BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
In his 50 years as a fan of professional wrestling, Mark Bujan has certainly seen the ups and downs of the business.
Growing up in Detroit, going to shows at Cobo Arena and Olympia Stadium and later attending Madison High School, where George “The Animal” Steele (real name Jim Myers) was a coach and teacher, Bujan now lives in Davisburg with his wife, Nita. The basement of their home is wall-to-wall wrestling posters, autographs, photographs, books and other memorabilia.
“What got me hooked on wrestling was watching it on TV back in the ‘60s,” said Bujan. “I would watch on the old black-and-white TV with my dad, who was not a wrestling fan and was a boxing fan, but he would watch it with me. The characters got me hooked and how the announcers would hype up the show. I guess I was just grabbed as a young kid seeing guys like Wild Bull Curry, The Sheik, Killer Kowalski, these characters that scared the heck out of you, and then they would fight. That’s what got me hooked.”
And once Bujan had an opportunity to see the matches live, it became an instant passion.
“Every night there was a match, my dad would get out of work and we’d rush down to Cobo, get our tickets, get our programs, get our hot dogs,” said Bujan. “When I got my driver’s license in 1976, my first visit was to the Cobo Arena box office to buy tickets for the next show. My first-ever match I saw live was in October 1968, and it was The Sheik versus Wild Bull Curry. As a young kid, you’re scared to death seeing these guys live and up close, but that was amazing with the tremendous fan reaction. Also seeing one of my other idols, Bruno Sammartino, wrestle The Sheik, even though the outcome was disappointing and a short match, that really stands out to me. I’m happy to say I met a lot of the wrestlers and still keep in touch with many of those that are still around, guys like Flying Fred Curry, Killer Tim Brooks, Tony Marino, and Mark Lewin.
“It all feels like just yesterday. That’s how vivid all these memories are.”
These days, Bujan spends his free time researching old wrestling results, helping with wrestling books, and running four Facebook groups that have reached more than 15,000 members worldwide. He has also worked with Legends Entertainment promoting wrestling events in Michigan and some years back, ran a wrestling hotline. Longtime wrestler Sabu (real name Terry Brunk, The Shiek’s real-life nephew) helped Bujan get into promoting back in 1994.
And while the pro wrestling industry has changed from the time Bujan was a wide-eyed youth to the present day, he still finds the business riveting.
“What keeps me going is helping people that have the same interests I have,” said Bujan. “The history, they want to learn, it brings back many great memories for so many people around the country, especially in the Detroit area.
“It’s a different time now. A different era. There’s 7,000 TV channels and everybody wants to wrestle. Everybody thinks they can wrestle, the young people, but it’s just not the same. I respect all the kids that wrestle today now. They work hard for barely anything. They try their best, but it’s in front of 25 people, maybe 100 tops. It’s just not something that interests me. Back in the old days, everything was a tight-lipped secret – we call it kayfabe. You really had to know somebody to get into wrestling. Now, anyone can start a promotion as long as you have a pair of boots and a brain. It never was like that before.”
Check out Bujan’s Facebook groups – Wrestling History – Detroit-Toronto-Ohio, 50’s-60’s-70’s-80’s – Wrestling Memories, Professional Wrestling Gifts, and Wrestling History – Promoters-Bookers-Arenas. All are free to join.