Dan Spivey was a big, tall, tough dude who lived a hard life and wasn’t one to mess with. Adrian Adonis was also relatively tough and had a boxing background, despite the effeminate character and rotund appearance he’s most famous for. It seemed almost inevitable the two would butt heads, and that’s exactly what happened.
Fight: Dan Spivey vs Adrian Adonis
Date: May 6, 1986
Location: IMA Sports Arena in Flint, MI
Source: RF Video, Spivey’s Facebook page
Adrian Adonis made a name for himself as the workhorse of the East West Connection tag team with Jesse Ventura in the AWA. Jesse carried the team on the mic, and Adonis carried the team in the ring. While he never truly got enough credit for it, Adrian Adonis was a top shelf worker. He developed something of a shooter reputation in Amarillo, where he’d challenge anyone to last 5 minutes in the ring with him for $1,000, and nobody was able to. He also did excellent work in Japan in the early ’80s.
He had gained some weight by the time he got to the WWF in 1985, but he could still work. Vince McMahon made him “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, doing a gay gimmick with Jimmy Hart as his manager. Adonis became most well known for his feud with Roddy Piper, which culminated in Piper’s ‘retirement’ match at WrestleMania III where he beat Adonis and shaved his head.
Dan Spivey came from Tampa, where he worked as a bouncer, a bookie, a gambler, a bounty hunter, and other assorted manly jobs that only a tough guy could handle. He was a giant, standing a good 6’-6” or 6’-7”, with long arms and had boxing experience just like Adonis did. When he debuted with the WWF in 1985, he already had a reputation as a tough guy even though nobody knew much about his background. With his blond hair and yellow tights, his look in the WWF was very reminiscent of Hulk Hogan.
Adonis was being groomed for a program with Hulk Hogan in 1986, and spent the preceding months getting a series of squash wins over prelim guys like Scott McGhee and Lanny Poffo. He also got victories over George “The Animal” Steele at a time when Steele was one of their most popular stars.
According to Spivey, Adonis often took liberties with McGhee and Poffo, whom Adonis wrestled several times on the road. He said Adonis was a bully who laid his shots in really thick with some of the guys, and nobody would speak up about it because it would cost them their jobs. Adonis knew the office had big plans for him, and his program with Hogan was going to make him a lot of money. It’s a stretch to say he was untouchable, but he was a big enough star to where the Poffo level guys didn’t say or do anything about it (and Poffo definitely could have if he wanted to).
The WWF often taped television at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, and on May 4 they did a taping for Prime Time Wrestling and All American Wrestling. Hillbilly Jim was supposed to put over Adonis that night, but for some reason Jim either wasn’t there or couldn’t wrestle. Spivey ended up taking his place, losing the fall when Adonis hooked the tights. This match aired on the May 19, 1986 episode of Prime Time Wrestling, and is available on the WWE Network.
According to Spivey, Adonis was being his usual bully self. He kicked Spivey really hard and cussed him out repeatedly. No one is exactly sure why Adonis would try this with someone Spivey’s size, and he’d live to regret it. Spivey was understandably pissed off by all this, and backstage he wanted to kill Adonis. Fortunately Dynamite Kid (of all people, since he too was considered a bully), Davey Boy Smith, and Scott McGhee grabbed Spivey’s stuff and cooled him off, taking him out of the arena before he could kill Adonis.
If you watch the match, there are clearly problems. Adonis (who was bombarded with chants of “f*ggot”) can be seen numerous times whispering something to Spivey, which was probably where he cussed him out although it just looked like he was calling spots to the untrained eye. He did kick Spivey hard a couple of times, but that could’ve been because the two had quite a few blown spots. Jimmy Hart in particular didn’t grab Spivey’s leg completely the way he was supposed to, so it looked awkward when Spivey fell without being tripped. Adonis took his usual great bumps in the match, including a slam on the concrete, a slam on the rampway, and a couple nice bumps falling outside the ring. After the finish, Adonis leaves the ring immediately and Spivey stands right up and looks pretty pissed (although he should’ve been since Adonis hooked the tights illegally to win).
Two days later (Spivey said it was the next day, but records show it was two days), the WWF ran a house show in Flint, MI on May 6, 1986. Adonis was scheduled to wrestle George Steele again, except Steele was in the hospital for some reason with an undisclosed illness. Road agent Pat Patterson approached Spivey about replacing Steele, and Spivey flat out told him he didn’t want to work with Adonis. Patterson checked with Adonis, who told him he didn’t want to work with Spivey either. Unsure about what to do, Patterson called Vince McMahon.
Vince told Patterson that Spivey and Adonis had to work together, or else. Spivey had apparently told friends that if Adonis tried to stiff him again, he’d do something about it. Honkytonk Man claimed Spivey told this to Adonis himself, but that may not be true and Honkytonk Man probably wasn’t with the company at the time (he debuted on TV in September, though he was probably doing dark matches for weeks before then).
The Confrontation – Part I
Dan Spivey got to the ring first, and then Adrian Adonis made his entrance with Jimmy Hart. Before the match, Adonis did his “air hanky,” where he’d blow his nose without a handkerchief. It got all over Adonis’s arm and it grossed Spivey out. Adonis continued his trash talking before the bell rang, and during the match he was being stiff again.
Spivey was becoming enraged, not just by the potato shots but by the grossness of his arm. He begged Jimmy Hart to tell Adonis to wipe it off, but there was only so much Hart could do. Meanwhile Adonis kept shooting on him, and Spivey had just about had enough.
Spivey was on his butt and Adonis was about to go for his sleeper hold finish. Spivey knew that Adonis was going to try to choke him out for real, so he put his arm up to create some space between Adrian’s arm and his throat. Sure enough, Adonis applied the choke hold pretty hard. Fortunately Spivey had his arm up, so he was able to break free.
And then all Hell broke loose.
Spivey got Adonis up against the ropes and unloaded on him like a boxer would. He then delivered a kick that knocked Adonis out cold. Spivey covered him for the pin, but the referee was screaming how that wasn’t the finish. Spivey, still enraged, shouted “I’m changing the f*cking finish! He’s not going over tonight, so disqualify me!” The referee had no choice but to disqualify him.
Jim Brunzell years later gave an account of what happened, saying he and Bob Orton were watching from the back because they knew some sh*t might go down. And they were right. Brunzell confirmed Spivey’s story, saying Adonis was indeed knocked out.
The Confrontation – Part II
Spivey came backstage and was still seething with anger. Everyone was asking what happened, and Brunzell was yelling, “Danny killed Adrian!” Remember, the WWF was grooming Adonis for a run with Hogan, so it was important he go over for when they returned to Flint with Adonis vs Hogan on top.
Adonis came backstage after Spivey did, and he was just as angry as Spivey was. The front room was empty, so he busted through to the back room where Spivey was. Spivey stood up and Adonis shouted, “C’mon Spivey, let’s see how tough you are!” He wanted a shot at Spivey, and as he came after him, Spivey grabbed a chair to defend himself. The guys in the back grabbed Spivey, and Adonis took that opportunity to go for a leg dive. Spivey broke free and landed a beautiful uppercut that caused Adonis’s cheek to explode, and blood was flying. His cheekbone was visible, and his lip was already split almost in half from when Spivey had kicked him in the ring.
The Junkyard Dog then grabbed a hold of Spivey, so Adonis went for another leg dive. JYD screamed, “Here he comes Danny, here he comes!” and let him loose just in time for Spivey to nail him again, this time with a right hand shot to the face. Each of the two times Spivey hit him, Adonis was split open. Spivey said the boys had to break them up, while Dory Funk Jr later said that it was over before anyone had a chance to break it up. Brunzell later said that if they hadn’t pulled Spivey off then he would’ve really messed him up.
Randy Savage came over and took Spivey to Randy’s dressing room to get him away from Adonis. Spivey’s hands were swelling up from busting Adonis open, and he had to ice them down before leaving the arena.
It should be noted that Dory said the fight happened in Hartford, CT while Spivey said it was in Flint, MI. There was indeed a show in Hartford, but it wasn’t until May 12, which was a full week after the Toronto incident. I believe it happened in Flint, because when Brunzell told the story, he too said it was in Flint. Also, Spivey has said in interviews it was either “the next day” or “a few days later,” so Flint makes sense since it was two days later. Also, if it was in Hartford, one would believe Vince was probably there, and he wasn’t there for this incident.
Adonis needed around 200 stitches, and Spivey said his face was all mangled from the punches and kick. Brunzell said Adonis was never the same after this fight, while Honkytonk said Adonis missed a week’s worth of shows so he could heal up.
However, results show Adonis was in a match with Hogan just a few days later, although otherwise he was indeed nowhere to be found on the house show results. It’s possible Adonis was called in to work a short match with Hogan (a huge payoff for Adonis) even though his face was a mess. There are reports that Adonis wore a veil to cover up the facial damage, but it’s not clear if the veil was for the Flower Shop segments being taped or for this match with Hogan.
Spivey has said this cost Adonis his run with Hogan, but that’s not completely true. Spivey claimed in another interview that it simply delayed the run, which is accurate. Adonis and Hogan headlined several arena shows, but they were delayed and it may not have been as long of a run as Adonis or the office wanted. King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd got some of the Hogan matches instead, and Spivey claimed they both later thanked him for those additional dates (anyone who worked with Hogan back then made big money since they were paid a percentage of the gate).
Obviously the agents were not happy with what happened, though perhaps if Adonis’s bullying was addressed in the first place, none of this would’ve taken place. Spivey had to call Vince the next day, and he told Spivey to stop beating up his talent. Spivey cleverly replied, “He’s not very talented,” which would’ve been a lot funnier except Adonis really was talented. Vince told him to stop being a smart ass and there were no further incidents.
There could’ve been a part III, as Spivey later saw Adonis at the arena all bandaged up and Adonis started to mouth off again. Don Muraco then told Adonis, “If I were you, I’d keep my mouth shut.” Adonis finally stopped and the two never had a match together again.
The fight earned Spivey the name “Dangerous Dan the left hand man,” and later just “Dangerous Dan Spivey.” While Adonis was never the same after this life changing beatdown, it was just another day at the office for Spivey, who didn’t think it was a big deal and had been through similar scuffles for much of his life. He rightly believed Adonis was a bully, and just because he was new to the company didn’t give anyone the right to disrespect him or anyone else.
Adonis lost a lot of respect in the locker room. Dory Funk wrote, “In a mere three seconds a reputation was gone, an ego busted, over a fight that neither one in their right mind would have wanted to happen.” He had the matches with Hogan, and later, the high profile program with Roddy Piper. He didn’t last in the company much longer than that, and tragically died in a car accident on July 4, 1988.
Spivey remained with the company through 1988, but never got much of a push. He was part of the infamous George Zahorian steroid trial in ’91 that led to Zahorian’s conviction. He got steady work in All Japan, and also had stints with WCW. He most famously teamed with future Undertaker, Mark Callous, in the Skyscrapers before Sid Vicious replaced Callous later on.
In a televised match on Clash of the Champions X, Spivey was in a similar situation to the one with Adonis. Road Warrior Hawk was being rough with Callous, as Hawk often was with newer talents. Callous was huge, but that didn’t stop Hawk from taking liberties with him. Spivey, again seeing Hawk in the Adonis role as the bully, destroyed Hawk on live TV with very real chair shots to the head. Teddy Long was the referee and told the story later, although his memory was off because he thought it was a house show. Spivey was ready for more in the locker room, but Hawk wisely never brought it up and simply congratulated the guys on a good match. Perhaps Hawk heard about the Adonis incident and decided it wasn’t worth it.
Spivey also was brought back when Bill Watts was in charge of WCW, and later got another run in the WWF as Waylon Mercy before retiring in the 90s.
Spivey recounts the incident here:
Jim Brunzell talks about the incident:
Dan Spivey kicking the crap out of Road Warrior Hawk with very real chair shots to the head: