From ‘One-And-Done’ To ‘Let’s Do Another One’: Les Thatcher Recalls Setting Up The Brian Pillman Memorial Events
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The legendary Brian Pillman has been the wrestling world’s major focus as of late, with Dark Side of The Ring featuring a two-part episode centering around his life as their third season premiere this month. One man who played a vital role in honoring the late “Loose Cannon” was Les Thatcher, who organized a Brian Pillman Memorial event after Pillman tragically passed away.
The event took place in Brian’s hometown of Norwood, Ohio on April 29, 1998. That first event broke big ground in the industry as it featured several major players from all three big promotions in WWF, WCW and ECW that gathered to pay tribute to their colleague.
“A bunch of guys got together and well Austin, Jericho, Benoit, Sunny, Candido, Al Snow were the major stars at that first show,” Les Thatcher told WrestleZone’s Dominic DeAngelo. “The first main event was Jericho and Benoit and in that high school gym we turned away—nobody was more surprised than I was—we turned away between 400 and 500 people, right around 1,300 people in there. Had the placed packed.”
Surprised and also exhausted after the show’s success, Thatcher initially thought it’d be a one-time deal, but soon enough realized he was all in for doing another event.
“This is gonna be a one-and-done right? And after I got some sleep and sitting half worn out anyway at my desk in the gym, I’m like, ‘Let’s do another one. Why not?'”
They didn’t just do another, however. They did three more and two major players that tied it up in the ring were Steven Regal and Chris Benoit.
“He and Regal had such a great match at the 2000 show. It’s out there. All those matches are on these DVDs, we’re talking about the Pillman four-disc set. They tore the house down. I use it as a training tool, Tom Prichard uses it as a training tool. These kids see it and it’s a wrestling match. It’s a struggle between two athletes,” Thatcher said, as he noted the horrors and heartbreak of the Benoit tragedy, in addition to his love for both Nancy and Chris.
He continued to talk about how Benoit and Regal were on such a high level at that point that they were slated to main event the 2001 show. “That would have been my main event for the fourth and final Pillman: ‘Pillman 2001: The Return. Benoit vs. Regal,’ I had my t-shirts planned and everything and of course, Chris had to have the neck surgery.”
“Regal called me, William called me and he said, ‘Les,’ he said, ‘I want to help out as much as I can, but the match that you want from us, the match that we had last year, I can only have with one other person and that person is not even in this hemisphere.’ He said, ‘I will come, I will help you in any way I can, but I feel will be letting the people down and more importantly it would be disrespectful to Chris if I wrestled.’ I said ‘I agree with you 100%.”
Regal made a VIP appearance in 2001 while it was The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. Kanyon & Diamond Dallas Page in the final main event for the Memorial, all four of which can be rented or purchased at Joe Dombrowski’s Pro Wrestling Library.
Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with Les Thatcher, as he touches upon many current-day topics, how he helped to create the first wrestling t-shirt and who he thinks the best heel in wrestling currently going is at this point and time.