With Brian Pillman the Wrestling Scribe’s personal favourite as a younger pro wrestling enthusiast, the iconic image of the “Loose Cannon” rolling around on the floor of his house, grappling with an oversized pencil to represent his frustrations with those booking matches and writing angles for him, itself symbolises so many of the aspects of the industry this site focuses on.
Brian Pillman himself struggled against adversity from birth, having been born with throat cancer and enduring numerous operations that gave him his trademark raspy voice. Nonetheless, following a relatively successful sports career (specifically, in American gridiron football) despite his small stature, he went on to thrive in pro wrestling, as “Flyin'” Brian Pillman, and, later, as the notorious worked-shoot ticking “Time Bomb,” the loose cannon gimmick that shot him to infamy as he blurred the lines between fiction and reality in an era of increasing insider knowledge with the rise of the internet and demise of kayfabe.
Though already fighting against the odds to stand out in a muscle-bound giants’ World Wrestling Federation, the James Dean t-shirt-wearing Brian Pillman not only struggled with drug dependency, but career-threatening injury after a car crash that shattered his ankle and left him in hospital requiring partial reconstructive surgery after having turned his worked-shoot strategy on WCW’s Eric Bischoff by convincing him to legitimately terminate his contract for a storyline, only to then sign a lucrative contract with Vince McMahon’s WWF.
Even when he was sidelined as a WWF newcomer, the “Loose Cannon” made for intriguing television, whether it be hobbling to ringside on crutches to demand McMahon pay him regardless of having not wrestled, cutting promos about Jeffrey Dahmer on the people of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and, of course, pulling a gun on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who had appeared to break into Pillman’s home with the intention of assaulting him.
Tragically, he died of a heart attack on October 5th, 1997, before he had chance to appear on the WWF’s Pay-Per-View show that night. Even in death, Pillman had us wondering what was true as Vince McMahon announced his passing live on the air. Sadly, it was true – the industry had claimed another life.
With the rise of insider knowledge in an era of cartoonish characters, Brian Pillman made the non-believers believe, and helped us all sustain disbelief. The heart disease he didn’t know he had prompted his heart attack, but the painkillers he had come to rely on sedated him heavily, preventing any opportunity to raise the alarm. Nonetheless, his passion for his craft also meant his resilience until that point had him determined to stay relevant and at the top of the game when he perhaps should have stayed in a broadcasting role. “Brian Pillman died of a broken heart,” Jim Ross said in the excellent Brian Pillman: Loose Cannon DVD of 2006.
The image of Brian Pillman grappling with the writer’s pencil is not only vintage “Loose Cannon,” but also a perfect representation of everything this website is about: the struggle for quality storylines in a business where truth and fiction must merge seamlessly to present the best possible product from an industry that so often misses out on its potential and recklessly exploits talent while failing to be accepted or appreciated by the wider entertainment audience.