411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Jack & Jerry Brisco
In 2008, Jack and Jerry Brisco were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by John Bradshaw Layfield in one of the most thorough and entertaining inductions I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. I have the unfortunate duty of trying to follow that speech here by inducting The Briscos into the 411 Hall of Fame. However, I shall do my best to cover both of their tremendous careers.
Jack and Jerry Brisco were born as Freddy Joe and Floyd Gerald Brisco in Blackwell, Oklahoma to a single mother with four other siblings. They were standout amateur wrestlers at the Oklahoma State college, winning multiple championships and accolades. Jack in particular achieved a measure of fame when he won the NCAA Wrestling National Championship in 1965. Jack was the first Native American to win this championship, and even more shockingly, won it in his junior year without having a single point scored on him the entire season. Jack would have gone onto the Olympics Team and may have been called the single greatest amateur of all time if not for one reason; money. Jack had to support his family, and professional wrestling provided the opportunity to make money. Jerry would follow shortly after, and the rest is, literally, history.
Adapting from the legitimate competition of amateur wrestling to the sports spectacle of professional wrestling as well as anyone, the Briscos became two of the stand-out wrestlers of the 1960’s until the mid-1980’s. Both had brilliant fundamentals, fantastic conditioning, amazing mat sense and psychology, and the toughness and tenacity of true fighters. If you wanted to brawl, you would taste their left hands over and over again until you regretted that decision. And if you wanted to wrestle, you were going to get schooled. They would stretch you out, and wear you out, and both of them (especially Gerry) would badmouth you the whole time. No wrestler had an easy time with either Briscoe, but it usually resulted in the best match of the night.
As individual performers, they both had tremendous success, but as a tag team, they were the very best in the business at the time. Holding over twenty tag-team titles over two decades in every major territory in the NWA, the Briscos feuded with every top tag team of their era. Their most famous rivalry was with fellow wrestling brothers Terry and Dory Funk, Jr. The battle between the two sets of brothers raged throughout the seventies as they each sought to prove they were better. In 1983, they had their last major feud as a team against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, and would battle them over the NWA Tag Team Championships at the inaugural Starrcade event.
On his own, Jerry Brisco had a harder time becoming a top star: smaller and not as as technically sound as his brother Jack (very few were), Jerry was unable to become a national player at the heavyweight level; he did hold several regional titles in Florida and Georgia, and became the World Junior Heavyweight Champion in 1981 by defeating Les Thornton. However, almost two decades later, Jerry would gain a measure of infamy as Vince McMahon’s “stooge” Gerald Brisco. Along with Pat Patterson, Gerald was involved in many memorable skits as well as occasional forays into the ring. A memorable and slightly disturbing feud with Patterson got Gerald two runs with the Hardcore Championship, but the highlight of this run is certainly this match:
Like his younger brother, Jack had success everywhere he went, winning titles in every major NWA territory. His greatest accomplishment came on July 20, 1973 when he defeated Harley Race to become the NWA World Champion, the first Native American to win a World Championship in wrestling (and as of today, the only one.) In this era, the NWA World Champion was the unquestioned best wrestler in the world, and the hottest commodity. From 1973 to 1975 when he lost the championship to Terry Funk, Jack was recognized as the best in the business and was the top draw in wrestling. His matches with the Funks, Harley Race, and Giant Baba are the stuff of legend and set the tone for the future classics that Ric Flair would have in the 1980’s. With the exception of four days in which Giant Baba held the championship, Jack was the wrestling business for these three years.
Jack Brisco’s second title win where he defeated Giant Baba is particularly significant; Brisco became only the second wrestler to win the NWA World Championship on more than one occasion. The first was the legendary Lou Thesz. By becoming a two-time champion, Brisco solidified his place as one of the true greats of the ring. After these title reigns, Jack would scale back his singles career and focus on teaming with his brother before retiring from wrestling in 1984. His name should be mentioned in the same breath as Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Harley Race, Buddy Rogers, Pat O’Connor, Gene Kiniski, Dusty Rhodes and The Funks when rattling off the great champions of the NWA. Perhaps his greatest singles match ever was against Dory Funk, Jr. in Tokyo, Japan, which won Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Match of the Year award in 1974.
While the Briscos tore it up in the ring, they also found great success outside of the ring and contributed to the future of the business. As promoters, they got to see the other side of the business. Most famously, they convinced a 52% majority of stockholders to sell Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon. This purchase was one of the major stepping stones for McMahon’s hostile takeover of the wrestling world, and proved to be a smart business decision for the Briscos. Set for life, Jack retired and started the Brisco Body Shop with his brother Bill and Jerry. Gerald worked as a backstage agent for the WWE, terrorizing every Texan who signed with the company and helping many young kids develop as performers.
Perhaps their greatest contribution was finding a young kid named Terry Bollea and giving him to Hiro Matsuda to train: Bollea, of course, would become Hulk Hogan and would redefine the business forever and become the biggest star in the history of the business. They also introduced many other notable wrestlers, such as John Layfield, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle to professional wrestling. Aside from their direct influence, they are the mold for American Amateur Tag Teams like The Steiner Brothers and the World’s Greatest Tag Team. Ricky Steamboat credits much of his wrestling style to watching Jack Brisco, and anyone who wrestles like Steamboat wrestles just like Brisco did. Kurt Angle is the same way.
The Briscoes made their last major public appearance as inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008; Jack accepted his induction with grace and class, while Gerald showed the spirit and passion he was always known for. Jerry is now retired from his role as a WWE agent while Jack tragically passed away early in 2010.
Why Jack and Jerry Brisco were selected…
Unfortunately, much of Jerry and Jack’s work has been lost to the sands of time and will never see the light of day. However, anyone who watched them can testify to their greatness, and their wealth of titles in a time when only the biggest and the best in a promotion were given the ball to run with speaks for its self. They were successful in every area of wrestling: as amateurs or pros, as singles performers or a tag team, inside the ring or behind the scenes, they exemplified excellence. Jerry and especially Jack are two of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and it is my honor to induct them into the 411 Hall of Fame, which would never have been complete without them.