Standing at six-foot-tall, Buffa is an immediate presence as he saunters onto the stage carrying a giant boombox over his shoulder. He flashes a grin and grooves to ’80s hip-hop as he makes his way through the crowd. This is the pro-wrestling persona of Marcello Rhines, better known as ‘Buffa & Da Boombox’ who we saw in a live pro-wrestling event last month in Shenzhen. We catch up with the New York native and get a glimpse into his schedule, how the sport is received in China and how it’s sometimes – not all fun and games.
Where are you from? How did you get into pro-wrestling?
I was born and raised in Harlem, New York. Then at the age of seven, my family and I moved to the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. I actually wasn’t a fan of pro-wrestling until the age of 10. My brother and I were more into comic books, cartoons and action movies before becoming huge pro-wrestling fans. One Saturday morning we were clicking through the channels on our television when we came across a WWE show. We were hooked after sitting through a full episode of pro-wrestling.
Tell us the story about Buffa and the boom box. How was your persona created?
The name Buffa was given to me by one of my mentors Yoshiyuki Nakamura. He was the former owner of pro-wrestling ZERO1 in Tokyo, Japan. Nakamura-San was the first promoter to give me an opportunity to live and wrestle overseas.
The Buffa character is an extension of my persona with the volume turned up. I describe my character as pro-wrestling’s throwback to ‘80s hip-hop.
What is the Chinese wrestling scene/fans like?
The pro-wrestling scene here in China is in its infant stage, but it’s growing more and more every single day, thanks to publications like That’s. The fans here in China are amazing. They’re so loud, respectful and supportive. They love pro-wrestling.
How often do you have to train, rehearse and perform?
I train everyday depending on my schedule. If my schedule is open, I’m doing 90 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning, then 90 minutes of weight training at night.
There’s a misconception about rehearsals and pro-wrestling. We don’t do any rehearsing. In professional wrestling there’s no takes, breaks or camera tricks. What you see is what you get.
Before the pandemic, I was wrestling everyday, sometimes twice a day. Depending on the tour. My schedule was very hectic.
After 20 years of wrestling, my body has adapted to the demanding schedule. Nowadays due to the travel ban, I’m only wrestling a few days a month throughout China, instead of throughout the world like I was before.
Have you gotten any injuries from pro-wrestling?
Yes, unfortunately I have. Luckily none of these injuries required surgery.
I’ve broken my ankle, sprained it multiple times, broken my sternum, broken fingers and my nose multiple times as well.
After 20 years of wrestling, I’m very fortunate. I don’t walk with a limp or wake up in pain. All the credit goes to my nutrition and training regimen.
What’s your most favorite thing about pro-wrestling?
My favorite things about pro-wrestling are the fans and the performance. Those are the foundation of pro-wrestling.
As a pro-wrestler, there’s no better feeling than being able to control the emotions of the fans in attendance. The cheers and boos from the fans are so motivating for us. I’m a wrestler who feeds off of fan reaction. Whenever I’m performing in front of the fans, I’m in heaven. Which shows in my performance.
Follow Buffa on Twitter, Instagram or WeChat at @Buffa_AAYOOO or watch on YouTube at youtube.com/allmoneyislegal1.