Surfers And Ninjas And Bikers, Oh My! – The Wrestling Life Of Brian "Crush" Adams

At 6’5” and 315 pounds with good looks and an athletic background, it’s hard to believe Brian Adams never got that signature run with either WWF or WCW that could have potentially made him a main event wrestler. Poor timing, poor gimmicks and poor decisions likely had plenty to do with him never reaching the heights of several of his contemporaries, and despite 17+ years in the sport, he’s probably best remembered as a guy who carved out a decent career in professional wrestling despite ever truly being embraced by it.

Begin The Begin

Adams was born in Kona, Hawaii and raised in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He joined the United States Air Force out of high school and became an Aircraft Loadmaster (sans mullet, he was the maximum height of 77 inches allowed for this position). While in the military, he took up boxing, then found his way to professional wrestling while stationed in Japan. After his service, Adams joined the ranks of the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo and is believed to be one of only two gaijin (foreigners) to make it through the program during that time (the other being Chris Benoit). Trained by Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami, Adams spent parts of 1986-’88 wrestling for NJPW under the name The Midnight Soldier.

Between the Spring of ‘88 and the Summer of ‘90, Adams would ply his craft and gain experience in a variety of wrestling promotions. He wrestled for a time for Portland wrestling legend Billy Jack Haynes’ short-lived Oregon Wrestling Federation while also working for Pacific Northwest Wrestling. Calling himself The American Ninja, Adams formed a tag team with Len Denton (aka The Grappler) and won the PNW Tag Team Titles, feuding with The Southern Rockers for the last several months of ‘89. He also had short stays in Memphis with the CWA and All Japan Pro Wrestling, before returning to Portland where he beat Larry Oliver in the finals of a championship tournament to become the Pacific Northwest Wrestling Heavyweight Champion.

Crush With Eyeliner

Adams’ reign as champion would be short, after he was snapped up by the WWF and repackaged as Crush, a short term replacement for the injured Ax (Bill Eadie) in the highly successful tag team Demolition. By June of ‘90, Demolition had close to three years under their belt in the WWF. Initially called a blatant rip off of The Road Warriors, Demolition had become, through their rough and tumble style (and wins over the biggest tag teams of that era), the faces of the WWF tag team division. After so much time, including a record 478 day run as WWF Tag Team Champions, Demolition had become a heel tag team the fans no longer wanted to boo, forcing the WWF to turn them babyface. With Ax out for an extended period of time, WWF looked to use Crush as a way to reinvigorate the unit and reestablish them as heels.

With only four years of experience, Eadie believes Crush wasn’t ready for the push. “Brian was a good guy,” said Eadie, “but he wasn’t polished. He wasn’t at the degree of performance we (Ax and Smash) were.” Despite helping Smash retain the titles during the team’s 3rd championship run (via the Freebird Rule, naturally), Crush never quite seemed to fit as a member of Demolition. After losing the titles to The Hart Foundation at the 1990 SummerSlam, the trio engaged in a series of 6-man matches against the Ultimate Warrior and the newly signed (and newly renamed) Legion of Doom (aka The Road Warriors). Forty-six consecutive defeats versus some combination of L.O.D. over the span of 7 months followed, all but spelling the end for the tag team. Following another short feud with The Hart Foundation, Demolition disbanded in March of ‘91 after WrestleMania VII.

Departure

After the implosion of Demolition, Adams remained with the WWF for a short time before returning to Portland. Calling himself Demolition Crush, he teamed with Steve Doll to win the PNW Tag Team Championships from The Bruise Brothers (Ron and Don Harris) as well as the PNW Heavyweight Title. Feuding with Billy Jack Haynes, Buddy Rose and the The Bruise Brothers, Crush fended off all challengers for three months

Once again, however, the WWE would come calling, this time with an altogether different idea for his character.

Orange Crush

Crush made his (re)debut in the WWF in February of ‘92, picking up a series of wins over The Berserker, Skinner and Warlord on the house show loop. Shortly thereafter, he made his television debut with his new attitude and look: that of an easygoing babyface surfer from Hawaii clad in neon gear with a smile and bleached mullet to match. For a time, the change worked (kinda). Crush picked up steam, enough that it carried him for a year, during which time he never managed to rise above the middle of the card, but remained on the winning side of most of his matches (including several DQ and Count Out wins over then-Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels).

By WrestleMania IX in April of ‘93, however, Crush was at his apex in the WWF. Having been put into a program with the sinister Doink the Clown, the Hawaii native was given the best chance of his career to push his way up the WWF rankings. Unfortunately, their feud was good, but not great, and after two months of trading victories back and forth, during which time Doink would regularly make Crush look silly via a series of pranks, the feud was scrapped.

A few months later, on July 4th, 1993, Crush injured his back attempting to body slam Yokozuna during the Stars & Stripes Challenge (an event set up entirely to turn Lex Luger into an All-American babyface). The following week, Yoko decided to send a message to Luger and hit Crush with a series of Banzai Drops, putting him on the shelf for 3 months. When Crush returned from injury, it was as a heel. Aligning himself with Mr. Fuji and Yokozuna (because, why not, right?), Crush attacked his friend Randy “Macho Man” Savage, presumably for not checking in on him while he was hurt after being the one who convinced Crush to try to body slam the sumo wrestler in the first place.

To recap: Crush got, well, crushed by Yokozuna which cost him 3 months of possible winner’s purses (because that’s why they wrestle, no?), then returned to stand alongside him. Simultaneously, he went to war against one of his best friends because Savage had the temerity to have confidence in Crush’s strength. This stuff just writes itself, doesn’t it?!

Gone were the kid-friendly promos, neon gear and cascading, blonde Alabama waterfall. Now sporting dark gear, dark hair, a goatee (how else would we know he turned heel?) and more face paint, Crush feuded with Savage up to WrestleMania X, where he lost a Falls Count Anywhere Match to Slim Jim’s top sales rep. Snap into it!

Falls To Climb

Following WrestleMania, Adams became the guy the WWF used to try and get Lex Luger over as the face of the company. It didn’t work, and after six months of losing to “The Total Package”, Adams disappeared from the WWF for the last 3 months of ‘94. Though he returned in January of ‘95 to participate in the Royal Rumble, his stay would be short. While at home back in Hawaii after the Rumble, Crush was arrested for possession of illegal firearms and anabolic steroids. The arrest landed him briefly in jail and earned him house arrest as well as five years of probation.

It would be a year and a half before Crush would return to a WWF ring.

Get Up

By the Summer of ‘96, the wrestling world had been turned on its ear. Gimmicky characters had been replaced by reality based wrestlers in an effort to tap into the Jerry Springer demographic. The shift had worked and fans were coming back to pro wrestling in droves.

Never one to let a potentially embarrassing moment in someone’s life go to waste, Vince McMahon brought Crush back to the WWF, playing up his status as an ex-con. The “Attitude Era” could just as easily have been called the “Faction Era” as it seemed like damn near everyone of any distinction found their way into one at some point. Crush was no different, joining the Nation of Domination (yeah, I know) before being ousted and forming his own group, The Disciples of Apocalypse (think Sons of Anarchy with way bigger arms). Two of the four members of DOA? None other than Ron and Don Harris from Adams’ Portland days.

Crush’s DOA feuded with the Nation and Savio Vega’s Los Boricuas faction through much of ‘97 (cuz nothing says “mid-90’s attitude” quite like thinly veiled race wars!) until the big Hawaiian abruptly left the WWF (said to be, at least, partially in protest of the famed Montreal Screwjob).

Leaving New York

Crush resurfaced in WCW a few months later. Going by his real name (because what was more “WCW” then than that), Adams attacked Bret Hart, joining yet another faction: the nWo. Then, he all but disappeared. Oh, he was on WCW programming almost every week, but essentially assumed the role of “yoked up dude in the background of yet another 15 minute Hulk Hogan promo”. Regardless, the paychecks cleared every two weeks…

After a brief dalliance as the KISS-themed “Demon”, as whom he wrestled exactly zero times, Adams joined another WWF castoff, Bryan Clark (formerly the WWF’s Adam Bomb), forming the tag team KroniK. This would prove to be the biggest push he would receive during his time in WCW, even holding the WCW Tag Team Titles a couple of times prior to Vince McMahon’s purchase of the company. “I was a bit of a lone wolf,” said Clark, “but after we got paired up, there was no separating us. We just clicked.”

Final Straw

After a short return to the WWF, a particularly poor showing against Kane and the Undertaker at Unforgiven 2001 both (supposedly) drew the ire of the “Deadman” and led to KroniK’s release. Whether the former is true, Undertaker has gone of record as saying, “Brian was one of my best friends in WWE. [He was] a good man; I miss him everyday.”

A short run in Japan as the AJPW Tag Team Champions followed KroniK’s WWF release, but was cut short after both men were said to have suffered back injuries during a match against Goldberg and Keiji Mutoh, forcing Adams and Clark to retire from the ring.

Post-wrestling, Adams got back into boxing and began training with an eye on making a go at it on the professional level. A shoulder injury prior to his first fight prevented this from taking place. Collecting on a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy, Adams called it a career and settled down, working part-time as Randy Savage’s bodyguard.

Sweetness Follows

On August 13th, 2007, Adams was found unconscious by his wife (or son, depending on who you ask) in their Tampa, Florida home. The medical examiner charged with finding the cause determined Adams died from a mixture of the painkiller buprenorphine, the muscle relaxant carisoprodol and the sedatives chlordiazepoxide and alprazolam. Though all were within standard dosage levels, the combination suppressed his respiratory system, effectively cutting off his breathing while he slept. Brian Adams was just 43 years old.

Fall On Me

Brian Adams is a footnote in the annals of professional wrestling, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a wrestler who better defined his era. For every Undertaker, Kevin Nash or Hulk Hogan, there are a thousand wrestlers like Adams: a massive, able-bodied guy who jumped from gimmick to gimmick and company to company to (mostly) middling success. The fact that he was felled in the most unceremonious of ways is as unfair as it is fitting, really.

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