Brian PillmanSixteen years ago, we lost one of the most influential stars in wrestling history. A man who reinvented himself to become one of the most original stars the business has seen. A man who, had the “it” factor. A man who did this on his own terms. One of the most controversial stars of all time, Brian Pillman.

When I was asked to write this article, I had to actually take a step back and think back. So the first stop was, of course, Youtube. I had to review some of Brian Pillman’s best stuff. His entrance into WCW, from Stampede Wrestling and his trainer Stu Hart, with the long flowing brown curly mullet. Coming out to “Rocket” by Def Leppard and showing the world a style of wrestling that the US wasn’t really accustom to.

A hybrid of Japanese, Mexican, and American styles. The hard strikes and suplexes of Japan. The High flying of the Mexican Luchadores. And the storytelling and psychology of the American style. Pillman was ahead of his time…and much like “Superstar” Billy Graham…that was to his detriment. In the early part, the girls and kids loved Brian Pillman but the “hardcore” fans didn’t really know how to take him and I feel the powers to be in WCW also felt that same way. Pillman was getting over, so much so that he was thrown into a US Title feud with Lex Luger. Luger was untouchable around this time in 90 and was surely being groomed for the World Heavyweight Title. Pillman even got a pinfall victory over Luger in a non-title match on their flagship show NWA Main Event. Halloween Havoc 90 was a fantastic match and Luger got the victory thanks to a foot on the rope. Brian Pillman continued to skyrocket and was even scheduled to take part in a WARGAMES match, where he was injured going in due to a bad shoulder and was injured even worse (legit injury) by Sid Vicious when Sid powerbombed him right on his shoulder.

Brian Pillman took some time away after that. It wasn’t long until he returned. After a few months he started to develop a bit of an edge. And he started teaming with Barry Windham, going after the NWA/WCW Tag Team Champions. That partnership didn’t last too long and then we get to the point where Pillman started to gain some real steam…as part of the Hollywood Blondes with “Stunning” Steve Austin. Pillman and Austin had a tremendous feud with Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas for the tag titles, eventually taking them off of them. They also had a wonderful feud with a returning Ric Flair (who spent about 2 years in the WWF) and Arn Anderson. Who can forget the classic “Flair For the Gold” skit “Flare For the Old” with Pillman in the powdered wig and taking his Geritol and nitroglycerine pills to stay awake. Things were going great for the Blondes, even after losing the tag titles, until they were split up. Pillman returns with a HORRIBLE song (trust me…youtube it…”California Sun” or “Blondes Have More Fun”) with Pillman with long blonde crimped hair. Thank GOD Pillman cut that hair pretty shortly after his return.

Pretty soon after this, Brian Pillman started to develop a rivalry with Sting and we started to see the comings of the Loose Cannon. The wild eyes…the insane ramblings…and the sometimes “shoot” style comments he’d make. He eventually joined the Four Horsemen and the sky looked the limit. The character was taking off. The creative genius was shining through. Make things so realistic that people forget it’s all a show. I guess the only thing that Pillman should of done…was to NOT let the office in on the joke. The whole “Bookerman” fiasco with Kevin Sullivan was the last straw. Everyone was in on it…but Pillman was playing them all. Making Bischoff fire him to “make it look real”. Yeah…that made it look real. So real that Pillman, not a few weeks later, appears on ECW TV and cuts one of the most entertaining segments in history. Tearing down WCW and getting the crowd in his corner…and then turning it around and completely trashing ECW and the fanbase. Even threatening to take a piss right in the center of the ring. The reaction of Joey Styles is classic and if you haven’t seen it…trust me…it’s a must see!

Pillman would continue to appear on TV and ride Shane Douglas and run before Douglas could ever get his hands on him. And stage was set for Pillman and Shane Douglas to go against one another in ECW. But Brian was injured in a car accident and broke his ankle. During this, Pillman would still show up on ECW TV…in a wheelchair and still continue to drive the Franchise of ECW crazy. But before anything could be resolved of that….the WWF came calling and Pillman signed a deal. Even his introductory press conference was something to behold.

Pillman would do color commentary on Shotgun Saturday Night and occasionally on RAW until the ankle healed fully. When it finally did and he stepped in the ring, it became very apparent this wasn’t the same Brian Pillman we knew. The ankle injury altered his style and his high flying moveset was severely hampered. But he made up for that with his new psychotic style that he began to institute in WCW. Even the music suited him perfectly.

Without a doubt…Pillman was going places. The “Pillman’s Got A Gun” angle, although it damn near cost WWF their slot on USA…it was captivating TV and blurred the lines of reality and fantasy. His alliance with the Hart Foundation added even more to the feud thanks to Pillman’s gift for the mic. Heck, even his last feud with Goldust over Marlena/Terri was true to form. After all, Pillman was dating Terri in WCW when she was a makeup girl for the company. Again…Brian Pillman knew how to blur the lines to make you think what you were watching was real. Then the sad news….Pillman is dead. Drugs in his system although most believe he was going to die young anyway due to a heart issue that was discovered during autopsy. The world lost one of the most creative men in the business.

Sixteen years pass and the legacy of Brian Pillman is still felt. Although many young fans may not know the name…you know the style. 2011…CM Punk. You can’t tell me that doesn’t scream Brian Pillman. That the influence of Pillman isn’t all over that. Even Punk’s “Pipebombs” are homages to the legacy of who made the pipebomb…”The Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman.
This song is for you, Brian. In Loving Tribute:

-Dan Saint-
Opinion Columnist
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