July 17th, 1988, marks the anniversary of the death of Frank Goodish, a man better known to fans as Bruiser Brody. For years, controversy surrounded his murder.
With stories from the likes of Dutch Mantel and Savio Vega, both who were present during the time of Brody’s stabbing, it’s hard not to ask: was his murder a cover-up? We look closely into this while also celebrating his influence on professional wrestling.
Was the Death Bruiser Brody a Cover-up?
Dutch Mantel, who was at the scene, writes what he saw that day:
“It is already known that José González was the man that stabbed and killed Bruiser Brody.
He pleaded self-defense, and partly due to a weak justice system in Puerto Rico, and partly due to the fact that nobody was at González’ trial on behalf of Brody, González was acquitted.
The controversy surrounds why the men that were subpoenaed never got to Puerto Rico to testify. Yes, it is true that certain wrestlers would not talk. But there were many who were very willing to talk.
Unfortunately, they never got their chance.
I arrived in Puerto Rico for a two-day run on a Saturday afternoon. After deplaning and collecting my bags, I made my way to the Lagoon el Canario, where I would be staying. The El Canario was a great hotel by Puerto Rican standards because they had cable with a remote and in-room air conditioning. That’s almost a luxury.
I met Bruiser in the lobby of the hotel, where we were also to meet [Tony] Atlas. Bruiser told me that Tony had arranged a ride for the three of us with a guy who operated a local gym and who was a big wrestling fan.
After a few minutes, Atlas arrived, and we departed for Bayamon Loubriel Stadium around 6:00 PM. The trip takes about 20 minutes, so we were very early for the show.
Everything was fine; just small talk made in the car on the way over. We collected our bags from the trunk upon arrival, and entered the stadium,
headed for the dressing room. But, as we entered the dressing area, I felt tension in the air. I always felt tension in the air there, as it’s an extremely dangerous place to work. But that night it was really heavy. Don’t ask me why. I don’t even know. I just felt it.
As I entered, I was following Bruiser, and I noticed Carlos [Colon] and Invader [José González] sitting on a bench to my right. Invader was trying on his leather strap – that he wears on his arm – with his teeth. Neither spoke.
Thinking back on it now, I don’t believe any acknowledgment was made to Brody either. I followed Brody to the rear of the room, directly in front of the shower door.
There were other guys who were already there. The Youngbloods, TNT, Roberto Soto, and Castillo Jr. were in various stages of unpacking and getting ready.
I have always hated the dressing rooms, so I sat down briefly and, still feeling uneasy about the tension that I felt, decided to go check the crowd. The is a ritual with me; I always check out the crowd or arena when I get there just to familiarize myself with it.
Bayamon Stadium is a baseball stadium, so I arose from my chair and headed through a tunnel to get to the field. It’s only about 100 feet through the tunnel, and I stood, watching the crowd file in for no more than three minutes, and I had not been gone from the dressing room longer than 5 or 6 minutes, at the most.
But when I returned, my eyes met horror.
The whole dressing room was chaotic. The first person I saw was Chris Youngblood. I asked him what had happened. He was almost hysterical as he said, ‘José stabbed Brody.’
I still did not know what he meant, but as I looked deeper in the room, I saw Brody lying prone on the floor with several guys surrounding him. I thought that some guy named José had rushed into the room and attacked Brody. Everybody in PR is named José, so I looked at Chris again, and he said, ‘Invader – Invader stabbed Brody.’
It was bedlam in the dressing room. Now, everything started to move in slow motion. I remember walking over to where Brody was lying and just staring in disbelief. A doctor is always present in San Juan, and he was crying. Brody was conscious, and as I looked closer, I could see a stab wound about an inch long and deep with air bubbles escaping from it.
Much later, the doctor told me that meant that the blade had pierced the lung.
Brody was telling promoter Carlos Colon to take care of his family.
I didn’t see a lot of blood, but, again, later, I learned that he was hemorrhaging internally.
I believe that Bruiser Brody knew he was going to die.
This can’t be happening, I thought to myself. This can’t be real. But real it was. I am not a very religious person, but I eased over in a corner out of everyone’s way and prayed for Bruiser. I then found myself looking through a plexiglass door which led into the shower.
The door was kind of translucent plexiglass that distorted images somewhat, but I saw the Invader and Victor Jovica screaming at each other in the shower room. Noise was everywhere, and I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but even if I could’ve heard them, they were speaking in Spanish (which they often do). But I could see that a struggle was in process.
Invader and Jovica were shoving each other. It seemed as though Invader was attempting to leave, and Jovica was trying to stop him. Brody was still on the floor. The doctor was working furiously to do what he could to help him. A call went out for an ambulance. It seemed like an eternity before aid arrived. And they didn’t even get the call through official channels.
Victor Quinones called a local radio station and told them to broadcast that an ambulance was needed immediately at the stadium. A paramedic crew was eating at a nearby McDonald’s and heard the request on the radio.
Brody, by the time paramedics had arrived, had lain there for over 25 minutes. Atlas was in a state of shock, as were the rest of us. While the paramedics were preparing Bruiser to take him to the emergency room, I witnessed Invader leave the shower, walk around the feet of Brody, grab his car keys, and leave.
Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, Brody was loaded onto a gurney to be taken out. Brody, by this time, had been down at least 40 minutes.
The paramedics couldn’t lift him. I saw Tony Atlas, almost by himself, carry Brody up four or five steps and transport him to the ambulance. Tony went with Brody to the hospital.
At this point, nobody knew what to say or even what had happened. But I knew enough to stand back and observe the situation. Puerto Ricans basically didn’t like the American boys coming down there and taking the money that they felt was rightfully theirs. And since I was in the dark as to what happened, I was watching to see what would happen next.
Chris Youngblood told me that Invader had approached Brody and requested that he accompany him to the shower to talk business. He said that Invader’s hand was covered with a towel.
Then he said he heard screaming and a commotion inside the shower and then seeing Brody stumble through the door holding his chest. Brody went down; he didn’t collapse but went down under his own control. That was just before I got back into the room.
The guys in the other dressing room knew that something had happened, but were kept in the dark as to what it was. Alas, by this time, had returned to the stadium, and he kept saying that Brody was going to die. I told Tony to stop saying that, but Tony, by this time, was out of control completely. The whole situation was out of control.
Some Police Officers entered the room, and Tony began to tell them what happened, but they couldn’t understand English. The strange thing about it though was they didn’t take it seriously.
They would smile and mutter to each other because they just thought it was another wild PR angle.
Time moved slow. Atlas was screaming by now. He was screaming at the cops who weren’t understanding a thing he was saying. He tried to enlist an interpreter to tell them what happened.
And then Invader reappeared.
Nobody knew where he had gone, but I surmised that he went home, because he came back with a different shirt on.
He came right back as though nothing had happened and started conducting business as usual. He completely ignored Atlas, who looked wild by now, Atlas pleaded with several PR boys to translate, but they’d look at Invader and walk away.
Finally, Roberto Soto said he’d interpret. It was to no avail. These cops grew up watching Carlos and Invader, so, to them, they were big stars, and they were just ordinary policemen.
I was on last that night, and Atlas, and I left the stadium and headed for the hospital that Brody had been taken to. El Medico Centro was the name of it, and somebody had told me that it was the best medical facility on the island.
As we were walking into the hospital, I met the surgeon who had already operated on Brody. I asked him about Brody’s status, and he just looked at me and said it was touch and go.
Brody never left the operating room.
They actually performed two surgeries that night. I always believed that if Brody had been in an American hospital, he would still be alive.
What Brody actually died from was a loss of blood. He literally bled to death on the table during the second operation.
When I got back to my hotel room, I told the desk clerk that if any calls came in for Brody, direct them to my room.
I couldn’t sleep.
I was staying with one of the midgets, the Irish Leprechaun. The phone rang. The little guy answered the phone and told me it was Brody’s wife. I looked at my watch. It was 5:00 AM. How would I say this without causing undue panic? I calmly explained to her that Frank had been in an accident, and she should get to PR as quickly as she could. I told her that it was serious, but I thought he’d be alright. I hung up the phone.
Again, I looked at my watch. It was 5:20 AM.
Brody dies at 5:40 AM.
After the call, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned and finally just got up.
I went down to the front desk around 7:30 AM, and the girl on duty was an American from Chicago who spoke Spanish. I asked her to call the hospital and find out what room Brody was in. That’s when I found out he was dead.
No words can describe how I felt. The girl at the desk got tears in her eyes. She told me that she was sorry. I just went outside the hotel and sat down for a while. How could this happen?
While I was sitting there, Buddy Landell came over and asked how Brody was. It was all I could do to tell him, and he said cut the BS. I guess he could tell by the look in my eye that I wasn’t kidding.
We were supposed to go to Mayaguez that afternoon, but I never even packed my bag. I knew that I wasn’t going. Miguelito Perez came to pick me up, but when I told him the news, he refused to go too. Most of the PR guys didn’t hear the news until they got to town that afternoon. But after they heard of Brody’s death, they refused to go to the ring. I heard that it was a sold-out $25,000 house. They sent the fans home telling them that they could use the tickets next week. I don’t believe they told them the real reason why.
Later that afternoon, we were all in Atlas’ room.
Present at the time was Atlas, myself, Spivey, Jaggers, Ron Starr, and Dan Kroffat. I had been waiting all day for somebody to contact me. But nothing seemed to be happening. I learned later that the WWC office was stonewalling information on the wrestlers’ whereabouts.
Atlas stated that we had to tell somebody. I then remembered the names of the detectives that the girl at the desk had given me when she made the call to the hospital that morning. Orlando Figueroa, Pedro Clanero, and Hector Quinones.
Atlas talked to one of the detectives on the phone and told him where we were. The detectives said that they’d be right over, and they were in about ten minutes.
They came into the room, asked a few questions, and then transported Atlas to Headquarters. Tony left the hotel around 5:00 PM. He did not return until 10:00 PM. I started to get worried about him, but when he came back, he told them that they wanted to talk to me. Of course, I agreed.
The station looked like something you’d expect to find in El Salvador, hot and stinking, with no air conditioning and a big overhead fan. I told them what I had seen, and afterward signed a sworn deposition as to my testimony. I could only swear as to what I actually saw, but I did my part.
As I was leaving, I saw TNT and Miguelito Perez there. I didn’t ask them any questions, and they did not ask me any, either. So, I don’t know what their statements said. I was told by the detectives that José González would be charged with first-degree murder and advised me that when the time for the trial came, I would be subpoenaed and transported back to PR to testify. They told me that airfare and hotel would be arranged for me and that security would be provided.
That’s what they said. However, that’s not what they did.
I was depressed when I left PR and even more so when I got back to Birmingham. If you’ve ever been to Birmingham, you’d know what I mean. I told my wife in detail everything that had happened. She told me that nothing would be done to José González. I got mad at her. How could something not be done? I told her to wait and see.
I waited, and I saw that she was right.
I got two separate subpoenas for the trial. The first trial date was postponed. The second trial was scheduled for January 23-26, 1989. I still have my subpoena. It was issued 1/3/89, but according to the post date, it was not mailed until 1/13/89. That meant that it laid on somebody’s desk for a full ten days. Remember, the trial was to start on January 23rd? I received the subpoena on January 24th. I had already heard the verdict by the time I opened the subpoena.
I never heard from the detectives again, not even to this day.”
We had the opportunity to interview Savio Vega back in October 2015, where he opened up about being a witness to the murder of Bruiser Brody. Savio shared chilling details of what he saw and how he was approached by Brody’s killer José González in the bathroom after the trial. To hear Savio’s take, listen below (skip ahead to the 18 minute, 53-second mark):
Scott Hall Tells of Learning the Hard Way from Bruiser Brody
“I remember the first time I ever got hit by a folding metal chair was by Bruiser Brody in Kansas City.
It was actually Mr. Pogo and me against Brody. So Brody comes in the locker room, and he looks at me – and I’m huge, you know? – and he goes, ‘I can have a good singles match with you – what are we having a handicap for?’
And I’m going, ‘I don’t know Mr. Brody, uh, I don’t have anything to do with the booking…’
So we’re having our little match, and Brody is over like crazy – everywhere he went, particularly over in Kansas City. So we’re out fighting on the floor, and he picks up a chair…and he holds it [up] for a second…and I’m like, ‘Huh..?’
And he just waffled me with it.
Later on, he went, ‘Hey kid…[next time] turn and give me your back, or you know, put your hands up…’
I was so green. I’d never been hit before by a chair, so I didn’t know what to do…”