WWE’s “Big Boss Man”: Ray Traylor’s Secret Life & Tragic Final Days

“Big Boss Man” Ray Traylor

Image Credit: WWE.

Big Boss Man (real name Ray Traylor) went from being used as an enhancement talent with only a handful of matches under his belt to feuding with the NWA and WWE’s top stars as The Big Boss Man within just a few years. His was a career defined by showing up and putting in the work.

Outside the ring, his life appeared fairly normal. But, sadly, tragedy would find him while recovering from two terrible losses.

We have hundreds of great Pro Wrestling Stories, but of course, you can’t read them all today. Sign up to unlock ten pro wrestling stories curated uniquely for YOU, plus subscriber-exclusive content. A special gift from us awaits after signing up!

Before Becoming The Big Boss Man

Photo Credit: WWE.

Ray Traylor was at Jim Crockett Promotions to do the job. That was it.

His career was just starting, and he was being used underneath on the NWA’s flagship TV show.

Booker Dusty Rhodes, maybe feeling a little mischievous that day, took a look at the 6-foot, 6-inch Traylor and booked him against NWA World TV Champion Tully Blanchard for the taping.

Traylor was just a kid from Georgia and was at the tapings because his trainer, “Nightmare” Ted Allen, had brought a group of job guys over from Rome. Now he would be wrestling one of the best wrestlers in the world on national TV.

Did you know? Big Boss Man is the second WWE Hall of Famer trained by Ted Allen. The other? The Enforcer” Arn Anderson.

A Rib During His First Match

Photo Credit: WWE.

Tully Blanchard, 5-feet, 10-inches tall on his best day, used a slingshot suplex as his finisher. It required two parts to be effective.

One, Blanchard had to successfully hoist his opponent thigh-first onto the top rope; and second, the opponent would have to rebound into the suplex.

They had the match, and when it was time for the finish, Traylor floated up, rebounded from the top rope, and went over onto his back perfectly. He started to think of believable ways he could beat the big man.

“I can take it,” Traylor told him, meaning he could execute the move, and so they stuck with the suplex as the finish. When the finish came, Traylor did it flawlessly and took the pin by the world TV champion.

What started as a rib on Tully Blanchard opened some eyes at Jim Crockett Promotions. Specifically, Traylor’s ability and size caught Rhodes’ attention, who promptly took the big man off TV for 12 weeks.

Big Bubba Rogers

Jim Cornette and Big Bubba Rogers (Big Boss Man).
Photo Credit: WWE.

When he returned, he was wearing a suit, sunglasses, and a fedora and acting as Jim Cornette’s bodyguard.

Dusty saw that and said, ‘I’m gonna do something with that boy,'” Jim Cornette told Steve Austin during an episode of Steve Austin’s podcast.

He wasn’t Ray Traylor, a good ol’ boy from Marietta, Georgia, anymore. Now he was Big Bubba Rogers.

Bubba didn’t talk, which was good. Traylor had a naturally high-pitched voice in real life, and Jim Cornette could talk enough for seven people as it was. So Bubba stood around and looked menacing. He could do that, for sure.

As Cornette’s Midnight Express feuded with the James Boys (Rhodes and Magnum TA under masks), Rogers was a silent predator whose issues with the American Dream began to grow on a personal level, which would lead to a feud between the two.

Less than a year in the business, Ray Traylor was feuding with one of the top four draws in the country (behind Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Ric Flair). It was like something out of a Horatio Alger novel.

As Big Bubba Rogers, Traylor would face Rhodes in a series of bunkhouse stampede matches. The blowoff to the feud was a steel cage match, which Rhodes won.

No-Selling Dusty Rhodes

Photo Credit: Jim Crockett Promotions, WWE.

But most people don’t remember the matches Ray had with the American Dream. They remember a moment that caused Dusty Rhodes some consternation on national television.

During an angle between Cornette and Baby Doll, Traylor inserted himself into the action.

Rhodes ran in to save Baby Doll and promptly smashed a wooden chair over Traylor’s head. The chair exploded — but it didn’t even knock Traylor’s hat all the way off.

Traylor never sold the chair shot. He calmly began taking off his coat and tie, getting ready to fight, until Magnum TA ran in with a pair of shovels, and Cornette pulled his bodyguard away.

After the angle, Cornette congratulated agent Klondike Bill, who was supposed to gimmick the chair so that it would break easier. Bill looked at Cornette in horror and said, “Oh ****, I forgot!”

Traylor took the full brunt of the un-gimmicked chair and no-sold it because he was supposed to. Rhodes was building him up as a monster who felt no pain, who was unstoppable.

Big Boss Man’s Commitment to Kayfabe

Photo Credit: WCW Magazine.

And Big Boss Man Ray Traylor’s commitment to kayfabe sometimes came back to bite him.

Once, approaching a show at The Omni in Atlanta, he, Cornette, and the Midnight Express rolled up to the venue in a cab. The driver accidentally shut Traylor’s hand in the door.

Calmly — or at least as calmly as he could — Traylor said, “Hey, brother. The door. Hey, brother, the door.”

The cab driver screamed, “Your hand!” and opened the door. Traylor put his hand in his coat pocket, grabbed his bag with his other hand, and marched into The Omni with Cornette behind him, asking if he was all right.

Traylor didn’t scream until the doors closed.

“My God, why didn’t you sell that?” Cornette recalls asking Traylor.

“I couldn’t, Jimmy,” Traylor replied. “The fans were watching!”

Becoming The Big Boss Man

Big Boss Man, Ray Traylor, in his signature corrections officer uniform, with a wrestler hoisted over his shoulder
Photo: WWE.

Ray Traylor would eventually leave the NWA for the WWF/E.

Vince McMahon christened him The Big Boss Man, nightstick in tow, playing on Traylor’s former career as a prison guard in Cobb County, Georgia.

As a heel as Big Boss Man, Traylor was put into an immediate feud with Hulk Hogan, which drew huge house show numbers across the country.

Traylor was more than just a big man, and in WWF/E, he got a chance to prove it. He was quick as a cat and agile to boot.

He had size, he had a presence, and despite his grizzled, veteran look, he was still young.

In the fall of 1990, Boss Man would feud with Bobby Heenan and Heenan Family after Heenan continually insulted Boss Man’s mother.

He teamed with Akeem the African Dream (AKA One Man Gang) in a storyline to form the Twin Towers, the team against whom the Mega Powers (Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage) would finally implode.

Traylor would move on to high-profile singles feuds with The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau) in a notable Jailhouse Match at SummerSlam ’91 and Nailz (Kevin Wacholz).

Fun fact: Before coming to the WWF/E, Ray Traylor (as Big Bubba Rogers) defeated his soon-to-be tag team partner, Akeem (as One Man Gang), for the UWF Heavyweight Title.

Attitude Era Big Boss Man

Photo Credit: WWE.

After an unremarkable return stint at WCW, where he went through multiple gimmicks (The Big Boss Man, The Guardian Angel, and finally Big Bubba Rogers again) and feuding with the nWo, seeking managerial support from Ted DiBiase, Traylor returned to the World Wrestling Federation, where he’d had his biggest success.

He spent the Attitude Era feuding with the likes of John Tenta and Al Snow, including the infamous Kennel in a Cell match, which was voted the Worst Worked Match of 1999 by the Wrestling Observer. (And as much as we love Big Boss Man around these parts, it was a shoo-in for that award.)

His Run as Hardcore Champion Took a Gruesome Turn

Photo Credit: WWE.

Big Boss Man had a heated feud with Al Snow in the WWF’s Hardcore division, which even involved Snow’s pet chihuahua, Pepper.

At SummerSlam 1999, the two engaged in a Falls Count Anywhere match that went from the backstage area to the street and ended up in a nearby bar. Before the match, Snow had left Pepper’s pet carrier near the entranceway.

Boss Man picked it up during the match, taunted Pepper, hit Snow with the carrier, and carelessly tossed it away. Commentator Jim Ross immediately apologized to viewers for the act and explained that Pepper had been removed from the box before the match.

Poor Pepper

Photo Credit: WWE.

Two weeks later, Boss Man kidnapped Pepper and held him for ransom, feeding Snow a meat dish supposedly made from Pepper’s remains during a meeting.

The feud was resolved in a Kennel from Hell match at Unforgiven, where the objective was to escape from the cage and the cell while avoiding “attack dogs” (which turned out to be disappointingly docile) positioned outside the ring.

Snow won the match and retained the Hardcore title.

Boss Man would later win back the Hardcore title in a triple threat match involving Al Snow and The Big Show and would hold it until January 2000, when he lost it to Test.

Feuding with Big Show: A Memorable Moment Involving a Casket at a Funeral

Photo Credit: WWE.

But despite that weirdness (or maybe because of it, who knows?), Ray Traylor as Big Boss Man eventually ascended to the main event again, this time feuding with Big Show over the WWE title.

It also led to this memorable moment involving a casket at Big Show’s father’s funeral.

While Traylor never won the big title, he had the size and ability to work with the giant and put on credible performances.

The Attitude Era Was Good to the Big Boss Man

Photo Credit: WWE.

The Attitude Era was good to the Big Boss Man, as he feuded with Undertaker (infamously being “hung” after a Hell in the Cell match) and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Eventually, he was assigned to OVW to help train young talent.

In 2003, he was released, though he stayed on good terms with the company.

Even though his career was inarguably a success, it’s important to remember Ray Traylor, the man, too.

“He was a nice guy,” Cornette recalled to Austin. “He was fun to be around. He had a great sense of humor, and he was into the business without being markish.”

The Tragic Death of Big Boss Man

Photo Credit: Big Boss Man Fan Club.

In May of 2002, The Big Boss Man Ray Traylor sustained a serious injury after hitting a deer on his Harley-Davidson.

While still recovering from the accident, his close friend Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) passed away. This was a terrible loss for Traylor.

In July 2004, Traylor ran for Commission Chairman for Paulding County, Georgia. He had been living in Paulding County for some time and had organized/attended a public memorial ceremony on September 11th, 2001, and 2004 for the victims of 9/11.

He was also the owner of a Dallas, Georgia storage company called RWT Enterprises.

The Tragic Death of Big Boss Man

Photo Credit: WWE.

On September 22nd, 2004, at around 9:00 a.m., Ray Traylor suffered a massive heart attack in his Dallas, Georgia home.

Local authorities were called to his house later that evening but were unable to revive him. He was 41 years old. His mother had passed away a little over a month before.

He left behind his wife, Angela, his childhood sweetheart, and two daughters, Lacy and Megan.

Even as recently as the day before his passing, he was filming a commercial for a hunting business, and life seemed fairly normal.

The Big Boss Man was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the 2016 class.

Remembering “Big Boss Man” Ray Traylor

Ray Traylor went from being used as a job guy with only a handful of matches under his belt to feuding with the NWA and WWE's top stars within just a couple of years.
Photo Credit: WWE.

Ray Traylor’s impact on professional wrestling will never be forgotten. His larger-than-life persona abilities in the ring made him a fan favorite for many years.

Beyond the world of wrestling, he was a beloved member of his family and local community. His passing is a great loss to all who knew him, but his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of wrestlers and fans alike.

Rick Rude: A Ravishing Man with a Tragic End

Rick Rude was more than "Ravishing."
Photo Credit: WWE.

“He refused to budge.”

Rick Rude was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname “Ravishing” — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it.

Learn his tragic story.

Mr Perfect Curt Hennig – A Great Life with an Unfortunate End

On camera, Curt Hennig was arrogant, and he backed up his Mr. Perfect persona brilliantly. However, outside of the ring, it was a different story. Here is the story of an extraordinary life with an unfortunate end.

On camera, Curt Hennig was arrogant, and he backed up his Mr. Perfect persona brilliantly. However, outside of the ring, it was a different story.

Learn the story of an extraordinary life with an unfortunate end.

Doink The Clown – A Troubled Life For the Man Behind the Paint

The legacy of Matt Borne, who played the role of the first Doink the Clown in the WWF, is a little complicated.

Doink the Clown found fame in early 1990s WWE, but there was, unfortunately, trouble along the way for Matt Borne, the man behind the paint.

Read Doink The Clown – A Troubled Life For the Man Behind the Paint

Secret Life and Tragic Passing of WWE Wrestler “Crush” Brian Adams

Wrestler Brian Adams as Kona Crush at ‎April 4th, 1993's WrestleMania 9 pay-per-view at ‎‎Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo Credit: WWE.

Hailing from Kona, Hawaii, “Crush” Brian Adams was a dominant force who underwent many striking transformations over his 17-year career.

After retiring from the ring, he worked as a bodyguard for “Macho Man” Randy Savage and was excited about opening a fitness spa alongside Marc Mero in Florida. Instead, sadly, tragedy struck.

Read “Shaka, Brah!” – The Tragic Tale of ‘Crush’ Brian Adams

Owen Hart’s Death: What Really Happened, From Those There

RIP Owen Hart (1965-1999).

VINCE McMAHON: “Earlier that day, I was shocked and surprised by what Owen said.”

On May 23rd, 1999, the wrestling world mourned the loss of Owen Hart. People behind the scenes on this unthinkable day reflect on the tragedy, answering the all-important questions.

Learn more in Owen Hart’s Death: What Really Happened, From Those There

Can’t get enough pro wrestling history in your life? Sign up to unlock ten pro wrestling stories curated uniquely for YOU, plus subscriber-exclusive content. A special gift from us awaits after signing up!

Want More? Choose another story!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Threads, YouTube, TikTok, and Flipboard!
Pro Wrestling Stories is committed to accurate, unbiased wrestling content rigorously fact-checked and verified by our team of researchers and editors. Any inaccuracies are quickly corrected, with updates timestamped in the article's byline header.
Got a correction, tip, or story idea for Pro Wrestling Stories? Contact us! Learn about our editorial standards here.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us provide free content for you to enjoy!

Bobby Mathews is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories as well as a veteran journalist whose byline has appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Birmingham News, The Denver Post, as well as other newspapers around the country. He's won multiple awards for reporting and opinion writing, and his sports journalism has garnered several Associated Press Managing Editors Awards. He has covered Division I college athletics and professional sports including MLB and NFL games. He has won awards from press associations in several states, including a General Excellence award from the Georgia Press Association while sports editor at The Statesboro Herald. He currently lives in suburban Birmingham, Alabama and can be reached on Twitter @bamawriter.