Tragedy strikes every now and then. It is a cold reminder of how fortunate many of us are. Professional wrestling has seen more than its fair share of tragedies, and this week, a few more happened. Mark Canterbury (aka Henry Godwin) was in a very serious car accident that resulted in a broken leg, two punctured lungs and several broken ribs. While in surgery doctors removed his spleen and appendix, as well as a tumor they came upon. Canterbury is in rough shape but will hopefully recover soon enough. James Harris (aka Kamala) had to have his foot amputated because of complications of diabetes and high blood pressure. This will mean the end of his career, but hopefully he will have a speedy recovery. It is amazing how tragedies can make one reflect. What happened to Canterbury and Harris made me reflect on their careers, what I remember about them, and how much I appreciate them. Then there are those times when tragedy strikes in another form. When it happens, it can make one reflect negatively. This happened to me this week with Shane Douglas. Between all three of these men I have done a lot of thinking this week about what it is that happened to these guys. Harris and Canterbury suffered from physical trauma. Douglas simply opened his mouth.
Canterbury spent some time in WCW before his WWE run. He and Dennis Knight were the tag team of Shanghai Pierce and Tex Slazenger, respectively, with Canterbury wearing a mask for a good portion of the team’s tenure. When Canterbury joined WWE in 1995, he was given a hog farmer character named Henry Godwin. Traditional fans didn’t care for the character, seeing it as another goofy character in a company that had a clown, a dentist and a pirate already running around. Yet Godwin made the character entertaining. Even those who didn’t like the character enjoyed when he would dump his bucket of slop on a bad guy. One of the more fun matches of 1995 was his Hog Pen match against Triple H.
Soon enough Canterbury’s WCW partner joined him under the name Phineas Godwin. After over a year as a baby face tag team the Godwins entered into a program with the Legion of Doom. Henry suffered a neck injury when he took a Doomsday Device during a match. This caused the Godwins to wage war against LOD and turn heel. It was really the perfect program for both teams. LOD was one of the most legendary teams in wrestling, and had always been reckless in the ring. Not that they didn’t take care of their opponents, but their characters wrestled a style that made them look like the just went into the ring and busted skulls. They had been doing this for years, and then one day, here come the good Godwin boys. They fell victim to that recklessness. They had always done right and here was this big time tag team who didn’t need to prove anything by injuring Henry. It is often said that the best heels are the ones who are really right in their own way. In this case the Godwins were right. Their heel turn made sense and they freshened things up and adapted to the changing WWE landscape by shedding the hats and shirts, and beating up anyone who got in their way. They ended up becoming schoolyard bullies. By the time 1997 the Godwins had given LOD their last great feud.
Kamala’s biggest run was his time in the World Wrestling Federation feuding with Hulk Hogan. He had kind of a silly look, but he really looked like he had wondered out of the jungle and into a wrestling ring. He was billed as a savage. What better way to book him than put him in the ring with Hulk Hogan? Hogan had such a wide array of opponents during his prime. Be they big or small, they all brought someone different to the table. Kamala was the guy who had the size, but also the unpredictability. He wasn’t a guy like Big John Studd or King Kong Bundy. He was a loose cannon carefully placed and let loose in a wrestling ring. It was the type of opponent Hogan never had before, kind of similar in a way to the John Cena-Umaga matches in 2007.
Things will hopefully look up for Kamala and Canterbury. However, tragedy can strike wrestling in other ways. There are times when wrestling fans take things too seriously, but the wrestlers themselves can take things too seriously as well. Rants are not uncommon. Wrestlers often shoot on one another causing insiders to flip. Sometimes children have more insightful insults to throw at each other than the things wrestlers will say. This week Shane Douglas had some very unkind things to say about Ric Flair and Dixie Carter in a radio interview. In regards to Carter, he said that he was insulted about the money of offered to him for HardCORE Justice when TNA did their form of an ECW reunion show. His reasoning was that in the world of ECW, he was as big as Hulk Hogan. Actually he said he was bigger than Hogan and Flair in the world of ECW, as if it is its own dimension. He also said that he was mad that Carter didn’t call him back when he sent her over forty pages worth of notes he had taken on episodes of Impact. A lot of things have been said about Dixie Carter that are fair. There have also been things said that are out of line. Douglas went with the latter when discussing her.
Shane Douglas was a decent talent until he went to ECW. He became a god to many ECW fans, but his significance has been exaggerated. Outside of the promotion he could do no right. Some of his matches were very good, but many of them were mediocre at best. His promo skills have always been blown up. Was he important in ECW? Sure, when he was there. The minute he was gone, the company moved on, and he left that promotion twice for greener pastures. Douglas benefited way more from being a part of ECW then the company did from him.
As for Flair, Douglas went on a tirade about how Ric Flair was not the man he thought he was. For years he idolized Flair, and when he finally met the Nature Boy in person, he wasn’t the man Douglas had hoped for. The disappointment is understandable to a degree. However, to still be upset about it after all these years is ridiculous. Flair was an easy target for Douglas back in 1994 when Flair was at the top of WCW and Douglas was trying to make a name for himself. It is just sad now to hear the same old rant. Shane Douglas deserves respect because he got into a wrestling ring and was able to wrestle for ECW, WCW and WWF. He should be proud of that. At this point in his life it might be best to just leave well enough alone.
Henry Godwin and Kamala were fun characters and their time should be remembered. The thoughts of fans are with them and their families during this time. Bad things can really bring people together. Here is to a fast recovery for both men. As for Shane Douglas, here is to any sort of recovery, hopefully one that will bring him some peace.