wrestling / Columns

Going Broadway 03.06.12: Bad News Brown: Baddest Man In The Whole Damn Town

March 6, 2012 | Posted by William Renken

In 1988, Wrestlemania IV had the toughest act to follow to date in the history of the World Wrestling Federation after the record breaking showcase that was Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. Of course leading into the fourth installment of the pay per view, the feud between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had grown to new heights since the screw job finish that led to Hogan dropping the belt to Andre (who would then sell the belt to Ted Dibiase, later nullified by WWF President Jack Tunney.) That was the main draw in the decided 14 man tournament that would decide an undisputed World Champion.

However, a unique undercard bout was created by the WWF in the form of a 20 man battle royal that awarded the victor, simply, a trophy. Nothing more. Not a number one contendership to the later crowned WWF Champion. Just a big trophy.

With the show being billed as a “four hour spectacular,” the battle royal itself only lasted roughly 11 minutes with the final two competitors being Bret Hart and Bad News Brown. At this point, Hart was a heel as part of the Hart Foundation and so was Brown, which almost created a unique situation where both men were willing to share the trophy as co-winners. Of course, a Ghetto Blaster from Brown secured a double-crossing victory that gave him the trophy… which was promptly destroyed by Hart in a fit of rage. Nevertheless, Bad News Brown was a superstar on the rise…

Long before the battle royal at Wrestlemania IV, Allen Coage (born 10/22/43, New York City) was an 18 year old making his way through the subway when he saw an advertisement for a Judo school. Fourteen years later and with over 100 national and international titles to his name, Coage, a fifth degree black belt, achieved his ultimate prize of a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Given the nickname “Bad News” by his fellow competitors, Coage transitioned to professional wrestling when he realized despite his success in Judo that the bigger pay day was in the squared circle. Under the tutelage of Antonio Inoki, Coagle worked for New Japan Wrestling under the name of “Buffalo” Allen Coage for the next four years from 1978 to 1982.

During his run with New Japan, Coage began to harness a unique kind of heel status that did not seem to stem from the classic “cheating” or “retreating” heel, but rather from the kind of guy who would kick your ass, snarl, and kick it again for good measure.

But Coage was almost exclusively a Japanese-bred wrestler in training and execution. Inoki, hoping to season Coagle sent him to the states where he had a brief stint with Vince McMahon Sr. and the WWWF. It was there that his old nickname “Bad News” resurfaced and became his new moniker.

During this time period of back and forth shuttling between the United States and Japan, Coagle became famous (or infamous) for a confrontation with Andre the Giant that spawned from a drunken bus ride that saw Andre spout a racist remark that Coagle took so personally that he stopped the bus, walked outside, and demanded that Andre step out to fight him. Andre declined and later apologized. (Hogan tells a different version of the encounter while Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid corroborate it in their biographies.)

Speaking of Dynamite Kid, it was his insistence on Coagle joining Stu Hart’s Canadian promotion Stampede Wrestling that became the ultimate turning point in Coagle’s career. As Hart cites in his autobiography Hitman “News was a decent worker and a hard one, but he had no psychology: He just ate up anyone in his path… Most nights, in the middle of my comeback he’d scoop my legs out out from under me, grab me by the throat and tell me, ‘If you touch my head again I’ll kill you, mo’fucker.’ Every match I went in looking like a nine and, after he was done, came out looking like a three.”

Coagle, as “Bad News” Allen, exploded as a heel in Stu Hart’s territory, aggressively carving a warpath through the baby faces of Stampede Wrestling all the way to the North American Heavyweight Championship. On one occasion, his attack with a fork on Jim Neidhart was so vicious and bloody that it caused the Canadian wrestling commission to levy a suspension on Coage.

When Stampede Wrestling was annexed by the WWF in the 80’s, wrestlers such as Coage along with Bret Hart and others were also brought into the main roster as well. Coage, renamed again to “Bad News Brown,” continued his run as a heel destroying jobbers left and right with his “Ghetto Blaster” finishing move.

The character of Bad News Brown was all the more fascinating on the WWF stage because in a time of bold, vivid baby faces and heels that were clearly defined, Coage was something of an anomaly. Granted he was a heel, but he walked alone and never seemed to buy into the trust of others as evidenced by his turning on Bret Hart during the Wrestlemania IV battle royal and during Survivor Series matches where he’d abandon his heel partners.

As a wrestler, Coagle likened his style of wrestling as to what he would do in a street fight, and frequently pummeled opponents with devastating attacks in the corner, bringing out some of his Judo training as well. In the 90’s he would have been labeled a “technical brawler” when that became a popular description of wrestlers such as Steve Austin and Goldberg.Unfortunately, despite notable matches with Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, and Roddy Piper (who infamously painted himself half black in their Wrestlemania VI bout) Coage left the WWF in 1990 under less than amicable conditions. One reason cited for his leaving had to do with an unfulfilled promise at a World Title run that McMahon supposedly promised him. Other reasons cited indicate an overall unhappiness with the WWF.

From Coage’s SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame article: “They never kept their word to me. It wasn’t a fun time for me. You see, when I left there I was really happy. I was brought there under false pretenses. They never kept their word to me. I was just sick of the lying all the time… That was two and a half years of my life I really didn’t enjoy.”

After leaving the WWF, Coage spent the majority of the 90’s working independent shows along with UWFi in Japan. By 1999, though, Coage’s weakened knees forced him to retire as an active in-ring competitor. He shifted to color commentating for the revived Stampde Wrestling and even worked at running his own wrestling school in Calgary (while also working as a mall cop there as well).

But sadly, on March 6, 2007, Coage passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 63. He had been in the midst of recovering from hip replacement surgery only a few weeks prior. The wrestling community (or at least the one’s from Coage’s past) flocked to his funeral and later put up a Bad News Allen tribute wrestling show in his honor.

Although his career in the WWF was short lived and relegated to the mid-card level, Coage was a character about ten years ahead of his time. His black boots, black trunks look and bruising in-ring style combined with his combative microphone work (often referring to the crowd as “beer bellied share croppers”) draws further comparison to Austin when he began his mega-star run in the late 90’s. And Coage even had the on-air clashes with authority; his most famous being with Jack Tunney during a Brother Love segment.

But the 80’s era of the WWF was not ready for that kind of character to take off. Not while Hulkamania and Macho Madness were in the high spots. Nowadays, of course, it’s common place to have the anti-authority behavioral trait as a wrestler, but Coage was singular in that respect during his run. A man who epitomized the saying “what you see is what you get” and walked his own line all the way to the end.


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William Renken

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