MITCHELL'S TAKE 25 YEARS OF BRUCE MITCHELL - DAY 11 (2001): Titled “Freebird Way” - Mitchell reflects on the life and death of Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy and his Freebird partners
Oct 12, 2015 - 3:44:49 PM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY
This month marks the 25th Anniversary of Bruce Mitchell becoming a Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter columnist. No single person has influenced the editorial tone and direction of the Torch brand over the years than Bruce, who brought a hard-hitting, supremely well-informed, speak-truth-to-power approach to his writing. He went after sacred cows out of the gate, such as the beloved among “smart fans” (today’s “Internet fans” or “IWC,” I suppose) Eddie Gilbert and Jim Cornette. He also went hard after people in positions of authority and power who were abusing or misusing that power, or just not delivering a worthy product. He has also applauded and paid tribute to the greatest moments and movements in pro wrestling over the last 25 years, with a style of writing that has yet to be matched anywhere, I contend (despite Bill Simmons’s arrogant and uninformed contention last year that no one wrote at a high level about pro wrestling until his “Masked Man” columnist came along).
To celebrate and highlight Bruce’s stellar 25 years of influential and eloquent truth-telling about this fascinating industry, we’ll be featuring a single column from each of the last 25 years each of the first 25 days this month. His long-form columns were a pioneer approach to pro wrestling journalism, and the next 25 years you’ll experience a slice of what it is that has earned Bruce Mitchell widespread recognition within the industry over the years as being “Pro Wrestling’s Most Respected Columnist.” We began on Oct. 1st with his very first column, from Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #89 (cover dated Oct. 5, 1990).
Today we feature his column from the July 21, 2001 edition of the Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly Newsletter (#663) where titled “Freebird Way” in which Mitchell reflects on the life and death of Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy and his Freebird partners.
NOTE: VIP members can access hundreds of Mitchell columns instantly in the BRUCE MITCHELL LIBRARY here, part of the massive unmatched online archives of insider wrestling coverage from over the past 28 years.
“Sweet home Alabama,
Play that dead band’s song,
turn those speakers up full blast,
play it all night long...”
- Warren Zevon
Forget “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling” or “Enter Sandman” or Kid Rock or Uncle Kracker.
No wrestling act ever embodied the electric essence, the vulgar energy of rock’n’roll like the Fabulous Freebirds. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, both barely in their 20s, and the veteran Buddy Roberts changed the sleazy face and sound of pro wrestling, changes that still echo twenty years after they first burst into stardom. Their costumes were wilder, their boasts were stronger, their entire act was just crazier than all the rest.
Other acts may have had the outfits, or the ring music, or even Rock’n’Roll in their name, but they didn’t have it like the ‘Birds. The Freebirds were loud and crude, and lived the Stars ‘n Bars of Southern Rock—the country funk of Marshall Tucker, the Allman Brothers, Wet Willie, and most of all, the iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd. They lived the drinking, drugging all night of their heroes, and while Hayes may have been the flashy mouth of the Freebirds, Terry Gordy, who died too young at the age of 40 last week, was their soul.
Curly brown hair waving as he accelerated across the ring, his Baby Huey body tensed to throw one of the best punches in the business, Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy was a natural, in the words of Jim Ross, who worked with him for years, “a prodigy.” He was the epitome of Hardcore in the days when Hardcore meant explosive, bad ass kicking wildmen. He could stand in his prime with Stan Hansen, Vader, and Bruiser Brody as one of the best big men the business has ever seen. Even though he didn’t need to do promos, because Hayes could talk as well as Gordy could work, Bamm Bamm had a way of barking a final line out of the corner of his mouth that was dangerous and instinctive as anything he did in a match.
Michael Hayes was too pretty and Terry Gordy was too mean, best friends and the perfect team. Hayes and Gordy seemed completely at home in the ring or in the bar, slurring their words either because of their Southern accent or because they were living their gimmick. Gordy had an energy and power that made it seem like even the most innocuous squash match was always on the verge of spinning out of control. From the beginning he had the knack—the natural ability and energy to be in the right place at the right time—that most wrestlers never quite master.
You believed the Freebirds were volatile wildmen who loved to fight, because, well, they were volatile wildmen who loved to fight. The great wrestling acts aren’t just acts, they lived their gimmicks. Sometimes, living the gimmick carried a very high price, particularly in the territory where they had their greatest feud: World Class Championship Wrestling.
The Freebirds were the wild ass villains of the cutting edge World Class territory, the perfect foil to the all American Von Erich Brothers. World Class was the outlaw territory where everything went, and if you got caught, Daddy Fritz could make make the problem go away. In the Wild West of World Class anything went.
Until the day came when the bill came due, and no one else could pay it.
Unlike the Von Erichs, who had to hide their debauchery behind a Christian curtain, The Freebirds were expected to drink more Jack Daniels, smoke more, snort more, pop more than anyone else. They were more than happy to oblige, to piss down any leg for a laugh. They were so wild they got kicked out of the WWF in record time, even when the WWF was a wild man refuge of its own.
They came and went in New Orleans, in Dallas, and in Atlanta because the more popular they got, the more money came in, and the more money came in the harder they were to control.
Jeez, they were fun to watch in those days.
They never stopped. There came a day, though, when Michael Hayes wasn’t pretty anymore, just bloated and old before his time, when Buddy Roberts aged out, and Terry Gordy could make a better living working for Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling than dealing with the likes of Bill Watts or Jim Crockett. Working in All Japan was one of the best jobs in wrestling: high, steady pay, and an honest promoter who took care of those who were loyal to him.
He still lived the Freebird way, even though he was now part of another great tag team with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, feuding with the best wrestlers of the ’90s in All Japan: Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue, and Jun Akiyama.
The warnings began to come—the incidents and the overdoses—but Terry Gordy only knew one Way. He could afford it, though; he was stronger and made more money than all but a few wrestlers.
Until the day came when even his big body could take no more, on a plane ride back to the States, when he overdosed and went into a coma for several days. The coma damaged him mentally and physically. He was no longer a natural in the ring. He couldn’t remember what to do, or summon the energy to do it. It took him eight hours one sad day to cut a thirty second promo for a match. He lost his spot in All Japan and his big salary wrestling days were over. Medical bills ate up what was left of the money. He was only 32 years old. Friends tried to help, to take advantage of the name he had built during the years, but he couldn’t sustain anything. Stints in ECW and the WWF went by quickly. He worked the garbage promotions in Japan, for a fraction of what he used to make. The next years were frustrating and depressing for a man to whom everything had once come so naturally.
And then, finally, his heart gave out.
Living the gimmick had once again cost a man everything. World Class Championship Wrestling had another tragedy to add to its pathetic story. It was a rock’n’roll cliché, but no band ever was devastated the way the stars of that promotion were:
Kerry Von Erich (suicide)
David Von Erich (overdose)
Mike Von Erich (suicide)
Chris Von Erich (suicide)
Gino Hernandez (overdose)
Bruiser Brody (murdered)
Buzz Sawyer (overdose)
Check out yesterday's Day 10 Bruce Mitchell Column from 2000 titled "Death of Hardcore."
THE TORCH REACHES MORE COMBAT ENTERTAINMENT FANS THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE
PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
REACHING 1 MILLION+ UNIQUE USERS PER MONTH
500 MILLION CLICKS & LISTENS PER YEAR
MILLIONS OF PWTORCH NEWSLETTERS SOLD
PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.
Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.
The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...
-New Digital PWTorch Newsletter every week
-3 New Digital PDF Back Issues from 5, 10, 20 years ago
-Over 60 new VIP Audio Shows each week
-Ad-free access to all PWTorch.com free articles
-VIP Forum access with daily interaction with PWTorch staff and well-informed fellow wrestling fans
-Tons of archived audio and text articles
-Decades of Torch Talk insider interviews in transcript and audio formats with big name stars. **SIGN UP FOR VIP ACCESS HERE**