A CLASS ACT!
by Tim Whitehead
"YOU HAVE WALKED THE AISLE....YOU HAVE STYLED AND PROFILED....YOU ARE THE MAN!" So said Ric Flair as he prepared to give WCW referee Brian Hildebrand (a.k.a. Dr. Mark Curtis) a replica of the WCW World Championship Title belt. It was one of the highlights on a show booked to honor the many accomplishments of Brian Hildebrand, and to let him know that wrestling loves him as much as he loves wrestling. It was more than appropriate that this ceremony took place on 11/29 at the historic Knoxville Civic Coliseum, the site of so many legendary matches and feuds. The building was also one of the flagship arenas for Smoky Mountain Wrestling, the promotion which brought Brian to this area. The Pittsburgh native soon fell in love with this region, and most important of all, his SMW tenure enabled him to meet Pam, his lovely bride. When SMW closed up shop in 1995 Brian remained here, and was able to earn a position with WCW with the sound reputation he had developed over the years as one of the best refs in the business.
Last year, Brian was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He had a large portion of his stomach removed and soon was back in the ring, doing what he loves best, calling the matches right down the middle and taking bumps at just the right time. But in recent months Brians cancer resurfaced. Brian has faced this battle with a courage which few can imagine, and words really cant do justice to the honor, the dignity, and the determination he has shown in his battle against an unpredictable foe. Even now he is determined to return to the ring, and I think I can safely speak for millions of fans in saying that our prayers are with him.
The Knoxville show actually consisted of two separate ceremonies, one at the beginning of the show and one prior to the main event. Mike Tenay kicked off the opener with words of praise for Brians courage. He then introduced Tim Horner (long-time East Tennessee wrestling star), Sandy Scott (veteran star who was an SMW commissioner), Les Thatcher (legendary area wrestler and SMW commentator), and Dirty White Boy & Dirty White Girl (mainstays with SMW throughout its four year run). All had kind words for Brian, with White Boy saying he was the greatest referee he had ever worked with. Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Heenan came out. Schiavone told the story of how Brian came to earn the nickname, "the shooter", during a match in which an out-of-control fan ran in the ring and Brian took him down almost immediately. Schiavone noted that the wrestlers always felt safe when Brian was the ref. Heenan brought some levity to the affair by recommending that Brian make love four times a day and drink eight glasses of water as a cure. Brian was presented with the Referee of the Year award and the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Man of the Year Award (Brian is only the third ever recipient of this award as it is only given out on exceptional occasions). Brian & Pam received a standing ovation from the Knoxville crowd, with Brian noting that he had lucked out twice in his life, when he got into wrestling and when he met & married Pam. He added that hes hoping to luck out a third time and beat back the cancer that has sidelined him from the sport he loves.
The second half of the ceremony was prior to, and actually included, the main event. Terry Taylor played sort of a semi-heel boss role in ordering Brian to get in the ring. Brian & Pam were awarded an all-expenses paid honeymoon vacation in Las Vegas. Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko then arrived. Malenko spoke of how much the boys miss having Brian with them on the road and Benoit said he had never met anyone as inspiring. Arn told Brian that he is to officiating what the Four Horsemen are to wrestling, and concluded by announcing that they had another guest who would have only missed this occasion if he had been hog tied and locked in a basement in Charlotte, which was the cue for Ric Flair to arrive. Flair drew a huge pop as he had not been announced as appearing on the show. Flair was a real class act in awarding the WCW title belt replica to Brian, saying that Brian is THE MAN! "It aint Ric Flair, it aint Hulk Hogan, its Brian Hildebrand!" said the Nature Boy to yet another standing ovation.
What would a night like this have been without an angle? That was soon coming, as Chris Jericho & Eddie Guerrero came out for their main event match against Benoit & Malenko. These four wrestlers are among Brians favorites, and he had always wanted to referee this particular match. Jericho (who has been close friends with Brian since their SMW days) got on the mic and began ridiculing Brian as only he can do. He said he never cared for Brian as either a person or a referee and that Brian should have had to buy a ticket if he wanted to see the two greatest Technico Rudos wrestle. This was a play on Brians "El Technico Rudo" wrestling gimmick, which he has used often on indie cards. Jericho added that Brian didnt deserve all the honors he had received ("You dont deserve this, we do!"). This was the signal for Benoit & Malenko to attack and the match was on. All four men had promised Brian they would put on a great match and they didnt disappoint as they blew the roof off the place with an outstanding bout, hitting all their signature spots. The finish saw Jericho drag referee Mickey Jay out of the ring and KO him against the rail. Benoit then hooked the Crippler Crossface on Jericho as Malenko put the Texas Cloverleaf on Guerrero. Brian, who had been champing at the bit to do this spot, ran in and signaled for the bell in his trademark double-fisted fashion. It was one of those unforgettable moments in wrestling history as Brian removed his shirt to reveal a Four Horsemen T-shirt underneath. The show concluded with Brian, Benoit, and Malenko doing the Horsemen sign.
I wouldnt have missed this show for the world. Often those of us who write about this sport are compelled to write about the negatives, but on this occasion WCW deserves high praise indeed. There was even talk of trying to cross promotional boundaries and bring in Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, and Shane Douglas (all long-time friends of Brian) though that couldnt be accomplished. Thanks go out to everyone who had a hand in making this such an emotional evening. And special thanks go out to Brian & Pam. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue in your struggle to overcome the obstacles in your path.
Here are complete results from the Knoxville WCW show: KIDMAN beat DISCO INFERNO to retain the Cruiserweight Title with a shooting star press. Good opener. ALEX WRIGHT defeated SCOTTY RIGGS using the ropes for leverage. BOBBY DUNCUM JR. beat BARRY DARSOW after hitting him with a cowbell in a very brief brawl. WRATH beat MENG with a DDT. PERRY SATURN defeated MIKE ENOS with the Death Valley Driver. Saturn gave Brian a present before the match. LEX LUGER & DALLAS PAGE beat STEVIE RAY & BRIAN ADAMS when Lex racked Stevie. CHRIS BENOIT & DEAN MALENKO defeated CHRIS JERICHO & EDDIE GUERRERO in a great main event.
Charlie of Chan and Charlie sends the following arena report:
Since you've got a link to 1wrestling.com for a great report, I'll just throw in some random notes.
Chan and myself had gone to Wolf Camera in West Town Mall to pick up some film so I could shoot some pics at tonight's show. While we were there, I ran into my friend Justin who was working the Powerhouse Gym (formerly Gold's Gym) stand. He told me that he had just received a call from the gym that Goldberg, the Steiners, Buff, Lex, Liz, and the Nitro Girls had just come in for a workout. Did we turn around and make the trip you ask? If you've even read a fraction of one of our reports, you know we would make such a 15-minute drive in 2 minutes. When we got there, Luger and Miss Elizabeth were walking out of the gym to his white Ford Explorer. Yes, we do have the license plate number but I know Bill won't print it, so why bother? Liz got in the car while Lex went to the driverside backdoor to change his shirt. He stood there for about 10 minutes with his shirt off drinking water. I didn't feel the need to watch this so I held a piece of paper in front of my face. We felt awkward watching this so we left.
As far as the show goes, see 1wrestling.com for the report. A few notes though...
That's pretty much our random notes from the show as 1wrestling.com covered the rest of the stuff I would have reported.
- The first order of agenda was for me to pick up my Jerichoholics Anonymous shirt. I did notice that one of the young girls (probably 17-18 yrs old) working the merchandise stand was very attractive and wearing "hotpants." A note to all you female readers out there: No hate mail please. I'm a 20 year old male, love me for who I am.
- Matt and myself went into deep denial as we were devastated that no LWO merchandise was being sold. Damn that WCW/nWo merchandising department. What a bunch of prejudice hooligans. Yes, I just said "hooligans".
- We take our seats which happened to be between a bunch of little kids, and if you know me and Matt....we are very perturbed by little kids.
- This is where we have developed an extreme hatred towards the Knoxville crowd. They try to start a Goldberg chant during the presentations to Curtis. I am now a huge mark for Terry Taylor because of his response: "Hey! Goldberg isn't here so why don't you shut up!"
- After the show, we went to the Hyatt as usual. Well, actually I hobbled as I was involved in a freak accident earlier Sunday afternoon. Our friend, Elizabeth, accidentally ran over my foot. If I knew her email address, I would link it so you could send some hate mail.
- Eddy Guerrero w/LWO bodyguard (Art Flores?) arrived and was swarmed by fans. He signed my ticket stub "Eddie Guerrero LWO". A kid gave him an Eddy Guerrero WCW trading card to sign. Eddy seemed flattered as he said, "Cool, I never saw this one." We asked Eddy if we could get a picture (while Matt was wearing a sarape) as it was gonna be our picture Christmas card this year. He said he would when he came back down, which meant 'no'. After the last autograph, he said "Thank God" as he headed towards the elevator.
- Ric Flair came through and was rushing to the elevator denying picture and autograph requests until Joyce (a friend, very attractive, and Stephen's girlfriend) went up to him and said, "Mr Flair, can I get a picture with you?" to which he happily obliged.
- DDP was spotted in the parking lot and got mobbed. Everyone got pics with him but he wasn't very friendly in person.