Local wrestling fans will recognize a familiar face — and attitude — on CMT’s newest reality show.
Eric Bradford — who wrestles monthly at the Union County Fairgrounds as a regular member of the Trans-South Wrestling roster — is one of 12 contestants on CMT’s new reality show Redneck Island, which premiered on Saturday.
Bradford grew up in Lexington and attended the University of South Carolina, earning a B.A. in English. He began his college career on the Gamecock wrestling team, but soon made a transition to the university’s cheer leading team for the scholarship money, travel, football games and of course, the girls.
“Cheer leading is one of the hardest athletic endeavors I have ever undertaken,” Bradford said. “As the saying goes, when you work hard, you play harder. The party lifestyle came easy and made college an incredible time for me. After college I began training to be a professional wrestler, a career I’m still pursuing. It’s my dream and it keeps me working and playing hard.”
While pursuing his wrestling career, Bradford found out that producers for an upcoming show on CMT were looking for a young, outgoing and athletic male from South Carolina. After a phone interview and a brief video interview, CMT flew Bradford to Los Angeles to evaluate him in person, and he was selected for the show.
The show places 12 people from the South in a remote tropical paradise where they will compete for $100,000. Contestants participate in a number of hilarious mental and physical challenges designed to celebrate the group’s strengths and limitations. At the end of each episode, teammates vote to eliminate one competitor.
Contestants were not informed as to who would host the show until the beginning of the first episode when they saw famous wrestler and actor “Stone Cold” Steve Austin approaching from a distance, bringing fish to eat and cold beer to drink.
“As a professional wrestler, I was in awe seeing Steve Austin walking up the beach,” Bradford said. “Here is a man who has reached the pinnacle of my sport, and he’s here in the flesh for me to speak with and have a beer with. It was an amazing feeling.”
Despite the show’s title, Bradford told his fellow contestants that he does not consider himself to be a redneck.
“I am the anti-redneck; a cut above — a diamond in the rough,” Bradford said, going on to associate the term “redneck” with typical wrestling fans. “Ignorant, backwoods fans don’t understand that by clinging to their redneck, hillbilly ways, they bring down the reputation of the entire southern United States. I am here to restore the good name of the South, even if I have to do it by knocking off one redneck at a time.”
Other contestants on the show, however, are proud of the redneck title and take offense to Bradford’s attitude. During the first episode, each contestant took time to express their dislike for him. At the end of the show, Bradford’s team voted for one person to be eliminated, and of course, Bradford had the most votes. However, since another contestant — JP — had to leave the show due to health reasons, Austin informed the team that Bradford would stay.
Following the episode’s airing, the Redneck Island Facebook page received more than 100 comments from fans expressing their dislike for Bradford and his attitude.
“I think so far it’s clear the most hated cast member is me, and that’s just fine,” Bradford said. “I didn’t come to Redneck Island to make friends, I came to purge the South of the redneck stereotype once and for all, and to go home $100,000 richer. Watch Redneck Island on CMT on Saturday nights to see me on my quest.”
Replays of Redneck Island’s first episode will air on CMT Friday at 1 a.m. and Saturday at 12:30 a.m. The second episode will air this Saturday night at 10 p.m.
Bradford said with all the attention and publicity he has been receiving due to his part in Redneck Island, he has enlisted the services of wrestling manager Perry James, and Union County wrestling fans can expect to see him with James at Trans-South Wrestling’s next event on Saturday, July 7.
James also spoke with The Union Daily Times, mentioning that he is excited to manage Bradford, who was trained for wrestling by tough-woman Susan “Tex” Greene at The Gym of Pain and Glory in Columbia.
“I’m sure a professional athlete and major TV star like Mr. Bradford is being constantly hounded by the tabloid, radio and news media requesting interviews and interrupting his personal life,” James said. “That’s where I come in.”
James said he will assist Bradford with his busy schedule, allowing him to concentrate on training and wrestling.
James also admitted that he watched Redneck Island, although he said under normal circumstances he wouldn’t be caught dead watching ‘a bunch of rednecks.’ James said he was familiar with Bradford from wrestling and wanted to see how he did.
“It was clear from the very beginning Mr. Bradford was the star of the show — his star shined even brighter than that Stone Cold guy,” James said. “You could tell by watching Mr. Bradford on this show that he is driven by his ethical standards, and who’s personal morals and athletic prowess has driven him thus far in his career. If I have to be honest, Mr. Bradford is the kind of individual I have spent the last 14 years trying to find in all of professional wrestling. I have traveled the country, managed tremendous superstars like Ric Steiner, the late great Sherri Martel, and many other recognizable stars, but none of them could match the charisma, and athleticism like Mr. Eric Bradford.”
James continued with a rant about his own disdain for people who are proud to be called rednecks.
“Look at how those other people on Redneck Island act, talk and dress,” James said. “I’m from the South and extremely embarrassed that all of my northern friends may see those morons and sweat hogs and think that all southern people act like them. However, Mr. Bradford is a fine example of a Southern gentlemen. Frankly, he’s someone I would think most parents would want their children to grow up to be.”
To see Eric Bradford on television, watch Redneck Island on CMT, which airs on Saturday nights at 10 p.m., with replays shown throughout the week. To see Eric Bradford live — along with his new manager Perry James — attend Trans-South Wrestling’s next event at Union County Fairgrounds on July 7.