[Feature] The Evolution of Crush
Gimmicks in professional wrestling can only go on for so long before the fans tire of them and want to see something new. In order to maintain relevancy (or get the most out of a performer that has a lot invested in them), gimmicks can receive tweaks that range from a minor personality to change to a full on metamorphasis. Sometimes these changes are so apparent and obvious that the history of the character is littered with different phases.
Brian Adams is the perfect example of this; from 1990 until 1997, he performed in the WWF as the character of Crush and in those seven years he went through five different changes in both his personality and his presentation. First he became the third man in one of the WWF’s greatest tag teams and from then came biker gangs, pineapple crushing, Japanese sympathizing, and even a stop as a convict. Although Crush never won any titles while in the WWF (save for inheriting the Tag Belts as part of Demolition), I still remember him vividly and now it’s time to pass this useless knowledge onto you. Let us travel through the evolution of Crush.
Phase 1: “Demolition” Crush
Length of Phase: 1990-1991
Notable Feuds: The Hart Foundation, The Legion of Doom
Known as Demolition, the tag team of Ax and Smash debuted in the WWF in 1987 and for all intents and purposes were the federation’s answer to The Road Warriors, an immensely popular team that at the time made their home at Jim Crockett Promotions down South. The resemblance was uncanny, possibly due to both teams being inspired by the Mad Max film franchise and also the fact Vince McMahon reaalllly wanted The Road Warriors but settled for a knockoff instead. But Demolition managed to overcome these odds to become one of the better tag teams in the WWF, winning the Tag Team Belts twice (1998 and at Wrestlemania VI in 1990).
But the members of Demolition were aging, specifically Bill Eadie who performed as Ax. Unable to compete as much due to a bad heart, the WWF brought Crush in as their third member and the team spent the spring and summer of 1990 defending the WWF Tag Team Belts using the “Freebird Rule” (any two members of the team could defend the titles). Their run came to an end at Summerslam 1990 when they lost a 2 out of 3 Falls match against The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart/Jim “The Anvil Neidhart). Ax was soon phased out and the now two person Demolition team of Smash and Crush were entered into a feud with the debuting Road Warriors, the very team Demolition was accused of ripping off, once they arrived as The Legion of Doom. L.O.D. dominated quickly and Demolition continued to slide, with their last tag team match occuring at Wrestlemania VII against the Japanese team of Genichiro Tenryu and Koji Kitao. After that, Crush disappeared from the WWF for awhile and competed back in Oregon for Pacific Northwest Wrestling using the Demolition Crush gimmick. But soon enough the WWF came back a calling with a whole new take on the character.
Phase 2: “Kona” Crush
Length of Phase: 1992-1993
Notable Feud: Doink the Clown
In 1992, Crush returned to the WWF as the babyface “Kona” Crush, a good natured babyface who also happened to possess the strongest hands this side of Ken Patera. Vignettes signalling his coming involved Crush making mince meat out of pineapples, playing up his strength and the lethality of his finishing move the Kona Clutch (where he would squeeze his opponent’s head with both hands until he gave up or passed out). He made his PPV debut under the new gimmick atSummerslam 1992, defeating Repo Man who coincidentally had been his Demolition partner Smash just the year before. Crush entered his one and only high profile feud in 1993 with Doink the Clown (a beyond excellent Matt Bourne), an evil clown who played mean pranks on all the good guy wrestlers and would switch from giddy to deadly serious in a heartbeat (his theme music still terrifies me). Their feud came to ahead at Wrestlemania IX when Doink defeated Crush thanks to the assistance of another Doink who came from behind and smacked Crush in the head with a prosthetic arm (the same “gag” that began their feud).
Although Doink was an absolute brilliant character (until being ruined by his face turn later that year), it’s hard to take a wrestler seriously who was beaten by a wrestling clown so Crush unfortunately did not accomplish much in the months after. He unsuccessfully challenged for the Intercontinental Title at King of the Ring 1993 and was put out of action (storyline-wise) on a July edition of Monday Night Raw by then-WWF World Champion Yokozuna. Fans waited with baited breath for their Hawaiian hero to return. But when he finally did, he wasn’t the same Crush everyone remembered. He was…
Phase 3: “Evil Twin” Crush
Length of Phase: 1993-1995
Notable Feuds: Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Lex Luger (kind-of)
A week prior to Yokozuna’s attack, Crush had been encouraged to enter the July 4th Body Slam competition held on the U.S.S. Intrepid. The goal was to be the first to bodyslam the massive Yokozuna, an event which Lex Luger later won. Crush was injured during the contest, and coupled with the attack a week later, he was put out of action. When he returned in 1993, he was a changed man and not for the better; donning darker colors, facepaint, and more importantly an EVIL GOATEE, Crush aligned himself with Yokozuna, the man who injured him, and set his sights on the man who encouraged him to enter the Body Slam competition in the first place leading to his injury:“Macho Man” Randy Savage. The two feuded all the way up to Wrestlemania X when Savage defeated him in a Falls Count Anywhere match, a match Savage won by tying Crush up and making him unable to answer a 60 second count to return to the ring (a rule that’s as stupid as it sounds).
Crush continued making the lives of the WWF babyfaces miserable throughout the rest of 1994, including a brief feud with Lex Luger who had still yet to win the WWF World Championship (spoiler: he never did). After a strong showing at the Royal Rumble in 1995, Crush’s career was put on hold after being convicted for illegally purchasing a hand gun and steroids, landing him jailtime. This real-life situation bled into the world of professional wrestling, and more important into the character of Crush, turning him into…
Phase 4: “Convict” Crush
Length of Phase: 1996-1997
Notable Feuds: None (He just had a beef with whoever opposed the NOD)
Stable: The Nation of Domination
Crush’s stint in prison served as the basis for his next character change, as he returned to the WWF decked out like how I guess ex-convicts dress like: denim vest, jeans, braids, a forehead tattoo, a random piercing. He was placed in the stable The Nation of Domination, which at the time consisted of leader Farooq (Ron Simmons), the Memphis tag team PG-13 (Wolfie D/J.C. Ice), and lawyer/manager Clarence Mason. Pretty ironic that a stable clearly designed to mimmick the Black Panthers was comprised of mostly white dudes, eh? Crush didn’t get to do much here except get involved in whatever Nation business was going on at the time. But I will say this: out of all his iterations, this was his best look. He came off intimidating as hell, and considering he was sporting braids that’s impressive. I also respect “Jailbird” Crush for bringing back the Heart Punch, a devastating finisher (move is self-explanatory) that had been out of commission since Stan Stasiak used it in the 1970′s. This version of the Nation of Domination did not last long, and the fallout would lead to Crush’s final evolutionary phase: that of a sort of kind of white supremacist biker. Irony?
Phase 5: “Biker” Crush
Length of Phase: 1997
Notable Feuds: The Nation of Domination, Los Boriquas
Stable: The Disciples of Apocalypse
After Crush was booted out of the Nation of Domination, he created the Disciples of Apocalypse, an all-white biker gang who most likely loved Motorhead and Easy Rider. The group soon entered into a feud with the Nation of Domination (now with new members The Rock, D’Lo Brown, and Kama Mustafa) and the Puerto Rican stable Los Boriquas, led by former Nation member Savio Vega. This three way feud gave 1997-era WWF something it desperately needed: a heavily racist gang war that would divide its audience! The Disciples of Apocalypse would lose their leader quicker than they expected however, when Crush abruptly quit the WWF in late 1997 as a response to the “Montreal Screwjob” at Survivor Series 1997.
Crush spent seven years in the WWF, and had five different phases of his character. Some were more entertaining than others, and way less lame (biker gimmicks never work), but Crush left his footprint on the world of professional wrestling especially for anyone who grew up on the 90’s wrestling product.
Do you have any fond/hated memories of Crush? Did I forget a phase or get my facts wrong? Leave a comment below or feel free to email me at email@example.com.