20 Things I Learned Watching Dark Side of the Ring: Brian Pillman


Image Credit (WWE.com)

In one of my latest articles, I wrote about one of the biggest What If’s in professional wrestling in Gino Hernandez. Another big what if in pro wrestling involves pro wrestler Brian Pillman. Espeically with his Loose Cannon gimmick being ahead of its time and many including myself would say he was one of the main parts that started the Attitude Era. Pillman would have probably been a big star not only in the Attitude Era, but in professional wrestling. In fact today is October 5th and it was 25 years ago on this date when Brian Pillman passed away.

So I decided to yet again watch Dark Side of the Ring and take a look on there episode regarding Brian Pillman and I learned a lot about him. Due this episode was a two part episode, I decided to double it up by giving 20 things I learned watching Dark Side of the Ring’s documentary on Brian Pillman

20. Brian Pillman had serious throat issues as a kid.

I knew that Pillman’s raspy voice came from his throat issues that he had as a kid. It was well known as well that Pillman had polyps growing in his throat and had to get them scraped as a kid. Polyps are tissues that grow in the body and they have a big interference with breathing. So the cure would be to scrape the polyps out.

What I did not know was that apparently he had over 40 surgeries done on his throat. The Polyps just kept growing back and doctor’s many times had to keep scraping them out. I mean that is an insane amount of surgeries to have.

That is not all as according to Brian’s sister Linda his issues were so bad that Brian needed an emergency tracheotomy. It was so dire that Brian had to get the surgery done at the doctors house, in the middle of the night. It was that big of an emergency that the hospital was too far and the doctor’s house was closer. That is terrifying for anyone to go through and Brian was lucky to be alive. No wonder is voice was super raspy and gravelly.

19. Kim Wood recommended Brian Pillman to try professional wrestling

I mentioned this on my 10 professional wrestlers that played in the NFL article. Kim Wood was the strength and conditioning coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and had a close relationship with Pillman. Brian Pillman’s career in the NFL was coming to an end due to injuries. Wood would actually recommend Pillman to try pro wrestling while he was with the Calgary Stampeders. The Hart family is one of if not the greatest wrestling family dynasties in pro wrestling. Stu Hart trained a ton of wrestlers in Calgary in what has famously known as “The Hart Dungeon”. Pillman would even signed with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling company. If it was not for Kim Wood, Brian Pillman would not have even existed in pro wrestling.

18. How Dave Meltzer got Brian Pillman signed too WCW.

If you do not know, Dave Meltzer is the publisher and editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Meltzer is one of the most credible sources for pro wrestling. It was very important for pro wrestlers during the 90’s and it got many wrestlers recognized throughout the business. Brian Pillman saw this as a big opportunity to get himself out there, so he contacted Dave Meltzer. There relationship started while they traded tapes and it grew to a more closer relationship. Meltzer started paying more attention to Pillman’s matches and started to write about him. Jim Ross would always read about the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and that is where he discovered Pillman. So after finding out about Pillman, Jim Ross immediately signed him to a deal in WCW.

17. Ric Flair saw something in Brian Pillman

When Pillman was officially signed with WCW one person who was very high on him was “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Flair at the time was one of the top stars at WCW and even was one of the matchmakers behind the scenes. He made it known that he wanted to work with Pillman and feature him in a main event spot. Well, Flair got his wish and made the match happen on a Saturday Night Main Event. That match was a big success as it was one of the highest ratings the company got while on TBS in that time. I even watched that match and Pillman really got over as the crowd chanted his names. Flair would even go on to help Pillman’s career in and even out of the ring. Pillman wanted to be Ric Flair and he modeled his aspect of the life being a pro wrestler from him.

16. Brian Pillman was always there for his kids.

Brian Pillman was a ladies man and would go on to have multiple affairs with many women. It later resulted in him having multiple children with different Women. But the thing with Pillman was that he never rejected any of his kids by abandoning them and was became a part of there lives. The story that really shows this was with his daughter Dani Pillman. Dani’s mother had a very brief relationship with Brian and she ended up being pregnaut, but did not tell Pillman that it was his. So when Dani got older, her mother relized that she needed her father and finally told Brian that he was the father. He immediately came into her life. Brian Pillman cared about his kids very much. Even when Melanie and Brian had there relationship, Pillman took her kids in as well. However, the affair’s would come back to haunt him and his relationship with Rochelle.

15. Rochelle Pillman was Attacked by a Groundskeeper

Rochelle Pillman was the first wife of Brian Pillman and sometimes Rochelle would travel with Brian wherever he went. When he signed with WCW the couple then moved from Calgary to Atlanta. There was one night while Brian was working a show and the groundskeeper of the hotel they were staying at attacked Rochelle. The groundskeeper broke into the house and stabbed her multiple times with an ice pick. Rochelle was stabbed all over including her face and cheek. The reason of why the groundskeeper did this is unclear, but one thing for sure was that the groundskeeper was not right in the head. Rochelle already had mental health issues and was diagnosed with depression, but this incident really messed her up. 

14. Stone Cold Steve Austin originally hated being in a tag team with Brian Pillman

First off, I could not belive that the Dark Side of the Ring actually got Steve Austin to be a part of this documentary. At the time Austin was signed to WWE at a Legends deal and did his interviews on the WWE Network. Steve Austin is often regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers in the buisness in WWE/WWF. Austin was originally supposed to have a United States Championship run at WCW, but that all got scrapped because WCW would rotate booker’s of the product. So then he would be pair up in a tag team with Pillman and that made him angry. Austin was more of a singles wrestler and hated that his US title reign was canceled. It also showed WCW had no plans for them and just threw them together in a tag team. But, he and Pillman got along pretty well, along with the Hollywood Blonds tag team actually getting over with the crowd.

13. Why the Hollywood Blonds broke up as a tag team?

At the time the Hollywood Blonds were one of the top tag teams in WCW and there were rumors that there were plans of a tag team title run. However like I said management kept changing and one manager decided to give them a shot in the main event of Clash Of Champions and the ratings were a disappointing. WCW decided to blame the Hollywood Blonds for this and that was the end of the Blonds. So the team broke up and Austin felt betrayed by it. He still does not know the true reason why they were broken up as they turned garbage and made it into art. However I got to say I call nonsense to Jim Cornette where he stated that he does not believe that any talent that was buried for bad ratings. Which is totally false because there was a ton of examples in the wrestling business where that was used as an excuse.

12. The Tragic Ending of Rochelle Pillman

Oh dear this was heavy. In the wrestling business a lot of wrestlers were known to have cheated on there spouses. Brian Pillman as I mentioned earlier had many affairs. He ended up having a relationship with Melanie and it resulted in Rochelle divorcing Brian after finding out about the affair. With Brian and Rochelle having kids there was going to be a custody battle and this was very rough. Especially as Melanie was extremely jealous of Rochelle and hated that Brian’s family spoke to her.

Out of nowhere Rochelle just goes missing and it resulted in Brian wanting full custody of the kids due to Rochelle’s bad mental state. Now Melanie even introduced the idea of this because she did not Rochelle even to go near Brian’s kids. Brian would ultimately win the case and get full custody because Rochelle did not have the money that Brian did. Melanie would even push Rochelle as she would not allow her to see them if she was short on the money even if it was a small debt. Which Melanie admitted that she was only using something so small just to get her away from the kids. 

Of course this devastated Rochelle as she just wanted to see her child. So out of nowhere Rochelle pulls up and hugs Brittney because she has not seen her in so long. Keep in mind that this hug lasted for 10 minutes. Brian and Melanie thought that she was going to take her and it resulted in them having a big argument. Brian even forcefully took Brittney from her and Melanie decided to file kidnapping charges on her. In Rochelle’s mind she was broken as this now meant the end of ever seeing her kids again. So Rochelle tries calling Brian and Melanie was the one that answered the phone. Rochelle was trying to speak to see about getting the opportunity to see the kids. Melanie responds and she says “Even your own mother thinks I would be a better mother to your daughter, then you ever will be” and then hangs up the phone. What a tone deaf thing for Melanie to say to someone who clearly has the issues Rochelle has. Nobody should ever say that to anybody period. 

Once Melanie hung up the phone, Rochelle was just devastated. Rochelle calls her own mother on the phone and she told her that she was going to commit suicide. Well she succeeded after shooting herself in the head and passed away. This was heartbreaking when it got to this point of the documentary and I had to take a break from watching it.

Linda Pillman would actually go to the hospital as she was the closest to Rochelle. After finding out what happened Linda would tell everyone else on the family. Everybody was devastated including Brian as he felt responsible for her death. Brian even payed for the funeral himself. At the funeral he broke down crying and almost passed out. Melanie would feel regret for what she did,. Brittney was Rochelle’s biological daughter and she would never forgive Melanie and even called her the devil. I don’t blame Brittney Pillman one bit for what she said at all, but what happened to Rochelle was just terrible. RIP Rochelle Pillman.

11. Kim Wood helped inspire Brian Pillman on the Loose Cannon 

I new that at the time of when Pillman’s contract was up in WCW that he was starting to get in his Loose Cannon gimmick. However what I did not know, was that he got the inspiration of the idea from Kim Wood. So the plan was for Pillman to create a character that  would create a ton of attention. After all the old saying the more attention somebody gets, the more money that they recieve. The plan was to get Eric Bischoff to offer a lot more money and Vince would see this and try to offer more money in a biding war. Especially as both were entering the WWE vs WCW war. Pillman wanted Bischoff to offer him a ton and Vince McMahon seeing this and then offering more. Wood’s idea was for Brian to get over with this crazy character that he could play both companies against each other. Wood was a genius and it is clear that it was working.

10. How Brian Pillman got on Vince McMahon’s radar?

So now we get to when Pillman worked Bischoff into a release and his ECW run, which I really did not learn much from. I thought his ECW run was the part that got McMahon interested in Pillman. I was wrong as he actually got Vince’s attention at one of these wrestling conventions in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brian decides to show up uninvited and in full loose cannon gimmick. Dave Meltzer gave Brian Pillman his credential as Meltzer was leaving. So Pillman immediately goes to where both Jim Ross and Vince McMahon are and he was acting outlandish to get Vince’s attention. He even got to take photos and pose with Vince at the convension and Vince was both impressed along with being terrified of Pillman. It was to the point where Vince did not even want to hire him due to Pillman being crazy. Jim Ross would tell Vince that he  is crazy like a fox and Pillman told Ross that he was going to do this. Ross even was hyping Pillman being creative and similar to Vince. Pillman was brave to do this as this could have easily backfired. But Pillman’s plan was a sucess as this got Vince’s attention and he paid more attention to Pillman’s work

9. What caused Pillman’s Car Accident?

Now we get into the part of when Brian Pillman was in that Car Accident. I knew that it was a very bad wreck and he had shattered his leg along with serious facial injuries. The facial injuries were so bad that doctors had had to peel his scalp in order to properly fix his injuries. However it was a bit unclear as to how the accident occured and I just assumed that it was running a red light or somebody accidentally ram into his hummer. 

It turned out not to be the case as apparently Brian caused the wreck. Not only for the way he drove, but he was on medication during the wreck. According to Melanie Pillman, When he picked up his prescription, he took them right away and  I guess the pills hit him quick. It resulted in Brian falling asleep while he was driving and then he crashed into a tree trunk. That is super scary as to how strong those pills were to hit him. It again shows why nobody should be driving while they are under the influence of either alcohol or any type of drugs.

8. Many Wrestlers thought the Car Accident was Fabricated 

Now this was just insane and it goes to show how believable Pillman’s Loose Cannon gimmick was. So while he news broke that Pillman got into a serious car accident it spread like wildfire. However many in the business did not believe it and thought Brian made the whole car accident up. The wrestlers even created a rumor where the accident was all adjust to keep hidden that Pillman was having plastic surgery to look like Shawn Michaels and face him in WWE. Which was just crazy and that rumor spread like wildfire. Even many media sources even picked it up and covered it as reality. It got to the point where Pillman had to go on the radio and shoot down the rumor. 

7. Why Brian Pillman chose to sign with WWE/WWF over WCW?

Of course the accident happened while both companies were in a bidding war to get Brian Pillman. Pillman did everything he can to hid his injuries as the doctors who operated on him said his injuries were bad and he may never wrestle again. So in the bidding war Pillman did not originally want to leave WCW, however Pillman wanted to go after more guaranteed money and Vince McMahon offered him more to wrestle for WWE. The WCW contract also had a clause where it was going to be reconstructed every 90 days. Which was not a good thing for Pillman due to how beaten up he was, so that made his choice easier to make. 

6. The Brian Pillman’s Got a Gun Segment was very Controversial

Of course whenever there is a documentary on Brian Pillman the Gun Segment is a must to talk about. So Brian Pillman was in a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin and one night on raw Austin Pillmanized his ankle. The term pillmanized is to injure an opponent in Kayfabe so they can be written off on TV to get written off or to have another surgery which Pillman desperately needed. It was named after Brian Pillman, because it was the first time it was ever done in wrestling and Pillman was the first to have this technique tried on.

So, Once Pillman got the surgery Vince wanted to do a segment where Austin would break into Pillman’s house and Pillman would have a gun on him to use in defense of himself, family, and home. So when in the segment Austin breaks into the house as Pillman threatens to shoot him and the satellite feeds cuts out. Not knowing if anyone was hurt, which of course nobody was. 

Now, I watched the segment many times and I don’t know why, but I keep laughed every time Pillman says “When Austin 3:16 meets Pillman 9 millimeter Glock,..” I just don’t know why, but it is a perfect line. However this segment was definitely controversial and would not fly if it was done nowadays. Even at the time it was so controversial WWE/WWF almost got pulled from air and the company had to issue a public apology for the segment. Which WWE/WWF never does, especially by Vince McMahon.

5. Brian Pillman felt betrayed by Jim Ross during his time with WWE/WWF

Throughout Pillman’s time in WWE, it really was not great due to the amount of injuries he had along with his bad drug addiction. Pillman hated being a commentator while he was recovering from his injuries and saw it as a demotion. Jim Ross thought it was a good idea for Pillman to be utilized while he recovered from his injuries. Well Pillman hated that and wanted encouragement to get back to the ring which he never got from Ross, which resulted in there relationship not being great.

Now because he wanted badly to get into the ring Pillman developed a really bad drug addiction to painkillers. Especially with how much pain Pillman had while wrestling as he came back way too early. His drug addiction got so bad that he took pills every moment, until the pain went away. Which is just asking for trouble. Pills don’t have an immediate impact like that and just taking multiple is a stupid and terrible idea. The Pain got bad it strained his relationship with Kim Wood and even Melanie Pillman.

The addiction got so bad to the point where everyone including Jim Ross would notice. Ross forced Pillman to take a drug test which Brian found insulting. In the case of Ross he wanted to make sure that Pillman was okay and even tried to save his life by getting him help. However Pillman was betrayed by it where he went to Dave Meltzer and said he hated working with Ross and the drug test would only be prescription drugs. Well the results of the drug test was that Pillman was postive for steroids and prescription drugs, which many and I mean many wresters at the time were taking. That really angered Pillman too because everyone is doing it and he thought Ross was targeting him.

4. How WWE/WWF found out about Brian Pillman’s death

So now we get to the death of Brian Pillman, which occurred during the Bad Blood 1997 PPV. Wrestlers at a PPV were supposed to show up at around 1:00 pm and sometimes wrestlers would show up late due to traffic, overslept, or many other issues. At that day it was 5:00 and everyone was there except for Pillman. Which got many including Bruce Pritchard who I think was the head booker or of creative at the time to get worried. Pritchard then made Cornette call the Hotel Pillman was staying at.

Jim Cornette had to call his hotel to see what was going on and was informed that Pillman passed away. Cornette thought it was a rib or that Brian was doing something character wise. Then the police were on the phone and Cornette realized that it was real. Cornette then got someone from the production crew to go get Bruce Pritchard who was involved with creative. The member in the production crew said he was busy and Cornette then told point blank “Go Get Bruce! Brian is dead go get Bruce now!” While watching the documentary you can tell that Cornette did not want to hear that news and he is still emotional about it still today. I don’t blame him as Cornette and Pillman were close

3. The Disgraceful Raw Interview with Pillman’s wife

Oh boy, I want to just say what WWE and Vince McMahon does here does not paint them in a good light at all. So with Pillman dead Raw deicded to pay tribute to him and even did a 10 bell salute to him at the beginning of the show. Vince decided before the show to call Melanie Pillman and ask if she wanted to talk live on Monday Night Raw about what happened to Pillman. Keep in mind that not even 24 hours ago Pillman was dead and Melanie is still grieving. She agreed to it, but her only stipulation for doing this is for Vince not to ask about any questions related to drugs. Especially as there was no knowledge on what truly killed him. as she didn’t know the cause yet.

So then she gets interviewed and what does Vince do, well of course asks about prescription drugs. Melanie was not in person for the interview, but if she was Vince would have got smacked and I would not have blamed Melanie at all. Thats not all Vince does as he asks about whatt she was going to do now as a single mother of 5. Who asks a grieving widow these questions? This was disgusting and the interview was just a ratings ploy. Say what you want of how great of a businessman Vince is, however this is definitely on the list of terrible actions that he has committed in his life.

Everyone hated this including the fans, Jim Cornette, Jim Ross and even Dave Meltzer. This interview even won Wrestling Observers “Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic” award in 1997.

2. Melanie Pillman does not come across great in this documentary

Melanie Pillman is the widow of Brian Pillman of course and she is all over this documentary. All I got to say is that she just does not come across well in this documentary at all. There is so much that she did to her family and Brian Pillman that I could write a book on it, so i will simplify it. Melanie made disgraceful comments and actions to Rochelle Pillman which ultimately contributed in her death. She was a showgirl and cheated with Brian many times. Melanie went on TV and gave that interview about Pillman not even 24 hours before he Brian died. Which she should not have done at all. She did not treat her kids well at all and the way that they were raised was just terrible. You want to know what else is terrible, she allowed a camera crew to FILM PILLMAN’s FUNERAL. Think about that for a second. She was going to have a camera crew film the entire funeral that was open casket without having consent from any of Pillman’s family. Thank goodness Linda was there and forced the Camera crew to leave and not film. 

Now, Melanie is very apologetic and regretful for her actions during the documentary. But, you can’t take away the actions that you commit and the decisions that are made. 

Also, if you look into Melanie Pillman, there is a lot more that does not paint here very well. I remembered a story and I am shocked this wasn’t metioned in the documentary when there was the Brian Pillman Memorial Shows. The money from those shows was supposed to be used to help his kids with there education. Well the kids never saw that money as Melanie decided to spent it all on herself mainly on drugs. Which is unforgivable and I don’t blame Brittney or Dani Pillman for hating her.

I am glad though that she did get to make up with Brian Pillman Jr. before she passed on June 1st, 2022. That was her end goal was to make sure that her kids did not hate her, before she died.

1. Linda Pillman is a Saint

I got to say there is so much darkness that happened with the Pillman family, however Linda Pillman throughout this documentary is a saint. Not only for her many actions when Pillman was alive, but keeping the family together. With everything Melanie did wrong, when would get all the kids together and get them to stay in contact with each other. She took care of Brittany so much as like I said her mother and father were dead. Linda even bought Brittany’s her own house and took her in. I legit cried when in Part 2 all of Brian’s kids and Linda were together talking with each other.  Linda is an angel and I have so much respect for what she did with everything in her family along with Brian Pillman’s kids.

My Thoughts on the Documentary

This was a very tough watch and I had to take many breaks while watching this documentary. But it was a well made documentary and I give again kudos to the Dark Side of the Ring producers including Evan Husney and Jason Eisener. There was so much I learned watching this and I strongly recommend that you watch this.

The MVP of this documentary is going to the entire Pillman family including Brittany, Linda, Dani, and Brian Jr. Linda Pillman like I said Is a saint for everything she has done. I felt for Brittany as she lost both of her parents and to see where she is now is great. Brian Pillman Jr. following in his fathers footsteps. I got to say I have actually followed Pillman when he was in the independent and in MLW. The kid is super talented and I just wish AEW would book him better. I like the Varsity Blonds tag team and I wish they were used more. I really hope Pillman one day becomes a champion on day.

As for Brian Pillman Sr. he will go down as one of the biggest what if stories in professional wrestling. I definitely believe he would have been one of the top wrestlers in the business and even today had he of lived a longer life. Brian Pillman will never be forgotten in the wrestling world. Rest in Peace Brian Pilllman.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: