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.
of this tag team was, briefly, as follows -
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)
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.
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.
Since entering the NWA in July (1989) Pillman has gone from "who's that" to future superstar. After a feud with Norman the Lunatic that saw Pillman emerge the victor over his much larger opponent, Pillman began breathing down the neck of the United States Heavyweight Champion Lex Luger following a violent confrontation on SuperStation TBS. Although outweighed and clearly an "underdog," Pillman displayed the guts and ability of a man destined to go far in this sport.
"Coming from a
remote wrestling area (Stampede) like I did into the NWA, really thrust
me into the fire right out of the frying pan" says Pillman. "Fortunately,
my God-given ability has paid off for me in a big way in a short period
of time. Also having friends like Ric (Flair), Sting, the Warriors, and
many others take an interest has helped to mold me into what you see today.
I've proven that I can handle the competition here on my own. Now, Tom
Zenk and I are preparing to make our move on the NWA's tag teams, particularly
Zenk and Pillman
have already faced the 'Birds in matches across the country and so far,
no clear cut victor has emerged. Though still in their infancy as a duo,
Zenk and Pillman work very well
Because of their strong aerial attacks, fantastic wrestling ability and conditioning, Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk, the NWA's High Flyers, are a team to watch out for.