Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wrestling's Unsolved Mysteries: Brody and Luger in the cage.

In an industry purposely mired in mystery, it's no surprise that professional wrestling has its share of mysteries that continue to puzzle its fans. Even with the explosion of shoot videos and tell-all books, fans still talk about some of wrestling's unexplained happenings, wondering what really happened. Join me know as I take a look at one of wrestling's unsolved mysteries; Brody vs. Luger-What Happened in the Cage?

The scene was Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). A cage match between babyface Lex Luger and feared monster heel Bruiser Brody. This was your traditional National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) cage bout with a locked cage holding two opponents who could only win by pinfall or submission. In the end however, babyface Lex Luger would take a powder leaving wrestling fans scratching their heads and wondering wha' happened?

What did happen that day? Did Bruiser Brody literally scare Luger out of the cage? If so, what were Brody's motivations? Was he, as some have said, fed up with Luger's prima donna attitude or was he venting his frustrations with the promoter by not doing business in the ring? What about Luger? Was he afraid for his life and quick to bail out of the cage or was he merely fed up with Brody's antics in the ring and ready to take a powder? Was this some elaborate work by the promoters?

To try and solve this problem, we need to take a look at the careers of both men at the time. By 1987, Bruiser Brody was a legendary figure in the business. The big man moved with amazing quickness and agility, leading Dave Meltzer to write that Brody is the best big man in the business with the exception perhaps of Don Leo Jonathon. Brody was big on many levels-he was physically big, he was big with the fans, and for some promoters, he was a big pain in the ass.

Born Frank Goodish, the man who would achieve fame as Bruiser Brody broke into the business during the early 1970's. His incredible size, ability, and charisma quickly saw him quickly win the spotlight in North America. When promoter Fritz Von Erich introduced him to Japan, his career exploded. Known to Japanese fans as "The Intelligent Monster", Brody became a huge draw in Japan, commanding five figure weekly paydays (said to be around $14,000.00 a week). If Brody wasn't the top star in wrestling, he certainly could boast of being very close.

Looking at Brody's career, it's impossible to come away with anything less than an appreciation for him. Certainly, he was one of a kind. He was his own man and he recognized his value as a performer. Unlike many of his fellow wrestlers, Brody had no problem telling promoters where to stick it. Whether he felt he was being short-changed on a payoff or being misused, Brody would not hesitate to walk out on a promoter. This kind of behavior is usually associated with burning bridges but Brody was such a draw that he rarely found himself out of work. He was just too big of a draw for promoters to not try and work with him.

Lex Luger broke into the business during the 1980's when wrestling was enjoying one of its biggest booms ever. Competition between the World Wrestling Federation, the National Wrestling Alliance, and the American Wrestling Association meant that promoters were constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. At the time, many promoters equated big muscles with big success, pointing to the superstardom of wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and the Road Warriors. Boasting a phenomenal body, Lex Luger fit that mold to a tee. It wasn't long before people began referring to him as the next Hulk Hogan.

Working in Championship Wrestling from Florida, Luger quickly became a top star. While his push may have angered people who'd been around much longer, he was not the first person to get a rocket strapped to his back. The question was what he could do with the push and whether or not he deserved it. Eventually, Luger was brought into Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) which continued his climb to the top, aligning him with their top heel group the Four Horsemen.

By the time of the Luger/Brody cage match, Championship Wrestling from Florida was on its deathbed. Many of its top stars had already left for greener pastures (including JCP) and Luger was one of the company's few remaining legitimate stars. He was working a program (as a face) with Brody which led to the now famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) cage match.

Like most cage matches in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), the object was to pin or submit your opponent. Escaping the cage was not an option, especially for a babyface. Thus when the match ended with Luger bailing out and Brody's arm being raised in victory, many fans were shocked. The finish made absolutely no sense so it's little surprise that it's become one of wrestling's biggest mysteries. Unlike some wrestling mysteries, there is footage of the match and it can be found all over the Internet. Before we get into any of the theories, I encourage you to watch the match and compare your take with mine.

Watching the cage match, it's difficult to argue that both men didn't sell for each other early on. Both Brody and Luger got in their fair share of shots the first three minutes with Luger even knocking Brody down (said to be a huge accomplishment for any of Brody's opponents). Luger even throws Brody headfirst into the cage and Brody sells for him. Not until around 3:50 in the video do you begin to see a no-sell by Brody. Luger rams his head into the cage and Brody acts like nothing happened. Luger fires off punches and Brody begins to look at him. It also doesn't take Luger more than thirty seconds to realize something is up. The referee steps in, confused and Brody suplexes Luger. Brody continues manhandling Luger who tries a comeback around 5:20 with punches that are no-sold by Brody. Brody no-sells a throw into the cage and then goes for what looks like a piledriver but by now, Luger isn't playing along and backs out. Around 5:50 in, Luger throws more punches and sees Brody's no-selling them. Luger keeps looking at the referee, probably wondering what to do. Around 6:24, the referee says something to Brody and Luger appears to be yelling at Brody. Brody takes Luger down by his left leg around 6:45. Near 7:06, Brody applies a reverse headlock and Luger may or not be stuck in it for real. Brody releases Luger but Luger continues working with him. Around 7:30 there's another headlock on Luger followed by Luger knocking the ref down. Luger climbs the cage, leaving the ring.

So what happened?

Like most mysteries, there are theories regarding what happened. Let's discuss some of the more common explanations given and see how they hold up:

1. Brody wanted to teach Luger a lesson: This theory holds that Luger's ego got the best of him and he refused to sell for Brody. Brody decided to show Luger that wrestling is a two way street and gave young Mr. Luger a much needed lesson in professional courtesy. Luger was so scared that he fled the ring. Larry Matysik supports this theory in his book Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel, arguing that "Apparently, Luger believed his own hype, because he wouldn't sell for Brody, who was the heel...When the pair were slated for a cage match, Frank was in no mood to put up with any of Luger's attitude" (174). Unfortunately, I've never had a chance to find out if Luger no-sold in matches leading up to the cage match. However Luger clearly sold for Brody in the cage match so Matysik's theory is questionable in my book (that and the fact that his Brody biography is a glorified puff piece discounts a lot of what he has to say).

2. Brody was upset with CWF management and decided to embarrass them: This theory holds that Brody was upset with Florida management over a payoff or how he was being pushed (one theory holds that Brody, who was working in Texas as a babyface, didn't like playing the heel). In order to show up the promoters, Brody wanted to show them what could happen if he didn't play nice with his opponents. Given Brody's contentious history with promoters, this one at least seems plausible.

3. Brody was playing a rib on Luger: One version of this story holds that other wrestlers may have been involved and told Luger that Brody was out to get hit him. Supposedly, Brody scared Luger so badly by no-selling that Luger bailed out of the ring, fearful for his safety. Why a wrestler would want to look completely unprofessional just to play a rib is beyond me and I just don't see Bruiser Brody pulling a stunt like this (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash on the other hand...).

Like most unsolved mysteries, it's unlikely we'll ever know the full story. At best, we use the process of elimination to try and weed out the unlikely solutions and look for the most plausible. In this case, I'd have to go with the theory that Brody had a beef with a promoter and this was his way of handling it. As always, send me your thoughts on what you think happened and why.

Monday, May 18, 2009

WWE Judgment Day

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then this picture sums up last night's show.