By Mark Nulty
I sit here writing this in my University of Texas Longhorn sweat shirt. Somewhere, Oklahoma Sooner fan Jack Brisco is giving that unique chortle that only he did, “Hah”, and rolling his eyes while giving the upside down Hook ‘Em Horns sign in defiance.
I feel sorrow that Jack has passed. But I also feel lucky that I got to know him. Here are some things you might not have known about one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
Jack Brisco was the most self assured person that I ever knew
Jack never displayed any ego in all the time I knew him. He was the most comfortable person in his own skin I ever met. He always exuded a quiet confidence and never felt any need to impress on anyone his status as a champion or celebrity. He loved professional wrestling and was proud of his career. But he never let his professional wrestling or his accomplishments define him as a person.
Jack would talk about his career, but only if you asked him. Never once did I ever hear him start a sentence with “when I was champion” or “when I was wrestling.”
Brian Blair had a great line that perfectly described Jack. We asked Jack once about his NCAA Championship Trophy. Jack said he had it somewhere but wasn’t sure where. Brian told me, “If I had won the NCAA championship, the trophy would be the centerpiece of my house.”
Jack never lived in the past.
He was having too much fun in the present.
Jack Brisco never met a stranger
Jack seemed instantly comfortable around everybody he met. It was always a warm smile and big handshake.
Jack and Greg Goode had become friends through the Internet. At the Cauliflower Alley Club, as Greg put it, Jack kind of took Greg under his wing and made sure he was introduced to everybody that wanted to talk to Jack.
Jack and Greg were sitting at the bar one night having a drink and a fan came up to them. The fan was obviously a little nervous about approaching them. Before the fan spoke to Jack he looked at Greg’s balding scalp and asked, “Are you Verne Gagne?”
Without missing a beat, Jack replied, “No, this is Greg.”
The fan seemed very excited to meet Greg Gagne.
Jack Brisco was a wrestling fan like you and me
Well, except for the fact that he was offered a football scholarship to the University of Oklahoma and he could tie every other wrestling fan in a knot if he wanted.
It was a real feeling of kinship hearing Jack talk about marveling about the wrestlers he watched on TV as he grew up.
Jack admitted that as a kid he got yelled at by store owners, “Are you going to buy that magazine? It’s not a library!” It was the same rite of passage every wrestling fan from that era passed.
Unlike you and me, Jack Brisco shared a stage with Waylon Jennings
Through his travels, Jack came across many athletes and entertainers that were wrestling fans. A lot of them gravitated to Jack.
One night, Jack was at a Waylon Jennings show in Florida. To his surprise, he was invited on stage. No one was suggesting a career change, but somewhere there is a great picture of Jack and Waylon Jennings sharing a mic.
Jack Brisco liked a great gimmick
When you think of Jack Brisco, you think of a great amateur wrestler and one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time. You think of him in the same classic style that you think of Lou Thesz, Tim Woods, Danny Hodge, Verne Gagne, or Kurt Angle.
When you think of Jack, there is an assumption that his tastes were conservative in how he thought wrestlers should be presented.
Imagine my surprise when I asked him what wrestler that he always wanted to work with that he never got a chance. “The Great Kabuki. That was the best gimmick in wrestling.”
Jack was a fan of professional wrestling, not just guys that wrestled like him.
There was a special place in his heart for David Allan Coe
I can’t listen to You Don't Even Call Me By My Name without thinking of Jack cranking up the volume on his stereo, throwing back a Miller Lite, and belting out the chorus. And now I’m going to get a little choked up when I hear it. Click the link and you might, too.
Jack Brisco may not have known how good of a shooter he really was
We were having a few beers with one of Jack’s oldest friends in the business, Chief Jay Strongbow. They were talking about guys that they had wrestled over the years.
The name Pat O’Connor came up. O’Connor was NWA Champion in the late 50s and early 60s and was a great amateur from New Zealand
“I couldn’t stand that sonofabitch, “ Strongbow exclaimed. Strongbow complained about a move O’Connor would catch that would stretch his opponent.
“Yeah, he tried that with me when I wrestled him,” Jack remembered. “I sat out, reversed and rubbed his face in the mat. He didn’t do that anymore.”
Strongbow just looked at him. “Jack, not everybody won the NCAAs.”
Jack Brisco was a great sports fan
Particularly of college football.
For a few years, it was a tradition that I went to his house for the Texas-Oklahoma game.
Unfortunately for me, most of that time was during the Chris Simms era and Jack got to gloat about another Longhorn beatdown.
Jack was such a college football fan that he had Tampa Bay Buccaneer season tickets – during the 80s.
He loved NASCAR and was a huge Dale Earnhardt fan.
You could try making a lunch bet on a college football trivia question. But you bring your wallet and be willing to pay.
Jack Brisco was a fan of today’s wrestlers
Even after he retired, Jack was a fan of wrestling. Some retired stars would complain about the current generation. Not Jack.
Just like when he was growing up, he still marveled at the athleticism and showmanship of today’s wrestler.
While some wrestlers from his generation may have been resentful of the money current stars earn, Jack was delighted.
He loved the growth of wrestling, that it was getting bigger stages, more exposures, and the wrestlers were earning comparable money to other athletes and entertainers.
In Jack’s mind, it was the way it should have been along.
Again, it went back to how self assured Jack was. He was so comfortable with who he was and what he accomplished that he never had to compare himself to others.
Jack Brisco was one of the few wrestlers that retired and meant it
It’s a famous story, but bears repeating here.
Jack was on tour with the WWE when it first went national. Jack saw one snowstorm too many while at an airport.
He looked at his brother Gerald and said, “See that plane? It’s heading south. I’m going to be on the next one headed that direction.”
And true to his word, Jack came home.
He was a true rarity. A wrestler that stayed retired. Bookers and promoters would call him but he wasn’t lacing up the boots anymore. He was offered special referee gigs for big matches and other non-wrestling roles but refused. He was retired and happy.
Jack never let professional wrestling define him as a person.
Jack Brisco was a great professional wrestler in the ring but an even better person outside the arena
OK, you probably already knew that one.