November 30, 2008
Wrestling with a new career
Mortgage broker uses celebrity to advantage
By Alex Davis
The people who call Mike Bucci looking for a mortgage can’t see his face, but they often know exactly what he looks like.
His thick New Jersey accent might help customers remember Bucci as a professional wrestler performing on television before thousands of fans, his muscles bulging through a tight purple track suit.
Bucci, 36, stepped out of the ring two years ago after more than a decade of dishing out body slams, pile drivers and diving back-breakers. He now spends his days in a tiny office cubicle off South Hurstbourne Parkway, setting up loans for homebuyers as an employee of Diversified Mortgage Services.
It’s a far cry from the days when he was pulling down a six-figure salary with World Wrestling Entertainment, but Bucci couldn’t be happier.
“We lived the life of rock stars,” said Bucci, who still has his own action figure and wrestled under the names Simon Dean and Hollywood Nova. “Professional wrestling is a great world, but a lot of it is a cartoon.”
Bucci’s body feels a lot better on Monday mornings these days, but his job is far from easy. He dived into the mortgage industry soon after April 2006, when he and his wife Melissa bought their home on a quiet, tree-lined street in the Fern Creek area.
The real estate market was red-hot at the time, and he heard about rookie loan officers making as much as $20,000 a month. The money isn’t as easy today, and Bucci thinks 2009 will be just as difficult for the industry as 2008 has shaped up to be.
As few as 2 percent of his leads turn into actual loans, and he closes two to four loans a month. Even so, Bucci thinks he’s found his calling. Ken Ahrens, a vice president and director at Diversified Mortgage Services, said Bucci’s high-energy personality is a perfect fit for the company.
“He was very committed to being successful when he was a wrestler,” Ahrens said. “He’s got a pretty good grasp for what’s going on in the business.”
Bucci holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics, and he knew he wasn’t going to bounce around in the ring forever. In a typical year on the wrestling circuit, he spent only 70 days at home each year. He would wake up at 3 a.m. to gulp protein shakes, and frequently missed birthdays and weddings of friends and family.
Bucci uses his wrestling experience as a way to break the ice with customers. First Diversified brokers loans in 15 states, including Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Maryland. Bucci has traveled to 28 countries, and when the phone rings in his cubicle, there’s a good chance he knows something about the city where the caller lives.
Although he’s put on about 15 pounds since he left wrestling, Bucci still bench presses 350 pounds and he’s often in the gym by 7 a.m. on weekdays. Co-workers constantly ask him questions about his wrestling career, and Ahrens said many of them pick up on his energy and charisma.
Lynda Minzenberger, principal broker at Catalyst Realty, said Bucci does a good job of building networks with the business community. She said he also does things that loan officers don’t always do, such as showing up at house tours to meet people.
“With the economy being what it is, they’ve got to reach out in a new way,” said Minzenberger, whose company frequently does business with Diversified.
Bucci started wrestling in 1991, and a history of his career fills six pages on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.
He moved to Louisville in 2002 when he joined Ohio Valley Wrestling, a sort of minor-league division of World Wrestling Entertainment. Bucci briefly made it to the big-time WWE, shaping his Simon Dean character as a physical fitness guru.
Video clips of his matches are sprinkled throughout YouTube, but he’s more interested in the traffic at his Web site — www.loanhelpnow247.com.
And while he still receives offers to show up at various wrestling events around the world, he said he’s far happier outside the ring, where he can spend a quiet night at home watching television with his wife and wrestle for loan commissions by day.
“I love the mortgage industry,” he said. “I’ve always believed that if you can get off your butt and start working, you’ll be compensated accordingly.”
Reporter Alex Davis can be reached at (502) 582-4644.