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Bruiser Brody: A Legacy Of Violence



Nearly three decades after his passing, Frank Goodish, known around the globe as Bruiser Brody, continues to have a noticeable impact on professional wrestling. But, how did the bearded brute produce such a lasting legacy in the industry?

Long before he sent hundreds of fans scattering while swinging his trademark chain in Japan, Frank Goodish was a standout athlete during his youth, playing both football and basketball in high school. He went on to play football at West Texas State and even spent some time as a member of the Washington Redskins in the NFL. After his days were over on the field, he covered the action as a sportswriter. In the biography, “Brody,” which was written by Larry Matysik and Barbra Goodish, it’s surprising to see the photo of a young Goodish pecking away at a typewriter. The Frank Goodish sitting at the desk in front of the keys hadn’t grown the wild hair or lengthy beard yet, a definite contrast to the mane he sported in the ring.

After getting his start in the wrestling business, many immediately recognized the potential of the agile big man. The Funk family had a major impact on the performer that became Bruiser Brody and their influence helped him develop his style. Despite standing 6’7 and weighing 280 LBS, Brody moved extremely well for his size, often showcasing a drop kick or his famous finisher, the Brody knee drop during matches. The big man would get incredible height and then crashed his knee into his foes. After his debut in 1973, Bruiser Brody became a true journeyman as he worked nearly every major territory in the United States. The NWA, WWWF, and WCCW were just some of the places he stomped through during the first decade of his career.

However, it was in the early 80s that Brody began touring Japan regularly for Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion that he reached mythical status in the country. Along with his tremendous athleticism, Brody also became one of the greatest brawlers in the history of the business with matches that spilled around the entire arena. Vertical scar tissue decorated Goodish’s forearm as a result of blood baths throughout his career, only adding to the lure of his legend. As the mid-80s approached, Brody began teaming with his good friend, the legendary Stan Hansen. The two smashed through competition and headlined major cards in Japan. As the 80s were a peak in Japanese business, a bidding war took place and Goodish was offered thousands of dollars to jump to New Japan, an offer that he couldn’t refuse. In 1985, Bruiser Brody debuted for NJPW and sold out arenas witnessed his matches with Antonio Inoki. The matches often ended in a no contest and since Brody worked extensively for the rival organization, his run in New Japan was relatively brief. In 1986, when the territory system was being overtaken by Vince McMahon’s national expansion, Bruiser Brody on the marquee boosted business for the regional promotions. Specifically, the Abdullah The Butcher feud that terrorized fans in Toyko was brought to World Class Championship Wrestling and they continued their bloody series.

When he wasn’t grappling in the ring, Brody often sat in the production truck of the World Class TV show, which was considered revolutionary at the time for using unique camera angles and putting more mics around ringside. Always a smart business man, Goodish learned the TV production side of the business as a potential career after he retired from the ring. Despite his usual Neanderthal tone in interviews, Goodish was well spoken and earned the name, “the intelligent monster” in Japan. Another highlight of his time in WCCW was working with the legendary Gary Hart, who regarded Brody as one of the best talents that he had the chance to work with during his run as the booker there.

In 1987, Bruiser Brody returned to All Japan and resumed his run as a main event star there. He also formed a memorable tag team with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and the duo competed in the Real World Tag League. That same year, Goodish began wrestling for Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico, which ultimately led to his death. For the next year, Brody continued his usual schedule of wrestling literally around the globe, working in Japan, the territories in the United States, and Puerto Rico. On a humid night in Bayamon at the baseball stadium, as thousands of fans waited to enter the sold out show, that night’s competitors were in the dressing room. Jose Gonzalez, who wrestled as Invader 1 and worked in the WWC office, asked Brody if he could talk business with him. According to those that were there, Gonzalez had a towel in his hand and the two stepped towards the shower area to have a private discussion. The details of exactly what happened next depend on who you ask, but the one thing for sure is Gonzalez stabbed Bruiser Brody in the stomach and he collapsed to the floor.

After waiting for an hour, an ambulance arrived and Tony Atlas, who was in the dressing room, helped carry the giant competitor to the paramedics. Goodish was taken to the hospital where surgery was performed, but he died later that night. Following his death, a sham of a trial took place and a jury found that Gonzalez acted in “self defense.” Dutch Mantell, who was at the stadium at the time of the murder, didn’t receive his notice to testify until the day after the trail was competed. The corruption of the trail allowed Jose Gonzalez to get away with murder and the reason behind the attack isn’t confirmed. Frank Goodish was survived by his wife, Barbra, who he met on a tour in New Zealand, and their son Geoffrey.

Among the many tales of his wild career was that Bruiser Brody was known to be uncooperative at times, but it’s really a matter of perspective. Keep in mind, the peak of his career was over a decade before the concept of a guaranteed contract existed and some promoters had notorious reputations. The promoters got the first count of the box office and Brody took exception to it if his pay for the show didn’t compare with the amount of tickets that look to be sold in the arena. For every story you will hear about Brody not cooperating, it’s always mentioned that he only wanted to be paid what was fair and you can’t really blame him for it. One of the more famous stories is when he was booked in a cage match against Lex Luger, a rookie at the time. There are different stories about exactly why, but a few minutes into the match, Brody decided to stop selling anything Luger did. Lex had heard the stories about Brody and he hopped out of the cage before the match ended to avoid a confrontation. After the match, the incident was summed up as a miscommunication and there was no problem.

Aside from his athletic ability, what was the draw to Bruiser Brody? Quite simply, Brody made the audience believe that he was as legitimately wild as he appeared. Brody made the fans believe that they weren’t just seeing a performance, but rather an actual psychical confrontation. The charisma, the innovate style, and the presentation made the audience believe that Bruiser Brody was dangerous in the ring. This caveman with the furry boots thrilled audiences with everything he did, something as spectacular as the mammoth brawler jumping for a leap frog or something as simple as the wild look in his eyes. Bruiser Brody presented his character as good as anyone in the business, and just as he etched scar tissue into his forehead during bloody battles, he etched a legacy into pro wrestling history.

If he had lived, it would be an easy guess that Goodish would’ve worked as a booker or in some behind the scenes aspect because of his mind for the business. As mentioned, his influence on the industry is still seen today, as dozens of stars have borrowed from his style. WWE Hall of Famer, Mick Foley has said throughout his career that he wanted to blend the style of Brody and the Dynamite Kid, which he did during his own legendary career. Luke Harper, who wrestled on the independent scene as Brodie Lee, cites Bruiser Brody as one of the performers that inspired him to become a pro wrestler.

Despite his tragic death, Bruiser Brody is remembered throughout the world for his legendary career. Frank Goodish protected his business and demanded to be paid the fair share that he earned. Sadly, as is seen today, there are several wrestlers from that era that are struggling to deal with injuries and other problems from the effects of the squared circle, especially considering that as independent contractors, many of the stars of the 80s didn’t get health benefits. In retrospect, maybe more competitors should’ve listened to Brody’s advice. Goodish had a good mind for the industry and similar to how he protected his pay for his skills in the ring, he was smart enough to plan for a second career after his retirement. He could’ve contributed tremendous knowledge to the industry from a production aspect. As a performer, Brody had all the tools and he understood how to draw money, which is why he remained an in demand star in many different places for such an extended period of time. In many ways, Bruiser Brody was the first true independent pro wrestler and it allowed him to wrestle for sell out crowds around the global. Frank Goodish passed away on July 17, 1988, but Bruiser Brody’s legacy of violence will never be forgotten.

-Jim LaMotta


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