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Ask 411 Wrestling: Was Bruiser Brody Paid to Shoot on Mr. T?

May 25, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Bruiser Brody

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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I was delighted by this question from AG Awesome, since it covers a unique subject instead of being another of the 500 questions about Chris Benoit and the Montreal Screwjob clogging up my inbox:

I’ve been watching old Nitros and RAWs lately and recently hit the episode of Nitro where the Nitro girls debuted. They’re a bit of a curiosity to me as they always just seemed “there” on the shows and weren’t really relevant to the product until the final few months of the company (at least from what I can vaguely remember they had storylines and matches near the end of WCW).

So my question/request is this, can you detail their story to the best of your ability? I don’t mean just their on camera stuff either. I’m talking real life story as well taken from any shoot interviews, dirt sheet articles from the years they worked there, diaries/blogs the girls may have written, shoots/stories from their coworkers, as well as facts like who came and went and why, etc etc. I’m sure this will take some digging and hopefully there are actually some interesting stories out there you find to make it worth it. When seeing them again after all these years I just became curious to know where they came from and how they worked together/got along, planned routines, treatment from the wrestlers, etc etc.

The Nitro Girls were reportedly a concept from the mind of Eric Bischoff, with the idea being that, in addition to adding some sex appeal to Monday Nitro, they would serve much the same purpose as cheerleaders at other professional sporting events, giving the audience something to watch during commercial breaks and other down periods during the live event. They were popular enough that several combat sports leagues created their own versions of the Nitro Girls in ensuing years, including New Japan Pro Wrestling (called “The Super J Girls”), EMLL, and MMA/kickboxing group K-1.

The original six members of the Nitro Girls made their debut on the July 14, 1997 edition of Monday Nitro, with the only name recognizable to WCW fans being Kimberly Page, who had been involved with the company for several years as the valet of her real-life husband Diamond Dallas Page and later a couple of his rivals, Johnny B. Badd and the Booty Man (a.k.a. Ed Leslie.) Kimberly was a former fitness model and Playboy Playmate. Oddly, she was not a professional dancer with the same background as the majority of the other women she was working with, though she would have been familiar with choreographed routines from fitness competitions.

Most of the other women were, in fact, professional dancers, many of them with experience working for sports teams, most often teams based in Atlanta, where WCW had its headquarters.

The original contracts that members of the Nitro Girls were signed to must have lasted for about a year, because June 1998 editions of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that the women were trying to negotiate new deals around that time, with each of the members then being paid around $50,000.00 per year, with the exception of Kimberly, who as the “leader” was being paid an undisclosed higher amount. (For what it’s worth, $50,000.00 in 1997 would be the equivalent of just over $80,000.00 today.)

Initially, the women were fairly popular and pushed hard into doing public relations work by WCW. In addition to doing numerous autograph signings, they were also booked to appear on an episode of the late 1990s reboot of the game show The Dating Game (Wrestlecrap has a recap here), and several of them had cameo roles in the 2000 WCW-based movie Ready to Rumble. When TV Guide published four alternate WCW covers for its August 15, 1999 issue, the Nitro Girls were featured on one of the variants, with the other three being Sting, Kevin Nash, and Randy Savage. Perhaps even more popular was the September 1998 issue of Penthouse, which included a Nitro Girls pictorial, albeit with no nudity.

The girls were even given their own pay per view event, which was dubbed the “Nitro Girls Swimsuit Calendar Special,” airing on August 3, 1999. Reports at the time indicate that the special did terrible numbers as a pay per view, which may have something to do with the fact that TNT and TBS did not allow WCW to run ads for it, believing that the content was too risque. However, the special was released on home video in December 1999 and was somewhat of a success there, spending many weeks on the top sales charts for sports-related VHS tapes (which seems like an odd category for it to compete in, but that’s where all pro wrestling material was placed). According to the February 28, 2000 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the WWF’s bikini photo shoots with their women’s division, which became a fixture for several years, were inspired primarily by the Nitro Girls pay per view special.

It wasn’t all wine and roses in the ranks of the Nitro Girls, though. There were some hard times. The September 20 Wrestling Observer reported that there was discord in the group, specifically the majority of the crew not being happy with Kimberly and Spice. The heat actually resulted in the Nitro Girls not appearing on television for a couple of weeks, and, when they came back, Kimberly left the group not long after. There was a storyline shot explaining her exit on the November 1, 1999 Nitro, and she went back to being involved more heavily in storylines with DDP. The departure of Kimberly also lead to one of the first real angles involving the Nitro Girls, as members Spice and AC Jazz had a worked disagreement over who the new leader of the group would be.

That in turn lead to AC Jazz leaving the company, according to the Observer, as she and Spice were booked to have a mud wrestling match on the November 15, 1999 Nitro and Jazz didn’t like that idea at all, so she walked out. (Did I mention that the Vince Russo era of WCW had begun by this point?) Tygress briefly replaced AC Jazz as the member of the Nitro Girls who was feuding with Spice, but the storyline fizzled out altogether not long after, probably because the physical angles that they tried to shoot with the women were absolutely terrible.

Around the same time, Vince Russo also made the decision to take the Girls’ dance routines off of Nitro. They were still employed to try to keep the crowd hot during commercial breaks, but Russo felt that putting them on screen was a ratings liability. However, he did start to incorporate them into other aspects of the show, giving them new personae and aligning them with male wrestlers as valets. Really, late 1999 into early 2000 was the death knell of their being a prominent presence on television as a group. However, many would remain employed in their new roles.

There is one odd footnote in the Nitro Girls’ history that began as WCW was dying, though. In November 2000, the Figure Four Weekly newsletter reported that some of the Nitro Girls approached the Insane Clown Posse – who had been affiliated with WCW around that time – for advice on how to break into the music industry, despite few to none of them having any prior musical experience. I have to say, the thought of Shaggy 2 Dope helping to start up an ersatz Spice Girls makes me chuckle every time that I think about it. In any event, though it’s not clear how heavily involved ICP actually were, in 2001 five Nitro Girls – Fire, Spice, Storm, Chae, and Tygress – formed the singing group Diversity 5, releasing the tracks Shake Me Up and I Promise. Click the links to listen to those at your own risk, because they could use about 50% more auto-tuning.

Eventually Storm left Diversity 5 and was replaced by another former Nitro Girl, Chiquita. I don’t think that I have to tell you Diversity 5 really didn’t go anywhere as a concept, and the only halfway significant appearances I’m aware of them making as a musical group are on a May 2001 indy wrestling show promoted by a group called USWF in Elmyra, New York and on the October 31, 2002 episode of the Fox reality competition show 30 Seconds to Fame. As near as I can tell, that is the final time that they did anything significant as a group.

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Ryan, that isn’t nearly enough information about the Nitro Girls.” Well, I agree with you. In order to break down some other odds and ends about the life and times of the Nitro Girls, I think it’s best to highlight every individual member of the group. (Except for Kimberly, who we’ve already covered up above.) Believe it or not, there were eighteen of them at different points.

They were:

Naughty-A: That’s pronounced “naught-YA,” for some reason. Jamie Cragwall, as most people know her, was supposedly brought into to be a heel Nitro Girl according to some sources online, thought hat never really played out. She was one of the last Nitro Girls hired in late 2000, meaning that her time in the company was very brief. I could not find any specific information on when or why she was let go. More recently, she’s become a professional fly fisher. No kidding.

Baby: Baby (Shannon McNeill) is another short-lived Nitro Girl who was only around during the year 2000. In addition to being part of the dance team, she did a couple of appearances as one of Chris Kanyon’s groupies when he “went Hollywood” and became known as Champagne Kanyon after doing stunt work on Ready to Rumble. (Based on Chris Jericho’s current gimmick, Kanyon was about twenty years ahead of his time.) According to the December 18, 2000 Figure Four Weekly, McNeill’s departure from WCW was due to her decision to restart her college education.

Starr: Also known as Jennifer Bancale, Starr was another 2000 addition to the group, and she appears to be the member of the troupe who has the least information out there about her, except that she has a film credit as an extra in the 1992 horror/exploitation movie Last Dance. It appears that she may now be a physical therapist.

Tayo: Tayo Reed is one of the few Nitro Girls who got to use her real name on screen. She was a former cheerleader and one of the original six Nitro Girls, though she wasn’t focused on heavily for whatever reason and was gone from the group by 1998. She has remained involved in dance and has operated her own dance/performing arts academy in Georgia, which has been going strong for over 25 years.

Gold & Silver: These sisters probably have the longest resume in the entertainment industry of anybody who has ever called herself a Nitro Girl. They are better known as Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, and they had modeling and acting careers before even coming to WCW, based mostly around their status as twins. Getting into WCW appeared to be part of a larger plan to become involved in pro wrestling, as, not long after they left Turner, they signed WWF developmental deals and were assigned to work in SoCal indy group UPW, which gave us names like John Cena and Nathan Jones. However, the Fed cut them in June 2001. Shortly thereafter, they were cast in a 2002 commercial for Coors Light which some people seem to think was a big deal, though I have zero recollection of it.

Syren: Allison Pfau was another of the 2000 additions to the Nitro Girls, replacing Fyre as the group’s resident redhead. She seems to be the member of the group with perhaps the least involvement in wrestling specifically or entertainment generally outside of her brief run in WCW. She did get involved in storylines outside of dancing for a time, as she was portrayed as a girlfriend of Natural Born Thrillers member Reno who was stolen away from him by Billy Kidman after Kidman’s on screen relationship with Torrie Wilson came to an end.

Chameleon: In 1999 and 2000, Carmel Macklin became one of the Nitro Girls under the name Chameleon, and she was one of the troupe’s members who perhaps became better known for the gimmick she had after she stopped dancing. When Ernest “The Cat” Miller became WCW’s commissioner, Chameleon became his assistant, now operating under the name of Ms. Jones. She also had a series of matches under that name. She lost to Jeff Jarrett on the September 11, 2000 Nitro and then teamed with the Cat to win two mixed tag matches, the first being against Leia Meow (formerly Kimona Wanalaya) and Mike Sanders on the October 23, 2000 Thunder and the second being against Major Gunns and Lance Storm on the December 11, 2000 Thunder. After wrestling, she started a career as an actress and stunt woman, with her biggest credits being stunt work in 2007’s I Am Legend and the 2011 Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy Tower Heist. Oddly, her IMDB page also lists her as appearing on Wrestlemania XXIV, though I have no idea in what capacity. She worked in education after that, making some news earlier this year when she was named as a defendant in a lawsuit by a teacher at a school at which Macklin was serving as assistant principal.

AC Jazz: Amy Crawford was another original Nitro Girl, and her reasons for exiting the company are detailed in the larger narrative above. She thus didn’t make it into the era where former Nitro Girls had larger roles and seemingly didn’t have much of a public career after leaving WCW. We might know more about her if she had an easier name to google.

Chiquita: Here’s Chiquita Anderson, another one of the few Nitro Girls who got to use her real name on camera. In an odd piece of trivia, prior to getting involved in wrestling, Ms. Anderson had a cameo on a 1997 episode of the sitcom Martin. She was only with the company in 2000 and 2001, which, as noted above, put her into a position to become a member of Diversity 5, for whatever that’s worth. She is also one of the handful of former Nitro Girls to have a non-WCW, non-WWE wrestling career, as she showed up in the short-lived XWF promotion that was run by Jimmy Hart in 2001 and 2002. Though she never set foot into the ring there, she was part of a Charlies’ Angels inspired group called the XGI Girls, which also included Kimona Wanalaya/Leia Meow and Gorgeous George/Stephanie Bellars. In doing research for this column, I learned that there is a Chiquita Anderson currently in federal prison on drug charges, though I was not able to find any way to determine whether this was or was not the same person.

Chae: Korean-born Chae An was another original Nitro Girl and one of the longest-serving members of the group, joining up in 1997 and remaining with the promotion until 2000. She never got pulled into any television angles or became a character outside of the dance routines, though she did become the subject of rumors (and as far as we know nothing more than rumors) when Kevin Nash made a comment about eating “a little Korean” in one of his promos. After wrestling, she did have a brief role as a ring girl on a TV show called Thunderbox, which tried to build wrestling-style storylines around legitimate boxing matches and also incorporated hip hop music. (Oddly, “thunder box” is also a slang term for a portable toilet.) Chae did reunite with fellow Nitro Girls Spice and Fyre at 2019’s WrestleCon for a personal appearance.

Fyre: Redheaded Terri Byrne was dubbed Nitro Girl Fyre not just because her hair was red but also because her last name is pronounced like the word “burn.” Gotta love puns. She was a fitness model for quite some time and popped up in WCW in 1997 to join the group, lasting until roughly January 2000, when the Figure Four Weekly newsletter added a pun on top of a pun by publishing the one-line news item “Fyre was fyred.” After WCW, she did make a handful of independent wrestling appearances, one of which was on a June 17, 2000 Pennsylvania Championshp Wrestling show with Bruno Sammartino of all people. Remember when I said ICP and Diversity 5 was an odd pairing? This may be more odd. Fyre also wound up being the subject matter of a lawsuit filed by WCW. Indy group AWA Superstars of Wrestling – which was promoted by Dale Gagner and essentially stole the AWA’s name and intellectual property – promoted a series of shows in the summer of 2000, and they advertised Fyre as appearing. Because that name was trademarked, WCW filed suit and ultimately won. Seven years later, WWE would also sue Gagner over his use of the AWA name when it acquired the intellectual property related to Verne Gagne’s old promotion. Some guys never learn.

Tygress: Also known as Vanessa Sanchez, Tygress was added to the Nitro Girl roster in 1998. When the women became more heavily involved in WCW storylines, she was spun off and became the on-screen girlfriend of Rey Misterio, Jr. around the time that he was involved with the Filthy Animals stable. As part of the Filthy Animals, Tygress became the Nitro Girl who probably logged the most in-ring time while in WCW, tagging with Rey and his stablemates on a semi-regular basis. She even managed to have a pay per view match, wrestling alongside Konnan against Shane Douglas and Torrie Wilson at Halloween Havoc 2000. She was fired from WCW in February 2001 as a cost cutting measure. After wrestling, she briefly flirted with an acting career and had a handful of credits in small productions, but she’s largely vanished from public life after about 2002.

Whisper: Whisper, real name Rebecca Curci, was one of the original Nitro Girls, though she became better known for having another, more tangential role in wrestling. While working for WCW, she met Shawn Michaels through a couple of mutual friends, one of whom may have been Kevin Nash. After a courtship of only a couple of weeks, the two of them were engaged, and Curci gave her notice to Turner in March 1999, ultimately marrying HBK on April 1 in Las Vegas. The two of them are still together to this day and have two children. Michaels also credits his wife as being the one who introduced him to Christianity, which lead to a significant change in his lifestyle and an extended second act to his career. During that second act, Curci appeared on WWE several times as Michaels’ wife, most memorably in a segment in a segment in 2008 where Chris Jericho threw a punch at her and didn’t pull it as well as he thought he would, legitimately bloodying her up. In an odd side note to her story, Eric Bischoff on his 83 Weeks podcast recently made the claim that Curci got her job with the company because Turner Sports executive Harvey Schiller (who had a couple of on-camera appearances with WCW as an authority figure) met her at an Atlanta Falcons game, was smitten, and told Bischoff that he had to make her a Nitro Girl.

Spice: At least in the circle of fans that I was traveling in at the time, Spice was considered to be the most attractive of the Nitro Girls. In addition to having a dance background, Melissa Bellin already had a chiropractic degree when she was hired to be a Nitro Girl in 1997. In a 2011 interview with a now-defunct podcast called False Count Radio, she explained that she got her job because she knew Kimberly Page from some prior dance work that the two had done together. As noted above, she was made one of the focal points of the original Nitro Girl vs. Nitro Girl feud and tangled with AC Jazz and then Tygress. She was then made into a valet, originally cornering Evan Karagis but later turning on him to align with Madusa as part of the angle in which Madusa won the Cruiserweight Title. There were definitely lesbian undertones in their pairing. She lasted with WCW until 2000. It’s not entirely clear why she left, though given the era I was likely a cost cutting measure. In the aforementioned False Count Radio interview, she said that she was promised a job hosting some WCW television programs towards the end, though it never materialized.

Storm: Sharmell Sullivan joined the Nitro Girls in 1998 as Storm, but she was pretty quickly spun off into a different role, adopting the ring name Paisely and acting as the valet for The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea, who was, of course, doing a Prince knockoff gimmick. Eventually TAFKAPI found Paisely running around on him with another wrestler, Kwee Wee, and ultimately Paisley became his second on a full-time basis. In an interesting piece of trivia, Sharmell was involved in one of the more noteworthy celebrity appearances in WCW history, as she previously worked as a backup dancer for James Brown and used her history with him to make the connection that resulted in Brown appearing at Superbrawl X in 2000. Eventually, she was let go in February 2001, being the next to last former member of the Nitro Girls to be ousted by the company. However, even though she lost her job with WCW, she took something pretty big away with her, that being her significant other, Booker T. Though the two of them first got together in WCW, they held off on getting married until February 2005. Through their relationship, she went on to become a valet for him in both WWE and TNA, which will forever be remembered for her having one of the worst “matches” in professional wrestling history against reality TV “star” Jenna Morasca at TNA’s 2009 Victory Road pay per view. Sharmell and Booker were also involved in the filming of a pilot for a television show called “First Ladies of Pro Wrestling” in 2011, which involved Booker’s PWA indy group/training facility in Texas and included Sharmell and former Nitro Girl Chae among its stars. The pilot was never picked up, though.

Skye: If you haven’t been able to tell, I’ve been sorting these women in order of relative fame, and Skye was unquestionably the biggest breakout success of the Nitro Girls. If you don’t recognize her by that name, you probably know her better as Stacy Keibler. Keibler was a former Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader who entered a contest to find a new Nitro Girl that WCW started running in September of 1999. The on-air segments for that contest were wretched television and, in a way, a forerunner of WWE’s Diva Search. Once “Skye” got the contract, she danced with the crew for a few months before being repackaged as Miss Hancock, the bespectacled valet for the tag team Standards and Practices, who themselves were a repackaged version of Lenny and Lodi. S&P didn’t last too long after TNT’s real “standards and practices” department made it clear that they didn’t care for being made fun of, but Hancock remained a character and was perhaps best known in WCW for being the on-screen – and off-screen – girlfriend of David Flair. Eventually she turned on Flair and started hanging around Shawn Stasiak in the final months of WCW, and she was the only former Nitro Girl who remained standing at the end of the promotion. Along with Torrie Wilson, she was one of only two women that the WWF picked up from WCW. She lasted roughly five years in her new promotion and occasionally wrestled in addition to managing a variety of stars, including the Dudley Boys and the Hurricane. In 2006, she appeared on the reality television show Dancing with the Stars and left WWE fairly quietly after that to pursue an acting career, dating George Clooney in the process. After getting married (not to Clooney) and having children in 2013, she has largely stepped away from public life.

And there it is. A really long answer to a question about the Nitro Girls that at least one person will complain about in the comments section.

Night Wolf the Wise is going to take us back to the 1980s with two unrelated questions:

1. I read somewhere that Bruiser Brody was paid to do a run in at Wrestlemania 1. He was supposedly going to feud with Mr. T. Was this actually going to happen, and where would they have gone with it?

That’s not quite how the story unfolded.

According to the August 1, 1988 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which included Bruiser Brody’s obituary following his infamous murder, Brody was in fact offered money to appear at Wrestlemania. However, he wasn’t offered that money by Vince McMahon. Instead, he was approached by a rival promoter upset with McMahon’s crossing territorial boundaries and attempting to squeeze out all competition. That rival wanted Brody to jump the rail during Mr. T’s entrance and legitimately take T out, not as a means of starting up an angle but as a means of ruining the WWF’s supercard and leaving a large amount of egg on McMahon’s face.

However, Brody did not accept the offer. The Observer says this is because he feared legal repercussions (which there undoubtedly would have been), but I also suspect that Brody, no matter how tough a guy he was, didn’t want to be outnumbered by the WWF locker room, which almost assuredly would have emptied to stomp him had he attempted this one-man shoot invasion angle.

2. What’s the story behind the original screwjob between Wendi Richter and The Fabulous Moolah?

On November 25, 1985, Wendi Richter was the WWF Women’s Champion, and, though her position in the company has since been downplayed, she was legitimately one of the top five stars in the promotion during one of its hottest periods. She was getting ready to defend her title on that show against the masked Spider Lady, who, up to that point, had been portrayed by a trainee of the Fabulous Moolah who also wrestled without her mask as Penny Mitchell. When Richter got to the ring, Mitchell was not under the Spider Lady hood. Instead, it was Moolah herself. At the end of a six-and-a-half minute match, Moolah rolled Richter up into a small package and the ref counted three, despite the fact that Wendi unquestionably kicked out at two. Richter, not knowing what had happened, continued to try to work with her opponent after the bell, but everybody else acted as though the title had changed hands and Moolah stopped selling her offense. Richter had no idea going into the match that she would be losing the championship.

So, why did it happen?

There are two competing versions of events. Perhaps the most widely circulated version is recapped in the November 17, 1997 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which states that, as she was going to the ring on 11/25/85, Richter was approached by WWF brass with a new contract and a demand that she sign it right on the spot. Richter did not necessarily refuse to sign the contract but refused to sign it right that moment, instead wanting an opportunity to review it prior to signing. The next thing she knew, the screwjob happened.

The other version of events is supported by Bruce Prichard when he discussed the screwjob on his Something to Wrestle With podcast. Prichard claimed that Richter was getting too big a head and was refusing to drop the championship, which is what necessitated Moolah taking it off of her by force. (It should be noted that this happened several years before Prichard started with the company, for whatever that is worth.)

Interestingly, Moolah completely sidestepped substantive discussion of the match in her (ghostwritten) autobiography, and Richter, when asked about the screwjob on Sean Mooney’s Prime Time podcast, talked only about what happened in the ring and didn’t mention any attempt to strongarm her into a contract.

Tyler from Winnipeg has a case of the munchies:

Have you heard of a popular pregame meal that any wrestler practiced?

I haven’t seen a lot of discussion of this over the years, probably because you don’t want to have a lot of food in your system when you’re getting ready for an endeavor that involves being picked up, slammed, and speared by your coworkers.

I do remember that, back when he regularly wrote commentaries on his website, an inside joke developed between Lance Storm and his fans about his love of the restaurant Cracker Barrel. He allegedly traveled with a map showing all of the locations of the chain across the United States. The reason? Even though it is known for southern-style cooking that is anything by calorie conscious, according to Storm Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants where you know that there is a plain, grilled chicken tenderloin on the menu, which is the perfect meal for somebody trying to maintain a pro wrestler’s physique while on the road.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].