PWInsider - WWE News, Wrestling News, WWE

 
 

FORMER AWF PROMOTER GORDON SCOZZARI PASSES AWAY

By Mike Johnson on 2011-01-06 01:41:07
Evan Ginzberg sent word that former American Wrestling Federation owner and promoter Gordon Scozzari passed away yesterday at the age of 40 from complications of kidney disease. Scozzari had been ill for many, many years and had been undergoing regular dialysis.

In late 1991, Scozzari, backed by either an inheritance or money made from a stock windfall (he had claimed both at different points), launched the AWF, the first promotion to use those letters running their first and only TV Tapings in December of that year in Asbury Park, NJ and Lowell, MA.

The promotion didn't last long and in some circles, Scozzari was talked about as someone who spent a lot of money getting into the business before he was ready (and getting taken advantage of by a lot of people trying to get the most out of the situation).

Scozzari was someone who truly loved the business and was overjoyed at becoming a promoter, but like some who overreach before they are ready, it was a hard crash and something Scozzari was very angry about as the years went on. Although I hadn't spoken to him in almost a decade, I know that as recently as a year ago, I was told that he wanted nothing to do with wrestling.

Scozzari's initial shows were like a who's who of great and available wrestling talent at the time. The shows used a crew that was made up of a ton of big names for that time period, including Paul Orndorff (who won their championship at the taping), Stan Lane, Jim Cornette, The Original Sheik, Junkyard Dog, Nikita Koloff, Bob Orton, Barry Horowitz, TNT (later known as Savio Vega), Dutch Mantel, Giant Kamala II, Jeff Gaylord, Pez Whatley, Ronnie P. Gossett, Al Perez, Billy Jack Haynes, a pair of then-unknowns named Sabu and Chris Candido and Eddie Gilbert, who was scheduled to be booking, among others I am probably forgetting at the moment.

The tapings didn't go without their problems. To be fair, there were lots of problems. Gilbert never made the tapings, with Scozzari later claiming he no showed after being paid in advance. Scozzari never forgave Gilbert for that and there were stories in the years to come that Scozzari had paid Jeff Gaylord (by then billed as one half of the AWF Tag Team champions in Puerto Rico) to beat up Gilbert backstage in Texas at a Global taping. There was an incident, although no one really got hurt. That later led to another crazy story in which Scozzari, visiting backstage at a WCW show with JYD, was confronted by Gilbert's then-wife Madusa about the incident.

The tapings themselves never made air as the project stalled and in many ways, it was sadly cursed from the beginning. The TV cameras never made it to the first night in New Jersey. Talents who worked one night no showed the next despite being paid with one check. They ran the Jersey Shore in December when it was a ghost town. Koloff couldn't work due to a recent surgery. The then-NJ State Commission wouldn't let the Sheik wrestle at his age. The booker didn't even show. The cameras missed the pyro that was set to explode when Orndorff won the belt. Angelo Poffo was booked to ring announce and then left, leaving Scozzari, of all people to ring announce his own taping.

All the plans were scrapped and Scozzari would later claim that out of everyone there, only Mantel, TNT and Whatley tried to help him put together the taping while everyone else was out for themselves. Others had different versions of that, but one thing was for sure. Scozzari came out strong and spent a lot of money and it hurt him in the end. It was a situation where you couldn't help but feel bad for him because he tried to make his dreams work and then in the end, it just didn't happen.

Scozzari never ran additional shows or tapings after that with his own money, although he did run at least one show in New York in conjunction with Rick "Sunny Beach" Allen in Staten Island, NY as a sold show.

He stayed around the business and always looked for another way to get back into that world because he really wanted in and wanted to prove himself after the initial failure to make a mark with his original AWF. He was very resentful (and understandably so) that he had given talents some good paydays and instead of being seen as someone who did business the right way in a world where promoters regularly conned people, he was seen as someone who failed because the project didn't work out. It sincerely bothered him because in his mind, he didn't do anything wrong. Wrestling media accounts in newsletters would drive him crazy and he was very angry towards just about every writer he ever came across because he felt they were unfair.

There were lots of attempts to work in different aspects of the business in the early 1990s. He worked with Gloria Uribe's AWF in Puerto Rico, although that relationship would end several years later when Scozzari secured the promotion a timeslot on a Spanish speaking station in New York City (I forget which network it was), only for the promotion to fail to send the TV tapes and the initial payments.

He later became involved with both Hammerlock UK and promoter Andre Baker, championing Baker and helping lead the way for Baker to come to the United States and work. For a brief period, Scozzari also worked with the original UCW in New York City, although what capacity I'm not sure of. He claimed at the time he was booking but I can't say that with certainty.

Scozzari had a lot of other projects that he attempted to get off the ground and always had a run of bad luck in that regard. I can remember one show that had been approved and he was in the studio editing the commercial for the show when the call came through that the backers had changed their mind. Had his health not worsened, he may have continued trying, but I can't say that for sure.

The AWF TV never made air, although some of the tapes later wound up airing on the Savoldi family's IWCCW TV. I never understood why at the time, although my theory was that Savoldi acquired the tapes after Scozzari lost them when he didn't have the money to finish the editing process. Again, I can't say that for sure.

Scozzari, who worked as a legal librarian outside of his wrestling exploits, was a huge fan of the Japanese and British wrestling scenes and to be honest, helped introduce me to them. Years before some of the names migrated over to the United States scene, Scozzari was extolling the virtues of Dave Finley, Steve (William) Regal, Robbie Brookside, a young Douglas Williams (then working as Doug the Anarchist) and his favorite Giant Haystacks, who later came to WCW in his waning years as Loch Ness.

Scozzari loved B-Monster movies, so the monster characters like Haystacks were a big interest to him, to the point he booked a giant muscled up talent named Sampson for his 1991 tapings with the idea of using him as a monster. When the talent showed up nowhere near as built and gigantic as you would have thought from the photo, Scozzari was let down.

I had lost touch with Scozzari about a decade ago after a blow-up. While a genuinely nice person with his friends, he also had the ability to blow up at someone if he thought they wronged him and that exacerbated as he got more and more sick. To maintain a friendship with him often meant you were on the wrong side of that, even when it wasn't deserved and even after you were going out of your way to help him out. So, we went out separate ways, although the reality was, he was one of the first people around the business I met and he was one of the first people to help me network around the business. In fact, I first became aware of a writer named Dave Scherer when Scozzari handed me a copy of the now-defunct Chairshots newsletter that Barry Rose produced and said, "I think you'd like this guy's stuff. He's pretty funny." Had it not been for Gordon, who knows if I would even be writing for a living right now. You never know - life is funny that way.

I know he had moved to Britain (where his family was originally from) and had told some he was promoting and others he was running a restaurant/pub. He later returned to the States, something that surprised me since he so often talked of moving to England, which I believe was to try and get the best medical care possible.

In the email that Evan Ginzberg sent out tonight, he noted the painful battle Gordon endured in recent months. "I'd like to say that in my entire life I've never seen a person fight so long and valiantly against illness. In one recent year he'd been hospitalized over 20 times, often for weeks and even months at a time where we thought he wouldn't make it. A mutual friend said simply, "That Gordon's a tough kid." And he was."

The same release featured a quote from Mike Henry, who worked for a number of Northeast independents in the 1990s and maintained a longtime relationship with Scozzari, noting, "He was a good friend. I'll miss him and at least he won't be in pain anymore. The way he was living was no way for a person to be living. He was a really good guy and would give you the shirt off his back. We helped each other a million times. And he always repaid me to the penny, even when it was a financial struggle for him to do so. I'll miss the 5 phone calls a day."

I don't believe Scozzari was survived by any family members but do want to wish my deepest condolences to his friends. Gordon was a unique character but deep down, he did love the wrestling business much more than it ever loved him and at his core, was a good person. He deserved better than life dealt him.

If you enjoy PWInsider.com you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more, right now for THREE DAYS free by clicking here!