Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Loyal KFR reader Old School Sammy comments: “So, whatever did happen between you and Sid that nearly lead to your last breath?” For some reason, my previous post detailing my near-death experience with the Man Who Rules the World has disappeared from my archives, so I’m reposting now. Besides, like most wrestling stories…it gets a little better each time I tell it.
The infamous hotel-room brawl between Arn Anderson and Sid Vicious (Eudy) in the United Kingdom in September 1993 has been well-documented in wrestling squared circles. What hasn’t been discussed that much is my incident with big Sid in the dressing room of the Mid-South Coliseum in June 1994.
Sid, a huge redneck from West Memphis, Arkansas, had one of his first wrestling matches in Memphis in March 1987 under a hockey mask as Lord Humongous, a gimmick based on a post-apocalyptic character from THE ROAD WARRIOR, the 1981 sequel to MAD MAX, starring Mel Gibson. In 1984, in an effort to capitalize on the growing WTBS-fueled reputation of the Road Warriors tag-team of Hawk and Animal, Jerry “The King” Lawler had coaxed ex-wrestler and former Memphis State University football player Mike Stark out of retirement with the gimmick of Road Warrior Humongous.
In 1987, Sid was merely the latest in a line of guys who would take on the gimmick, which was an innovative way to take advantage of a wrestler’s size while hiding his limitations and lack of experience in the ring. In that sense, Sid was an ideal fit for the Humongous gimmick: Eudy was a legit 6’ 7” and 300 pounds…and he was very green (inexperienced).
Sid’s unofficial debut was in Memphis more than a year earlier, on Oct. 28, 1985, as a mystery cornerman of the Fabulous Ones in a bout with Rip Morgan and Bill Dundee, who had Jonathan Boyd in their corner. On that October night, the unnamed behemoth who would later become Sid Vicious didn’t do much—a pattern that would largely continue throughout his career. He merely just shot up out of his ringside chair every time Boyd got to his feet. (Boyd, of course, sold it like he was intimidated, sitting back down every time Sid started to rise.) I had to admit—Sid looked very impressive just sitting there. I thought for sure the big man would be back the following week as part of a six-man tag (a bout in which they could hide his ability or lack thereof) with the Fabs, but he didn’t show up again until 1987.
In what might have been Sid’s first bout in front of a substantial crowd, he was behind the hockey mask in the main event on Feb. 23, 1987, teaming with hot heel Austin Idol to work against the odd couple of Lawler and former AWA World champion Nick Bockwinkel. Idol was riding a wave of hatred that hadn’t been seen in years, stemming from his hair-match victory over Lawler on April 27, 1987. With an assist from former NWA World champion Tommy Rich, Idol had become the first man in the business to ever cut Lawler’s royal locks. (During the ’70s and ’80s, the easiest way to pack the Mid-South Coliseum was a bout in which the loser got his head shaved.)
Even though he was hidden in a tag match with three of the most accomplished workers in the game, Sid stunk up the joint as Humongous. After the loss to Lawler and Bockwinkel, Sid hung around in the role, doing jobs for the likes of Rocky Johnson, before moving on to Alabama with the hockey-masked persona. In Continental Championship Wrestling, Sid slowly learned to work a bit under the watchful eyes of new booker Eddie Gilbert, who paired him with Shane Douglas.
By the end of 1988, Sid had developed into a passable worker. He returned to Memphis without the mask, under the moniker that would define his career: Sid Vicious. No longer behind the gimmick, which hid his emotions as well as his lack of skills, Sid’s amazing facial expressions came to the forefront and completed the physical package. By the following year, he was heading to the big time.
Sid received his first major national push in 1989 as part of the Skyscrapers tag team in WCW with Dan Spivey. Because of his size and natural charisma, Sid was often wildly cheered by the fans even though a heel. When Vicious suffered an injury (reportedly, a punctured lung), “Mean Mark” Callous (who later would become The Undertaker in the WWF) took his place alongside Spivey.
Against the wishes of Ric Flair, Sid returned later as a member of the Four Horsemen, further breaking the tradition of having great workers in the heel quartet. (Lex Luger was the first man to find the Horsemen gig trough going.) Still, Sid was over strong with the masses. By October 1990 Sid was headlining against new World heavyweight champion Sting at the Halloween Havoc pay-per-view, a bout that is largely remembered today only because of the silly finish involving Barry Windham as a phony Sting.
I recall meeting Sid for the first time at the French Riviera gym in Raleigh (a cheesy area of Memphis and home to Lawler’s sons at the time) when he was home nursing one of his many injuries. At the time, the end of his first contract with WCW was coming to a close and he was weighing an offer from Vince McMahon—and he seemed awfully surprised that I knew all this. (I was only 19, but I was “smark” beyond my years, thanks to The Wrestling Observer “dirt sheet.”) He confided in me that he had switched his attire to a red singlet in the last stages of his WCW run because he knew that he wanted his former look of a black vest, black boots and black trunks to seem fresh when he debuted for Vince. Sid was no dummy (seriously)—he knew the World Wrestling Federation had a love affair with pushing monsters, dating back to Vince McMahon Sr.’s days. Vince Jr. would make him a star.
McMahon eventually signed him in 1991, giving him a huge babyface push as “Sid Justice,” with the plan all along to eventually have him turn heel and feud with Hulk Hogan. Although Ric Flair’s WWF title bout with Randy Savage was billed as the co-main event of WrestleMania VIII in 1992, Sid and Hogan worked last in a match billed as the Hulkster’s possible farewell to the ring. (Laughable in hindsight; Hogan’s been milking his retirement for more than 15 years. Of course, Terry Funk’s even got that beat.) The story goes that Sid double-crossed Vince on the finish by kicking out of Hogan’s vaunted legdrop, although Sid claimed he did so because either manager Harvey Whippleman (a.k.a. Downtown Bruno) or Papa Shango (the Godfather) didn’t make it into the ring in time to break up the pin for the DQ, which was the plan.
Before the ’93 hotel brawl, the most discussed out-of-the-ring incident involving Sid occurred in 1991, a bar altercation with the late Brian Pillman. When Pillman didn’t back down, Sid reportedly exited for the parking lot, only to return with a weapon from his car: a squeegee. Sid had also taken a lot of flack over the years for playing softball when he took suspicious leaves from work to heal injuries. Seemed at one point every summer, Sid would be too injured to work but just fine to run the bases playing softball, his apparent passion outside of wrestling.
Sid became “Vicious” once again upon his return to WCW in 1993. He was in line for the biggest push of his career, with plans to win both of the company’s World titles (the WCW and NWA versions) in a unification match against Vader at Starrcade ’93.
Instead, he was fired by the company after he reportedly stabbed Anderson (Marty Lunde) with a pair of scissors that he had wrestled away from “Double A” during a heated argument at the Moat House Hotel in Blackburn, Lancashire, England. Supposedly, Arn had been ribbing Sid in front of the boys earlier that day about his inability to draw after Eudy had been implying to others that he felt the aging Flair was holding back young talent. Anderson had a locker-room rep for being razor-sharp with one-liners, so Sid was practically an unarmed man in that battle of wits.
Still seething later that evening at the hotel, Sid confronted Anderson in the lobby bar, who responded by tossing a beer in the big man’s face. When Sid followed Arn up to his room, Anderson allegedly came to the door brandishing a pair of scissors. Even though Sid was also stabbed during the melee, he was singled out because it was felt he escalated the fight and because Anderson suffered considerably more wounds. In what had to be a bitter twist of Sid injustice, WCW instead went with Ric Flair as Vader’s opponent at Starrcade, with the Nature Boy winning the strap in an emotional bout.
With nowhere else to go, Sid did what a lot of wrestlers with limited career options did in 1994: He returned to Memphis. Since the USWA promotion was working with the WWF, Sid probably figured to shed ring rust and rebuild his reputation for another national run with Vince.
Sid was quickly awarded the area’s Unified World championship in a forfeit win over “an injured” Lawler, a small, ironic consolation compared to those WCW belts and payoffs. Although Sid couldn’t have been too thrilled with his situation, he seemed approachable and amiable enough in the dressing-room area. He remembered me as the skinny kid from the gym years back, and we often joked backstage watching the matches.
One night the joking went a little too far. Sid and I were standing behind the curtain at the Coliseum as we watched a six-man tag match involving Lawler and Doug Gilbert. During the bout, Doug missed a spot a badly, causing Lawler to get noticeably pissed in the ring.
Handling the situation in a manner that his loose-cannon brother, Eddie, would have been proud of, Doug took an unscripted powder, walking back to the dressing room and leaving the rest of the boys to finish the match. (Eddie was notorious for taking his ball and going home if not given his way.)
Afterward, a steamed Lawler confronted Doug in the back, screaming at him for being unprofessional. Just when it looked like the two were nearly coming to blows, Sid said something to me like, “Man, sounds like it’s getting out of hand back there.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, I hope neither one of them have any scissors.”
I kept waiting for Sid to laugh, but it never came. I’ve never forgotten the look he gave me—it sent chills down my spine. Very quietly, but with a menacing tone, he looked down at me (which was unusual for me, as I’m nearly 6’ 3”) and asked, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” With my heart racing, I said, “Uh, nothing. I just … hope there aren’t any, uh … sharp objects around.” He nodded his head and then screamed at me to “get the fuck away” from him. I quickly obliged.
I ostensibly had heat with him for a long time; however, after a while, I got the feeling that he was ribbing me. All the heels were sitting in the small dressing-room area in Nashville one Saturday night when he abruptly shouted, “Goddamn it, I should have both them NWA belts right now. Instead I’m sitting here in this dump with Scott ‘fucking’ Bowden.” I was scared shitless.
For weeks Sid would tell me that he was begging Lawler to turn him babyface so he could finally get his hands on me and give me a powerbomb. He finally got his wish one night in the metropolis of Jonesboro, Arkansas. I was booked to manage Sid and Doug against Lawler and Brian Christopher (Lawler) in the main event. They were struggling to come up with a finish, one that would end inconclusively but leave the fans happy.
Finally, the King suggested the following: After a ref bump (this is a Lawler finish after all), I’m supposed to nail Brian from behind with my Florida State University football helmet (given to me by my supposed Uncle Bobby Bowden) but remain in the ring. Sid would then ready Brian for a powerbomb, but before the move could be completed, Lawler would gouge his eyes from behind. Sid, who wouldn’t be able to see at that point, would then grab me by mistake and powerbomb me.
Upon hearing the finish, Sid looked at me, shot me a sadistic smile and said, “Bowden, it’s time! You thought I’d forgotten about that scissors comment, didn’t you? Never! Never!” Later that night, right on cue, Sid positioned me, and I held my breath. He whispered for me to jump. I closed my eyes. Sid lifted me over his head and sent me crashing to the canvas. He was a pro all the way and didn’t hurt me in the least.
Still, the apparent backstage heat lasted until a softball game at Chicks Stadium in Memphis. The heels, captained by Sid, were playing Lawler and the rest of the babyfaces in a charity contest. Although Brian advised me to strike out on purpose to stay in my wimpy character, I hit two triples, including one to drive in the winning run for the heels. This, of course, thrilled Sid to no end. From then on, he treated me like one of the boys and the scissors comment was forgotten.
I should have known that it would take softball to get back in Sid’s good graces.
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