by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly, movies and popcorn, Jack Daniels and Coke-a-Cola, the Internet and pornography, etc. They accentuate one another. Sure they’re all great individually, but when they’re hand-in-hand they’re damn near universal. For myself and a lot of others like me wrestling and comic books go together. Good guys versus bad guys. The suspension of disbelief. Incredible fights. Long story arcs. Over-the-top characters. Some wrestlers even wear masks like superheroes! There are a lot of similarities between the two industries and sometimes even the characters mirror each other. Today I realized two of my all-time favorites in wrestling and comic books are eerily similar. No, I’m not referring to Brad Armstrong being dressed up like a knockoff Spider-man in WCW. Brian Pillman was Deadpool before Deadpool was cool.
Since this is a wrestling website and not a comic book website I should probably give a little context of who Deadpool is in case the one person who didn’t see last February’s box office hit is reading this article. Wade Wilson was a mercenary born in Canada and would have a very difficult childhood with his mother getting cancer and his father physically abusing him. Wilson himself would later be diagnosed with cancer which would drive him to great lengths to survive which included volunteering for an experimental government program. After being injected with what would give him a healing factor similar to Wolverine’s Deadpool went out on his own. The difference now is that Wilson was absolutely insane. He would frequently argue with himself and break the fourth wall (meaning he talks to the readers, knows he’s in a comic book, and generally blurs the lines) with his nonstop talking that would garner him the nickname “The Merc with the Mouth.” In his relatively short time as a character Deadpool has become one of Marvel’s most popular comic book.
Brian Pillman had a tough upbringing with his father dying only a few months after Brian’s birth. At a very young age Pillman would develop polyps that would require upwards of 36 surgeries before his third birthday that he would survive, but caused his voice to be very rough. Although he spent most of his childhood in a hospital, Pillman loved sports and would continue to work towards playing football. He would attend Miami (of Ohio) University where he would become a two time All American. Although he went undrafted by the NFL he continued to work hard and eventually made it to play for numerous teams including the Cincinnati Bengals. Once his football career was finished Pillman traveled to Wade Wilson’s home country of Canada where he would train under the legendary Stu Hart and the Hart family. After training with the Harts and competing for Stampede Wrestling Pillman ventured to World Championship Wrestling where he would float from one thing to the next which included a successful tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin. At one point his tenure in WCW become somewhat contemptuous as then head booker, Bill Watts, threatened to “job out” Pillman to everyone unless he took a pay cut. This led Pillman to respond saying he will lay down for any “job,” but Watts better not miss a paycheck. Wade Wilson would definitely admire this in a person as he, of course, is a mercenary.
Quick recap: both had rough childhoods, overcame medical obstacles, excelled in their fields, love money, and lived in Canada. Still with me? Great. Here’s where things get a little dark but the similarities become more apparent. Brian Pillman and Wade Wilson love to party. There is no shortage of stories of drinking copious amounts of alcohol, doing drugs, and doing some crazy things for both Deadpool and Pillman. There is usually an issue or two per year that show the Merc with the Mouth going on an absolute bender. Pillman was also known to party pretty hard and allegedly developed a nasty prescription pill and cocaine habit during his days in WCW.
They both also have a weird fascination with feces. Poop. Yup. Deadpool has soiled his suit on numerous occasions. There is a pretty famous story about Brian Pillman having such a magnificent bowel movement he refused to flush it until everyone in WWF had seen it. Jim Ross would describe the famous fecal matter as, “Ungodly long, uninterrupted turd.”
They both also enjoyed the opposite sex. Deadpool has had many lovers throughout his time in between pages. In between the sheets he’s been with Copycat, Siryn, Mercedes Wilson, Black Widow, Shiklah the Queen of the Underworld, and even Death. Yes, Deadpool banged a living manifestation of death. Pretty weird/awesome. Pillman, to his credit has some equally crazy stories about him having sex upside down while in gravity boots. He also, once again according to Jim Ross, had sex with an entire sorority. Wow. Good on you, Brian.
Short tempers are another characteristic shared by each of these guys. Deadpool is very quick to use his katanas or guns with anyone that he doesn’t like or insults him and his family. Pillman took part in one of the weirder somewhat fights in WCW history. While out at a bar Sid Vicious was running his mouth about smaller wrestlers. Of course Brian took offense to that and in no uncertain terms told Sid to shut up. Sid stated he couldn’t fight Pillman because of a bicep injury. He raised up his sleeve to show what has been described as a bandaid. Sid eventually left, realized how silly he came off, found a weapon, and returned to the bar to fight Pillman. When they saw the weapon Sid had returned with he was once again laughed out of the bar as he was holding a squeegee.
In his later days in WCW, Pillman began to take shape of what we now refer to as the “Loose Cannon” character. The lines between wrestling and reality became more and more blurred. Brian would have multiple run-ins with yet another head WCW promoter, now Kevin Sullivan. While part of the Four Horsemen, Pillman talked about how well Chris Benoit performed in the back of a limo with naked women. This was surprising at the time because Benoit was being managed by Woman who was Sullivan’s real life wife. Of course we know Woman (Nancy) would leave Sullivan for Benoit. This was very taboo. Not too long after all of his behavior started becoming more erratic he was booked in a Respect Match with Kevin Sullivan which essentially was an I Quit Match with a strap. The match doesn’t go too far as both Sullivan and Pillman trade pretty stiff looking shots before Brian grabs the microphone and shouts, “I respect you, bookerman!” This is reminiscent of Deadpool talking to the reader or even the writer of the comics. There is a whole series called “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe” where he becomes aware he’s in a comic universe, travels around killing every Marvel character, and eventually jumping off the pages to kill the writers of his comic series. Both guys are incredibly meta.
Not too long into this new character development Pillman, depending on who tells the story, leftand makes his way to ECW. This is where the “Loose Cannon” went absolutely crazy. Wrestling with a pencil (another shot at Sullivan), stabbing a planted fan with a fork, threatening to urinate in the ring, and much more. It turns out he was intentionally let go by WCW to go to ECW to flesh out the character with the plan to make himself a hot commodity and return to WCW. This would not happen.
In July of 1996 Brian would sign with WWF. This was a time of transition for WWF as they were in the middle of changing from more family friendly, cartoonish characters to more realistic and edgy storylines. Nothing The Loose Cannon did was more famous than what is now known as the “Brian’s Got a Gun” episode of Raw where Stone Cold invades Pillman’s home. Shortly after Austin makes his way into Pillman’s home, Pillman draws a 9mm, the camera goes down, gun shots are heard, that the feed goes out. WWF had to apologize for this angle. Pillman then moved on to a feud with Goldust where he would win the services of Marlena. The feud was never able to culminate, however, as Brian Pillman was found dead in his hotel room on October 5, 1997, from heart disease.
Clearly Brian Pillman shared more than one thing in common with Wade Wilson. The one characteristic we should all remember the most best is the entertainment. Both have provided hours upon hours of entertainment for myself and many others. While we get new material from Marvel on a weekly basis for Deadpool we can only revisit old footage of “Flyin” Brian and “The Loose Cannon.” That is their biggest difference. Deadpool lives on as a comic book icon and a newly minted movie star. Brian Pillman was a supernova; a giant star that burned too brightly and eventually exploded.