manny fernandez

Manny Fernandez (photo provided).

As volatile as his nickname suggests, Manny “Raging Bull” Fernandez became a well-known performer in the mid-1980s. The Post and Courier’s Mike Mooneyham phrased it best in a 2013 article in which he portrayed the Bull as having “lived the gimmick.” 

Following a long and brutal feud in Florida against fellow West Texas native Terry Funk, Fernandez debuted in the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984 as a tag-team partner to the popular Dusty Rhodes, with Ivan and Nikita Koloff as frequent challengers. Dusty and Manny traded tag title wins with the Russian pair during late ‘84/early ‘85 Fernandez then settled in as a rugged mid-card fan favorite, often facing The Barbarian, Arn Anderson, Baron Von Raschke and Abdullah The Butcher. This run as a “good guy” continued through the summer of ‘86, with Fernandez often victorious.

However, after a recurring series of overtures, Manny’s ongoing antagonist, manager Paul Jones, finally persuaded Fernandez to join his remodeled Army, tempting him via a money-filled suitcase. The same suitcase became the symbol for betrayal as the Bull promptly used it on the noggin of then-tag partner Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant as part of a memorable angle in Charlotte on Oct. 4, 1986. Yet, rather than what appeared to represent the start of a natural singles’ feud against Valiant, turncoat Fernandez and new stablemate Ravishing Rick Rude formed the “Awesome Twosome,” clearly the high-profile stars of Jones’ crew. The imposing duo would win the NWA tag-team championship from the Rock ‘N Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) in a televised match that December, marking the start of Fernandez’s second tenure as a tag champion.

Fernandez and Rude defended the belts in rematches with Morton and Gibson, and in battles versus the Road Warriors. The nearly six-month reign ended when Rude departed for WWE. Given the circumstances, a “phantom title change” reinstated the Rock 'N Roll Express to championship status. Left to work as a solo heel, the handwriting may have been on the wall for Manny who then spent the summer months of ‘87 battling the likes of Jimmy Garvin and both Barry and Kendall Windham.

He finished up with the NWA at the close of September, ending a successful three-year association with Crockett Promotions, leaving for the American Wrestling Alliance to renew a longstanding feud with Wahoo McDaniel. Beyond that, Fernandez also toured for regional and independent groups. In recent years, he's made an impact in social media through his feisty, outspoken interviews, occasionally generating industry backlash. Yet, for the confrontational and intense Raging Bull, creating controversy seems a natural and decidedly characteristic activity.

- Kenneth Mihalik

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