Canada and Canadians play a big part in the career of B. Brian Blair.
For one, he considers Toronto his favorite place in the world to wrestle.
But it was Hamilton, Ontario’s Billy Red Lyons, host of Maple Leaf Wrestling, who gave Blair and his partner in the Killer Bees, Jim Brunzell the idea for Masked Confusion, the crazy gimmick they used in the WWF where they would don masks to confuse the referee and their opponents. It was unique because a good guy tag team was cheating.
Blair recalled Lyons’s idea for SLAM! Wrestling. “Billy Red Lyons was interviewing us, and before the interview he says, ‘You know what we used to do? I remember this old thing. You guys are perfect, you’re about the same size. We used to take masks and do this little switch deal.’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s really cool, Billy. I really appreciate that.’ Jimmy and I got together and decided to call it Masked Confusion and Vince went with that.”
The Killer Bees ended their WWF run just before 1990 when Blair left the promotion. He has been keeping busy since, both in business, where he runs Gold Gyms, and in the ring, where the indy scene has him in action about four times a month.
His latest venture is a book called Smarten Up! Say It Right, a virtual dictionary for both the behind-the-scenes wrestling lingo and the Carny language that wrestlers use.
The book came about after he heard Ric Flair on Dave Meltzer’s wrestling show saying that kayfabe was dead. (Kayfabe, by Blair’s definition, means to “keep secret; tighten your lips, don’t tell” and refers to wrestlers keeping secrets, particularly from fans.)
Blair thought that it was maybe time to bring the back-room workings and lingo to the fans, comparing it to behind-the-scenes documentaries on movies. “I watched the Making of Star Wars, then when I went and watched Star Wars, the movie was 10 times better to me because I understood how they did all this stuff. That’s the best way I can compare it.”
Intrigued, Blair brought up the idea of kayfabe being a thing of the past, and his idea for a book, at a lunch with former NWA World champion Jack Brisco and the late Florida wrestling announcer Gordon Solie.
He wanted to teach people what the lingo means, what the carny means, where you can go to break into the business and more.
According to Blair, Solie liked the idea, and said that he had never heard anybody try to explain carny before.
Both Solie and Brisco ended up helping out with the lingo, as well as many other of Blair’s friends from his years in wrestling, like Buddy Colt, Karl Von Stroheim. “I just decided to take every term that I had ever heard used in a locker room and define them and give analogies to the terms along with how to speak c-iz-arny.”
“I wanted to make sure that everything was accurate,” Blair continued. “Like ‘jabroni.’ That word’s thrown around so much, but a lot of people don’t even know, probably The Rock doesn’t even know where it came from … He just heard his dad say it. So it took me a long time to make sure that everything in the book was 100 per cent accurate. And it is, to the best of my knowledge.”
He sees the book as a learning resource for younger wrestlers. “Now, only half the guys can speak carny and a lot of guys don’t know the terms and the terminology that were spoken, that was a prerequisite for us to learn that before we even had our first match when I broke in. I would just like to make sure that that tradition is carried on and people don’t forget where the roots came from.”
But the book is also for the fans, to “enlighten people to the terminology”.
“We take for granted that people really don’t understand our terminology and yet we use it, and then we talk above people’s heads. This way they can go right to the book if they hear something on TV,” Blair said, using the example of former WCW booker Vince Russo going over people’s heads with his talk of ‘shooting’ on people.
Blair even hopes that Carny catches on again. “I even copyrighted a character and wrote a storyboard of a Lee Haney-type character who’s a carny man. And it’s very entertaining and would fit into a story line,” he said. “I did that because I thought that maybe carny would catch on just like Pig Latin did at one time. All of our parents spoke Pig Latin.”
The initial run of publicity and sales are directed to fans on the ‘Net. “The book was designed to sell on the Internet first because most people on the Internet think they’re smart, but they’re not as smart as they think they are,” Blair said with a laugh. When the book starts being sold in mainstream bookstores, Blair sees the list of web sites he included as great resources (including SLAM! Wrestling) getting traffic from the newbies who buy the book and want to learn more about the business.
Blair explained how the Killer Bees tag team came about:
“Hulk Hogan, who’s a friend of mine, called and said, ‘Hey, do you know Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell?’ And I said, ‘No, but I’ve heard of him in the AWA with Greg Gagne.’ He said, ‘He’s leaving the AWA too, he’s coming here. Vince (McMahon) and I thought you two would make a great tag team.’ I said, ‘That sounds good to me. I get along with everybody, that’s fine.'”
The team first got together at a TV taping in Brantford, Ontario. George Scott was the WWF booker at the time, and asked Blair and Brunzell about a name.
“I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. Both of our names begin with ‘B’, Brunzell and Blair, and I love the Miami Dolphins and they call the defense the Killer B’s. What if we were the Killer Bees?’ He goes, ‘Man, I like that. Let me run it by Vince.’ And he came back and said, ‘That’s awesome.’ That’s how the Killer Bees were formed.”
Eleven years later, Blair is still more than a little miffed that the Killer Bees never got to hold the WWF World Tag Team titles:
“I know we’re the longest running tag team in the history of the WWF to have never have gotten the belts. And we were promised them three times, twice by George, and once, sworn by Vince with his right hand on it. He swore that we were going to get the belts. And we never got the belts because he kept saying the money’s in the chase, the money’s in the chase.”
Just before 1990 began, Blair was disgruntled, burnt out, and needed a break. He recalled McMahon approaching him in the locker room.
“[McMahon] came into the room, he says, ‘Brian, you’re not happy are you?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not Vince.’ I told him, ‘Vince you promised us the belts. George promised them to us twice, you promised them to us once. Now we’re doing jobs and I can see the writing on the wall. I am not happy.’ He said, ‘Well, why don’t you just figure on leaving, just tell me how long you want to work, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months. Tell me, and we’ll phase you out.’ We came to an agreement. I think it was 60 days from that point, and he promised not to hurt us, which he didn’t. But he kept Jimmy around. He never did like Jimmy for some reason, and he just jobbed the hell out of Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy and we get along great.”