In wrestling, tempers are bound to flare, and sometimes situations legitimately get out of hand. In 1986, in Flint, Michigan, Adrian Adonis picked the wrong person to mess with, and according to witnesses, Dan Spivey almost ended Adonis’s life.
The Brutal Brawl Between Adrian Adonis and Dan Spivey
Honky Tonk Man: "He was the nicest, quietest, mellowest kind of person you’d ever want to meet, but his nickname after that was ‘Dangerous Dan, the Left Hand Man.’"
B. Brian Blair: "It was the worst mistake Adrian ever made. It sounded like a shotgun hitting a watermelon!"
Because of the attack, some say Adrian Adonis was never the same in the ring again.
Below, we present six varying accounts of what happened that fateful evening.
Witness 1: "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr.
In his distinctive gravelly voice, Bob Orton Jr. reminisced about the ruinous night Adrian Adonis picked a fight with the wrong person: Dan Spivey. It was a decision that witnesses assure almost cost Adonis his life and possible future opportunities within the then-WWF.
During a 2018 interview with Hannibal TV, Orton’s voice seemed tinged with melancholy while retelling the gruesome incident he believes should have never happened.
"It was actually a misunderstanding in the ring," Orton admits. "Adrian said something to the referee, and Dan thought he was talking to him. So Dan popped him.
"The problem was when we were in the back, Adrian said, ‘I’m going to go [find and fight Spivey].’
"I said, ‘Why? Don’t.’
"And he said, ‘C’mon!’
"I said, ‘Adrian, I don’t want any part of this because I like both of you guys. What happened out there? You just need to talk to Dany.’
"But no, he’s going to go find Dany. Dany’s one tough son of a b****!" Orton admits with a laugh and a smile. "He’s one of them ole Tampa boys!
"Adrian went back there… and I ended up taking him to the hospital."
Orton continued, "I believe Dany was wrong in the ring, but what happened in the back, Dany had to protect himself. So, you know?" Orton raises both hands in a resigned gesture. "S*** happens, but none of it was necessary. 99 out of 100 times when stuff like that happens, it wasn’t necessary."
When asked if this was the catalyst behind Adrian Adonis and Dan Spivey not lasting much longer within the WWE, Orton responded that he was unsure. Though he did add, "I don’t know the way [Vince] McMahon thinks, but I do know that he doesn’t need s*** like that happening."
Witness 2: "Killer Bee" B. Brian Blair
Former tag team specialist and current president and CEO of the Cauliflower Alley Club "Killer Bee" B Brian Blair had the following to say in an interview with Hannibal TV about the Adrian Adonis and Dan Spivey incident.
"I was in the back, talking to a bunch of the guys, and Spivey and Adonis were working. Now, I know they had friction in the past and I wanted to get out and watch their match.
"Jimmy [Hart] was already out there. So, I don’t know, I was talking with some of the guys, maybe Tito Santana was there, this is in Flint, Michigan by the way. And all the sudden Brunzi [‘Jumpin’ Jim Brunzel] comes in and says, ‘They’re shootin’! They’re shootin’!’
"I said, ‘What?!’ So, as I go run out to see this shoot [fight], in comes Spivey and I asked him, ‘What’s wrong?’ and he’s going, ‘That motherf***er, God dang that son of a b****!’ He was cussing like crazy."
"He said, ‘Adrian tried to put me out with a sleeper!’
"Brunzi concurred with Spivey and added, ‘Yeah, I saw him, it looked stiff!’
"An agitated Spivey then retorted, ‘Stiff? He totally tried to put me out, if I wouldn’t have gotten to the ropes there, I would’ve been laying in the ring sound asleep!’
"So he shot with the sleeper on him, and Spivey was able to get out of it," clarifies Blair.
"Adrian was a state champion wrestler, and some people were afraid of him because he was crazy, a little lunatic," added Blair.
According to Brian, poor hygiene, such as having dirt under his fingernails, also bothered some of Adonis’s fellow workers.
"Anyway, in comes Spivey going, ‘Hey! What the [bleep]! Dany is standing up now, he’s got his yellow tights on, but before, he was sitting down for a second cussing. ‘God dang, [shaking his head] I can’t believe he did that!’"
"And in walks Adrian. That was the worst mistake he ever made.
"[Adonis is] going like this [motioning and pointing] at Spivey and all the sudden he goes to leg dive him. As he goes to leg dive him, Dany left hooks him.
"If you ask Jimmy [Hart], anybody there, it sounded like a shotgun hit a watermelon! When [Spivey] hit Adrian’s face, his whole cheekbone was sticking out. The whole meat from his face had popped up."
Blair continued, "Then Adrian goes down and Spivey’s cussing at him. Adrian gets back up and he goes to swing at him, and Spivey nailed him about three, four more times and ‘boom!’ that was it. Adrian never got a punch in and he was down. His face looked like a, just a broken-up piece of watermelon [shaking his head in disgust]. It was horri… It was gross. Very gross."
Witness 3: "Jumpin" Jim Brunzell
"Jumpin" Jim Brunzel, the former partner of B Brian Blair in The Killer Bees, praises Adrian Adonis for being "incredible and having great timing in the ring," and recalled in an interview with Monte and the Pharaoh what happened between Adrian and Dan Spivey.
"We were in Flint, Michigan. Bob Orton, Brian, and I were watching the match between Dany Spivey who’d just come in, big, tall, babyface, much in the same vein as Hulk [Hogan]. He was working with Adrian, and Adrian got stiff with him a couple of times in the ring.
"Dany, he’s a tough son of a gun, boy… and he’d told Adrian, ‘Don’t screw with me, or I’m gonna let you have it.’"
"Well, in Flint, Michigan, Adrian threw the sleeper on him and really had it snug, I mean SNUG."
Following the sleeper hold, Brunzel explains, "Dany elbowed him, and when he elbowed him, he hit him with a left in the jaw and kicked him in the mouth. He split his upper lip completely in half, and Adrian was out. Dany Spivey was going to tear his eyes out!"
Describing what happened after the match, Brunzel claims, "Dany comes into the babyface locker room. JYD’s there and Pat Patterson was the agent, and he was scared to death, worried about what had happened.
"Dany was pacing saying, ‘I’m gonna kill that motherf***er, that son of a b****!’ and all of a sudden Adrian comes through the door.
"Adrian starts talking to him and then tries to shoot leg dive him. Dany Spivey then hit him with an uppercut and lifted him off the floor to the point of… he looked like a big…" Brunzel pauses. "…turtle up in the air. When [Adonis] came down, and he turned around, Dany had split his cheek where the bone was coming right through, and I thought, ‘He’s gonna kill him,’ and that was it."
Dan Spivey then got a "stumbling and bumbling" Adrian at least one more time, but Brunzel contends that Adrian was never the same in the ring after that unfortunate incident. He also claims that Adrian became "chemically addicted, and it changed his whole personality," possibly explaining some of his reported erratic behavior that rubbed some the wrong way.
Witness 4: Hillbilly Jim
Hillbilly Jim, who, after wrestling for the then-WWF became a longtime employee behind the scenes for the company, vividly recalls the incident and paints a graphic picture of what he remembers.
"Apparently Adrian, I never had no problem with him, but a lot of people didn’t like him. If he wanted to, well, he could wrestle, so he could chew you up and do some stuff."
Hillbilly Jim sighs.
"He was okay with me, and I was alright with him, but, APPARENTLY, he got in that ring with Dany, and he started doing ‘cute stuff’ to Dany Spivey, trying to stretch him. Then he was doing a couple of things Dany told him to stop doing, and Spivey just knocked him completely out and left him in the ring."
Hillbilly Jim continues, "The referee didn’t know what to do. People were like, ‘What?’ Now Spivey was furious.
"You could hear him going back to the dressing room screaming to Pat [Patterson], ‘You keep that so-and-so. I mean it, Pat! If he comes back here, that son of a…’ he was furious."
According to Hillbilly Jim, a dazed Adrian got to the back and was blurting out, "What happened?" Adrian had been knocked out.
"Then he goes and tries to leg dive Dany Spivey!" continues Hillbilly Jim. "Well, Dany Spivey is left-handed. Brother, he came back with a ‘smokehouse punch from Mississippi,’ and every one of those punches he was throwing were landing!"
Hillbilly Jim pauses with his mouth agape.
"Every time, it was like a melon… and every time he’d hit him, it would rip something. He knocked him down and blood flowing.
"[Adonis] got back up, tried to go again, and Spivey [landed] another one [Hillbilly Jim motions as if doing an uppercut] and ‘rip, rip, rip, boop!’ just like blood flyin’ everywhere.
"Pat’s going, ‘Oh my God, just stop them!’ and Junkyard Dog…" Hillbilly Jim pauses to laugh. "God rest his soul, Adrian owed [JYD] some money over something, and he hadn’t paid him or whatever it was, and they were mad at each other, some kind of deal that they had. And Pat was saying, ‘Break it up!’ and Junkyard Dog said, ‘No, no, no. Let them fight!’
"Spivey just about, I mean he was like crazy. That was like, ‘Wow, man!’ some severe stuff. [Adrian] was just a bloody pulp, I mean," Hillbilly Jim brings his voice down to whisper, "he beat the hell out of him."
"I understand the situation," Hillbilly Jim concludes, "but then again, I don’t know if two or three wrongs make a right. It’s just not something I’d want to do. I ain’t out there for stuff like that, man. I just want to go out there and do my thing, and stuff like that is ugly for the fans, and hurts your town ‘cause it’s not pretty."
Witness 5: The Honky Tonk Man
The Honky Tonk Man, known for his Elvis impersonations and holding the WWF Intercontinental Championship for a record 64 weeks before dropping it to the Ultimate Warrior, also recalls the seriousness of the attack that came upon Adrian Adonis.
"I understand that Dany Spivey had already told Adrian, ‘Look, don’t go out there and do this to me anymore,’ because Adrian was riding him pretty hard, taking liberties with him, kicking him, hitting him hard. He told him once more, ‘I’m telling you man, if you do this again, I’m gonna have to straighten you out.’
"So when they got back to the locker room, Dany said, ‘Man, why are you doing this to me?’
"I guess words went one way or another and next thing you know they’re going at it.
"Dany Spivey was not a guy to mess with," admits the Honky Tonk Man. "He was a legitimate tough guy in Tampa. He bounced in the bars, and did a little strong-arming stuff, debt collecting, and all kinds of things."
He concludes, "[Spivey] was the nicest, quietest, mellowest kind of person you’d ever want to meet, but his nickname after that was ‘Dangerous Dan, the Left-Hand Man,’ because he was left-handed, and he beat up Adrian really bad. Adrian had to take about a week off."
Dan Spivey Gives His Take on His Locker Room Scuffle with Adrian Adonis
Adrian Adonis is no longer around to tell his side of the story, but Dan Spivey is and was very candid when discussing his fight with Adrian Adonis.
"Adrian was given this new gimmick, a gay wrestler or whatever. They were giving him a big push, getting ready for him to go with Hogan. They were feeding Adrian underneath guys to work with such as Lanny Poffo, Scott McGhee, sort of like squash matches, and he was real stiff with the guys.
"[Adonis was] really treating them bad as far as kicking ‘em and cussing them in the ring, just being a total a**hole.
"I had a match with him [the night before the fight], and he did the same s*** with me. It was in Toronto, the [Maple Leaf] Gardens."
In another interview, Spivey claims he had a scuffle at a smaller place outside Toronto where they had the TV tapings.
This isn’t the TV taping, but one of the matches that angered Dan Spivey:
"The next night we’re in Flint, Michigan. [It was the] first time we’ve been in Flint, Michigan. Adrian was supposed to work with George Steele. Well, George Steele became sick, so Pat Patterson went to Adrian and he came to me and said, ‘You got to work with Adrian,’ and I told him, ‘Pat, I don’t want to work with Adrian.’
"So he comes back a little later and says, ‘Well, Adrian doesn’t want to work with you, but Vince says you are working together.’
"I was real leery about the situation, so I was prepared. You know, I wasn’t going to take any crap from him.
"Sure enough, he came to the ring, and he started his bulls***, real stiff with me, cussing me. He went to put the sleeper on me, I knew he was going to try and choke me out. I got out of it and I came up, and I just started beating the s*** out of him and knocked him out in the ring and covered him."
Spivey continued, "The referee said, ‘That’s not the finish,’ and I answered, ‘I changed the finish. Adrian isn’t going over so disqualify me.’ So, he disqualified me.
"Then we got back to the dressing room, and Adrian comes in, goes to leg dive me while everybody’s holding me back from him and I broke loose.
"Adrian wasn’t very talented when it came to boxing or anything, and he had no idea what my background was. He wound up getting hurt with over 200 stitches in his face."
Adrian Adonis vs. Dan Spivey – The Aftermath
There were reprimands after the fight. Dan Spivey recalls that the following day, he had to call Vince McMahon who told him, "I can’t have you beating up my talent."
Spivey retorted, "Vince, he wasn’t very talented."
To this, McMahon answered back, "Don’t be a smart-a**. Don’t be beating up my talent."
Spivey claims that he and Randy Savage became friends afterward because "Randy hated Adrian."
When the fight got broken up, Randy took Spivey to his private dressing room, got ice, and put it on both his swollen hands.
In another interview with Title Match Network, Spivey recalls Adrian being able to work but considered him a slob.
Before the match, he remembers Adrian had blown his nose (as is customary for many before going into the ring), but he had "snot all over his arm which just grossed me out," says Spivey, who began yelling at Adrian’s manager Jimmy Hart to "get that crap off his arm."
"Jimmy finally heard me, but that just pissed me off," remembers Spivey. "Adrian started hitting me non-working style."
After the whole incident, Spivey claims that Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy obtained Adrian’s spot against Hogan and says Studd and Bundy later thanked him.
"Adrian was a goof and a bully," assures Spivey. "Everybody was scared of him, even big top guys, I’m not going to mention names, but they were scared of him. I mean, he wasn’t that good or that tough. He was all talk and took advantage of people. He was a bully. His face was all mangled.
"I had people after that in Detroit, trying to catch another flight saying, ‘Man, that really looked real with you and Adrian!’ It was real brother, it was real,” answered Spivey.
Adrian Adonis, whose real name was Keith Franke, was sadly killed in a freak automobile accident on the 4th of July, 1988, in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Canada. He was on his way to a wrestling event in a minivan with fellow wrestlers William "Mike Kelly" Arko, Victor "Pat Kelly" Arko, and “The Bearman” Dave McKigney.
Dave McKigney, and Victor Arko were killed instantly when the driver, William Arko, allegedly swerved to miss a moose that he failed to see in the glare of the afternoon sun. Adonis died from the head injuries he sustained from the fall a few hours later. He was only thirty-four years old. At the time of death, he left behind a wife and two daughters. William Arko was the sole survivor of the aforementioned accident.
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