Brett Sawyer, who often teamed with his notoriously wild brother “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer, has died. He was 63.
Details of his passing are not known, though the news was confirmed on his Facebook page on the morning of September 9, 2023. Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics shared a memory on Twitter: “I’m truly saddened to hear of the passing of Brett Wayne Sawyer! He was the brother of Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer, although both are gone the stories will forever live on. My thoughts and prayers go out for his family, friends and fans during this difficult time!”
The Woyan family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida in the 1970s, from Ohio, and there were four brothers — Bruce/Buzz, Craig, Greg and Brett — and a sister, Paula. Brett was born on August 10, 1960.
Brett attended Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburgh, and, when he was only 16, 5-foot-9, and 175 pounds, he found himself learning pro wrestling under the tutelage of his brother, Bruce, and Ricky Steamboat. “They flat wore me out. They made me work out until I got sick,” Brett told syndicated wrestling columnist Ric Russo in 2000. “They would allow me to clean up and then it was back to work.”
From that 1976 start, Brett worked for roughly a dozen years full-time, as “Hacksaw” Brett Sawyer, “Hack” Sawyer, and Brett Wayne Sawyer. After that, his career was a lot more hit and miss, often wrestling on South America tours, while running a wrestling school in Georgia and then Florida.
Size didn’t matter. Famed announcer Gordon Solie once said of Brett, “What he lacks in physical stature, he makes up for with determination and heart.” Pro Wrestling Illustrated named Sawyer its Most Improved Wrestler of the Year in 1983.
There were a few significant runs of Sawyer’s career.
He and Buzz teamed a ton, but were trusted to face the rookie Road Warriors in early bouts in Georgia Championship Wrestling, battling over the NWA National Tag Team Championships. Brett told Russo he loved teaming with Buzz, who died on February 7, 1992. “We toured the world together and had crowds on their feet. It was a great feeling, we had some real successful years.” The Sawyers toured New Japan together in 1987.
The shadow of the wild and crazy Buzz Sawyer was always there for Brett. He talked about Buzz’s death in 2000 to Russo: “He was stacking steroids, and it finally caught up with him. His heart blew up …. It was a shame … It broke my heart because Buzz was my mentor, my brother and my friend.” At the time of Buzz’s death in 1992, their father, Glen, told a slightly different story, that he died of alcohol poisoning: “He took some sleeping pills with whiskey.”
He was also the National heavyweight champion in 1983, defeating Larry Zbyszko.
Brett also had big success in the Pacific Northwest. He arrived in March 1981, and initially teamed with his brother. But come mid-1982, with PNW champion Steve Regal injured, Brett was thrust into the spotlight, the unexpected winner of a Battle Royal to determine the new champion. “He was not who we considered a singles main eventer,” wrote Mike Rodgers in Katie Bar The Door! History of Portland Wrestling. “I remember thinking Sawyer would lose the title on his first defense. However, that battle royal win elevated him and in January, he had wins over Matt Borne, Buddy Rose and Dizzy Hogan [Brutus Beefcake].”
Being on top in Portland, Oregon, meant that Sawyer got to face the touring NWA World champion Ric Flair, in a losing cause; “that became one of the biggest matches of his career,” noted Rodgers. He’d hold the PNW title four times, feuding with Rip Oliver over the belt. There were also PNW tag team title wins with three different partners: Rocky Johnson, Steve Pardee and Tom Prichard.
In an interview with this writer, Buddy Rose recalled Brett as being easier to work with than Buzz, who “was a stiffy to work with.”
“I made money with that kid too. He was a good little worker, and a good guy,” Rose said of Brett. “But I didn’t like working with his brother because his brother was stiff.”
In the PNW, Brett feuded and then teamed with “Dr. D” David Shults. Rose said that he saw some real-life heat in the dressing room. “Here goes Hack Sawyer and all of a sudden, Shults goes, ‘Hey motherf—–r, you shut your f–ing mouth.’ He’s pointing his finger right in Sawyer’s face, and he’s slapping him. He’s taking the slaps, and he tried to walk away. ‘Don’t you f—ing walk away from me until I’m f—ing done talking to you! I’ll kick your ass! I’ll kick your brother’s ass! I’ll kick anybody’s f—ing ass.’ … After he walked out of the room, Mean Mike Miller said, ‘Ah f—k, I’m not afraid of him, I’ll fight him.’ … Dave was talk.”
Other territories for Brett Sawyer included Southwest Championship Wrestling in San Antonio, Texas, where he was a tag champion with Chicky Starr, Jim Crockett Promotions out of Charlotte, NC, the Kansas City-based Heart of America Sports Attractions where he was NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion, and Championship Wrestling from Florida where Brett teamed with Jim Backlund as The Playboys.
Post-career, Brett Sawyer told Russo that he felt that he’d been pushed out of the business to a degree. “The professional wrestling business is full of politics and labeling. Sometimes you get a label hung on you, and no matter what you do you just can’t seem to get rid of it,” said Sawyer.
Not long after Buzz Sawyer died, Brett opened Mad Dog’s Palace — School of Professional Wrestling, initially in Norcross, Georgia. “I tell our students up front what they can expect. And I assure them I can’t guarantee them anything except a chance to learn the ins and outs of pro wrestling,” he told the Atlanta Constitution in 1992.
Later, the school was moved to St. Petersburg, where Sawyer charged $2,500 for six months. In a profile in the Tampa Bay Times in August 1997, Sawyer mentioned injuries:
“I have a head concussion, some broken bones,” he said recently while explaining he had to reschedule an interview. “The doctors told me to stay in bed for a few weeks,” Sawyer said nonchalantly of his injuries.
He was back at work the next day. “Whatever,” he said.
Sawyer lamented to Russo that he wishes things had been different: “Looking back, I just wish I would have saved a bit more money. … You live, you learn.”
At the August 2023 fan fest, The Gathering, in Charlotte, Sawyer was out, seeing old friends.
Brett Woyan, who lived in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, had two children.