Inside the pro wrestling ring, Richard Joseph “RJ” Meyer was known as “The Bruiser” — a perennial heavyweight champion and fan favorite with the Maryland Championship Wrestling circuit.
He brought passion and an all-out approach to the squared circle and lived his life much the same way.
Beloved by his family, friends and fans, Mr. Meyer succumbed to leukemia Monday at his parents’ home in Churchville. He was 44.
A three-sport star at Loch Raven High School, where he wrestled and played football and baseball before graduating in 1994, Mr. Meyer doggedly chased his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. In 1997, he was the first student to sign up at the Bone Breakers Pro Wrestling Training Center in Arbutus — the start of a 20-year career.
In the MCW, he became an 11-time heavyweight champion and two-time tag team champion, and he earned a belt as the Rage TV champion.
Dan McDevitt, co-owner of Bone Breakers and the MCW, was the first to train with Mr. Meyer, who later in his career went on to become a trainer and help promote shows with the company.
“His passion to learn and be the best he could be just surpassed so many people,” said Mr. McDevitt. “He was awesome. I always say he was probably the best pro wrestler that I’ve ever known that never got national attention.”
His former wife, Tara Meyer, remained close after they divorced in 2012, raising their two sons, Connor and Xander, and working alongside him in the wrestling business.
When Mr. Meyer was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2019, she was steadfastly by his side and set up a Facebook page — Team #Bruiser Strong. Following Monday’s news, it was flooded with tributes from saddened supporters.
“We would joke around and call him the Mayor of MCW because he was always the first one there and the last one to leave, and he would make sure to talk to every single fan,” Ms. Meyer said. “He was always out there posing … giving his pictures away, taking cellphone pictures with everybody. He would always put the kids up on his shoulder and let them hold his belt. He was all about it, and we joked about it — he acted like a mayor and it was his domain. He just meant so much to the kids.”
In 2014, Mr. Meyer won his biggest fight when he overcame addiction issues that cost him two years of his career. In addition to returning to the ring with renewed vigor, he made it his mission to help anybody who had the same struggle with addiction.
In February, Mr. Meyer celebrated eight years of sobriety.
“There’s only a couple I’ve known that came back and really dominated it and beat it, and he was one of them,” said Mr. McDevitt. “Over the last couple years, I would put him in touch with several people I knew. … I would say ‘Hey man, can you help them?’ They would be sober for six months and then they relapsed. He did every time, and he would always say that was part of his recovery — helping other people that were struggling.”
Tara Meyer was proud to see him turn his life around.
“For a really long time, I felt like wrestling was killing him because the business has a lot of drugs and alcohol, and being on the road is really hard,” she said. “But then, wrestling literally saved him when he came back. It just reignited his whole passion.”
On March 22, 2014, The Bruiser returned to the ring at the MCW Arena in Joppa. He came out to Five Finger Death Punch’s song “Back for More” in what Ms. Meyer described as being in the best shape of his life.
“The fans almost didn’t realize who he was,” she said. “And then there’s this moment when the crowd realizes who it is and they all start getting behind him. He just goes from each corner of the ring and then jumps up on the middle rope and you could see he was back. For me, it was powerful watching that because I knew how hard he worked and I could see it on his face. It was just he was home.”
In addition to his former wife and two sons, Mr. Meyer is survived by his parents, Chuck and Harriet Meyer of Churchville; a sister, Melissa Bishoff of Kingsville; three nieces and one nephew.
Services will be planned for a later date due to the coronavirus pandemic. More information can be found at www.mcwprowrestling.com.