Friday, December 22, 2023

Wrestler Spotlight: The Stro - Melody and Mayhem

We saw two sides of Rob Kellum's best known wrestling persona The Maestro -also known as The Stro- making the character a unique mix of charisma, showmanship, and insanity that both intrigued and mystified WCW fans and later the independent scene. He was born in North Carolina, a state where wrestling has a long and storied history, and The Stro's granduncle was legend Gorgeous George. So it's fair to say that The Stro had wrestling in his veins before he even stepped in the ring.

The Stro's eventual training came at the hands of former NWA World Tag Team Champion Gene Anderson and former WWE Champion Ivan Koloff, which means The Stro was given all the tools he needed to be successful as either a singles wrestler or a tag team wrestler. Wrestling as, "Robbie Eagle", he first wrestled for WCW early in his career, appearing on multiple episodes of, "WCW Main Event" and, "WCW Saturday Night" in 1993. While at WCW tapings, many people backstage commented that his style was similar to Gorgeous George, which led to him investigating his family tree and discovering that he was related to the legendary wrestler. Already having had grown up admiring George, this revelation inspired him to begin wrestling as, "Gorgeous George III".

Wrestling as Gorgeous George III for the USWA in 1995 gained the attention and interest of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, who invited him to participate in a tryout at a, "WCW Nitro" event later that year. The tryout was successful, and there were talks about bringing Rob Kellum in, but that plan was not followed through. He had also wrestled in a dark match for WWE earlier that year, indicating that his work on the independent scene as Gorgeous George III had gotten him on the radar of both companies. He continued to wrestle on the independent scene, but was it was his experience wrestling in Mexico for AAA in 1997 that he feels prepared him for his next tryout match for WCW, which took place later that year in a, WCW Monday Nitro" dark match with Chavo Guerrero Jr.; After the match, George was hired that same night, and his contract was for three years.

Rob Kellum never appeared on WCW-TV as Gorgeous George III because after being with the company for one year (although not debuted on television), he was informed that Randy Savage wanted to his the, "Gorgeous George" name for his girlfriend at the time, who was going to be his valet in WCW. After meeting with Eric Bischoff (who was running WCW by this point) to work things out, ideas by the two of them were combined to create the Maestro character, a classical pianist, which began appearing on WCW-TV in 1999.

In late-April 2000, The Maestro, with his contract set to expire at the end of May, received his release from WCW. The Maestro had re-evaluated his status with the company at the time, and came to the conclusion that there was no future in store for The Maestro in WCW. Before returning to the independent scene, he decided he was due for a new look, persona, name, and wrestling style. And so, "The Stro" was born- the days of piano playing and flamboyant entrance jackets were over, and it was time to be all business in the ring. He then turned his attention to the independent scene, wrestling in promotions nationwide which usually provided a learning experience for newer wrestlers.

Later on, The Stro modified his character once again, this time exploring the dark side of his character, as he began referring to himself as, "Papa" Stro. Meanwhile, the independent scene continued to be his main focus.

The Stro also helped people get started in independent wrestling by opening his own school in North Carolina, where offensive & defensive wrestling moves were taught, as well as character development. After experiencing his own success in the industry, he made the success of the next generation of wrestlers a new focus.

Something that many people don't know about The Stro is that he was ahead of the curve when it comes to wrestlers utilizing the Internet. While still working for WCW, his own website was launched, which was used for chatting with fans. After The Stro left WCW, he also began writing columns on his website. In fact, The Stro began writing columns for wrestling news sites as well. And while most wrestlers were mainly still accepting bookings via direct contact, phone, and maybe email, The Stro was open to accepting bookings via AOL Instant Messenger. He even would spend time hanging out in a chat room that was exclusively for wrestlers and managers who were working on the independent scene. I remember that it was mainly occupied by ones who were based in North Carolina, like The Stro was. He would chat and joke with the other wrestlers, and he was available for any of them who were wise enough to pick the brain of a wrestler who had worked for one of the major wrestling companies.

The Stro has a wrestling career that he can be proud of, as he reached a level in the industry early in his career that most wrestlers have not, and he has spent the rest of his career helping young wrestlers who hope to one day see the same success that he did.

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