Long before Braden Walker was a gleam in whomever’s creative eye, “Wildcat” Chris Harris tore up the Midwest Indy scene as one of the nation’s most promising up and coming superstars.
He, like some of the others I’ve written about in previous weeks, got his start in the Northern Wrestling Federation as a student of Roger Ruffen. He was a tall, skinny kid when he started but by the time he started to get recognition in places like Nashville and Evansville, he had developed his physique into that of a real professional wrestler.
He caught the eye of WCW’s developmental program in its infancy and eventually made it to WCW Saturday Night as one of their new talents. He also had a nice feature in a country music video by Clay Davidson. He was showing great promise and was gaining tons of momentum.
He had mostly left the NWF, which ran weekly events in the Greater Cincinnati area in order to expand his circle of influence. This was always a tough decision; you were guaranteed a great spot with tons of work in the local promotion – but it was hard to expand career opportunities if you didn’t take that risk.
Fortunately, Ruffen was able to accommodate the touring schedule of both Harris and Prince Justice, who the world now knows as TNA’s The Monster Abyss and still use them on his major monthly event at Peels Palace.
Peels Palace is an infamous venue in Northern Kentucky that ran boxing and wrestling regularly. Even before Harris had his first day of training at BoneKrushers, Smoky Mountain Wrestling had promoted events there until they decided it wasn’t worth the trip from Knoxville. The NWF (pre-Ruffen) jumped all over that opportunity and adopted Peels as their home.
Fast forward to years after Harris began his career. I was new to the promotion, being there just under a year. In my role as “front office personnel” I was often called on to go to ringside to check on wrestlers who had been attacked or hurt by another wrestler.
Prince Justice (Abyss) and his manager, Sin D, had done a number on the very popular Wildcat leaving him laying in the ring with several of his finishing move, the pre-cursor to the Black Hole Slam. Ruffen, who was also on-screen as “office,” and I went to the ring to check on Chris while the over 400 fans yelled and jeered and demanded revenge. As we were checking on Wildcat, I looked up and saw that between Roger and I was one of our loyal fans. He, too, thought he should check on the fallen hero.
I looked at Ruffen. He looked at me. Finally, I yelled over at one of the security guards at ringside and said, “Get him out of here!” He pulled the fan out of the ring and Ruffen and I tried not to laugh.
Harris would go on to bigger heights in his run in TNA, winning the NWA tag team titles seven times. And of course there was that abbreviated run in ECW. But now, he can be seen every weekend as a heel in Northern Wrestling Federation rings and backstage teaching and mentoring the new generation of Indy workers.
But I’ll always remember him best as the lovable babyface that caused a fan to jump in the ring to check on his health.
Tags: braden walker, Wildcat Chris Harris