Bloody hell: Brian Lawler, in the aftermath of his dressing-room fight Saturday. (rasslinriot.com)
The first time I met Brian Christopher Lawler, in 1990, he was delivering Godfather Pizzas in an old Lincoln Continental that used to belong to his father, Jerry “the King” Lawler. Like many seniors at Craigmont High School, his mustache was in full bloom, and soon he’d be on his own. Then what? Would he follow in his father’s foot-stomps? At that time, Brian sounded unenthusiastic about the wrestling business, claiming that he was interested in a career as a physical therapist. Even after years of “working” as “Bodacious” Brian as part of the Ultimate Males tag team in his brother Kevin’s NWA (Neighborhood Wrestling Alliance) in a ring set up in a guy’s backyard, he acted like he was too smart to fall into the trappings of a life in the business.
In hindsight, maybe Brian Lawler should have gone with his gut.
Around the time of his graduation from high school in May 1990, Brian appeared on an outlaw show for the Snowman, working fellow NWA backyard wrestler Tony Williams, and together, they brought the house down in their very first match in front of a crowd. After all, they had been practicing in the backyard for years at that point. But that’s almost selling Brian short. If there was ever a natural for the business, it was Brian. He instantly had amazing heel charisma (some would argue it’s no gimmick) and his in-ring execution was damn solid from the get-go.
Strapping young man: Memphis promoter Jerry Jarrett pushed Brian strong almost immediately, booking him to win multiple straps.
After Jerry watched a tape of that match, he asked Brian and Tony to debut as Memphis TV jobbers “Quasar and Nebula, The Twilight Zone,” in fall 1990. Despite their lack of experience and physical stature, they pulled off some cool moves they’d seen guys like the British Bulldogs perform. It was obvious these guys were a cut above your typical Memphis jobber, most of whom were lucky to lace their boots correctly. They quickly graduated to the unmasked “New Kids” gimmick, now known simply as “Brian and Tony,” complete with the NKOB song “Hanging Tough” as their entrance music. (Can’t imagine why male fans hated them.) Still, the Kids got a few wins here and there, some of which were officiated by 19-year-old rookie ref Scott Bowden. I noticed that in nearly each of the Kids’ losses, it was Tony who did the job. It was clear they had plans for Brian.
Brian, of course, went on to become a pretty big star in Memphis, working as “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher, working a similar style and persona as “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, complete with Jimmy Hart’s maniacal laugh.
With Jerry Jarrett booking him much like he did a young Jerry Lawler in the late ‘70s, Brian got over huge in the area, culminating with a babyface-turning moment when he pinned Shawn Michaels in the middle of the ring during a six-man USWA vs. WWF match in Memphis. He appeared to be on his way to bigger things.
Brian was consumed with his size, and packed on muscle, clearly by any means necessary. Still, he rarely drank back then and was committed to a healthy diet. Too Sexy had developed a taste for stardom and was after a WWF contract.
Around this time, I wrote an article about Brian for a magazine-writing class at the University of Memphis. When I interviewed his mom, Kay, about his decision to enter the business, she replied, “Brian only wrestles to get Jerry’s attention. Hey, dad, I exist.”
Eventually, he made his way to the former Fed in the late 1990s, catching fire with partners Scott Too Hotty and Rakishi as “Too Cool.” Scotty and Brian defeated Edge and Christian in 2000 on an episode of RAW to win the WWF World tag titles, at a time when those straps still meant something. Brian was thought to be on his way to superstardom. Little did we realize, he was likely at the apex of his career.
He’s just a Sexxay boy: Lawler later upgraded to WWE gold, capturing the World tag titles with Scotty Too Hotty.
Eventually, Brian started hanging around the wrong crowd in the dressing room and was fired in 2001, after drugs were allegedly found in his bag while attempting to pass through the Canadian border. As a favor to Jerry, Jim Ross rehired Brian in 2004, one of JR’s last acts as head of talent relations for the company. He didn’t last long, fired in less than a month; the official reason was that he was late for a couple of shows.
The last time Brian appeared on national TV, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was asking him about the Chris Benoit tragedy. In an uncomfortable segment, Lawler said he was not surprised about steroids being found at the scene since Chris was obsessed with “bulking up so he could compete in the main-event-type matches.” He appeared to be jockeying for a WWE return, claiming authorities and the media needed to “check the expiration dates on those bottles” before pointing fingers because the WWE currently had a strict steroid-testing policy on par with Major League Baseball. Brian also claimed that that most of the wrestlers who had died “were retired,” which was ridiculous, since most wrestlers still breathing never retire. (Brian was not wearing a headset; otherwise, I’d swear Vince McMahon was giving him material.) When Cooper pointed out that the number of wrestler deaths “is a lot,” a perplexed BC responded, “Well…but I have a lot of friends.”
Since that time, Brian’s bounced around TNA and local independents, developing a bad reputation along the way. A rep that hasn’t been enhanced by an incident Saturday night, which occurred in the wrestling hotbed of Dyersburg, Tenn.
The blog rasslionriot.com is reporting that Brian was involved in a legit fight backstage with wrestler Bishop. It was ugly, according to area wrestler Motley Cruz, who witnessed the brawl.
Cruz says: The issue started after the match between Brian and Seth Knight…. Brian had issues with the ref TJ, who happens to be related to Bishop, and stiffed the kid in the ring. I give TJ credit because he was man enough to come to the locker room and confront Brian, punching him in the mouth for stiffing him, at which point Brian jumped on TJ, and Bishop stepped in and pulled Brian off and had TJ leave the locker room till everything calmed down, at that point everyone thought the problem was over.
Nothing else happened until Bishop returned to the locker room after a 20 minute match with Rocker, blowed up, and Brian Christopher sucker punched him in the mouth with a pair of handcuffs as he was walking thru the curtain. At that point Bishop speared Brian thru a thick wooden rail and Brian attempted to grab him in a front face lock and laid on top of him knowing that Bishop was blown up from the match, Bishop got out from underneath him and pinned him against the wall by the throat, and gave him a few choice words. Bishop was talked in to letting him go, and as Bishop was walking off, it occurred to him that he had been sucker punch in the mouth with a pair of handcuffs and he got pissed off all over again, he then told Brian “your daddy isn’t here to save you” and hit Brian in the face with a barbwired baseball bat (smaller than mine) and proceeded to beat his ass with his fist, until Brian was able to get on top and lay on Bishop again, bleeding like crazy from his face. They were again broke up, Bishop was still mad about being sucker punched in the mouth with a pair of handcuffs and went to his bag to get something to hit Brian. The two squared off again, Brian hit Bishop square in the face and did not budge Bishop, and Bishop was back on Brian beating the hell out of him again. Brian was again able to work his way on top and lay on Bishop, Dustin Starr walked over wiped the blood off Brian’s face and pleaded for them to stop fighting, they finally separated and that was the end of the fight.
The whole scene sounds so bizarre that some initially wondered if it was a work. According to someone who saw it live, though, the brawl was even worse than it sounds—if that’s possible. One wrestler described it as “scary.” Plus, as Brian Tramel at rasslinriot points out, there were no TV cameras present, and the whole thing escalated so fast and was so gruesome, no one thought to record it with their cell phone. Hell, it sounds like the infamous Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl…without the work.
To be fair, another wrestler, Dustin Starr, has another viewpoint on his blog, where he points out that Brian was punched first, by a green referee, no less, and then Bishop did pull BC off instead of letting the fight sort itself out. Maybe Starr has a point.
I guess my point is this: Brian paid his dues long ago and is too talented; he should not have even been in Dyersburg on this night. If he had his head on straight, Brian would be on the big stage, along with his dad. It must kill him that he is not. Almost every time I see Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase do a promo as Legacy, I think of Brian and how he could have been a nice fit if things were different.
The barbed wire, ironically enough, probably saved Brian from being killed or having his face caved in, as Bishop apparently swung for the fences, nailing Brian directly in the face. (The barbed wire actually lessens the impact of the blow, according to those with experience in those kinds of matches.) Still, Brian’s face was badly swollen the next day, with tiny holes and puncture wounds from the barbed wire.
When Tramel initially IM’d me via Yahoo Messenger with the news, asking, “Did you hear about Brian Lawler?” My mind was racing, thinking, “He’s dead.”
No, but his career might be if Brian doesn’t straighten himself out. Soon.