Brad Stutts is a superstar but don’t tell him that. Though he might not be a household name, his face is relatively recognizable throughout the North Carolina independent pro wrestling scene. He is the charismatic leader of the babyface faction, Fatback Enterprises, a fan favorite in the Burlington, North Carolina based CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion. Every other Saturday night, local spectators fill the seats of the venue and watch two plus hours of the best in family entertainment put on by talented locals, ordinary men and women living an extraordinary dream. The small federation prides itself on the good old fashioned fundamentals of wrestling, shying away from the gimmicks and shock value that has seemingly turned the sport into sports entertainment. Even the most recognizable names like John Cena and CM Punk had to start somewhere and most Superstars get their start on the local scene of long hours and little money, fueled by passion and sheer love for their business. This is the breeding ground for tomorrow’s big names and that is why independent wrestling is the wave of the future.
Stutts offers a unique perspective on the world that has become his life. Influenced by the likes of the Missing Link, Jim Cornette, and Paul Heyman, among other notable names, he was attracted to the amazing delivery of his heroes that made a dream seem attainable for real people. A lifelong fan of the Indys, he often frequented local shows with his father and got his start at the tender age of 15 doing any odd job he was offered, including ringing the bell, taking pictures and announcing. He earned the affectionate nickname of Fatback from wrestler, “The Box Office Draw” Michael Yamaha in April of 2005 and the title stuck. Today, Stutts manages the group primarily comprised of Donnie Dollars and up and comer, Nick Richards.
If the Indys are indeed the future, breaking into the biz might not be as much of a pipe dream as one would think. True, competition is fierce but the more famous promotions are “looking for guys to change the game,” Stutts notes. In his opinion, that is why the WWE brought back The Rock and Brock Lesnar, partly because they are lacking in finding that special quality of the infamous “It” factor in the new guys. When it comes down to it, it is all about who is the most marketable, who can sell the most tickets and merchandise and who can exploit that unique something inside of them that will set them aside from the rest of the pack.
The CWF is full of young, marketable, and arguably fresh talent. Loyal fans pack the venue to cheer for Fatback Enterprises, who rock the house in their flashy pink and black ring attire. They mark for Indy legend, Rob “Boogie Woogie Man” McBride. They get their laughs from the overly ambiguously affectionate but super talented Fun Athletic Guys, and they love to boo the top heel group, the Aftermath, consisting of top billers, XSiris and Ric Converse, led by William Cross, who delightfully brings back the aura of the evil male manager (can we remember the good old days of Mr. Fuji, Slick, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart?). And the ladies can swoon at the mass of blonde curls that surrounds the handsome face of Adam Page, who proves night in and night out with a mean Shooting Star Press that he is way more than your average pretty boy. The locker room is filled with more talent, too many to name. Though their feuds may be legendary, the one thing that is the same, is the tight kinship, that infamous relationship between wrestlers that only they can understand. “I don’t know if this life chose us or we chose it,” Stutts comments thoughtfully but it is clear that it is a life he wouldn’t trade for the world.
It is easier said than done finding a “normal” job that will allow you the much needed time off required for training, traveling, and live shows. Life is scheduled around wrestling, not the other way around. It takes a toll on families and personal relationships. Sacrifice is the name of this game. Stutts is more than content with the way things are and he says his ultimate goal is to create opportunities and help others and do everything he can to make sure that the Indy shows he loved as a boy will still exist for generations to come. For him it is a family affair, as he met his wife, CWF referee, Katie Kincaid through the business that he loves. She was looking for a place to train and former WCW and WWE Superstar, Shane Helms suggested she look into CWF. Nine years later, they are still together and still involved in the business that helped them find each other.
The independent wrestling scene runs globally and breeds some of the best talent in the world. It is truly the alpha to the WWE’s omega. It is a wonderful atmosphere to be entertained, to lose yourself in that world for a few hours and indulge in the athleticism and kayfabe. The local talent of today are the Superstars of tomorrow so be sure to check out the promotions in your area and pass on the love of professional wrestling and support the men and women who put everything on the line to give you a great show. And if you’re ever in the Burlington area, be sure to check out a show and see the Chiva Kidd, Arik Royal, Joe Black, Gemini’s All Stars, Chase Dakota, the Killbillies and of course, Fatback Enterprises. You won’t be sorry you did. They, wrestling fans, are the heart and soul of this business. They are the future.