Saturday mornings are nothing like they were when you were a kid. As a child I would wake up and get a bowl of fruity pebbles and go to the living room and watch cartoons. Now I wake up and wonder if I should take an anxiety pill. Rush around trying to get all my errands run before college football starts. And since it’s college football season and this is a slow weekend for wrestling, I want to devote my Saturday mornings to talking about my favorite wrestlers.
As I mentioned yesterday my first favorite wrestler was Flyin’ Brian Pillman. I first noticed Pillman in 1989 when he came to WCW. I liked Pillman because he was a smaller guy, did a lot of high-flying moves and was from Ohio. I watched as he and the Z-Man were a tag team, and eventually won the U.S. Tag Team Titles. I watched one of the greatest matches ever, when he defeated Jushin Thunder Liger to win the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship. He was doing moves that were way before his time. At least in the U.S. He was able to compete with the big men and be successful. I would follow his career through all the different stages. I would say no one in wrestling has had a more versatile wrestling personality. He was able to go from being one of the most popular wrestlers to one of the most vilified, when he joined Steve Austin in the Hollywood Blondes. As a member of the Hollywood Blondes he would once again when Tag Team gold! Even as a heel I was still a huge Pillman fan. I honestly think the Hollywood Blondes were split up way too soon. They were getting over as a tag team, to the point where they could have had a babyface run as well. But they were split up and did a feud where Pillman would be a babyface again, and honestly I didn’t care for the feud. You could tell that neither man wanted to split the team up, but like most people they were being good employees. Pillman went on from the split and kind of got lost in the shuffle for a year or two, until he joined the Four Horseman. Yes, the Ric Flair founded Four Horseman! This is about the time Pillman started transforming his character into something wrestling had never seen before. Pillman started pushing the envelope on what was “allowed” on television. And really made you wonder what in the world the guy was going to do from week to week. His Four Horseman run was quick in my opinion. He started a feud with Kevin Sullivan, and this is when the Loose Cannon, would officially take off in my opinion. I still to this day do not know if the angle was a work or not. I like to think it wasn’t, but even if it was that is just a testament to Pillman’s work. I am just going by memory so forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe it was a PPV strap match between Sullivan and Pillman. Pillman went out there and went “rogue”. I don’t even think they were strapped up for the match and Pillman and Sullivan were engaged in what appeared to be a real fight. At some point during the fight Pillman got away, grabbed a microphone and said “I respect you, Booker man!” He dropped the mic and walked off with his middle finger in the air. And as I recollect, that was the last time he stepped foot in WCW.
Shortly after he left WCW he showed up in ECW. Matter of fact it may have even been the following night of the WCW PPV. ECW did a spot where the lights when out and when they came back on Brian Pillman was in the ring. The crowd went ballistic! Pillman’s character at the time was a perfect fit for ECW. As Pillman began to talk, the crowd quickly realized that Pillman was not there for them. Pillman cut one of the best heel promos ever! EVER! If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
Pillman went on to have a couple of feuds, but unfortunately was involved in a horrific automobile accident. The accident did a significant amount of damage to Pillman’s body. Including facial reconstruction and a broken ankle. The ankle was so bad that on WWE’s beyond the mat documentary, someone described his foot as being turned completely in the opposite direction. Being the man the Pillman was he eventually returned to wrestling after this accident that would have killed a lesser man. But upon his return he would now be a WWE superstar. I can remember the press conference WWE held when Pillman was hired by WWE. He went from being appreciative to once again cutting a great, GREAT heel promo. Pillman doesn’t get enough tout for his work on the mic. He would cut the greatest promos, like the one at the 1996 King of the Ring.
Pillman had quite a bit of healing to do on his body before he could return to the ring full-time. So an angle was made to write Pillman off TV, and that came at the hands of former tag team partner in WCW, Steve Austin. Steve would go after Pillmans ankle and “put him out of action.” This lead to one of the most infamous angles in pro wrestling history. There was going to be a camera crew at Pillman’s house to talk about the injury. Steve Austin caught wind of it and said if they were going to be there, then he was going to be there. So when Pillman found out, he would arm himself with a 9mm gun. Never before and never again has a gun been used in wrestling. The scene was very intense, especially if you were watching it live. Steve Austin beat up Pillman’s friends in his driveway and proceeded to break into Pillman’s home. Busting the glass on the door and reaching in and unlocking it. Pillman’s ankle is heavily wrapped and he could barely get off the couch he was on. But when Austin broke into his house Pillman got up and met Austin with gun in hand! Yelling, screaming and shaky camera angles made the scene even more intense. Kevin Kelly was the interviewer on scene and he did a great job describing the situation. It felt so real, that it had everybody talking. I believe the WWE was told by the television network to never do something like that again. Honestly, I don’t think it would work if it were anyone else trying to pull it off.
Pillman finally made his return to the ring and got some revenge on Steve Austin. Steve Austin was quoted as saying when Pillman got his revenge he hit him so hard he was nearly knocked out. Upon his return Pillman would once again find himself in a legendary faction, The Hart Foundation. Bret and Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart and the British Bulldog. The fact that Bret is the only WWE hall of famer out of that group is crime! But that’s for another day. Pillman was a perfect fit in this faction. He went on to have several good matches while in the Hart Foundation, but you could kind of tell that he was not 100%. But Pillman being the professional worked through the pain. Pillman started a storyline with Goldust, that once again was very memorable. Pillman and Goldust were two very interesting characters to say the least. Goldust’s manager at the time was Marlena. It was common knowledge that Pillman and Marlena were an item back in their WCW days. Marlena was now married to Goldust. There was an angle in place that if Pillman beat Goldust, he would get Marlena as his personal assistant for 30 days. Pillman and Goldust put on a good match but, when Marlena tried to get involved to help Goldust it backfired and Pillman ended up winning the match. Thus getting the services of Marlena for 30 days. Over the next few weeks there were several
vignettes called Pillman’s XXX files. These videos were of Pillman insinuating that Marlena was doing more than was required if you know what I mean. I was looking forward to seeing where this angle was going, when the unimaginable happened.
On October 5, 1997 Brian Pillman passed away at the age of 35. There was a lot of speculation as to what happened. Did he commit suicide? Did he overdose on pain killers? None of that. Brian Pillman died of a heart attack. Vince McMahon made an announcement at the Badd Blood PPV that he had passed. The next night on RAW it really hit home. That 10 bell salute was very tough to sit through. I was 15 years old at the time and remember doing all I could not to get emotional in front of my mom. She asked what happened and if I was ok? She knew that Pillman had always been my favorite. It was tough for sure. I think if Pillman was alive today he would be involved in wrestling is some manner. He was way too talented not to be. A man gone way too soon. But I am just one of many people he has touched during his short life.
I found out about a year ago that Brian Pillman’s son Brian Pillman Jr. is going to carry on his legacy and is and up and comer tearing it up on the indies! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. I will certainly be following his career and wish him nothing but the best!