One of the biggest “what-ifs?” in wrestling is just how good Brian Pillman could have been, had it not been for one fateful car accident.
He was one of the best wrestlers in the world in his day. Whether that be teaming with Steve Austin as “The Hollywood Blondes”, or as a singles star as “Flyin’ Brian”, there was never a dull moment with Brian Pillman.
Just months after tricking Eric Bischoff from releasing him from his WCW contract, an ECW feud with Shane Douglas was thrown into disarray, as the Loose Cannon suffered a terrible car crash.
This car accident ruined Brian Pillman’s career, grounding him from his high-flying wrestling style.
The car crash put an end to his chance to become a main-event star in the WWE, taking away one of the best weapons in his arsenal – his exceptional in-ring ability – and eventually end in his untimely death.
Brian Pillman’s Car Accident
On April 15th, 1996, Brian Pillman was involved in a horrific car accident that put him into a coma.
The American wrestler had recently signed for ECW, and was poised to wrestle in some huge matches.
Despite drawing backstage heat for a racial slur aimed towards New Jack, Paul Heyman still wanted to push Brian Pillman in a main-event feud with Shane Douglas.
Just weeks before, he had tricked Eric Bischoff into releasing him from his WCW contract. Due to his “loose cannon” gimmick, Pillman had been fired (on-screen) from WCW, with an intent to return.
In an effort to work the fans and make it seem real, he convinced Bischoff to sign his release papers for real.
The WCW boss agreed, and Pillman promptly moved to Extreme Championship Wrestling, under the creative of Paul Heyman.
Sadly, while in ECW, Pillman was involved in a car accident that ruined his career.
On April 15th, 1996, he fell asleep at the wheel of his Hummer whilst driving down a road in Kentucky.
Pillman fell asleep and hit a tree trunk, which flipped his Hummer H1 and sent it flying through the air.
This plunged him into a coma, with no guarantees he would ever wake up. He eventually did a week later, but it was not the coma that ruined him.
His ankle was completely shattered in the crash. Doctors were forced to fuse it into a walking position, giving him the most mobility possibly.
It was that, or amputate the leg completely, so it’s hard to say they didn’t make the right call.
Sadly, this was horrible for Pillman. His high-flying wrestling style was one of the reasons he was so popular.
With the injury, he was forced to alter his style to more of a brawling-type wrestling style, something which suited his character, but not Pillman creatively.
Brian Pillman never actually wrestled in ECW due to the car accident, signing for WWE just two months after the crash for a feud with ex-partner “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
This signing was actually a historic one for the WWE. Brian Pillman was the second man to get a guaranteed contract in the WWE, following Marc Mero (although Hulk Hogan claimed to have one years prior).
Pillman had a memorable feud with Austin, which included the famous “Pillman has a gun” segment, where Steve Austin invaded his home.
This segment was so believable and insane that fans were calling in to the police, to report the “Loose Cannon” for murdering Austin.
This wouldn’t end a match however, as Pillman wasn’t cleared to wrestle for another year.
His WWE debut came in May 1997, where he teamed with his new Hart Foundation teammates Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, to take on a trio of Steve Austin and The Road Warriors.
Brian Pillman would wrestle a slower style from then on, owing to his shattered ankle limiting his mobility.
This did not produce good matches, something that frustrated Pillman to no end.
Without the car accident, who knows just how far Brian Pillman could have gone. A proper feud with Steve Austin could have lifted him into the main event, and into matches with stars like The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
Sadly, his death happened way too early and put an end to a career of one of the all-time greats in wrestling.
His legacy was being carried on by his son (Brian Pillman Jr) in AEW, although he has since been released by the company.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.