"Who's Bruiser Brody?? Stop the Van!"
for the Past
It was my first day on the road with ECCW, July 22,1999.
The vets from Winnipeg, myself, Dirty Dan Denton, and our
old buddy EZ Rider, were regaling the young boys from ECCW
about what the Winnipeg territory was like in the 80's with
Tony Condello's WFWA.
After manouvering his way in 1986 to get into the Winnipeg
Arena after years of being frozen out by Verne Gagne, Tony
booked a lot of outside talent into his main events and
undercard trying to boost his product by having the local
guys get the rub, as Meltzer says.
It was quite a mix of musclebound Eddie Sharkey trainees
from Minneapolis, newer guys like Denton, Winnipeg warhorses
like Bill Cody, and a main event straight out of Kansas
City. Bulldog Bob Brown (and just wait for the column about
him) had brought in his current fued from the Central States
to main event, against a former AWA headliner. Even with
weak TV, the indy card drew 2200 fans, all eager for the
return of "King Kong" Bruiser Brody.
Denton was telling the story about riding with Brown's opponent
to Brandon, 2 hours west of Winnipeg, for a show after the
Arena card. A voice shot up and Disco Fury actually said
" WHO'S BRUISER BRODY?"
Immediately there was loud noise from the vets and silence
from the ECCW locals. I was aghast. EZ, a mild mannered
fellow,was in shock. Denton was apoplectic. " Who's Bruiser
Brody?? STOP THE VAN!!". In BC, a call to stop the van is
a prelude to a roadside shoot. Fury was whiter than usual,
which says something. Luckily the van did not stop.
Instead of a shoot, there was a Brody seminar in the yellow
van all the way to Chilliwak. ECCW's young crew learned
in a hurry who Bruiser Brody was.
Remembering a Legend
Before I recount how Brody and Denton met, allow me to explain
why the legend of Bruiser Brody should be required learning
for anyone claiming to be a pro wrestler or involved in
Frank Goodish was a former offensive guard for the Edmonton
Eskimos and had worked as a sportswriter in his native San
Antonio. He had a life outside the ring. He was 6'4", 285
lbs. and agile like a cat. His wrestling skills were quite
good and he was in many ways the forefather of the modern
brawling. He worked struggling indys and Japan with equal
His interviews in territories he cared about (not the AWA)
were infused with emotion and intelligence. Everyone believed
"King Kong" Bruiser Frank Brody was the toughest SOB in
wrestling. He cared about protecting the drawing power of
the business. No one was better in cage matches. He stood
up to stupid booking and promoters.
Brody put Dick the Bruiser's head through a locker in Indianapolis
over a payoff dispute in 1981. His walking out and switching
offices in Japan shook up the wrestling culture there and
made him an icon to fans. In Texas he made the Von Erichs
learn how to work or else. He caused a riot in the Winnipeg
Arena in 1984 with Abdullah as his partner against Jerry
Blackwell that resulted in the AWA being banned for a month,
despite Verne's years of goodwill.
In Kansas City and Canada in 1986 he made Bulldog Bob Brown
look like a million bucks (Canadian funds, of course, but
still...). He embarassed Lex Lugar by refusing to sell for
the rookie monster in Miami, and walked out of the cage
on him. On some episodes of TSN Pro Wrestling Plus in 1987
Brody had bouts in Georgia, New England, Texas and Puerto
Rico, it was like Ed Whelan was hosting the Brody Hour.
Frank was the epitome of an independant wrestler.
A cowardly booker stabbed him to death in a locker room
in Puerto Rico on July 16/88. The fear of retribution kept
other wrestlers from testifying at the murder trial, and
a corrupt justice system allowed his jealous killer to walk.
Making Friends and Terrorizing a Mark
Denton met Brody the night before (well,2 AM the morning
of)the Arena show, in the hotel hallway. Denton was carrying
a case of beer, while wearing the dress of a girl who was
skinny dipping in the Airliner Hotel pool. Brody opened
his door, saw the rib in progress and invited Dan in. After
watching Denton's semi-main tag match, Brody offered to
take Dan to Texas later that fall "to go beat up some Von
Erichs". The next day, they rode together to Brandon with
Condello's TV announcer of the day, Ted Stevens, a mark
if there ever was one.
Stevens was an idiot savant, an aspiring comic who did the
best AWA impressions ever. He had Bobby Heenan and Gene
Okerlund down pat. Unfortunately that was about it for his
act. Not at all qualified to do TV play by play,(Condello
hadn't figured that out), he was qualified to chauffeur
Brody, because he had a car. Ted Steven's markish joy at
hauling around Brody was soon squashed.
His car karoake and mimicry of AWA TV moments of the past
wore on Brody's nerves. Brody decided to rattle Stevens
and began clipping his toenails right there travelling down
the TransCanada Highway. Denton watched from the backseat
while Stevens, who lived a quite polite life with his mother,
took a torrent of abuse from a real heel.
After the show, Stevens was ordered to stop across the street
at the off sale. Denton bought Canada's most powerful beer
by volume, Extra Old Stock, a foul brew if there ever was
one. Stevens, a law abiding square, was stunned when, as
his car hit the highway back to Winnipeg, Brody and Denton
started to consume the barley based beverage. The abuse
Disco Fury took from us in the van was nothing compared
to the humiliation Brody heaped on a guy who figured renting
a tux qualified him to be in the business.
I got a phone call around 2 AM from a friend at a major
Canadian newspaper, who saw the story of Brody's murder
on the wire. I had no idea how to break the news to Denton,
but I called him in Vancouver at Stan Miller's house, and
tried to tell him the news. After 8 years around the business,
it was my most difficult conversation. Dan was crestfallen.
He wrote a column about that call that I hope he will allow
Manson to reprint.
In that era, wrestling never made mainstream headlines.
Never. A mass media that had never heard of Frank Goodish,
reported his murder but had no idea how deeply his death
affected his fans and co-workers, not just in North America
Seven days later I was at Memorial Hall in Kansas City to
do colour for WWA's second to last TV taping. Bob Geigel,
as old and tough as anyone left in the business, was in
tears trying to explain to the locker room what happened
in Puerto Rico to Brody, and how much Brody meant to his
office and the wrestling industry. Mike George, Tommy Gilbert,
ref Sonny Meyers, announcer Jay French, the whole crew was
In a tough, cruel business, Brody stood out as a performer
and as a man. He died too young, with many more crowds to
thrill and young wrestlers to befriend, leaving behind a
loving wife and son.
That is who Bruiser Brody was.
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from the boys:
Moondog Manson says "Leatherface is by far the sickest man I have ever met in the ring, the moment he hits you in the head with that steal chair you here a creepy laugh come from under that hood.".