The Death of Bruiser Brody
by Jim Zordani
Moderator of the wrestlinglegends egroup
There has been lots of discussion on the net lately about the death of Bruiser Brody. Syndicated wrestling columnist Ric Russo recently penned an article about Brody's untimely passing which has sparked the discussion. I did some research tonight and have borrowed info from many sources including Dave Meltzer's book Tributes, the Hangman Bobby Jaggers interview on wrestlingclassics.com, an informative post by Jose Fernandez on the wrestling classics message board, Scott Teal's History of Madison Square Garden book, and Wrestling Title Histories, published by Royal Duncan and Gary Will. Was the death of Bruiser Brody a murder, a self defense klling, or was it manslaughter? I'll attempt to answer these questions and provide lots of background information on the life and times of Bruiser Brody in my report.
Before getting into the death of Bruiser Brody, it is important to understand what kind of man he was. In order to accomplish that, lets start at the beginning. Frank Donald Goodish was born on June 18th, 1946 in a small town just outside Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Goodish was an accomplished athlete in high school lettering in both basketball and football. Frank went to college at Iowa State University followed by a stint at West Texas State University. Goodish played defensive end on the football team and was known for his athletic ability. He did not have great technique but made up for it with his natural athletic gifts. Even in those years, Frank was known as a wildman who could start trouble at any time.
After leaving college, Frank Goodish attempted a career in professional football. He spent a year on the taxi squad of the Washington Redskins and played briefly with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Once he was done in Canada, Frank played semi pro football with several teams in Texas. He also did some sportswriting. In 1973, Goodish met professional wrestler Ivan Putski and Putski convinced Frank to give professional wrestling a try.
Frank started out in LeRoy McGuirk's territory as Frank the Hammer Goodish and then had a stint for Fritz Von Erich in Dallas doing the fan out of the stands gimmick. His first big break came in Florida winning the Florida State title from Rocky Johnson on December 31st, 1975 in Tampa Florida. Goodish held the title for a few months before dropping it to Thunderbolt Patterson.
Killer Kowalski contacted Vincent J McMahon about Goodish and recommended Frank for a spot in the WWWF. McMahon signed Goodish and gave him the monicker Bruiser Frank Brody. Frank received a huge push in the WWWF and headlined Madison Square Garden against WWWF champion Bruno Sammartino on September 4th, 1976 and October 4th, 1976. After a falling out with WWWF officials, Brody toured New Zealand where he met his future wife Barbara.
Fritz Von Erich brought Brody back to Dallas in 1977. The Brody/Fritz feud was a huge success and as a result Fritz got Frank bookings in St Louis and Kansas City. Brody became a big star during his stints in St Louis and Kanss City. Promoters all over the country wanted to book this wildman from Texas. About this time, Brody began developing his reputation as a legitimately tough man who was very hard to do business with. Frank would not be bullied by promoters and would walk out on a promotion if things did not go his way.
Fritz Von Erich also set Brody up for his first tour of Japan in 1979. Brody was an immediate success in Japan and became known for entering the ring swinging a chain while The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin played in the background. Bruiser, along with friend Stan Hansen, were so popular in Japan that they refused to do jobs and, not wanting to lose their two biggest drawing cards, the promoters went along with them. In this sense, Brody and Hansen changed the way American wrestlers were presented in Japan. This new found superstardom in Japan also gave Brody greater leverage against American promoters. Since Brody had his Japanese Wrestling Income to fall back on, the promoters knew if Brody threatened to leave their territory, he would do it because of his money resources.
That's enough background information on Brody for now. Lets examine why Brody had such a reputation as a renegade. Since he was a big drawing card wherever he went, Brody was in a position to make demands on promoters that other wrestlers could not make. Here are a few of the stunts Brody would pull on the promoters.
He refused to do jobs. He would often change the finishes of matches while inside the ring with his opponents. Brody would shoot on his opponent during a match to send a message to the promoter. Bruiser would leave a territory without honoring the time honored tradition of doing a job to the local star on his way out. Brody was also known for his share of locker room brawls, which he reportedly never lost because, one, he was legitimately tough, and two, he always landed the first punch.
Fast forward to July 16th, 1988. Bruiser Brody was on the last day of a four-day tour of Puerto Rico. Brody was scheduled to wrestle Dan Spivey at Juan Lobriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The promoters wanted Brody to do the job for Spivey. However this was Bruiser Brody. He did not do jobs. Puerto Rican booker and enforcer Jose Huertas Gonzalez, known to wrestling fans as Invader I, confronted Brody and asked Bruiser to have a conversation in the shower stall. Unbeknownst to Brody and the other wrestlers in the locker room, including Dutch Mantell, Tony Atlas, and Mark and Chris Youngblood, Gonzalez had a knife concealed under his towel. In the shower stall, a conversation ensued and screams were heard throughout the locker room. Bruiser Brody was stabbed several times by Jose Gonzalez and was down bleeding profusely in the shower stall. Ambulances were called and it took them at least an hour to get to the Stadium. Bruiser Brody was taken to the hospital where he died on the oparating table. There are more details to this story, like the doctors not knowing that Brody had taken aspirins to ease the pain, which caused blood clotting.
Jose Gonzalez was charged with first degree murder and spent one night in jail. Gonzalez was acquitted in a trial later that year. The murder weapon mysteriously disappeared from the police department before the trial. Not one of the American wrstlers who were in the locker room at the time of the stabbing testified at the trial. One of the reasons given for the wrestlers not testifying was they had no idea when the trial date was. Tony Atlas was said to be in fear his life would be taken if he testified.
So was this incident murder, self defense of manslaughter? That is a question we may never know the answer to. This much is known. Jose Gonzalez brought a concealed weapon into the shower stall. Bruiser Brody had the reputation as a legitimately tough man who would start trouble without the least amount of provication. To this day, Jose Gonzalez has a big picture of himself shaking hands with Bruiser Brody in his office.
Hangman Bobby Jaggers provided some interesting commentary in an interview done by Mark Nulty and Frank Dusek at wrestlingclassics.com. Jaggers believes Brody was murdered over money. Jaggers also said if it was he himself who was murdered in Puerto Rico, Brody, despite the death of another American, still would have wrestled in that country again. This is the reason, according to Jaggers, that many American wrestlers have gone back to Puerto Rico to compete despite Brody's death. Bobby provides so many other insights on Brody's death, I can't do them justice here. I encourage all of you interested in the death of Bruiser Brody to give that interview a listen.
I don't claim to be an authority on this subject. I'm just providing information on the subject of Brody's death I've accumulated lately. Jose Fernandez. If you are still on the list, please speak up and provide your insights on this matter. When doing research on this subject, I found Jose's posts on the wrestling classics message board to be the most objective and informative ones around. If anyone else has more to add, feel free to do so. I know I've left alot of stuff out. One last thing. Bruiser Brody was one of my all time favorite wrestlers. I have my own opinions on what happened to him, but I tried to be fair and objective while doing this report on his death. Like I said before, feel free to add any more info you may have.
Note: Bobby Jaggers talks about the events that took place after Brody's death in issue #47 of "Whatever Happened to ...?."
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