Born and raised in western North Carolina, Ric Savage, 42, is a former professional wrestler turned artifact recovery expert, hunting relics from America’s past with the help of his all-star team, American Savage.
Savage’s amateur wrestling career started in the U.S. Army, where he competed with the 82nd Airborne post wrestling team at Fort Bragg, NC, until a knee injury in 1989 landed him in physical therapy. After a long recovery, Savage re-emerged in the sport as a professional wrestler near his hometown in western North Carolina in 1990, training in a friend’s garage and wrestling at small independent shows until he got his big break in 1991.
“Heavy Metal” Ric Savage had a prolific seven year career in the sport, competing in nearly every wrestling organization, among them the WCW (World Championship Wrestling), the ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), and the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance).
Following his retirement from the sport in 1997, Savage returned to his other passion, the Civil War era, by getting his start in relic hunting. Soon after Savage stumbled across his very first find, a ball of shrapnel he found at the site of the Battle of Cold Harbor, VA he and has since continued to search former battle sites through his Mechanicsville, VA-based business, American Savage.
With the help of his wife Rita, their son Giuseppe, and artifact recovery experts Bob Buttafuso and Rue Shumate, American Savage has recovered a wide range of valuable items, including hundreds of Civil War bullets, dozens of Civil War artillery shell fragments, multiple Native American arrow and axe heads, a set of prehistoric shark teeth, and a Civil War era beer bottle.
Originally born in Baltimore, MD, Rita Savage, 46, moved to Fairfield, PA at the age of twelve, a town located only ten miles from the famous Battle of Gettysburg, where she was immersed into Civil War culture. The allure of the history within the area piqued her interest in the era, however upon graduating high school, Savage entered Hanover PA Cosmetology School in order to receive a degree in cosmetology.
After completing her studies, Savage opened two hair salons, followed by an antique store, a pizza shop and a deli. In between that time, Rita met Ric while waitressing at a local restaurant. In 1999, the Savages were wed, and eleven years later, the couple turned their mutual interest in the Civil War and its relics into a full-fledged business, American Savage.
At the company, Savage is responsible for managing the business, pinpointing dig sites, coordinating sales and scheduling.
Giuseppe Savage, the eldest son to Rita and Ric, has traveled to all parts of the United States taking a series of odd jobs since graduating from high school in 2003. A true road warrior, the 26-year-old first worked at a carnival, touring the country and learning the ins and outs of the traveling business. At the carnival, he ran several food and game stands, as well as assembled and disassembled rides for extra cash. Savage then settled in California for a short time, running a funnel cake stand, before hitting the road again with Artificial Ice, a company that assembles ice skating rinks across the US for corporate parties.
In 2010, Savage returned home to Mechanicsville, VA to work alongside his parents at American Savage. The different trades that he has mastered over the past eight years has made him the company’s best handyman. He can drive, fix, or make just about anything.
Rue Shumate, born and raised in Petersburg, Virginia, has spent more than two decades digging for Civil War relics and hunting Indian artifacts. An accomplished businessman, Shumate, 43, owns two automotive repair shops in Colonial Heights, VA, and multiple rental houses, but considers digging his passion.
Shumate’s finds include dozens of rare Confederate buttons, several Union buckles, underwater-recovered swords and guns, as well as thousands of Native American arrowheads, pottery pieces, and axe heads. He joined the American Savage team in 2010. Considered the tunnel rat, Shumate’s expertise digging has been invaluable to the group, as he is often the first and last out of each dig site hole.
Shumate lives in Petersburg with his wife, Katie, and two sons.
Bob Buttafuso serves as the most senior member of the American Savage team, with over forty years of experience digging up pieces of history all over the country. He makes his home in Manassas, Virginia, the site of a famed Civil War Battle, where he owns a successful electronics store and repairs and sells metal detectors and trades Civil War relics.
Buttafuso’s experience working with metal detectors is extensive: he has authored a book on metal detecting called “Relic Hunting from A to Z” with another in the works, and consults for one of the largest metal detector manufacturers in the world. Buttafuso has made a name for himself as a relic dealer and aficionado, hosting websites devoted to stopping the proliferation of fakes in relic collecting. It is through one of these websites that Buttafuso and Ric Savage developed a mutual respect, so when American Savage grew and became the successful business it is today, Savage looked no further than his vastly experienced friend to round out his team.
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