It really didn’t matter to Randy Colley if he was wearing face paint, behind a mask, or chewing on a bone.
All that mattered was that he was doing the thing he loved most.
And that’s “rasslin.”
Colley, who passed away on Dec. 14 at the age of 69, served as a journeyman, a talented worker who went from territory to territory, changing gimmicks at the drop of a hat.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d do it even quicker. It’s a shame that everybody has to grow up someday,” said Colley in a 2013 interview.
His list of gimmicks and monikers over a 25-year career could fill a chapter in a book.
Among them: one half of The Assassins along with Jody Hamilton and others, a Dalton brother, a founding member of Demolition, Deadeye Dick with Black Bart and Dutch Mantel as The Desperados, Uvalde Slim, Detroit Demolition and Randy The Mountaineer.
He held the North American title for Cowboy Bill Watts as The Nightmare and The Champion, was one of the many Black Scorpions in WCW, and went under a hood as a member of The Medics and The Executioners.
And there were plenty more.
Perhaps his most memorable persona, though, was as Moondog Rex.
With Moondog King (Sailor Moran) and later Moondog Spot (Larry Booker), Colley achieved success throughout the country during the 1980s as part of one of wrestling’s most bizarre and hardcore duos.
Colley passed away one week after surgery to amputate his right leg above the knee.
Welcome to rasslin’
Colley broke into the business in the early ‘70s in Atlanta. Al Velasco, who worked for Gunkel Enterprises at the time, took him under his wing.
“I was just knocking on everybody’s door trying to find out how to get into the business. I finally found out where he lived and went to his house,” Colley recalled.
Velasco told Colley that he would help him out — if he could beat him.
“Here I am,” Colley responded. “Al was a nice guy. He helped me out an awful lot.”
But not before putting Colley in a sugar hold (an old catch wrestling move, made somewhat famous by Stu Hart, that can cause the victim considerable discomfort).
“I passed out. They guy who was with me left,” said Colley.
Colley was able to regain his composure, make the 45-minute drive back home and go to his friend’s house.
“I woke up, got out of my car and made it back to his house. I was still kind of humdrum.”
Upon seeing Colley, his surprised friend exclaimed, “I thought you were dead ... I didn’t know what to do!”
Colley said he didn’t start pondering his situation until the next day.
“And then I thought: I don’t believe that guy did that to me.”
The pain continued at the next session. But on Colley’s third visit, it was a different story.
“At the end of that session, he said, ‘Let’s just have some orange juice.' He had put me out two times, so I guess he was surprised when I came back again.”
A full-fledged grappler at that point, the 23-year-old Colley began his two-decade trek across the country and around the world, working in all 50 states and touring a number of foreign countries during his career.
He was what he always wanted to be. A rassler.
During the ‘70s Colley worked in a number of territories.
“I went from Atlanta to Puerto Rico, Montgomery, Tampa, Tennessee,” he said.
The first moniker of many that Colley would use was “Golden Boy” Randy Jones.
“They couldn’t say Colley down in Puerto Rico, so the guy said Jones. I didn’t care. They could call me whatever they wanted to,” said Colley, who dyed his blond for the gimmick.
His next stop was Montgomery, Ala.
“They asked me if I minded changing my name. Here we go again. They had Jim Dalton coming in, so I was Jack Dalton of the Dalton Brothers. It (the town) didn’t die completely, but it was pretty much gone when we got there. We gave it a little boost,” said Colley, who with his new partner captured the Gulf Coast tag-team belts from Eddie Sullivan and Rip Tyler.
While working in the Knoxville area, Colley was asked if he’d like to be one of the Masked Assassins.
A big fan of the original duo (Tom Renesto and Jody Hamilton), Colley jumped at the opportunity when the two went their separate ways. He wore the hood in Knoxville, Atlanta, Pensacola and Memphis, where they feuded with Robert Fuller and Bill Dundee over the AWA Southern tag-team belts.
“I never thought I would have been in that situation,” he said. “When the guy asked me about it, I said, ‘You’ve got to be joking.’ He said he wasn’t, and I wasn’t going to pass that up.”
He even got to team with Hamilton under the hoods in Atlanta in 1979, and the two held the Georgia tag-team belts on two different occasions, once challenging Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the NWA world tag-team title at the Omni.
Colley was so mesmerized by Hamilton, he said, that he would often find himself watching, instead of participating, in the match.
“I had the best seat in the house. He’d start to tag me sometimes, and I’d go, “No, no, wait!’”
Colley said he thoroughly enjoyed his run with Hamilton.
“We had some great matches with Mr. Wrestling No. 1 and 2. They were unreal.”
Colley had teamed with Roger Smith as The Assassins in the Knoxville territory where they held the Southern tag-team title on several occasions.
“He looked just like Jody,” Colley said of Smith. “I saw him in Atlanta one night, and he came in and started getting dressed. And Jody was getting dressed. I thought he was going to replace me.”
Colley said he was on his way out when Charlie Fulton stopped him.
“Hey, they’re looking for you back here,” Fulton told Colley.
“Tell them you can’t find me,” Colley shot back.
“That’s when Charlie said they were really looking for me. I had my bag in my hand and I walked back there and they took me aside.”
“We’ve got something we’re going to do tonight,” they told Colley.
“And that was the night I was Uvalde Slim. Working with Ole Anderson at the Omni as Uvalde Slim ... now that was something.”
Birth of The Moondogs
A month later Colley found himself in New York.
He was looking over his booking sheet when he asked Angelo Savoldi what “MSG” meant.
It was, of course, Madison Square Garden, and Colley was booked to wrestle there.
He made the Garden in only his fourth or fifth show in the territory. As he looked out over the massive crowd, one thought came to mind.
“It didn’t look any different from the Omni,” he recalled. “The Omni was kind of like the pinnacle. I had always been down South, and it was like, if you could make it at the Omni, you could make it anywhere. Madison Square Garden was the place, but to me the Omni was just special.”
Colley, who worked in New York in 1979 and 1980, introduced himself to Vince McMahon Sr. and asked the veteran promoter if they might have a name for him.
“What about Ripper Hawkins?” McMahon asked.
Colley, who had appeared under worse names, told McMahon that he could live with that moniker, at least until something better came up.
In the meantime, a number of folks were noticing Colley’s resemblance to Oregon-based star “Moondog” Lonnie Mayne, and they were mentioning it to McMahon.
Colley had only met the wild and unpredictable Mayne once in Texas, and only in passing.
Before he knew it, he was being asked by McMahon if he minded changing his name to The Moondog.
Like always, Colley didn’t really mind what promoters called him, as long as he got paid.
“I didn’t care. I’ll get a bone and wear cut-off blue jeans,” Colley told McMahon, who thought it was a great idea.
The idea eventually expanded to a pair of Moondogs.
“We need another bone and another pair of jeans. We’re going to make him a Moondog,” McMahon said of Colley’s new partner, a colorful Newfoundlander by the name of Ed “Sailor” White.
“That’s how The Moondogs was born,” said Colley.
In 1981, the two brawlers with shredded jeans and chewed-up bones, now repackaged as Moondogs Rex and King, would win the WWWF tag-team title from Tony Garea and Rick Martel.
When White was arrested and denied re-entry to the United States at the Canadian border, the WWWF replaced him with a number of substitutes including Stan Hansen, Sgt. Slaughter, Lou Albano and even Hulk Hogan.
White would later claim that a border dispute involved a rival wrestling promoter alerting the authorities to his criminal past.
For whatever reason, White was not allowed to come back across the border from Canada.
“It might have been his magnetic personality,” Colley said, with a hint of sarcasm. “They wouldn’t let him back in the states.”
The WWWF made the announcement that Moondog King (White) had been hit by a car to explain his departure.
“Sailor was an alright guy,” said Colley. “He was from Newfoundland, and I was from Alabama. There was nothing wrong with Sailor. He was bad about drinking, and I didn’t want to be a babysitter. I wish I could have done something different. I hated that. But we just didn’t click.”
Larry Booker, better known as Larry Latham, was brought in from Louisiana to take White’s place. Andre The Giant had seen Booker work in that territory, and suggested him for the job.
“This guy will make you a good Moondog,” Andre told Colley.
“Larry was from Tennessee. We just got along a lot better.”
The gimmick took off immediately. With his shaggy hair and wild eyes, Booker was a natural.
“I thought we’d have to struggle with it, and everyone would be asking where King was. But it was just like he’d always been there. We went along with it.”
Vince Sr. came up with the name Moondog Spot for Booker.
The two were in New York for a year before going to Johannesburg, South Africa, and Puerto Rico, where they won the North American tag-team belts from Eddie and Tommy Gilbert, the Caribbean tag straps from Super Gladiator and The Invader, and the world tag title from Pierre Martel and Invader 1.
Colley and Booker returned to the States in late 1982. They went to Georgia, the Carolinas and Louisiana.
“I got an apartment in Atlanta and was never there. It seems like we were going everywhere,” said Colley.
Then they went to Memphis. That’s where they hit pay dirt.
“We had such good guys to work with. Guys like The Fabulous Ones, Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, who had Jackie Fargo coming in. It was just unreal.”
Booker had enjoyed success in that area in a “previous life,” appearing as Larry Latham and teaming with Wayne Ferris (the eventual Honky Tonk Man) as The Blond Bombers, with manager Danny Davis.
The Moondogs’ first run in Memphis lasted about a year and a half. They went back to New York in 1983, but were in and out of Memphis.
When The Moondogs returned to New York, it was different. They were placed in programs with teams whose members didn’t get along.
“It was an odd situation,” said Colley. “Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson were the champs and barely speaking. They took the belts off them and put them on Dickie Murdoch and Adrian Adonis. That was an odd couple, and they didn’t get along.”
The Moondogs were caught smack dab in the middle.
George Scott, meanwhile, had been brought in as booker.
“I’ve got a real mess here,” Scott said.
Nonetheless, says Colley, it was hard to beat New York money.
“If you worked there, you were going to make $2,500 a week. Anywhere else, be happy with what you got or else. Maybe $1,500 a week and busting your hump. It was kind of like a joyride there for a couple of years,” said Colley, who had the opportunity to face Hogan for the WWF world title in 1984.
Dogs had their day
Colley and Booker, the most remembered of the various Moondogs tag teams, continued to draw big crowds, particularly in Tennessee, with their wild and bloody brawls.
Wearing cutoff jeans and carrying oversized bones to the ring, The Moondogs, with their scraggly hair and beards, were unorthodox, hardcore brawlers who threw chairs as readily as they did punches.
But in the latter part of 1986, Colley came up with the idea for another gimmick. This one would reap huge dividends but, unfortunately for Colley, it wouldn’t include him.
The name of the team would be Demolition. Veteran star Bill Eadie would come in as Ax, while Colley would play the Smash character. Only problem was that in their first night out, at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, there was a contingent of fans chanting ‘Moondog! Moondog! Moondog!’ They, of course, had recognized him from his days as Moondog Rex, and even the face paint couldn’t help hide his identity.
Colley was unceremoniously replaced, the role was given to Barry Darsow (who had been wrestling in the NWA as Krusher Khruschev), and the team went on to great success.
Colley wound down his in-ring career doing a Detroit Demolition gimmick in Alabama with Eddie Gilbert.
“We weren’t getting rich, but everybody was having a good time,” says Colley. “When that finally played out, I just went back and forth from Germany and England for a while. The Moondogs were pretty popular over there. It was kind of based on past reputation.”
His last active year in the ring was in 1995. Twenty-five years in the business, 50 states and 30 countries. And a whole lot of aches and pains.
Other jobs followed including electrical work, house remodeling and a bail bond company.
Nothing, however, would ever take the place of wrestling.
“I loved it ... I really did,” said Colley, who was a native of Alexander City, Ala.
His longtime partner, Larry Booker, aka Moondog Spot, died in 2003 during a legends match at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis.
Booker, 51, suffered a heart attack during a Saturday night show that had been promoted as a birthday bash for Jerry Lawler. Booker, who was reprising his Moondog Spot role with a new partner billed as Moondog Puppy Love, collapsed in the middle of a four-team concession-stand battle royal that had included The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson).
The match went to an immediate finish when the participants realized that Booker, who had slumped over in a corner, appeared to be unresponsive.
Medical personnel were summoned to the ring as the announcer explained to fans that the surreal scene wasn’t part of the show. Booker never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. A coroner reported that his death was from a massive heart attack “due to complications from diabetes.” The state of Tennessee did not require wrestlers to undergo physical examinations before performing.
Colley was heartbroken, but was grateful for the circumstances.
“Larry loved Memphis. He loved that town more than anything,” said Colley.
Jerry Lawler, who helped organize the event, had asked Colley to work the legends show.
“I had just had heart surgery and I couldn’t make it,” said Colley. “But Larry was chomping at the bit to go.”
Booker seemed to enjoy his alter ego and kept the Moondog persona until the very end, dying doing what he loved best. That it happened in a wrestling ring, at the Mid-South Coliseum, in a concession-stand brawl, is probably best left to Memphis wrestling lore.
“If it had to happen, that was the way to go,” said Colley. “It was his favorite town in his favorite territory. And he was working with The Rock ’N Roll Express.”
‘A man’s man’
A skilled electrician who eventually became an ordained minister, Colley was widely respected in the wrestling business.
“I had the pleasure of working, traveling, laughing and being with Randy during the early ‘90s. A true gentleman and a class act all around … A massive loss to wrestling,” tweeted NXT coach and mat veteran Robby Brookside.
Former pro wrestler Bob Blackburn, known at the time as D.I. Bob Carter, was one of many who credited Colley with helping him break into the business.
“In 1988 I had the opportunity to be teamed with Randy who was working as the Detroit Demolition. I was known as The DI. I think at first he was thinking ‘What the heck … they are giving me this relative greenhorn,’ and I was. But due to Randy’s tutelage, we became a great team pretty quickly,” said Blackburn, who shared the Continental Wrestling tag title with Colley.
“We made our way all around Alabama, Mississippi, the Florida Panhandle and parts of Tennessee, and not with a map or atlas (there were no cellphones or GPS). We used menus of BBQ joints. We made every day an adventure.
“Randy Colley was, first and foremost, a man’s man … and, when pushed, was a handful. I’m grateful he and I remained friends for what marks 31 years. I am grateful to have gotten a chance for my oldest son to meet Randy a couple years back before he got real sick. I am saddened that I didn’t spend more time or talk more regularly, but we always caught up and got on with it as chatting and small talk was never Randy’s top 10 things to do.”
Veteran pro wrestler and promoter Jack Lord first met Colley in 1987 while trying to get his foot in the door with the Continental Wrestling Association (formerly Southeast Championship Wrestling).
“Randy was wrestling under the moniker of Detroit Demolition. As the original Smash of the WWF tag team Demolition, he still had all the gear from there. In the ring, he was as scary as they came, but behind the scenes you would be hard-pressed to find a nicer man. The guidance he gave me, the advice he shared and the friendship he showed to a young guy just wanting to succeed will stay with me forever. He was awfully good at cracking your spine back in place too. He was a good man in a hard business, and never let his successes change him from who he was.”
The overwhelming consensus on Randy Colley was reflected in his obituary: “Randy was feared by many in his career but loved by all.”
Reach Mike Mooneyham at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His latest book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com