Starting in 1998, after the late great, way before his time Loose Cannon “Flyin’” Brian Pillman passed away at the all too young age of 35 on October 5, 1997, former wrestler, broadcast journalist, and all around nice guy Les Thatcher promoted under his Heartland Wrestling Association group, the “Brian Pillman Memorial Show” from 1998-2001.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]I was fortunate enough to attend each year, (with the exception of the 2001 event due to illness) making the five hour drive from Detroit to the former Bengal’s hometown of Cincinnati . Besides the fact that the proceeds for these events went to the Pilman family, what made these shows special is that it is one of the very rare occurrences that the WWE , WCW, and ECW were able to put aside their differences if only for one night for the greater cause.
The first year featured, representing the WWE, the hosts for the evening, the newly crowned champion and Pillman best friend Stone Cold Steve Austin along with Tammy “Sunny” Sytch. In the double main events, representing ECW was Al Snow (who being in the same room with Austin for the picture taking, was so overjoyed that someone actually wanted their picture taken with him, went beyond the call of duty. In all seriousness Snow is probably the coolest wrestler I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) with Head and the late Chris Candido, seconded by the aforementioned Sytch. The featured WCW performers were the late Chris Benoit in a bout against “Lion Heart” Chris Jericho. Also on the card was a man by the name of Nick Dinsmore, best known today as Eugene.
The second event had such luminaries at the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and Rey Mysterio amongst others. The highlight of the night however had to be Mick Foley, Al Snow, and D’Lo Brown parading around the ring hoisting a pre TNA Shark Boy upon their shoulders.
The third event brings back many bittersweet memories. In what was one of the greatest bouts I’ve ever been witness to, William Regal (in what many say ultimately got his job back with the WWE) put on a clinic with Chris Benoit. In light of what has happened since then, it’s hard to remember this match so fondly. Which brings me to the last part of this entry. See, besides just having The Pillman Memorial, that year, they also opted to have The Brian Hildebrand Fantasy Wrestling Camp in honor of the recently deceased referee, featuring Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Billy Kidman, Perry Saturn, Shane Douglas, Dean Malenko, Shark Boy, D’lo Brown, and Bill DeMott.
For the price of $500, you got to train in the ring, cut a promo with the wrestler of your choosing, and have dinner with the stars. Now, most people who signed up for this didn’t even bother getting in the ring. After paying $500 you best your ass, I was getting in that damn ring! A lot has been said about Bill DeMott, but he along with Shane Douglas, Les Thatcher, and a pre-fame Shark Boy (who liked the fact that I had long hair, easier to call spots, I guess) were the only ones to actually get in the ring and train.
The promo is what I regret the most, in hindsight I wish I had picked Guerrero, but I chose Benoit. I haven’t watched that tape since that horrible weekend in July of 2007, but just the thought of it gives me the creeps. On a lighter note the interviewer was Dave Penzer who asked if he could call me “Wild” Bill. Who was I to object?
When he asked me what type of match Benoit and I were going to be having against the Dudleys, seeing as I am heavily pierced, I blurted out whomever loses gets pierced, to which Bill DeMott shouted out “what are ya gonna do, pierce his balls”, which gained quite the chuckles from the boys and me as well. Overall it was worth it and a memory I’ll cherish forever. Although dinner with the stars consisted of them eating at another table, while I ate with rest of the unwashed masses.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Bill “Halfway” Hamill is a lifelong pro wrestling fan and musician residing in beautiful Detroit, MI. You can hear and buy his music, as well as read his blogs at http://HalfwayHamill.com. You can listen to his podcast at http://HamillsHalfwayHouse.Podomatic.com.
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