Bronx, New York has a reputation for being a tough place to live. If you think the streets there are resilient, just think what it was like inside places such as Gleason’s Arena and Bobby Bold Eagle’s Wrestling Academy 30 years ago.
Young men like Panther Rodriguez who have the desire to win inside the ropes found out that there was more to learn than wrestling moves and submissions.
Rodriguez wasn’t always the biggest guy at the gym, but he got to face quite a few of the students who were. Getting beat up was par for the course, but it didn’t keep him from coming back.
“I had respect for the veterans who came before me, and I got respect and honor from the other guys in there as well,” Rodriguez said.
Not only did his trainer Bobby Bold Eagle expect Rodriguez to give his all at the gym, but he wanted him to a well-rounded wrestler who had an array of skills and wrestling styles.
So, when the wrestling training was finished for the day, the second half of the lesson took place, but that started when Rodriguez got to his home.
“He would give me crates of tapes from England and Mexico, and I’d go home and study them,” Rodriguez said. “The next day he would expect me to show him what I learned and we’d practice those moves over and over.”
For the past three decades, Panther Rodriguez has been leaving his impression on the wrestling business. For the first 10 years, he wrestled under a mask by the name of the Black Panther.
The veteran wrestler who trained with guys like Black Gordman and Frank Williams has been following the sport since 1983.
“I fell in love with wrestling when I saw Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine in the dog collar match,” Rodriquez said. “When you develop a passion like that, it never burns out.”
Rodriguez has wrestled for several promotions all over the country, including WWF, ECW, ESW, IWCCW, UCW, and several different affiliations under the NWA.
What is even more impressive than the companies he has worked for, are the wrestlers that he has stepped into the ring with. Rodriguez has worked with such talents as the Nasty Boys, Shane Douglas, Tazz, Mr. Hughes, and Kamala.
“My match with Kamala was super exhilarating,” Rodriguez said. “I was on T.V. all over the world and I got so many bookings by wrestling him.”
Wrestling for Panther Rodriguez isn’t just what he does, it’s who he is. Not only does he love the physicality of the sport, but he also loves being a part of the brotherhood that wrestling is.
As long as he stays healthy, there is no way that his passion for the business will fade out anytime soon. Rodriguez might have 30 years of wrestling under his belt, but that isn’t keeping him from learning all he can.
“I study wrestling every day. I go back to the 1920s and a lot of stuff from the ’50s and ’60s too,” Rodriguez said. “I like to watch and learn from a lot of different styles. I never stop learning.”