Bruce Mitchell Feature Column
ORIGINAL HEADLINE: Brian Pillman’s Extreme Creation
PUBLISH DATE: February 24, 1996
Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly newsletter #375/376
“Every thing you see actually happens.”
-Big Time Wrestling main eventer Rocky Johnson with the ’70s answer to the question, “work or shoot?”
The firing of Brian Pillman is a work.
You know, a fake, a con, a rib, not kosher…
But it’s not just your ordinary, everyday wrestling lie either. The firing of Brian Pillman is the Chinese box of wrestling, a deception immersed in a question mark wrapped in an enigma.
It’s an angle that has been organized with paranoid meticulousness and it’s got wrestlers, announcers, production people, officials, and fans of all sorts talking. The “Respect” match at SuperBrawl and subsequent firing have been more of a topic of conversation than this week’s shots in the WWF-WCW war, the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship political embroglio, the longawaited and desired Miss Liz turn, and a loss by Hulk Hogan to (of all people) Arn Anderson. All might dominate wrestling conversations on their own any other week.
Why the overwhelming interest?
Well, after all, Pillman really was terminated on Wednesday by WCW senior vice president Eric Bischoff. Pillman really did hire a lawyer, Rubin Katz, who defended Pete Rose during his wrongful termination. Pillman really did appear Saturday night at a place where they hate WCW with the same passion as Vince McMahon, ECW Arena. Pillman really was telling people he wanted to get himself on the live Monday Night Raw from, serendipitously, his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The events of SuperBrawl have quickly become wrestling’s version of an Urban Legend, a story intertwined with almost indistinguishable threads of fact and compelling fiction. Threads such as these:
No one can find Pillman to give him the finish to the scheduled 12 minute strap match. No one can find the strap because Pillman stole it.
Everyone saw Pillman forcibly grab the mic from the startled referee and sneer the soon to be legendary words, in some circles at least, “I respect you, booker man.” Everyone backstage saw Pillman and Bischoff swear at each other during a heated argument.
Someone told Chris Cruise he didn’t have to interview Pillman because “he’s so crazy he might hit you on the air.” Someone heard a bewildered Hulk Hogan ask, “What’s the deal with Pillman?” Someone saw an incensed Arn Anderson chase Pillman through the parking lot looking to beat his ass for “ruining the show.” Someone saw Pillman in his wrestling gear burn rubber on his way outta there promptly smashing into another car.
The Urban Legend is really the Pillman Legend. A loose cannon who will do anything to anyone at any time because he really doesn’t give a f.
The origins of that legend, that work, reveal this whole scenario for what it is: the nuttily brilliant attempt of a wrestler who is beginning to realize that being a great worker wasn’t going to be enough, this time, to garner him another guaranteed money contract.
And it can all be traced back to one event – the Dec. 15 show honoring Stu Hart.
Virtually unnoticed in the tribute recognizing the 50 year career of one of the patriarchs of the business was the return of Brian Pillman to the Calgary territory where he started his career. More important may have been his reunion with his mentor and partner in the Bad Company tag team, Bruce Hart. This is a guy who has been in and around the business literally his entire life, who knew not only every hold and counter hold, but every swerve and counterswerve in the business.
And then there was Bad Company’s opponents for the show, Dory and Terry Funk. They, too, have seen it all. They, too, know what it’s like to work everyone from fans to friends to family, what it’s like to have no loyalty to anyone but yourself. Who better to help Pillman formulate a strategy, more of a 24 hour a day con, designed to turn cold Brian into a hot enough commodity that WCW would have to resign him for fear of losing him to their archrivals, the WWF?
Call it the Brody strategy after the legendary brawler and clubhouse lawyer, Bruiser Brody, who knew how to cause so much turmoil in the dressing room and so much action on TV and in the ring that he ripped the focus of any promotion he worked in away from anyone else.
And then he walked out, taking his heat and his controversy to a new promotion for more money.
When Brody walked out on Giant Baba and the All Japan promotion to jump to New Japan Pro Wrestling, in the legendary example, he made headlines around that country. He was the star who compelled the Japanese fans to watch him both in and out of the ring. The compulsion he created in Japan and with similar tactics in other countries including the U.S. made him a rich man.
After the Calgary show, Brian Pillman was a changed man, an all day punk whether he was at WCW shows, at boxing matches, on his rightwing radio show, or at adult entertainment emporius where he simultaneously sneered at fans and hawked Four Horsemen tshirts.