[Feature] The Many Faces of… Ed “Brutus Beefcake” Leslie

The Many Faces of… takes a look at wrestlers who have had gone through a bit of an identity crisis over their professional career, changing from gimmick to gimmick sometimes with reckless abandon due to either internal or external outside forces (copyrights, character not getting over with the fans, etc.). Consider these guys the chameleons of professional wrestling.

Ed Leslie has had a storied career in the world of professional wrestling both as a tag team competitor and a singles star. He is undoubtedly best known as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, the master of the sleeperhold, Hulk Hogan‘s best friend, and more importantly a neon fishnets aficionado. But while that’s what Leslie is best known for, that’s just merely one of many gimmicks he had over his two decades in the industry and today we’re going to go through them all, from barber to butcher to dancer to mute biker (again with the biker gimmicks!). These are the Many Faces of Ed “Brutus Beefcake” Leslie.

1. Ed Boulder/Dizzy Hogan (1976-1984)

L to R: Hulk Hogan (w/ badass chest hair) and his BFF Ed Leslie. Leslie has Farrah Fawcett hair.

Leslie began his wrestling career in the late 1970′s alongside fellow rookie Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan. The two regularly teamed and Leslie portrayed Bollea’s brother; when Bollea was Terry Boulder he was Ed Boulder and when Bollea became Hulk Hogan, Leslie became Dizzy Hogan (a puzzling name). Leslie would make stops in Mid-South Wrestling owned by Bill Watts and would occasionally make appearances in the World Wrestling Federation before becoming a regular in 1984 under the name that would make him famous.

2. Brutus Beefcake, Part 1: The Heel (1984-1987)

The Dream Team (L to R: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, manager “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, and Brutus Beefcake)

Now christened Brutus Beefcake, Leslie made his debut as a singles competitor in 1984 under the tutilege of former wrestler turned manager “Luscious” Johnny Valentine. As a heel, he faced many of the WWF’s top faces (including Hogan, now the World Champion and a megastar) and most notably wrestled David Sammartino at the first ever Wrestlemania in 1985.

In the summer of 1985, Beefcake was paired up with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine to form the tag team The Dream Team and in August of that year they defeated The U.S. Express (Barry Windham/Mike Rotundo) for the WWF World Tag Team Belts. The Dream Team would defend them against all comers until Wrestlemania II when they were defeated by The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid/Davey Boy Smith). That marked the end of their run as one of the top tag teams in the promotion but the team soldiered on anyway. But there was dissention within the ranks of The Dream Team, as Valentine and Valiant began to blame Beefcake for their losses and looking at him as a weak link. At Wrestlemania III, after defeating The Rougeau Brothers (Jacques Rougeau/Raymond Rougeau), Beefcake was kicked out of The Dream Team and replaced by Dino Bravo. But when one door closes, another door opens and Beefcake would make one more appearance before the show was over…

3. Brutus Beefcake, Part 2: “The Barber” (1987-1993)

 Beefcake would make his return at Wrestlemania III to interfere in the Roddy Piper/Adrian Adonis match to help Piper gain the victory, which officially cemented his babyface turn. He also partook in shaving Adonis’ hair and out of that came his new gimmick: he was now christened Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Up went the flamboyancy, with completely out there style choices (trunks cut out and replaced with fishnets) and up went his star status. He was quickly moved to the upper mid card, feuding with The Honky Tonk Man, Ron Bass, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, among others as well as teaming with his longtime friend Hulk Hogan to fend off the duo of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant and later the team of Savage and Zeus, the fictional character Hogan had fought in the 1989 movie No Holds Barred (considered a cheesy classic here at PWNostalgia.net headquarters).

1990 looked to be the best year yet of Beefcake’s career, as he was scheduled to defeat “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig for the Intercontinental Title at Summerslam 1990, making him the de facto number two wrestler in the promotion. However before that could happen, tragedy struck when Beefcake suffered a major facial injury in a parasailing accident. Nine hours of surgery and 100 metal plates later, Beefcake had recovered but not well enough to return to the ring. For the next couple of years, he hosted “The Barber Shop”, a talk show segment akin to Piper’s Pit where he would interview all the big stars and help push storylines on WWF television. Despite its short run, “The Barber Shop” played host to the breakup of The Rockers, in which Shawn Michaels turned heel and threw his partner Marty Jannetty right through the plate glass window of the set. Although not known at the time, this moment ended up being one of the more pivotal moments in the history of the WWF and the beginning of Michaels’ rise to the top.

“The Barber Shop” concluded in 1992 right around Wrestlemania VIII and Beefcake was taken off TV for a long time after. He would resurface, healed and ready to get back into the ring, in 1993, returning on an edition of Monday Night Raw. He quickly entered into a feud with the tag team Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase/Irwin R. Schyster), but Hulk Hogan made his WWF return to help his best friend out. At Wrestlemania IX, Beefcake and Hogan (wrestling with the team name “The Mega Maniacs”) faced Money Inc. but ended up losing by disqualification. Almost immediately after, Beefcake was off WWF television this time for good. But when Hogan jumped ship to WCW in 1994, his best friend was not far behind; little did he know he was about to have an identity crisis that would rival a schizophrenic.

4. The Butcher/The Man with No Name (1994-1995)

The 3 (Very Blurry) Faces of Fear (L to R: The Butcher, Avalanche, Kevin Sullivan)

Leslie began his WCW stint as part of Hogan’s entourage, never really saying much and acting as essentially a cheerleader. Being that Brutus Beefcake and “The Barber” were both trademarked names, Leslie was called everything from “The Clipmaster” to “Brother Bruti” to sort of kind of hint to the home audience of his former persona but not enough to get sued.

But Leslie wouldn’t hang in the background for long when at Halloween Havoc 1994, it was revealed that he was the masked man who had been attacking Hogan all summer, turning heel for the first time in eight years. Leslie took the name “The Butcher” (because he butchered his friendship you see) and joined up with Avalanche (John Tenta, a wrestler who also suffered from multiple gimmicks) and Kevin Sullivan to form the 3 Faces of Fear, a group dedicated to destroying Hulkamania. The Hogan/Butcher feud reached its peak at Starrcade 1994 when the two long-time best friends finally met in the middle of the ring for the first time (…in about a decade). Butcher was soundly defeated and the match is widely considered one of the worst Starrcade main events in that event’s history.

The 3 Faces of Fear continued on for a little while longer as Hogan’s cannon fodder until the group disbanded and Sullivan turned against The Butcher. Now wrestling as a tweener and having no storyline friends, he became known as “The Man with No Name”, an amnesia-driven character that quickly went nowhere and led to a terrible match between he and Sullivan at Slamboree 1995 that I only remember because of how bad it was. Leslie disappeared from WCW television for a little while after, but would pop up again at Sullivan’s side in a brand new anti-Hulkamania stable: The Dungeon of Doom.

5. The Zodiac (1995)

Is this my favorite of his WCW gimmicks? YES! NO! YES! NO! (Seriously though, yes. Yes it is.)

The Dungeon of Doom is one of those storylines where explaining it to a non-fan makes you feel somewhat embarrassed for loving pro wrestling. It all began when Kevin Sullivan was summoned by a man known as “The Master” (legend Curtis Iaukea, who has one of the coolest speaking voices in promo history) to his mountain lair and given the task of ending Hulkamania. Sullivan became “The Taskmaster” and he rounded up a whole host of freak show characters including Kamala, Shark (the former Avalanche), Loch NessThe Giant (Paul “The Big Show” Wight) and Leslie’s next gimmick: The Zodiac.

Decked out in the same get up he wore in the opening wrestling scenes of Hogan’s 1993 movie Mr. Nanny, The Zodiac didn’t really have much of a character other than that of an indecisive pain in the ass; his promos were just him repeating “YES! NO! YES NO!” over and over until someone finally took the mic away from him. Look professional wrestling wasn’t that great in 1995, okay? Zodiac would assist The Dungeon of Doom for the rest of 1995, until Hogan revealed that The Zodiac was nothing more than a mole Hogan planted inside the group to learn its secrets! No guys, he wasn’t some crazy painted up freak! He was actually

6. The Booty Man (1996)

Leslie was now The Booty Man, a wrestler who were a great dancer and an even better lover (apparently). He brought back the bright Brutus Beefcake gear with possibly even more fishnet cutouts to accentuate how he sexy was, and after running with Hogan for a bit broke off to feud with “Diamond” Dallas Page over his valet Kimberly (Booty Man replaced Johnny B. Badd in the feud when he left to join the WWF as “Wildman” Marc Mero). Booty Man christened Kimberly “The Booty Babe” and the two would dance, gyrate, get down, get on the good foot, yadda yadda. His finisher was also a high knee called “The High Knee” which is not funny whatsoever if you say it out loud (much love to Wrestlecrap for helping me remember that)

You would think by now Leslie would just settle with a character and ride it out for the rest of his career, but you sir (or madam) are wrong! He still had one final “face” to go; one that would most likely be considered the most true to life character of his career (if you’re a smark).

7. The Disciple (1998-1999)

In the summer of 1996,  Hulk Hogan turned heel and along with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash formed the anarchic group the New World Order. The group, innovative in the States (but ripped off from a Japanese storyline), acted as a separate entity to WCW and were dead set on taking the company over and remaking it in its own image. At Road Wild 1996, Hogan defeated The Giant to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion and brought the company’s most prestigious belt to its “rival group”. After the match, Leslie (still as The Booty Man I guess) came out with a birthday cake to kiss up to Hogan and hopefully gain admittance into the nWo. Hogan, being the dastardly villain he now was, attacked Leslie and he, Hall, and Nash proceeded to lay him out.

Luckily this didn’t lead to another Starrcade main event or anything; in fact it never went anywhere at all because Leslie would disappear from WCW until 1998, returning as nWo lackey/enforcer The Disciple. Gone were his outrageous outfits and in its place was an all-black biker ensemble (sigh). The Disciple acted as Hogan’s personal bodyguard and did whatever bidding his master requested (again, much like real-life), until The Warrior showed up in WCW to reignite his WWF feud with Hogan. Warrior kidnapped The Disciple and brainwashed him into joining Warrior’s faction the One Warrior Nation (oWn. Get it? YOU F*CKING GET IT?!?), turning him face (as face as one can be after being essentially brainwashed into a cult by a psychobabbler who wears facepaint). After Warrior’s defeat at Halloween Havoc 1998 however, the oWn disbanded and Warrior left the company, leaving The Disciple with nothing to do other than to wrestle on WCW’s B-shows and by June of 1999 Leslie was officially gone from WCW and in effect, mainstream pro wrestling, for good.

From Barber to Butcher to Schizophrenic to Dancer to Biker, Ed Leslie managed a 16 year run in the major leagues of professional wrestling either due to talent or his friendship with Hogan or his willingness to do whatever it took to keep his job (I don’t see Steve Austin as someone who would’ve accepted The Booty Man gimmick). While his run as Brutus Beefcake is empirically the most successful of his career, he did headline WCW’s flagship event and also inhabited an hilarious guilty pleasure known as The Zodiac so his WCW stint did have some bright spots. But 7 gimmicks? Doesn’t that seem like overkill? Yes? No? Yes? No? Ye-okay I’ll stop doing that.

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