By Debra Ferrell
Fans of the old Mid-Atlantic NWA Championship Wrestling promotion have been delighted with the return of one of its most famous ladiesâ<80>¦Baby Doll (Nickla Roberts).
â<80><9c>Iâ<80><99>ve enjoyed being back so much,â<80> she said recently during an exclusive interview with Virginia reporter Debra Ferrell. â<80><9c>The Mid-Atlantic area has some amazing talent who put on great shows. Iâ<80><99>m looking forward to getting in the ring with some of them.â<80>
Her road back to wrestling began two years ago when she was participating in some northern â<80><9c>Fan-Festâ<80> events. After promoters saw how good she looked after almost 15 years away, they immediately wanted to book her for shows.
Since relocating to Fayetteville, NC, she has been making an impact up and down the East Coast. Once again, she is covering the same Mid-Atlantic territory where she made such an impact years ago for Jim Crockett Promotions.
Although her father, Nick Roberts, ran his own wrestling promotion (NWA Lubbock Wrestling Club) in Texas, she was set on taking a â<80><9c>seriousâ<80> path in life as a chiropractor.
However, pre-med began to lose some of its appeal when she had a purchase a $600 human cadaver for her classes.
After hearing through the grapevine that wrestling â<80><9c>hunkâ<80> Gino Hernandez needed a valet (manager), she sneaked in a phone call to promoter Fritz Von Erich to apply for the job.
â<80><9c>It only took about 20 minutes for Fritz to make an offer since he already knew who I was. Boy, was it hard to break the news to my parents that all my years at college had been for nothing since I was going into wrestling,â<80> she sheepishly recalls.
After serving as Hernandezâ<80><99>s â<80><9c>body guard,â<80> the nearly 6â<80><99> tall blond bombshell headed to Florida in 1984 to ask promoter Michael Hayes (The Fabulous Freebirds) for work. â<80><9c>I knew he liked Jack Daniels so I bought the biggest bottle I could find and strolled into his office one day,â<80> she says with a smile. â<80><9c>His shows for the year were winding up so Michael sent me to Dusty Rhodes, who was booking shows for the NWA Mid-Atlantic area.â<80>
During her audition, she was pleased to see that Rhodes and Tully Blanchard (who would later co-found the world-famous 4 Horsemen wrestling stable) were watching her during a match with Stella Mae.
Unknown to Roberts, they had been looking for the â<80><9c>Perfect 10â<80> to be a manager/valet for Blanchard. After asking for a videotape portfolio, they told her, â<80><9c>We donâ<80><99>t need to search anymore. Youâ<80><99>re exactly what weâ<80><99>re looking for.â<80>
She exclaims, â<80><9c>Tully really looked after me and made me seem untouchable. It truly was a magical time in my life when I got to travel all around the Mid-Atlantic with 20 of the best looking guys anywhere around!â<80>
Anyone who follows pro wrestling knows that your trustworthy partner/ally today will probably be your hated enemy next month. This was certainly true in Robertsâ<80><99> case too.
She spent most of the next two years going back and forth between Blanchard and Rhodes before â<80><9c>turning heelâ<80> with â<80><9c>Nature Boyâ<80> Ric Flair.
While many stars are totally different from their wrestling personas, she proudly says that what you see on television with Flair is the real deal. â<80><9c>Heâ<80><99>s always singing and dancing and treating you like youâ<80><99>re his best friend. He knows everybody anywhere you go and is always partying,â<80> she says.
â<80><9c>Weâ<80><99>d get to town, go to the hotel a little while, and then head to the arena where heâ<80><99>d do Hindu squats and hundreds of step-ups on chairs. After the show, heâ<80><99>d hit the bars until 2 a.m., then go to bed and get up and do it all over again the next day.â<80>
When asked what she thought about Flairâ<80><99>s recent retirement from the ring at Wrestlemania, she reflectively replies, â<80><9c>It was certainly bittersweet and I truly felt like I was watching a manâ<80><99>s heart break into pieces. But it was appropriate that his career ended like that. If he had been hurt, he would have always wanted to go back to the ring. Instead, he made the decision to leave on his own terms.â<80>
Unfortunately for Roberts, her own storybook career took a drastic turn when promoters were displeased when she married wrestler Sam Houston.
â<80><9c>They wanted my character to stay single to protect my sex appeal. But I was hard headed and had an â<80>~Iâ<80><99>ll show youâ<80><99> attitude. It turned out that they showed me by cutting my in-ring and television time,â<80> she recalls wryly.
At the time, the promotion was setting up a developmental talent territory in Kansas City so they sent Houston and Roberts out there to work.
A brief return in 1988 to valet for Larry Zybysko proved disappointing when her â<80><9c>storylineâ<80> was dumped mid-stream. â<80><9c>I had an envelope of â<80>~damaging informationâ<80><99> to blackmail Dusty Rhodes with. They cut the storyline so quickly that it was never revealed what was in the envelope.â<80>
Since her husband was now wrestling for hated rival WWE, it was decided that Roberts working for Jim Crockett was too much of a conflict of interest. Her career there was now over.
After four years of marriage, she and Houston had their first daughter, Mikka (who recently graduated high school and has gone away to college).
When Roberts found out the hard way that he was unfaithful, she and the baby headed back to Texas to â<80><9c>lick my wounds.â<80>
A brief reconciliation followed when he decided he â<80><9c>wanted his family back.â<80>
She and the baby joined Houston in Louisiana where they tried to make a go of things together. Not long afterward, she was stunned when her husband sat her down one day and said he wasnâ<80><99>t happy and handed her a $100 bill and a plane ticket to Texas.
Going back home to her parents for a second time was a bitter pill to swallow. â<80><9c>Starting over with no money (after he spent it all) was hard, especially since I was afraid to tell my family that I was expecting another baby. It was really hard to take care of two little girls by myself but the new baby was such a joy to me. I wouldnâ<80><99>t trade my two daughters for anything,â<80> she says lovingly.
Her years in the wrestling world allowed her to meet and know many of the sportâ<80><99>s legendary stars including Magnum TA whose career was cut short by a devastating car accident that threatened to leave him paralyzed for life. â<80><9c>It took four hours just to cut him out of the car. Experts said he would never walk again, but they underestimated his will power. As he lay in bed, he forced himself to move different parts of his head and body. Gradually he was able to fight his way back and is now walking again. It is an amazing success story,â<80> she says proudly about her friend.
For now, she stays busy working a â<80><9c>real jobâ<80> at Wal*Mart and traveling around the area to wrestling shows on the weekend. Her youngest daughter, Mikala, (who hopes to become a wrestler when sheâ<80><99>s older) enjoys coming along to sell merchandise for her mother.
Check out Robertsâ<80><99> page at myspace.com/nickla_roberts for pictures and blogs