In a special guest column, Dave Burzynski, who was manager “Supermouth” Dave Drason in the Detroit territory in the 1970s to mid-1980s, shares a memory involving “Killer” Tim Brooks, who died on June 30, 2020. Alas, no photos exist of Supermouth’s one and only bout.
By “SUPERMOUTH” DAVE DRASON BURZYNSKI
Still into my first year as a full-time wrestling manager, I had been involved in some wild matches with my partners Blackjack Luka, Beautiful Ben Justice, Killer Tim Brooks, and The Destroyers. Their every move hated by the fans, I was still learning my spots, when best to get heat with the crowd, how far to take it, and what I could do to make them pop.
Youthful, arrogant, and full of piss and vinegar, I routinely became physically involved in our bouts. There was no better way to bring the crowd to their feet than to see the dastardly manager finally get what’s coming to him in the form of a few knuckle sandwiches, a few big body slams, and whatever torture that could be bestowed upon him in receipt for the devilish acts and havoc he has caused ringside during the match.
I was light and acrobatic, able to accentuate the biggest bumps because of it. Taking a page out of the wrestling managers’ handbook courtesy of Bobby Heenan, a good friend who I not only looked up to and admired for being one of the greatest managers of all time, but also because he was one of the all-time best in the business for taking a bump. On most occasions during the course of our matches or during the finish, with pleasure, I gave the fans what they came to see.
Many of the guys in the dressing room were in awe of my special talent to take the big bumps, some so new and unconventional, unlike today’s high fliers, as most guys didn’t have the nerve to even dare try any of my moves. I took it as a special challenge on a nightly basis to impress the guys with my death-defying escapades.
Still for this rookie, it was highly rewarding when I came back into the dressing room after taking said punishment, getting a firm pat on the back and to receive lauds of, “Good job, kid” from the boys, making it all worthwhile. My body paid the price for these displays on a daily basis, always sore, hurting, and bruised, at times so bad that it took me nearly an hour to get out of bed in the morning for weeks on end. No complaints though, this was my job, my craft, and I couldn’t wait to do it all over again night after night.
Until, a hot night in Toledo, Ohio, on May 16, 1975.
Here’s the set-up. Two weeks prior, while managing Killer Tim Brooks, we had just defeated Tony Marino, with some timely outside interference courtesy of yours truly. The crowd was furious and I knew it would be another one of those long unsafe walks back to the dressing room. With the fans hurling anything not bolted down into the ring, our booker-promoter Jack Cain had to think fast on how to restore order to the crowd before a riot ensued, endangering not only his talent but also the audience itself.
Cain got on the microphone, capturing the attention of the crowd, and booked the main event for the next show, a return match between Killer Brooks and Tony Marino with a “Special Stipulation” to be announced on TV prior to the next card.
Any fan who has ever had the chance to witness a Brooks-Marino affair knew they were in store for an all-out brutal war. These matches were classic battles of epic proportions. Punches were rarely pulled, plenty of high-flying action, tons of ring-jarring bumps, and for the not too squeamish, rivers of flowing blood were the norm. I enjoyed watching them when I was a fan, but now being able to be up this close and in on the action, I was geeked to the max. Except for one simple fact. Nobody clued me in on what that “Special Stipulation” would actually be.
Two weeks later, at the Tam O’Shanter Arena, I entered the heels dressing room. I was greeted by Jack Cain, Brooks, and Marino, all with mile-wide grins and dollar signs flashing in their eyes. “Do you have your gear?” they asked. Gear, what gear? Outfit, yes. A shiny set of blue satin pants, a glittering yellow top, multi-colored shoes, all this, my usual garb, to perform my managerial duties. But gear? What gear could they possibly be talking about? It didn’t make sense.
Things started to come together when they informed me that the main event of the evening was a tag team match. “Fine, who’s our partner?” I asked. They looked at me as if I were crazy. Why didn’t I get it, they wondered. “You,” they said. “Me?” I asked. Not as a manager. Me. I’m not a wrestler, never have been, never could be with all of my 6’2″ 135-pound frame.
But yes, it was true, it was booked, and it was going to happen. The special stipulation turned out to be Tony Marino and his special guest partner, promoter Jack Cain, taking on the team of Killer Tim Brooks and his manager, Supermouth Dave Drason.
Looking back, this type of gimmick match was a wrestling fan’s dream. Usually the manager is put in a cage suspended above the ring, or handcuffed to another wrestler, preventing him from interfering in the match. But putting the manager in the ring is a whole other ballgame, a chance to mix the pro and the non pro; a chance for the fans to see a scenario played out before their eyes what they hoped and dreamed would occur if ever they could be promoter for a day; a chance to see the good guys triumph over evil and its epidemic scourge.
I recall as a fan watching a few of these bouts:
- The Sheik once teamed up with his manager Abdullah Farouk (the rail-thin Ernie Roth) against the duo of Ivan Kalmikoff and The Might Igor. Farouk came out dressed in baby-blue attire, covering his entire body from head to toe. He wore a boxer’s protective helmet, not to protect his melon from serious injury, but to keep his toupee from coming off. The Sheik did the bulk of the ring work, of course, and it wasn’t until the finish that he accidentally tagged in his partner. It ended as the fans wanted it, Farouk pulverized and carried out on a stretcher.
- Gary Hart donned the tights in a match with his partner The Student (Jim Myers, later George “The Animal” Steele), receiving much the same fate.
- Big Bad John had to wrestle his own partner, The Kentucky Butcher, after a falling out between the two, but the odd twist was that Big Bad John was already a wrestler to begin with.
- Same said for George “Crybaby” Cannon when he enter the ring to team up with his proteges, The Fabulous Kangaroos.
These sort of matches, bringing the manager into the ring, are an oddity in pro wrestling. You have a pretty good idea what was going to happen; in the end the manager is going to get beat like a three-egg omelette, all to the fans delight. Part hype, part box office, but sure enough entertaining and comical.
Now, back in the dressing room at the Tam O’Shanter, I was excited to be involved in this particular grudge match, yet apprehensive. What moves would I do and how could I pull them off without looking like a cowering wimp? I wanted this to be a great bout, not a farce like many I had witnessed before. I’d take my lumps, dish out a few, pop the crowd, and bid adieu.
But gear? I couldn’t go out in my usual outfit. I certainly couldn’t try to wrestle in my regular footwear either. I needed a get-up, a crowd pleasing gimmick befitting the grappler I was about to become. Since no one in the dressing room had any spare ring wear, especially in my tall, thin size, I was stuck in one of those dreams where you’re going someplace special and you’re walking around naked as a jaybird.
I certainly couldn’t go out nude and I needed a pair of wrestling boots. What to do? I summoned a young female friend, quite beautiful and shapely, as I recall, who lived in the area. We both had the same waistline, size 24, yet I was a bit taller than her, but she was my only hope at this juncture. We exited the arena and made a beeline to her house, not far away in suburban Toledo.
Once at her place, I searched her wardrobe trying to find a pair of swim trunks only to discover some hot pants, quite popular in the day, that would act as my ring trunks. “I’ll take those,” I said. I grabbed the shocking pink pair of hot pants and they fit like a glove. “Here, wear these under them,” she said, handing me a pair of sheer purple nylons that would act as leg tights. Perfect. We packed them up and headed back to the arena where I still had time enough to dress, go over the match, get the finish, and look for any photographer I could find to record this historic event.
My good friend and future partner in crime, Mickey Doyle, loaned me his wrestling boots since his match was already over. As I began to dress into my borrowed threads, all eyes in the dressing room shifted to me. Did I look a little effeminate? I wondered, as I shyly donned my ring attire for the evening. Fully clothed, with pink hot pants and purple nylon tights aglow, yet pro boots, all the boys commented, “You look great!”
It wasn’t laughter, but encouragement. “You’re not supposed to look like a wrestler,” they told me. “You look exactly as you’re supposed to look. The crowd will go wild when they see you, that’s the main thing.” I started to feel better about myself now, girlish or not. These fans were going to see me like they had never seen me before. All in all, when it came down to it, I was going to give them what they really didn’t expect to see: Rock & Shock was born.
It was now show time. Killer gave me a few trips on what to do, when to do it, and how to react with each maneuver. Act brave but cower when approached, he told me. Hit like a girl, not like a seasoned wrestler would. Stay loose, take your bumps at the finish, and we’ll have a good showing.
As Brooks and I exited the dressing room, my mind was totally focused on the task at hand. To this day I don’t even remember the reaction of the crowd as we walked out, which I’m sure was an equal mix of raucous laughter and ridicule. We entered the ring, and I began to strut my stuff, requesting that the crowd pay homage to my champion. But my usual routine completely turned full circle — Killer Tim was the one now ordering the crowd to pay respect to his manager and wrestling partner, though he was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
The special guest referee was Percival Al Friend, former managing great, who I’m sure at one time or another participated in a few of these type matches himself. Maybe he didn’t look as complex as I did on this particular night, but when he wrestled in my same situation, I’m sure the humorous jeers and catcalls directed towards me brought back some pretty fond memories for him as well.
As our opponents entered the ring, I went into a complete tirade, lunging first towards Jack Cain, promoter, whose bright idea it was to get me involved in this match to start with. Also I angrily expressed interest in a piece of that “spaghetti bender” Tony Marino, a long-time adversary and major thorn in our sides.
All this I did playfully, working the crowd into a frenzy before the opening bell. The crowd watched all the while as Killer Brooks held me back from our opponents, preventing me from getting my clock cleaned before we even got under way.
The goal was to get the crowd to believe that I actually was stupid enough to want to mix it up with either of our opponents. Brooks came up with another way to grow our pre-bout heat — he ordered me to get face down on the mat and do a series of push-ups, to show the crowd what type of physical specimen I truly was. I struggled to do even the first couple, and as I was about to turn red-faced with embarrassment, he stood over me and put his hand in the back of my trunks and started assisting me, pulling me up and down — so much easier! I turned my head sideways to the crowd, sneering gleefully all the while, having them believe that I thought I was doing this all on my own. Marino, Cain, and Friend had to cover their faces, lest they be seen laughing; it was all I could do not to laugh! We milked it for all it was worth, the fun and games were over, and it was time to get it on.
The bell sounded, and I quickly jumped towards the middle of the ring wanting to start the match, only to be pulled back to our corner and scolded by Killer Tim. I was no fool, I was supposed to not want any part of this wrestling match.
As the bout progressed, Killer did the brunt of the work, absorbing much of the punishment. I pleaded many times for him to make the tag and let me get my hands on those scoundrels, but we bided our time, knowing when it would finally be time to wrap things up and go home. But first, a big tease. Against Brooks’ better judgment, with me pleading, he reluctantly tagged me in, and the crowd popped.
I slowly climbed through the ropes, cautiously roaming the ring and not straying too far from our corner. I extended my arms, ready to lock-up in the referee’s hold, and at the very last second, I jumped out of the ring, the crowd booing. I knew I could do this a few times, get a little reaction, as the crowd was getting antsy to see my wrestling prowess and I was damn eager to show them some.
At certain points in the match, when the Killer had the upper hand, be it on Marino or Cain, that was my cue to ready my 10-inch pythons. He’d bring one of our battered opponents towards our corner, and then reach in my direction to make the tag. With brash confidence I smacked his hand, entered the ring, ready to introduce them to a little Dave Drason “Sweet Shin Music.”
A few kicks here, a couple drop elbows there, and I seemed to be in control. When referee Al Friend warned, “I’ll disqualify you, Drason,” it only intensified my assault. He would count to three before I’d break a chokehold. He’d grab my fist in mid-throw before I could do any damage. When I became upset with his antics and he with mine, we came nose to nose, him barking strict warnings, myself asking for a big wet kiss. We both bit our lips, trying to stop the laughter, and continued on.
My confidence was soaring. I picked Jack up by the hair, gave him an opened-handed smack across the chops, cringing as the sound of skin on skin echoed loudly throughout the building. This scenario occurred a few times, at times with Jack and at times with Marino. The moment either showed any life, I made a hasty retreat out to the arena floor.
We were building pent-up frustration in the crowd that was ready to bust wide open. Nearly 20 minutes into the bout, using every tactic we could to help me escape the possibility of getting roughed up, it was getting time for the finish, and to see if we could make the crowd go berserk.
At this point we had the match well in hand, victory only moments away. The crowd was uneasily quiet, sensing a big emotional letdown of us taking the fall and the match. Just when it seemed like we had sucked the last ounce of synergy from their supportive bodies, disaster struck.
With Brooks in the ring manhandling Marino, all it would have taken at this point for us to win was for Brooks to put his finishing elbow on Tony, pin him, have the referee count 1-2-3, and raise our arms in triumph. But I got greedy. I didn’t just want the win, I wanted to rub it in their faces, humiliate them.
The only way to prove my point and satisfy my hunger for revenge was to make the pin myself. I caught the attention of Killer and told him to hoist the lifeless Marino from the mat, hold him up for all the world to see, wanting to crucify him for his sins against us. That’s when I began my accent to the top rope in our corner.
My idea was this: to propel my entire body through the air, more than 15 feet across towards the middle of the ring, where the crunching brunt force of my 135-pound frame would crash into Marino’s chest, rendering him helpless onto the mat, where I would roll him up for the pin and claim the victory.
Killer flashed a reassuring smile in my direction, acknowledging the plan as pure genius and inventively flawless. He hoisted Marino, put him in a full-Nelson, turned him in my direction, and waited for me to take flight. Away I went, soaring like an eagle towards its prey.
Only one problem — Marino ducked! I smacked hard into Killer Tim, making contact with his face and upper body. We both went down like a sack of potatoes, and the decibel level of the crowd went from 1 to 100 in a matter of seconds. Dazed and confused, I now found myself looking up at the ring lights.
Marino bodyslammed Brooks on top of me and went for the double pin — but then Jack Cain climbed atop the entire pile, as if having reached the summit of Mt. Everest. With about 750 pounds heaped on top of my skinny body, Al Friend’s hand seemed to be pounding the mat slower than Ox Baker going under a limbo bar. After the three count, it was all over. The crowd favorites came through in the end.
Although victory may have escaped us, judging from the roar of the popcorn and the smell of the crowd, we came out on top knowing we did the job to perfection. What more can you do than perfection? Simple — give the crowd some dessert! They threw Brooks out onto the arena floor, leaving me alone in the ring to fend for myself.
The two good guy gladiators gazed into the crowd, giving them the thumbs up or thumbs down option. My fate rested in their hands. Thumbs down was the unanimous decision, giving Marino and Cain the license to have their way with me.
They took turns giving me body slam after body slam, followed by back body drops so high that I thought I was going to hit the ceiling. Marino then grabbed me by my trunks, lifted me upside down in a suplex. It felt like he held me in that position for a month of Sundays. When the crowd’s approval rate was satisfactory, he launched me backwards, landing on our backs with a sickening thud. Between the roar of the crowd and the sound of my body smacking into the canvass, it was two of the greatest sounds I’ve ever heard.
The final nail in my coffin was Jack throwing me from one corner of the ring to the opposite. Just before I was to reach my destination, I lowered my head, making my body do the big 180 degree flip, landing upside down into the corner, where I hooked my foot on the top turnbuckle. I was now destroyed, defeated, and left for dead — my partner anywhere in sight. He did have a ringside seat for all the extra curricular activity from his position kneeling against the ring and watching the annihilation of his manager unfold. The victorious team exited ringside to an enormous ovation, the fans lauding their heroes.
As for me, Percival untangled my trapped foot from its snare, sending me flopping onto the mat like a beached walrus. About this time, Killer Brooks finally regained his composure. Crawling back into the ring, he looks at his battered manager laid out flatter than a throw rug, begging the crowd for the smallest bit of compassion. With none coming, he dragged me underneath the bottom rope, threw me over his shoulder like a sailor’s liberty sack, and carried me all the way back to the dressing room, as beer, popcorn, spit, coins, and who knows what else, rained down upon us.
Happy to be back safely in our private sanctuary, fulfilled with the performance we had just given, congratulations abounded from all directions as the boys seemed to have enjoyed the spectacle they had witnessed. Our match turned out to be a huge success, one I would have loved to have repeated again. But the opportunity never presented itself to me again, and I wasn’t exactly eager to present it to any promoter as a gimmick match in the very near future.