Throughout his two-plus decades in the professional wrestling business, Bob Holly had many roles. He was a race car driver, a glorified jobber, a tag team champion, a hardcore champion and grizzled ring veteran tasked with training the next generation of Superstars. No matter what character he played, there was no denying that Holly was one tough S.O.B.
An employee of World Wrestling Entertainment for well over a decade, Holly watched as the company enduring humbling lows and tremendous highs not unlike his in-ring career.
One of the company's more underappreciated stars, Holly was able to hang with Superstars such as The Rock and Mankind while simultaneously ensuring the future of the industry by putting over young up-and-comers like Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar.
His attitude and demeanor rubbed many a co-worker the wrong way, leading to very public debates about his presence in the locker room, but few could deny the dedication to the company and his workhorse nature. Unwilling to accept those who did not take the business as seriously as he, Holly had no problems initiating them into the proverbial school of hard knocks.
Regardless of one's opinions of the hard-hitting, tough-talking Alabaman, no one could question his heart or his desire. Throughout his ten-plus years with the Vince McMahon-owned WWE, Holly compiled an impressive resume full of championships, high-profile matches and entertaining moments that fans will look back on and relive throughout the years to come.
These are just a few of them.
In January 1994, vignettes began airing hyping the debut of a NASCAR driver-turned-professional wrestler named Thurman "Sparky" Plugg. If the name was not enough to make fans cringe, the gimmick certainly was.
At the Royal Rumble, Plugg entered the massive 30-man Rumble match and lasted an impressive 21 minutes and 33 seconds, being the 17th man eliminated from the bout.
Unfortunately, the match was not what one would refer to as a launching pad for Plugg. In fact, outside of racking up victories over enhancement talent, his win-loss record was far from sparkling. It would take a name change to Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly and an unlikely partnership with The 1-2-3 Kid to spark any sort of momentum.
Royal Rumble 1995 and the Tag Team Championship
When the WWE Tag Team Championships were vacated following a split between Shawn Michaels and Diesel, a tournament was held to fill the vacancy. Established teams such as The Headshrinkers, The Heavenly Bodies, Well Dunn and The Bushwhackers vied for the right to call themselves champions, but it was two makeshift teams that advanced to the finals.
Holly and The 1-2-3 Kid met Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka for the titles at the 1995 Royal Rumble. Much to the shock of fans and analysts alike, the underdog duo shocked the Million Dollar Corporation team and captured the titles.
Their celebration would be short-lived. They lost the straps 24 hours later to the returning Smoking Gunns, but no one could ever take the moment away from Holly. The title reign was his first in a national company.
The New Midnight Express
The dawn of the Attitude Era very much left Holly's future in WWE in question. The race car driver gimmick certainly would not work in a company that was moving in an edgier direction. Luckily (or not) for him, an idea was devised to pair him with Bart Gunn as part of the NWA's association with the company.
Dubbed the New Midnight Express, the team featured some solid chemistry from two guys whose greatest victories had come in tag wrestling. They achieved some moderate success, becoming the final team to be eliminated in the Tag Team Battle Royal at WrestleMania XIV and defeating the legendary Rock and Roll Express at Unforgiven in April 1998.
By the time the Brawl for All concept debuted on television, the decision was made to do away with the team, and Holly was left floundering in the midcard. He joined The J.O.B. Squad and at least managed to keep busy, but he was doing nothing of note as the hottest year in WWE history came to a close.
Luckily for him, he would be introduced to the hardcore wrestling style, and his career would change forever.
Reinventing Himself and the Hardcore Championship
In early 1999, Holly would replace his first name with the nickname "Hardcore" and begin competing for the championship of the same name. At the St. Valentine's Day Massacre pay-per-view, Holly defeated Al Snow to capture the title in a great match that spilled out into the cold Memphis night.
A month later, he regained the championship by defeating Snow and Billy Gunn at WrestleMania XV in what was the biggest win of his career to that point.
As the year progressed, Holly was allowed the opportunity to develop a character. Referring to himself as "The Big Shot" and a super heavyweight, Holly stood up in the face of the biggest men in the sport, including Kane, Big Show and Undertaker. For the first time in his stint with WWE, Holly thrived as a singles competitor and seemed to be connecting with the audience in a way he struggled to earlier.
Unfortunately, his push was cut off at the knees when his on-screen cousin Crash debuted, and the Hollys focused on the tag team division.
The Hollys and 24/7
On October 18, 1999, the Hollys defeated The Rock and Mankind to capture the WWE Tag Team Championships. It was a huge win for the team, especially considering the quality of the Superstars they knocked off to achieve their goal.
The reign lasted only weeks, but during that time, fans were exposed to an act that would fuel the hardcore division within WWE.
The cousins were the most dysfunctional relatives in WWE. Bob could not stand Crash, looking at him as more of a pain in the neck than a loved one. They feuded with one another as much as they feuded with their opponents, and the two would come to blows in the middle of tag team matches on a regular basis.
When Crash won the Hardcore Championship and implemented the 24/7 rule, Hardcore Holly could not help but be jealous. He became a regular challenger for the title, winning it in controversial fashion at WrestleMania 2000 before dropping it right back to Crash the next night.
Unfortunately, all of the progress he had made as a character and worker was brought to a screeching halt on the road to the King of the Ring pay-per-view in June 2000 when his forearm was shattered courtesy of a moonsault by Kurt Angle.
Holly would return months later, but it was clear that his best days were behind him. Superstars such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, the Dudley Boyz, the Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian had begun taking over the midcard, leaving very little space for the veteran worker.
SmackDown and Brock Lesnar
From 2001 until 2006, Holly served as a trusted member of the WWE locker room, usually being called on to put others over. He also served as a trainer on WWE Tough Enough, a reality show in which one lucky youngster would win a contract with the company. It was there that he soiled his reputation by roughing up contestant Matt Cappotelli.
Opinions differ on whether Holly was in the right or wrong, but it took Holly years to shed the label of someone who took advantage of a young and naive kid to put himself over as a tough guy.
When Holly was drafted to SmackDown following the Brand Extension in 2002, many saw it as an opportunity for him to regain some television exposure. As a measuring stick for new stars, Holly worked regularly with the likes of Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and John Cena, three young stars looking to make a name for themselves at his expense.
Lesnar, in particular, would provide Holly with his toughest test. The unstoppable force attempted a powerbomb on the veteran, but a miscommunication led to a serious neck injury for Holly. Requiring surgery, Holly was once again forced to sit on the sidelines and watch time tick off of his career.
He returned to the ring in 2003, immediately targeting Lesnar, who was now the unquestioned top star in WWE. Holly brutally assaulted the then-WWE champion, setting up a match between the two at Royal Rumble 2004.
The highest-profile match of Holly's career was essentially a showcase for Lesnar, who established dominance and finished his rival off with an F5.
For Holly, the disappointing loss signaled the end of any shot he had of achieving a sustained main event run in the company he had been so loyal to for so long.
ECW and Teaming With Cody
The relaunched ECW provided Holly another outlet to showcase his toughness. A veteran worker whose style better fit the ECW brand than anything happening on Raw or SmackDown, Holly thrived as the badass Alabaman looking to make an impact in the land of the extreme.
On September 26, 2006, Holly wrestled Rob Van Dam in a brutal Extreme Rules match. Midway through the bout, the former Hardcore and Tag Team champion was suplexed through a table that shattered, resulting in a large laceration on his back. The gruesome injury hardly slowed the double tough Superstar, who continued the match.
In December, at the first (and only) ECW-exclusive pay-per-view, Holly substituted for Sabu in the Extreme Elimination Chamber match for the ECW Championship. He did not win, but Holly again proved that he could rise to the occasion when given the opportunity.
In 2007, Holly took on the role of mentoring young Cody Rhodes. Using tough love to teach him the ropes on the main roster, Holly roughed him up a few times before becoming his tag team partner. Together, they enjoyed a lengthy tag team title run that saw them pick up victories over teams such as Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch and The World's Greatest Tag Team.
Rhodes' heel turn in 2008 brought their partnership to an end.
On January 16, 2009, Holly's 15-year career with WWE came to an end.