The Platinum Pro Wrestling Hard Knocks Rusty Brooks Tribute Show honored South Florida pro wrestling legend Rusty Brooks.
Battling health issues for a while, he died on Feb. 11 at age 63.
Earlier in the day on June 26 was a memorial service gathering to reflect on Rusty with some of his colleagues, friends and family. At night, a pro wrestling show with some he trained and others who also respected him.
Both occurred at Americas Got Soccer Indoor Arena in Oakland Park, near Fort Lauderdale.
Cool to see a collage banner of Rusty photos, a special photo album Rusty’s sister made of Rusty’s life with an exceptional cover photo of Rusty by Sadiel “Speedy” Ruiz, the urn of Rusty and a special ICW commemorative belt, presented to Rusty at the legends luncheon in Tampa in 2016 by ICW indie owner Jorge E. Portuondo with quotes from many influenced by him.
A very good pro wrestler and an even better pro wrestling trainer, Rusty Brooks helped many attain there start in the pro wrestling business. He did not need a state-of-the-art facility to instruct.
Whether in a warehouse or even his own backyard, he passed along his knowledge, shared his perspective on ring psychology and taught holds, moves, a skill set needed to start and advance that pro wrestling journey.
Job well done.
About Rusty Brooks
Brooks (Kurt Koski), billed from Denton, Texas, but actually from Philadelphia, wrestled for WWF (now WWE) in the mid 1980s. He competed against many top stars, including Andre the Giant, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Junkyard Dog, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, The British Bulldogs, Demolition and Hulk Hogan.
A man of his size, his girth (6 foot, 340 pounds) who could move, he impressed WWF TV commentators Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon, especially by executing a drop kick.
Brooks also appeared on an episode of the WWF TV talk show “Tuesday Night Titans” with host Vince McMahon on the USA Network.
A graduate of Miramar High School, Brooks played football for the Patriots. He enjoyed the action on the gridiron but gravitated toward pro wrestling, trained by “Gentleman” Jim Isler and “The Great” Boris Malenko. He made his pro wrestling debut in Buddy Gilbert’s World Wrestling Association against Steve Brody on Oct. 31, 1982.
In the Northeast, Brooks wrestled as Super Duper Mario for ICW.
Brooks also made a mark on the Florida indie wrestling scene, especially South Florida. He won several tag team titles with Dr. Red Roberts, Matt Otto, Jumbo Baretta, “Pretty Boy” Aldo Lane (Ricky Santana), Soulman Alex G and Gangrel.
He worked for Championship Wrestling from Florida and competed for the Global Wrestling Alliance, capturing the Global tag team titles with Jumbo Baretta from Dean and Joe Malenko. Brooks and Baretta were managed by wrestling legends Ox Baker and later Boris Malenko. They feuded with The Soul Patrol and Malenko brothers.
Brooks also wrestled for Herb Abrams’s Universal Wrestling Federation as well as South Florida’s FOW and HCW to name a few.
Brooks made a huge mark in the business as a pro wrestling coach/trainer in South Florida.
He trained students at his Rusty Brooks Pro Wrestling Academy, which operated in his backyard in the late 1980s and in a warehouse in the 1990s. He later operated the School of Hard Knocks with Boris Malenko. His long list of students include Konnor of The Ascension, Luna Vachon, MVP/Antonio Banks, Gangrel, Diamante/Adrenaline/Angel Rose, Ricky Martinez/Maxx Stardom, Billy Fives and Norman Smiley and so many more who compete(d) on the indies.
Brooks also ran his own indie shows via the Four Star Championship Wrestling and Hard Knocks banners. He wore many hats, including booker, commissioner, director of authority, manager, referee, timekeeper, trainer and wrestler.
A Show for Rusty
His son, Jeff J-Dawg Brooks, is a wrestler and conducts indie shows in South Florida under the Platinum Pro Wrestling brand, including the recent show to honor his father.
That show included WWE alum Erick (Rowan) Redbeard, WWE alum The Ascension as The Awakening (Big Kon and Vik), The Abusement Park (Zach Monstar and Chuckles) with Carn-Evil, Cash & Flash (Mr. Wrestling III Blake Bowman and Johnny Catering John Hartnett) with Fabulous Frank, M-Dogg Matt Cross, Ricky Martinez, Leo Knox, MDK and DMC (Dante Marquis Carter) with Trillionaire Ted Vernon, CJ O’Doyle with Fabulous Frank, ERA Ernest R. Alexander III, Krissy Vaine, Eliza Haze, Tokyo Monster Kahagas, The Lion from Zion Samson, Malik Bosede, Julian Kelevra, Rosalie Valle, Chelsea Durden, Angel Crush, Dash Maverick, Spectacular JC, Dude Hate, Vinnie Ramagucci, Kelsey Raegan with The Captain, Savannah Evans, Kelsey Lynn, Boone The Gator King, Aron Agony and Rusty’s best friend, Flex Stud Magnum. Your referees Chuck Aurin and Garrett Hile.
A special moment, Malik Bosede won the inaugural Rusty Brooks Memorial Battle Royal.
In attendance at the afternoon memorial service and/or night tribute show included Diamante, Dr. Red Roberts, JR James, Jumbo Baretta, Billy Fives, “Mean” Mike Larrea, “Vicious” Vinnie, Gil Cannatella, Bobby Sanford, Urkel Dudley, Blare Rogers, “Flash” Daniel Booton, Tony The Pimp, Lew Spectre, and Nick Mayberry.
Helping J-Dawg with the afternoon memorial service and night tribute show included Joy Cannizzaro, Suzanne Koski, Timmy Davenport, Bruno Sassi, Jorge Portuondo, Duane Long, Blake Chadwick, Vince Hannity, Nicole Mills, Israel Cantu, Steve Mesa, Jean Herrera, and Myt Tallon Taylor.
Cannizzaro of Joystream Media and Portuondo collaborated on a very nice video tribute, followed by a 10-bell salute to open the show.
Prior, Diamante/Adrenaline/Angel Rose and Ricky Martinez/Maxx Stardom remember Rusty.
Many More Remember Rusty
Pro Wrestler Aron Agony (Aron McCoy)
“Asking what Rusty Brooks meant to South Florida wrestling is like asking what the sun means to our solar system. It’s gonna be dark without him, but he taught all of us how to shine. We will do so in his memory.”
Referee Chuck Aurin
“I have several fond memories about Rusty. My first memories of Rusty were before I even broke into the business. There was an invasion angle between Rusty’s group FSCW and FOW. I had been attending the FOW shows with my family foursome at the Davie Rodeo Grounds, and when Rusty’s group invaded, it added excitement to an already stacked show. I remember Rusty as the ring leader and catalyst of the invasion, and although I know wrestling was scripted, I was overjoyed about the storyline and Rusty’s command of the audience.
“I first worked with Rusty on the FOW King of Carnage show at the Davie Rodeo Grounds. It was my third or fourth show working as a referee, and I was put on the card as a ref at the last minute. It was the first big show that I did in front of a large crowd as we drew more than 3,000 in the audience. I worked the curtain-jerker [first match] which featured Rusty Brooks vs. Barry Horowitz for the FOW Hardcore title.
“Before the match, Rusty spoke with me and calmed my nerves and said, ‘Don’t worry kid. We know what we’re doing. It’s up to us to f**k it up.’ That got a chuckle from me and made me feel better. Barry beat Rusty for the title only to be immediately challenged by The Sandman who, in turn, won the title.
“On a side note, about 15 years later, I was honored to hold that title twice and to defend it in Florida and North Carolina. In fact, I won the title in Rusty’s backyard from Flex Stud Magnum. Perhaps my fondest memory will display how much heart Rusty had and how he recognized passion for the business in others.
“Rusty and I had a falling out some years back. I was a rookie to the business, and I felt that Rusty had disrespected me. In fact, he had not, but he immediately apologized even though there was nothing to apologize for. Still, I had some harsh words for him, and he stopped using me on his shows. I would have done the same thing. It was better than a punch in the mouth, which was probably what I deserved.
“A short time later, I was sidelined by a bout of Bell’s Palsy and could not perform as half of my face was paralyzed. That didn’t stop me from attending the shows. On one particular evening, Rusty’s promotion had a show in Hollywood. Norman Smiley had just won the FSCW championship, and he saw me in the crowd. He came over after his win and gave me a hug and told me that I’d be back in no time. It made me incredibly emotional because I missed performing so badly. I went over to Rusty to congratulate him on a good show and to let him know that I thought Norman was a good choice to be the champ. Rusty could see the pain in my eye (the other one was paralyzed and covered with a patch), and he told me that I was welcome to be the timekeeper until I recovered enough to get back in the ring.
“Although it was a small assignment, it was a way for me to know that I was not forgotten and that there were no hard feelings. It probably meant nothing to him, but to me it showed that he didn’t hold grudges and was very generous. It meant the world to me. Later on in my tenure, the FOW started an angle where the fans would determine who would face Billy Fives for the championship. The fans would vote on three candidates as a potential opponent. Those candidates were Tommy Vandal, Stud Magnum and me. The promoter told me in advance that I would win, and then I would have my one and only shot at the championship. Of course there would be a swerve and Tommy would be revealed as the true winner. I asked Rusty if he would help train me for the match. Without blinking an eye, he told me to come by the house and train with his students. Although I had trained as a wrestler years prior, I rarely worked in that capacity and at least wanted to look like I knew what I was doing. Rusty had a couple of established indy wrestlers there and they gave me some pointers and worked with me free of charge.
“During one of D1PW’s shows, I was in an angle that pitted me against CJ O’Doyle and Barney Rumble. My tag team partner didn’t show, so it looked like I was going to have to face the two of them by myself. Interestingly enough, before the match, Rusty teased the audience by introducing his newest protégé, Angel Rose [Diamante], and the audience thought she would be my partner. However, Rusty came through in the clutch and had one of his students, Jordan Raynor, tag with me for his first match. Rusty was our manager and pretty much called the match for us from the outside as we were working. The match was simple and fun, and Jordan and I were victorious.
“These are my personal remembrances as they pertained to me. I’m not trying to put myself over with these stories, but for a lot of my wrestling ‘firsts’, Rusty was an integral part, if not the actual catalyst. I would sit in the back and listen to him put together matches for his workers. I probably learned more about crafting a match from him than anyone else. He was a sweet man, and you could bounce ideas off of him. If it made sense, he would throw it in the match. If it didn’t make sense, he’d call you a jackass and you could never take offense because he would explain WHY it wouldn’t work.
“The kids looked up to Rusty because he loved them. Even when he was cussing you out, it was with a lot of love. It’s no wonder everyone looked up to him as a father figure. Even though we were very close in age, I looked up to him as a mentor and advisor as well. I love this business, and without Rusty, the South Florida Indies would not exist as it does today.
“The term legend is overused, but Rusty is a true legend. Even though I’ve been called and inducted as a ‘legend’, I feel embarrassed to even begin to consider that someone may feel like I’m on Rusty’s level. I’m not, and I know it. It’s guys like him who deserve that title and that praise. RIP Rusty. You will be missed.”
Pro Wrestler Antonio Banks/MVP
“When Duke the Dumpster Droese first shut down his wrestling school, Soulman Alex G was training me. I hadn’t met Rusty or been to his school. I heard people talking about Rusty and his school, and arrangements were made for us to train there, until we got a place. Meeting him, he welcomed me and some of the other guys. We were extremely well conditioned. He was impressed how we were running the ropes, working. He said, ‘You guys work hard. You’re young and green. You’re welcome to come back here.’
“The doors were opened, and I was welcomed to train there at a small warehouse. Four Star Championship Wrestling. Rusty always took the time to take the time. A lot of guys were just bouncing off the ropes, doing flips, paying the bills. Guys, who had promise, he would always help.
“After a short period of time, he stopped accepting money from me to train.
“One very fond memory I have is when he and I tagged up at an FSCW show. I about to walk out from the dressing room to the ring, two years in, maybe, still pretty green. My name was getting out a little bit. Rusty came over and said, ‘You ready to carry an old man through a match.’ I remember feeling this pride, this honor. He was the definition of a veteran. He’d been up and own the roads. He worked with Hulk Hogan. It does not getting any bigger than that. He knows the game. When he told me to carry him through the match, it gave me validation. He trusted me. He was talking to me as a peer, to carry him. He had confidence in me, It was very flattering, and I appreciated it.
“Rusty was a credit to the South Florida. wrestling scene. Soulman Alex G, Dave Johnson, Rusty Brooks, they taught me the importance of knowing how to work. That helped me tremendously. Stressing to me at an early age to go out there, listen to the crowd.
“Rusty Brooks was a guy who had been places, done things. We bumped heads a couple of times later, but at the end of the day, he cared. He made his knowledge available to anyone who wanted to work hard.”
Ring Owner/Technician Israel Cantu
For a story I wrote on Rusty in 2016, Cantu said: “This isn’t a hobby. This isn’t a game, and this isn’t something you do for fun. This is a business. It’s one of the early things I learned from Rusty that I will always be thankful for. It’s also one of the things that I’ve repeated to many over the years.
“He has given so many opportunities to learn, to study, to adapt a craft into a business that’s constantly evolving. Rusty Brooks is more than a wrestler, trainer, mentor. He’s family. The blood, the sweat and the tears over the years can attest to that. Thank you Rusty.”
Pro Wrestler Daryl Davis
“Rusty was a true South Florida Icon and legend of pro wrestling. I have nothing but respect for him. I would always let him know and everyone on social media know how I felt about him and how he was a huge part of every pro wrestler here in South Florida.
“It’s an old Gospel song that says, ‘Give me my flowers while I’m here, and not when I’m gone.’ That’s why it’s so important to let people know how much they mean to you and how much you care about them, especially while they’re still here.
“So for everyone that was able to do that for Rusty I know that he can truly Rest In Peace. Knowing that before he passed, he impacted a lot of lives, and his memory will last forever in the hearts of those that loved him. Thanks for everything you did Rusty.”
Pro Wrestler Billy Fives
“Rusty not only created the wrestling family down here; he created a lasting family. He made sure his wrestling family was not only prepared for life in the ring but were wise to life in the business. I wrestled all over the world because Rusty made sure I was prepared for both how to handle myself in the ring and in the business.”
Manager/Promoter Fabulous Frank (Frank Munguia)
“What is most remarkable is how much the entire South Florida wrestling scene originated with him. Every single person who has broken in here in the last 30 plus years was at least partially trained by Rusty or their trainer was trained by Rusty. I can’t think of any other part of the country where you can say that about any one individual.
“One story that comes to mind is our first tour of Peru. The local promoters we were working with had specific ideas of what they wanted body wise in the wrestlers we booked for the tour. However we knew we didn’t want to go on that tour without Rusty. His experience and leadership were too important to not have him there. We got into a very heated argument with the promoters which got to the point of almost canceling the whole tour. Eventually they gave in, and Rusty was booked.
“He knew what to do in front of the big crowds there. He had been in the ring with every legend from Hogan and Andre on down. Of course he got over huge on the first night in Peru. On the second night the same promoters who hadn’t wanted him there asked him to carry the Peruvian flag out to the ring because the fans there already loved him so much.
“I want the fans of all South Florida wrestling promotions over the last 30 years to know that what they saw and enjoyed can all be traced back to Rusty Brooks.”
Pro Wrestler/Trainer Gangrel
For a story I wrote on Rusty in 2016, Gangrel said: “Rusty alone is the only reason that I am able to do what I love for a living today. He was more than a trainer. He was a father, brother and a friend. I can honestly say he is one of a kind. Simply an amazing human being. Thank you Rusty.”
Pro Wrestler/Trainer Soulman Alex G (Alex Gibson)
“I remember the first time I meant Rusty was with Malenko to open the wrestling school in Fort Lauderdale. Malenko was still teaching the school in Tampa, but he also had a school in Fort Lauderdale with Dr. Red Roberts and Rusty Brooks.
“Rusty saw some talent in me. He would push me hard. Rusty would take me on shows and always get me booked on shows, or sometimes he would wrestle against me. When Rusty opened up his school, he asked me to help train others there, and we became the best of friends.
“I am always going to remember the great times I had with Rusty. Rest in peace my brother.”
Pro Wrestler Big Daddy Gonzo
For a story I wrote on Rusty in 2016, Big Daddy Gonzo said, “He’s been a great, positive influence on so many people in and outside the pro wrestling business. A father/big brother figure who has helped superstars reach the pinnacle of success in pro wrestling and confused teenagers figure out what they want to do with their lives.”
Pro Wrestler Barry Houston
“Rusty helped train me at the GWA Wrestling Academy when others wouldn’t give an average 160-pound kid a second glance. He was truly one of the most well rounded and well grounded performers in the business of pro wrestling. He was one of the very few who was as big a character in the ring as he was outside. He had a heart of gold and an incredible amount of compassion. I will miss him dearly and never forget everything he did for me.”
Pro Wrestler JR James (Jim Naskrent)
“What a great experience Saturday [June 26] as all of us had different stories to tell about Rusty. For me, 100’s of memories going up and down the state — Jacksonville, Fellsmere, Bradenton, West Palm Beach, Naples and at least 50 to a hundred dots in between.
“As it has been written, he was a mentor, father, brother figure to each of us who had the pleasure of having him take us under his wing. Wrestling, well Rusty was the first one to give me my first three standing suplexes, and the week later at the GWA Wrestling Academy, my first bodyslam and then powerslam. Never felt a thing.
“Always taught, drilled into our heads that first and foremost PROTECT your partner, whoever you were wrestling.
“As I progressed in my wrestling career, whenever I was booked against Rusty in singles action or tag action, I would always call him to give me his version of the Vader bomb. I had to have taken 150 or more as Rusty and I wrestled all over the state, South Georgia, Alabama, and I never felt one of them. A true professional he was.
“He always thought I was crazy for calling it, but I trusted Rusty to protect me. I was taught old school from Rusty. He always told us, those who had the pleasure to have him train them, ‘Don’t worry about selling yourself. Sell the match. Work the match and tell the story. Doing this, you will get yourself over more than you can imagine,’ and he was right.
“The respect shown Saturday [June 26] was really cool. He touched so many lives, both in my generation of wrestlers, to even the current brood. In my testimonial at the memorial, I told those in attendance that Rusty is in all of us, and the one thing he always told me was to pass on the craft, the knowledge. So in essence, Rusty lives on in all of us.
“I learned a long time ago something that I’d like to share. On most grave stones, you have a birth year and a death year. In-between is a dash. The measure of the person is how they lived their lives. Their character. Meaning, how they lived the ‘dash.’ Rusty, pure and simple, was one of those that lived the dash to the fullest — both in the character of Rusty Brooks and more so as Kurt Koski, friend, brother, father. I will forever be grateful for having known and learned from him.”
Pro Wrestler Tokyo Monster Kahagas (Paul Antone)
“I’ve known rusty for over 20 years. I didn’t know Rusty like a lot of others, but he was always good to me. I can only describe him in one way. Rusty Brooks is the definition of Genuine.”
Pro Wrestler Julian Kelevra (Darian Vichot)
“Rusty Brooks wasn’t just a man, who had hit the big time in the 1980’s and got to live his dream wrestling the likes of Andre the Giant and Jimmy Snuka and other greats of that time. He was a man who passed on the dream to his students by giving us the tools to be able to perform for our wonderful fans.
“If you were lacking in physical capability to pull off a spot, he’d sit there for hours with us trying to come up with alternatives that were within our capabilities. He wasn’t just a great teacher. He had a great love for the business and wanted to see us succeed. He’s one of the few people who really did believe in me, and I’m eternally grateful. He really made us all feel like all our dreams were possible.”
Pro Wrestler/Trainer Konnor of The Ascension/Ryan O’Reilly (Ryan Parmeter)
“Rusty to me is a guy who knew how to be light-hearted and have fun. Be sarcastic at times, bust your balls, when he felt you needed it, but taught you to never take things too seriously, but learn to enjoy what you love ‘Wrestling.’ South Florida and the wrestling community got rocked with his passing. It breaks my heart to see someone who believed in you and someone you shared memories, laughs and road trips with pass. A little bit of you dies with it. Rusty will ALWAYS live on in the South Florida wrestling community! After all….LOOK WHO HE HAS TRAINED…It speaks volumes on the man he was.”
Pro Wrestler Larry Lane (Larry Arch)
“When I moved to Florida in 1994, I started up with FCW. Shortly after, I started booking for them. There was no YouTube or Google then. Point being there were many occasions that when a new wrestler would be on the show that would be the first time I would get a chance to see them in action. Some were good, and some were not.
“After a few shows under my belt, I figured out that if the wrestler was trained by Rusty, then they were very good. I had a lot of respect for him. Besides molding so many successful wrestlers, he did it while being a single dad which I know firsthand is not easy. He would be very proud of Jay and Joy and PPW.
“A side note, we competed in the PPW Fantasy Football League over the last few years. Can I mention I’m the reigning champion. Rusty’s team name was Pancakes n Piledrivers; tell me that does not fit Rusty. He was a good man, who made such a positive impact on the wrestling business, and to this day I never heard a bad word about Rusty.”
Pro Wrestler/Manager/Heel Commentator Mean Mike Larrea
“Rusty touched me in many ways. Wrestling is not the first thing I think about when I think of him. First would be coaching against each other when our boys were playing T-ball, great times. We also coached AYFL tackle football in Cooper City together, and that was a blast.
“All the things we did outside of wrestling is what sticks out. The barbecues at his place or mine. The basketball games in his driveway. The football and softball games at SWBJA in Miramar. The after show times at the Racquetball Club or Rickey’s on Hollywood Boulevard. When we would hit the Golden Corral and eat the buffet. Man, those are the things I remember most fondly.
“When it comes to wrestling, there would never have been Mean Mike, if Rusty didn’t turn me heel. No Y-100 or Offside or Wing Ding. Never would have been able to meet all the celebs or athletes that I did, if he hadn’t thought I could be a convincing heel.
“I sincerely owe all that to Rusty. We had a special bond. Jeff [J-Dawg Brooks] is a part of my family. I consider him my nephew, and he knows that. My son considers Rusty his uncle. The brotherhood I shared with him I don’t know if that could ever be replicated with someone else. But he shared that brotherhood with a lot of people. He was a special guy.
“In closing, I can only hope that when I pass I on from this world, I can be as respected and as loved as Rusty was. I’ll miss him forever.”
Pro Wrestler/Manager/Commissioner Flex Stud Magnum (Jeff Epperley) via Facebook
“We honored my friend Rusty Brooks [on June 26]. I’m not ashamed to say that when I pulled into the parking lot Saturday morning [June 26], it really hit me, and I cried like a baby for 20 minutes. He meant so much to so many people. Seeing friends from throughout the years, some who traveled hundreds of miles to honor him was priceless.
“Rusty helped so many people live their dreams of professional wrestling. Behind the gruff exterior of his was a heart of gold. When you were his friend, you were his friend for life. All the road trips, the late night restaurant antics — with the fart machine — all the barbecues and pay-per-views at the house, will live with me forever.
“In my opinion Rusty Brooks was the Mount Rushmore of South Florida Wrestling. Thank you for being my teacher, mentor and my brother. Sorry for getting hurt on your memorial show. I know you’re looking down saying, “Goddammit Flex!)“ Lol.”
AEW Announce Team/Miami Herald Pro Wrestling Columnist Alex Marvez
“Rusty should be remembered as a pioneer. When I first met him in 1988, Rusty was best known for losing a televised match to Hulk Hogan a few years earlier when wrestling The Hulkster was considered a huge deal. While that accomplishment spoke well about how trusted Rusty was in the ring, it was the things he contributed outside of it that shaped his legacy.
“Rusty was one of the first modern-era promoters of independent South Florida pro wrestling. He was an outstanding trainer who had an eye for talent, which is evident by his influence in helping to develop talent like Gangrel and Diamante who would make it to the big time. And his love of wrestling was infectious. In a dog-eat-dog industry, I never heard anyone say anything negative about Rusty, which is quite the feat itself.”
Pro Wrestler Dash Maverick/Qba Libre (Dash Ruiz)
“Rusty was a trainer, mentor and friend. He didn’t just show us how to wrestle, but also how to be professionals; how to be entertainers. Because of Rusty, I was able and continue to live out my dreams of being a professional wrestler.”
Pro Wrestler/Promoter Nick Mayberry
“It’s so hard to really express what someone that special really means to you without going on and on about them. I knew Rusty for 27 years. To me, even more than everything wrestling related, he was just such an incredible man. He was friends with my grandfather from work and was so genuinely kind to my grandmother and my mother. He came to some of my birthday events and as a family, we took him out for his. We spent time together at his house. Countless phone calls.
“He was part of every one of the shows I ran, from my backyard days to professional. Rusty was like an uncle figure and a professional father figure to me all in one. He always had nothing but supportive words of encouragement, and he was one of the very few whose word or handshake actually meant something.
“He was the most upstanding person you could ask for. He would give you all the time in the world as long as you wanted to learn. Without him, there was no way I could have promoted my shows or events. He was such an integral part from learning the psychology of in ring work, to promotional aspects, to how to deal with talent. He would do anything I asked of him or needed for my events to be a success, and he would always be there to coach me on my mistakes or compliment me on what I did well.
“Rusty always had a way of letting you know how special you were to him and how special you were as a person, and he really just loved to put smiles on people’s faces. He had the firmest handshake, the warmest hugs and the stiffest looking punch that you never even felt. Unless he wanted you to.
“Everyone I’ve ever spoken with about him – Jerry Brisco, Tom Prichard, Ox Baker, the list goes on – have all said what an incredible human being he was. And everyone was a fan of his, professionally as well. I think more than the business of wrestling, Rusty taught me something that you couldn’t always see in wrestling – that you could be a genuinely decent human being and still succeed in the business. That you needed to be tough, but if you wanted to be respected, you needed to respect others and most importantly, yourself.
“I’ll always cherish the hundreds and hundreds of random memories and stories we shared, and I know his impact on my life has been substantial as a friend, a mentor and as family. I’ll always be grateful for knowing him, and I’ll always love him.”
Referee Bruce Owens
“I remember letting Rusty and some of his guys into the matches back in the day and introducing Rusty to Wahoo [McDaniel], Michael Hayes, Dory Funk Jr, and Dutch Mantell, when they were the bookers. Once Rusty worked the NWA [for Eddie Graham], he erased the outlaw wrestling from his resume and eventually went up to WWF where he got his best exposure.
“I remember Rusty coming up to me the first time in Fort Lauderdale, believe it was War Memorial Auditorium or Sunrise Musical Theater. He knew that I lived in Miami and Tampa part time. He was a jovial guy and showed me a picture of him drop kicking someone that appeared to be a student. He said, ‘What do i say to the booker?’ I said come with me, and I just introduced him, saying that he had been working a few years, and he was from Texas. I know that Texas was a work, but Rusty convinced them.
“My favorite story was when an announcer missed the show, and Rusty was there, Wahoo asked Rusty if he had his gear, and Rusty said I have my announcer gear and my wrestling gear with me. Needless to say, they used him as a wrestler that night in a battle royal.”
“His legacy goes on as some of his students have made it to WWF/WWE, AEW, NXT. He will always be remembered, and that is the good news.”
Pro Wrestler Blare Rogers (Joe McCarthy)
“As I listened to story after story of how Rusty effected the lives of just about everyone in and around the wrestling business in South Florida, one refrain rang true over and over. Rusty didn’t just invite you to his school, to his ring, his backyard. He invited you into his home, his life.
“He treated all of us as family, because that’s what we were to him. A big giant, sometimes dysfunctional family, but family none the less, and Rusty sat at the very head of that table in his Archie Bunker chair.
“Rusty was a friend, an uncle, a dad to just about all of us. Without that father figure, there would be no real wrestling scene in South Florida. I love you old friend and missed you the moment I heard the news. Maybe just maybe, from time to time, I’ll be sure to leave some toilet paper hanging out of my shoe, when leaving a public restroom.”
Pro Wrestler/Promoter Bobby Rogers (Michael Thomas Rapuano)
“It’s been a few months since Rusty left us and only a few days since the celebration of life remembering Rusty. I was unable to travel for the event as I no longer live in Florida.
“I will say that I have been reading all of the tributes from those who attended and those who could not attend, and it just brings back some many memories while making us all recognize how many lives Rusty touched in such a positive way. We have lost many friends over the years, and Rusty was a big loss.
“I really wanted to be there but not only just to honor Rusty. For those who knew Rusty, they will know that I wanted to be there for the very same reason Rusty would have wanted to be there if someone passed away. To see the boys one more time, many of whom we are likely to never see again in person.
“Thank you to Blare Rogers for reading what I wrote about Rusty. For those who did not attend this is what I said about Rusty Brooks.
“Rusty Brooks is no longer here among us. Rusty Brooks’ knowledge, expertise, advice, and unique sense of humor will never again grace a locker room. Many of us will miss those things about Rusty Brooks as they become memories and things of the past.
“But not me.
“To me, Rusty Brooks will never be the past. For me, Rusty Brooks always was and always will be the Future.
“Let me explain.
“FOW was a 5-year long wild ride that formed lifelong friendships and created a wealth of great memories.
“The reason why FOW worked as well as it did was because of guys like Pat McGuire, Billy Fives, The Vandalz (just Ricky and Jonny though, not Anthony Jenette), David Velez, and Bruno Sassi.
“Rusty Brooks trained those guys and so many more.
“I remember one show, we had 16 guys on the card. It totaled 20 when counting managers and referees. Rusty Brooks had trained 18 out of 20 of the talent that night.
“Everyone knows you need a ticket to get on a ride, and when I say FOW was a fun and wild ride, please understand that the ticket for the ride of my life, was Rusty Brooks.”
Pro Wrestler/Manager Bobby Sanford
“Rusty was always really good to me, and when I started out in Fort Pierce he was down in Hollywood. At times when I would go and train after my school had closed, and I was in college, I would pop up at Rusty’s, and he would always welcome me. He always treated me well, and he shared so much knowledge. It really is hard to believe that he is no longer with us because to me he was one of the premier trainers and at one time performers down here. I first saw him perform in Riviera Beach in the early ‘90s, and I was hooked on independent wrestling.”
Pro Wrestler/Coach Norman Smiley
For a story I wrote on Rusty in 2016, Smiley said: “Rusty was the first person to tell me, ‘l need to work for the audience and not myself.’ I used to apply holds to entertain myself or the other wrestlers. Rusty really enlightened me. He has helped me over the years with guidance and training at his house. Rusty has a wealth of knowledge for any students looking to learn this art.”
Pro Wrestler/Promoter J-Dawg Brooks/Jeff Brooks/Jeff Koski/Jayy Kayy via Facebook
“I’m Blessed to have so many people in my corner. Saturday [June 26] was a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I’m so happy we finally got to celebrate my dad’s life. The Celebration of Life service was beautiful. Seeing so many of my dad’s friends — some of which I hadn’t seen in years — all in one place, under the same roof. My dad was there, and I know he was loving it.
“That is something that he’s talked about for years, trying to get everyone together to reminisce and tell stories. And I loved every story I heard told. Even if I had heard all of them a million times, I can hear them all a million more.
“First I’d like to thank my partner in crime, my better half who keeps me on the straightened arrow, my baby Joy Cannizzaro. We’re definitely a team and a pretty good one at that. I couldn’t do what I do without her and Saturday [June 26] wouldn’t have been what it was without some Joy. A big thanks to my Aunt Suzy / Suzanne Koski for taking the trip down from Alabama and catching a glimpse into her brother’s life which she didn’t know much about. It was great to have her there, supporting me and making new friends along the way.
“Next I’d like to thank every person who attended the Celebration of Life service and to all of you who spoke and told those awesome stories of my father. Also to Bruno Sassi for opening things up, leading us in Prayer. Literally the perfect person to do so. I’d also like to thank Americas Got Soccer for allowing us to host the service as well as that evening’s wrestling event at their wonderful facility. The videos of my father that Joy and Jorge E. Portuondo made were not only touching but a perfect tribute to a wonderful man. I can’t watch them without tearing up. Thanks for taking the time to make them. I greatly appreciate it.
“Now onto HARD KNOCKS, the Rusty Brooks Memorial Show, presented by PPW…I’m just so blown away and overwhelmed that it’s still hard for me to find the right words to describe how I truly feel. I poured my heart and soul into this event, and it was such an amazing feeling to watch it all unfold in front of me. From Joy with the music production and my good friend and neighbor Timmy Davenport for all his help the whole day and night, Thank you.
“To the outstanding talent who went out there and paid the ultimate tribute to my Father, putting your bodies on the line, Thank you.
“Jeff Epperley / Stud Magnum unfortunately wound up with a broken leg during his elimination from the #RustyBrooks Memorial Battle Royal. We wish him a healthy and speedy recovery. To every single person who came out and joined us live for our first event since the Pandemic began over a year and a half ago, Thank you.
“To everyone all over the United States and even multiple parts of the the world who tuned in live on #FitePPV, when we know you could have been watching anything else online or out doing whatever, but you chose to be there with us, Thank you.
“A big thank you to Duane Long, Jim Varsallone and Nicole Mills for capturing such a momentous occasion on film to share with the world.
“Also a special thank you to Israel Cantu and his crew (Jean Herrera and Steve Mesa) for doing such a professional job with video and streaming live and for helping to bring PPW to #FITETV for the very first time. Thank you to all of you who couldn’t make it, but still reached out to me to show me your support. These past few months have been tough for me, and I’d like to thank everyone for helping to give me a little bit of closure.”
My Pro Wrestling & Fighting Content on the Web and Social Media
YouTube: jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)