Brian Douglas Pillman (May 22, 1962-10 October 1997) was an American professional wrestler. He performed in the World Wrestling Federation under the ring name “Flyin'” Brian Pillman and in World Championship Wrestling under that name as well as his real name. Outside of wrestling, he appeared in the film Jingle all the Way. Pillman’s gimmick in the World Wrestling Federation was that of a disgruntled former football player who would use both wrestling and legitimate NFL techniques, such as his patented Stone Cold Stunner, to attack opponents.
Who is Brian Pillman?
Brian Pillman was born in 1961 in Cincinnati, Ohio to parents Marilyn and “Iron” Mike Pillman, a professional wrestler. He attended Archbishop McNicholas High School in Cincinnati and made the varsity football team freshman year. After transferring from Mount Healthy High School he played at Lebanon High School in Ohio where he graduated in 1980 verbally committed to Purdue University.
Pillman signed a letter of intent to play football at Purdue and began attending classes in the fall of 1979. However, he never attended any games and decided that he would rather pursue a career in professional wrestling instead. He had met wrestler Jimmy Valiant while attending tryouts at the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1977 with a friend of his, who was also trying out. Valiant later told him that he could earn $50,000 by joining the WWF, which was four times what Pillman would have earned as a professional football player. He was trained initially by WWF wrestler and promoter Tony Marino.
He wrestled for WWF and WCW between
1989 and 1997. He became a member of Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1996 after appearing as the co-owner and vice president of the WWF, and also made an appearance for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in 2002.
Pillman developed his “Loose Cannon” persona while with WCW during the mid-1990s, where he became known for unpredictable behavior, such as no-selling certain moves and engaging in on-air rants. In 1997, he signed a contract with the WWF after leaving WCW following a pay dispute.
Pillman’s struggle against excess weight was well documented by both Pillman and wrestling promoters. He had been warned of his risk of obesity-related cardiovascular disease.
How did Brian Pillman die?
Brian Pillman died on October 5, 1997 at age 35 in Bloomington, Indiana. His cause of death was heart failure through “dilated cardiomyopathy” with an assortment of drugs in his system consistent with treatment for a concussion. He had suffered five concussions within the last year leading up to his death, and he would be stretchered out during several episodes of Monday Night Raw due to suffering from post-concussion seizures.
Procedures were in place for Brian Pillman’s protection in the event that he showed any sign of suffering a seizure on an airplane or in-ring, but they were not followed when he suffered backstage after arriving at the venue in which “Monday Night Raw” was being performed. He suffered what would be his last seizure shortly before his death after being struck in the face with a roll of quarters by wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Pillman’s autopsy showed that his heart was enlarged, and that it weighed 480 grams (1 lb) when it should have weighed 300-350 g (10-12 oz). His brain, meanwhile, was swollen.
In his memory, WWE created an annual award for outstanding work in rehabilitation that carries his name .
Pillman has two matches listed on the prestigious WWE.com website as being among the best of all time, one with Chris Benoit at New Blood Rising in 2000 and another with Eddie Guerrero at Monday Night Raw on August 24, 1997.