Pro wrestler Bruiser Brody was an international icon by the time he died in 1988, having toured the world and won several championships in a handful of global federations. He was revered and beloved by audiences — who were shocked to learn of his sudden and somewhat controversial passing.
The circumstances surrounding Brody's demise have remained mysterious to this day, but many in the community generally blame fellow wrestler José González (known professionally as Invader I) for the murder. This bizarre ordeal is now the subject of a new Viceland docu-series titled "Dark Side Of The Ring." What exactly is the true story behind Gonzalez and Brody's encounter — and how was he cleared in the murder case?
Although Frank "Bruiser Brody" Goodish has been immortalized in WWE's Hall of Fame, much of González's life has remained in obscurity, despite a relatively prolific run throughout South America. Little information exists about his personal life before his wrestling career began in Chicago in the early '70s. According to an interview he gave in Spanish to PRWrestling.com, González was added to the WWF's roster in 1972 under the name The Prophet. By 1973, González had a decent reputation as a worker and booker in the World Wrestling Council and had performed with the International Wrestling Association.
González would go on to win the Puerto Rico Heavyweight Championship 12 times between 1977 and 2001, according to Wrestling-titles.com. His successes are highly controversial within the industry, with his ascension in the ranks of the business often categorized as appalling by wrestling critics.
That's because many maintain that it was González who was directly responsible for the death of Brody after the latter was stabbed in the showers during a show in Puerto Rico.
According to "The Squared Circle: Life, Death, And Professional Wrestling" by David Shoemaker, a "business discussion" escalated into very real violence when González stabbed Brody repeatedly in the shower on July 17, 1988. Brody was rushed to the hospital as fast as possible by Tony Atlas and Dutch Mantell (AKA Zeb Coulter) — who both said they had an obscured view of the attack and had seen the events leading up to it. Brody did not recover from the stab wounds.
When wrestlers Atlas and Mantell returned to the show after Brody had received medical treatment they were horrified to learn that police thought the stabbing was a staged event — and that González was entirely unbothered. A murder weapon was never recovered.
"I saw Invader walk in. He had on a different shirt. He continued business like nothing happened. I don't know why he came back. I really don't. I'm thinking, 'Man, what f--king balls this guy's got,'" said Mantell of the incident in "Dark Side of the Ring."
Atlas, who claims he saw the stabbing himself, recalled being totally shocked by the same scene, adding that police were also told that it was a fan who had stabbed Brody before he got in the dressing room.
"The thing that was so horrible was when I got back to the dressing room," Atlas explained. "It was more horrible than the stabbing. It was more horrible than him laying on that table. The most horrible thing that happened on that night was going back to that dressing room and hearing laughter.
First, I couldn't believe they didn't cancel the show. I opened up the door and the blood on the floor ain't even dry yet. They in the dressing room laughing and joking and patting each other on the back talking about how great the matches were and what a wonderful show it is."
González was ultimately charged in connection to Brody's death, but he claimed he acted in self-defense. Many of the witnesses at the show were not able to testify in a San Juan court, as they received their summonses long after the trial had ended in Gonzalez's acquittal. Atlas says he was never contacted about the trial at all.
"I already knew the verdict by the time my subpoena arrived at my door. It was 10 days late," Mantell said. "That's why the verdict came back not innocent but not guilty. Jose never testified. They believed what his attorney put out — that he was merely acting in self-defense. Fans in Puerto Rico believed wrestling was real. That was the major reason that Jose was acquitted. Because they believed Brody was this character, this wild-looking, psychopathic, hulking figure."
Shortly after escaping punishment, González was repackaged as a face — backstage wrestling slang for a good guy — and given increased attention on the indie circuit. The Wrestling Observer, probably the most respected news outlet in the industry, characterized the push as the most disgusting promotional tactic of 1989. A year later, González replayed a dramatic version of the stabbing as a storyline, this time with wrestler Atsushi Onita acting as the aggressor, in the Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling promotion.
"Dark Side of the Ring" notes that nowadays, González offers paid appearances at birthday parties on his Facebook page. His cover photo is a picture of Bruiser Brody with text that reads, "I didn't kill Bruiser Brody," in Spanish.
González has not responded to requests for comments from Oxygen.com on the incident.
Wrestlers tend to have a negative view of González's contributions to the industry. Vinnie Massaro, a California-based pro-wrestlers recently featured on "Lucha Underground," explained exactly why this is.
"I think of him as a murderer. I think of him as a piece of s--t," Massaro told Oxygen.com. "Would you want to work with someone that is known for fighting someone to get a better spot than you? Why would you want to be in the same locker room? I know older wrestlers that hate — despise! — anybody that was in that locker room that wasn't Tony Atlas or Dutch Mantell."
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