Growing up, Kevin ‘The Monster’ Randleman was one of my favourite fighters. When you’re a child, certain characteristics and styles capture you. Vivid memories of looking at the television as the VHS tape my father had selected played on screen. Kids need figures to look up to and seeing Randleman, with his signature back tattoo, brightly dyed blonde hair and left knee pad with wrestling boots, stood out fairly easily. His charisma, microphone speeches and look was all very pro wrestling.
I’d sit and watch on as he’d use his 2x NCAA championship wrestling pedigree to control and dismantle opposition, luring his fellow battler into deep waters – admittedly not knowing what was I was really seeing in front of me.
I watched ‘The Monster’ smash through Mirko Cro Cop and although I could not truly understand the velocity behind that victory at the time, I remember him jumping onto the ring’s middle rope, arms out wide as he let out a rigorous roar to the Japanese fans. That image lasted, but I knew I’d never forget who Kevin Randleman was the moment I saw him clash with Fedor Emelianenko.
The German suplex heard around the world that somehow (and we still to this day don’t know how) Fedor got back up from. What a moment. As a child who’d only seen the likes of true suplexes on a staged setting, this was the pinnacle. This was one of my favourite moments from childhood. It stands out like a sore thumb, just like the Ohio State alumni’s hair colour.
Kevin was the never the prettiest of fighters. A wide stance – predominantly from his wrestling days. Chin way up high as he swung for the fences. Striking technique was never his forte but the sheer volume of power and explosive strength he possessed was enough to stir things up and take a UFC title in the process.
Randleman was around at the time where you wouldn’t know a man’s style going into the fight. He was around at the time where you were considered crazy for wanting to do such a sport that didn’t have much technology behind it. A sport that was so underground and in the dark ages that it was an amazing spectacle to see. It was full of dynamic personalities and raw aggression.
He had also been a man fighting many mental battles and persevering through the worst of times, especially during his career. His choices were not always smart and some of that may reflect on his untimely passing. He fought way past his prime but was another soul stricken with love of the fight world.
Kevin was a fighter who, when the next generation discover his bouts, we get the privilege of saying ‘wow’ at what we saw, learned and history he made. A respectful warrior whom sometimes bit off more than he could chew, never backing down. However, the Kevin I saw in my early years, looking up at these colossal warriors throwing down with leather in the Saitama Arena, I can’t help smile about it.
Kevin’s part in the antique that is the Rites of Passage documentary only helped me understand him further. The ‘Monster’ once gave a eulogy upon his own life, saying, “When I die, they’re going to say that this man lived his life. If I said I wanted to go somewhere, I went and saw it. I’m going to see everything I want to see before I die. I’m not going to be lying on my deathbed saying ‘I wish.’ It’s going to be like this man did what he loved to do all the time and that’s why I think I can always go through life and think positively and focused and never let the things of tomorrow stress me out.”
Randleman was a true character in this sport and one of my downright favourites to learn about from start to finish. He was a smart man who happened to also be classy in victory and defeat all whilst lugging around the physique of a bonafide machine.
That’s the Kevin I grew up believing in. That’s Randleman: the monstrous pioneer.
Follow Harry Williams on Twitter: @Harry_Williams