Frank Goodish, still touching lives to this day.
On a cool winter day about 5 years ago, I had to make a house call to Mr. S (no name for healthcare privacy). Mr. S was in his late 60’s and he was not doing well. He had just lost his wife. He was getting ready to move back east to live with his daughter with the hopes his grandchildren could spark life into him.
As I sat in his home with his daughter, they got me a snack and I gave Mr. S a breathing treatment. He was a small, frail Japanese man who was obviously in a lot of emotional pain to go along with his poor health. He barely spoke.
I looked around the room to see if there was something I could talk to him about to try and cheer him up; an old salesman’s trick. His bookshelf was filled with books mostly in Japanese, the country he grew up in. About 25 years ago his company asked him to move to America to work for their San Francisco Bay Area branch and he agreed.
I looked and saw some wrestling magazines. He saw that I was reading them and all of a sudden a wry smile came to Mr. S and he took the nebulizer out of his mouth and said, HUSS, HUSS!
I smiled and asked his daughter what the heck that meant and she said that her father was a big wrestling fan and that was Bruiser Brody’s famous yell when he entered the ring. Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen were his favorite wrestlers. He slowly began to open up and he began to talk about Bruiser and Stan’s amazing entrances and their great skill. Wrestling in Japan in those days was very serious business and the respectful fans of the orient had an amazing passion for it. He said that his family and friends often went to the matches together and he was very fond of those memories.
We sat and talked for a couple of hours. I had to come back the next day so I went home and went on Youtube. I looked at every video I could on Bruiser Brody and I ordered the book “Brody; The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling’s Rebel” on Amazon. It was written by his wife Barbara, and Wrestling Promoter and friend Larry Matysik. Once I saw Bruiser Brody’s first entrance in Japan, my mouth was wide open. Here they were playing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and he’s swinging a chain over his head while fans and ring workers alike ran for their lives. I thought, “my God this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” I was a huge wrestling fan back in the day but I long since dumped it since it became the after school special type product of today. I was not into sports entertainment; I liked wrestling.
(below is a great Facebook group honoring Bruiser Brody)
I stayed up for hours probably watching nearly 50 more videos on Frank Goodish, AKA Bruiser Brody. The next day I went to Mr. S’s again and showed he and his daughter the Youtube videos, both in English and Japanese. He was euphoric! He wouldn’t stop talking saying that he was even at a few of the matches we watched. I stayed for hours and listened to them laugh and have an amazing time reminiscing about the “intelligent monster” and the amazing fun their family had going to the matches.
When I left, Mr. S grabbed both of my hands and bowed saying he was so glad that I came by. His daughter gave me some snacks to take home and thanked me as well. I wished them well in their move and told them to get a hold of me if they needed anything. That night I ate the snacks and drank Guinness watching Youtube videos of Frank doing leap frogs, drop kicks, and his classic move where standing still he would bring his leg straight up and smash his opponents face. My jaw dropped. I never saw anything like it. To end it he jumped high in the air and busted his opponent with a knee.
The Myth of Bruiser Brody:
Frank Goodish was the greatest Independent Wrestler of all time and one of the greats period. He was a spiritual, complicated man, and the stories of him are of legend. From his physicality and his “stiff” or “strong style” form of wrestling, to him carrying cans of tuna and green beans on the road. He was mostly loved by wrestlers and hated by promoters. I heard many positive and sometimes negative things about him but I had to find the truth.
I first watched several matches with him and Stan Hansen. It didn’t matter if the opponents were the Funk’s or whoever else, Stan and Frank ran through them like buzz saws. There wasn’t a wasted movement and they were like a tidal wave. They just kept coming. After every tag team match their opponents looked like they were about ready to pass out from exhaustion, while Stan and Frank looked like they were out for a Sunday morning stroll. These guys were like machines that never tired. I always thought the Road Warriors or a younger Steiner Brothers were the best tag teams ever, but Stan and Bruiser Brody are the best in my mind. I’ll bring them to the ring against anyone in history and smile while doing it.
I also heard negative stories about Frank. I wanted to know the truth and let’s face it; other than politics, there is no arena with more lies and falsehoods than the wrestling business. It seemed that few really knew the truth or wanted to know it for that matter. I took about 6 months to devour anything on Bruiser Brody so I could answer these questions.
I’ve seen various online articles saying what a huge steroid user Bruiser Brody was, especially from younger wrestling fans and writers. Well that is false. Bruiser did use steroids for a short time in the late 70’s when they were NOT illegal and they didn’t know the long term ramifications of their use. Well Frank found out quickly they made him very sick.
On a trip home from Japan Larry Matysik explains in his book that Frank crumpled and collapsed on the airplane saying that he thought he was dying. The doctors didn’t have a definitive answer to his illness but Frank did. He felt that steroids were destroying his body so he stopped cold turkey in 1979. He never used steroids again and he was never that ill. What’s funny is that in the book the promotional posters of his upcoming match was a photo of him recovering in the hospital.
The Lex Luger “no sell” incident:
Boy does Brody get destroyed online for this one. At the time Lex Luger was still learning how to wrestle but he had that amazing physique that was becoming a big deal in the steroid era of the 80’s. Not even 2 years into his career, he was given a steel cage match with Bruiser Brody. It was hard for wrestlers to watch because Luger had the reputation for being pretty self-absorbed and some thought his push was not fair.
Bobby Heenan explained that Luger went up to Brody and started telling him how the match should be played out. Several others have said that Bruiser told promoters that he was not going to put up with any of Luger’s bulls**t. Heenan explained that Brody said nothing but it was obvious he was pretty upset. He told Luger they would just call the match in the ring. When he went into the ring Brody never “sold” (acted like he was hurt by punches) and the match was uncomfortable to watch as Brody did nothing. Luger looked like he legitimately got scared and left the ring; quickly; and immediately left the arena. This story has also been backed up in interviews and podcast’s by the referee of the match, Bill Alfonso. When Bruiser said nothing about it, the media and fans said Bruiser was just being a selfish jerk. The problem was though that Luger was terrible at selling; and that’s if he sold at all; and Bruiser did not tolerate anyone that was disrespectful to him or who didn’t sell to him. To tell a legend like Frank how the match was going to go was extremely disrespectful in his mind.
Was Bruiser Selfish & Difficult to Work With?:
MANY wrestling fans go by rumors and do little research. That’s why I hate going on some social media sites and articles that say Brody was a jerk and was selfish. I looked up Brody’s matches (site seen above) during this career. It doesn’t have all of his matches but most of them. There is a pattern. Bruiser lost only to people that were on his level. He even lost to Brian Blair once when he was leaving a territory and no offense to Brian but does anyone think Brian could beat Brody? Brody lost to the likes of Baba, Bruno Sammartino, Dick the Bruiser, Big John Stud, Paul Orndorff, Ted Dibiase, & Abdullah the Butcher just to name a few. They all have one thing in common; IT’S BELIEVABLE they could beat him. Brody is a HUGE draw world-wide and if he’s losing all the time, you lose that big draw, especially in Japan! How many times did Hulk Hogan lose? Not many. Why? Because he had full control over his matches AND if he lost more often, it would kill his character. Brody knew if he kept up his huge persona and didn’t lose, the fans kept coming.
Many said Frank was loved by wrestlers but hated by promoters. Jim Cornette once said that most promoters whose territories were doing good back in the day were millionaires, and they weren’t exactly givers. In one story he told, after seeing Jerry Jarrett’s amazing mansion at a party, Memphis icon Jerry Lawler demanded more of a stake in the Memphis territory profits from him. Cornette said, “the promoters usually took the sacks of money and threw it into the air. What stuck to the ceiling was given to the boys and what came down was there’s. And that was after their unique counting techniques”.
Bruiser knew what he was worth and he had power. Everywhere he went he packed the houses and he made a ton of money for a lot of people. He had power and of course he used it. Few other wrestlers were as popular as he was or had the courage to stand up to promoters like he did.
It cracks me up that when corporations or companies wield that power, no one says a word. If the little guy tries to wield some power though, they are selfish. NFL teams rarely honor a players contract, many times cutting players before their contract runs out. No one says a word. If a player is playing fantastic and wants a raise though, fans tell the player to honor the contract and stop being greedy. In wrestling, WWE is a billion dollar company who has corporate jets and helicopters and buses, but they still can’t “afford” to pay $800/month to give their wrestlers healthcare?
I heard a few podcasts from wrestlers that ripped on Brody for being selfish by not losing matches or selling. Are you kidding me? I just watched matches where Rick Rude, Blackjack Mulligan, Abdullah the Butcher, The Funks and Von Erich’s and many others were kicking the crap out of Frank. Problem is it’s easier to take in rumors than do some research. Time also enhances these rumors. Funny how after ripping on Brody they all would add, “but I knew when Brody was around we made a lot more money because he was such a huge draw”. Steve Austin often clashed with WWE about the direction of his character. Once he just went home. No one today says he’s selfish. Frank was just way ahead of his time.
If Brody was so nasty to deal with, why were the promoters lined up to get him to come wrestle and why were wrestlers glad that he was around? Because he made them more money! Also, why did he get along with other promoters like Baba, Sam Muchnick and Larry Matysik? The reason was that they were fair and professional and they paid him properly.
The stories of Frank’s kindness haven’t exactly hit the front pages either because he didn’t promote that part of himself. That was just who he was. Some celebs and athletes need cameras around any time they do anything nice, but not Frank. He loved kids and they loved him, and he was very gracious to his fans. He supported many wrestlers and taught them the ropes. As long as you respected him and the business, and you sold for him when needed, you were cool. Disrespect him or the business and it could get ugly quick. There are stories in the Larry Matysik’s book where Frank helped out the underdog wrestler who he could help get over. In some matches that he won, he also at times let the other wrestler beat the heck out of him to help get him over too. He was far from an angel though. He could bully you if you were on his bad side that is for sure. Isn’t that attitude what most promoters have? Was he looking out for himself? Sure he was. I’m not naïve. But, in reality he was so popular that if he was on top, everyone got paid. Just like iconic names like Hogan, Flair and Andre, few wrestlers at the time could draw world wide like Frank could.
Spring forward 2 years. I saw the daughter of Mr. S at the Corte Madera, Ca Safeway. We were both excited to see each other. She sadly told me that her father had died recently and she was selling his house. She saw that I was upset about that but she smiled and said don’t be sad at all. “My father and our family appreciated you lighting a fire inside him. He loved wrestling so much and he and his friends reconnected. He watched so many matches on the internet and was so happy to regain memories that he cherished. My children also helped so much. His last two years were very happy.”
That night I was relieved and glad to hear Mr. S had some happy times and was out of pain. I thought of him running to Bruiser with his wife and friends like kids as Brody entered the ring, and I laughed out loud. Bruiser Brody was still making people smile and touching lives almost 30 years after he’s passed. And for a new fan like me, I found out that Frank Goodish; one of the greatest wrestlers of all time; was also a great man in and out of the ring. This is something that his wife Barbara and his son Geoff; along with loyal fans from around the world; have already known for a very long time. HUSS, HUSS!