"Buffalo Jim" Barrier
— The Jack of All Trades
James “Buffalo" Jim Barrier was a self-taught mechanic who moved to Las Vegas in 1971 from his home of Cleveland, Ohio. He got his start in a mobile mechanic business, and after saving up enough money, was able to open his own auto repair shop, Allstate Auto & Marine, just west of the Las Vegas Strip. This building shared space with a local strip club, Crazy Horse Too, run by Frederick “Rick” Rizzolo. The business was in operation until his death in 2008.
In the late 1990’s, “Buffalo Jim” as he was now known as opened and operated a wrestling school, the Buffalo Wrestling Federation, with his business partner, former WWE Champion Yokozuna aka Rodney Anoaʻi. The school was sometimes the site of his popular local TV show, Jim Wars, that aired on Friday nights. In addition to his auto repair business, wrestling school, and television show, Barrier wrote a weekly column on auto repair for the now defunct Las Vegas Mercury entitled “Nuts and Bold with Buffalo Jim.”
In addition to his career as a wrestling promoter, auto repair specialist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Barrier was a family man and single father to four daughters. He was a friend to numerous celebrities. Barrier possessed a large collection of celebrity memorabilia, ranging from vehicles to a lock of musician Elvis Presley’s hair. In addition to smaller pieces in his collection, Barrier sported a car collection that included a Jensen Interceptor once owned by singer Wayne Newton, and a pink Cadillac that was later borrowed by musician Kid Rock as part of his proposal to Pamela Anderson in Las Vegas in 2002.
— Feud with Rick Rizzolo
In addition to his status as a local celebrity, Buffalo Jim was known in Las Vegas due to his feud with his neighbor and landlord, Rick Rizzolo. As stated before, at the time Rizzolo, owned the Crazy Horse Too gentlemen's club, located next door to Barrier's repair shop. Rizzolo had tried numerous times to get Barrier to sell his lease on the property for pennies on the dollar and Barrier had refused. This feud between both men culminated in Rizzolo being sent to prison in 2007. The Las Vegas Review Journal summarized Barrier’s participation like this:
“Barrier assisted the federal government in its investigation into tax evasion at Crazy Horse Too. Rizzolo pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges and spent one year and one day in custody.”
Buffalo Jim tried to move on with his life, but one year can make a big difference.
— Death in a Vegas Motel
On the morning of April 6, 2008, the body of James Barrier was found in a Motel 6 on Boulder Highway. According to police, Barrier was found lying in bed, face up, with a white powder sprinkled on his beard and shirt and his pants pulled down around his ankles. A woman only known as "Lisa" that was in the room with Barrier that night spoke to police and informed them that Barrier had a seizure, however she did not report it and left as his seizure occurred. The official cause of death was ruled accidental, citing dilated cardiomyopathy due to cocaine use.
Buffalo Jim’s death took place two days after Rick Rizzolo was official released from federal custody.
More than 14 years, the death of Buffalo Jim Barrier is still shrouded in mystery. His family and his many supporters have no doubt that his death was not accidental, but a result of foul play. There were many questions about the circumstances of his death that the family believes was not properly addressed by authorities.
With the release of the Unsolved Mysteries episode “Death in a Vegas Motel,” many of the inconsistencies surrounding the official story of Buffalo Jim’s death have now been brought to light.