Former US Marine, Cobb County Firefighter, Professional Wrestler, and Patriarch of the Armstrong wrestling family, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong has passed away aged 80 years old after a battle with bone cancer.

Born Joseph Melton James, in Marietta, Georgia on 3rd October 1939, James would gravitate towards wrestling fandom as a child when his father took him to see the legendary Gorgeous George. He would be called to public service throughout his life and would graduate from the Parris Island Marine training facility as an Honor Man. Upon leaving the military he would start work as a firefighter while wrestling part-time but as his name grew he became a full-time wrestler on the South Eastern circuit. 

The South-East was a hotbed of wrestling throughout the 60s and 70s and Bob, well-conditioned and fit from his time in the services, was a true body man when it came to presentation. There was plenty of territories to rotate in, Georgia, Florida, and specifically Southeastern Wrestling out of Alabama. Roy Welch who owned the Nashville territory at the time expanded into this area after buying out Leroy McGuirk in 1974 and set his sights on expansion. Promoting a gritty realistic product, so realistic that wrestling magazines were not allowed in the building, and wrestlers rarely gave interviews outside the local press to protect the business. With Bob’s background as a genuine Marine and Firefighter, he was a hit with Southeastern’s fans and would work his way into title contention throughout the years. However, his biggest hurdle would be caused by an accident in training. 

Whilst bench pressing dumbbells, the bench he was on collapsed and the weight landed on his face, causing massive damage. Requiring plastic surgery to fix his face, he had to continue wrestling through the surgery treatments and started wearing a mask. Renamed as The Bullet he became a popular attraction and the name stuck. It also allowed him to play with the classic southern angle of mistaken identity. 

He won many regional NWA titles as a singles and tag wrestler, his technical skill and God-Given charisma shining throughout his career including a 1979 win for the Southeastern title over Hulk Hogan. He retired in the late eighties making sporadic appearances throughout the south and especially tagging with his sons, Brian, Scott, Brad and Steve. Scott would reach greater fame as a WWE referee but had a successful career in WCW, Smoky Mountain and TNA. Steve would have his most visible moments as a WCW Wild-Eyed Southern Boy with Tracey Smothers and Lance Cassidy in WWE. He would have a long and productive career. Brad would be considered the most highly qualified wrestler with a long career in WCW and a run with the Light Heavyweight title. The bespoke worker’s worker who once pulled a 6 Star classic with The Great Muta on a TV taping on five minutes notice. The biggest name of the family would be “Road Dogg” Jesse James, the brilliant talker is now a creative producer for WWE.

Armstrong would have an active retirement as a figurehead and manager. Jim Cornette made him the commissioner of Smokey Mountain reviving the style of character heralded by Bill Watts, the no-nonsense, take-charge boss who would send the heels to hospital in a straight-up fight. He would continue in similar roles for TNA/Impact wrestling throughout Brian’s association with the company. He would never fully retire having his last match against The Assassin in May of last year. He would round off a very full career as a South Eastern stalwart with his nomination to the WWE Hall of Fame in the Class of 2011. He is survived by Brian, Scott and Steve.

Pictures and videos courtesy of WWE & Armstrong Alley

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