As noted, former pro wrestling writer and Teen Mom enthusiast Vince Russo was recently a guest on The Steve Austin Show. Among other things, Austin and Russo discussed the late great Brian Pillman's fascinating ECW debut promo. In the promo, Pillman blasted WCW boss Eric Bischoff for terminating him, turned from babyface to heel, and threatened to expose himself in the middle of the ring in what was a truly visionary performance.
On the subject of the promo, Russo suspected that something was going on with Pillman emotionally to unlock the 'Loose Cannon' character because he did not think he had that persona in him.
"I mean, bro, you look at 'Flyin'' Brian Pillman with his little bengal trunks, you would have never in a million years thought that this guy was inside." Russo said, "something had to happen, bro, personally or professionally, something had to snap in here because he went from 'Flyin'' Brian Pillman to a totally different person. I don't know what was going on in his life at the time."
According to Austin, Pillman groped for things to increase his value in pro wrestling, even studying Bruiser Brody, Terry Funk, and serial killers.
"Brian knew he had the kids at the house and that was always at the forefront of his mind, being able to take care of the kids and pay all the bills." Austin continued, "he knew that his contract was coming up and he had to find a way to increase his value. All the guys that we there, that were in place, power positions, Eric Bischoff was running the show. He started studying people like Bruiser Brody, Terry Funk. Some of the wide-eyed mannerisms, this cadence, delivery, like that, I do believe he studied a few other guys. He was reading about, I think, a few serial killers, and reading about some old guys that came about in the carnival days, and the art of the work."
Austin recalled Pillman crashing a NATPE convention and working WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
"Brian was a super-smart guy," Austin said. "He was at a NATPE convention one night, that one day, whatever it was in Las Vegas [Nevada]. He goes up and starts taking pictures with Vince and taking pictures of Vince and right before he leaves, he's making this big, loud production about it, totally just crashes the party. And he goes to shake Jim Ross's hand and he gets in his ear and he goes, 'it's a work,' so he goes out and Jim relays the message to Vince because Vince doesn't know what's going on. And Jim says to Vince, 'you've been worked.' And that's what got in Vince's mind what kind of guy this was. What he was doing in creating this 'Loose Cannon' character and just going further and further out there. And then, doing the booker man thing, he was taking on Kevin Sullivan at that one pay-per-view event and he was basically able to extricate himself from his WCW contract."
Austin claimed that he does not know what Pillman's mental state was at the time of his former tag team partner's ECW promo.
"I don't know where he was in his head because once you leave a territory and get on a single's roll, you're embarking on a different journey and you've got the blinders on." Austin remembered, "I had the blinders on when it was time to do the 'Ringmaster' thing and when it was time to do the 'Stone Cold' thing, I was starting to get traction when he first came in. He'd already dropped that bomb in ECW and I don't know exactly where he was at with respect to at a personal level, at a marital level, at a drug use level, or what. But, obviously, as we rode down the road, me, him, and Raven, he was in the back reading vocabulary books trying to increase his vocabulary. He was one of the smartest guys in the locker room to begin with and he was a guy that put the work in."
In Russo's view, the ECW promo was "brilliant" in how Pillman started out as a babyface and turned on the crowd.
"If this guy was that good, he'd be in Hollywood. He'd be a leading man making millions of dollars a picture because no wrestler could be that good! So then, you start thinking about 'okay, there is something really wrong with this guy.' But it's like [Austin] said, bro, the facials, the cadence, the level of voice, the choice of words, I mean, bro, when you tell me [how old the promo is], it blows my mind!" Russo added, "he was doing exactly what they were accusing him of, bro, which was absolutely brilliant! And once he called them out on the ['don't work us'] sign, you could look at them and now they're pissed at him. Now the smart marks are legitimately not becoming part of the show, they're legitimately pissed."
Russo went on to say that today's talent would not know how to respond to the negative crowd reaction.
"I don't want to beat up wrestling in 2018, but when I see that this was 22 years ago, and then, I see today's promos, like, what happened? It should have been an evolution of this [promo]. Steve, I say it all the time, bro, and I don't want to pick on them. I don't want to pick on them and a lot of it has to do with the writing. But in 2018, the only guy that you can kind of compare to Brian Pillman is freaking Dean Ambrose, and, like, every time I see Dean, I'm like, 'okay, he's trying to be Brian Pillman.' And, bro, it's painful. I mean, it's painful! There's nothing natural, there's nothing believable, and everything comes across very forced." Russo said, "bro, I've got to tell you, Steve, 99.9% of the wrestlers especially today put in that exact same spot would not have known how to react. That was not planned. He had to know because now the smart marks were turning on him because they were pissed, he had to know how to really embarrass them and he did. I don't see anybody today that would have been able to do that."
Check out the show here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: The Steve Austin Show