Buff Bagwell – A Tumultuous Life in and Out of the Ring

He called himself "The Stuff," but outside of the ring, Marcus Buff Bagwell found himself caught up in a whole lot of it. Here is a brief look at his tumultuous life.

Buff Bagwell - A Tumultuous Life in and Out of the Ring

The Turbulent Life of Buff Bagwell

Marcus Alexander Bagwell was born in Marietta, Georgia, on January 10th, 1970, to Judy and Steve Bagwell.

As a child, Bagwell lived a life of opulence, due mainly to the thriving family lumber business.

Marcus’ first athletic conquest came at twelve when he won the Georgia Golden Gloves boxing championship for his weight class. Marcus also played as a first baseman on the Sprayberry High School baseball team and starred in football as a fullback and backup quarterback.

During his junior year of high school, Bagwell severely tore his hamstring muscle, causing him to miss an entire season of football. As difficult as this was for him, it paled compared to what was to come one year later.

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Pulling the Trigger on His Father

Along with his stellar athletic endeavors, Buff Bagwell experienced trauma due to domestic squabbles in the home.

“I got a story that is completely off the chain,” the five-time WCW Tag Team Champion Buff Bagwell once said in a 2009 interview with the Coshocton Tribune. “It’s crazy. Literally, it really is. I shot my father when I was 18 years old for beating my mom up. So, way beyond wrestling, my life’s been crazy. He’s still alive, and now we’re best friends.”

The family lumber business went belly up during Marcus’ senior year of high school, causing him to take his work elsewhere.

After graduating from high school, Bagwell earned a certification in massage therapy, but this career was about as brief as his male escort business. More on that later.

Entry Into the World of Professional Wrestling

Marcus Bagwell’s entry into the world of professional wrestling was, mirroring most of his life, unique.

At that time, Bagwell was twenty, married to his first wife, and living in an apartment complex in suburban Atlanta.

While working on his tan at the complex’s pool, he was greeted by a vivacious and buxom blonde by the name of Melissa Hiatt, better known to us wrestling aficionados as Missy Hyatt.

A young Buff Bagwell was introduced to the world of professional wrestling after meeting Missy Hyatt by chance at his Atlanta apartment complex pool.
A young Buff Bagwell was introduced to the world of professional wrestling after meeting Missy Hyatt by chance at his Atlanta apartment complex pool.

Later that same evening, Marcus answered a knock on his door. It was Missy Hyatt, who informed him that she had just moved into the apartment across the hall from him.

At this point, Miss Hyatt was introduced to the rest of his family (including, of course, Mrs. Bagwell). Hyatt told Marcus that he had a great look and was fairly certain that he could do well in her chosen vocation of professional wrestling.

At first, Bagwell scoffed until she casually mentioned that even the lower card performers were making close to $100,000.

This piqued Bagwell’s interest, and off Bagwell went to train to become a professional wrestler.

Marcus would be trained by Steve “The Brawler” Lawler (no relation to Jerry).

He did not fare well on the first day of school and needed a bit of “schooling” from Hyatt, who smartened him up a bit as to the realities of the business.

Buff managed to get through training and subsequently headed to the North Georgia Wrestling Alliance, where he appeared as Fabulous Fabian.

After a brief stint, it was off to the Dallas-based Global Championship Wrestling, where he wrestled under a mask as the Handsome Stranger, hailing from Monte Carlo.

Buff Bagwell first burst onto the pro wrestling scene as the "Handsome Stranger," a stripper and kissing bandit in white trunks and a mask. [Photo: wrestlingarsenal.net]
Part of the Handsome Stranger’s gimmick was to hand out roses and plant kisses on the ladies in attendance as he made his way to the ring.

Getting a Call From WCW

To supplement his meager wrestling earnings at the time, Bagwell worked as a male stripper at a local club called The Lemon Peel. Soon, his services would be offered to a much grander audience.

Bagwell was on the radar of World Championship Wrestling at the time, and he soon received a call from Terry Allen — better known to most of us as Magnum TA.

Allen arranged a meeting between Buff and Dusty Rhodes, then chief booker for WCW. He would soon make his WCW debut against Mike Graham on November 5th, 1991, a non-televised match in which Buff came out on the short end.

Marcus would make his television debut a bit more than a month later on December 14th, defeating Rip Rogers on Saturday night’s World Championship Wrestling show.

Watch The Handsome Stranger (Buff Bagwell) vs. Rip Rogers for Global Championship Wrestling, Filmed Before Bagwell’s WCW Debut:

YouTube video

To have gone from tanning at his apartment pool to starring in the second-largest wrestling company in the world at age twenty-one, in the span of fewer than two years, was an amazing accomplishment.

Bagwell’s ten years with World Championship Wrestling, while not spectacular, was certainly above average. He captured the WCW World Tag Team Championship on five different occasions with four different partners. To blend with several different contrasting styles is the mark of a very good worker.

Becoming Buff Bagwell

On November 25, 1996, Marcus Bagwell joined the New World Order (nWo) after turning on his then-partner, Scotty Riggs. He soon renamed himself as Buff Bagwell.

Although the membership had swelled to virtually half the WCW roster by now, Buff was a featured member of the faction.

In 1998, Bagwell suffered what is clinically known as a broken neck due to a botched Bulldog Headlock from Rick Steiner during a tag match.

YouTube video

This unfortunate incident may very well be the turning point in Bagwell’s career.

At this time, Buff Bagwell was only 28, which for a professional wrestler is the proverbial babe in the woods. Buff had a marvelous look, had become quite proficient on the mic, and was a decent worker in the ring. One can only speculate as to the incredible career that may have awaited him.

To quote the late and very great Paul Harvey, what follows is the rest of the story.

Questionable Choices and an Arrest Derails a Promising Career

If there is one thing Buff Bagwell was known for, it would be his lack of professionalism when the cameras weren’t running.

An example of this? His arrest for assault at a WCW Thunder taping in May of 2000.

Darrell Miller, a WCW stagehand, was trying to leave the arena with carpet from the show when Buff and a group of wrestlers began blocking the exit. When Darrell asked to get by, Bagwell referred to him with a racial slur twice, then punched him in the neck.

When police arrived, they were shown photographs of the injury and given eye-witness testimony of what happened. The police later determined that Buff Bagwell was at fault, and he was immediately arrested for assault.

Bagwell would be suspended by WCW following the debacle for 30 days. Soon, his career would enter its final turn in 2001.

Buff Bagwell in WWE – A Curse Upon Arrival

In March of 2001, World Wrestling Entertainment (then the WWF) purchased WCW from Time Warner AOL for the paltry sum of $4.2 million.

Buff was one of the first wrestlers contacted by WWE to accept a buy-out of his contract.

The crown jewel of WCW, Sting, refused to sign, as did Lex Luger.

Bagwell was thirty-one at this time and entering into what should have been the peak of his career.

The beginning of the end for Buff Bagwell occurred during a training session for the new WCW recruits. Apparently, there were differences in both ring size and rope composition between WCW and WWE, which required some adjustments on the part of the new employees.

During the class, Bagwell apparently tormented Shane “Hurricane” Helms, allegedly telling him that he would never amount to anything due to his lack of muscle mass or definition.

The fight escalated with a slap from Bagwell (per his interview with Steve Austin), which was answered by Helms with a frozen water bottle to the back of Bagwell’s head, causing him to receive approximately 20 stitches.

Winner: Shane Helms, both in this altercation, WWE career achievements, and longevity.

On July 1, 2001, Bagwell wrestled his fellow WCW alumni Booker T at a WWF house show. A televised match followed this with Booker on the July 2nd edition of Raw Is War from Tacoma, Washington.

The match has been described as awkward at best and horrible at worst.

Watch Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell in a July 2nd, 2001 match that WWE has since hailed as “the most awkward match ever.”

YouTube video

During a dark match the following night, Bagwell allegedly complained about a stiff powerbomb delivered by Bradshaw (soon to be JBL) of the Acolytes. His answer to the complaint? A second helping of powerbomb a la carte!

Blaming Others For His WWE Departure

Per Buff Bagwell, he was told to take the following weekend off and come back for the next Raw Is War taping, which was in his adopted hometown of Atlanta, at the Phillips Arena.

When he showed up that night, he was “future endeavored” by Jim Ross and Vince McMahon.

He lasted only eight days with the company.

While Buff claims that he was asked to take time off, others have stated that his mother Judy Bagwell called WWF offices requesting that her son get time off to heal from an injury supposedly inflicted on her son from the powerbomb by Bradshaw and to complain about her son’s travel arrangements. However, Bagwell himself claims someone else was to blame for his firing from the WWF.

“I am 100% convinced, right or wrong, that Jim Ross ruined my career,” Bagwell stated on The Steve Austin Show. “There are only three witnesses: Jim, God, and me.”

Bagwell went on, “I believe with all my heart that Jim Ross really, really, really took his time out to bury me. I don’t know where that hatred came from. He loved football players and athletes, and we talked every week when he was at WCW.”

As there are two sides to every story, here is what Jim Ross had to say on his visit to The Steve Austin show a few months later.

“I never had any personal animosity towards Marc Bagwell,” Ross began. “I knew him when he got into the business. He was a local kid from Atlanta that had a great look and came to WCW to learn his trade, so I’ve known him since day one.

“I had no reason to have an agenda against him for any reason. Was I the guy that gave him his notice? Yes. Was I the person who made the decision to let him go? No. But I never went behind his back.”

Ross continued, “I never had any reason to sabotage his career. Sabotaging careers, people that might be good or anyone else, was never part of my agenda.

“I had to manage over 100 people. Some of them were a little high-spirited, hard to manage. It’s like herding chickens. Good luck on that.

“But here’s the deal. I believe he has the right to say whatever he wants. I’m sorry he believes what he believes. I have no personal animosity towards him whatsoever. But he’s got the story wrong. I didn’t go out of my way to sabotage his career, and I’m sorry that he thinks that way. Somebody said, ‘Do you want to clear your name?’ My name is cleared. I didn’t do anything to feel guilty about.”

Bagwell’s public contention is that he was fired for the bad Raw Is War match with Booker T in Tacoma. In many interviews, he stated that Tacoma was a WWE town and that both he and Booker T were booed that night. Buff contends that if they had waited a week and had the match in Atlanta, all would have been well.

Although Bagwell did have a brief run in TNA and has wrestled in many indie promotions, he would never achieve any further wrestling fame of note.

The Difficulties of Buff Bagwell Later in Life

On April 23, 2012, Buff Bagwell was severely injured in a car accident close to his birthplace of Marietta, Georgia, breaking bones in his face and jaw. He was on a breathing tube for several days and unable to walk for over a week.

In 2014, it came to light that Bagwell was working as a male escort for the Cowboys4Angels website. For the mere pittance of $800, you could treat yourself to two hours of Buff and The Stuff. Now, if you were really a savvy shopper, you could spend $25,000 and get him for an entire week, reducing your unit cost from $400 to a paltry $149 per hour!

Buff Bagwell will be one of those wrestlers that will likely be included in any “what if?” debate. Was Bagwell a victim and wrongfully terminated by the WWE? Or was he simply a victim to his excesses and ego? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Benny J. Scala is a senior writer at Pro Wrestling Stories and co-host of the Dan and Benny In the Ring podcast. He is also a writer/promoter for Jimmy Valiant's Boogie’s Wrestling Camp and Hall of Fame Museum (BWC). Benny is a licensed Florida Realtor and recently joined the writing staff of the Through The Fence Baseball website. He has been a fan of professional wrestling since the late '60s.