It's been 20 years since we lost Brian Pillman, one of the greatest personalities in wrestling history.
Brian Pillman had demons. It was no secret. His creativity was no secret, either. His 'loose cannon' gimmick was far ahead of it's time, and had many question whether or not it was a gimmick at all. If the chains were off, it'd be the perfect template for another Cincinnati superstar in Dean Ambrose, who clearly was Pillman-inspired.
He was a trailblazer that helped usher in a faster style that is implemented in today's wrestling. If you've never watched his Superbrawl II match with Jushin Liger, do yourself a favor and do so. Oh yeah, check out his WarGames match, his tag bout with Austin against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, and the Superbrawl "Thundercage" match. All classics. The guy even had a great match with Johnny B. Badd.
One of the things that always amazed me about Pillman was his ability to go from being among the most innocent of white-meat babyfaces, to the most vile of heels. That takes talent and dedication most don't have.
The term "ahead of their time" is used a lot, but Pillman was ahead of his time, after his time, right on time. I speak a lot of versatility being key, especially in a performance based line of work. Pillman had that and was able to constantly adapt to an evolving world. He found ways to stay over or get over again, and when that wasn't fresh anymore, he moved along. I wonder how different the wrestling world would be with Brian Pillman around during WWF's rise to regain the crown, the Invasion, and the PG era. I have no doubts that Pillman would have found a way to make himself a visible, relevant figure.
Geographically, I'm right in between Lexington and Cincinnati, and consider them both 'home teams.' Growing up, Pillman as a pro wrestler was that 'home team.' He wore Cincinnati Bengals inspired gear during his WCW babyface run, an homage to his NFL run with the team, where he'd win the Ed Block Courage award. I'll always remember Brian Pillman as a hometown hero, despite his personal battles.
Pillman wasn't just a hometown hero in Cincinnati....but in Canada, too. His affiliation with the Hart Foundation personally made me a fan of the group, and caused Canadians to adore him. His personality was the perfect contrast to everyone in the group.
I've been fortunate enough to meet his son, Brian Jr., who looks to be poised for great things in the wrestling industry. It's remarkable how confident yet humble he is. I've spoken to his sister Brittany a couple of times and is equally as pleasant. Both are keeping their father's legacy alive.
A friend of mine, IQWrestler, put together a magnificent, chilling video of Pillman last summer, which I've included above. I think it really summarizes Pillman for the fantastic performer he was, and how his fans like to remember him.
My thoughts are with Pillman's family and friends on this day, and every day.
Editor's note: I originally published this last year, on the anniversary of Pillman's passing. I've updated it, as I likely will each year.