Hart Foundation, Nasty Boys reunite at Legends of Wrestling Night Aug. 24 in Miami

 

jvarsallone@miamiherald.com

Growing up a Philadelphia Phillies fan in Whitehall, Pa., Brian Yandrisovitz dreamed of making it to the show.

Years later he did -- just a different kind of show.

Yandrisovitz became a professional wrestler, and he, better known to wrestling fans as Nasty Boy Knobbs, reached the pinnacle with WCW and WWF (now WWE). Since 1986, The Nasty Boys (childhood friends Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) won the Florida Championship Wrestling tag team titles five times, AWA Southern tag team titles twice, WCW tag team titles three times and the coveted WWF tag team titles once.

“It was WrestleMania 7, and I called my dad [Ed], and he gave me a big pep talk,” Knobbs recalled. “He would say we hadn’t made it until we won the WWF tag titles. Jimmy Hart was our manager, and we beat The Hart Foundation [Bret The Hitman Hart and Jim The Anvil Neidhart], who Jimmy used to manage, for those tag team titles.”

The Nasty Boys with a little help from Jimmy Hart’s helmet defeated The Hart Foundation for the WWF tag team titles at WrestleMania 7 on March 24, 1991 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. It marked the final match of the Hart Foundation and the WrestleMania debut of The Undertaker, while The Nasty Boys had arrived.

“That kind of cemented us in the wrestling business [and at home],” Knobbs said. “Before being in the WWF, each time I would call home to my dad and even though we were on ESPN with the AWA, he would always say, ‘You’re not in the WWF, yet, kid. You’re not in the WWF.’

Dad pro WWF (now WWE).

“Then, all of a sudden, we finally got to WWF and got a WrestleMania 7 spot. So I called my dad at home, and I said, ‘This is my chance,’ and he gave me a good speech. My brother [Ed Jr.] came out to see it live, and we won the match. That was great. I was holding the WWF tag belt, yelling, ‘Dad. Dad. Dad.’ He was watching it at home, and he had tears in his eyes. He knew, we knew, we finally made it to the top.”

The Nasty Boys and The Hart Foundation are reuniting during the Legends of Wrestling Night on Saturday, Aug. 24 when the Miami Marlins host the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park.

Who will Jimmy Hart join?

“We are wrestling that night, and Jimmy will be walking us to the ring,” Knobbs said. “So since he’s walking with us, he might be signing autographs with The Hart Foundation.”

The Nasty Boys respect Jimmy Hart.

“I call him the hardest working man in show business,” Knobbs said. “He’s still doing it. He’s still running around. He’s got the energy of a 20-year-old kid.

“By far, he was our greatest manager, our best manager we ever had. He taught us the game, be yourself out there and do what you got to do.”

The Nasty Boys battled many tag teams including the best like The British Bulldogs, The Steiner Brothers, The Road Warriors, Harlem Heat, and of course, The Hart Foundation.

Knobbs said: “That’s what’s missing in today’s wrestling. There are no tag teams like that anymore, like those...and The Bushwhackers and The Rockers...It’s a lost art.”

And managers.

Knobbs added: “Bobby the Brain Heenan to Slick to Jimmy Mouth of the South Hart and Mr. Fuji, they brought a little spice and character to the matches. How can you beat it.”

Knobbs, 49, lives in the Tampa area, and he still loves baseball. He is very familiar with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“In 2006-07, a couple of guys in the office from the Rays organization asked me if I wanted to be their 10th man,” Knobbs said, “because when the Red Sox and the Yankees came to town, it wasn’t like a home game. It was like an away game, because we have so many Red Sox and Yankees fans down here. I said, ‘Sure, I’ll come down there and help. I used to do these little vignettes on the Rays giant video scoreboard to get the fans up, ‘Let’s go Rays.’

“From that, it turned into, ‘Hey, how about let’s do a wrestling night.’ Bring some of the guys in, sign some autographs and after the baseball game, do a couple of wrestling matches. I said, ‘Fine.’ So we did that a couple of years, and it went great. This year Matt [Britton] from the Miami Marlins called me up and said, ‘Knobbs, you want to do something down here at Marlins Park?’ I said, ‘Oh my God. I’d love to do something with the Marlins.’ So we got together, and we’re doing a Legends of Wrestling Night.”

Along with The Nasty Boys and The Hart Foundation, the event also features Goldberg, Greg The Hammer Valentine, Koko B. Ware, Brutus The Barber Beefcake, Bushwhacker Luke, The Genius (Lanny Poffo), Mr. Anderson (Mr. Kennedy), Chavo Guerrero Jr., Garett Bischoff, Wes Brisco, Davey Boy Smith Jr. and more.

“I’ve been in the wrestling business now 27 years, and some of these guys are personal friends of mine,” Knobbs said. “We drove up and down the highways together. Like baseball players, football players, basketball players, with wrestlers, it’s like a fraternity of brothers. I called them and said, ‘Hey man, I’m getting a show together, calling it the Legends of Wrestling Night. I’d love for you to be involved.’ Nobody batted an eye. They said, ‘Oh man, definitely, can I get on it?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Thank you for asking me.’ I got nothing but thank yous for calling them and asking them to be on a show in Miami.

“So we’re bringing all the top stars. legendary Hall of Famers, world champions and even up-n-coming stars.”

Davey Boy Smith Jr. is the son of the late, great British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. Garett Bischoff is the son of former WCW mastermind Eric Bischoff, and Wes Brisco is the son of WWE Hall of Famer and Championship Wrestling from Florida legend Jerry Brisco.

Goldberg will throw out the first pitch.

There will be an autograph session on the Promenade Level during the game.

Three to four wrestling matches will follow the game on the West Plaza.

“The fans can expect excitement,” Knobbs said. “If you’re a wrestling fan, you definitely want to be there. We got WWE Hall of Famers like Bret The Hitman Hart. Jimmy Mouth of the South Hart, Koko B. Ware and Greg The Hammer Valentine. The guy who rarely does autograph sessions and has his own reality show on the Speed channel and has been in a couple of movies [The Longest Yard, Universal Soldier: The Return] Bill Goldberg will be there. He’s one of the toughest wrestlers I’d ever met. I had the fortune and privilege to actually wrestle him on a WCW Monday Nitro where he almost broke my ribs. You got Brutus the Barber Beefcake, The Genuis, Bushwhacker Luke and TNA wrestlers Mr. Anderson, Wes Brisco, Garett Bischoff and Chavo Guerrero signing autographs and wrestling.

“So it’s going to be a tremendous night for anyone who’s a wrestling fan, and people, who aren’t wrestling fans or haven’t been to a wrestling show, will thoroughly enjoy it, too, because it’s going to be one heck of a show.”

Craig DeGeorge may even make an appearance.

As a youngster out of college, Craig DeGeorge worked a couple of years for the WWF. A storied sports broadcasting career post-WWF, Craig (DeGeorge) Minervini is now working for Fox Sports Net Florida on Miami Marlins games.

“Wrestling has changed so much, but back in the day, he would do the interviews in a hotel room with all of us for upcoming shows for each individual town, about 120 interviews a day, before a show that night,” Knobbs said. “All the boys know him, and he’s definitely been around the block.”

Knobbs recently watched a YouTube video with Craig DeGeorge interviewing Brutus the Barber Beefcake and Honky Tonk Man with Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue (Sensational Sherri Martell).

So Minervini (DeGeorge) is in good standing with the wrestling veterans, but Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin, don’t know.

During the 2009 baseball season, The Nasty Boys performed a Pit Stop on Raymond, the Tampa Bay Rays mascot. Basically, Raymond’s face met The Nasty Boys armpit without the Axe.

“Raymond was getting a little bit pushy, so he had to get introduced to pity city,” Knobbs said. “Don’t push the Nasty Boys too far. Hopefully, Billy the Marlin doesn’t get too pushy, or he will be getting pity city, just like Raymond did...and we won’t have to worry about any long pointy bill poking us, because he won’t have any after we get through with him.”

We’ll see Billy the Marlin’s allegiance on Aug. 24. As for Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler, he is a big-time pro wrestling fan.

“The Nasty Boys, we’re definitely Marlins all the way, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with any of the Miami Marlins,” Knobbs said. “If we get in any trouble, maybe we can tag one of them in, and they can give a big boot or a sleeper and help The Nasty Boys to victory that night.”

Knobbs knew Sags ever since they were 10-years-old in Whitehall, Pa. in Lehigh Valley, competing for the Stiles A’s, a youth baseball team in Stiles, a small town nearby. Allentown is the big city, so The Nasty Boys were billed from Allentown, but actually Whitehall is their hometown.

Sags played first base and Knobbs left field.

“Everyone would throw them in the dirt, because Sags was a big guy, but he didn’t have that stretch, and the ball would hit him in the mouth,” Knobbs said. “When I first met him, his tooth was already chipped from that, and he doesn’t have that tooth now because he hit the steel post in Las Vegas in 1987.”

As they grew, they became too big physically for baseball, even though they loved it. When they attended Whitehall High School, Sags competed in football and Knobbs wrestled (amateur style). Following high school, Sags played football at NCAA Division III Ferrum College in Ferrum, Va., and Knobbs opted for the Army.

A few years later, they connected again in Whitehall. Sags’ uncle, John, was friends with Matt Milan, who played in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins and later a general manager for the Detroit Lions. Milan is older than Knobbs and Sags, but they were all from the same neighborhood. Milan played a role in the formation of The Nasty Boys, Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Tag Team of the Year in 1994.

Knobbs said: “We were causing some trouble back home, and Matt saw us and said, ‘Hey [Knobbs], you guys always loved that pro wrestling. Why don’t you guys try that pro wrestling out.’ We thought, ‘That’s a good idea.’ So we bothered George the Animal Steele, and he sent us to Verne Gagne’s wrestling school in Minnesota, and we got trained by Brad Rheingans, an Olympic wrestler who coached Jeff Blatnick to Olympic gold in 1984.”

In addition to coaching amateur wrestlers throughout his career, Rheingans trained numerous pro wrestlers including Vader, John Bradshaw Layfield, Brock Lesnar, Jerry Lynn, Don Frye, Tom Zenk, Joe Hennig, Tori and The Nasty Boys.

Knobbs said: “When we were training, there was no wrestling the first four months, and when we started wrestling, we were on Olympic wrestling mats. I said, ‘What are we doing here? Where are the turnbuckles? Where are the ropes?’ But back in the day, it was all about respect and learning the right way.”

The 6-4, 290-pound Knobbs learned to set-up and tear-down the ring, worked as a referee, all old school. He and Sags did not form a tandem, until a year after his debut.

“We were young and dumb, everybody is growing up,” Knobbs said. “One night we were out with the boss’s daughter, Verne’s daughter, Donna. At the time in the ring we were calling ourselves The Mercenaries, Army guys with camouflage and just slaughtering people up and down.

“Back in the day, your personality came out in your persona. You were who you were, and that’s how you got your name out in pro wrestling.

“The next day Donna said, ‘I don’t know why you guys want to call yourselves [The Mercenaries]. Last night the way you guys acted you’re like a bunch of nasty boys.’ Me and Sags looked at each other. A light went off in our head. ‘Hey, that’s a good name,’ and boom. That’s how The Nasty Boys were born.”

Knobbs loves sports, especially baseball.

“Nothing like going and watching a good baseball game and watching those guys play their butts off,” Knobbs said. “I was at Marlins Park about three weeks ago, and that’s one of the most beautiful ball parks I was ever in my entire life, and I’ve been to a lot of baseball and football stadiums throughout the years.”

Knobbs remembers attending semi-pro type baseball games in Coplay, Pa., close to home. Semi-pro, minor league, major league, he is a fan of the game.

His favorite the Phillies, mentioning Greg The Bull Luzinski, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw, Steve Carlton.

Knobbs noted a couple of baseball players who could try transitioning into the sport.

“Jason Giambi has the technique. David Wells could talk the talk, and he had the size to back it up,” Knobbs said. “A lot of players love the sport of pro wrestling, and I told them, ‘Come on down. Try it out. You’ll have a good time.’ A lot of baseball players and football players love this sport.”

• The Nasty Boys join Bill Goldberg, The Hart Foundation (Bret The Hitman Hart, Jim The Anvil Neidhart, Jimmy Mouth of the South Hart) and more for a Legends of Wrestling Night on Saturday, Aug. 24 when the Miami Marlins host the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park.

The event also features The Dream Team (Greg The Hammer Valentine and Brutus The Barber Beefcake), Koko B. Ware, Bushwhacker Luke, The Genius (Lanny Poffo), Mr. Anderson (Mr. Kennedy), Chavo Guerrero Jr., Garett Bischoff, Wes Brisco, Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Craig DeGeorge.

Goldberg will throw out the first pitch.

There will be an autograph session on the Promenade Level during the game.

Three to four wrestling matches will follow the game on the West Plaza.

Wrestlers subject to change.

Just buy a Marlins ticket for the game on Aug. 24, and the wrestling show is included. Game time is 7:10 p.m.

For ticket information, visit http://miami.marlins.mlb.com/ticketing/index.jsp?c_id=mia.

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