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"Who's Bruiser Brody?? Stop the Van!"
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-07-14

Respect 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 the industry.

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 100% effort.

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.

Emotional Reactions

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 but worldwide.

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 shaken.

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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Quotes 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.".
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