Wrestling has always presented an image of big men becoming big names by hurting each other. They would do anything to get on top of the industry. Brian Adams had the size and the ability to rise above everyone else. Yet there was one thing he refused to do to become the best; hurt someone else.
Brian Adams was born in Kona, Hawaii, in 1964 but was raised in Kealakekua. He joined the United States Air Force after graduating from high school. He developed an interest in wrestling while he was stationed in Japan. Adams would be trained by the legendary Antonio Inoki. However, he would begin his wrestling career in the U.S.
Brian Adams – The Kronik-les of a Gentle Giant
For the first five years, he alternated between NWA Pacific Northwest Wrestling in Oregon, and Inoki’s New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He made his in-ring debut in PNW in 1986. He then spent a year with NJPW until his work visa expired. He returned to PNW until he could go back.
He was given “The American Ninja” gimmick. This saw him wrestle in karate gear, and work martial arts strikes into his moves set. His main feud was against The Super Ninja (Shunji Takano). Takano was a mixed-race wrestler from Japan whose father was a U.S. Marine. He wore a mask and played into foreign heel stereotypes, such as using the green mist to blind opponents. Their feud ended in a “Loser Leaves Town” match, which Adams.
Ironically, it was Adams who returned to Japan. For his second tour of NJPW, he was the one playing the foreign heel. He played ‘The Midnight Soldier’, a masked wrestler who liked to use hidden objects to help himself win. This tour only lasted three weeks.
In 1988, Billy Jack Haynes persuaded him to make a change in his routine. Adams went to work for his Oregon Wrestling Federation promotion. He formed a tag team with Mike Miller. While he was there, Haynes would make tapes of Adams and forward them to Pat Patterson at the World Wrestling Federation.
Adams would get a try-out in a televised match, beating Barry Horowitz. When OWF closed, he and Miller toured other indies around Oregon as a tag team before heading to Memphis. They earned a try-out match in World Championship Wrestling, where they were squashed by Sting and Lex Luger. They then had a month-long tour with All Japan Pro-Wrestling before going their separate ways.
Adams returned to the PNW for a third time. He mainly worked with The Gambler. He initially joined an alliance that was already battling Gambler and his cohorts. Within a month, he became a babyface version of his Midnight Soldier persona. Gambler offered a $5,000 bounty to anyone who could remove his mask.
Nobody got to collect on it. Adams voluntarily removed the mask himself and aligned with Gambler, turning heel in the process. The new team called themselves “The Wrecking Crew”. Together they would beat PNW’s top tag team, the Southern Rockers, for the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship. This was the first title of Adams’ career.
He won his first-ever singles championship in 1990. Scotty the Body (better known as Raven) had attempted to regain the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship from Curtis Thompson. His win was immediately overruled as he cheated to win. The title was vacated and offered to the winner of a tournament.
Adams beat Larry Oliver in the finals to claim the gold. The fact that he lost it three weeks later is not what hurt his reign. His victory came during a period where the title was frequently vacated for storylines.
Then Adams got his big break. He was brought into the WWF as ‘Crush’, the third member of the highly popular Demolition tag team. They were the WWF’s attempt at recreating the success of the Road Warriors. They were already into their third reign as WWF World Tag Team Champions when Crush joined them.
When they finally had the dream match against The Legion of Doom (Road Warriors), critics were upset that Crush was in the match instead of Ax. The group split after WrestleMania VII, and Crush left the WWF.
“Brian was a really good guy. But Brian and Smash, or Crush and Ax, it was never the same as Ax and Smash. I mean, it was great it didn’t. It was almost like they were throwing a third guy in it. Like, why are they doing that?”
Adams never formerly left PNW for his first WWF run. He was able to return to the promotion as his Demolition character. He was instantly over with fans who recognized him from WWF television. He teamed with Steve Doll, winning his second Pacific Northwest Tag title but giving Doll his fourteenth out of eighteen. He later beat Rip Oliver for his second reign as Heavyweight Champion. This one lasted over three months. Just like last time, he went to the WWF just after he dropped the title.
Crush was completely repackaged, keeping only his ring name. He was now a laid-back surfer from Kona. This was how much of the company saw him. Adams was one of the most well-liked people in the locker room. His attitude helped him develop close friendships with people across the roster, including major stars such as Randy Savage, Bret Hart, and Undertaker.
Part of his gimmick was that he could perform feats of strength if his opponents antagonized him enough. He claimed he earned his nickname from his childhood habit of crushing toy cars in his hands. His first main opponent was The Repo Man, who was previously Smash in Demolition.
The feud that “Kona Crush” would become best known for was with Doink the Clown. He confronted the evil jester over his cruel pranks on children in the front row. The clown responded by striking Crush over the head with a weighted prosthetic arm, knocking Crush unconscious. The Hawaiian missed the Royal Rumble to sell his injuries.
Doink beat Crush at WrestleMania IX with the help of a second Doink. Vince McMahon allegedly wanted Doink to win with a prank that made his head appear to “explode”. Crush’s main finisher was the “Cranium Crunch”, a vice grip where he squeezes the opponent’s head as hard as possible.
McMahon wanted to hide a device inside Doink’s wig that would spray paint, creating the illusion his head had been crushed. The device proved to be impractical and may not have been built. The two Doinks would continue to torment Crush. They even interfered in his match for the Intercontinental Championship at the first King of the Ring pay-per-view.
On July 4, 1993, Crush took part in Yokozuna’s body slam challenge. The WWF Champion dared any sportsman to try, and body slam in him in a ring set up on the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier, the USS Intrepid. Savage sponsored Crush as the favorite to win. Crush was the first to lift Yokozuna off his feet, but his back gave out before he could perform the slam.
Luger arrived by helicopter to unveil his new All-American babyface persona and to win the challenge. A week later, Yokozuna successfully retained his title against Crush. He then hit Crush with his Banzai Drop finisher to taunt Luger. All of this was to explain Crush’s absence while he recovered from a genuine back injury.
Crush returned to television in October and turned heel. He blamed his injury on Savage, pushing him into Yokozuna’s challenge. He attacked Savage and aligned himself with Yokozuna’s manager, Mr. Fuji. He developed a darker new look that incorporated elements from his previous gimmicks.
He was also sometimes billed as being from Japan or Polynesia, just like Yokozuna. Gorilla Monsoon kept referring to him as the “Tribal Hawaiian”. Crush replaced Quebeccer Pierre on Yokozuna’s team in the main event of Survivor Series. The late change meant he was not included on the “heel” version of the promotional poster.
Crush was counted out when he tried to fend off Savage’s interference. The two then faced off at WrestleMania X in a unique “Falls Count Anywhere” match. Pin attempts could only take place outside of the ring, and the downed opponent would then have one minute to get back into it. Savage won after tying Crush’s feet to a pulley.
Crush’s next rival was Luger. The company had teased them facing off at WrestleMania X if Luger lost a coin toss, but there was no serious plan to have the match then. Crush would attack Luger during his matches at Fuji’s command. Luger would often respond in kind. The two cost each other places in the King of the Ring tournament.
Luger also prevented Crush and Yokozuna from winning the tag titles. They finally faced off on an episode of Sunday Night Slam. For the next month, Crush lost a series of untelevised matches against The Undertaker. He then took a hiatus before returning as the final entrant in the 1995 Royal Rumble. It seemed like Crush was being set up for a renewed push, but then he disappeared again.
In 1996, Adams had a minor role in the Bollywood movie Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. He played his WWF character and had a wrestling match against The Undertaker (Brian Lee). Lee was the real Undertaker’s cousin and portrayed an imposter version during storylines in 1994. Both men were uncredited and had their voiced dubbed.Crush made a surprise return to the WWF in August. The company had kept it secret for almost a month. He now portrayed a biker character. It was a character that Undertaker had pitched for himself. Crush exaggerated a stay in prison and now had a “prison tattoo” painted on his face. He also had Clarence Mason as his manager and lawyer. Crush now used the Heart Punch as his main finisher.
He also started using the Full Nelson as his main submission hold. Some insiders speculated this was a dig against Haynes. After Adam’s incarceration, Haynes spoke out publicly about his own experiences with him. He claimed he helped Adams to get big on steroids before getting him his job with the WWF.
He also alleged that Adams never showed gratitude and played a prank that cost him considerable money. He claimed that Crush told him he had been booked at shows in Texas twice. It was only after he made the long drive and got into his ring gear he learned that there were no plans to use him.
He felt betrayed by former friends. Haynes claimed he went to his car to get a gun and planned to kill Adams and McMahon, but he was talked down by Hercules. Nobody else has ever verified his account, but he remains one of the few men to have ever criticized Adams.
Throughout this run, he feuded with Savio Vega. They battled before Crush and Mason joined the Nation of Domination and then after too. They called a truce when Vega also joined the NoD. However, tensions between the two caused trouble for the whole group. They also caused their leader Faarooq to lose his match for the WWF Championship. Faarooq ejected both men.
“He fit in with any group physically. He was the guy your eyes went to more often or not.”
He then created his own stable called ‘The Disciples of the Apocalypse’, or simply DoA. They were a biker gang who rode to the ring on their motorcycles. His stable consisted of Chainz (Lee) and Chainz’s real-life cousins 8-Ball and Skull (the Harris Twins). At the same time, Vega created his own stable called Los Boricuas.
They consisted of fellow Puerto Ricans who competed for World Wrestling Council. Both stables feuded with each other and the newly rebuilt NoD. This phase became known as “The Gang Warz”. DoA were the babyfaces, NoD were heels, and Borricuas were tweeners who changed sides depending on who their opponents were. The leaders eventually faced off in a three-way match, won by Vega.
Adams’ contract was set to expire just after Survivor Series 1997. The two sides were struggling to come to terms. Adams was also frustrated with the direction of his character and the DoA. Then the Montreal Screwjob happened. Seeing Hart be disrespected on his way out of the company caused Adams to lose faith in his employers. Crush was “injured” in a match against Kane to explain his departure. The DoA would have one more untelevised match before Adams left.
“Really one of the unsung heroes. One of the great journeyman wrestlers who had great success everywhere he went. He flew under the radar I think.”
He then made his WCW debut during Hart’s first interview on Monday Nitro. He initially teamed with Hart against the New World Order but turned on him that same night to reveal he was their newest member. Despite winning most of his matches, he failed to make any progress due to the large number of nWo members in similar spots.Adams remained faithful to Hollywood Hogan and the original nWo when defectors created the rival nWo Wolfpac. The originals were informally dubbed “nWo Hollywood”. When the groups re-merged, Hogan became the leader of the Wolfpac. The Wolfpac became the elite members, while “nWo Hollywood” were treated as lap dogs.
Adams mainly compete in tag matches with Stevie Ray and especially Horace Hogan. He was the last person eliminated in a four-way match to determine a new leader for the group, losing to Ray. Despite being lower ranked, they had much more television time than the Wolfpac, competed in more matches, and lasted longer.
After walking out on the nWo, he was recruited by the rock band KISS. As part of a deal to have the band perform on Monday Nitro, WCW agreed to debut and push a character called “The Kiss Demon” (soon shortened to just The Demon). He dressed like lead singer Gene Simmons in full stage gear and used their song ‘God of Thunder’ as his entrance music.
Despite teasing a feud with Vampiro, Adams only made two appearances as the character and did not work any matches. The character was then given to Dale Torborg. Adams reverted to his own identity and focused on chasing the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. He then took several months off.
He returned in the spring of 2000 in a tag team with Bryan Clark. Neither man was keen on the idea at first. They felt they worked better as singles stars and that they were only being paired together because they were both 6’ 6’’ and had the same first name. Soon they discovered they had a lot more in common and became brothers.
Clark was exactly one month older than Adams. They had both played football at school and served in the Air Force. They had both played masked and face-painted characters in the past. They were both in the WWF at the same time but did not really speak to each other until now. In their first match together, they discovered they had a natural chemistry in the ring.
“Man, the first time we went out there, and every night after that. The chemistry was there. Everything we did, it just seemed like it clicked automatical with him. As I got to know Brian, we had so many similarities.
I mean, our backgrounds were, I was cop in the air force, and he was a loadmaster in the air force for four years. College football. We were both 6′ 6”, and we were both called Brian. It just went on and on.”
The pairing would be called “Kronik” (with the second k being backwards). It was implied that they caused chronic pain for their opponents. They finished opponents off with the “High Times”, a double chokeslam. They were initially brought in to be the hired muscle of the New Blood stable.
They gained popularity with the fans quickly and soon turned babyface. They would have multiple heel turns over the next year, but these never lasted due to the fans usually cheering for them over their opponents.Kronik won the WCW World Tag Team Championship twice over the coming months. At one point, management tried to push them as stoners as part of a comedy angle. Societal attitudes towards recreational marijuana had changed, and was deemed cool among teenagers.
While they had no opposition to marijuana, they refused to go along with the change. They also no-sold any references that other characters made to it on screen. They were concerned about being positive role models for their families and children watching the product. They also believed that if they took on goofy comedy gimmicks, it would be impossible to take them seriously as a dominating tag team again.
The two became muscle for hire, much like the Acolyte Protection Agency in WWF. While the APA were fun-loving babyfaces, they tried to push Kronik at thug heels. They accepted money to beat up anybody. This led to them main-eventing Halloween Havoc in 2000, losing a handicap match to Goldberg.
Once again, the pair were too popular to remain heels. Instead of being comedy characters like the APA, they instead showed a moral conscience. The two refused to help other heels they felt did not deserve it.
McMahon purchased WCW in March 2001. As all talent contracts were with AOL Time Warner, he had to buy out the contracts of any stars he wanted. He mainly chose younger talents as they would have more longevity in their careers, and their contracts were much cheaper. For bigger stars like Ric Flair, Scott Steiner, or the nWo, they chose to let the contracts expire before entering negotiations. Kronik were not on his radar.
Undertaker pushed for McMahon to hire Kronik, particularly Adams. McMahon still saw Adams as Crush and Clark as Adam Bomb. Undertaker convinced McMahon that Adams had become a much hotter entity due to Kronik. They were brought in and feuded with Undertaker and Kane right away.
Unfortunately, Kronik had gathered ring rust and had to readjust to working WWF-style matches in a larger ring. They did not get many opportunities to do this as they were mainly booked in beat-down spots. The only match they worked before the Unforgiven pay-per-view was a quick squash against the much smaller Kaientai.
“Brian calls me and convinces me to fly to Florida and learn how to break bricks with our hands. You’re talking about two really big humans slamming their hands into cinder blocks for seven hours a day, for no other reason than to say we can do it. I’m talking about swollen hands, bloody palms, and busted knuckles.
It was miserable. Little did I know that that would be the last time we’d spend together. A few short weeks later, I received one of the worst phone calls of my life. Brian had passed. I am not sure why I said yes to breaking bricks with my hands. But in this moment, it makes sense.”
Kronik challenged Undertaker and Kane for the WCW World Tag Team Championships at Unforgiven. The match was heavily criticized for its many botches and poor timing and chemistry shown by all four participants. As Undertaker and Kane were two of the WWF’s top stars, the blame fell squarely on Kronik.
Management decided to send them to their developmental territory, Heartland Wrestling Association. According to Ross, the two had poor attitudes about it. The pair got released from their contracts in November.
The duo took some time off to get back into ring shape and rebuild their lost chemistry. They mainly competed for Japanese promotions on both sides of the Pacific. They went to AJPW for a time and held their World Tag Team Championship for four months. They were stripped off the titles after Adams choose to try and pursue a boxing career.
He trained in boxing while he was in the Air Force. Savage was advertised as his corner man for his first professional fight. However, he was pulled from the card due to a shoulder injury. He never would begin his boxing career.
After recovering from the injury, Adams reunited with Clark for what turned out to be final match of their careers. They competed against Goldberg and Keiji Mutoh (the Great Muta) in a tag team match for AJPW. Adams suffered a spinal injury that required surgery. The operation to correct his spine left him unfit to wrestle again.
He cashed in the insurance policy that WCW forced him to take out. Doing so confirmed he had accepted retirement. Clark also decided to retire due to the damage his back had taken. He had his surgery in 2006.
Savage was attempting to embark on a new career as a rap musician. He hired Adams as his bodyguard. Adams would appear in some of the publicity material for Savage’s CD, Be A Man. The title track, as well as some others, were disses directed at Hogan. Adams guarded Savage throughout his tour to promote the CD.
Adams also expressed interest in going into business with Marc Mero. Adams had experience as a gym manager prior to his 1995 arrest. He wanted to build a health club to coincide with Mero’s training centre.
On August 13, 2007, Adams was found dead by his wife in their family home in Tampa. He was only 43. The medical examiner determined he had died from combined drug intoxication, more commonly known as an accidental overdose. He was taking buprenorphine (painkiller), carisoprodol (muscle relaxant), and two forms of sedative.
He had been taking them in the correct dosages. However, the combination within his system impeded his respiratory system until it eventually failed. There were no traces of marijuana in his system. Since he started spending more time around his family, he greatly reduced any substances that could make him inebriated.
“I would have to tell him it’s either; you’ve got two choices; stop talking, or pull the car over. Because I can’t breathe. I’m laughing so much I’m crying. I cannot breathe. You’ve got to stop. I found his sense of humor electric.”
His legacy lives on through his wife and two children and his wrestling family. The Undertaker took time to mention Brian Adams during his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech. Clark has since been involved with multiple projects, including movies and creating content for www.theknewnetwork.com.
His personal aim is to be a role model to all, encouraging others to live their best lives by helping others to achieve theirs. When he is not devoting time to others and these projects, he loves to tell people about his “brothers”; Adams and Chris “Kanyon” Klucsartis.
Those who felt Adams lacked any kind of ambition are wrong. He was motivated by the things that mattered in life. He was not prepared to get ahead by putting other people down. What they mistook as a lack of ambition was an unwillingness to get ahead at other people’s expense.
It was enough for him to play a tough guy on television. He did not need to do it off-camera. Those who have negative memories of Adams are known to be negative in general. People may criticize his ring work, but few people would dream of criticizing the man. When people talk about Brian Adams, they talk about him in love because that is what they got from him.