Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel by Larry Matysik and Barbara Goodish
ECW Press, 2007
ISBN 13: 978-1-55022-760-4
When I was a kid growing up watching professional wrestling, Bruiser Brody was one of the scariest wrestlers...and one I enjoyed watching the most. His matches were often extreme and bloody. This biography, written by Larry Matysik whose professional career revolved around wrestling as an announcer, booker, and failed promoter, and Bruiser Brody's wife, Barbara Goodish, brings the real Bruiser Brody to life.
Bruiser Brody, whose real name was Frank Goodish, was old school. His matches were "stiff" and he put on a real show for the crowd. He also embraced "blading" or cutting his forehead during matches. Some of his matches with Abdullah the Butcher were blood fests. And let's face it, entertaining.
Goodish grew up outside Detroit, Michigan and was a rebel from the start. His lack of focus led him to West Texas State, instead of a big time college, to play football. But he could not quite make in the pros because he lacked the discipline and technique he should have picked up in college. Eventually, this huge beast of a man turned to professional wrestling where he already had the look. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and around 300 pounds, with long curly black hair, a beard, and character that embraced and enjoyed the violence, he was perfect for the business.
Brody was a very independent man who did not stick with one promotion, but instead rode the circuit to the places where he could make the most money. He was a huge star as "King Kong" Brody in the St. Louis region, and was a huge superstar in Japan. Over time Brody was able to become an international star, which was difficult to do without sticking with one promotion that could push him to the top.
But Bruiser Brody had another side, and that was Frank Goodish. Outside the ring he was smart, articulate, a good business man, and great husband and father. But he did what he could in his profession to make money and often rubbed promoters the wrong way. Wrestlers were often treated by promoters as mere commodities and it was not uncommon for them to cook the books to cheat wrestlers out of their appropriate pay or manipulate them in other ways. Brody would have none of it and made sure he got his due.
And Brody wouldn't "go over" for just anyone. He had to make sure he kept his character strong and it had to make sense before he would allow himself to be pinned in the ring. As a result, he sometimes clashed with promoters and sometimes other wrestlers, such as Jose Huertas Gonzales, who was also a part of the wresting promotion in Puerto Rico. Brody and Gonzales, who wrestled as the masked "Invader" evidently didn't like one another.
Frank Goodish, wrestling in Puerto Rico, was stabbed to death in the bathroom of the locker room before a match in Puerto Rico by Gonzales. Gonzales got off the murder wrap claiming it was self-defense, even though the details of the murder clearly show otherwise. This guy should be in jail. Unfortunately he isn't. It was a tragic end to a fascinating man with a personality that was part the querulous, violent Bruiser Brody, and part the quiet, smart, articulate, family man Frank Goodish.
Brody's career spanned the most of the 1970's and 1980's, linking the old school, bruising style of professional wrestling of the regional promotions, to the beginning of Vince McMahon, Jr. destroying the regional system and creating a near monopoly on the sport. Had Brody lived, it would have been interesting to see if he would have ever toed the line and fought in the WWF (now WWE) given the dictatorial management style of McMahon. Regardless of whether he wrestled for McMahon, overseas, or with rival promotions, there would undoubtedly be many more tales to tell about this fascinating individual.
The one quibble I have with this biography is Matysik does not go into more detail about the circumstances of the murder. For example, Tony Atlas, a former wrestler who was there the day Brody was killed and took him to the hospital, believes there was a conspiracy to murder Brody. Brody had bought into the Puerto Rico promotion and wanted to have his say in how things were run, and he clashed over the ending of matches. Maybe they just wanted him out of the way. Or maybe Gonzales simply didn't like Brody, who belittled him and clearly didn't like him. Certainly the shady circumstances that lead Gonzales to getting a free walk after committing murder could have been more closely examined. On the other hand, so much time as passed maybe Matysik decided simply to focus on the life of Frank Goodish.
Overall, this biography is an excellent tribute to and intriguing look at a forgotten legend in professional wrestling from two of the people who knew him best - his close friend Larry Matysik and his widow Barbara Goodish.