Eric Johnston, SlamWrestling.net producer Greg Oliver and contributor Joseph Casciaro have a new book out. It’s called Run with the Bull: Three Generations of Sport & Entertainment. It is the story of Eric, a rising star on the stand-up comedy scene, his father Danny “Bullwhip” Johnston, who died in 2003 when Eric was only 13, and grandfather Ron “Bull” Johnston, who Eric never knew at all.
The Johnston family has had many ups and downs, but Eric looked to showcase what being a Bull is all about in this unique book. We are pleased to be able to offer an excerpt for our readers.
Eric’s Bull: Starrdom Denied
One of the best days of my dad’s life happened on July 11, 1990, when his baby boy was born. One of the worst days of my dad’s life was December 16, 1990. The booking disaster that was WCW Starrcade ’90.
I have a hard time talking about WCW Starrcade ’90, but not nearly as much of a hard time as my dad had talking about it when he was alive.
This could have been my dad’s biggest shot in his career but it ended up being one of the biggest blunders—and the worst part was it wasn’t even his fault. I totally blame whomever booked and ran that show.
The idea of the Pat O’Connor Memorial Cup, with international tag teams, was a good one. Canada needed to be represented, and I have no idea how Bullwhip and Montour got booked. We reached out to Troy for a comment and he’s still so embarrassed over it 30 years later that he didn’t even want to talk about it.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it would be Russia versus USA in the final, so Dad knew going in that he wasn’t going to win—but nothing could have prepared him for what came next.
They hit the catwalk. “Introducing first, representing Canada, from Toronto, Canada, total combined weight of 450 pounds, the team of Troy Montour and Danny Bull Johnson.” The Canadian National Anthem played. That was the good part, the only good part.
A young Jim Ross, already a top voice in pro wrestling, read his gig sheet wrong and immediately mixed up their names.
The match is a whole different story, one with a terrible ending. The problem was that my father and Troy were professional wrestlers and their opponents were Olympic-style shoot wrestlers, which is not at all the same thing. I respect Olympic wrestlers and the amateur wrestling but it has absolutely no place on this grand of a stage.
You can tell immediately that the Russian wrestlers were there to wrestle and Troy and my dad were there to work. Even if they were there to lose, they were there to work.
There are a series of terrible tie-ups and botched moves with Troy before my dad gets tagged in. Then more of the same. The match finishes with one of the most dangerous suplexes in the history of professional wrestling. You can see Dad is just inches away from landing on his neck, all 275 pounds of him.
The finish is even worse. My dad kicked out at two and the ref still counted to three.
You can see in that moment when the bell rings that in that ring he’s no longer Danny “Bull” Johnson or “Bullwhip” Johnson. He’s Dan, Daniel Ronald Johnston, from the east end of Hamilton, Ontario, laying on his back in the middle of ring in St. Louis thinking that his career was over.
This was his shot and some dangerous wrestlers guided by terrible matchmaking ruined it for him.
Walking backstage, he was probably thinking this was his last time on the big stage, and in a lot of ways it was.
What’s even worse for me is not just that this moment ruined his career forever, it’s the way it lives on.
If you watch this match on YouTube and read the comments they are absolutely ruthless, hurtful and mean. They completely disregard my father’s career and my father’s history in the wrestling ring. They shit on his legacy, and therefore they shit on my legacy.
These comments don’t just come from wrestling fans they even came from JR himself. He once described this match on his podcast as a “steaming pile of horse cocky.” And he was right. It was. But goddammit, it wasn’t his fault!
Whether they drove or flew home from St. Louis, it must have been the longest trip home of his life.
The phone stopped ringing, no one wanted to book him anymore. And for years they didn’t.
I think about this night and wonder how I would handle it if something like this happened in my career. I’ve been blessed to have an amazing career with only a few hiccups but I live in fear that something major like this will happen to me.
It makes me respect my father even more though, because he was now home for Christmas and he still had to be a dad to Holly and his newborn baby boy. He still had to be a husband to my mom. He still had to go out and make money. He was still a wrestler but he knew he had to do a ton of work to shake this off. And he did. He kept showing up and he kept a roof over our heads.
I think about Starrcade ’90 and I get sad, but I also get extremely proud. That could have killed him, but he survived in spite of it.
And that’s what being a Bull is all about.
- Buy Run with the Bull: Three Generations of Sports & Entertainment at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca
- Watch the Starrcade ’90 match here
- Oct. 13, 2023: Ontario’s Randy Johnson dead at 67
- July 22, 2003: Ontario will miss Bullwhip Johnson
- Feb. 5, 2001: Bullwhip Danny Johnson followed father into the ring
- SlamWrestling Master Book List