Backstage Altercations: The infamous Brian Pillman and Sid Vicious Incident

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Photo: WWE

Many stories have been told about the late Brian Pillman, but one theme that consistently runs through many of the stories told of the former champion is that, despite his size, he didn’t back down if ever backed into a corner. This certainly applied to a confrontation involving Pillman and former WCW champion Sid Vicious. According to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter, an incident took place between the two men on October 12th or 13th 1991 (the date is a little fuzzy as far as the timeline of when it began and ended), and the events that took place when the talent was performing at the Omni in Atlanta. World Championship Wrestling had emerged as a bona fide second option to WWE. The incident was said to have taken place at the Ramada Plaza near the Atlanta Airport. Sid had just departed WCW to join WWE as Sid Justice and begun to work a program against Hulk Hogan, among his other feuds. Sid still had friends in WCW and met up with them to catch up. The story becomes amusing because Sid ended up threatening Pillman with something not normally categorized as a weapon.

Photo: WWE

It began as catching up, which led to boasting and ultimately insults and an altercation. Commonly with any story, there is one side that gets publicized, rather than acknowledging the different sides to the story. One story was that Sid was running his mouth boasting about how great things were in WWE, but as Sid has told the story, it was, in fact, Pillman who was ‘running his mouth,’ provoking a situation. Here are two separate accounts of what took place on this evening, and, which is accurate will be up to the readers to decide.

“What it was is that I had torn my bicep that night in Orlando (Florida), and I had left my car at the airport, and I was at the HoJo’s that everyone had stayed at. Actually, that night Magnum TA, had been trying to talk me into coming back and I was just saying no, and how great things were. Brian Pillman had started running his mouth and I had said, ‘Hey f*** you.’ I had a torn bicep and I couldn’t have fought if I wanted to. I remember my car was dead and a guy was giving me a boost, and Pillman was out there and it just so happens that it was in the floorboard of the passenger seat and I had said, ‘Hey, mother****** want me to whack you in the f****ing head with it?’” – Sid talking about how the story has been exaggerated.

What wasn’t mentioned was how the incident had also involved the late Mike Graham, who competed as a mid carder for WCW and was a road agent with the company as well. Among the alleged statements to have been made was that Sid had said that he had made more money working for the WWE in a year then Graham had made in his entire career. It was also said that Pillman and Sid had issues with each other in the past, as Sid had apparently made reference to how Pillman would never make it in WWE because they don’t have their bigger guys work with the smaller guys. What should be noted is the two had previously worked a program that same year, and Sid dropped Pillman on his head at War Games ’91 during a powerbomb many thought went wrong. However, Sid shared a different perspective on that incident as well.

“If Brian Pillman wanted to really be a tough guy when I beat him up that time at War Games, legitimately, and sent him through that cage, he had all the reason to have fought right then. He didn’t want to fight. That powerbomb was done purposely. He (and all the other babyfaces) had hated working with me in the northeast because they got booed. So we were in the Meadowlands one night and he had said he didn’t want to take my finish, and Magnum said ‘No you’re going to take the finish.’ He was always whining and complaining, and when we were there back in Phoenix and he was running his mouth back then I drove him as hard as I could through the cage, and as hard as I could through the mat, and sent him to the hospital.” – Sid on the match involving he and Pillman.

Sid and Pillman appeared to have some unfinished business with one another simply based on this. Stories told of the incident have argued that Sid left as he looked foolish for backing down from a fight, then returned with a squeegee in order to save face, with Pillman being held back by others. Sid appeared to have grabbed the cleaning tool more out of desperation, as he simply wanted to strike Pillman with the first thing he could get his hands-on.

Another take on the incident was shared by former WCW announcer Dave Penzer who was also, there. His description doesn’t quite match the view that Sid shared in 2017.

“It was at a place called ‘The Dungeon,’ at the airport where everyone stayed. After TV all the main guys would show up at the time. Sid worked for WWE at the time, and I don’t even know why he was in Atlanta, but he had come in and got into Pillman and Mike Graham’s face. Graham was a tough guy, an amateur wrestler, and he didn’t care if you were 5’6” or 6’5”, he wasn’t going to back down. They started talking and he had said how great WWE is and how much WCW sucks. Mike then said, ‘Why are you here in this bar?’ and it got heated. Sid said, ‘I’m not going to let you talk to me like that, you’ll see’ and he went out to his car. We’re thinking he was going to bring back a gun or a knife. I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face and he walks in with a squeegee, and instead of a fight breaking out everyone in the hotel lobby started laughing and Sid stormed out.” – Dave Penzer about the squeegee incident

Pillman was legitimately one of the toughest men on the roster in or out of the ring. His character didn’t reflect that, but those that knew him knew he could hold his own and legitimately put others in their place when push came to shove. Whether Sid was aware of this or not, he had no problem getting in the face of Pillman and Graham. It reads as a scenario where a former employee came back to showcase just how successful he had become, and his past colleagues didn’t think much of what he was saying. Graham’s involvement in the incident was strangely not included in Sid’s recount of the situation. Sadly, both Graham and Pillman are no longer living. However, their contributions to wrestling and this infamous tale also suggest their size was never going to be a determining factor in anything, let alone how they handled this situation with Sid.

Photo: WWE

It could easily be argued that there is truth on both sides of the story, as the incident reflected proud men who stood up for themselves and the company that employed them. In Penzer‘s account, he didn’t make mention of any conversation that was taking place between Sid and Magnum TA, but rather how Sid immediately started the altercation with Graham and Pillman. Penzer wasn’t aware of why Sid was there, other than that WWE was to also be in town airing an event. It can be called machismo, bravado, or simply alcohol after work leading to tempers being raised.

What has ultimately emerged about this situation is that, despite who was at fault, it is Sid who has sadly borne the brunt of mockery, for attempting to use a squeegee as a weapon to threaten someone. The inclusion of the windshield wiping tool means the tale has lived on in infamy when it was much ado about nothing since no one was hurt outside some bruised egos. In both versions, characters are left out of the story either intentionally or not, but what remains consistent was that there was an issue between Sid and Pillman that appeared to lead to this particular incident, and ultimately it has left the former two-time WCW and two-time WWE champion having to live it down to this day. If Graham and Pillman were here today, it would be interesting to hear their take on the incident.

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