MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) – For the past seven decades, the professional wrestler affectionately known as the “Boogie Woogie Man” has traveled the world. During this period, Jimmy Valiant appeared as both a villain and a good guy to fans.
It was all a love fest last weekend in Montgomery County, however, as people stopped by Valiant’s professional wrestling school to wish him a happy 80th birthday.
If you look at Valiant when the camera isn’t on, he’s calm, quiet, and unassuming. His flamboyant attire is perhaps the only clue to his exotic life.
As soon as the camera is trained on him, the “Boogie Woogie Man” flips a switch and it says “ACTION”.
Valiant started his career at the age of 22. Trained by the legendary Verne Gagne, he quickly rose to the forefront of sports-entertainment.
He has performed for all of the top companies including the AWA, the NWA and today’s WWE. In addition, Valiant is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
After countless miles on the road, he found his future life and wife at an autograph session in the New River Valley.
Valiant and Angel married and opened Boogie’s Wrestling Camp in Shawsville in 1992, where he spent the last 30 years training future generations of grapplers and helping to keep the independent wrestling scene alive in the area.
Perhaps Valiant’s most successful student is Halifax “Hangman” Adam Page, who has wrestled for All Elite Wrestling for the past few years and was their heavyweight champion for several months.
Dozens of Valiant alumni turned out in Shawsville last weekend to pay their respects to the Boogie Woogie Man, including Ric Kelly, who retired last year after 25 years of wrestling and says meeting Valiant changed his life .
“I’ve learned a lot from Boogie both in and out of the ring. He was always like a father figure,” Kelly said. “I don’t know what my life would be like without BWC or Boogie.”
It wasn’t until a year into his own career that rookie wrestler Ric Reeves also thanked the man who introduced him to the sometimes mysterious world of wrestling.
“He treats me like family. This man has a lot of knowledge. You just listen to his stories and you can hear everything,” Reeves said. “I love that about it. Sit down, open your ears. Pay attention. This man has more wrestling knowledge than the rest of us can imagine.”
After 57 years in the ring, Valiant had his last match last year at the age of 79. However, he continues to appear as a wrestling ambassador on meet and greets.
Even at 80, he welcomes students and the general public to his wrestling school every Sunday from 12pm to 4pm
Valiant greets almost every visitor with a handshake and hug. Those who meet him seem to appreciate the moment.
Now his students say he’s more than just a teacher. They consider him family.
“I’m grateful to Boogie. Grateful for Angel. For all the boys,” Kelly said. “I love you Boogie. Happy 80th. Here’s to another 80 more.”