Nature Boy


Wednesday April 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake , IL

   I was watching some old wrestling videos on You Tube today, and ran across a name I hadn’t heard in years – Roger “Nature Boy” Kirby. He wasn’t a major star, but I always liked his name. I never saw Buddy Rogers who also used the “Nature Boy” moniker, as did the great Ric Flair.

   I used to regularly see live matches from about age 12 or 13 on, and the promotion that came to Milwaukee where I grew up was the American Wrestling Association, or A.W.A. In retrospect, it was one of the very best promotions of the old territory days and my high school years were right in the middle of a golden era. There was top flight talent then, and growing up I was a huge fan.

   There were also quite a few fans in my high school, and we often talked about wrestling events just like we’d talk about baseball or football. It was very popular, and nobody cared if it was real or not because of the colorful personalities. Those guys knew how to entertain live and on TV.

   Roger Kirby only wrestled in the A.W.A. for a short time, but he was a bleach blonde bad guy who played an arrogant character. He had huge legs, and apparently really broke an actual world record for leg pressing a staggering amount I can’t remember, but I think it was around 2800 lbs.

   Right around that time there was a kid who started attending our high school who’d just moved to Milwaukee from the Detroit area and his name happened to be Michael Kirby. It wasn’t a full day in before his nickname obviously became “Nature Boy”, but nobody meant any harm by it.

   I got to be friends with Michael as the year went on, and I really grew to like him a lot. He was a rather serious type, but a super nice kid who tried really hard. I could tell there was some kind of trouble in his life, and he was definitely a dented can. I’m not sure of what his family situation was, but I don’t think it was the greatest. Somewhere in his life, I sensed he had felt a lot of pain.

   I went out of my way to be friends with the guy, and I could tell he really appreciated it. I knew it would be hard for him or anyone to move to a new town in the middle of a school year, and the Detroit Pistons t-shirts he wore to school didn’t help as some idiots used to get on him about it.

   He also happened to be black, and I think that was an issue too. He wasn’t comfortable around many people, and I just sensed the guy needed a friend. I got along great with him, and he ended up confiding in me later that it was my being friendly to him that gave him strength to carry on.

   Later in the year, he came to me with a dejected look in his eye asking why people kept calling him “Nature Boy”. He thought people were making fun of him, and he couldn’t understand why. He wasn’t a wrestling fan and had no idea who Roger Kirby was, so I told him the whole story.

   His eyes lit up like I’d told him he’d just been pardoned from a major felony. He was delighted to hear the story, and that it wasn’t him they were poking fun at. I have no idea whatever became of Michael Kirby, but I sure wish the man the very best and hope he found happiness in his life.

   I looked up Roger Kirby, and he’s still alive. He’s 73 and apparently living in Kansas City with his family, and I wish him well too. I don’t know if anyone calls him “Nature Boy” anymore, but it sure is a cool nickname for anyone who uses it – at least I think so. Michael Kirby didn’t like it at all, but he wasn’t a wrestling fan. Should there ever come a day when I have a son, he just may have his mail addressed to Mean Gene “Nature Boy” Maxwell. There’s a reason I’m not married.

'Nature Boy' Roger Kirby

‘Nature Boy’ Roger Kirby

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