Bullet Bob Armstrong | Remembering The James Family Patriarch

One of wrestling’s most believable in-ring athletes and best promo stars for many decades, Bullet Bob Armstrong passed away yesterday far too young at only 80. Bob had fought prostate, rib, and shoulder cancer for some time and had chosen to stop receiving treatment. He began his in-ring career in 1960, wrestling mainly near the Southeast NWA territories that he loved. Bob received some of his greatest fame and praise for his years of work in Georgia and much later inspiring everyone in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling 1990’s promotion. And he attended our 1995 CAClub ancillary Tampa reunion along with his friends Gordon Solie, Don Curtis, Wahoo McDaniel, John “Johnny Ace” Laurenitis, Danny Miller, and Coach Heath.

Many will recall his verbal wars in the early ’80s with CAC double honoree Roddy Piper on Ole Anderson’s Georgia Championship Wrestling weekly WTBS show. But he was involved in consistently drawing singles and tag feuds there for years prior. He held various straps all over the SouthEast and, of course, in Atlanta for years dating back to the early seventies including a long face run teamed with Robert Fuller as well as with CAC longtimers Les Thatcher and Johnny “Mr. Wrestling 2” Walker, Big Bill Dromo and Ron Fuller.

Bullet Bob Armstrong | Remembering The James Patriarch

In the dressing room, he was motivated to try to verbally outpace on the mike fellow greats there like his boss Ole, Assassin Jody Hamilton, Superstar Bill Eadie, and even a visiting Fred Blassie every few years in town usually during the holidays with family living there. “When Bobby Heenan came through here, which was special in Georgia, he gave me the compliment of saying he loved my interviews. That was something coming from a star like him, and we certainly had some talkers here, to begin with,” Bob said in 2009. Bob also told me how proud he was of his early seventies All Japan tours too for Giant Shohei Baba.

He was a legit former fireman and total tough guy from Marietta, GA. He helped train and always showed concern and aide for others. And the wrestling world was there for him when he had a freak bench-pressing accident. An accident that broke many facial and other bones with months of substantial pain. But he “powered through.”

Conflicting stories have either Atlanta promoter Paul Jones or Gordon Solie claiming they came up with Bob’s “bullet” nickname. Still, it actually came from earlier in Bob’s life, pre-wrestling. Professionally (a few times after losing “loser leave town” stips, etc.), Bob would use his Bullet nickname. Usually when he worked with a “bullet” hood on at various points in his career.

Setting Records

Bob Armstrong also wrestled over 59 years, which is an incredible stat. At seven decades, Lou Thesz’s record still stands in the in-ring time charts. With Al Costello and Johnnie Mae Young right behind. Armstrong is comfortably in 4th place on that amazing list, time-wise off the top of my head. Guys, if there’s anyone I’ve left off here, please holler, and we’ll credit you if the information’s correct. The point is that Armstrong loved the biz, getting in the ring with his sons and friends. And for him, the ring truly was a sacred place.

A Families Wrestling Lineage

Like the Harts, Sharpes, Von Erichs, (Grizzly, Jake, Sam, Robin) Smiths, and many other legendary grappling families, Bob was very proud to break in and later team with his equally great wrestling sons in Robert Bradly (Brad), Scott, Steve, and Brian. Bob was inducted into WWE’s HOF in 2011 with his sons present. HHH, Mick Foley, Bruno Lauer, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Sean Waltman, and more just posted online tributes to him. 

Sean Waltman wrote:

“Bob really crushed his HOF speech when he was inducted. Never seen a father more proud of his sons & sons more proud of their father…ever!”

The classic NWA’s real heart and soul may be gone and with his old pal Rubberman Walker. But our overall global industry truly lost someone much more than a mere wrestling star. Bob (real name Joseph James) will never be forgotten for all his many accomplishments in and out of the biz.