WWE Hall of Fame Inductee and former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco was found dead this morning at the age of 68. This is truly saddening news for the wrestling world, as Brisco was part of an elite group of wrestlers that helped to revolutionize the business as we know it in the 70s and 80s.
Born Freddie Joe Brisco in 1941, he was an outstanding amateur wrestler before making the jump to the world of professional wrestling. He won the 1965 NCAA National Championship after turning down football scholarship offers from his hometown universities, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He was the first Native American to ever win the prestigious award. Accolades would follow him from then on out.
He broke into the business in the mid-1960’s amidst an ever-evolving time for the wrestling industry. Though he started as a singles competitor, he would soon wrestle alongside his brother Gerald Brisco for the National Wrestling Alliance and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. He would win several titles for the NWA including the Eastern States Heavyweight Championship, the Florida Brass Knuckles Championship, and the Florida Tag Team Championships. He entered memorable feuds with Dick Murdoch, Terry Funk, and Dory Funk, Jr. that often left the crowd in awe of the blood, sweat, and tears presented before them.
On July 20, 1973, Jack Brisco won his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Harley Race. His first reign as champion, which lasted 500 days, is one of the longest world title reigns in the modern era of professional wrestling. Though Brisco would lose the title to the legendary Giant Baba in Japan, he would regain it six days later and hold the title for an additional year, bringing a period of nearly 30 months as NWA World Champion. He was only the second man to ever win the title belt a second time, and remains the only man in NWA history to hold the title for two reigns over one year, respectively.
Brisco remained a pivotal figure in the NWA as well as Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida for the next decade. Both he and Gerald would again be tag team champions for Georgia Championship Wrestling as well, when they weren’t busy running the famed Brisco Brothers Body Shop in Florida.
He was also an important figure in the relations of Puerto Rico and American wrestling, as his participation in the World Wrestling Council of Puerto Rico helped to bridge the gap for fans en route to creating a national product that we know today. Brisco managed to engulf himself in feuds with some of wrestling's newest stars, teaching them the tricks of the trade. Such up-and-comers included Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase, and Ricky Steamboat.
Brisco was also a masterful magician on the microphone, cutting some of the best and most intense promos in the wrestling business. Many said that he was easily the best, or at least comparable to Ric Flair, who was widely recognized as one of the best talkers the industry had ever seen. As a tag team, Jack and Jerry helped define what tag team wrestling would become for the next 30 years, yet they did it with a hard-nosed edge that made them legitimate tough guys in an industry quickly becoming involved in the glitz and glitter of television.
Perhaps Brisco’s most notable accomplishments occurred outside of the ring. When Jack and Jerry acquired a minor share of Georgia Championship Wrestling, they struck up a deal with a majority of shareholders to sell the territory to Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation. The purchase of Georgia Championship Wrestling by McMahon would result in the biggest shakeup in wrestling history, as McMahon could now present a national wrestling product to the masses instead of the territorial industry that had accumulated in the fifty years previous.
What followed was the infamous “Black Saturday,” in which Vince McMahon would take over the GCW timeslot on WTBS in July of 1984, replacing it with his WWF product instead. The ramifications of Black Saturday eventually led to the initial rift between Ted Turner and Vince McMahon, laying the groundwork for the future Monday Night War. Black Saturday would also inevitably fund WrestleMania after Vince sold the time slot back to Jim Crockett Promotions for a hefty fee.
Brisco is also credited with having discovered wrestling biggest star. Having toured the state of Florida regularly, Brisco, along with his brother Jerry and professional wrestler Mike Graham, spotted a 6’4” bassist playing in a bar band for a few years before they attempted to convince him to give wrestling a shot. Together, they would create a muscleman by the name of Hulk Hogan, and the rest is history.
Jack Brisco held over 20 different titles in his career and piled up reigns that spanned nearly a decade in total. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008. Though many more recent fans may never have heard his name in such prominence, Jack Brisco was easily one of the biggest figures in the history of the business, and he will be greatly missed within the wrestling community.
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