By Mike Mooneyham

Sept. 24, 2004

Ray Traylor, who parlayed his “Big Bossman” gimmick to success in the professional wrestling business, died Wednesday night at his home in Dallas, Ga., at the age of 42. The preliminary cause of death was listed as a massive heart attack.

Ironically, Traylor’s portrayal of Big Bossman, a rugged, nightstick-wielding prison guard, wasn’t much of a stretch. Traylor had served as a real-life corrections officer in Cobb County, Ga., before being discovered by a wrestling booker in 1984. The 6-6, 315-pound Traylor got his first big break in the business as Midnight Express manager Jim Cornette’s personal bodyguard, Big Bubba Rogers, in 1986.

A couple years later, Traylor joined the World Wrestling Federation, and Big Bossman was created.

Traylor enjoyed a successful run with WWF campion Hulk Hogan during the late ’80s. Their feud culminated with a steel cage match on NBC’s “Saturday Night Main Event.” He also took part in a memorable NBC special in which Randy Savage turned on MegaPowers partner Hogan in a match against The Twin Towers, Bossman and Akeem (George “One Man Gang” Gray), setting up Hogan and Savage’s main-event showdown at Wrestlemania V.

"Big Bossman" Ray Traylor

"Big Bossman" Ray Traylor

He also was a headliner with the All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion as Big Bubba during the ’90s, and in 1993 joined World Championship Wrestling where he worked as The Boss, The Guardian Angel, Bubba Rogers and even his real name.

A favorite of company management, and Vince McMahon in particular, Traylor was well-liked within wrestling circles and was known as a charitable and compassionate individual outside the ring. He also took an avid interest in local politics, and had run for a seat on his county commission this past July.

Traylor returned to the WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment) in 1998 and revived his Big Bossman gimmick, appearing as “head of security” for McMahon’s Corporation stable in a feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Traylor, who underwent knee surgery in 2000 and served as a trainer in Cornette’s Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory in 2002, remained with the company until his contract expired last year.

He held a number of titles during his career, including the UWF world title, the Southern tag-team title with Jerry Lawler, the WWF tag-team title with Ken Shamrock and the WWF hardcore title.

Traylor had been scheduled to reunite with original Midnight Express members (Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey) on an independent show next month in Waynesboro, Va.