Rusty Brooks is a South Florida wrestling legend whose influence in the profession is global.
Trained by the Great Boris Malenko and Gentleman Jim Isler, Rusty worked extensively throughout Florida, competed abroad, wrestled for the NWA and was enhancement talent for the WWF (WWE) during the Hulk-A-Mania days.
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WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon and WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino -- on commentary -- were impressed with Rusty’s dropkick.
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In-ring action is just one facet of Rusty. He was even interviewed by Mr. McMahon on prime-time television.
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Wearing basically every hat in the business, Rusty has run shows in Florida, helped promotions and also trained many wrestlers at his School of Hard Knocks in South Florida including Gangrel (David Heath), Konnor of the Ascension, Luna, MVP, and Norman Smiley.
“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,” former WCW wrestler and current WWE coach/trainer Norman Smiley said. “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.”
Former WWF talent and current indie wrestler 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.”
He is greatly respected by fans, wrestlers and others in the business.
South Florida ring owner/technician Israel 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.”
Born in Denton, Texas, Rusty is a long-time South Florida resident who attended Miramar High School. Go Patriots. A portly fellow, Rusty wrestled smart, learning/knowing how to use his wider body in the ring. He sold very well, methodically dished out punishment, didn’t mind brawling and bleeding and also provided humor when necessary. He holds a doctorate in ring psychology.
Former Florida indie wrestler 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.
“A gifted entertainer with a wicked sense of humor that always has a Santa Claus-like twinkle in his eye. And the STORIES from the road with everybody from jobbers to legends. All true. Some can’t be printed. The big brother I never had.”
Rusty is a big brother, father figure and friend to many in the wrestling world. He does not wrestle anymore, but he continues to attend indie shows in the area, lending a hand if needed, and he is always available to share his knowledge.
On Dec. 2, Rusty was honored for his contributions to wrestling -- especially in Florida -- at a special Legends Luncheon at O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Tampa.
Gangrel said: “As for Florida wrestling, in particular South Florida wrestling, Rusty was a lighthouse in the storm and kept South Florida indie wrestling from crashing on the rocks and disappearing. His influence is still felt today and will be for a long, long time in Florida and the world of pro wrestling.”
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, who started with Championship Wrestling from Florida and is one-half of the Killer Bees with Jumping Jim Brunzell in the WWF, hosted the luncheon. He presented Rusty with a plaque.
Also honored was versatile talent Steve Keirn (Gator, Fabulous Ones, Skinner, Doink the Clown), one of the greats from CWF who starred in the territories and the WWF.
Many Florida wrestling legends attend the luncheons including Buddy Colt, Jerry Brisco, Outlaw Ron Bass and more.
At this particular luncheon, ICW Owner Jorge E. Portuondo presented Rusty with a commemorative ICW Legends Championship belt with quotes from many who have been influenced by him. ICW is one of the indie promotions in South Florida that Rusty helped by training talent and providing guidance.
Former South Florida Wrestling Promoter Bobby Rogers said: “When I was running my shows, more than three-fourths of the talent I used came out of Rusty Brooks training facility. Think about that. If they weren’t good enough, in fact the best, I wouldn’t have used them on my shows.”
He continued: “Rusty and I may have disagreed on things from time to time, just like many people do in this business, but we always maintained a level of professionalism and respect for the business. This enabled us to put our differences aside and come together for the sake of the fans and the boys to work together and do what was best for the events. The man genuinely cares and was never out for only himself. I spent many times at his home watching pay-per-view events, outside of our shows. He was always warm and welcoming.
“In the ring, he will choke you, punch you and cheat. Outside of the ring, Rusty Brooks is a good man.”
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South Florida indie wrestlers, broadcasters, engineer, referee talk Rusty Brooks.
Angel Rose with her coach/trainer Rusty Brooks, after she became the first woman to win the ICW title by defeating Mike Monroe, another of Rusty’s students (view 6:00).
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Maxwell Chicago vs. Thrasher with CCW Commissioner Rusty Brooks as the timekeeper (view 1:05)
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