My Intro to Dark Side of the Ring
During the start of quarantine, I found myself trying to figure out things that I would do to kill some time, being that work was at a standstill and I was home. Wrestling became a big source of my entertainment last year as far as watching old matches, doing wrestling interviews, writing articles, and even talking about wrestling on the podcast. This would, in turn, lead me to discover Dark Side of the Ring.
The episodes were riveting, interesting, and, lots of the time, sad. This brings me to the episode I will be discussing in this piece. The Killing of Bruiser Brody was the 3rd episode of season1 airing on April 24, 2019. For me, outside of hearing about him briefly in the Class of 2019, WWE Hall of Fame, I didn’t know much about the brawler that was legendary in his own right.
Frank Goodish aka Bruiser Brody
Frank Donald Goodish aka Bruiser Brody was born on June 18, 1946. Brody was a professional wrestler. He was also known as King Kong Brody, Red River Jack, and The Masked Marauder. Before becoming a wrestler, he was a high school and college football player. He also was a sportswriter.
When he became a wrestler, Fritz Von Erich trained him. Some of the promotions he worked in such as WWF, known as WWE now, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), American Wrestling Association (AWA), Central States Wrestling (CSW), and CWFF). He also worked in All Japan Pro Wrestling. He was a “special attraction” wrestler because he was known for his hardcore brawl-styled wrestling.
One of the things that made him special was his ability to incorporate kayfabe. His in-ring image was something he protected with his whole heart. He was volatile, wild, and very outspoken. His wife said he was different towards her. I’ve watched clips of interviews where he did his best to make you believe Bruiser Brody was real.
There’s a saying in wrestling consider yourself lucky if you make it out with one true friend.
At the very beginning of the episode, you are drawn in with news audio talking about Bruiser Brody’s death. A thing that stood out to me was one of the lines saying people saw him as dangerous. The narrator then said on July 16, 1988, Bruiser Brody was killed before his match. Bruiser had a match with Dan Spivey at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. This was an unfortunate example of fantasy “bleeding out” into reality.
Mick Foley talks about how he used to watch Bruiser’s matches on VHS. He wanted to be just like him. Hardcore. We all know just how hardcore Mick Foley can get, and he had learned from one of the best hardcore brawlers that ever graced wrestling.
The main three that talked in this episode were Tony Atlas, a former bodybuilder, wrestler, and WWE Hall of Famer. We then get Dutch Mantel, a former wrestler, and Abdullah the Butcher. He was a wrestler who knew things like judo and karate. He also was Brody’s biggest rival. Every single time the two of them would wrestle, it was like a blood bath. Abdullah would use his fork, and Brody would give it back. Most of the time, the match ended up outside of the ring. Bruiser Brody was able to get people in the seats. He was one of the biggest stars during the late 70s and early 80s.
The episode then shows Barbara Goodish, Brody’s wife, and his son Geoff Goodish. She talked about how they met in Australia and how different he was from his gimmick when he was wrestling. He was intelligent, quiet, and he loved his son dearly. The pair married in Las Vegas, and Brody told her that he wanted to provide for them, and so he did. Geoff then talked about how his mother and other people tell him memories about Brody, but he has none of his own to remember enough to tell.
This episode already made me cry every time I watched it, but this particular line stood out to me for a very personal reason. When my son was 15 days old, his dad passed away from cancer. My son recently told me something very similar. It hit home in a way.
Later on in the episode, Barbara and Geoff go to a storage area in Austin, Texas, where they had Bruiser’s things. His shirts, pictures, and his workout schedule Even the schedule where he said he was going to Puerto Rico would be the last time they would see him was there.
The World Wrestling Council was a Puerto Rican territory that was notorious during that time. Many nefarious acts were going on there. The feuds were bloody, and the fans were zealous. Many of the fans back then would throw feces, rocks, piss, and cups filled with glass and stone. They wanted to see people hurt. Back in the 80s, kayfabe was very real. If there was blood in the match, the audience believed it was very serious.
There is a clip show from a match in the WWC with Brody and José Huertas González in 1986. It was a bloody match. Jose was a bitter rival of Brody, and apparently, he held a grudge. Tony Atlas said later in the episode that Jose was beaten so badly; his head was swollen like a pumpkin.
Recipe for Disaster
The episode goes on to give some background information about WWC. The promotion was started in 1973 by Carlos Colón Sr., Victor Jovica, and Gorilla Monsoon. It was formerly part of the National Wrestling Alliance until 1988. After that, by the mid- 90s, the promotion changed its name to the World Wrestling Council. Jose wrestled under the name Invader. He was also a booker and would determine who would win which matches. Brody liked his gimmick to be a certain way. Jose wanted to make a big impression in WWF at the time, and Brody beat him up badly. Brody liked things a certain way with his character as well. Bruiser Brody never wanted the gimmick or kayfabe to change when he wrestled. He would be aggressive every night.
“Brody and ‘Invader’ did not really care for each other, their personalities did not mesh, they’re matches even there was something not right,”
– Dutch Mantel
I think at this time; it is important to note something Jose said after this match. It was to another wrestler named SD Jones.
“One day I am gonna kill that man’.”
To me, before hearing anything else, I knew that this man killed Bruiser Brody. I already felt this in itself should’ve been enough to make sure Jose was thrown in jail, and for justice to be served. Maybe it’s all the shows I watch on the ID channel, but to me, this sounds like premeditation.
Before Brody went to Puerto Rico, he told his friend, referee David Manning, that he was owed money from WWC and he would beat all of them up to get it. There were also rumblings that Brody was going to work out a deal with Victor Quiniones and Gorilla Monsoon to make Brody a minority owner and that Jose would be getting the boot. Brody had made great money working in Japan and wanted to own a promotion. All of this seemed like a recipe for disaster.
The next part of the documentary was interesting to me because Tony Atlas seemed anxious to tell the story about what happened to Bruiser Brody. So anxious in fact, that he asked the guy behind the camera could he tell it as he carried it on his chest.
Bruiser Brody’s Death
Tony tells what happened on that day. He gave Bruiser Brody a ride to the arena as Jose, who was supposed to pick up Bruiser, never showed up. When they reached the arena. Jose was sitting in a huddle with Carlos and Victor. Dutch also said it was strange as they never did that and Tony got a bad feeling. Hearing this would seem odd to me too. Jose never looked at Brody, but he did look at Tony before leaving.
The locker room was tense. So tense in fact that Dutch got up to move around to release some of it. Tony started to sketch, and Brody came to him asking if he could draw a picture of his son. Brody asked this before pulling out a picture of his son. I always felt this part was important as it pulled at my heartstrings.
Jose came back in with a towel over his hand and asked to speak to Brody. Brody agreed, and moments later, Tony heard a sound that he thought meant Jose punched Brody. That sound he made stayed with me for the rest of the episode. Tony heard the sound again, and when he got there, he saw Jose holding a knife in his hand. Jose went to stab again, but Tony moved Brody out of the way. The knife cut of Brody’s ponytail instead. That picture Tony painted was so vivid in my head that I could picture the whole scenario play out as he spoke.
Chaos ensued as Tony laid Brody to the floor as Brody asked him not to let them hurt him anymore. That part stood out to me and implied there was more than met the eye. At least it did to me.
By the time the ambulance arrived, which was almost 45 minutes after, Dutch had found out about the stabbing. Carlos finally came over to Brody and Brody told him to tell his wife that he loved her as if he knew he would die.
During this, the police thought it was some elaborate wrestling brawl as Tony tried to explain what happened. Brody had 2 serious cuts and other punctures and needed two surgeries. When Tony left the hospital, he was told Brody was stable. However, as Brody died in the early morning, that was not true.
There were a lot of things that bothered me during this. Jose coming back to the arena as if nothing happened. The other wrestlers lying and saying a fan stabbed Brody. Tony coming back to the arena to see people laughing as Brody’s blood was still on the floor. I felt anger and sadness that Brody was murdered because of grudges and politics outside the ring. There is frankly no other way to put it.
Tony, not being able to go back to the arena, and Barbara having to find out the way that she did, and having a small funeral in Puerto Rican just so she can bring his body home cremated sat with me each time I watched this episode. I watched it a total of 3 times. With all the times that I watched it, knowing Brody died alone and the lying/cover-up that took place saddens me.
As with most of the Dark Side of the Ring episodes, I was left feeling sad for Bruiser Brody, his wife, and son. I was saddened that he spent his last hours on earth alone. He was essentially alone because while Tony did go with him to the hospital, he didn’t stay, the doctors didn’t seem that concerned, and no one believed what happened. No one wanted to stand up for him outside of Tony.
After all this time, Jose getting away with murder doesn’t sit right with me. It all seemed like a big cover-up because many didn’t like the way Brody did things. It also showed how his gimmick led to justice never being served. Jose was able to get off with self-defense which was absolute bullsh**!
Dark Side of the Ring, as always, told the story well, but as with many of the stories, it left me feeling sad. I had to watch some of Brody’s matches to see just how much he lived the gimmick. While Bruiser Brody has been put in several Hall of Fames, including WWE’s, it would’ve been nice if he was able to live to see his legacy.
This episode is one of those that will always stick with me as it is a cautionary tale about fantasy truly blurring the lines into reality, but for all the wrong reasons.