Thomas La Ruffa (May 4, 1984) is a French professional wrestler best known for his time with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling under the ring name Basile Baraka. He was previously signed to World Wrestling Entertainment's NXT under the ring name Sylvester Lefort.
Early career (2006-2007)
La Ruffa was trained by Lance Storm at the Storm Wrestling Academy and finished training in 2006.
On November 19, 2006, La Ruffa made his debut in the squared circle as he lost a match at Power Zone Wrestling in Canada.
On January 13, 2007, La Ruffa made his debut for International Catch Wrestling Alliance, during a 2-week tour of the French island La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, under the name of Eagle Mask and teamed with Pierre Fontaine to lose to the UK Pitbulls. La Ruffa teamed up with Robert Ray to take part in the Lethal Lottery Tag Team tournament and reached the finals of the tournament before being knocked out by Big Dave and Charlie Rage. As a singles competitor he participated in the ICWA 16 Carat Gold tournament, in the preliminary qualification match he would lose to Bulk. For most of 2007 he competed in various other French promotions such as Association Biterroise de Catch, Fighting Spirit Federation and Queen of Chaos. In the summer of 2007, he toured with Nu Wrestling Evolution in Italy, where he faced the world champion Romeo Roselli. His final matches in 2007 were at the Spanish promotion Super Wrestling Alliance where he competed as both Eagle Mask and Tom LaRuffa and didn't suffer any losses in the promotion.
He returned to France in June 2008. In the semi final of ICWA's Japan Expo 2008 tournament in Paris, he lost to Metal Master. On the same event, he also teamed with Bryan Danielson. On August 2, he took on Joe E. Legend in an unsuccessful challenge for the ICWA World Heavyweight Championship. LaRuffa took on Yan Colby in a no disqualification, loser leaves ICWA match which Yan Colby won.
North American Tours (2007-2008)
In September 2007, La Ruffa to train at the NWA Pro Dojo in San Bernardino, California. There he received additional training with Rocky Romero, Karl Anderson, and T.J. Perkins. In October, he would debut in Mexico, wrestling on Lucha Libre shows in Mexicali. he would also take part to the infamous San Francisco's Cow Palace Fan Festival on October 20, where he teamed with TNA's Lance Hoyt to face Shark Boy and Abyss. On November 4, La Ruffa would debut for Empire Wrestling Federation as the French Stallion and defeat Country Bear. Throughout the month of November, La Ruffa would form various tag teams which never quite worked as he lost all his tag team matches. In his last match for EWF for about a year, he lost to Ronin.
From January to March 2008, back to Calgary, Canada, Tom assisted Lance Storm in training his January 2008 camp. On January 18, 2008, he debuted in Stampede Wrestling and lost to T-Bone. He went on to work for various promotions throughout Alberta like Prairie Wrestling Alliance. Powerzone Wrestling or Real Canadian Wrestling, having great feuds with Brady Roberts and T-Bone Jack Sloan. On April 4, 2008, La Ruffa would return to EWF and defeating Rockstar Cordova in his return match. His 2008 tour would prove to be much better than his 2007 tour. He defeated Human Tornado and Ryan Taylor in a triple threat match and went on to challenge the EWF Heavyweight Champion Brandon Gatson in an unsuccessful effort. His tour of America would end on a low losing all his matches in his final few months at EWF. While in EWF, La Ruffa teamed with fellow Storm Wrestling Academy graduate and WWE developmental talent Mike Dalton. Before heading back to Europe in mid-2008, La Ruffa had several WWE try outs in California. He appeared briefly in the background of a backstage segment.
Wrestling Stars (2008-2012)
On September 4, 2008, La Ruffa debuted for Wrestling Stars, France's top promotion and one of the longest running in all of Europe. La Ruffa enjoyed most of his recent success there, and established himself as one of Europe's top talent while fighting against the continent's best competitors and making a name for himself through YouTube videos. While in WS, he took on a Greek warrior gimmick, to pay tribute to his family roots. While in WS Tom was taken under the wings of famous French pro wrestlers: Flesh Gordon, Prince Zefy and Monsieur Jacky and headlined shows all over his native country, often wrestling three shows per week end, 2 matches per nights.
His greatest feuds in WS were against Sir Robin Lequimez, Murat Bosporus, Mikey Diamonds (Mikey Whiplash, to whom he lost All Star Wrestling's World Mid-Heavyweight Championship in Croydon, UK, in March 2009), Ghent Wakefield and fellow French WS Star David Michel.
His WS career has been featured in many press articles and TV appearances. One of the most notable was a documentary on his life couple with the daughter of WS top star and 40 years veteran of French rings Flesh Gordon : Lili Gordon for NT1's Tous Different TV show. The featurette, aired nationally on prime time French TV, ran for half an hour and showed how Tom and Lili (WS ring announcer at the time) were dealing with distances in their couple (he lived in Nice, and she was in Paris), how wrestling played in their life especially with Tom's upcoming opportunity at France's national Catch Championship, and whether their love could outlive all these issues. It didn't, as Tom pursued his dream, and Lili started to go to an acting school.
In May 2011, Tom became the first and only French pro wrestler to ever wrestle professionally on Turkish soil, for Turkish Power Wrestling, against Murat Bosporus.
World of Hurt (2010-2011)
La Ruffa's biggest hit internationally came with the World of Hurt series, Season One. A reality documentary television series, in which Lance Storm would train 10 former students to help them make it to the next level. La Ruffa portrayed the "French Stallion" character in what many consider a show stealing performance, as he appeared to be the most arrogant, obnoxious, and attention-seeking jerk ever. The series was filmed in December 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and began airing in May 2011.
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE
In November 2011, La Ruffa wrestled a single appearance on Smackdown as a local wrestler who along with two others wrestlers Andy Baker and Zak Zodiac and lost a handicap match against Big Show. In August 2012, WWE signed La Ruffa to a developmental contract. In WWE's developmental territory NXT Wrestling, La Ruffa took up the ring name Sylvester Lefort, and his NXT television debut took place on the May 29, 2013 episode of NXT, where he (as a rich Frenchman) managed the tag team of Garrett Dylan and Scott Dawson (two Southerners) in a win over Travis Tyler and Baron Corbin. After Dylan and Dawson lost a number one contender match for the NXT Tag Team Championship to Corey Graves and Kassius Ohno on the June 26 episode of NXT, Dylan was released from WWE in August 2013, but Lefort continued to manage Dawson. He also began managing Alexander Rusev. He made his NXT in-ring debut teaming with Rusev in a win over Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. After the match, Rusev turned on Lefort and sided with the debuting Lana. Lefort went on to lose to Rusev in a singles match. With Dawson injured, Lefort began to wrestle in singles competition losing to Mason Ryan in early 2014. On the May 8, 2014 edition of NXT, Lefort formed a new tag team with himself and Marcus Louis as The Legionnaires. Lefort wrestled only two matches during 2015, including a tag match on June 18 with Jason Jordan against Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore and a Halloween Costume Battle Royal on October 30, won by Bayley. On February 5, 2016, Lefort left WWE.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2016)
Ruffa made his TNA debut on March 17 along with fellow WWE NXT alumni Marcus Louis. Both men underwent gimmick changes, with Ruffa debuting in TNA as Basile Baraka and Louis debuting as Baron Dax. They formed at team on March 17 as The Tribunal at TNA One Night Only: Victory Road 2016 in a tag team match won by The BroMans (Jessie Godderz & Robbie E). On December 10, it was reported that Baraka has parted ways with TNA.
Return to the European independent circuit (2016-present)
Wrestling under his birth name, LaRuffa returned to full-time bookings on the independent circuit after parting ways with TNA. Among his bookings, he wrestled in Belgium for the Multi Event Association's MEA Show De Catch event on November 5, 2016, where he defeated Joe E. Legend.
On December 3, LaRuffa wrestled in New European Championship Wrestling's NEW Internet Wars 4 event where he and opponent Mr. Exotic Erotic were defeated in a triple threat match by Adrian Severe. During the month of December, LaRuffa arrived in bookings with European Wrestling Promotion (EWP). On December 16, he wrestled on Day #1 of the EWP Christmas Wrestling 2016 Axel Dieter Memorial Cup event, where he and Johnny Rancid were disqualified in a tag match won by Chris Colen & Hernandez. On Day #2 of the event, LaRuffa and Markus Antonius won their tag match against Leon van Gasteren & Mr. Mickito. On December 18 during the third and final day of the event, LaRuffa defeated Lucky Kid. In 2017, LaRuffa returned to EWP on April 22 and wrestled until May 21. He held a 4-1 win-loss record over the two months he spent in EWP since his return.
Since returning to Europe, LaRuffa has wrestled for promotions including Italian Championship Wrestling, Federation Francaise de Catch Professionnel, Wrestling Stars, Tigers Pro Wrestling and EuroStars. On September 2, 2017, LaRuffia appeared in New European Championship Wrestling's NEW Snakepit event where he wrestled in a 25-Man Battle Royal to crown a new NEW World Heavyweight Champion. He made his debut in Ouest Catch on September 9, 2017, defeating an opponent named GenoCyd. On December 3, 2017, LaRuffia debuted in Xperience Wrestling at Xperience Wrestling Day Of Game 3 where he was involved in a Four Way Falls Count Anywhere Match to crown a new Xperience Wrestling Heavyweight Champion.
- Finishing and signature moves
- "WWE's French Stallion"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated