Driver Bob Rosen keeps TNA Impact Wrestling’s show on the road
By Joe Morris
A get-together with Bob Rosen is a casual affair. He’s a quiet guy, not prone to the outbursts his on-air cohorts at TNA Impact Wrestling are known for in and out of the ring. He radiates dependability, which is why the folks at TNA count on him to drive their truck. And organize other drivers. And build the wrestling ring. And handle security. And ring the bell, keep time … it’s a long list.
“I like what I do, and I don’t say no to a challenge. Maybe that’s why I keep doing more stuff,” said Rosen during one of his one-day stops in Nashville, where TNA is headquartered. “We’re a small company, so I have to wear a lot of hats. But we all do in the wrestling business. I’ve got to know how to do it all.”
Do it all, and do it around the world. Rosen is fresh off a trip to England, where he led a crew around the country putting up the ring, handling the security and other venue issues, and then tearing it all down and moving on. He also handled similar chores during a swing through Dubai, as well as throughout a European tour.
“I build the rings and transport them around but also work to get the camera guys in position and everything else for the live shows and tapings set,” he said. “That’s been a growing part of what I do because the company and our shows are growing.”
Hitting the road
When it comes to pure trucking, he spends a lot of time behind the wheel. He was home about 55 days in 2010 and about 66 or so in 2011. The TNA fleet is two trucks: one for merchandise, one for the set. All the equipment comes on every run because some shows are taped, while others are not. And everything heads back to TNA’s permanent studio in Orlando every two weeks so that Rosen can be on hand to tape the shows that air weekly on cable.
Rosen usually drives the set truck, which he’s set up to be unloaded and reloaded with a minimum of muss and fuss. No small thing, considering that it’s not just the ring itself, but the entranceway the wrestlers emerge from, as well as the stage, lighting, floor pads and all the rest.
“It used to take about four hours to put the ring up,” he said. “I told them, ‘Give me four guys, and I have can it up in an hour, ready to go. Ninety minutes at the latest.’ And almost every show we go to, I can do that. And it’s heavy. It just meant figuring out how to configure the truck so that everything could be loaded and unloaded in the order it was needed. It was a challenge, but you can’t be afraid of those.”
That sums up Rosen’s operating philosophy, which has seen him parlay an early and ongoing love of heavy machinery into his own trucking company, wrestling outfit and, now, jack of all trades for TNA.
“Growing up, my dad always told me to tackle anything that’s out there. When I was 12, I was asking how to drive front-end loaders and backhoes, and I just stayed interested. As I got older, I began working for Pepsi, driving their trucks on the lot. It’s just like second nature to me, and I’ve never really wanted to be away from it.”
It didn’t hurt that he had a knack for backing into tight spaces, up to and including the loading bays at Madison Square Garden.
“I can park a truck in places you can’t imagine,” Rosen said. “You give me an inch on either side, I’ll clear it in a second. I’ve had to back into buildings, go around air walls, drop into a very specific area. If I’ve got the mirrors lined up right, I can just put a truck where it needs to be.”
From trucks to wrestling rings
While he was hustling soda trucks around, Rosen also was building his own small transit company in Florida. He held onto that while he was also putting together a wrestling business because no matter what — and even after a few decades — he needs to be on the road.
“Put me in an office, I’m lost. Put me on the road, let me drive, I’m gone,” he explained. “All my creative thinking comes up when I’m behind the wheel. Ramps, rings, designs for rings, that’s where they come from. I could never do that behind a desk.”
Although Rosen found his calling early with regard to trucking, it took him a little longer to wrangle his way into the world of wrestling. Even so, he traces his love of the sport to his childhood.
“My dad was partially blind when he got out of the military, and every Saturday morning he would sit in front of the television set and watch wrestling,” he recalled. “Whatever wrestling show was on, he watched it. I began watching with him, and he could tell me what was going on just by what he heard, and by the sound of their voices. I was a little kid, so he used what was going on to encourage me to stand up for myself. By high school, I had gotten into wrestling and got a letter in that and a lot of other sports and activities.”
By the time he was married and had children of his own, Rosen had begun building rings, thanks to a friend with a steel company and a willingness to part with some scrap metal. During the day, he was working with six other guys to rotate 37 trucks around a Pepsi factory, so when the call came to use his ring for a wrestling exhibition he saw his chance to merge careers.
“I called up the county and asked what kind of insurance and other things I would need to start a wrestling business, and that was that,” he said. “I started the company, rented out the ring and began meeting other people in the business.”
The perfect combination
With more than 200 independent wrestling companies mounting shows in Florida alone, he seldom had reason to leave the state. He would load up the family and hit the road, slowly building his one-ring setup into a much larger operation.
“We began to build another ring, and to promote some amateur fight nights,” Rosen said. “My sons began to work with me, and my daughter would come along as well. We began working with WWE when they came into Florida, handling their security. One thing led to another with a real snowball effect.”
Six years ago, Rosen’s path intersected with TNA’s. He’d heard through the grapevine that the company was looking to overhaul its staffing, and when he walked through the door he found it was like old-home week.
“I saw so many faces I had worked with in the past,” he said. “Wrestling really is a small world, and I had a good reputation, not just for building rings but also for getting shows running on time and on schedule. The TNA people just kept after me, so eventually I said I’d do a couple of shows for them, see how it went.”
TNA, it seems, had figured out that Rosen likes a challenge. So they just kept dropping new ones in front of him.
“First it was build a ring, then did I want to go out on the road,” Rosen said. “Now I’ve built up my own department, with my own ring crew, and I supervise all seven of our drivers. We work together really well and are a great family. This is a really unique company, and I couldn’t ask for a better place to be. I really am living a dream come true.”