“Shaka, Brah!” – The Tragic Tale of ‘Crush’ Brian Adams
Hailing from Kona, Hawaii, “Crush” Brian Adams was a dominant force who underwent many striking transformations over his 17-year career.
After retiring from the ring, he worked as a bodyguard for “Macho Man” Randy Savage and was excited about opening a fitness spa alongside Marc Mero in Florida. Instead, sadly, tragedy struck.
Life and Death of Wrestler Brian Adams
We always hear about the legends of this business. There are countless stories about Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Randy, Undertaker, and Andre (among myriad others) who have all made a huge difference to this world of entertainment we all love and appreciate. They’ve got statues hailing their importance and are rightfully revered.
What about the guys who weren’t as important to the narrative? And what about the guys with prolific careers who maybe were in the wrong place at the wrong time, not as popular as they should’ve been, or quite frankly weren’t as charismatic but were a key component to the business nonetheless?
That’s what we hope to do here today, shed light on someone you might remember but only vaguely because they were once in the background when something important happened.
There was nobody more secretly prolific than the wrestler Brian Adams, better known as Crush.
Crush in Demolition
Before signing to the WWF, wrestler Brian Adams had a 4-year year run that saw him working for a small American company and Japan, actually making his debut in New Japan but not doing much of note aside from being trained by Antonio Inoki. His first run in New Japan ended because of a problem with his work visa.
His short run in Pacific Northwest Wrestling after was slightly more interesting, emphasis on slightly. He was a part of the (non-Minnesota) Wrecking Crew and had a feud with a team known as the Southern Rockers.
With original gimmicks such as that, it’s a wonder why wrestling was on the downturn in the late-80’s. However, he would find singles success, winning the PNW Heavyweight Championship and eventually dropped it to future IWGP World Champion Scott Norton.
After dropping the belt, he was immediately signed to WWF, where his legacy would truly begin, all thanks to a shellfish allergy.
Axe Em! Smash Em! Crush Em!
In 1990, Crush joined as the third member of Demolition. He was brought in as a substitute for Ax to defend the titles with Smash while Ax battled through some health issues.
Before joining, Demolition was the most successful tag team in WWF, having had one continuous reign with the belts for 478 days. They were the top tag team in the height of the Hulkamania era, though by the time Crush entered their story, those glory days were behind them.
The WWF had signed the Road Warriors, and with the lack of face/face feuds in the era at the time, the company didn’t feel the need to focus on the rip-off team any longer.
Without any real reason, Demolition found themselves heel once again to eventually put over the Road Warriors in an 80’s dream match, but problems were already surfacing. Most notably, Ax was having medical issues causing him to have trouble with the WWF’s grueling road schedule, and these issues were brought front and center when his allergy to shellfish hospitalized him.
With Ax’s future uncertain and Demolition holding the Tag Team belts, they quickly needed a replacement. Luckily, there was a big guy they just signed standing around backstage who vaguely looked liked like the other two members, and thus Demolition Crush was born.
Just like that, Demolition was now a three-person group to let Ax be used more in a managerial role in a bid to help the beloved ’80s tag team get more heat in the ’90s.
A key thing to note, though, is, as stated earlier, Demolition were the Tag Team Champions when all of this was going down, so not only did Crush stumble his way into one of the most popular tag teams of all time, he’s potentially the only person in WWE history to walk in and be given a title belt on his first day without even having one single match.
This run would last about a year, though sadly, we would never get a notable Demolition/Road Warriors feud. While the match did take place, the trio certainly was a diluted version of the classic version of the team.
Rather than drop the belts to The Road Warriors, Demolition dropped the belts to the Hart Foundation at SummerSlam 1990. Dropping the belts would, for the most part, beginning of the end for the team.
Immediately following that match, Ax left the company making the team a duo again, but it would also see them become mostly enhancement talent. Although at one point, picking up Mr. Fuji as their manager again, it was all too little too late as Demolition was simple a group out of time by this point.
The team would be split, and Crush would be released from the company shortly after, though this would certainly not be his last encounter with either Mr. Fuji or Smash.
Tropic Storm: A Hero Named Kona Crush Emerges
Crush’s minor absence from the WWF would be of little note. He would return to PNW using the Crush gimmick and once again have a fair amount of success in the small company.
While he was away from the company, the WWF would see a radical shift in its employees, perception, and attitude. The good times of the ’80s were firmly over, and Hogan was all but gone from the company.
Vince insisted that Randy Savage shift away from the ring to a commentator role with the sex and steroid scandals soon to get into full swing. Many were seeing the writing on the walls and jumping ship to WCW. This left the company in dire need of good-guy characters, someone to be a hero to the children, and that hero was destined to be Kona Crush.
The Embodiment of WWE’s New Generation Era
The Kona Crush character was, for all intents and purposes, the living embodiment of the New Generation Era of the WWF. His entire gimmick was being friendly, and from Hawaii, his tights were a neon disaster zone, and his epic blonde mullet was a whole decade and a half behind on the times.
Vince was giving him a pretty big face push entirely because he was huge, and there was next to no one left on his depleted roster.
His return feud would see him face off against his former tag team partner Smash; only Smash had been through quite a change. Dropping an amazing amount of weight and completely changing his look, Smash would adopt the gimmick of the Repo Man.
Repo Man was one of the first of many “side job” gimmicks that would dominate this time period. Hog farmers, plumbers, race car drivers, you name it- there was likely a cheesy non-sensical gimmick based around it.
Repo Man’s gimmick was that he was an evil repo man, clearly. Though his vignettes just saw him taking things from people who didn’t make their payments, apparently WWF was insinuating that all repo men are inherently evil, which makes sense considering Vince McMahon’s supposed history of attempted tax evasion and run-ins with the law! But that’s a story from another time. Still, Repo once stole Macho Man’s hat, which puts him at the same level as war criminals in my book.
Rivalry with Doink the Clown
Demolition would explode in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium for the 1992 edition of SummerSlam to little fanfare in a match that would see Crush make short work of his former partner. The feud clearly was meant to get Crush over as a dominant face. His push would continue as Kona Crush would move on to face his greatest rival, Doink the Clown.
As with the other odd job gimmicks, Doink was, as his name implied, an evil clown. Though the gimmick was destined to fail, it was actually far better than it had any right to be.
The man behind the makeup was Matt Borne, who was actually a rather good in-ring worker who just needed a gimmick to show off his abilities. He also had one of the best theme songs in the business.
So here you had a happy-go-lucky Hawaiian and an evil clown. Clearly, these two forces could not exist at the same time and were destined for battle.
In the ensuing weeks, Doink would play mean-spirited tricks towards members of the roster, which Crush could deal with, but then Doink made a horrible decision to play gags on children after one of Crush’s matches, which would see a confrontation that would kick off the feud.
The storyline was built entirely around Doink’s pranks and Crush’s amazing promos. How can we forget the promo where Crush talks about how his grandpa was a clown and was a pleasant person and would never make kids cry or this bizarre promo where he goes spearfishing and then tells how he’s going to crush Doink like octopuses while he actually crushes octopuses?
They’re both incredibly odd and entertaining, but needless to say, the blood feud between these two titans was set for WrestleMania 9.
WrestleMania 9: A Battle of Gladiators
WrestleMania 9 was a weird event. It’s in such its own bubble in wrestling that it’s tough to compare it to anything else.
Hogan is gone, but not quite yet, Bret is on top but not really, Lex is there, but the Lex Express is still in the shop, guys like Mr. Perfect are still bouncing around the mid-card while new faces like Tatanka were showing up. Hulkamania is clearly dead, but we’re not quite fully in the New Generation either.
Even the presentation of the show was something bizarre compared to any WrestleMania in that it was outdoors. Not like an outdoor stadium. No sir. We’re talking outside as it took place in a parking lot outside of Ceaser’s Palace in Las Vegas.
WrestleMania 9 supposedly played out in front of 16,000 people (though it looks to be much less), all while taking place in a makeshift, custom, Roman-themed arena, just causing it to be, if nothing else, easily memorable.
Reflecting on WrestleMania 9
The show is known for a few things; most revolve around it being hailed by fans as mostly terrible. If we were to equate this show to another, the closest would have to be WCW’s Halloween Havoc 95′ in that it’s terrible in a weird, almost charming way that you almost have to watch it the whole way through. Doink versus Crush captures the essence of this show in its entirety.
No picture sums up this early version of the New Generation. This event itself, more so than Doink the Clown defeating Crush by distracting him with another identical Doink who appeared from underneath the ring.
The whole show has the weird characters, the bright colors, and the complete cartoon-like atmosphere that the early to mid 90’s WWF would be known for. For better or worse, this match would tell you everything you need to know about the future of wrestling for the next few years.
For Crush himself, losing this match was the end of his big singles push.
There were a few reasons for it. The character wasn’t connecting, and Crush himself just wasn’t very charismatic or good in the ring, and with the arrival of Lex Luger, the wrestler Brian Adams became old news.
In Demolition, he was a discount member. Now history was repeating as he was essentially a discount Lex without the ridiculous bodybuilder physique or the world champion resume to back him up. So for Crush, things were about to change once again.
Trouble in Paradise for Brian Adams
I don’t know if there’s a single moment that summarizes Crush’s fall from grace more than the Yokozuna Bodyslam Challenge.
Crush was built as the one guy who might be able to get the job done, but on the day, he fails miserably, hurting his back in the process. Then, when all hope was lost, all of a sudden, Lex Luger descends from the heavens in a helicopter, suddenly being incredibly patriotic, and slams Yokozuna like it was nothing.
Needless to say, Crush’s face push was dead in the water, which is fitting, considering this took place on the water.
Shortly after this, Yokozuna would attack and injure Crush to send a message to Lex, so Crush wasn’t really involved in his own injury angle. This would write him off TV for a few months allowing him to return fresh under a new gimmick as Japanese Sympathizer Crush.
The new gimmick was like it sounds. Yokozuna beat up Crush so much that he decided if you can’t beat them, join them. Only in wrestling can a white guy, native to Hawaii, defect from the US to support a Samoan, native to California, just because they both love Japan.
The highlight of this heel turn for Crush was joining Mr. Fuji’s (and Jim Cornette, for some reason) Stable of Japanese Evils and being part of one of the most bizarre matches of all time when Undertaker took on Yokozuna in a casket match. Come to think of it, Crush is in a lot of bizarre matches and situations during this time.
The casket match involved Undertaker making a “double-wide, double deep” casket just for Yokozuna to have to use the entire heel roster to take Undertaker out. It involves green smoke coming from the urn, Undertaker being implied dead, and Marty Jannetty rising out of the titantron dressed like Undertaker and flying around the arena. It’s something any wrestler should be proud to be a part of!
Okay, maybe we were wrong. This wasn’t the heel turn highlight for Crush. No, the highlight was that Crush was the last WrestleMania opponent of Macho Man Randy Savage. Not Steamboat, not Hogan, not Warrior… Japanese Sympathizer Crush is Macho Man’s last ‘Mania opponent. It’s weird to say and fitting with Crush’s career up to this point.
First-Ever “Falls Count Anywhere” Match in WWE History with Macho Man Randy Savage
The match was the first-ever falls count anywhere match in WWF history, yet another big moment for wrestler Brian Adams to be a part of. The match had this odd stipulation where you had to get pinfall outside of the ring, then run back to the ring, and your opponent had a minute to try to get back in himself. So it was really a “falls count everywhere but the ring” match.
The stipulation was so strange that the end of the match saw Macho Man hog-tie Crush upside down on randomly found scaffolding before sprinting back to the ring. The best part of it was Macho had a lot of trouble actually tying him up, so you see him fall to the ground as Randy runs away.
This match would mark the near end of Randy Savage’s WWF career and the end of this stage of Crush’s run. Shortly later, Randy would quit WWF wanting to wrestle instead of commentating, leaving without warning and taking his Slim Jim money with him to WCW, which would apparently see the bridge between him and his friend Vince burned forever.
The Crush gimmick would also be over shortly. Real-life events were about to transpire that would take him out of action, and by the time he would return once again, Crush would find himself in a whole new era and see the rise of a nation.
Trouble With the Law Outside of the Ring
Crush was off television for a good chunk of 1995. This gave him plenty of time to get up to trouble. Back in Hawaii, instead of crushing octopuses, he would get caught with both steroids and an illegal firearm, causing him to spend some time in jail.
In most professions, this would be the end of your career. In wrestling in modern times, this would be the end of his career, but when he got out of jail, it was 1996, so the then-WWF saw this as a reason for a new gimmick, and thus Jailbird Crush rose from the ashes.
When Crush would return to TV, he would look almost unrecognizable. His mullet was now completely gone in exchange for dreads, his neon tights were exchanged for clothes that would look comfortable outside of a biker bar, his face paint was now awkwardly called a “tattoo” by Vince on commentary even though it would rub off every match, and he seemingly had a nose ring that connected to his earring.
Crush’s gimmick change pretty much summarized the rising tide that was the Attitude Era about to come.
Clarence Mason quickly joined jailbird Crush in a move that would really push this as one of the first true Attitude Era angles. It was dark, played on a real-life situation, and teased a bit of morality, with Mason making sure to mention that the reason for Crush’s heelish behavior was from the discrimination he faced as an ex-con.
Crush in the Nation of Domination
With Mason joining forces with Crush and also associating with Gladiator Faarooq, it was clear something was stirring. With Mason using the discrimination angle with Crush, you could almost argue that was the start of the Nation of Domination, which officially formed when Faarooq felt that he had been discriminated as a black man in wrestling for too long.
This incarnation of the Nation would find itself in a long-term feud with Ahmed Johnson, who would take up nearly a year of TV time and peak with the insanity that is the Chicago Streetfight at WrestleMania 13 when Ahmed teamed up with Legion of Doom, who once again saw themselves fighting Crush nearly seven years later.
The match is shockingly fun, with both teams having incredibly underrated and forgotten entrances that included the Road Warriors bringing an actual kitchen sink to the match.
The feud with Ahmed would continue for a few months after this, but this match would remain the top moment of the original Nation’s run, with this loss being the driving force in the decision to change the group’s lineup.
The original run of the Nation was, for the most part, a success. If gave guys like Crush and Savio Vega, who had nothing going on storyline-wise at the time, something to do with their characters and work to get the new Faarooq character and Ahmed Johnson over with audiences. The WWF saw this success and wanted to capitalize, and boy oh boy did they.
They decided that if one controversial, racially motivated group was getting them a good reaction, the best move was to have 3! Maybe even 4!
The original Nation pushed buttons. They were controversial, but they had a sense of cleverness to it. Faarooq believes he was discriminated against because he was black, Savio Vega, because he was Hispanic, Crush, because of his criminal record.
These were a variety of people coming together to fight what they perceived as “the man” trying to hold them down in WWF. Sure, it was on the nose with its resemblance to black militant groups and, most specifically, the Nation of Islam. Still, it always had that fallback of it being just a racially motivated gimmick meant to cause controversy.
Any sense of cleverness was thrown out the window though once Faarooq, who was frustrated that his Nation couldn’t get the job done against Ahmed, decided that he wanted a “bigger, badder, blacker” Nation kicking everyone out except for D’Lo essentially.
This would cause both Crush and Savio to go off and form full-on race gangs of their own. Savio’s gang would be Los Boricuas, who looked like they were gonna tap dance all over your ass, while Crush would form the Disciples of Apocalypse, better known as DOA. These three groups found themselves feuding in “gang warfare,” as the announce team liked to call it, for a whole summer.
Neither one was really able to truly get over. The Nation itself was better off with the Godfather and the Rock getting added to the mix, but neither guy really found their character yet, and they were bogged down having to work with the inferior teams.
The one thing the DOA had going for themselves was they rode motorcycles to the ring years before the Undertaker ever did, which allowed them to get cheap pops just because riding motorcycles to the ring will always be cool.
Gang Warz in WWE
No group in the three-way feud could get over as no group was the designated heel, no group was the designated face. Needless to say, it was a trainwreck, and the WWF soon scrapped the idea, and that was the end of the Gang Warz saga.
Before scrapping it all, they actually doubled down and added the Truth Commission to the mix.
For those who don’t remember, this was a white supremacist group based around African Apartheid. So next time someone tells you they think the Nation of Domination was racially insensitive, wait till you tell them about those guys. Eventually, though, the WWF decided that this angle wasn’t working and scrapped it once and for all.
It was good news for the Nation was they went on to have a very acclaimed feud with the increasingly popular D-Generation X, but for many, such as Crush, they would see themselves out of a job.
Birth of a Demon in WCW
The end of wrestler Brian Adams’ WWE career finally saw an end to the Crush gimmick name. It took nearly ten years, six gimmick changes, two firings, and one jail stint, but 1998 would finally mark the end of the Crush character, though the shockingly secretly relevant story of wrestler Brian Adams’s career was not.
He would find himself in WCW as many who left the WWF at that time did, though Adams left in protest after what happened to Bret at 1997’s Survivor Series.
After arriving in WCW, he would become a member of the nWo. Both another feather in wrestler Brian Adams’ oddly storied career and a sign that WCW probably, by 1998, WCW was letting the nWo gimmick run past its due date.
While in the nWo, he would mainly find himself working as enhancement talent and only ever getting wins over guys slightly lower on the totem pole than himself. He regularly tagged with Scott Norton, the guy who beat him for the PNW Heavyweight Title a decade earlier.
He would stick with that role for a year or so until WCW started to go off the rails. Eric Bischoff wanted to get the rock band Kiss to do a live performance on Nitro.
Somehow in the talks with the band, they come up with the idea that they would use the performance to launch a new character known as, well, the Kiss Demon. The plan was to have this be the start of a push for a stable known as the Warriors of Kiss and have each member of the band have its own wrestler equivalent.
They were so confident in the idea that at one point, the Demon, leading the stable, was supposed to main-event a special New Year’s Eve PPV, but they later decided that was much too crazy and scrapped the idea.
The Demon made his debut at the end of Nitro (as seen above) with an elaborate entrance that included a drum set rising into the air, fireworks, elaborate lighting, and a custom-made sarcophagus that the Kiss Demon emerged from, dramatically revealing himself as a new force in the wrestling world to be reckoned with.
That Demon was Brian Adams, and that segment was one of the lowest drawing Nitro endings of all time up to that point.
Once again, Brian Adams found a way to get himself involved in one of the weirdest parts of wrestling history, but this time he saw the writing on the wall and gave up the gimmick before ever having a match. The gimmick would remain, though, getting passed onto wrestler Dale Torborg with no explanation given.
KroniK: Brian Adams and Bryan Clark Join Forces
After dodging the Demon gimmick, wrestler Brian Adams would continue to float around WCW as more and more of its talent left to pursue greener pastures and ratings start to fall rapidly.
By 2000, WCW started to push fresh, young talent, and on the list of fresh young talent chosen to be pushed was a plucky up and comer who used to go by the game of Crush. Sure he was a veteran since the Hulkamania era and pushing 40, but this was WCW where pudgy Shane Douglas was considered part of the New Blood.
Adams was partnered with Bryan Clark, formerly known as Adam Bomb, and they formed the tag team KroniK.
The team itself was pushed as a monster force in the empty WCW Tag Division, winning the WCW Tag Belts twice. In fact, these would be the first titles won by Adams on television that actually involved a match.
Of course, the tag team also won the Observer’s award for the worst tag team two years in a row. So, needless to say, critics were “divided,” even as they won gold.
KroniK in WCW
When WWF purchased WCW, they would still hold the tag belts meaning the WWF had to bring them in as part of the doomed-to-failure invasion angle. It was fitting, though, as the Invasion went down as being a really odd, bizarre series of events, and Adams had a knack for landing himself in the middle of these.
This time the weirdness came from when KroniK found itself managed by Stevie Richards, of all people, for seemingly no rhyme or reason other than the fact Stevie somehow always ended up leading a stable if you left him alone for too long.
The tag team ended up feuding with Undertaker and Kane, which went exactly as one would expect. Adams was never the best wrestler by anyone’s definition, and Clarke was nothing to write home about either, and on top of that, if Undertaker wasn’t willing to make DDP look good, he sure as hell was going to do KroniK no favors at all in their feud.
Shocking no one, their cage match won the Observer’s award for Worst Worked Match in 2001, and they were quickly released from their contracts.
KroniK in Japan
KroniK would continue wrestling where wrestler Brian Adams started his career in Japan, winning the All Japan Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championships in the process.
The last match of wrestler Brian Adams’ career would be a memorable one, which saw Kronik take on the team of Japanese legend Keiji Mutoh and Bill Goldberg with possibly the most ridiculous entrance of all time.
Seriously, instead of starting in the locker room, he starts walking about three blocks away from the arena, going to the locker room to change mid-entrance. Instead of cops or security escorting him, it was members of the Japanese military.
Sadly, Adams would suffer a spinal injury during this match forcing his retirement as a wrestler, ending his 17-year career. He attempted to get surgery to allow him to compete again but was still unable to get medically cleared even after doing so.
The Death of Wrestler Brian Adams
After the Crush gimmick was gone and Adams’ wrestling career was over, he continued to keep an interesting life. At one point, he was the bodyguard for Macho Man Randy Savage as Randy was touring to promote his new rap album at the time. He was looking to open up a fitness spa alongside Marc Mero in Florida when sadly, tragedy struck.
On August 13th, 2007, four years after his retirement, Adams’ youngest son, who was only seven at the time, found his father not moving in his bed. The seven-year-old called 911, but when medics arrived, they declared him dead at the scene.
It would later be revealed to have been a prescription pill mixture overdose. The coroner found that each pill taken was at therapeutic levels, but the combination caused complications with his respiratory system leading to his passing. Adams was just 43 years old.
When I started writing this article, I wasn’t expecting to walk away from it on such a downer.
I knew Brian Adams passed away young but was unaware of just how tragic his passing was, especially for his younger son. I questioned whether or not a fun little write-up should end on such a somber note, but it felt inauthentic not to include the man’s tragic end after talking about his fun career for so long.
I figure it’s something that needs to be included as a potential warning to anyone who wants to be involved in wrestling or a similar type of business, or to anyone who finds themselves with medical injury or access to prescription medication, however small that warning might be.
I believe it’s also important to take note of how quickly and suddenly someone can leave your life and to enjoy the moments while you can.
With that said, writing this article was incredibly fun, and I honestly didn’t realize how much Brian Adams managed to get himself involved in so many big or famous moments. If there were to be a message to be taken from Adams’s career, it is that even the most seemingly mundane and almost unnoticed figures can have wild stories to tell. May he rest in peace.
Doink The Clown – A Troubled Life For the Man Behind the Paint
Doink the Clown found fame in early 1990s WWE, but there was, unfortunately, trouble along the way for Matt Borne, the man behind the paint.
Rick Rude: A Ravishing Man with a Tragic End
“He refused to budge.”
Rick Rude was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname “Ravishing” — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it.
Greg Valentine’s Defiant Act Behind The WWE Intercontinental Championship Belt
When Greg Valentine and Tito Santana met on July 6, 1985, in a steel cage in Baltimore, Maryland, Santana got the victory to reclaim the title. Valentine responded by retrieving the championship and destroying the belt, beating it repeatedly against the cage and tearing the gold away from the leather.
"I had to give the belt back to Tito after that angle," Valentine said. "And one day, when I saw him a few years ago, I asked whatever became of that belt, because Tito kept it after that angle. What he responded with broke my heart.”
The Kick That Ruined Bret Hart
BRET HART: "One of the last things I said to Goldberg before I walked out to the ring was, ‘Don’t hurt me. I wish he heard me a little better."
GOLDBERG: "This will forever go down in history as the biggest mistake that I have ever made in my entire life."
What was supposed to be a moment for the two former WCW tag team champions to shine turned into a match with dire consequences.
Chief Jay Strongbow and His Notorious Backstage Reputation
‘MACHO MAN’ RANDY SAVAGE: “He killed more young wrestlers’ careers than [substance abuse]!”
THE HONKY TONK MAN: “If he were dying right now, I wouldn’t even [drop a dump] in his mouth."
Chief Jay Strongbow seemed a natural fit for a backstage role in WWE. However, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the faux Native American!
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