As I See It: Remembering Brian Hildebrand

It will be 13 years on September 8...the 13th anniversary of Brian Hildebrand's passing after fighting a two year battle against cancer.

There are few people within wrestling who were held in such universally high regard at the time of their passing. When people eulogized Brian, the words they used weren't the kind that social obligation or courtesy often require. Lots of people become posthumous heroes. Brian was one for the two years of his fight, and was an inspiration to many within wrestling for all the years her worked within the business long before that.

The words used by all who knew him, worked with him, and were fans of him, were deep and heartfelt, epitomized by Mick Foley, when he said about Brian in his best-selling book Mankind: Have A Nice Day: "Brian brought out all the better angels of our nature".

Back at the time of his death, it was said that there were only two people in the entire wrestling business without enemies: Brian Hildebrand and Owen Hart. Neither are with us today.

He was such a special person that he inspired everyone who knew him...whether friends, family, fans, or co-workers... to frequently share our feelings on such a funny, dedicated, committed individual who was and always will be an inspiration to live each day of our lives to their fullest... and to follow our dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem.

The events since then involving Chris Benoit have given several of the memories I'm about to share more than a little added poignancy. As I said in the 1999 column right after Brian's was almost eerie, yet at the same time totally expected, when I got the news while in a funeral home at a wake for the uncle of a friend, after being called by a family member via cell phone.

I'll always remember Brian Hildebrand as a man who lived for and loved the wrestling business more than anything else on this earth, except for his beloved wife Pamela. He got to live his dream of making a living in wrestling as referee "Mark Curtis" for Smoky Mountain Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. Brian Hildebrand was a man who lived to the last day of his life with more courage than anyone I've ever had the privilege to know.

As most longtime readers know, Brian fought stomach cancer for nearly two years, after being initially diagnosed in October 1997. But he refused to allow cancer to stop his incredible spirit and his wonderful sense of humor. He seemed amazed and somewhat embarrassed at all the attention his battle with cancer received.

I saw Brian for the first time in 1990 during a combined Dennis Coraluzzo-Joel Goodhart benefit show for Philadelphia area wrestling fan Tom Robinson, with Brian doing his manager's gimmick of "Dr. Mark Curtis".

Years later, I got the privilege of finally getting to know him, meeting him just before Smoky Mountain Wrestling's Fanweek 1993. Brian became responsible for two of the most special experiences of my life, Fanweek 1993 and 1994.

For those who aren't familiar with them, SMW Fanweeks were held for three years: 1993 through 1995. Fanweeks were a combination traveling road show, along with barbecues, shoot Q&As, and marathon videotape parties... a chance to experience Southern wrestling and mark out with other wrestling fans.

Brian was the reason these yearly Fanweek celebrations were possible, because of his non-stop organizational work during the weeks leading up to them; and during the moment to moment problems that occur (as just one example, I'll someday tell the story of the infamous tour bus to Johnson City that was outraced by the Mongolian Stomper), when one is trying to please 55 human beings, please Jim Cornette and Sandy Scott, AND work as referee "Mark Curtis" all at the same time. He always did this with such unfailing patience, good humor, never forgetting to still be a fan of the very business he worked in. That's the reason why he always used the word "Mark" in his ring name.

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