One of our town’s most colorful characters has died. Businessman and pro wrestler “Buffalo” Jim Barrier died unexpectedly. His body was discovered in a motel room on the Boulder Highway.

Officials say he died of natural causes, although those close to the man, suspect foul play.

As likeable and outgoing as Jim Barrier was, he sure found himself involved in a lot of skirmishes, such as when he found surveillance cameras aimed at his little auto repair shop on Industrial or the numerous police reports he made about events he witnessed at the now shuttered Crazy Horse Too topless nightclub, right next door to his business.

Barrier, known far and wide by his nickname “Buffalo” was a tireless promoter for his business, his causes, and most of all himself. Like the time he built a gigantic, animated, smoke-belching paper mache buffalo that he intended to enter in the Helldorado Parade, until the parade was cancelled.

“Yeah, I wanted this bad boy in the parade. Thought a lot of people of Las Vegas would like it, brother,” he said.

Barrier was a professional wrestler and wrestling promoter who produced his own late night wrestling show on cable TV. The walls of his shop were plastered with photos of famous wrestlers, boxers and other celebrities who became his acquaintances.

He also courted media personalities and wrote his own auto repair newspaper column.

Over the weekend, the body of the 55-year-old Barrier was found in a motel room on the Boulder Highway.

“We just found out yesterday. It’s not real to us,” said Buffalo’s daughter Elise Barrier.

Barrier’s longtime friend, former City Councilman Steve Miller, suspects foul play and says Barrier had received death threats in recent days.

Buffalo’s distraught family has similar suspicions.

“We don’t know at this time. We believe it was a homicide,” said Buffalo’s daughter Jennifer Barrier. “It’s not real. I mean, I think he’s here. I think he’s in the office right now. I don’t think he’s gone. He’s still alive.”

Officially though, police do not suspect foul play at this point. The fire department’s initial conclusion is that Barrier died of natural causes.

Unless a coroner’s autopsy finds something unusual, Metro says there will be no formal investigation. Either way, Barrier’s death leaves a big burly hole in the hearts of his loved ones.

“He just loved people in general. You know Buffalo Jim. Everyone knew him as a character. He always loved to put on a show,” said Jennifer.

The Review Journal’s Best of Las Vegas survey named Buffalo Jim as our city’s most colorful character for 2005. His friends think he probably should have won that category every year.

Email your comments to Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp