Allen Coage was far more than a main-event pro wrestler. An Olympic judo champion, he was bad news for his often overmatched opponents. Nor did he tolerate disrespect inside or outside the ring or dojo. In the squared circle, he was known as Bad News Brown and Bad News Allen. But to his family, he was so much more.
From standing up to Andre the Giant’s intolerance on the road, his response to Roddy Piper’s infamous half-black face promo, to Arsenio Hall going against Vince McMahon, we share the secret history of a much-loved man with the aid of his beloved daughters, Frances and April.
The Gospel According to Bad News Brown
The word "gospel" derives from the Anglo-Saxon term "god-spell," meaning "good news" or "good telling" in Latin and Greek. So, this, my friends, is the good news according to "Bad News" Allen Coage.
Early Years in Judo: Making History at the Olympics
Allen Coage was born October 22nd, 1943, in Harlem, New York. He was raised in St. Albans, Queens, and in 1958, at age 15, Allen saw a sign for Jerome Mackey’s Dojo and began to train in judo under his tutelage.
Upon graduation from Thomas A. Edison High School in 1962, Coage began working in a bakery.
He entered the world of competitive judo at the relatively late age of 22 but quickly made up for lost time as he won the Chicago Invitational Tournament.
Allen later won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Heavyweight Championship in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1975.
His success continued at the Pan American Games, where he captured gold medals in the heavyweight class in 1967 and 1975.
Although Coage could not compete in the 1972 Olympics due to injury, he rebounded in 1976. He captured a Bronze Medal, becoming the first African American to win an Olympic medal in a sport other than boxing or track.
Transitioning to the World of Professional Wrestling
After retiring from competitive judo following his Olympic win, Allen Coage looked for other worlds to conquer. Before setting his sights on the world of professional wrestling, he attempted several occupations, including a stint as Aretha Franklin’s bodyguard.
Allen would soon be trained by Antonio Inoki at the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo and made his debut in professional wrestling in October 1977.
Coage wrestled under his birth name in NJPW before switching to Buffalo Allen.
Allen wrestled for NJPW for the balance of 1977 and the entire year of 1978. After that, he would wrestle intermittently for NJPW for the next 15 years.
Coage made his World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) debut in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on January 2nd, 1979, gaining a victory over Tony Russo.
Wrestling under his given name, he wrestled in the WWWF through May 1979, compiling a fantastic singles record of 63 wins, three losses, and three draws/no-contests. Two of these defeats were via disqualification, surprisingly to the pride of Columbus, Ohio, Frankie Williams.
Allen reeled off many impressive wins over stars such as Dominic DeNucci and future Hall of Famers Johnny Rodz and Baron Mikel Scicluna. Allen’s only ‘clean’ loss occurred to Steve Travis on April 25th, 1979.
Infamous Bad News Brown Confrontation with Andre the Giant
"I was on the bus, and Dusty Rhodes was on there. Hulk Hogan was sitting behind me. I used to sit two seats from the front. [Andre] was in the back; I don’t know if he was talking to Dusty; he started making these racist remarks and started throwing the ‘N-word’ around. I’m like half asleep. I can’t believe what I’m hearing."
Coage detailed the tense confrontation with the massive Andre that followed.
"I said, ‘Watch your mouth. I don’t like what you’re saying. That’s an insult to me.’
"[Andre] didn’t say nothing, and as the bus was going, [Andre] says, ‘Bad News, go f*** yourself.’
"I told the bus driver to pull over. So, we pulled over."
Coage continued to Andre, "‘You go out of this bus, and you tell me that to my face!’"
Andre wouldn’t budge.
" Stan Hansen was there too. [When] we got off the bus to the hotel, Stan knew I was just really [angry].
"[Hansen] said, ‘Allen, he’s [had a lot to drink].’
" I didn’t want to hear that, so I went to my room. I didn’t sleep all night. "
"The next day, I came down early, and we were going to the next town. I was waiting by the elevator.
" As [Andre] got off the elevator, I said, ‘Andre, I want to talk to you.’
" He said, ‘What is it?’
" I said, ‘Let’s step outside.’
" He didn’t want to go.
" I said, ‘No, let’s step outside. If I wanted to do something to you, I would have jumped you when you stepped off the elevator. Let’s go outside right now."
Bad News Brown let Andre the Giant know his thoughts.
" Look, I don’t appreciate the way you were talking on the bus. You never hear me insult your people. If you feel that way, it’s your business. I don’t have to listen to that nonsense. Don’t let me ever hear you say that again.’"
"[Andre eventually] apologized, and for quite a while, there was tension between us. We would never speak; we were on the same tour, but we never spoke. But, before he passed away, we buried the hatchet; we sat down and talked about it."
Wrestling for Stampede Wrestling and Championship Wrestling from Florida as Bad News Allen
Allen Coage wrestled around California for the balance of 1979 and then back to NJPW for the next two and a half years before landing in Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling, owned by legendary promoter Stu Hart.
By now, Allen Coage had become Bad News Allen and made his Stampede debut on July 9th, 1982, defeating Gerry Morrow. Then, on September 3rd, after being in the territory less than two months, Allen defeated a young Bret Hart for the prestigious North American Heavyweight Championship.
He dropped the belt back to Hart on September 17th, 1982, but he would win this coveted championship on four more occasions.
Before Vince McMahon conquered the wrestling world, territory championships were very significant, and the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship was amongst the most prestigious.
Stu Hart would only bestow this belt to someone who not only could handle themselves well in the ring but also had the power to draw fans. Bad News Allen Coage was highly proficient at both.
Moreover, Coage found Calgary to his liking, and for the better part of the next four years, he made the Western Canadian-based Stampede Wrestling promotion his home.
Coage undoubtedly found the warmer climate to his liking.
He started collecting titles by defeating The Falcon (Steve Armstrong) on December 7th, 1986, for the NWA Bahamas Heavyweight Title, Ron Simmons the following month for the coveted NWA Florida Heavyweight Title, and Kevin Sullivan for the NWA Southern Heavyweight Title (Florida version) soon after.
CWF Promoter Eddie Graham saw the same star power in Allen Coage as Stu Hart.
Wrestling as Bad News Brown in the WWF
After an approximate four-month stay in the Sunshine State, it was back to the Orient, followed by a return to Stampede. Coage wrestled for the balance of 1987 and the early part of 1988 for Stu Hart.
On February 14th, 1988, the wrestling world was formally introduced to Bad News Brown as he made his WWF debut in Altoona, Pennsylvania, against Jerry Allen.
Coage initially embarked on programs with his former Calgary foes, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, scoring numerous singles victories over both.
Towards the end of the match, Bad News entered into a heel pact with Hart to eliminate JYD. The Hitman then got hit with a Ghetto Blaster, and was eliminated.
Hart got a modicum of revenge by drop kicking Allen out of the ring and destroying the seven-foot trophy awarded to the winner. This win enhanced Bad News’ spot on the card, and the double cross of Hart was arguably the start of The Hitman’s babyface turn.
Brown entered the main event picture in October 1988, receiving numerous title shots against reigning WWF Champion Randy Savage.
Coage continued to work against Savage in the ensuing months until WrestleMania, additionally wrestling (and in most cases defeating) Ken Patera and Koko B. Ware.
His WrestleMania V moment was quite anti-climactic, as he and Hacksaw Jim Duggan went to a 3:49 no-contest.
After WrestleMania, Bad News worked programs with The Blue Blazer (Owen Hart), Tim Horner, and Hercules.
Although Brown won most of these matches, his spot on the card had moved down a rung or two.
This would change in October, as Bad News worked several matches against then-champion Hulk Hogan. Unlike his program with Savage, which lasted for several months, Coage only worked a handful of matches with Hogan.
Allen started the year 1990 booked strongly, winning most of his singles matches and only losing by disqualification or in tag team action.
He worked a lengthy program with Jim Duggan, his WrestleMania V opponent, heading into WrestleMania VI. There, against Roddy Piper, he wrestled to a 6:48 double count, repeating the previous year’s no-verdict outcome.
Controversy with Roddy Piper
The build-up to the match with Roddy Piper was not without controversy.
Appearing on a WWF broadcast on March 12th, 1990, in an interview with Mean Gene Okerlund, Piper was his usual 10,000 RPM self, as he systematically denigrated Bad News Brown, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Piper showed his profile for most of the interview and turned to face the camera as he concluded his remarks. Shockingly, the left side of his body was painted black.
Said Piper, "I can stand here and be black, I can be white, don’t make no difference to me. I’m still RP, Hot Rod Roddy Piper, you see, it’s what’s inside ya."
Mister Coage was baffled.
"I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen. But, I figured, let him go ahead and do it; one of the brothers in one of these towns will get all of him, and he’ll be sorry."
Brown also spoke about the match’s outcome.
"They wanted [Roddy] to put me over, but he didn’t want to do it. I said, ‘Look, man, I’m not about winning belts, I’m not about winning some phony championship. I’m about making money. You’re gonna pay me; I don’t care what we do. But I ain’t gonna do no job for him if he’s not gonna do one for me.’"
Coage was initially told that the program with Piper would continue around the country after WrestleMania. However, ‘Card Subject To Change Without Notice’ was in full effect. Instead of Piper, Allen was paired off with Jake Roberts.
This was not a problem for Bad News, as Roberts was one of his favorite workers. However, although win-loss records are sketchy at best in regards to professional wrestling, a noticeable shift occurred for Coage.
A Tragic End
Bad News Brown’s singles record for the three months preceding WrestleMania was twenty-six wins and seven losses, with five coming from count out or disqualification. His record was ten wins and fifty-five losses for the subsequent four months (May through August). The New York Yankees had become the St. Louis Browns (pun possibly intended?) in the blink of an eye.
Coage saw the bad news written on the wall and left the WWF at the end of August 1990.
Returning to his second home in the Land of the Rising Sun in October, Allen wrestled sporadically in Japan, Mexico, and Canada, until his retirement in 1999.
"Bad News Brown" Allen Coage passed away on the morning of March 6th, 2007, in Calgary, Alberta, after suffering a heart attack. He was 63 years old.
Professional wrestling has heralded many Olympians who made their way into the squared circle. Mark Henry, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, Dick Hutton, and The Iron Sheik (Hossein Vaziri) were all given world championship runs and enshrined in numerous Halls of Fame. All of these men have a common bond with Mr. Coage, that of being an Olympian.
However, Coage captured an Olympic medal in 1976. One must wonder why he was not given the same accolades as those who accomplished less. Was it because Coage was a no-nonsense, straight-up man who spoke his mind when he saw injustice and would never tolerate disrespect?
One thing that cannot be disputed is that Mr. Allen Coage was a remarkable athlete.
Allen Coage, The Family Man
We all know Bad News was just that in Judo competition and the squared circle. But how was he at home as a father?
Frances Coage, the youngest daughter of the man they called Bad News, was a guest on my Dan and Benny In the Ring podcast. While it is impossible to cover a man’s life story in an hour, especially someone like Allen Coage, Frances spoke about many things, including her dad’s presence in the dating life of his girls.
"My sister was older than me, and she had brought a boy home; he wanted to take her out on a date.
"My dad took him down into the basement with his Samurai sword, I’m talking a real Samurai sword he got from Japan; it was an honor to him for his judo. He was holding the sword in his hand.
"The poor kid was basically shivering and crying and scared. He ran out of that basement, and he didn’t even take my sister on a date that night. He just took off!"
Writers note: Rumor has it that the young man joined the priesthood immediately afterward.
Frances also recounted her father’s final run in the WWF, regarding his program with Jake Roberts, where Coage was asked to play a cowardly, snake-fearing heel – a storyline vehemently opposed by Coage but his family as well.
Around this time, Bad News Brown appeared on the Arsenio Hall late-night talk show. Frances recounts that her father was asked to act frightened over an obviously fake snake.
"Vince wanted Arsenio to throw a fake snake at him and for him to jump over the couch and run off the stage like a fool.
"My mom was there, and she said, ‘Absolutely not.’
"Arsenio also said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to disrespect my brother and throw a fake snake at him. I got him a real one; I don’t care what Vince said!’
I also spoke with April Coage, Bad News’ second oldest daughter, and she was kind enough to inform me of a little-known fact.
Per April, "During the late ’60s, my dad was very socially conscious. He had joined the Nation of Islam and would walk the streets of Harlem with the late great Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, to fight for social justice for black men (and people) in America."
When asked about Allen Coage, the dad, April warmly recounted, "He loved all his children. I’ll be 52 next month, and I can still remember sitting on his lap as a three of four-year-old, and he was bouncing me up and down.
"He would say, ‘Mrs. A, what do you say?’ And I would answer, ‘I love my Dad, and that’s okay.’
"He was very loving with his children, but, like his work ethic, he wanted order. He wanted you to be neat; he was a very neat person, really almost what you would call OCD today. He believed in structure and order. He was very organized, but again, very loving, affectionate, and playful with us as kids.
"Through the years, he and my mom split up, and he traveled a lot, so it was really hard to see him much. But when we did, I was a little girl all over again.
"Even up until the last time I saw him, I was whining about my job, my career, and I said to him, ‘This supervisor, she keeps coming after me.’
"He looked me in my eyes, and this was the last time I saw him, he looked me in my eyes and said, ‘You are a Coage. You don’t kiss anyone’s a**.’
"He said it twice. I felt like that little girl all over again.
"I said, ‘Thank you daddy, you’re right.’
"He would tell us all his stories of his travels," April continued.
"He was funny, a storyteller, definitely harder on the boys than the girls. The girls, we kind of got a pass. He was much harder on the boys; he expected more from his sons than his daughters.
"Ironically, we (the daughters) wound up being stronger and harder workers than the boys. But, he tried during the times that we saw him. He was just a loving father."
The late Tiger Khan, who also campaigned in Calgary, once noted about Coage, "He was a tough guy, but a good person. I loved that man."
Allen Coage was much more than the heel we saw on television. This man had deep roots and convictions, was fiercely proud, and demanded the respect he had well earned. Yet, Coage’s historic Olympic medal win was sadly ignored by the cartoonish, character-driven World Wrestling Federation.
Although Coage made his living in a world where the performers often feigned toughness, he was, in every sense of the word, the real deal.
The Coage family runs a Facebook page in honor of “Bad News Brown” Allen Coage. You can follow the page here. You can also hear the wonderful interview with Allen Coage’s daughter Frances in full below:
Learn more about the life and career of “Bad News Brown” Allen Coage:
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