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Buddy Fuller (1925-1996)

  

Real NameEdward A. Welch

Lifespan - 3/24/25 - 1/15/96

6’3” 240 lbs. - Dyersburg, TN


Athletic Background - n/a

Teacher(s) - Charlie Carr

AliasesGeorge Valentine

Peak Years - 1950s


Place in HistoryBuddy Fuller has as fascinating a life story in pro-wrestling as anyone, but because most of his career happened behind the wall of kayfabe, it has not been widely known until recently.  Born Edward Welch to wrestler-turned-promoter Roy Welch and three wrestling uncles, it should not be surprising that he took up the sport.  Filling in for someone named “Buddy Fuller,” he took the name and worked to establish himself.  Buddy, like Roy, proved to be a gifted promoter and he was able to spark several territories.  Mobile was a city along the Gulf Coast that was never a major pro-wrestling town until Buddy Fuller popped it.  In addition to himself, Buddy used his cousins, the Fields Boys, and a variety of heels to build things to a big show where he and Mario Galento went to war.  He handed it off to Lee Fields months later.  Memphis was another city in the massive territory under the control of Roy and Nick Gulas.  Fuller heated it up with the feud between Billy Wicks and Sputnik Monroe before being edged out by his own father’s political maneuvering.  He headed out to Arizona and ran successfully for a short time.  Next, Fuller established himself in Georgia and eventually bought into the promotion there.  He followed his same formula, bringing in proven stars to work with established talent and pop the territory, culminating in a big ballpark show with he and Galento squaring off again.  He and fellow owner and top babyface Ray Gunkel were jockeying for positioning when Ray died and his widow Ann took over his shares.  She butted heads and to alleviate the situation Buddy traded stock with his uncle Les and headed to Florida while the problems in Atlanta grew worse.  Buddy's two sons, Ronald and Robert, were both breaking in under their father's eye and some suggest he and Gunkel bickered over the possible nepotism going on.  In Florida, Buddy mostly wrestled underneath as he was into his 40s and trying to help his sons get over.  After his Roy Welch's death and Jerry Jarrett split from Gulas, Fuller found his way back to Tennessee to help ease the situation. He aligned with Jarrett as a silent partner and helped soften the tension between the "outlaw" office out of Memphis and the NWA.  His sons had gotten over and were doing well for themselves and Fuller focused on real estate investments and even ran a wrestling school for a time.  The promotion bug bit him again before the 1970s were through and he worked with Jarrett and Louis Tillet to run Ohio.  Buddy Fuller has been an overlooked character in pro-wrestling history for a long time.  As an in-ring talent, he was successful, particularly in building himself and a heel up for a big match.  As a promoter and booker, he tended to buy into undeveloped markets and popped them with a simple, but effective formula and then sold out.  While he was crucial in establishing Memphis, Mobile and Atlanta as capitals of pro-wrestling, others like Jerry Jarrett, Jim Barnett, Lee Fields and even his own son Ron found more long-term success in those same markets.


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