Losing Jack Brisco

by Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway



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Jack Brisco passed away on Monday, February 1, 2010. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

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It always hurts when we lose one of our heroes. But this one is hurting a great deal today.

When I first fell in love with professional wrestling, Jack Brisco was the world heavyweight champion. The first I remember seeing him was on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling against Wahoo McDaniel in a non-title match that Wahoo won to help set up a series of title matches between the two around the territory. Many months later, it was strangely in defeat that he became one of my favorites. In December 1975, when the tape was shown of Terry Funk defeating Jack for the NWA title in Miami Beach, I was in total awe of his grace in the ring in that match. Aided by the dramatic slow-motion applied to many of the sequences in the match, both wrestlers made the brutal contest look more like a dance. It was something to behold.

I was a huge Jack Brisco fan from that moment forward. I followed him closely in the news-stand wrestling magazines and learned about his past epic battles with Dory Funk Jr. as Jack chased the NWA title. I got an occasional glimpse of him out of Atlanta on the superstation WTCG, and hoped he would come to the Mid-Atlantic territory one day.

I didn’t know then that he had been a regular in the territory only a few years before I started watching wrestling, holding the area’s top singles title, the Eastern Heavyweight championship, and battling Rip Hawk, Ole Anderson and others for the prized belt. I was delighted when he and his brother Jerry (who also was a Mid-Atlantic regular in the early 70s and held the Eastern title) came back to the Mid-Atlantic area together in early 1982. Jack had singles battles with Roddy Piper and long time opponent Paul Jones, as well as challenging Ric Flair for the NWA world title. He even renewed his legendary feud with Dory Funk Jr., this time exchanging the Mid-Atlantic title. In 1983, the unthinkable happened for fans as Jack and Jerry turned heel to challenge Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the NWA world tag team championship. It was a run for the ages, featuring spectacular matches culminating in a memorable bout at the first Starrcade. Jack later recounted that this run with Steamboat and Youngblood was one of the most enjoyable of his career.

Jack left wrestling in 1985. When on the tour for the WWF during horrible weather, he told his brother Jerry he was going home and hanging it up, and he never wrestled again after that. That is one of the things I have always loved about Brisco. It is part of his legend and very rare in pro-wrestling; he walked away and never looked back.

It was a thrill to finally meet him at one of the NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest events in Charlotte. He took time with fans, always pleasant and engaging, and seemed to really appreciate fan's efforts to remember him and the era in which he wrestled. He once told Carroll Hall of WrestlingMemories.com how much it meant to him that websites like his were there to help keep those memories alive. I will always consider the 45 seconds I spent alone on an elevator with Jack in Charlotte riding from the 9th floor to the lobby as one of the coolest moments in my life. I just got lucky. We briefly talked about the night he won the NWA title in Houston TX in 1973. He had this great smile while talking about it.

Late last year, I made contact with his wife Jan, and sent them a copy of “Ten Pounds of Gold”, the book I had recently published with Dave Millican on the version of the NWA World Championship belt used from 1973-1986. Jack was the first wrestler to wear that particular world title belt. Jack sent back a nice message through Jan. He had agreed to an interview late last year, but became ill around that same time, and it never happened.

Jack’s passing hurts me deeply as a fan because he was such a huge part of my early wrestling memories, and I have always grouped him together in my mind with the other champions of that era, especially Terry Funk and Harley Race. It was a magic moment in Charlotte at that same Fanfest when Jack Brisco, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., and Harley Race all appeared together on the same stage. It was for me as if everything briefly came into perfect alignment within the wrestling universe, that powerful axis of champions all arm and arm on the same stage, fans filling the ballroom showing them their appreciation. Now that Jack is gone, we’ll never see such a group together again on that stage, at least in my mind. His passing leaves a huge void in the world of great wrestling legends. Rest in peace.

© 2010 Mid-Atlantic Gateway • Article published 2/1/10