On November 21st, 2007, Harrison Norris Jr., who had appeared regularly for World Championship Wrestling as Hardbody Harrison, was found guilty of sex trafficking and prostitution charges by a federal jury in Georgia. He had been living a dark criminal life under the noses of many who knew him.
Who Was Hardbody Harrison?
Known mostly for his physique and strange ring attire, Hardbody Harrison never moved above the preliminary level, regularly losing to more established stars on WCW Monday Nitro. Before getting involved in professional wrestling, Norris had served in the United States Army overseas during Operation Desert Storm. He then trained at the WCW Power Plant and debuted with World Championship Wrestling in 1995.
In 2001, Harrison’s contract was not picked up after Vince McMahon and the WWF purchased the company. He subsequently retired from professional wrestling.
Upon stepping away from the ring, he was a party to a multi-plaintiff lawsuit filed by Sonny Onoo on behalf of WCW talents against their former employer, AOL Time Warner, charging the conglomerate with racial discrimination. The suit would be settled out of court for which all the performers, including Harrison, reportedly received a healthy financial settlement.
Following his WCW days, Harrison competed in the FX Series, "Toughman," capturing the show’s heavyweight championship in 2000.
Then, somewhere along the way, something went wrong for the former wrestler, bodybuilder, and fighter.
The Dark Criminal Life of Hardbody Harrison
Local and federal authorities discovered that Hardbody Harrison had been living with several females in a Georgia home as part of a prostitution ring. And most (possibly all) of the women were being held against their will.
From the Associated Press:
ATLANTA (AP) A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a former pro wrestler known as "Hardbody Harrison" of charges that he kept eight women as sex slaves in his two north Georgia homes.
Harrison Norris Jr. was convicted of charges including aggravated sexual abuse, forced labor, sex trafficking, conspiracy, and witness tampering. He was acquitted of all charges involving a ninth woman but still could get life in prison at sentencing, set for February 28th.
Norris, 41, wrestled for the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling organization in the 1990s.
Serving as his own lawyer, he contended that the women willingly lived at his Cartersville home because they wanted to train as pro wrestlers. He says many of them arrived on drugs and left in the best shape of their lives.
During a two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed Norris as a predator who used his wrestling business to lure poor and vulnerable women into prostitution and forced labor.
"I think the jury’s verdict vindicates the rights of the victims who were brave enough to come forward and confront this man who abused them," prosecutor Susan Coppedge said.
Witnesses testified that Norris, a former Army sergeant, and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, imposed a strict military structure, with each of the women assigned to a squad overseen by an "enforcer."
One witness testified that Norris beat or threatened them to keep control and that he threatened to throw one through a hotel window when she would not engage in sex with two customers.
In addition to forcing the victims to work as prostitutes, Norris made them work in and around his houses, requiring them to haul trees, lay sod, and paint, according to testimony.
During the trial, Hardbody Harrison chose to serve as his own attorney, asserting that he was training the women as professional wrestlers and that he had helped them quit drugs. Witnesses for the prosecution contended that Harrison used psychological intimidation, physical abuse, and supposed "debt" the women had incurred to gain control over them. Stories of forced group sex and an environment of servitude would be part of the testimony that helped ensure a guilty verdict.
Based upon the multiple convictions, Harrison Norris Jr., aka Hardbody Harrison, was sentenced to life in prison. He will be given no chance for parole.
"Hardbody Harrison Was Not Liked in WCW"
In the aftermath of the prison sentencing of Hardbody Harrison, his former wrestling peers opened up on the topic.
On the It’s Hughezy, Hello! podcast, Disco Inferno talked about the perception Hardbody Harrison had in WCW.
"When [Hardbody Harrison] was at the WCW Power Plant, he was not well-liked. People didn’t like him. He was a loudmouth, and he thought he was way better than he was. He was one of those guys that didn’t realize it because his attitude was just atrocious. He never really was going to make it."
Disco Inferno continued, "He was also in the WCW racism lawsuit, which was bullshit. This wasn’t racist. This guy was just an ass."
Inferno then relayed a story of the time Harrison took what may have been some of the girls he was trafficking to a Vince Russo wrestling show.
"[Hardbody Harrison] then got all the money, bought a big house, and got into sex trafficking, becoming a pimp. I don’t know if this is true, but I think he had a wrestling ring in his backyard, and he was training the girls to wrestle, too. Which is funny because Vince Russo had a religious show called ‘Ring of Glory,’ and Hardbody showed up. He had eight girls with him. They all were very quiet and wouldn’t speak to anybody, which was really weird. They all sort of had the same expression as if they were lost. We had no idea at the time that he was sex trafficking these girls."
Former wrestler Stevie Ray, in a joking manner, came to the defense of Hardbody Harrison when his name was brought up in an interview with Title Match Wrestling.
"Don’t try to bring up the man’s ill-will and act as though I don’t know anything about it. I know everything about it! I don’t want to hear anything about how the man went to jail for this, that, or the other — he’s probably still in jail. But I’m not here to say anything about that. I’m not here to step on somebody’s throat just because they made a mistake. I’m not going to do that."
When prodded about holding eight women as sex slaves as "just a mistake," Ray sarcastically countered, "Look, anybody can make a mistake like that. Anybody can accidentally hold seven to eight women hostage if you don’t know the back door is locked. You wouldn’t know that. That could happen to anyone. That can actually happen to you if you happen to have seven or eight women in your home. You don’t know what you would do if you had eight beautiful women — well, I don’t know if they were beautiful, I’m just assuming — eight beautiful women in your home, and you don’t want the ecstasy to stop. That can happen to you, and you don’t know what you would do. So don’t try to put the man on blast!
"How can one guy hold eight women hostage? You’re telling me when he’s holding one, the other seven couldn’t run out the door?"
Keeping a straight face but still, clearly joking, Stevie Ray had a moment of seriousness. "Hardbody rode up and down the road with me. Yes, he had some dysfunctional attributes about him, things that Stevie Ray wouldn’t be involved with, but that’s just me. But if this is what he did, and if he paid the price, then he has to do the time. If you do the crime, you have to do the time. But Hardbody Harrison was a really good wrestler at one time. He was a Toughman champion."
The story of Hardbody Harrison is a cautionary tale: a reminder that wrestling drew many marginal people toward its tawdry spotlight.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles which delve further into the "underside of the ring":
- Deviants: Wrestlers Jailed for Abuse
- Bruiser Bedlam – The Insane Crime Life of Wrestling’s Ion Croitoru
- Ludvig Borga – The Surreal, Shocking Life of Tony Halme