hour to 45 minutes later, somewhere around there, word got back to Chief Jay Strongbow and George “The Animal Steele.” They approached me and said:
“Big guy, rumor has it that you went up to Vince? Is that true? Be honest with us,” Steele insisted.
“Yes, sir. I did,” I confessed.
Steele said, “Whatever you do, do not go to Vince. Come to us. We’re the bookers. Big guy, many people are leaving World Wrestling Federation because of Vince. Savage is leaving, Hogan is leaving, and many others are leaving because of him.”
“We know that you started with Malenko. Just keep on learning, and you’ll get there. You’ll get there. Don’t rush things.”
Buck admits this angered him but is aware that he was trying to force things too much. Nevertheless, word soon got back to professor Malenko about what happened at the Sun Dome.
He said, “Bucky, I’ll tell you what, just let them come to you. Just continue busting your a** in the ring and learning and doing what you’re doing. You just got to learn how these outside things work too.
An introspective Buck Brezner shared his feeling about the situation.
“Do I despise McMahon? No, but I was hurt by what he did.”
“Today, people ask me that if WWE called, would I go? Sure, I would. I want to work for a major company. The only thing I do not like about WWE right now is that they need to bring the big guys back, the seven-footers.”
Empty Arena Match Against Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in WCW
Buck Brezner used this rejection to fuel his inner fire. It motivated him to continue pushing forward.
Soon, an opportunity came that, to this day, it’s what he’s probably best known for. He relates his memorable albeit short journey and the match with WCW, which aired on November 233rd, 1996, on Monday Nitro.
“One afternoon, I got off work and heard that WCW was at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, so I went to see if I could go hang out with the boys, but the security guard didn’t know who I was and wouldn’t let me inside.”
“Are you a wrestler?” he asked.
“I’m one of the independent wrestlers,” Buck told him.
“Then one of The Nasty Boys, Jerry Saggs or Brian Knobbs, looked up and said, ‘Yeah, let that big goof through. He’s one of us.'”
Scott Hall then came up to him and went, ‘Hey yo, Bucky, come here. You got your gear with you? Would you like to work with us tonight? ‘Pistol’ Pez Whatley’s partner called out.”
Orndorff asked, “Are you in great shape?”
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
“Well, there are two forms you got to sign,” he said. “One, to put you on national TV, and two, we got to pay you. So, get your gear; you will be on WCW Nitro.”
Arn Anderson later advised him and stressed, “Whatever you do, pretend the cameras aren’t there and that it’s a normal house show.”
“I was married then and told my wife I had a shot to work on TV with the nWo Outsiders Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in an empty-arena match. It was a great learning experience.”
The nWo Invitational Tag Team Tournament featured members of the nWo in empty arenas cracking jokes on commentary while filming The Outsiders Scott Hall and Kevin Nash working over lesser-known wrestlers.
Nonetheless, it was exposure for wrestlers in the company that was currently beating the WWE in ratings. However, Pez Whatley, Buck Brezner’s teammate, was the exception because he was a veteran of the former territories and succeeded in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Poffo’s ICW, and Jim Crockett Promotions.
WWE inducted Whatley into their Hall of Fame as a Legacy Member in 2021.
Unfortunately, bringing Buck back never materialized. He believes there were plans in the works, but the answers as to why he wasn’t were unclear.
“Eric Bischoff spoke briefly with me afterward. And not sure if he’d remember this anymore, but Arn Anderson commended me in his pleasant and honest demeanor, saying, ‘You sold very well for the nWo. Great job.’ The Nasty Boys too.”
Watch Buck Brezner’s appearance on WCW Nitro:
Backstage Shenanigans in WCW
In the brief period at WCW, Buck Brezner made friends with several wrestlers and remembers everything as a positive experience.
“Col. Ron Parker (Ron Fuller) started saying, ‘You know that d*** Sasquatch, he chuckles me to death. He’s nothing but a meatball.'”
He didn’t know Buck was behind him, and he took his hat off.
“Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know you were standing behind me!” he yelled.
Buck remembers The Barbarian and “The Giant” Paul Wight chopping him several times.
Barbarian was “laughing his butt off.”
Buck then had an idea. He spat on his palm and called out The Barbarian.
“Hey, Barbie!” cried out Brezner.
When Barbarian turned around, Brezner let him have it. A stiff chop square across his bare chest.
“Everyone was going nuts!” recalls Buck. “They couldn’t believe I’d done that because I was new inside that locker room.”
Hulk Hogan then ran into the locker room, thinking a fight was breaking out!
“Bucky just nailed the Barbarian!” someone exclaimed.
“Oh, word!” said a surprised Hogan. Ray Trayler (Bossman) was also in the locker room, nodding his head at the crazy scenario.
“But Barbarian was cool with the whole thing,” said Buck. “He wore my handprint that night, though! Everybody treated me well in WCW. But Booker T got me real good once!”
He explained, “There was a TV taping at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando; Nasty Ned Brady, whom I’d wrestled with dozens of times on the indies, was working that show and brought me backstage.”
“Broker T was around and went, ‘You’re Bucky. Right?’ I’ve heard about you running your mouth about me and trying to cause heat!”
“What? I wasn’t trying to do anything.”
And this point, Buck remembers getting scared because it seemed like Booker T would let him have it. Even security thought he was in trouble.
But Booker had ribbed him and given him a smile and a wink. A relieved Buck was happy “T” was only playing!
Buck’s Favorite Opponents
Even with many opponents over the years, Buck Brezner remembers working well with three during his 30-plus year career: The Cuban Assassin (Fidel Sierra), Lanny Poffo, and Nasty Ned Brady.
“When working the indies, you get to wrestle with former WWF and WCW employees. Promoters started liking my work style, and more opportunities up and down the east coast opened. But I’ve also worked in the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Baltimore, Maryland, and in Utah against Tombstone Jesus.
Longtime referee Bill Alfonso from NWA/WWF and ECW refereed a match Buck had against the Cuban Assassin and told him, “I’ll tell you what, you got those people going! You listened to instructions, and that was great. You keep doing that, and you’ll turn out just fine.”
Buck has nothing but praise for the veteran Cuban Assassin.
“I was pleased with all my matches with Cuban; he’s great. I love his talent, and I love how he wrestles, you know, I can’t, I couldn’t ask for more.”
If you watch matches from the ’90s, at some point, you’ll probably come across Nasty Ned, an often-overconfident enhancement talent with a rather mean disposition. He’d always look up at the lights in a daze after getting pinned. But on the indie scene, he found his niche.
“In a particularly violent match with Nasty Ned at a Tampa baseball field, I’ll never forget that I picked up a chain and whacked him in the head.”
“Bucky, I’m still seeing stars! You stiffed me badly!” revealed Nasty Ned several days later.
I went, “Oops! Sorry.”
I thought he would potato me back, but he never did and told me that “accidents happen!”
The Always Gracious Angelo and Lanny Poffo
“On the 4th of July weekend in 1996, I became the WPWF champion for a local Florida promotion out of New Port Richey, Florida, where a dear friend named Hurricane Bob was the referee.
“In that promotion, I also had the great pleasure of working with The Genius Lanny Poffo in January of ’97,” Buck relates.
“The promoter asked me to put the title on the line against Lanny. It turned out to be a tremendous scientific bout, but I lost that match thanks to outside interference from Lanny’s father, Angelo Poffo, who had been in his corner.
“Lanny didn’t seem to have been on it, so he turned around after the official result, saying that he couldn’t accept the title due to what happened. So, he was going to return the belt to the ‘7-Foot Sasquatch.’ People cheered me after that. I couldn’t believe it!
“Lanny and I tagged against JD Slaughter and the Lebanese Assassin on another date. Lanny leaped gracefully off the top rope and got us the win.
“A remarkable thing happened to me that night too.
“Angelo Poffo patted my boot and said, ‘You did a great job; keep up the good work.’ He was very encouraging before the match also. He added, ‘Oh, and by the way, you did great in WCW.'”
A Career Resurgence as “The American Giant”
In 2015, Buck Brezner had a career resurgence by calling himself “The American Giant.”
As a born-again believer, he brought to God in prayer his dilemmas, which included little leisure time, fatigue from constantly working, and marital problems. The key to this new-found persona is that he claims God inspired him to change his character and represent him through his craft.
“I’m a seven-foot-three giant in height but mostly in heart. The only true giant is André. I wrestle hard against anybody they match me up against, and now always represent the United States.
“This change refreshed my career, and I’ve stuck with it since.”
Through ups and downs, Buck Brezner has tried to lead by example and, at over 50, continues to grind it out and doesn’t ever lose hope of being called up once more by a major promotion, even if some callously label him as “delusional.”
An unfazed Buck Brezner responds, “You never know who will call you next, so you must always be ready.”
He’ll also gladly provide his knowledge to anyone wanting to get into the sport he loves and respects. Experience goes a long way, but a good attitude is even more crucial.
“I tell everybody to stay humble, or it’ll bite you in the butt. Don’t get the fricking superstar attitude.”
He regularly recommends “Boogie’s Wrestling Camp and Hall of Fame Museum” (BWC) in Shawsville, Virginia, run by Jimmy Valiant. Frankie Reyes’s “Pro Wrestling Training Camp” in Tampa, Florida, promises to teach you “The Malenko Way” and the Puertorican Hound Dogg and Dogg Pound Wrestling Academy in Hudson, Florida.
Bruck Brezner has had various setbacks in his career due to injuries, but he’s happy to say he is doing well and lives in the Tampa, Florida, area.
And lastly, he wants all to know that “If any major promotion needs a seven-foot big man, I’m always available!”
For future bookings, Buck Brezner can be contacted through his Facebook page.
Thank you to author Jim Phillips for conducting the initial interview with Buck Brezner for this article and Javier Ojst for the follow-up calls and for composing the above write-up.
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