AS I SEE IT 7/11/2001
A month from now, the Brian Pillman Memorial Weekend, organized by Les
Thatcher's Heartland Wrestling Association, will be held at Oak Hills High School in
Cincinnati, OH on Thursday, August 9th. The Mark Curtis Wrestling Camp will return for its
second year and takes place at the HWA headquarters on Wednesday, August 8th.
Independent talent such as Machine (OVW), Nigel McGuiness (HWA), J.R Ryder (ECWA), Principal Richard Towne (Stampede Wrestling), Disciples of Synn (OVW), Rob Conway (OVW), Ron "H20" Waterman (OVW) will all be appearing.
Matches already scheduled include:
Terry Taylor vs. Bobby Eaton (with Jim Cornette)
Steve Corino to defend NWA title
Hardy Boyz vs. X-Factor
Booker T vs. Kanyon
Island Boys (Memphis) vs. Cody Hawk (HWA)/Logan Caide
Flash (OVW) vs. Randy Orton (OVW)
Donovan Morgan (APW) vs. Chad Collyer (HWA/Michinoku Pro)
A Squad (with Brock Guffman) (HWA) vs. Minnesota Stretching Crew (OVW)
Haas Brothers (Memphis) vs. Rico Constantino (OVW)/Steve Bradley (Memphis) with Kenny Bolin.
Jerry Lynn, Perry Saturn, William Regal, and Raven will also be appearing on the show. Chris Jericho will be additionally appearing at the Mark Curtis Fantasy Camp. Tickets are selling well, with the 2600 seat building already having its 800 seat reserved seating section sold out.
Fans who want to order tickets online for Pillman 2001; can do so at this direct ticket link. Overall information on the Pillman 2001 weekend can be found at http://pillmanshow.com.
When I've posted information on this show, I've been asked more than once by people, why keep doing these benefit events?
A simple answer would be: you do them to remember.
But in this case there's more of an answer than that. It requires a description of who Brian Pillman was.
To explain what I mean, here's the retrospective I wrote for the October, 1997 snail mail version of Pro Wrestling: Between The Sheets:
BRIAN PILLMAN 1962-1997: A RETROSPECTIVE
October 5, 1997 brought a tragic end to the life and career of Brian Pillman, a life of constant struggle against the odds that made him the ultimate overachiever, a wrestling star who will be remembered by wrestling fans and friends throughout the world, and by a family hat loved him.
Pillman's struggles began as a teenager when he was forced to endure 36 operations as a result of throat cancer. These operations left him with an artificial larynx and his trademark raspy voice.
The struggles continued at Norwood High School in suburban Cincinnati, where the young Pillman was a walk-on to the school's football team, where he won a job as starting middle linebacker, though weighing only 147 pounds. But even by growing to 185 pounds as a senior, and as a star linebacker...Pillman couldn't get a college football scholarship.
Again, he had to overcome the odds at Miami University of Ohio as a walk-on, earning a spot as middle guard, and achieving college football All-American status. He then moved up to the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 as a reserve linebacker, then on to the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL in 1986.
While still with the Stampeders, Pillman met Bruce Hart, who in turn introduced him to his father Stu, and his legendary "Dungeon". Thus began Brian Pillman's eventful wrestling career with Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling in 1986.
In Stampede, Pillman had the perfect training ground to learn and practice his new craft in the ultimate "small man's promotion"; one that gave the business such "small men" who became superstars like Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Chris Benoit, Jushin Liger, Chris Jericho, and Hiroshi Hase. Pillman was paired with Bruce Hart, forming the original Bad Company, which became the lead babyface tag team of Stampede.
Hart was quoted in the October 6th Calgary Sun as saying: "[Pillman] had a real affinity for wrestling, was a real good athlete, and had a lot of charisma...there are so many phonies and superficial people in wrestling...but [Brian] was deep, intelligent, and sensitive."
Pillman moved on in 1989 to WCW, where he spent the majority of his career, beginning as athletic babyface "Flyin' Brian" Pillman. Early on, he got a push in a nationally televised time limit draw with Ric Flair. In a 1995 PRODIGY interview, Pillman was quoted as saying "that was the match that let me know that I could be a star in this business".
His matches with Jushin Liger in 1991 were historic, giving mainstream American wrestling fans their first look at Liger and the acrobatic ring style he was pioneering. I remember being at a WCW show at the Meadowlands Arena, watching one of their matches...and seeing a mother looking almost awestruck at the action in the ring, telling her son "make sure you look at this...you're watching the greatest wrestlers in the world".
After this run, Pillman went through various mid-card babyface incarnations, including his unintentionally hilarious stint as one of the "Dudes With Attitudes", and a short but exciting tag team run with Chris Benoit.
Finally, in 1992, WCW turned Pillman heel, leading him to one of his greatest successes together with Steve Austin as the Hollywood Blondes in 1992-1993. The Blondes took the WCW Tag Titles from Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat in March 1993. The Blondes later feuded with the Four Horsemen, featuring a classic parody of the "Flair for The Gold" interview segments then running on WCW TV that foreshadowed the NWO/Arn Anderson parody by years.
In 1995, Pillman entered his most notorious phase as the "Loose Cannon", someone fans could expect to do or say anything at any time. During his "Loose Cannon" phase, he worked a stint with the Four Horsemen, While the actions were a part of Pillman's real life personality; it's also been said that it was more of a joint creation of Bruce Hart, old Stampede friend Bruce Hart, and even Terry Funk. WCW's Mark Madden described Pillman's character as "Terry Funk...on acid... without the acid". Madden meant it as the highest form of compliment. He was right.
The new character for Pillman involved him the beginning of what became a new trend in American wrestling: the shoot angle. In 1996, this showed itself during the infamous "Respect" match with WCW booker Kevin Sullivan. After a brief match, Pillman grabbed the house mike and said "I respect you...bookerman", dropped the mike and walked out of the arena. This began a series of appearances designed to give the impression that Pillman was a real-life out-of-control lunatic.
At this point in 1996, Pillman may well have been the hottest heel in wrestling. There was one small problem: his WCW contract was running out and somehow he was never re-signed. Eric Bischoff said that not re-signing Pillman was one of the real regrets of his career.
Then, later that year at the ECW Arena, as one of Paul Heyman's "lights out" surprises, Brian Pillman was suddenly standing in the middle of the ring. The ECW Arena crowd went wild that night; figuring that one of "them" the guy who was breaking the unwritten rules of wrestling by breaking kayfabe...or so they thought, and making an ass out of Eric Bischoff...or so they thought... was coming to ECW.
In an piece of absolute artwork on the mike, Pillman's classic derision of "smart marks" at the Arena had the crowd cheering his name, to hating his guts in 30 seconds flat. It was one of the most memorable moments in ECW Arena history. A series of appearances seemed to be working toward a match with Shane Douglas...a match that never happened.
The match never happened because Brian Pillman was involved in a serious accident in his Humvee, in which he was left in a coma for nearly a week...and had his ankle shattered. Pillman had to undergo a series of operations on the ankle. It healed improperly the first time, had to be re-broken and set a second time. His ankle never recovered, and his ring work was never again on the level that it was before. This accident also led to Pillman's dependency on painkillers.
Even with this injury, Pillman was signed to a guaranteed contract by the WWF. He was the "Loose Cannon" again, from the start of his contract signing angle.
Pillman and his his wife Melanie were part of one of the most controversial angles of the decade; as Steve Austin was depicted breaking into Pillman's real-life house, an angle featuring liberal use of profanity and the use of a gun. The angle was so hot that it led to Pillman being put on the back burner for months until things cooled off.
The last months of Pillman's career were spent in the Team Canada/Hart Foundation angle...then the angle with Dustin (Goldust) Runnels and his wife Terri ("Marlena") Runnells..leading to the match where Pillman "won the services of Marlena". In the storyline, Pillman was scheduled to win the affections of Marlena, which would have had her turn on Dustin.
But on the night that the turn was scheduled to happen, the workers and staff of Titan Sports along with the wrestling world were instead mourning his death at age 36.
Brian Pillman's friend, WCW Magazine editor Colin Bowman said in his touching column on WCWwrestling.com:
"...One of the most painful things that I am contending with is the fact that the last time I saw him on TV was this past weekend in a hotel room. The irony of that will never be lost on me. It conjures up too vivid an image".
Indeed, the irony of a man loved by his wife, his children, and so many on and out of the wrestling industry, dying alone in a hotel room far from them all is truly a tragic one.
I'd prefer to think of Brian Pillman in a different way and as being in a different place right now...one where he's still blazing new trails, and wreaking his particular brand of mischief on those who've gotten too
comfortable. Somehow I imagine that Pillman will have fun doing that where he is, together with people like Eddie Gilbert. The Lord indeed quite a pair to contend with.
I was the recipient of Pillman's "Loose Cannon" character up close and in person once. When Pillman was with ECW in 1996, the promotion always went post-show to a particular hotel. Kayfabe was pretty much suspended at this hotel, in keeping with the "Team ECW" atmosphere of the time.
They shot promos for TV in a suite in the hotel's penthouse. A friend working with ECW asked me to tell Pillman that they were ready for him to go upstairs. I went over to him and started to tell him...only to be greeted with a high-voltage Pillman rant, with him still in character figuring he was telling off another "smart mark". People sat there wide-eyed and open-mouthed as this rant went on.
Needless to say, someone else got Pillman upstairs that night to shoot his promos.
Such a unique character deserves to be remembered.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)