Any Friend of Terry's is a Friend of Mine!

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Terry, Bam Bam, Gordy, was special.
By: Bill Watts


Often to reflect on the death of someone that was in your life, is very hard----especially if you go very far beneath the surface to examine it.
Terry, Bam Bam, Gordy, was something else! He reminds me of a bigger Ray Stevens. He was a complete "natural."
No one could do the things in the ring that Ray Stevens did in the 60's, but the "natural" ability, and "feel" was the same.
Dick Murdock too was one of those great "naturals."
They just could do anything in the ring. It was their "canvas" as they "painted the picture" they wanted to let the fans see.
It is part of the "lost art" of wrestling, that will never be seen again, or recaptured. (And I do not say that in a demeaning way, like "an old timer" who is "putting down today's sport," because I believe the athletes are bigger, stronger, and have more developed ability in many areas.)
But to see totally "unscripted" (by today's standards) matches between two wrestlers, or a team, and to see the interaction and reaction-------without every single move being "talked over and planned almost "by the numbers" as they do today, in their quest for quantity of acrobatics; to see what I got to see so many times in my career, was truly awesome-------and a work of art so totally spontaneous and expressive-----that it captured and controlled the emotions of the fans------and so often of the "boys" (the wrestlers) who also watched to see those so talented.
Today's fan, being so "hep" to where wrestling has "gone," is only "entertained." In the era that I am referring to, the fan was also mesermized and emotionalized by the event and the participants. They "felt" what the wrestlers went through.
In today's world, it is totally "for the show" and thus, they never experience the emotion of a crowd reacting to the drama. They haven't seen a riot in a small town due to the fans getting so emotionally involved because their favorite was being mistreated by the bully. They haven't seen or felt an entire arena truly "hate" the "bad guy"--------not a "feigned" or "go along with the crowd" booing, but a deep, angry, totally consuming hate of the "bad guy."
They do hear the cheers for the favorites, but in today's world of wrestling, the same cheers for the "supposed bad guy" are barely separated, and really of the same tribute.
Most of today's stars in recent times have not had to "fight their way to the ring, and fight their way back to the dressing room"------because to the fans, it's just a "show."
Well, when the Freebirds were "born" in this business, it was still in the era where fans "took their wrestling seriously."
And Bam Bam, along with Michael Hayes, and Buddy Roberts, were a fantastic team. I was privileged to work with so many: The VanBrauners, with Sol Weingroff; Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson; Pretty Boy Larry Hennig, and Handsome Harley Race-------were teams that really "rose above the rest" in so many ways.
The Freebirds were another.
I remember we found Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes working in small shows in Mississippi. Michael loved being "in the ring" as a wrestler, but his true talent was his being "the manager" (at least in my view.) So we got Buddy Roberts to be Terry's partner in the ring, with Michael managing, and the team was born. And, they went on to become true Super Stars in the business.
At this point, I am saying things that are strictly "my opinion" and "observation." I am not saying Terry died because of a direct overdose of drugs--------because I do not know that. But to die so young, is certainly questionable as to it not being the result of a history of self-abuse, and substance abuse-------starting with alcohol, which we all abused ourselves. I guess you'd say this just  lead to the next steps for some: grass, cocaine, pills, crack, and whatever.
I am not demeaning Gordy-------I truly loved that big guy. But I am saying what needs to be said, so maybe just one person "wakes up" and starts taking "personal responsibility" for their own life. (As we grow old, all we really can offer is our perspective on life because of our experience in it. There is a value there, though in today's society it is generally ignored.)
Now to the tragic aspect. Terry, as gifted as he was in the ring, had so little personal discipline. He then became a substance abuser, and battled that the rest of his life.
We knew so little about that "process then" and to tell you the truth, just tried to work around it as best we could, until, as a promoter, you just got to the point where you no longer could "trust" the person to "show up" and be "responsible."
So, the downward spiral often took years------especially as the business changed. We all abused alcohol, and "it was just a part of the business to run hard and play hard." Most of us drank huge quantities of beer, and drove our late night trips at high speeds, and drinking beer.
And then as "they came into vogue," drugs and steroids became the "norm" and were really "accepted" or as I said, "ignored" by the companies that controlled the sport, unless one was just so "blasted" that it couldn't be.
I fought them, the steroids-----the cocaine, the pills, the crack--------as best I could-------but when someone is an "addict," first "they have to want to "get off" and "clean themselves up" or it just doesn't happen.
In fact while I was at TBS, we instituted a drug testing policy, and it caused a lot of problems. And we had several test positive------so the policy got "derailed" and "never made policy" while I was there-------which was really frustrating to me. (Two of the people that were there then, and involved in this problem, are now dead, and died at an extremely young age,--------and from all indications, there was a mitigating factor from this very thing.) I am not saying "I was an angel" but I certainly experienced dealing with the athletes who were abusing themselves this way, and all the personality extremes that go with it. (Too, as athletes, we seldom considered the long term effects.)
And, once addicted, whether they want to admit it or not, they are addicts for life, so they must fight the urge daily.
So many people tried to help Terry. I remember Dr. Death, Steve Williams saved him once in Japan, and then got him to going to the gym, and "in shape" and he really straightened out for awhile.
Connie, his wife, tried so hard too-------until finally she was "worn out with it."
Michael Hayes, tried too, in his way. (Michael was a huge influence on Terry.) But Michael too "walked the edge" when he was young, so that was hard for him to truly influence an addicted person in a really positive way.
And again, in Michael's defense, we lived in that era not understanding how we were "enabling" our peers in this respect. We were ignorant. Michael was and is so talented, but as we all did, lived fast and hard. So it is, and then there are those who "go over the edge" and that is the visible tragedy------and then, we lose them too soon.
And, Bam Bam was right there in Texas, working for the Von Erichs, and saw the drugs and their devastation on that family as tragedy after tragedy occurred, and "was covered up"------but everyone in the business knew. He was there when Gino Hernandez OD'ed too.
But see, an athlete always thinks "I can handle this!" And that "pride" whips him. (That and generally a lack of any real spirituality, or connection with God.)
I have now seen so many great ones who got "hooked" on drugs or steroids or both, pass away-------and the tragedy is such a waste.
So, I cannot think of Terry without thinking of "his self-destructive side."
But, I can also reflect on his "talented side" and that was huge. But that will be written about often and featured.
But when you lose the Eddie Gilberts, Gino Hernandez's, David Von Erich, Mike Von Erich, Chris Von Erich, and Kerry Von Erich---------so young--------that is when we need to really focus on "what may have contributed to that."
And, as much as I enjoyed Bam Bam, he was like a gentle giant, but also a "loaded gun" in that he might "go off" and get "blasted" and then "not show up," or "show up" but not be able to perform to his own standard.
But, we as promoters, in our greed, would "look the other way"-------to a point, and try to go ahead and "work around it."
That is the tragedy.
Bam Bam will be remembered as an awesome performer in the ring--------as well he should be.
But, he died too young!
So, I am not "demeaning Terry, or anyone I've mentioned. But, as I grow old, I weep for the memories, and think of the waste for such a loss.

And that too is the way I see it.


I would like to thank Greg Oliver for being so nice to me, and letting me use text and photos from SLIM! Wresling.
Copyright 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

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