Robert “Brad” James, 50: Wrestler got out of the ring to help raise daughter

Brad James found it hard not to get tangled up in the family business. Three weeks after graduating from Wheeler High School, the second-generation wrestler was in the squared circle waging battle in Georgia Championship Wrestling matches. Soon he was in front of sold-out crowds across the globe; wrestling as part of the Armstrong family, under the name Brad Armstrong.

“Brad was the best in our family, all of the brothers will tell you that,” said Scott James, of Gulf Shores, Fla., the eldest of the four James boys.

“When you’ve done something long enough, and if you’re honest with yourself, you know when a guy is better than you,” added Brian James, a younger brother, who lives in Jay, Fla. “And that guy was Brad.”

Robert Bradley James, called Brad by family and friends, of Kennesaw, died suddenly Thursday, after going into medical distress at home. He was 50. A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, Marietta. Mayes Ward Dobbins Funeral Home, Marietta, is in charge of arrangements.

A native of Marietta, Brad James had a bright future in professional wrestling, his brothers said. In the ‘90s he joined the National Wrestling Association and competed in World Championship Wrestling matches. But when his only daughter, Jillian Haley, was born in 2001, he switched to a different kind of family business.

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“I’d tease him and tell him he was Mr. Mom, if I’d ever seen one,” Scott James said of his brother. “But he lived for his daughter.”

The career change was prompted after Brad James was hit by a car after a match one night in Virginia, said his wife of 14 years, Lori Spranz-James. During his recovery, she became pregnant and he reevaluated what was important to him. As his daughter grew older, the more he backed away from big wrestling engagements, especially those that would keep him away for long periods of time, his brothers said.

“He told me and my other brothers that he just missed being at home,” said Scott James, who is a referee and producer for World Wrestling Entertainment.

Since his daughter had become a student at Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw, he was a fixture there, family members said. He volunteered at every turn, from field trip monitor to assisting with car duty on campus. When he wasn’t at the school, he worked at a health store in the Marietta area.

“He called me just the other day and said, ‘Aww, man, I was late for work, but they needed help getting kids out of cars this morning,’ and that was just who he was, if somebody needed help, he was there,” Scott James said. “He was my younger brother, but I always looked up to him. Always.”

In addition to his wife, daughter and two brothers, survivors include parents, Joseph and Gail James of Gulf Breeze, Fla.; and a third brother Steven James of Jay, Fla.

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