WWE Hall Of Famer Brutus Beefcake Offers Details From Parasailing Accident

Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake is a WWE Hall of Famer, with a storied career that lasted from 1979 to his final match in 2015. However, that lengthy career was nearly cut significantly short when Beefcake, whose real name is Ed Leslie, was involved in a parasailing accident in the summer of 1990. Appearing on "Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw," Leslie recounted the graphic details of the accident, from the moments preceding the collision to the years of recovery that followed.


"We were out having fun, parasailing, and ... doing stuff on the lake," Leslie said. "Basically, we put the parasail away — we'd had a couple [of] incidents. ... We were gonna hop on our bikes, take a ride, and then we had some guys — we had a band that was gonna play. We were out on this huge, big house [that] opened up on the lake. And next thing you know, Brian Blair comes up ... with a girl. The girl wanted to parasail."

Blair was a fellow wrestler from the era who competed in the WWF for several years as one-half of The Killer Bees. According to Leslie, he tried to tell Blair that they were done parasailing for the day, but Blair was persistent on the issue. Eventually, Leslie and his friends set the parasail back up and started getting things ready for the woman Blair brought along.


Leslie is the victim of a life-altering accident

"Mike jumped in the boat," Leslie continued. "I'm working the line. We've got 300 feet of special kevlar line for the parasail. They're trying to get them ready up on the beach so this girl can ... go parasailing. Finally, Mike — he's disgusted with the whole thing. We're just about ready to go, but not quite, and Mike just takes off."


At that moment, Leslie found himself in the water, between the boat and the parasailer. He attempted to yell for his friend, Mike, to stop the boat, but he wasn't heard. Because of the specific way Leslie's friend steered the boat as he took off, the female parasailer was headed directly toward Leslie.

"I turned right into her knees in my face at a 30 to 35 mile-per-hour impact," Leslie stated. The WWE Hall of Famer described the collision as causing him to do a flip in the air, and if he had landed in any deeper water, he felt it was possible he would have drowned. "The impact had blinded me. I had optic nerve damage. It had crushed all my airways, so I couldn't breathe. My palette broke and [had] collapsed. [I] couldn't open my mouth."


Leslie then described having to push up on the roof of his mouth to force an airway open and allow himself to breathe. From there, it didn't take long for Leslie to realize that he was very seriously hurt.

Leslie recalls his journey to the hospital

"I was trying to talk with [my] thumb pushed in my mouth, just trying to worry about breathing," Leslie said. "I'm trying to tell them, 'I'm hurt bad.' Also, I kept saying, 'My face is falling off. My face is falling off.' Because everything had collapsed. I had disintegrated my entire facial structure, and everything collapsed."


The former WWE star described his trip to the hospital, where he was pushed into the emergency room and left alone as he felt like he was dying. Initially, the doctors examining Leslie thought he was having a heart attack, and the wrestler had to attempt to tell them what had happened. Things began progressing in a positive direction when a world-renowned doctor who lived in the area, specializing in palette reconstruction, arrived to help. This doctor brought in semi-trucks carrying equipment to help Leslie in his rough condition.

"They were rolling me in a gurney out to the parking lot to put me in these machines," Leslie continued. "They decided I was not stable enough to risk a helicopter flight of 20 minutes to the [trauma center], so they had to treat me on-site. You want to talk about a miracle? Just that I'm alive at this point is a miracle, and now the best guy in the world is on the case, and starts telling the doctors he wants to operate on me."


The recovery process

Leslie said that the other doctors believed his case was a lost cause, but the palette specialist began working up a plan and he refused to be talked out of helping Leslie. Five teams of doctors were brought in to reconstruct the different parts of Leslie's face.


"I was on life support for several days in a drug-induced coma," Leslie revealed. "When they finally revived me, my whole head was like a beehive of bandages and stuff. ... My head was swollen like a basketball. My lips looked like tomatoes." Leslie described the process the nurse used to test his vision, confirming that the doctors were able to completely preserve his vision — something Leslie said was "miracle number two" in addition to saving his life.

"I was in surgery for 16 hours straight," Leslie said. "All these teams of doctors, they said, 'This guy is never going to survive that long,' they kept telling the doctor. ... The doctor told me after the thing, he said, ... 'You were in such good shape, your body just wouldn't die. Your will to live was so strong, your body just didn't give up.'"


Leslie recalled that the doctors couldn't give him any form of sedation or painkillers, as they didn't know how bad his neurological damage was. It would have been a possibility that those drugs would have killed him.

Moving on from the accident

The entire process was excruciatingly painful, and Leslie remembered telling the doctor to euthanize him in surgery if he wasn't able to fix him. However, the entire surgery was a success. When he awoke after the ordeal, Leslie's good friend and fellow WWE Hall of Famer Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea had flown out to be by his side.


Leslie remembered being told about titanium plates, wires, and screws keeping his face in place, and the WWE star had to keep his jaw wired shut for months to allow everything to heal properly. He did suffer severe memory loss tied to the accident, with Leslie stating that he could only remember one single day from his time in high school.

According to Leslie, it took about five years for all of the swelling to disappear in his face. Though the doctor recommended staying away from professional wrestling after the accident, Leslie returned to the ring in 1993, wrestling hundreds more matches until hanging up his boots in 2015 at the age of 58.