With studded leather, heart-pounding theme music, hockey masks, distinctive face paint and a physical style, the team of Demolition terrified and enthralled 1980s wrestling fans. The three-time tag team champions set a record with a 487-day title reign and dominated the WWF from 1987-1991.
After health problems due to anaphylactic shock from a shrimp dinner (not a heart attack as has been reported in the past), Demolition Ax (Bill Eadie) wrestled in the team for the final time at the 1990 Survivor Series, leaving Smash (Barry Darsow) and new team member Crush (Brian Adams). That version of the team disbanded in mid-1991. Since that time, Eadie and Darsow have not seen or spoken to each other.
That has changed, as Demolition reunited at the recent or Meet the Legends event in Windsor, Ontario and will be making future appearances together, including at this weekend’s Legends of the Ring 4 convention at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Carteret, NJ.
“Us being apart wasn’t intentional. We have different lives and different careers and when you are not in the business any more you fall out of touch. I haven’t had a chance to get together with Barry,” Eadie explained when he and Darsow sat down with SLAM! Wrestling in Windsor for an exclusive interview — their first together in 16 years.
After Demolition disbanded, Eadie wrestled on the independent circuit as Axis the Demolisher and briefly reformed the Demolition team with Demolition Blast (Carmine Azzato) before being sent a cease and desist letter from WWF. Darsow transformed into Repo Man in the WWF, and later moved on to WCW with brief runs as The Blacktop Bully and Mr. Hole-in-One. Despite other gimmicks and characters (Eadie as a Mongol and the Masked Superstar, Darsow as Krusher Krushchev), it is as Demolition that the two men had the most success and how both are most fondly remembered by fans.
“We were a successful team, neither one of us had big egos and our primary objective was to get ourselves and other teams over,” explained Eadie. “By doing that, the fans respected us too. Otherwise its not going to last. I think it is a testament to what we did. Barry and I haven’t been together for 15 years but the fans, when they talk about Demoltion they talk about Ax and Smash.
“I think the fans appreciated our efforts and our mastery of the craft,” Eadie continued. “A lot of people get in the ring and say they are workers. But it’s the experience that makes you a worker. Unfortunately some of the guys who are being pushed as professional wrestlers don’t belong there. I met a guy at a show and I asked how long he had been wrestling and he said ‘seven years.’ I asked how many matches he’d had and he replied ‘Thirty.’ I told him he’d been wrestling for a month. It’s a big difference. Today it’s the big freaks that get pushed and a lot of them aren’t ready for the limelight. The fans aren’t stupid and they know good from bad. We were good but we had to work for it. We went to the gym, watched videos, and watched the matches before ours on the cards. It was important to watch because why go out and duplicate something from a match before? We knew what we could do well and what we couldn’t do, focusing on enhancing the positive and diminish the negatives.”
Darsow agreed. “We had great matches with every night because we knew what every other team was like and how to make the matches happen. It was rare that we came backstage after a match and said, ‘Wow, that was a stinker.'” To which Eadie quipped, “We even (had great matches) with the Rougeaus!”
Both men had careers prior to forming the team, and spoke about the early pre-Demolition days. Darsow was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and actually went to high school with future wrestlers Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Brady Boone, Tom Zenk, John Nord, and Nikita Koloff. He was a fan of the AWA and raised on brawlers like The Crusher, Dick the Bruiser and Larry “The Ax” Henning.
“Watching the team of The Crusher and The Bruiser, they may not have worked like the guys do today but their interviews and what they wore and their characters were my inspiration,” said Darsow. “Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, the Road Warriors and myself would hang out at this bar in Minneapolis and Eddie Sharky was a bartender there. There were fights all the time and we watched each other’s backs. Eddie said he had to get us into wrestling and we went through his camp. Eddie never got in the ring with us. We had a ring with carpeting and we were doing bodyslams and suplexes.”
Eadie’s path to wrestling went a different route, as he was not a wrestling fan and stumbled into the business. “I got into wrestling by accident, It was just another job,” Eadie said. “I was in Pittsburgh at the time and my best friend growing up’s father worked for the state athletic commission. I went to a match and the dressing room and at that time Geto Mongol [Newt Tattrie] was the promoter. He asked if we were wrestlers. I said no. He asked if we wanted to be and that was how we got into it. A few weeks later I was being bumped around and six months later I was in the wrestling business. I had never even seen a match prior to that.”
After separate runs under different gimmicks, Eadie teamed with Randy Colley (Moondog Rex) in Demolition before Darsow took over the Smash character. The two first won the WWF tag team championship from Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana) at Wrestlemania 4, under the guidance of manager Mr. Fuji. They would go on to feud with Fuji, but formed a bond that both men fondly remember. The same weekend at the Windsor event, Fuji was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. A fan asked if Demolition had been contacted about being inducted themselves or inducting their former manager.
“I am not one of Vince McMahon’s favorite people so he hasn’t called me,” admitted Eadie. “We heard about Mr. Fuji being inducted. He had a good career on his own and managed a number of successful tag teams and I am very happy for him.”
“I am actually a little disappointed that they didn’t ask us to be there for Fuji’s induction,” added Darsow. “We were with Mr. Fuji for years traveling everywhere with him. He was a great guy.”
One thing that has hung over the career of Demolition is the feeling that they were “Road Warrior rip-offs.” Hawk and Animal had been the dominant tag team in the AWA and NWA (even feuding with Darsow as Krusher Khruschev). While the face paint and spikes were valid comparisons, both men feel the similarities ended there.
“We got that from the beginning and I think we never tried to duplicate them. If there is one Indian (wrestler), the other Indians are a copy. There was Igor, so Ivan Putski was a rip-off. It’s a compliment to them,” said Eadie. “We were different from the Road Warriors in that we could work with anybody, big or small and we could brawl or scientific wrestle. The Road Warriors were a certain style, and it worked for them. We could have a great match with Shawn Michaels one night and a great one with Andre The Giant the next. I don’t think they could.”
“When the Road Warriors were out there the other team had to work hard to put the Road Warriors over. If they weren’t doing that it wasn’t pretty,” said Darsow. “That was the biggest difference. I think The Road Warriors wanted to be Ax and Smash, work-wise.”
What could have been a tag team dream match when The Road Warriors signed with the WWF in 1991 barely made a blip on the radar. By that time Eadie had taken on more of a management role for the team, and Crush had stepped in as the more active participant. While fans on house shows got to see the match, Demolition and the re-named Legion of Doom only faced off on pay per view on opposing teams at the Survivor Series.
“We had matches with them and they sucked, not because of them, but the chemistry wasn’t there,” recalled Eadie. “Maybe they felt we were trying to copy them. It’s ironic because when we went to New York, we were called Road Warrior clones but when they came to New York, they were called Demolition clones. There are Demoltion fans and Road Warrior fans and it is like politics and religion — they won’t agree.”
Long-time fans fondly recall the 1980s as the time when tag team wrestling was treated with respect. Demolition dominated in a time when WWF could have 10-team Survivor Series matches and top dogs like The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, The Powers of Pain, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, Strike Force, The Brain Busters, The Twin Towers and many, many more drew fans as much as top singles names like Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. It’s a far cry from today’s makeshift tag teams.
“There was more effort placed on tag teams at that time. With the exception of Hogan and Savage and a few other individuals, in my opinion the tag teams drove the company,” said Eadie. “It was a lot easier to have an exciting match with four people and having a lot of motion for the fans to keep up with. I used to like to blow up my opponents so I could do whatever I wanted to without punishment. During our career we were always in good physical shape.”
“When Ax and I were teamed up tag teams lasted longer and there was more of a story involved in the ring and out of the ring. I thought it made it more exciting for the fans,” Darsow said.
It wasn’t uncommon for tag team matches to actually headline house shows. Frequently the “main event match” featuring Hogan, Savage or The Ultimate Warrior would conclude before intermission, leaving the tag team attraction to close out the night.
“Sometimes it would be hard for a singles match to follow a tag team match,” Darsow stated. “A lot of times they put us on last because the guy making all the money couldn’t generate the excitement of a tag team match. We were usually main event, semi-main event or part of a triple main event. If you watched our matches, we never stopped. We kept the people in it because you had four guys in a tag match and the opponent is on the outside or on the rope and somebody is beating the crap out of him, and I am worried and trying to get him to tag and get the audience into it. If it’s not exciting for the audience and they aren’t into it, it sure isn’t fun for the guys doing it.”
Both men shared their thoughts on why the focus has slipped way from tag teams in today’s wrestling world and how wrestling has changed.
“The promoters don’t push tag teams,” said Darsow. “A lot of it could be that there are five people in a tag team match if there is a manager, and so the payout for that match goes five different ways, where in a singles match it is being paid out one or two ways, maybe three. It costs more money, which could be part of it. The difference now with tag teams is they aren’t telling the story, teams last for just a couple of weeks. We were teamed up for five years and now teams are together for just a short time.”
“I will be honest I teach school and am in bed by 9:30 so I don’t watch wrestling,” admitted Eadie. “I hear a lot of comments from the fans when I go to events like this, but I couldn’t name any of the tag teams, not because they aren’t good but because I just don’t keep up with it. The other big difference is that we had full input on our characters. It got to the point where they would suggest things and we were fine with saying no. When you have this character, it is you. You can’t be somebody else. There are a lot of guys in the dressing rooms that aren’t comfortable with their particular gimmick or character. Being your character is how you make money, if you can’t do it, it takes away from you. Who is going to tell someone like us what to say? When they hired scriptwriters everything started to go downhill because a writer can’t put himself in my position, he hasn’t been where I’ve been. He can tell me where the event is going to be, who I will be against and let me handle the rest.”
Eadie then delivered some advice for those in the business today. “If you don’t love it, whether it is wrestling or baseball or basketball, you shouldn’t be in the business in the first place. There were guys that complained that we were stiff. We weren’t out to hurt people but we were Demoltion, we weren’t going to go out there with our presentation and go light through the match. If someone didn’t want to be in there with us, that was fine, but someone was going to make money with us. We were in the business to make money and if you can’t keep up then its your fault. Guys like or Tito Santana and Rick Martel were great opponents. The thing that really disgusts me is when someone throws a punch or a kick or a move and it looks like shit and the other guy is just flying all over the place. If you can’t lay it in, or if you can’t take it you need to find another profession.”
— with files from Bob Kapur
Jason Clevett is a massive Demolition fan. He and Bill Eadie share something in common in that both were in tears when The Big Boss Man was beating Eadie with a nightstick at a WWF show in Calgary in May of 1989. This weekend marks his fourth year with SLAM!Wrestling.