Bruce Franklin Reed of Kansas City Missouri, widely known as Butch Reed, Hacksaw and The Natural, has passed away aged 66 years old from complications from two heart attacks earlier in the year. A student at Northeast Oklahoma A&M and then on to University Central Missouri, Reed would be a walk-on for his hometown Kansas City Chiefs in the mid-seventies. Though he never made the starting line up, he had no doubt that an athletic career was in his future. Picked up by his home town promoter and future NWA President Bob Geigel, his training was typical of the time. Sent to Lord Littlebrook’s wrestling school which he attended twice a week for a year, he would move on to Canada for his first run in Vancouver. There he would be in the company of eighties territory super workers like Eric Embry and Bobby Jaggers. Whilst simultaneously under the tutelage of Al Tomko and Gene Kiniski. He would work the NWA loop on his return to the states. Becoming a hit in Florida working with Dusty Rhodes, then one of the country’s biggest draws. He would go on to Georgia, Saint Louis and of course back home to Kansas City. He would take tag gold early in his career in Kansas and in Florida, before finding his first peek of national fame by moving to “Cowboy” Bill Watts’ Mid South.

Watts loved natural athletes and genuine badasses, Reed fit that description like a glove and starting as a Baby Face picked a fight with resident “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Like Reed, Duggan was a rugged brawler. While best noted today for his family-friendly run in the late eighties with the WWF, he was hugely over worker and ideal for Reed to start building a reputation. The feud would result in a double turn as Reed would start tagging with perennial top draw Junk Yard Dog and turn heel when JYD picked Duggan as his tag team partner in a major match. 

His long term feud with JYD cemented his star potential, but after winning and then losing the North American title, the companies top belt, he would concentrate on the North American tag titles he had won with Jim Neidhart. The belts would be his main focus of attention over the next few years as well as a revolving door of tag team partners. When Junk Yard Dog unceremoniously left Mid South, without telling Cowboy Bill, the promotion was in trouble as it was a long drop off from JYD down to anyone else, and left Reed in a hole as he had been in a violent feud with JYD at the time. Over time he would turn on his former tag partner Buddy Landell as he was courted by Skandor Ackbar’s Devastation Incorporated. The Mid South version of Devastation was one of it’s strongest ever lineups with Landell, Ted DiBiase, Steve Williams and Hercules Hernadez. When Jim Duggan came down to save his former nemesis one night the face turn was solidified and it made serious money.

Reed would then seem directionless for a while, working as Jim Garvin’s bodyguard in the AWA, another brief stint in Mid South would prove fruitful, once again reunited with the North American title in 1986 he would take on “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the NWA Championship that would go down as a bonafide classic one-hour broadway draw. He would then move back to his home promotion of NWA Central States in Kansas where he would tag with Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones as Soul Patrol, but then would once again turn-taking Jones’ son, Kenneth Wayne as his manager. Wayne would, of course, perform as a character that would become world-famous, “The Godfather of Style” Slick.            

The pair would actually head to Stamford together in 1986. While Slick would play on one stereotype, the street hustler, Reed adopted the persona of The Natural. Dying his hair blonde to garner heat by pretending he was something he wasn’t. While this wasn’t a particularly high moment for WWF creatives’ political correctness, it was indicative of WWF’s cartoon approach. which enabled them to appear at Wrestlemania III in the Pontiac Silverdome wrestling Koko B. Ware. He would win but it would be the high point of his limited PPV success. He would be in the first Royal Rumble, which was, of course, was won by his former nemesis and partner Jim Duggan.  

His final PPV effort would be losing to Randy Savage in the Wrestlemania IV title tournament at Trump Plaza. He would be on his way again, back to the NWA and Jim Crockett promotions. He would start off as a solo wrestler feuding once again with Junk Yard Dog, and then coming under the management of JJ Dillon before his contract was “sold” to the Yamasaki Corporation where he would flounder in mid-card mediocrity. 

By 1989, the tag division in the NWA, soon to be WCW, was the hottest on earth. The Freebirds, Midnight Express, Road Warriors, Samoan Swat Team, The Skyscrapers and The Steiners called it home, also brewing was a hot angle as Woman, the late Nancy Sullivan, picked a feud with Rick Steiner. She would reveal her Team of Doom, which would feature Butch Reed and Ron Simmons under executioner style masks and matt black tights, accompanied by her bodyguard Nitron at Halloween Havoc in 1989. Two African American men, under the control of a white woman in the Deep South in the eighties, was like a moth to a flame, and they drew heat like no other team in the division. With the Road Warriors moving to the WWF in early 1990, they took WCW by storm and the feud with the Steiners would dominate most of the year, including their unmasking and leading to Doom taking the belts from the Brothers the same year. A feud with the Horsemen, including a while Bunkhouse Brawl at Starrcade 1990, put them in the top tier of tag teams, switching their managerial allegiance to Teddy Long they seemed unstoppable until they ran into The Freebirds and miscommunication cost them the win. Reed turned on Simmons, starting his singles run to the WCW World Championship while Reed floundered even with the managerial help of Teddy Long. It did lead to one odd one-off match long after they had broken up. They would appear together for the last time at  NJPW’s Starrcade The Tokyo Dome in 1991. Tagging together under a “Contractual Obligation” against big Van Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow in a hoss battle for the ages. Bam Bam and Vader were actually not particularly friendly in real life against two guys who were in a storyline fall out, how the world turns. 

And indeed Reed would move on. To the USWA which was still a major drawing territory in the early nineties where he would feud with Junkyard Dog once again over the USWA title. He would also find a new vocation on the rodeo circuit in Kansas and worked part-time on the independent circuit up until his retirement in 2013 spanning a remarkable near forty-year career.

A territory guy through and through, Butch Reed will be missed by the wrestling community. A product of his time, recruited not born to the role, his intimidating presence was poetry in motion for the power wrestler and power tag team eras.    

Featured Image courtesy of Hannibal TV– Videos courtesy of WWE

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