Thursday, January 14, 2010

Steve "Dr.Death" Williams

Steve "Dr.Death" Williams ranks among my favorite wrestlers of all time.
Certainly in the top few and arguably my favorite of the past twenty years.
Doc ranks right up there with the favorites of youth (Don Muraco,Ken Patera and Bob Orton Jr),the favorites of my young adult years (Bret Hart,Tully Blanchard,etc) and the favorites of my adult years (errr,Ok not too many that I didn't already like),but Steve Williams for some unknown reason connected with me more than others.
I sometimes wondered why that was because of all the skills that Doc possessed in the ring,doing terrific work on the microphone was not one of them.
Perhaps it was watching his work,which depending on your opinion could range from "snug" to stiff" or perhaps the intensity of his style came across as more legitimate than most.
Maybe it was because one could tell that in a sport that had predetermined results that this is a guy that would have been the legitimate top guy or at worst,a top contender.
In any event,Steve Williams was loved in the old Mid South territory (Oklahoma,Arkansas,Louisiana,Mississippi and parts of Eastern Texas),but in other areas was not the star that he was in Mid South.
Oh,Williams was respected and rarely lost (Williams went 10 years without suffering a pinfall loss on American turf),but something was missing for the Doctor.
It could have been the lack of being less than excellent on the stick,but I tend to believe it was more along the lines of not having quite the theatrical style that the American fan tended to prefer.
Steve Williams held the Mid South tag titles with Ted DiBiase and created arguably the best team ever in the Mid South/UWF territory.
Ted DiBiase ironed out some of the wrinkles in Williams style and helped Williams mature as a pro wrestler,which led to Williams eventually being the top star of the company winning their top title with a win over Big Bubba Rogers in 1987.
In between Japanese tours,Williams wrestled off and on for the NWA/WCW and had a heel run with Mike Rotundo as the Varsity Club in which they were the first team in years to defeat the Road Warriors,albeit with quite a bit of wrestling controversy.

In Japan,there was no such issue and the punishing physical style that All Japan pro wrestling offered was right up Williams alley.
As good as the team with Ted DiBiase was,Doc's team with Terry Gordy was even better.
The Miracle Violence Connection was the brainchild of AJPW owner Giant Baba to recreate the team of Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen and often these attempts fail,but in this case the Williams and Gordy surpassed the original.
The tandem had too many terrific matches to count against the various combinations of the AJPW stars such as Mitusharu Misawa,Kenta Kobashi,Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue.

Williams and Gordy even made an "invasion" of WCW and won both their title belts in short order disposing of the Steiners brothers in what was an anticipated series of matches.
Their stay was short however as the money from All Japan was too much to turn down in favor of WCW,so their stay was not long as it could have been.

The style of All Japan led to many of their stars breaking down physically and Steve Williams was no exception and his skills eroded as the years went by,but Williams was signed to the WWF and was placed into their shoot "Brawl for all" competition with the expectation that Williams would win the tournament and then be ready for a big run with Steve Austin.
But the Brawl for all was a flawed format as full boxing gloves were placed on fighters,not MMA gloves and as soon as a wrestler was taken down,they were immediately stood back up.
These rules nullified the strengths of Williams,but he won his first round match before a second round match against Bart Gunn.
With Williams far ahead on points,Doc ripped his hamstring making himself immobile for the remainder of the fight.
Having no option other than lean against the ropes for support,Gunn landed a bomb that dropped the Doctor for the count.Williams was never seen quite the same way by American fans again,despite the logical reason for the defeat.
When I saw it,the first thing that I thought of was the 1984 boxing match between Davey Moore and Wilfred Benitez,where Benitez broke his ankle and had to lean against the corner to stand.
Sooner or later,something is going to land.

The Williams-Gunn bout is on youtube,but embedding is disabled so I cannot show it here.
The loss ended Williams shot at being an American star,although he did pound the Misfits a bit in WCW,when the group decided they wanted to be wrestlers(Don't ask),most memorably tossing Jerry Only into a steel cage like you or I would throw a ball against the wall.
Williams wrote his autobiography in 2007,which is still available on Amazon which goes into his sports career and religious conversion as well.
Williams spent most of the last ten years fighting throat cancer,beating it twice and going into what he thought would be his final checkup and discovering that the cancer had returned.
Williams spent much of these years having to use a stoma to be able to speak and showed tremendous courage in dealing with his medical issues.

Steve Williams had an WWE classic figure released late in 2009,which I am sure helped somewhat with his medical bills and was working for Southwest Airlines in Denver at the time of his passing.
For more on Steve Williams,he did a shoot interview several years ago and did a final interview a few weeks prior to his death with some other stars of Mid South wrestling,looking unrecognizable and very ill.
That will be released shortly.

Rest in Peace,Doc....

Photo Credits-Unknown


Ryan Heimberger said...

Great feature.
RIP Dr.Death.

Shawn said...

Thanks for the compliment...