Napalm Bomb was just eight years old when the first East Coast Wrestling Association Super 8 tournament was held just up I-95 in Wilmington, Delaware. At the time, the Baltimore native was a huge wrestling fan who cherished spending Saturday mornings with his mother, Loretta, watching men such as Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, and The Undertaker do battle on TV. At the time Napalm Bomb never once thought about stepping into a ring, himself.
By the time the ECWA wrapped up its 20th annual Super 8, however, it was difficult to argue that the 6'3", 253-pound muscleman had found his true calling. On that warm April 23 evening, over a period of three hours, Napalm Bomb defeated Super 8 "original" Danny Inferno, 2012 Super 8 winner Papadon, and two-time finalist John Skyler to earn the coveted trophy. Now, as he looked out upon largely surprised crowd at the New Jersey's Woodbury Heights Community Center, it was one fan in particular who caught his eye.
His mother, Loretta.
"It was such a tremendous experience having her there to cheer me on," Napalm said. "She never knew what was going to happen in my career, but she was always there for me. My mom was always my number-one supporter."
Looking back, Bomb believes that the confidence instilled in him by his loving mother is what led him to want to capitalize on the physical gifts he had been given. It was Loretta's support that helped him realize that not just his size, but his natural athleticism, could be an asset that would make him some day stand out as a wrestler. And, perhaps, help him reach his ultimate goal: wrestling for WWE.
"I remember seeing Booker T on television," said Bomb. "Here was a guy I really looked up to. He was a bigger guy, about my size actually. I could see so much diversity in him. I began to look at it, as I started to wrestle, that if Booker could do it, then I could, too. I can do a lot of things guys my size can't, and that has been a point of pride for me."
"Napalm is a young, hungry athletic competitor who will only get better with more experience in the ring. He has a bright future ahead of him," Papadon said after their tournament semifinal match. "We had a great match at the Super 8. I look forward to facing him again."
Prior to getting in the ring with Papadon, Bomb had a tough first-round encounter against Danny Inferno, a veteran wrestler who competed in the first two Super 8 tournaments.
The 39-year-old Inferno, a very large man in his own right at 6'5", 224 pounds, made the early mistake of trying to overpower Napalm early on. Bomb would respond with a devastatingly fast leg lariat, catching Inferno off-guard. This out-of-nowhere strike set the tone for the fast-paced encounter that would ensue. Ultimately, Napalm Bomb would land his graceful Swanton dive off the top turnbuckle to pick up the win.
To many in attendance, however, it felt like "Greek God" was just rounding into form as he took on Bomb in the second round.
Papadon - who was a finalist in 2011 and won the tournament the following year - was coming off a strong win in a highly emotional match against 2008 Super 8 winner in Aden Chambers, who was coming out of retirement. Papadon had watched Napalm Bomb's earlier match, and set out with a game plan to wear down the big man with submission holds and hard strikes. After absorbing Papadon's punishment, however, Napalm was able to hoist his cagey opponent onto his shoulders for a fireman's carry prior to kneeing him in the face with a devastating GTS that knocked the "Greek God" unconscious for the win.
Although some fans had begun to feel Napalm's momentum, his toughest test was yet to come. John Skyler had defeated former WWE star Scotty 2 Hotty and upset reigning tournament champion Jason Kincaid en route to his finals appearance. More importantly, however, Skyler seemed desperate to prove that his 2014 Super 8 finals loss to Matt Cross was a fluke.
Throughout this match, Napalm absorbed much of Skyler's high-flying arsenal, and tried his best to remain poised until an opportunity presented itself. That moment came just under 20 minutes into the battle, when Bomb was able to catch Skyler on his shoulders after a failed attempt at a Sliced Bread. Bomb would then deliver his second GTS of the match, pinning Skyler and winning the tournament.
"Nine long, hard years," cried Napalm as he held the trophy tightly against his chest. "I've worked as hard as I possibly could just to say that I accomplished something in this business."
He looked around, absorbing the energy of the room and feeling again like an awe-struck eight-year-old self. This Super 8 win symbolized all that he had once thought not even possible to dream about.
"I think tonight," Napalm Bomb beamed at his mother, "I can say that I darn sure accomplished something."