Dead Wrestler Wednesday: The Public Enemy

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

Gotta get up to get down!

This week’s Dead Wrestler Wednesday is a 2-for-1 deal, as I feel it’s more than appropriate to remember both members of Public Enemy together.  The duo of Mike Durham and Ted Petty, better known as Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock, respectively, wrestled together as a tag team in all three of the 1990s major promotions – WCW, ECW, and WWF.  Even before they found success in the aforementioned wrestling juggernauts, they engaged in a long running feud on the independent circuit while wrestling under the names Johnny Rotten and the Cheetah Kid.

The Public Enemy were a cornerstone of Extreme Championship Wrestling as the Philadelphia-based promotion gained momentum in the mid-90s.  Their feud with the Gangstas, an East Coast vs West Coast showdown, is considered one of the great ECW rivalries.  They were also involved in some of ECW’s most iconic moments, including being in the ring when chairs from the audience rained down onto Terry Funk.  Another classic moment that was made possible by the Public Enemy was the collapse of the ring, which happened after Grunge & Rock invited fans into the squared circle to celebrate with them.

Public Enemy never found the same success in WCW as they did in ECW, although they did manage to win the Tag Team Titles during their stay.  Their gimmick remained largely unchanged during their run in Atlanta, as they still approached the ring to hip hop music and were synonymous with the use of tables.  Their WWF career was not much better, as they were begrudged by many backstage for choosing to sign with WCW first.  After just two months with the World Wrestling Federation, the Public Enemy were “run out” by the Acolytes, never to appear with the company again.

The Public Enemy made their final mainstream television appearance on ECW on TNN in late 1999, after which they returned to the indy scene.  In the Fall of 2002, Flyboy Rocco Rock suffered a fatal heart attack following an appearance at a wrestling show.  A little over three years later, in February of 2006, Johnny Grunge passed away due to complications from sleep apnea.  The have both since been inducted into the ECW Arena’s Hardcore Hall of Fame, becoming two of the Hall’s first three inductees.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Junkyard Dog

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

Another one bites the dust...

Sylvester Ritter, fondly remembered by fans as Junkyard Dog, was one of the most beloved wrestlers of the 1980s.  Known for his canine antics, including but not limited to biting, barking, and crawling on all fours, JYD’s charisma appealed to fans of all ages.  Making a habit of wearing a dog collar and chain to the ring, the Dog thumped his way into the hearts of millions.

Ritter’s success began in Mid-South Wrestling, where he first debuted the Junkyard Dog name and character.  There, he engaged in famous feuds with Ted DiBiase, King Kong Bundy, and others.  He also took part in a controversial angle with the Fabulous Freebirds, during which he was “blinded” by the tag team.  As a result, JYD was unable to see his newborn daughter, a storyline device so strongly received that the Freebirds necessitated police escorts in and out of arenas to protect them from irate fans.

In 1984, Junkyard Dog departed Mid-South for the greener grasses of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation.  As part of the growing WWF, JYD was a massive fan favorite and garnered immense popularity with younger audiences.  He feuded with the likes of King Harley Race, Adrian Adonis, and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who he defeated at WrestleMania 1.

When his tenure with the WWF expired in 1988, Junkyard Dog had a short stint in WCW, where he feuded with Ric Flair.  He continued to wrestle on the independent circuit for the next decade, performing up until the time of his death.  On June 2, 1998, Sylvester Ritter fell asleep behind the wheel of his car while traveling home from his daughter’s high school graduation, resulting in a fatal accident.  He was 45 years old.  Junkyard Dog was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the 2004 class.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Test

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

Because we're all Testicles here.

On a cool October night in 1998, Mötley Crüe was performing live on an episode of WWF Sunday Night Heat.  When an overeager fan attempted to rush the stage to meet the heavy metal icons, he was tossed from the ramp by a large, blond bodyguard.  That bodyguard was Andrew Martin, and he’d soon be introduced to the World Wrestling Federation and its fans as Test.

Aligning himself with the villainous Corporation, Test spent the first few months of his career as a heavy to the WWE Chairman and his friends.  Soon, though, he was removed from the group and began wrestling as a fan favorite.  It was during this time that Test engaged in a romantic relationship with Stephanie McMahon, which culminated in a wedding between the two that was interrupted by Triple H.  The events that transpired during the wedding spawned the McMahon-Helmsley regime and left Test without much to do.  He soon formed a short-lived tag team with Albert, collectively known as T & A, and the pair was managed by the debuting Trish Stratus.

After the disbanding of T & A, Test embarked on a pursuit of singles gold, winning the Intercontinental, European, and Hardcore Titles within a few months of each other.  As part of the Alliance, Test also captured the Tag Team Championship alongside Booker T.  Following the conclusion of the Invasion angle, Test joined the UnAmericans, a stable of Canadian wrestlers who regularly defamed the United States.  The gimmick existed only briefly, and following its downfall, Test became the onscreen beau of real-life girlfriend Stacy Keibler.  During their onscreen relationship, Test formed a now infamous tag team with Scott Steiner.  The duo became noted for their male chauvinism and their cruelty to Keibler, who they treated like a slave.

Following an injury, Test disappeared from the WWE for years, eventually returning to the rebooted ECW brand in 2006.  Test was pushed fairly aggressively in ECW, even receiving a World Title opportunity against Bobby Lashley at the 2007 Royal Rumble, but was ultimately suspended due to a wellness policy violation.  He was subsequently released.  Following his tenure with World Wrestling Entertainment, Test competed briefly in TNA before retiring in 2008.  A year after his retirement, on March 13, 2009, Andrew Martin was found dead of an accidental overdose in his Tampa apartment.  An autopsy revealed that he suffered from the same type of brain damage as Chris Benoit brought on by repeated concussions.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Brian Pillman

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

The Loose Cannon.

Over the past few weeks, CM Punk has turned the wrestling world on its ear by blurring the line between fiction and reality, leaving even the smarkiest of wrestling fans unsure of what to expect next.  While he may be in the process of perfecting the art of the worked shoot, Punk is not the first man to find great success by utilizing unpredictability as his primary tool.  In the mid-90s, Brian Pillman was changing the rules of the wrestling industry, one notorious incident at a time.

A former defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, Pillman trained in the legendary Hart Dungeon, where he forged bonds with the Hart family that would remain in tact for the duration of his life.  He first gained national exposure as part of the WCW roster, where he competed under the moniker of Flyin’ Brian, a reference to his aerial style and uncanny agility.  A pioneer in bringing elements of lucha libre into the United States, Pillman was a multiple time WCW Light Heavyweight Champion.  He also captured tag team gold while with the company as a member of the Hollywood Blondes alongside “Stunning” Steve Austin.  Perhaps his time in WCW is best remembered for being part of a Four Horsemen reformation, aligning himself with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Chris Benoit in one of the group’s incarnations.

It was towards the end of Pillman’s tenure in World Championship Wrestling that he began to cultivate his Loose Cannon persona.  Taking an edgy appearance and behaving erratically, Pillman tore down the wall between fact and fiction.  During a match with Kevin Sullivan at SuperBrawl VI, Pillman sarcastically bemoaned “I respect you, booker man,” effectively outing Kevin Sullivan as one of WCW’s chief bookers.  Following the pay-per-view, Pillman was fired from the company.  According to numerous sources, including Eric Bischoff himself, the plan was for Pillman to spend some time in ECW, further develop his infamous reputation, and return to WCW.  Always one to keep the industry on their toes, Pillman did no such thing.

Instead, he used his position to transform himself into wrestling’s hottest commodity.  His antics in ECW were nothing short of outrageous – attacking a fan with a fork, dropping racial slurs, even threatening to expose himself and urinate in the middle of the ring.  Rather than return to WCW, Pillman was able to parlay his intense popularity into a lucrative contract with the World Wrestling Federation.  He was the first wrestler to ever sign a guaranteed deal with Vince McMahon’s Federation, one that would prevent him from abruptly jumping ship to Ted Turner’s promotion.  Just prior to signing the contract, Pillman was part of a tragic automobile accident, one that put him in a coma for a week and shattered his ankle.  As a result, upon his WWF debut, the Loose Cannon served as a commentator while recovering.  Eventually aligning himself with the Hart Foundation, Pillman’s most memorable WWF moment came during his feud with his former partner, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.  The line separating wrestling and reality may have never been bent so far as it was during the infamous “Pillman’s Got a Gun” segment on November 4, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw.

The world lost Brian Pillman on October 5, 1997.  His death was the result of a previously undetected condition, arteriosclerotic heart disease, that had also led to the death of his father.  The Loose Cannon left behind a wife and four children, along with two stepchildren.  He was 35 years old at the time of his death.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: John Kronus

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

Totally Eliminated.

Last week, a trailer was released for an upcoming shoot interview with Perry Saturn in which he discusses his reckless lifestyle and time on the streets.  When you consider what he’s been through, it’s almost hard to believe that he’s the Eliminator that’s still alive.

George Caiazzo, better known to wrestling fans as Kronus, was Saturn’s tag team partner in Extreme Championship Wrestling, the duo being collectively known as the Eliminators.  It was actually Saturn who gave Kronus his ring name, as Cronus is the Greek equivalent of the Roman deity Saturn, both being gods of harvest.  Together, the Eliminators were one of the most successful tag teams in ECW history. Cornerstones of the promotion’s fruitful tag division, Saturn & Kronus feuded with the likes of the Dudley Boys, The Pitbulls, and RVD & Sabu, among others.  When Saturn departed Philadelphia for WCW, Kronus found continued success in ECW’s tag team ranks as one half of the Gangstanators alongside New Jack, their name being a combination of both men’s former tag teams.

For a big man, Kronus could move.  Utilizing an array of 450° splash variations, handspring back elbows, and an elevated cross body, he possessed agility rarely displayed by a man of his physical stature.  As a result, Kronus continued to find work on the independent circuit after his tenure in ECW.

In the summer of 2007, Kronus was found dead in his New Hampshire home.  At 38 years old, he passed away in his sleep due to complications caused by an enlarged heart.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Sherri Martel

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

Simply Sensational.

Trained by The Fabulous Moolah, Sherri Martel was a tough-as-nails women’s wrestler during her early career.  Before coming to the WWF, Martel had already held the AWA Women’s Championship on three occasions and began to hone her managerial skills while serving as the valet for “Playboy” Buddy Rose & “Pretty Boy” Doug Somers.  After being referred to the World Wrestling Federation by Jesse Ventura, it didn’t take Sherri long to make a splash.

Debuting in the summer of 1987, Sensational Sherri defeated her former mentor The Fabulous Moolah in her very first match to capture the WWF Women’s Title.  Her reign as Champion lasted well over a year, and despite the prestige she provided the belt, the women’s division was dissolved shortly after she lost it.  Fortunately for Sherri, and the rest of the wrestling community, she was able to parlay her success as a wrestler into the role of manager to the stars.  Sherri became the valet for the recently vilified Randy Savage, who was in the midst of a feud with Hulk Hogan and his former valet Miss Elizabeth.  At WrestleMania VI, Sherri took part in the WWF’s first mixed tag team match, partnering with Savage in a losing effort to Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire.  A year later, at WrestleMania VII, she famously turned her back on the Macho Man after he lost to The Ultimate Warrior.  Her betrayal led to the creation of one of WrestleMania’s most iconic moments when Miss Elizabeth came to her former beau’s rescue.

After leaving Savage, Sensational Sherri had a brief stint managing “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, but her next major contribution to the company came in 1992 while managing a young, rising star in the form of Shawn Michaels.  It was then that Sherri lent her voice to the unmistakable “Sexy Boy” theme music, one of the most recognizable entrance hymns in wrestling history.  In her later career, Sherri also appeared in both ECW in WCW.  She managed Shane Douglas in the former, and most notably guided Harlem Heat to tag team gold in the latter, although she also spent some time on the arm of Ric Flair while with the Atlanta-based promotion.

In the twilight of her career, Sherri made one final appearance for the WWE as part of the Kurt Angle vs Shawn Michaels rivalry leading into WrestleMania 21, singing a revised rendition of “Sexy Boy” in support of Angle.  The following year, in 2006, Sensational Sherri was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Tragically, a little over a year later, on June 15, 2007, Sherri passed away due to an apparent accidental overdose.  She was 49 years old.

Dead Wrestler Wednesday: Chris Candido

WWE, TNA, Wrestling

No Gimmicks Necessary.

Chris Candito (more commonly spelt Candido) first achieved notoriety by winning the NWA World Title in a tournament after it was vacated by Shane Douglas at the inception of ECW.  From there, Candido, along with his high school sweetheart Tammy Lynn Sytch, toured all three of the 1990’s major wrestling promotions.

The duo first found national exposure in the World Wrestling Federation.  Managed by Sytch, who was then known as Sunny, Chris Candido became Skip, a fitness fanatic and health guru.  Along with Tom Prichard, who played Skip’s brother Zip, Candido was one half of the Bodydonnas.  The faction took pride in their physiques and would often gloat by performing jumping jacks and push-ups during their matches.  With Sunny’s guidance, Skip & Zip won the vacant Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania XII with a win over the Godwinns.

In addition to a successful tag team career in WWF, Candido was part of the Triple Threat in ECW alongside “The Franchise” Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow.  There, Candido engaged in a heated feud with former Triple Threat member Lance Storm.  Despite the differences between the two men, they reigned as Tag Team Champions together for six months after an unlikely title victory.  After losing the tag belts, the rivalry between Candido and Storm escalated.  Storm’s valet, Dawn Marie, even went so far as to change her name to Tammy Lynn Bytch while she and Lance were feuding with Sytch & her beau.  During the last year of the promotion’s life, Candido headlined a series of three pay-per-views by challenging Taz for the ECW World Heavyweight Title, although he was never successful in capturing the prize.

Candido had a short-lived run in WCW, during which he briefly reformed the Triple Threat and spent a month as Cruiserweight Champion.  Despite initial success, he abruptly departed the company due to problems between Tammy Lynn and other members of the locker room.  After leaving WCW, Candido & Tammy toured the independents until January of 2005 when the couple joined TNA Wrestling.  On April 24 of that year, Candido broke his leg during a tag team match with Lance Hoyt against Gran Apolo & Sonny Siaki.  The next day, he underwent surgery to have steel plates screwed into his injured leg, and the following day he appeared at TNA’s Impact tapings in a managerial role.  On April 28, four days after sustaining the injury, Candido fell ill.  After collapsing in the evening, he was rushed to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.  Shockingly, Chris Candido died shortly after arriving at the medical facility.  The official cause of death was a blood clot, a result of his surgery.  As an eerie result of TNA’s taping schedule, Candido’s final appearance with the promotion was aired posthumously.  He was 33 years old at the time of his death.