Nick “Big Bully” Busick knows something about safety. In fact, he knows a lot about safety. You don’t step into the ring against the likes of the legendary Abdullah the Butcher without knowing how to keep yourself safe or you won’t survive 10 seconds against someone like the 400-pound madman from Sudan, who has torn apart more than one opponent’s face with his teeth, a pencil or whatever his favorite foreign object of the moment happens to be.
Busick was a former champion powerlifter in the 1970s. He became a police officer in 1973 while keeping his eye on the wrestling ring. His grappling career from 1978 through 1991 complemented his work in law enforcement in West Virginia and Georgia.
Big Bully is now a safety specialist in the energy industry. One recent job was with Greene’s Energy Group where he was a regional safety representative at their Imperial, PA facility where he oversaw safety for drilling, production, completion and pipeline services. He still works in the industry and lives in Weirton, WV, literally in the heart of the Marcellus Shale.
Big Bully is 60, a burly, barrel-chested fellow who still accommodates 260 pounds on his 6-foot frame. Big Bully has also retained his bushy trademark handlebar mustache that harkens back to the 1890s.
In this interview, Big Bully discusses the importance of safety and his colorful wrestling career. He has three children; the oldest is Nicole, an animal control officer; a son, Robert, a West Virginia state trooper and former West Virginia state wrestling champion, and youngest son, Branko, who recently signed with a sports agent in preparation for NFL Pro Day.
P&GJ: Are workers in the Oil Patch fully aware of the hazards involved with their jobs?
Big Bully: Complacency is something in every walk of life that we need to guard against. You have to constantly work to make the guys keep safety in their forethoughts for the sake of nobody getting hurt and going home safely to their families.
It’s all about getting upper management involved. Then it filters down to the employees who know the company really cares about them. Ultimately it’s a team effort that boils down to the individual wanting to do it. If you don’t, they’ll run you off, justifiably so.
PG&J: What are some examples of how workers can be complacent without even realizing it?
Big Bully: I use an approach based on my years in law enforcement where you don’t try to strong arm people to get things done, but instead you create an overall mentality to try to make things easier and keep that in the forefront of everything you do. If you don’t, you can wind up hurt.
P&GJ: What are some common mistakes workers make regarding safety that are easy to overlook?
Big Bully: A big part of it is the old slips, trips and falls that you have to look out for. Being an avid fitness person, I see a lot of guys really sucking down these energy drinks, but be careful, because if you consume too much caffeine, it creates a problem. The key thing is doing our best to stop any reportable incidents where somebody gets hurt. If it does happen, break it down to see what works and implement it into the safety program to prevent it from happening again.
P&GJ: Health, safety and environment is not just oriented to the field, is it?
Big Bully: Absolutely not! We want people in the office to take better care of themselves. Try parking your car a little further away from the entrance and taking the steps. Watch what you eat; sugar is the newest evil. If you just rely on medicine for a condition, what might help you get off the medication at some point?
P&GJ: Many oilfield crews work in isolated locations that are difficult to reach, often having to drive long distances on roads that might be nearly nonexistent. How can they adjust to this kind of environment?
Big Bully: Have safety driving programs in place. Don’t make employees feel like they have to get there; if you’re tired, pull over. Don’t risk yourself and somebody else. That’s something all of the energy companies are getting into as an important safety aspect.
P&GJ: How did your experiences as a wrestler and police officer provide the knowledge you’re passing on to others?
Big Bully: In the police academies I taught use of force and defensive tactics, which fit into the wrestling. The wrestling doesn’t hurt. Social media keeps old geezers like me alive. Guys get a chuckle going on YouTube and watching some of the Big Bully Busick matches. That’s helped open doors and enabled me to communicate with my fellow workers.
Like wrestlers, the guys in the oil and gas field know if they’re injured or don’t have their health, they can’t work. So it’s vitally important from that aspect that they take care of themselves, just like if you’re a wrestler or a police officer.
P&GJ: Are younger workers more prone to accidents than older workers?
Big Bully: No. When the new guys come in, they’re indoctrinated through orientations and can adapt to the safety culture easier than some of the older workers who have the attitude that “this is the way we used to do things.”
P&GJ: How did you get involved with pro wrestling?
Big Bully: I was a fan ever since I was a little kid in Steubenville, OH, not far from Pittsburgh. My sports hero was Bruno Sammartino. I was trained by a wrestler named Mike Paidiousis and had my first match for the WWWF (Worldwide Wrestling Federation, which became the WWF in 1979 and now WWE) in May 1978 in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
I always used the wrestling as my side income as I worked in law enforcement training for 10 years in Weirton and College Park, GA where I took another police officer job in 1984.
I got to meet so many wonderful people. In the beginning of my career to go into the locker room and see Dominick DeNucci, Ken Patera, Jimmy Valiant, Abdullah, Bruiser Brody, and to wrestle these guys – I don’t know if I can say the right words.
My matches with Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell were what gave me my big push which got me into the WWF. Guys like him and Abdullah, Brody and Mr. Wrestling II really schooled me.
P&GJ: When did you become “Big Bully” Busick?
Big Bully: I was with Georgia Championship Wrestling and told my wife that if I was going to make it in the business I’d better do something because the window was starting to close. Another wrestler told me that I couldn’t dye my hair blonde and wear loud colors, but to take a look at my physique, which was very similar to Bruno’s and stocky guys like Bulldog Brower, Crusher Lisowksi. I began watching their styles.
Pittsburgh was still a tough steel town with one-shot beers and I tried to figure out what these guys had in common; a lot of them smoked big cigars, wore hats and had mustaches. That fit the character but I couldn’t come up with the name. Finally a promoter friend told me, “Nick, you just described a bully. Big Bully Busick.” I knew that was it. The moment that character hit ESPN (where he worked for the Global Wrestling Federation) it launched real fast.“
P&GJ: In 1991 you returned to the WWF with a bowler hat, long cigar, handlebar mustache, nickname and a nasty attitude. You even had a manager, Harvey Wippleman. You were the complete bully by then, harassing the female ring announcer, popping kids’ balloons and tipping over their popcorn.
Big Bully: I was offered a contract by Vince McMahon and it was just too much not to take. Returning to WWF was like going home. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Sgt. Slaughter, Ted “Million-Dollar Man” DiBiase, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the Iron Sheik. I wrestled a lot of matches with Snuka, who is a very nice man. The Iron Sheik is godfather to one of my kids.
P&GJ: What do you think of the WWE today?
Big Bully: I still watch it. A lot of old-timers and fans will say it’s not what it used to be, but if you’ve ever been in the ring and see what they do today, it’s dumbfounding. John Cena would be a top talent in any era. They’ve taken sports entertainment full circle to a level that no one in my era ever dreamed of and that’s mainly because of Vince McMahon. People can say what they want about him, but he’s a marketing genius.
P&GJ: Unfortunately, your return with the WWF ended prematurely.
Big Bully: I’d be in the ring and “blow up,” which means getting tired. I always attributed it to stage anxiety but the reality was I eventually wound up with chronic atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) and even had a sudden death cardiac arrest from which they brought me back.
I’m very fortunate to be alive – to wrestle with that heart condition that I didn’t just drop dead right in the ring. Eventually I had ablation surgery that corrected everything and I’m as good as when I was 30. I went into the ring at 59 at a reunion show for a last retirement match just to have some fun because my youngest boy had never seen me in the ring.
P&GJ: What were your favorite finishing holds and are there any matches that particularly stand out?
Big Bully: It was the heart punch with ESPN and in the WWF the stump puller. My greatest matches were with Abdullah. You had to be ready to go 30 minutes or more because there was no telling where it would wind up. In Atlanta we wound up in the parking lot and they called the cops because they thought there was a full-scale brawl going on, which there was. Another time I wrestled Kerry Von Erich in Madison Square Garden but he cheated by using brass knuckles.
P&GJ: How do you feel about pro wrestling considered sports entertainment?
Big Bully: I never planned a match. You went in there, wrestled and got a feel for the crowd and what they wanted. This stuff about carrying a match – nah, not so much. It’s overblown. The fans don’t mind that it’s sports entertainment. Look at the numbers. But you can’t fake a body slam, a hip toss, or being on the receiving end of someone coming off the top turnbuckle.
P&GJ: What can you tell us about that mustache?
Big Bully: In 2012 they voted my mustache as number one in WWE history and that’s kept the character alive even more.
P&GJ: Any final thoughts?
Big Bully: I’m probably one of the most fortunate men on planet earth. I’ve enjoyed the things I’ve done and am doing. There was never a day I regretted going to work in law enforcement or a wrestling show and there’s certainly no regret in coming to work and doing safety now.