Who broke up the tag team of 
Tom Zenk and Flyin'Brian?
One of the many intriguing, and so far unanswered, riddles of Tom Zenk's time with NWA - WCW is, why the team of Tom Zenk and Flyin' Brian was split up, after little more than 6 months together? 

This team electrified the NWA with a series of brilliantly worked matches in which Zenk and Pillman took turns to suffer endlessly or clean house in classic tag team style.   

Then, at the very height of their popularity, the team was broken up - with both men returning to singles wrestling. On a number of occasions the team was reformed but never long enough to recapture its original momentum. 

The chronology of this tag team was, briefly, as follows -  

    July 1989 and September, 1989 - Pillman and Zenk (respectively) move to National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Pillman initially and unsuccessfully teams with Scott Hall while Zenk works solo. 

    Z-Man makes the save after Pillman is double teamed by the Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes) during a singles match.  The Z-Man and Flyin' Brian  tag team is formed and a memorable feud with the Freebirds ensues across the country. 

    January, 1990 - Z-Man and Pillman prepare to make their move on the NWA's tag teams, continuing to feud with the Freebirds and the Midnight Express (Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton) 
    January 23, 1990 -  Although a relative newcomer to NWA,  Z-Man nearly wins the NWA World Title in one of the highlight matches of his career against Ric Flair in Greenville, South Carolina. 
    February 6, 1990 - Z-Man and Pillman defeat The Mod Squad, when Z-Man pins Basher (9.53) at Clash of Champions X, Corpus Christi, Texas 
    February 12, 1990 -  Z-Man and Pillman win the revived US Tag Team title defeating the Freebirds in a tournament final at Rainesville, Alabama (defeating Jack Victory and Rip Morgan in Round I; Midnight Express in Round II; and the Freebirds in Round III. The tournament runs on TV from January 23 - February 12, 1990)
    February 25, 1990 - Z-Man and Brian successfully defend US Tag Team title against the Freebirds at Wrestlewar in Greensboro, North Carolina (when Pillman pins Garvin, 24:32)
    February 28, 1990 - Z-Man and Brian defeat Midnight Express in title match at Altoona, Pennsylvania (Pillman sustains an injured throat after being double teamed  by the Midnight Express). Despite Z-Man and Pillman's victory,  the Midnight Express's manager, Jimmy Cornette, steals the title belts 
    Z-Man and Brian (after his recovery) challenge Rick and Scott Steiner (then NWA tag champions) to a title vs title match 
    March - April, 1990 - Z-Man tag-partners Dan Kroffat and others in a tour of Japan 
    May 19, 1990 - Z-Man and Pillman lose NWA US tag titles to Midnight Express at Capital Combat, Washington, DC (despite Midnight's manager, Jim Cornette, being locked in cage at ringside; Eaton pins Zenk, after illegal intervention, in 20:20)  
    August 1990 -  article in Pro Wrestling Illustrated continues speculation on title vs. title match between Pillman and Zenk (US Tag Champs) and the Steiners (NWA World Champs). PWI Ratings Analysis reports "Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk continue to dominate US tag title opposition"; Z-Man and Brian move to third position in the top ten tag teams behind Demolition at #2 and Steiners at #1.  
    August 1990 -  Inside Wrestling speculates on the future of Z-Man and Brian's partnership. Zenk had been undertaking singles matches against Luger, while Pillman had been matched against Luger and Flair. 
But, long before this, and for unknown reasons, the team had stopped receiving any push from the WCW booking committee. 

This article lightly sketches some of the themes of what would become the storyline of the split.  

It characterizes Pillman as the little guy punching above his weight, being helped along by "others [who] take an interest" like  Ric Flair, Sting, and the Road Warriors [Pillman "never hesitated to remind fans that his success was achieved through sheer dedication, determination and plenty of hard work. He was living proof of that."]. On the other hand, the story of Zenk's own struggle to build an essentially light body into a credible wrestling frame, his struggle for independence and integrity in a sport which favored neither, are passed over, while his departure from Can-Am and WWF, in pursuit of that integrity, is rewritten as the result of 'a wrestling injury.'  

As a consequence, the article establishes an artificial distinction between Pillman the, supposedly, tough working class 'battler' ["Setbacks have never kept this good man down'] and Zenk the, supposedly, privileged and naturally gifted athlete, for whom things came without apparent effort.    

Latest tag team contenders!


by Robert E. Riddick, Jr. (TV Wrestlers, March 1990)


back to 1989 - 1994 file