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By Tony Dela Cruz of Lowell, Mass.
It's pretty common to eulogize a fallen wrestler with the phrase, "end of an era," but I think such a pronouncement is in line for the late Ray Traylor. His progression from the NWA to the WWF in the late 1980s became a prototype for Vince McMahon's creativity: Take an underutilized talent from the competition, improve his gimmick, and make him a WWF brand name. Traylor may have broken into the business as Big Bubba Rogers, a prototypical "bodyguard in a suit and sunglasses," but he turned into sudden money in the WWF as a morally compromised prison guard, the Big Bossman.
It's not a stretch to say that Traylor paved the way for the emergence of the Undertaker and the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF. Put yourself in the shoes of a young Mark Callous or Jim Hellwig. One is grinding away in the midcard of the NWA, the other is thriving in a shrinking Texas promotion. You see Big Bubba go from being a muted semi-monster heel whose gets to stand behind Jim Cornette or occasionally get kicked around by Dusty Rhodes, you get to see him go from that, to getting pushed to the sky with Hulk Hogan and taking a career-making bump off the top of a cage on Saturday Night's Main Event. I imagine as Vince McMahon started raiding the talent rosters of his competition, he was able to point to the Big Bossman and say, "This can be you in a year or two."