Paying Tribute to King Kong Bundy

Christopher Alan Pallies ,better known as King Kong Bundy, has passed away leaving a legacy of Big Man wrestling that few equal. A crossover star that transcended an era and placed him in the upper echelon of 80s draws. Not a great in ring worker, but a man who understood his place in the wrestling business and eked out everything he could from his massive frame.

Raised in Sewell, New Jersey, Bundy was a product of Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory. He made his debut in the WWF in 1981 as Chris Canyon, but he didn’t really find his groove until he moved to the Dallas territory in Texas and was renamed Big Daddy Bundy.

A nod to Shirley Crabtree and a name also used by Sylvester Ritter in Stampede, Big Daddy Bundy was a country baby face presented along the lines of Haystacks Calhoun and Giant Haystacks. He would turn heel on the Von Erich Clan and align himself with Gary Hart. This is where his signature style and look would evolve of a black singlet and a sour demeanour.

It wasn’t always an easy ride with Hart though, later in his run he would fall out with his manager and in a televised debate go toe to toe with the Hart on the mic in a verbal mini feud over worker’s rights. Bundy claiming that Hart was “Riding around in Lincoln Continentals because of the money I earned”.

He more than held his own and that showed his real potential. To go from a rookie to holding court with the best manager of his era, and the NWA Southeastern booking mentor no less, after three years in the business took nerves of steel and a supreme confidence.

Bundy would inevitably move on and hone the character to a sharp edge. Joining Mid South under Bill Watts he started to force referees to count to five during squash matches.

Back in Dallas, he would be Fritz Von Erich’s hand picked opponent in his retirement match. Roaming around the southern circuit, he found work as an attraction wrestler. Never staying to long in one place so that he didn’t put off his draw, the fans flocked to see the monster in Memphis, the AWA and other NWA affiliates in the south.

He would rejoin the WWF in 1985. Managed by Jimmy Hart, he walked straight into a feud with André the Giant establishing him as a top star in the company from the get go. Though the feud proved to have an inconclusive finish it gave Bundy all the rub he needed as he could hang with The Giant.

The WWF, at the time, was expanding nationally but still booking on the New York tradition of a strong baby face given the long term nemesis of a manager to rotate challengers without losing the long term protagonist. For Vince McMahon Sr, The Grand Wizard had fulfilled the role, Vince Jr had secured the services of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for the same spot and in the story, Heenan saw Bundy as the man that could end Hulkamania. He traded Adrian Adonis and The Missing Link to the Mouth of the South. Bundy was about to get a very big push.

Having beaten “Special Delivery” Jones in a billed “nine seconds” at The Garden during the first WrestleMania, his patiently developed monster identity was directed at Hogan for WrestleMania 2. The main event of the Los Angeles portion of the show, it would be behind the classic blue bars of the WWF cage and Bundy used everything he had learned to deliver a match that was by no means a classic but full of spectacle and drama. He did not win of course, this was the era of true baby face invincibility and the downfall was swift and harsh.

After a feud with The Machines, a gimmick borrowed from Japanese wrestling that involved Bill Eadie of Demolition, André The Giant and Blackjack Mulligan, he was pushed in a feud with Hillbilly Jim and was in a mixed tag match during WrestleMania III pitting Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook against Jim, Haiti Kid and Little Beaver. According to the Dynamite Kid, Bundy sat alone in the dressing room after that match contemplating his Icarus like fall from grace when Davey Boy Smith passed him a beer and just said “Drown your sorrows.”.

He was not long for the WWF, after that drifting through the roster until 1988 when he went into semi-retirement. He would return, Five Count and all to be part of The Million Dollar Man’s Corporation in 1994, but didn’t really find his place. He would become set up as another monster for The Undertaker to vanquish at WrestleMania XI. Once again, he would be set adrift in the mid card leaving the company in 1995 and plying his trade on the indie circuit.

He would move into acting most famously as a member of the dysfunctional Bundy family in Married With Children. The cast and crew of the show were big wrestling fans and it was a natural fit. His mic work in the ring also helped him in his other chosen career path, that of a stand up comic.

His last act in wrestling was to sue the WWE as part of a class action suit concerning the long term effects of neurological injuries that he claimed the WWE had hidden from him and other wrestlers in the long term. A move that undoubtedly kept him out of the Hall of Fame, the action was dismissed in 2015.

While he was a competent worker he would be surpassed by other big men of his era. Big Van Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow would take the monster heel role to another level throughout the 80s and 90s, but they couldn’t match his sense of spectacle and timing.

Growing up in an era when big men had to have reason to do things and they sold their size above all else, he was an incredible drawing character. He applied what he learned from the masters of the art, but was hamstrung as wrestling moved into the Monday Night Era, unable to re-invent himself, he was a bridge to the dying age of the territories, but his influence and his aura will be long remembered.

FIVE!

All pics and videos courtesy of WWE. 

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