Friday, October 5, 2012

Believe: Badd Bloodd 1997

This is one story I've struggled with accepting for 15 years. And maybe today is a good enough day to tell it.

Keep in mind, I'm not telling you this from the eyes of a 25 year old, this story is being told from the memory of a 10 year old me, on one of the darkest days in wrestling history.

15 years ago, the most believable heel in the whole wide world as far as I was concerned, was a man named Brian Pillman. He wasn't just another heel with a chip on his shoulder. He was cerebral. He could get into your head, and he was fantastic at blurring the line between reality and television. He made people believe that his story was as tangible as the screen you're reading this on.

He made me believe...

The week of Bad Blood, Pillman was right in the middle of may as well have been the feud of the century to me. He had just wrapped up a program with Stone Cold, and now he was going toe-to-toe each week with Goldust.

The prize? No, it wasn't a title belt or a trophy. The prize was Marlena, Goldust's then wife.

For weeks, this was the hottest thing on TV and everybody was talking about it. The only thing that could eclipse this story, was Shawn Michaels's upcoming beating from The Undertaker, in something called a Hell in a Cell match. But even then, the rumblings that 'Taker wasn't an only child did little to quell the gossip at the commentary booth from Jim Cornette, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who even at the sight of Paul Bearer's teasing grin on the Titan Tron, couldn't get past the idea that Marlena "of all people" may have had a secret tryst with Pillman.

... Reading this part back as an adult, I can see now why this show must have angered many people. But remember, I'm writing this from my 10 year old self, and at the time, everyone was watching Jerry Springer.

(Note to those born after 1999: It was more sad and explosive than Honey Boo Boo.)

Each week, Pillman cheated in his matches. Pillman cut the most twisted promos, man this guy was on fire! Just look at the chemistry he had with Goldust:

Pillman took the right to have Marlena as his valet in a match against Goldust, and right up through the week of the Bad Blood PPV, Marlena had to be at his side.

Could Goldust get his chance to take her back at the PPV? Hell NO! For even though Goldust wanted her back, and she wanted to be back at his side, there was no time to book anything that could have carried this further.

Why? Because some "genius" decided to book Pillman against Dude Love... who like had no beef with him... and as I recall was a colorful and hip dude, who really didn't get himself mixed up into drama like this.

But I knew something had to happen. It just didn't make any sense to drop this entire story at "DERP WELP ladies and gents, Goldie don't get anudder shot, he done lost her fer guud." Goldust is a RHODES for crying out loud. And if there's a woman on the line, a Rhodes doesn't just give up and drop it. 

(Note for those born before 2005: Take a moment and Google Sapphire and Dusty Rhodes.)

Now come Sunday night, I'm on fire. I'm jumping on the carpet, trying to get the cable to pop back in, so I can watch Bad Blood. 

I had a trick. I would land on a PPV channel, and if there was a wrestling show I super wanted to see, I'd stand about 3 feet from the TV set, push the ▲ and ▼ butto

ns really fast, jump up and down and then wait. And if it worked, I could get about 20 minutes of the show, completely clear.

I'd keep this up in my room when I was a kid. I didn't have a credit card as a tot, but I wanted to see the shows. So this was the alternative.

Am I proud of it? Well no actually. I understand all that about pirating. But dammit I was broke, but I had to see Goldust get his revenge.

As the "Order your PPV now" screen started up, I pretty much knew every angle of where the set was going to be. (It's not far off from the Raw set. So I better.) I had about 5 different ways in my head that Goldust could slip in, surprise Pillman, and beat the hell out of him.

The commercial for the show was starting up for the 10,000th time. 

I watched Pillman's smug face graze the screen, laughing about his twisted plans for Marlena's tiny frame. 

...I'm getting pumped.

A second ad airs, reminding us that Undertaker had a match with HBK that night, for a new match called Hell in a Cell.

....I'm stoked.

An ad for some whiny drama movie plays.

....I don't care about that.

A general WWF commercial airs as I stomp the carpet, trying to keep the picture in.

There's Pillman, laughing again.

I'm on fire!

There's Pillman's face next to Dude Love.

I'm SO ready for this!!

The WWF graphic airs.

There's a hush in the arena.

I can hear the backstage crew getting ready.

I'm ready WWF!! Cue the music, I wanna see Pillman get his head knocked in, I wanna see Pillman get punched, I know where Goldust has to be hiding, let's have a fight on the ramp, let's start this show, bring Pillman out, I wanna see ---

Vince McMahon announces Brian Pillman's death by Wrestlegameshow

......... Pillman... died???

At that point, time stopped.

... Maybe it's a trick? Maybe it's a storyline. That's it! I'll shut my eyes, I'll count to three, and it'll be a dream.  A bad, bad dream.


That only took three seconds, but to me, it was hours. 

As Vince McMahon's voice got ever lower, his breath got quieter, and a graphic aired on the screen, I knew it was true. He's gone.

I fell backwards. All in a rush, I couldn't see the last week anymore.

All of a sudden, I remembered seeing a bright eyed and fluffy headed boy on a WCW rope, giggly and happy that at last, he was getting a tag title shot with his best friend, Stunning Steve. All the years of hard work, from the Indies to WCW was paying off, and the bell was just ringing. I remembered a loose cannon, roaming the halls of ECW, looking for his next fight. I remembered a madman holding a gun, firing at Stone Cold, but lastly, I remembered a man, covered in more than one belt, sitting at ringside, happy as could be.

All of these men were Pillman.

And Pillman is gone.

I cried on the couch for most of the PPV. I can't tell you who won what or why. I just grabbed my mom and sobbed.

"Mama.." I finally started. And I can't tell you how I said it, but I told the truth, I was terrified of myself. I had just thought all those things, and I wanted so badly to see him get his head kicked in by Goldust. But I didn't know he had died before I thought those things. Does this make me bad?

My mom stroked my hair. "He was a heel. It was his job to make people want to see the good guy kick his ass. And if you felt that way, then he did his job. If the fans believed in what he did, then somewhere, he's happy."

I barely understood that at the time. I knew this was a show, and this was his job, to be the "bad" guy. But still, I had grown up watching this man, was this how it was supposed to end? Were these to be my last memories?

Hour three was just about done, as was the second box of Kleenex I had gone through. 'Taker was beating the hell out of Shawn, and the show had just gone on. Pillman's absence was barely brought up again, and business was as usual.

A career, no. A life had ended just hours before. But the WWF carried on. I wasn't sure how to handle that.

I realized Shawn had passed out. The snoring had hit the camera mic, and there wasn't much more Taker could do without needing a police escort from the building.

Taking solace in a childhood favorite of mine, I rested my head on my knee, watching his boot graze over Shawn, one more time.

Suddenly, a fire broke out.

The ring turned crimson, and the cameras panned over to a large, red figure, walking slowly up the ramp.

Paul Bearer was smiling, everyone in the house sat up. There was no mistaking who this mystery man was.

"That's gotta be... THAT'S GOTTA BE KANE!!!" screamed Vince as the figure popped the cage door OFF it's hinges.

A slide in the ring, and a long gaze as the crowd noise produced a hush through the speakers.

Suddenly, Taker is tombstoned! And Shawn's sleeping body is dragged over his chest.

Fingers are pointed as the ref counts to three. Yelling and screaming is everywhere around the ring. Kane walks on the ramp like nothing ever happened.

"Oooooooooooooo!!!" Is a sound I hear from in front of me. A sound I hadn't heard before.

It's owner? My little brother, then five, who although had been exposed to wrestling since birth, never really paid any attention to it, until this exact point.

His eyes HUGE with wonder, he looks straight up at me.

"KANE!! KANE!! Kane wears red. Iiii wear red!! Kane sets things on fire, he's SO COOOOL!!"

A little hand grazes mine.

"Now Taker has a little brother like you've got ME!!" he says, beaming.

All at once, I saw something. A spark. Kane was now the talk of the town, and in my brother's eyes, I saw the same believe-ability that I just had.

The magic I guessed had been passed to another wrestler. Now it was Kane's time to build up his own legacy. To make others believe in his story.

My heart felt cold and mixed up that entire night, and I promised myself I wouldn't forget as long as I live.

I still haven't.

It's been 15 years now, and I can still hear it. I can hear the crowd, the commentary, the ref, I can hear each of those matches Pillman had like it happened last night. 

And after all these years, I can look back at the matches, and I feel that rush in my heart.

Pillman, you can still make me believe.

Thank you.

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