(1962 - 1997)
Tribute to Brian Pillman
"Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton
Brian William Pillman (5/22/62 - 5/10/97)
Height : 6' Weight : 226lbs
Place of Birth : Norwood, Ohio Hometown: Walton, KY
Children: 1 step-daughter, 1 step-son, 3 daughters, and 1 son
Step-daughter, Alexis, step-son, Jesse, son Brian Zachary, Daughters Danielle, Brittany, and Skylar
Brian underwent 36 operations during his lifetime for throat cancer, which was why his voice wasn't crisp and clear. Many experts felt his limitations using his voice would hinder his pro-wrestling career. However; Brian took a minus and turned it in to a positive and was probably one of the greatest wrestlers at cutting promo's to get himself and others over in pro wrestling (he remined me late in his career to a young "Rowdy" Roddy Piper).
Brian Pillman played made the Cincinnati Bengals fotball team out of college as a 'nose tackle' and only spent a year with the team. He was on the practice squad, and he eventually ended up playing football in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeder's. During his 'grid-iron' career in the CFL Brian Pillman suffered numerous knee and ankle injuries and eventually decided to retire from Professional Football.
During his days playing in the Canadian Football League he built up connections in Canada and was shortly working in the "Hart Dungeon" being trained by Stu Hart to debut for Stampede Wrestling.
On November 25th 1986 Brian Pillman made his pro-wrestling debut in Stampede Wrestling. Pillman quickly was put in to the mix forming a tag team with Bruce Hart called "Bad Company". They dominated the Stampede area with seemingly ease.
WCW COMES KNOCKING: About a year into Brian Pillman's wrestling career he got a phone call from the Atlanta Based World Championship Wrestling and left Canada to pursue his national aspirations with WCW. Pillman surpised everybody with his athleticism and aerial attack. He was quickly considred to be one of the fastest rising stars in the industry. Three months in to his stay with WCW he was put in to a high level feud with "Total Package" Lex Luger for Luger's United States Heavyweight Title.
U.S. Title Matches: The two battled at "Halloween Havoc" and "Clash of the Champions IX" for the United States Heavyweight Title. However; the youngster was never able to score the upset victory over the established Luger. He did however have fairly competitive matches with Lex and proved he was worthy of being part of the national circuit.
Following this feud, WCW put Pillman in to a tag team with "Z-Man" Tom Zenk and the duo dominated the undercard WCW Tag Team Divison holding the NWA U.S. Tag Team Championships. After three momths of reigning supreme, the duo lost the tag team titles to Jim Cornette's Midnight Express. Pillman and Zenk split apart after the loss of the titles and both focused on their single careers.
Pillman was in a rut for the next year as he did not get any elevated matches in WCW and his career was at a virtual stand still. But in the Spring of '91, Brian joined forces with Sting and the Steiner Brothers to battle the Four Horsemen. Sting's team met the Horseman (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious and Larry Zbyszko (substituting for Arn Anderson)) in the two ring, double cage "War Games: The Match Beyond". It was a brutal, bloody match which the Horsemen won (after Sid knocked Pillman out with two brutal powerbombs.).
Brian went on to face "Horseman" Barry Windham in a taped fist match at "Superbrawl" and again at "Clash of the Champions XV" teaming with El Gigante against Windham and Anderson. He lost both matches. The second of which was a "Loser Leaves Town Match" ending Pillman's WCW career.
During this leave of absence from WCW, Sid Eudy (who had since left WCW for WWF) was in an Atlanta Bar (WCW wrestlers frequented) and was bragging he was making more money in a week then they would ever see in their entire careers. Sid also told Pillman he was "too small" to ever make it in the "big time" (WWF), and one thing led to another and the two got into a heated argument which started a scuffle. Sid stopped and ran to his car to get a squegee. Pillman being a legit "tough guy" virtually made Sid Eudy (Sid Justice/Sid Vicious) back down. Pillman returned to the back stage area of WCW as a 'cult hero' for the bar room brawl.
Brian soon was back in WCW wrestling again, but not as himself as he came back as "Yellow Dogg", a masked wrestler (which was made famous in Florida Championship Wrestling years before by Barry Windham). A bounty was placed on the head of Pillman by The Horsemen (Barry Windham) and it led too Johnny B. Badd and Diamond Studd (Scott Hall) trying to collect.
Badd attempted to unmask Pillman at the "Great American Bash '91" but didn't quite manage. Soon, WCW simply reinstated Pillman and "The Yellow Dogg" saga was dropped without a conclusion.
WCW created the Lightweight Division and Pillman dominated it and became the first WCW Lightweight Champion beating Richard Morton in the finals. Jushin "Thunder" Liger came all the way from Japan to WCW to give Pillman some legit competition since Pillman dominated all of the American Lightweights in WCW. Liger eventually defeated Pillman for the WCW Lightweight Title and took it back to New Japan Pro Wrestling. The two had a series of matches that to this day are still considered the greatest all-around lightweight battles in wrestling history!
Pillman eventually regained the Lightweight Title from Liger in a rematch. Pillman then lost the title for the last time to a WCW newcomer from Portland named Scotty Flamingo (Scott Levey, AKA Raven).
Next, Brian Pillman turned heel because of a ruling made by Bill Watts when he took over WCW. Watts decided to make it 'illegal' for any of the wrestlers to come off the top rope when their opponents were laying prone on the mat and could not defend themselves. Soon, the entire company had changes and all off top moves were outlawed by Watts. This created a unique situation for "Flyin" Brian Pillman beause he could no longer "fly" in WCW. Pillman took this as a sign of things to develop and began to break the rules every chance he could (turning heel in the end). Pillman formed a low-level tag team with another WCW wrestler who had been shafted in his entire WCW stay, a young guy who would later be fired by WCW and told to "look for another career choice, because pro wrestling could not market a guy that wore black tights and black boots and he would never be a headliner in the United States", Steve Austin.
The two quickly erupted on the pro wrestling scene out of nowhere and quickly were considered the best tag team in North America by many experts. Soon the team decided to call themselves "The Hollywood Blondes" and little did they know this early tag team would one day spark their careers and lead to a high-level money making WWF ratings angle involving a firearm (more on that later). Austin and Pillman had a bitter feud with Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas over the NWA/WCW Tag Team Titles and eventually won the titles after a few months. Pillman however; injured his ankle during the championship run and was replaced by Steven Regal in a defense against Steamboat and Douglas, Austin and Regal lost the tag team titles that night.
Austin and Pillman seperated and when Pillman returned he was bitter at Austin and challenged Austin to a match, Pillman and Austin fought at "Clash of the Champions XXV" in November and Austin defeated Brian Pillman by pinfall.
In 1994, Pillman signed back with WCW for two more years. He was put in to a feud against Steven Regal for the WCW TV Title and challenged him at "Spring Stampede" which went to a time limit draw.
Eric Bischoff signed Hulk Hogan around this time and after that, Pillman and Austin (and others) were reduced to TV Filler.
Pillman's career was on a downward spiral, and so was his life outside the wrestling world at this same period. Something changed in Brian and he just stopped caring about a lot of things within pro wrestling and outside of pro wrestling. A lot of people were afraid Pillman was going to go over the edge and did not know what to expect out of him. Eric Bischoff eventually turned it in to "The Loose Cannon" angle which Pillman used to break through to the next level in WCW, even with Hogan running the show. Hogan couldn't keep Pillman down, because Pillman constantly pulled "shoots" on live TV and got himself over at the expense of others.
As the story goes, Kevin Sullivan pitched an idea to run an angle involving Pillman where he would to go Extreme Championship Wrestling when Eric Bischoff finally had "enough" of the SHOOTS on WCW TV and fired Pillman on LIVE TV. Pillman would be sent to ECW to work the territory to make it seem as if he had really been fired. The only people that knew about the angle were to be Sullivan, Pillman, and Bischoff to make it work.
This angle did happen, with Brian leaving WCW and working ECW for a few months. This was when WCW used the "termination" angle and sent Pillman to ECW. Pillman was more of a "Loose Cannon" in ECW threatening to "Pull his johnson out" and "piss all over the fans". Pillman's angle was working with the auidence actually thinking he had quit WCW and or was really fired by WCW. Pillman showed up at a live WCW show and had purchased a ticket and sat in the front row during the show. The fans 'marked' out awaiting for Pillman to pull one of his infamous "shoots" and do something conterversial. When Hulk Hogan and others back stage saw how "over" Pillman had been, and got the subsequent ratings for Pillman's segment on the show, Pillman was ordered to return to WCW the following week to do an angle with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage on Nitro.
This killed off the idea Pillman wasn't working for WCW, because in order to keep the illusion going that Pillman had purchased a ticket, he would have had to have returned to ECW for a few weeks and not appeared on WCW for any purpose. But Hogan and Savage simply wanted to get the rub of the ratings and didn't care about the development of the angle for long term business in the company. Pillman did return the following week and did the angle with Hogan and Savage, but the heat was dead after that point surrounding his "Loose Cannon" persona. Hogan and crew probably didn't care about hurting Pillman's career, and got what they wanted (cheap ratings).
One classic "Loose Cannon" moment after the other had built uo the character in to being one of the greatest of all time. He went bezerk on a Clash of the Champions one night and broke away from the scripted interview and ran behind Bobby "the brain" Heenan who was doing live commentary, and Heenan knowing the script didn't call for what Pillman was doing screamed "What the fuck are you doing?" on live TV. Pillman also was scheduled for a "respect match" with Kevin Sullivan at a WCW PPV and two minutes in to the match he grabbed the microphone and scramed, "I respect you booker man" and walked out pulling a 'shoot' leaving WCW to scramble to cover for the unfilled air time.
After one of the shows, Brian Pillman went home and was driving in his Humvee along Kentucky Route 338 and fell asleep at the wheel, after a long night of completing his tax returns. He hit a tree trunk and shot across the road and hit another tree which caused the vehicle to flip. Pillman was thrown 30 feet through the air.
Pillman wasn't wearing his safety belt and if he had he would have been killed as the vehicle was flattened. He went to hospital with a severely broken left ankle, dislocated jaw, broken nose and cheekbone and severe facial cuts. He had a steel rod inserted into his ankle and his ankle was fused into a walking position. He was released on April 19th returning for plastic surgery on his face.
Pillman returned to ECW and worked in a wheel chair during this period, while still under WCW contract. WCW had no use for him since his automobile accident and killing off all of his heat using "The Loose Cannon" gimmick to help give Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage some cheap ratings. Pillman worked for ECW under Paul Heyman even though he was in a wheel chair and he eventually became a free agent.
During a promo in ECW, Pillman mentioned the hardcore rap band "Nigger With Attitudes" and Newjack (having only heard a white guy use the word "nigger" decided Pillman was racist and went after him) took offense to this. This led to a backstage confrontation between the two and ended Pillman's stay in ECW.
Newjack's comments at the ECW Fan Convention were: "If I got racial like I can...everybody in this room would hate me. I could dig stuff up that would make me hate you. When Pillman tried to cover it up by saying he was trying to talk about the Rap group that was BS. He can thank Paul E for me not knocking his block off when he came in the dressing room. Because Paul was the first one to get to me when I was back there. I could almost see it if we were doing an angle with him, but we weren't doing anything with him."
On June 7th Brian Pillman signed a 3-year contract with the WWFwith a downside guarantee of $250,000 per year. That would be the minimum he would earn. If he headlined Pay Per Views he would receive more.
He spent the next few months in the WWF as a color man and doing backstage interviews under the personality of "The Ticking Time Bomb" which was an offshoot of his "Loose Cannon" gimmick. During this time Doctors found his ankle was not healing correctly and were forced to break it and reset it.
On TV his absence was explained in an angle dating back to their WCW days by having Steve Austin attack him before his operation. This led to one of the most memorable angles in the history of pro-wrestling termed "Pillman 9mm".
The previous week it had been revealed that Pillman would be interviewed from his home. Steve Austin informed Vince McMahon he would go to Pillman's home and beat the hell out of him. Pillman informed a live TV crowd watching at home that he "Austin 3:16 would meet Pillman 9mm" and pulled out a 9mm Glock and cocked it as the camera's faded out. Vince McMahon asked Austin if he was on his way to Pillman's home during a phone interview and Austin said, "Austin 25:17... I will strike down upon his ass with vengeance and furious anger!".
Austin eventually did show up and beat down the security trying to protect Pillman outside of his home, Austin smashed the window and unlocked the door and let himself in the home, and Pillman took aim with his gun and the satellite feed cuts. When the feed is restored Austin returned and Pillman screamed "I'll shoot the sonovabitch!" "The sonovabitch will get what he deserves! He's f#@king with the wrong guy!" The show faded out on a shot of Melanie Pillman on the couch crying.
Pillman then showed up before "Wrestlemania 13" at "The Slammys" to present an award. Brian returned to Raw on April 21st and became and unofficial member of the Hart Foundation by jumping Steve Austin.
At "In Your House XV" Austin had a shot at the Undertaker for the WWF Championship. Brian rang the bell causing Austin to lose his chance at the WWF title.
He began broadcasting for "Shotgun Saturday Night" and returned to the ring on May 5th in a tag match with Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith losing to Steve Austin and the Legion of Doom.
On Raw on May 19th during a Steve Austin/Jim Neidhart match Pillman was guest color commentator. When Austin spotted Pillman he went after him but got cut off by Neidhart. Moments later Pillman bust a crutch over Austin's back and the other Foundation members hit the ring to beat on Austin. Pillman was set to meet Austin at King of the Ring but due to Bret Hart's injuries not healing as quick as had been hoped the card was shuffled. Shawn Michaels faced Steve Austin instead of Hart. Pillman meanwhile was attacked by Austin during an interview and had his head flushed down the toilet.
On a subsequent Raw Pillman was to meet Austin but Austin was attacked by the Foundation. The WWF Officials declared Austin unfit to wrestle so Pillman faced Mankind. The match ended when Mankind had the mandible claw on Pillman and the Hart Foundation ran in. Austin did meet Pillman the following week on Raw. During the match the Hart Foundation were handcuffed to the ring posts to prevent interference. Austin broke Pillman's nose during the match.
This led to Austin, Shamrock, Goldust and the LOD being the team to face the Hart Foundation at "In Your House" in the 10 man tag.
Pillman eventually attacked a 'fan' on "Shotgun Saturday Night" and was 'fired' as the color man of that show.
Pillman then turned his attention to Goldust. He met him at "Summerslam" with the stipulation if Pillman lost the he would have to wrestle in a dress on Raw until he won a match. Of course Brian lost to further the storyline and donned a dress.
On Raw on August 4th Pillman lost to Bob Holly by count out when he went after Goldust and Marlena. The following week Pillman faced Flash Funk. Goldust came out and sat with popcorn under the Titantron. Footage of Pillman getting dressed then played. A distracted Pillman fell prey to a pinfall loss. The following week Pillman faced Jesse Jammes. Pillman had the match won when Goldust ran in and elbow dropped Jammes. Pillman was disqualified due to outside interference. In a post match interview Goldust said he just wanted to see Pillman in a dress one more time. Then Pillman snapped and began what would have been one of the most heated feuds of 97 had it reached it's climax. Pillman grabbed a mic and challenged Goldust to one more match. Pillman said if he lost, he would leave the WWF forever. If he won however, he got Marlena as his personal assistant for 30 days. Goldust said no way. Pillman continued, saying he knows Terry very well, and that Goldust's daughter is his "love child". Goldust rushed the ring as Marlena/Terry accepted on Goldust's behalf leading many people to think that something HAD actually happened.
On Raw on the 1st of September in an interview with conducted by Sunny. Pillman delivered a classic, smutty double entendre-laden interview, using key words like "real hard", "swallow" and "cleaning my pipes". He held up a little French maid's outfit that Marlena would have to wear should he win her "services" in the match with Goldust at the PPV. Sunny was barely able to keep a straight face.
Goldust lost the PPV match following bungled interference by Marlena and Brian gained her 'services'.
He then began his "XXX Files" which were absolutely hilarious.
The following night on Raw Pillman was scheduled to face Dude Love in a first round match in the Intercontinental Title Tournament but Pillman phoned in and said he won't come to a WWF arena until they can promise him a "safe working environment". He also said he was exhausted and he's sent in a tape of "Brian Pillman's XXX Files". The first installment consisted of Pillman in a hotel room wearing a towel saying how much of a dynamo Marlena was. The second installment aired following another tournament match between Goldust and Owen Hart. This time Pillman ventured into the bathroom where "I heart U" was written in the steam.
On Raw on the 15th of September the tournament match between Dude Love and Pillman took place. Goldust was barred from the building and Marlena was at ringside with Pillman. She was virtually unrecognizable with slicked back hair, a nose ring and black makeup. Pillman pulled her dress up as she entered the ring which flashed her bare ass. Marlena tried to run away during the match but Pillman caught her. Just as Dude Love was about to beat Pillman Dustin Rhodes (Goldust) ran in and attacked Pillman giving him the win by DQ.
The following week on Raw Pillman faced Owen Hart. Unfortunately Brian had injured himself by falling off the bed trying to make Marlena squeal like a pig. He forfeited the match. Out came Commissioner Slaughter and asked for his X-rays and Doctor's note. Pillman said he left them in his car and hotel room. Slaughter then tossed him the mic and like all good wrestling fake injury angles Pillman caught it with his 'injured' arm. Slaughter then declared if Owen and Brian didn't wrestle they'd both be fired.
The next week on Raw in the latest "XXX Files" Marlena was in bed, clutching a blanket tightly to her chin. Pillman popped up from under the covers and says he's "bushed!" He then demanded that at Badd Blood Goldust would be handcuffed during his match with Dude Love. The "XXX Files" had some beauty one-liners such as:- "Marlena I'm calling and you're gonna come" "Marlena's going to have to swallow... everything I give to her, and then she's going to have to bring me her sweet little box... of chocolate" "I'm taking Marlena for a long, hard ride" "Nothing comes between my Calvin Klein's and me, except of course your wife Terri!" Naturally Goldust went nuts every time a segment of XXX Files was shown.
The Match between Brian and Dude Love at "In Your House XVIII: Badd Blood" had the stipulation that if Pillman lost he would have to face Goldust in a no disqualification match immediately afterward. Unfortunately that match never came...
Brian was last seen alive at 10.45pm following a house show in St. Paul, MN. Police were asked to search his hotel room after Brian failed to make the plane for the Pay Per View.
They discovered his body at 1.09pm in his motel room at the Budgetal Inn, Bloomington, MN. Cause of death was not known at the time and an autopsy was carried out. It was found that Brian died from congenital heart disease. His heart was apparently 75% diseased which led to a heart attack.
Pillman never got to find out his wife Melanie was pregnant with his 6th child Skylar (who was born on May 5th 1998).
Vince McMahon informed a stunned PPV audience of the death of Brian Pillman on LIVE TV. People wanted to think it was an angle, but it wasn't.