“I want to make wrestling my career.”
By Josh Ray
On April 25, 2008 in the hometown of Missouri Wrestling Revival, a match between Brian Breaker and “Vietnam Phenom” Bao Nguyen turned a few heads. The apparent underdog, Bao managed to secure a victory over his larger and more experienced opponent. I approached him after the match to tell him how impressed I was and was shocked to learn that this was only his fourth match as out of training. The fact that he was that good in such a short time out of wrestling school resonated in my mind.
“This guy is somebody to watch, for sure,” I thought to myself.
At the time, I wasn’t the only person to take notice. While the crowd definitely enjoyed him and the match as a whole, my wife and sister took immediate notice of the “Vietnam Phenom” as their favorite wrestler. Out of all of the wrestlers who appeared that night, my sister wanted a picture with only one: Bao Nguyen.
I’ve had the opportunity to see him twice since then, and he hasn’t disappointed. When I heard his story, it was easy to understand why he’s as good as he is at this stage in the game. He’s not afraid of listening to others, and he’s not afraid of hard work. His first break into the business happened due to his hard work and competitive drive.
“I started out in 2004 as a referee in Sacramento, CA for a promotion called Supreme Pro Wrestling. After going to a few practices, I wanted to become a wrestler due to my competitive nature,” Bao said.
At the time, Bao was in college. This didn’t stop him from pursuing a career as a professional wrestler, but it also didn’t keep him from studying hard and finishing college. Where most young men might leave one for the other, Bao Nguyen chose to tackle and succeed at both. He trained for a year for Supreme Pro Wrestling, before moving back home to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was there he had his first exposure to Japan’s Pro Wrestling NOAH when he resumed his wrestling training, this time for Pro Wrestling Iron.
During this time, Bao stayed active with the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC), a nonprofit professional wrestling organization that emphasizes friendship through pro wrestling. The CAC puts a well-deserved focus on the wrestling legends, and that fact says even more about Bao’s character. It was at a CAC function that he learned about Harley Race’s pro wrestling training camps that are held each year.
“I’ve known about Harley Race’s wrestling camps because I stay active with the Cauliflower Alley Club. In 2006 I went to the camp and really enjoyed how Superstar Steve taught. I had no doubt that I would be able to hone my skills in that atmosphere,” Bao said.
Going to that camp was fate, it seems. Pro Wrestling Iron closed downshortly later and left the “Vietnam Phenom” without a place to train. Once again, Bao’s desire to get better and his willingness to work shined through. Where some might stick around the area and find just any place to train, he looked for the best place to train.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I would have more opportunities to work in Japan and for WWE. Since Pro Wrestling Iron already had a relationship with Pro Wrestling NOAH through Donovan Morgan and Michael Modest, I wanted to go somewhere that could keep me exposed to them (NOAH). I chose the Harley Race Wrestling Academy,” said Bao.
After choosing where he would train, he concentrated on getting there.
“I saved everything I could for seven months and took the long trip to Eldon, MO to start training,” said Bao. “I’m always trying to get better and I’m willing to learn from people who are willing to teach, so I think that has helped me develop as a wrestler.”
This hard work paid off recently at World League Wrestling (WLW) show. At the end of the annual training camp that Harley Race’s conducts with Pro Wrestling NOAH, there is a big joint show that features some of the best from Pro Wrestling NOAH, WLW, and the trainees who attended the camp. On September 19, 2008 in Eldon, MO as part of the show, Bao was rewarded by being featured in the main event tag team match. The main event featured two reknown wrestlers from Japan, as well as the son of a pro wrestling legend.
“To tell you the truth, I was pretty surprised when they picked me to be in the main event with Takeshi Morishima against Marufuji and Steamboat Jr. (for the WLW-NOAH show on September 19, 2008). It was definitely the highlight of my career at this point, and I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked. I hope that I did well enough for them to offer me something,” Bao said.
While he recognizes that he doesn’t hold the magic card that can get him closer to his goal of wrestling in Japan or for WWE, he’s not afraid to put in the work needed to get there. No get rich quick schemes for the “Vietnam Phenom”. He’s more than happy to pay his dues and diligently work toward his goals, saying, “It’s up to NOAH as to whether or not I ever tour with them, but I’ll continue to work hard and become a total wrestler to improve those chances.”
He summed it up by adding, “Basically, I want to make wrestling my career. That would be my ultimate goal whether it be NOAH or WWE. I’ve just got to work hard and maintain my focus. It will happen when I am ready.”