Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Remembering Adrian Adonis 30 years later

A tale of two Adrians...
Courtesy: WWE

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Usually, on July 4, I share a holiday related blog here. However, today, I'm remembering a somber anniversary. It was July 4, 1988, that WWE Legend Adrian Adonis died in a car accident. It happened in Newfoundland. The minivan Adonis was riding in swerved to avoid a moose on a bridge. The van plunged into the creek below and Adonis along with Victor "Pat Kelly" Arko, and Dave "Wildman" McKigney died from their injuries.

Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis
Courtesy: WWE
Adonis was only 34 years old at the time of his death, but he had already had a rich career, competing around the world including a run as WWF tag team champion with Dick Murdoch and AWA tag team champion with Jesse "The Body" Ventura. The WWF tag team title win is one of my first memories in wrestling. I was stunned when the two beat Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson for the belts. Clearly, the babyfaces in the match were in much better shape and wrestling was 'still real to me' at that time.

Those runs were long before Adrian's 'adorable' gimmick took over his career and is probably how fans best remember him. However, there was much more to Adonis than the flamboyant character who was instrumental in the babyface turn of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. 

I saw Adonis and Murdoch defend the tag team titles against Jack and Jerry Briscoe at the first WWF Live Show I attended. Later, I attended a show that saw Adonis battle Junkyard Dog in the Sam Muchnick Tournament. Dog won that encounter. 

Courtesy: WWE
I liked the adorable gimmick. It was a complete 180 of Adonis' biker look. This was the 80s and being gay wasn't socially acceptable, which explains why Adnois was the bad guy in this scenario. The gimmick saw the traditionally black ring gear, Adonis wore traded for bright pink tights, bleach blond hair, ribbons and sometimes a sundress. I found it ironic when Adonis "came out" originally it was on Piper's Pit. Hot Rod supported the announcement, as Roddy was still a bad guy. A year later, Piper was poking fun at Adonis and destroying the set of the Flower Shop.

He was a Paul Heyman guy before it was cool
Courtesy: WWE
I enjoyed that storyline very much but some 32 years later it doesn't age well. Adonis and Piper feuded through WrestleMania III where Piper retired and Adonis lost his hair. However, he didn't stick around long in the WWF after this match and ended up in the AWA again. He remained adorable there and became a Paul Heyman guy in the early days of Heyman's managerial career (he was Paul E. Dangerously back then).

WrestleMania III
Courtesy: WWE
Adonis leaves behind a legacy of being a great tag team wrestler. He also moved around the ring well for a big man as he gained a lot of weight later in his career. I always thought he was good on the mic and could generate heel heat. I'm still surprised Adonis hasn't been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. It's an honor he certainly deserves after being a big part of the early expansion of WWE.

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