Altavista man is wrestling champ

Altavista man James Harris and Rex Keller won the Strong Style Pro tag team belts at the Booker Building earlier this year.

It would be safe to say that most pro wrestlers started out as fans themselves of the wonderful grapplers we now call “legends.” Local pro wrestler James Harris is no exception as he fondly reminisces about his own inspiration of legendary stars such as Brett “The Hitman” Hart, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Jon Moxley. 

“Right now I would consider Kenny Omega, Cody Runnels, Tommy Dreamer, Alistair Black and Ricochet to be some of my favorite stars,” he says. 

The 22-year-old who lives in Altavista and is employed at Food Lion is a 2016 Altavista Combined School graduate who actually got started training in wrestling before he graduated. His primary trainers were Billy Warlock, A. C. Collins, and Kayden Phoenix. He is often known as “The Unbroken James Harris.”

“It was really cool when I worked with the legendary Arn Anderson at a one day seminar in Waynesboro. He is an encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge. I actually met Rex Keller at the seminar who is a graduate of Boogie’s Wrestling Camp. He and I bonded and have become tag team partners. We won the Strong Style Pro Tag Team titles right here in Altavista when our organization did the fundraiser for the Altavista Police Department’s 2019 National Night Out. We were glad to help the department and are open to doing other fundraisers for worthwhile groups in our neighborhood,” he said. They won the titles right before Wrestlemania took place this year. 

Pro wrestling gets a bad rap sometimes by people who call it “fake.” He explains, “Anyone who thinks it’s fake needs to step into the squared circle and find out how real it actually is. It takes a huge toll on your body and you need to be in top physical condition to withstand hard knocks without getting too banged up. I couldn’t take a bump or run the ropes when I started - two of the primary basics. During my time in wrestling I’ve had bad bruises on my spine, pulled muscles, a sprained ankle, a hyper-extended elbow, knee scar tissue, etc. Even if you don’t get major injuries, the small things catch up to you eventually.”

Being on the road with his fellow wrestlers is definitely one of the best parts of the journey with a strong bond being formed as they travel “up and down the road.” 

Strong Style Pro started out training in the Shooter’s Academy in Lynchburg before transitioning to a showcase operation before setting up a permanent home for training in Amherst. Unfortunately they lost the building due to a change in the landlord situation and are looking for a permanent home right now. 

If anyone wants to start training with them, it is available at the shows before matches begin. 

He encourages everyone to support their shows while having a ton of fun on the independent level where you can interact with the wrestlers during intermission, chat, take photos, etc. This isn’t always possible for the larger companies such as WWE where there is a strong level of security between the wrestlers and the audience. 

When asked if he is a “good guy” or “bad guy,” he replies, “I’ve been all of them…whatever I need to be. Sometimes I like the fans behind me cheering me on and sometimes I like to hype them up.”

Strong Style Pro Wrestling has some big shows coming up. 

On September 14, there will be an all day event called “Rasslefest” that will feature two shows for one low price of $25 a ticket. The event will be held at Kasey’s Music Alley, 1917 Princess Anne Street, Fredricksburg, 10 a.m.  - 10 p.m. Former WWE stars Lord Humongous and Gangrel will also be on the show. 

At the Halifax County Fair on October 5 they will be headlining a show with top name star Dan Severn. 

On a personal level, Harris calls any match with Psycho Karl one of his favorites. “I have loved all my matches with him including my debut match where he bit me on the forehead. He and I had a grueling last man standing match recently where he ended up in an ambulance and I had to be helped to the back. He brings out the best in me!”

The match that taught him the most was that same match where they pulled out all the stops and hit each other with anything they could get their hands on. 

Although he wrestles in singles and tag matches, he really doesn’t have a favorite and judges them both on their own merits. 

Being on the road with his friends is always fun whether you’re listening to the old stories or making new stories of your own. 

So what’s his goal? “It should be anyone’s goal to someday reach the top of the game by wrestling in something like WWE or All Elite. We all want to improve to the next level,” he adds. “I”m happy wherever I am because I’m living my dream of being a pro wrestler. Whether it’s in front of 40 people or 40,000, I don’t care. I’m happy wherever I’m at.”

Contact Harris at 434-426-5990 or Billy Warlock at 434-259-2007 if you are interested in training.