The world of professional wrestling is full of imitations and comparisons. Past and present meet somewhere in the middle and what you get is John Cena – a multi-time champion, who like Ric Flair, continues to hold titles because the company knows what is best for business. He is also a marketing dynamo that the WWE has not been able to replace. At some point, that will have to change.
[adinserter block=”1″]One of the things that continually amazes me – besides the fact that TNA is still using copycat-like material on Impact is the fact that fans and media alike continue to compare the greats of the past with the greats of the present. But when it comes to Dean Ambrose and his “lunatic fringe” act he displays each week (not sure what will happen to him now that The Shield is no longer a WWE “thing”), the one guy who resembles the former United States Champion is all too simple – Brian Pillman.
This isn’t the “Flyin’” Brian Pillman we know from his days in WCW. This is the off center, crazy style, odd personality Pillman that was one of the better acts in the WWE before his sudden death. To use the word “lunatic” in reference to the former great would not be an insult, rather an expression of respect. And a compliment, that like Ambrose he would wear as a badge of honor. Pillman had a legacy as “The Loose Cannon”, a wrestling gimmick that would see him do a series of worked shoots that would gain him a degree of infamy for his unpredictable character. He was also known for being extremely agile in the ring, although a car accident in April 1996 from which he received extensive ankle injuries limited his in-ring ability.
Pillman got his start in professional wrestling in Canada, being trained in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion but it was WCW that really set him off as a superstar.
Pillman turned heel in September 1992, frustrated by Brad Armstrong’s knee injury and vacating the WCW World Light Heavyweight title, when he was scheduled to wrestle Armstrong for the title at the Clash of the Champions. In November 1992, he formed a team with Barry Windham, gunning for the NWA and WCW World Tag Team Championships held by Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas.
Their team lasted until January 1993, as Windham had his sights on the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Pillman continued the tag team title hunt by forming a tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin known as the Hollywood Blonds. After the feud with Steamboat and Douglas ended, they went on to feud with The Four Horsemen, mainly Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, mocking their ages and parodying Flair’s interview show, “A Flair for the Gold”, with their own called “A Flair for the Old”. After the Hollywood Blonds separated in October 1993, Pillman became a face, feuding with his old partner Austin. He would also pursue the WCW World Television Championship, held by Lord Steven Regal, with whom he wrestled to a 15-minute time limit draw at Spring Stampede.
After a two-year stint as part of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion, Pillman made his way to Stamford and the WWE.
Following WrestleMania 13, Pillman aligned himself with his close friends Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Jim Neidhart as part of the anti-American Hart Foundation, all of whom he was familiar with from his Stampede Wrestling roots.
He began feuding with his former partner, Steve Austin. In the course of the feud, Austin was given on-screen credit for damaging Pillman’s ankle in October 1996 after placing it in between the seat and backrest of a folded chair and then jumping on the chair (this particular style of attack has since been dubbed “The Pillmanizer,” in honor of this incident, despite Shane Douglas performing exactly the same maneuver to Raven in ECW nearly a full year earlier). After his feud with Austin, he feuded with Goldust over Marlena until his death.
If you examine the detail to the character, way he sells a match and how he is methodical in his style, it is true Pillman. The unpredictability is something the fans love and the WWE can capitalize. I don’t see the company using him in a love triangle like Pillman and Goldust. But Ambrose cannot ask for a better compliment. And if he continues to develop as the “wrestler of the unknown,” he could be better than the former cruiserweight.
[adinserter block=”2″]It could also lead Ambrose to earn a WWE World Title shot. That might be down the line, but it would be great to see a rising star develop into an even better star, much like Pillman, along the way.
Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71
[amazon_link id=”B00JHH1YAW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE The Paul Heyman Story[/amazon_link]