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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Gordy made it all seem real
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

If I leave here tomorrow...
Would you still remember me?

-- "Free Bird"
Lynyrd Skynyrd


That 'ol familiar refrain from the southern rock anthem that echoed from the loudspeakers every time Terry 'Bam Bam' Gordy made his way to the ring as one of the Freebirds seems more poignant than ever before.

Terry Gordy, the six-foot-four, 289-pound Chattanooga, Tennessee native who was considered one of the best foreign wrestlers ever to compete in Japan, passed away last Monday from blood clots to his heart. He was only 40 years old.

Terry 'Bam Bam' Gordy. Photo courtesy Chris Swisher
And with his passing, the cruel hand of fate tapped the shoulder of another wrestling legend, signalling his time was up and taking him away long before he should have gone.

Gordy was a wrestler of considerable skill who left his mark in every territory and promotion he ever worked in. Both as a member of the Freebirds and as a regular for All Japan Pro Wrestling, he provided me with a wealth of memories.

This past week, I've gone through my old tapes and watched several of his classic matches, in particular his bouts teaming with Steve 'Dr. Death' Williams against Doug Furnas and Dan Kroffat in All Japan. Ten years later, those matches still stand up against any tag match you'll see on Smackdown or RAW or any pay-per-view.

The more I watched, the more I realized that in terms of in-ring work and quality of matches, there has been no better tag team in the history of pro wrestling than Gordy and Williams.

Oh sure, they're have been more famous tag teams... the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, The British Bulldogs, etc.

But for my money, none of them had as many classic matches or were nearly as consistent as Gordy and Williams.

It's been written in every obit piece I've read about Gordy, but it bears repeating here once more: he was one of the greatest 'big men' in the history of the business.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to see him in his prime, if there's any doubt about his skills, consider the words of Jim Ross who had this to say when I asked him about Terry Gordy:

"There's no doubt that had he been in his prime in this era, Terry Gordy could have main evented a WrestleMania-level event very easily when it comes to what the product was in the ring. He was that good in his day."

Amen, J.R.!

Terry Gordy was one of the best big men ever to work in Japan, paving the way for the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow, Vader, Dan Spivey and others who followed in his footsteps.

He first went to All Japan in 1983. For ten years, he waged war against the best workers in the business in the most physcially demanding wrestling promotion in the world.

"You do five years in Japan, it's like doing 15 in the States," Stan Hansen told me last week. "It's not nearly as physical over here. It's all in the ring how you develop and promote your own character over there. It's the only way. That's why not many people are able to go there and make a living because it's the toughest job in pro wrestling."

Terry Gordy was one of the few. He's on a very short list of foreigners that includes the likes of Hansen, Williams, Bruiser Brody, The Dynamite Kid and Terry Funk that were able to make it in Japan.

He was one of the best.

But the true tragedy is that Terry Gordy had it within him to be THE best.

Gordy burned the candles at both ends, living life just as hard and as intense as the way he wrestled. A drug overdose in 1993 sent the gentle giant spiraling into a five-day coma. Although he returned to wrestling, he was never the same Terry Gordy. Most critics agree his career was essentially over.

"He was an awesome worker. Just a natural from the first time I saw him. He would have been one of the all-time greats for sure," offered Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. "As far as I'm concerned his career was over (after the overdose). He came back but it was the ghost of Terry Gordy."

Why did Gordy turn to drugs and alcohol?

Some speculate that he was in constant pain.

"People try to mask pain in different way and Ithink that maybe for Terry that was the way," said former partner Jimmy Garvin. "(The pain) of maybe not having his family, maybe knowing that he lost his career in Japan, lost his family and was going down hill. And when he shut that door on his room and looked in the mirror with him in there alone, those demons came out. He'd have to look at himself and say 'man, what have I done?'"

None of which does a thing to change my view of him.

Although it pained me to see Terry Gordy wrestle after the coma, I choose to remember the Terry Gordy who was one of the best brawlers I ever saw.

I choose to remember the teenaged Gordy who ran roughshod in the WTBS studios on "Georgia Championship Wrestling" who along with partners Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts first gained national attention as the Freebirds.

I choose to remember the young, brash rulebreaker who slammed the steel cage door into Kerry Von Erich's skull on Christmas night, 1982 in a world title match against Ric Flair, costing the 'Modern Day Warrior' the NWA title. The bedlam that ensued in Dallas that night was something to behold as the 18,000 screaming lunatics that packed into Reunion Arena screamed bloody murder and called for Gordy's head in one of the most historic and often-copied angles in wrestling history.

I choose to remember the countless six-man tag matches between the Freebirds and the Von Erichs throughout Texas in the mid '80s that set the old World Class territory on fire.

I choose to remember the older Gordy who refused to do a job to Hulk Hogan in the main event of the All Japan/WWF/New Japan Wrestling Summit show in April of 1990, forcing promoters to convince Stan Hansen to take his place. (Gordy, after all, had his pride and couldn't have possibly lived with himself if he put Hogan over).

I choose to remember the Gordy that became the first foreign wrestler to win All Japan's Triple Crown title, defeating Jumbo Tsuruta on June 5, 1990.

I choose to remember the veteran Gordy who teamed with Steve 'Dr. Death' Williams to form the Miracle-Violence Combination, a tag team that ruled the rings of All Japan Pro Wrestling for years.

But what I choose to remember most was the way he made me feel about wrestling.

With his stiff working style and strong work ethic, Terry Gordy made wresting seem real every time he stepped through the ropes. Terry Gordy helped to validate my love of wrestling. He made the sport come alive and provided me with a lifetime of memories that I'll always cherish.

Remember Terry Gordy, asks Lynyrd Skynyrd?

How could I possibly forget?

Thanks for the memories.

Rest in peace, Bam Bam.

July 18: Gordy remembered as a great talent
July 17: Terry 'Bam Bam' Gordy dead at 40

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