MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — For the past seven decades, the professional wrestler known affectionately as the ‘Boogie Woogie Man’ traveled the globe. In that time, Jimmy Valiant performed for fans as both the villain and the good guy.
However, in Montgomery County last weekend, it was all a love fest as people stopped by Valiant’s professional wrestling school to wish him a happy 80th birthday.
Looking at Valiant when the camera is not on, he is calm, quiet, and unassuming. His flamboyant clothes may be the only hint of his exotic life.
Once the camera is on him, though, the ‘Boogie Woogie Man’ flips a switch and it is all “ACTION.”
Valiant began his career at the age of 22. Trained by the legendary Verne Gagne, he quickly rose to the top of sports entertainment.
He appeared for all the top companies, including the AWA, the NWA, and what is now the 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 future wife during an autograph session in the New River Valley.
Valiant and Angel married and opened “Boogie’s Wrestling Camp” in Shawsville in 1992, which is where he has trained future generations of grapplers for the past 30 years, helping keep the independent wrestling scene alive in the region.
Perhaps Valiant’s most successful student is ‘Hangman’ Adam Page from Halifax, who has wrestled the last few years for All Elite Wrestling and was its heavyweight champion for several months.
Dozens of Valiant’s former students showed up this past weekend in Shawsville to pay their respects to the Boogie Woogie Man, including Ric Kelly, who retired last year after wrestling for 25 years and says meeting Valiant changed his life.
“I learned a lot from Boogie both inside and outside 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.”
Just a year into his own career, rookie wrestler Ric Reeves also thanked the man who broke him into the sometimes secretive world of wrestling.
“He treats me like a family member. That man has a lot of knowledge. You just listen to his stories and you can hear it all,” said Reeves. “That’s what I love about it. Sit there, open your ears up. Pay attention. That man, he has more wrestling knowledge than the rest of us can think about.”
After 57 years in the ring, Valiant had his final match last year at the age of 79. However, he continues making appearances at meet and greets as an ambassador of wrestling.
Even at 80 years old, he still welcomes students and the general public to his wrestling school every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Valiant greets almost every visitor with a handshake and a hug. Those who encounter him seem to treasure the moment.
Meanwhile, his students say he is more than just a teacher. They consider him family.
“I’m thankful for Boogie. Thankful for Angel. For all the boys,” Kelly said. “I love you, Boogie. Happy 80th. Here’s to another 80 more.”