It’s PG Week here at the Blog of Doom, and as promised, a special life-or-death What If?
What if the events of July 17, 1988 turned out differently for Frank Goodish?
A little background: on that day, Goodish was in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, preparing for a match when fellow wrestler Jose Huertas Gonzalez asked him to step into the shower for a private discussion. There was a scuffle, then a loud groan the whole locker room heard. Tony Atlas was first on the scene to try to see what happened… and he wound up carrying Goodish to the ambulance. Goodish did not survive.
Huertas was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but the trial was a circus. Several witnesses, Atlas among them, were too scared to testify against the politically connected Huertas. He was found to have committed the act in self-defense.
You know Huertas better as Invader #1, one of Puerto Rico’s biggest heroes. You know Goodish better as Bruiser Brody, one of the greatest crazy brawlers of all time.
Needless to say, the impact has two parts. First, suppose Brody merely sees it coming, refuses the meeting, or otherwise survives. Of course, he never sets foot in Puerto Rico again, but what becomes of his career?
A few things to consider:
The WWF clearly had some interest in Brody, seeing as how the Berzerker gimmick is almost a direct tribute (the hand gesture he made is copied from Brody’s). In fact, rumors were rampant that the Berzerker gimmick was originally designed for Brody, then held off for a few years out of respect. How far does he take it?
Obviously, Brody would’ve needed a mouthpiece (since part of his mystique was never talking). John Nord, the Berzerker in our world, got Mr. Fuji. Does Brody? Or does Vince see money in him and make him part of the Heenan Family?
How high a profile does Brody have? This is the tricky part. Brody was very protective of his image and often refused jobs in the minor leagues. Many bouts he was in went to double countouts or double DQs rather than a finish. Brody’s debut in 1989 would have coincided with the return of Rowdy Roddy Piper, a similar headache. Would Vince have wanted both on the roster? Would Piper/Brody have made sense as a feud without a winner?
When Brody would have been 48 or so, Shane Douglas threw down the NWA Title, and Eastern Championship Wrestling became Extreme. In real life, Paul Heyman revitalized Terry Funk’s career and made him a star well into his mid-50s. But would he go the same route if he had Bruiser Brody, whose reputation as a hardcore man was much stronger than Funk’s, as a centerpiece?
Brody’s character was a wildman from New Mexico who didn’t care about his own safety or the humanity or well-being of his opponents. A year or so after Brody’s death, WCW introduced us to another New Mexico madman with similar lack of care: Cactus Jack Manson. What happens to Mick Foley’s career if his breakthrough role comes while the original he’d be accused of ripping off is running wild in the WWF?
But now, let’s make things more sinister. This next part may be beyond the scope of this website.
Suppose in the scuffle, it’s Huertas and not Goodish who dies. Atlas and others would have known it to be self-defense, but how does the world change then?
First, consider the atmosphere in Puerto Rico. Invader #1 was and is a beloved hero on the island, and Bruiser Brody was his fierce rival, a madman with no personal control or sense of right and wrong. And in 1988, kayfabe ruled the day on the island. Could Brody get a fair trial? Would he get a venue change?
Within a year of this incident, however, New Jersey’s state athletic commission would announce, alongside the WWF, that wrestling officially is not a real sport, but a venue of entertainment. Granted, this would be for insurance purposes, but the very announcement could have ramifications as far as Puerto Rico. With this in mind, the venue change (or even an appeal) gains traction.
Remember how earlier I said that Vince wanted Brody? Does he intercede in this trial, in a hope that a grateful Brody will sign with the WWF? Or does he realize that his family product image can’t afford to have someone tainted by murder in it? (Unlike with Jimmy Snuka, this one would be near impossible to cover up.)
And what of the media? Bear in mind, the Huertas trial was strictly provincial news, but add an American to it and things may change. What attitude would they take in 1989? On the one hand, it’s an American being given an unfair trial in Puerto Rico for the flimsiest of reasons. On the other, it’s a wrestler who portrayed himself as being one step away from murderer accused of being the murderer.
So there you have it. A two-pronged What If. A little deeper than just “what if Wrestler X didn’t do Angle Y”, but hopefully not too macabre for the setting. Have at it, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a Retro Rant of one of my favorite old-timey PPVs, as PG Week continues.