Former Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor star Jimmy Rave gave everything to professional wrestling. He surrendered his mind, limbs, and, unfortunately, his life to the business.
Jimmy Rave and His Battle Outside of the Ring
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Jimmy Rave was raised in the heart of wrestling country. He made his debut in 1999 and worked for various promotions, including the NWA, CZW, Dragon Gate, TNA, NJPW, Full Impact Pro, and Ring Ka King. However, it was a young, burgeoning company where he would instill himself within the lifeblood of professional wrestling – Ring of Honor.
No-one knew for sure at the time, but Ring of Honor would become synonymous with producing a multitude of talented workers who would subsequently reach the WWE: CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens), Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro), and many, many more.
Rave’s Ring of Honor journey began with a pre-show match against future WWE Champion AJ Styles in 2002, and he would, over time, wrestle all of the top dogs who performed for the company. His breakout angle saw him team with The Embassy, a heel stable managed by Prince Nana. The group drew white-hot heat from live crowds wherever ROH was touring.
Such was the ferocity with which The Embassy was hated; it became commonplace for the enthusiastic ROH fans to litter the ring with toilet paper during The Embassy’s entrance. The regular dirty protests reached a boiling point, as company officials had to ask fans to stop! Being the old-school heel wrestler he aspired to be, Rave only signed autographs for kids in his attempt to keep kayfabe alive.
The heat garnered enabled Rave to work a long program with future WWE champion and fan-favorite CM Punk. It culminated in a steel-cage main-event match on May 14th, 2005.
It was this bout against CM Punk that Rave cherished, and it was one of the topics Jimmy and I discussed in a 2007 interview on the PWB Podcast.
“I love CM Punk and my cage match in Chicago because it was the culmination of everything we had done,” Rave told me. “It was in CM Punk’s hometown. The story was there, and it was just a great way to end the war that we had.”
Over the next couple of years, Ring of Honor accrued and developed even more top talent. To glance at their roster in the mid-2000s is mind-boggling. Despite his long run within the company, many felt the new blood would ultimately overshadow Rave. Not so, as Rave feuded with Bryan Danielson and Homicide in Ring of Honor World Championship matches on marquee Ring of Honor events.
“I loved my match with Bryan from the Fourth Year Anniversary Show because I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes. People were like, ‘Wow, if Jimmy wants to, he can really wrestle.'”
Watch Jimmy Rave vs. Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan):
Jimmy Rave proved the doubters wrong and even turned down lucrative opportunities to depart ROH, such was his desire to remain with the promotion that had loyally stood by him for many years.
“Ultimately, I felt that Ring of Honor had stuck with me for so long, and I felt like I’d given everything to them,” Rave explained. “I saw all these other guys leaving, (Colt) Cabana and (CM) Punk and (Samoa) Joe and felt I needed to step up and, instead of maybe making more money somewhere else, maybe help them grow and be a part of something special.”
He loved Ring of Honor and stayed loyal as they lost, with almost annual regularity, multiple high-profile roster members. They not only survived but thrived. It didn’t matter who main-evented the card – it just mattered what three initials were hosting the card.
“I don’t think one person sells-out a Ring of Honor event. If they bring (in) Jushin Liger or Lance Storm or anybody else, I think Ring of Honor as a product sells tickets,” he said. “We lost Joe; we lost Punk; we lost Cabana, and a lot of people thought these guys were irreplaceable, but it shows people weren’t coming to see them – they were coming to see the product.”
During our interview in 2007, Ring of Honor was at the genesis of its move towards producing pay-per-views, and I could sense how passionate he was for the company moving forward. He was also about to embark on a tour of Japan with his beloved ROH and Dragon Gate.
“We were able to take a wrestling company without being on TV or pay-per-view; we created a market for it, just by DVD sales, and that was a whole new market. We told our stories through DVDs that people had to buy. We were running 30-40 dates a year, and no other company in the United States was doing that.”
The company’s success since that era is a testament to such hard-working talents as Jimmy Rave. ROH might not have sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2019 had it not been for the toil and endeavor of Jimmy Rave.
However, it wasn’t all sunshine and smiles, don’t forget that pro wrestling is brutal employment.
Injuries Derailing a Promising Career
Just a couple of nights before our interview, Takeshi Morishima had successfully retained his ROH World Title against Jimmy. He mentioned that he was suffering from a hurt neck via Morishima’s notorious backdrop driver finisher. As the conversation progressed, a substantial portion of our chat, unfortunately, revolved around injuries.
On March 4th, 2007, Nigel McGuinness defeated Jimmy Rave in a Fight Without Honor (ROH’s version of a feud-ending No-Holds Barred contest). It appeared Rave had not only lost the rivalry, but he’d suffered a serious injury too.
“If you watch the match, you see how many times he hits me on the right side of my jaw – I don’t know how I wasn’t crying by then,” he said of his post-fight thoughts before eventually realizing the extent of his broken jaw.
Shockingly, he fulfilled a Full Impact Pro booking just six nights later with said injury.
“Actually, what had happened is, I originally broke my jaw against Samoa Joe in Philadelphia (mid-February 2007) that just partially cracked it. I wrestled about four or five times, and finally, I had my match with Nigel, and he caught me with the lariat, right on the jaw. It cracked all the way from my wisdom tooth down. They had to wire me shut for about four weeks.”
He returned less than two months later, much earlier than he probably should have, but if you don’t wrestle – you don’t get paid. That’s the sad reality for employers without the benefit of any sick pay.
“I came back way before I should have,” he revealed. “If you sit in your house too long and wrestling is in your blood – you kind of go crazy.”
In that return match, he split his eye open after a gruesome head clash with fellow ROH veteran BJ Whitmer. He must have pondered that luck was not on his side while he sat in the hospital being administered seven stitches to seal the wound. Just over a month later, more damage would be inflicted upon Rave and Bryan Danielson.
“I sprained my back in Philadelphia. My back had been really weird after taking a move. I went to the hospital with Bryan Danielson that night because he cracked his head open against Nigel. They stapled his head shut and told me I had a sprained back.”
Such was his dedication to not only his craft but the ROH fans too; injuries would not faze the toughened pro. After all, he’d competed with a broken freakin’ jaw!
“The fans expect so much out of you, so you really have to bring it. I knew my jaw was totally messed up when I wrestled Nigel. People paid to see that match, and I had to give it to them.”
Later in 2007, Rave would venture to TNA and form the Rock and Rave Connection tag-team with Lance Hoyt/Archer. He would sporadically return to ROH and work for a plethora of independent promotions for the next decade-plus.
However, disaster struck in late-2020 when Rave took to Twitter to announce the following:
“I have been very blessed for the last 21 years in professional wrestling and getting to live out my dream. Today, that dream has ended for me, and I have a new reality. This past Tuesday, my world came crashing down when doctors found an infection in my left arm. I tried toughing it out, but by the time I saw a doctor, it was too late, and they had to amputate my left arm above the elbow. Thus effectively ending my in-ring career.
“I appreciate everyone who has supported me or anyone who has pegged me with a roll of toilet paper.
“To my brothers & sisters I have shared the ring with or a locker room; thank you for always pushing me to be better. Thank You to all of my mentors and my students who allow me to still feel needed.
“This was the hardest thing I have ever had to type. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to DM me. Please take your health much more seriously than I did. I am sorry for anyone I have let down. Support pro wrestling!”
Rave started a GoFundMe to help raise money for a prosthetic arm to make life just a little bit easier. The fundraising account was later kept open to help with his ongoing medical costs.
The Tragic Passing of Jimmy Rave
Sadly, following his harrowing battle with ill-health, Jimmy Rave died on December 12th, 2021. He was 39 years old.
His tragic passing comes less than two months after Rave confirmed both of his legs had been amputated after contracting MRSA.
The statement read, “James was best known as Professional Wrestler, Jimmy Rave. His career, which started in 1999, continued for over two decades.
“Outside of wrestling, he held the position of Director of the Bartow County, Georgia Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Centre for several years.”
The statement added, “Jimmy had been struggling with drug addiction for many years. His struggles resulted in the amputation of his arm, and, later, both of his legs.
“James is survived by his ex-wife Felicia, daughter Kailah, son James II, and parents Jim and Toni Guffey.”
Jimmy Rave gave EVERYTHING to pro wrestling. Having spent 21 years in the business, Rave got to live a lifelong dream of traveling the world for promotions such as NWA, CZW, Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate, TNA, NJPW, and Ring Ka King.
Jimmy Rave did a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on February 15th, 2021, where he answered over fifty questions from fans. You can read this AMA here.
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