In the WWF glory days of the 1980s, the Killer Bees were part of an impressive group of tag teams. At the time, the division was stacked with legendary duos and future singles stars. Some of the biggest names in the promotion’s rich history emerged during this very special time for pro wrestling tandems.
As The Killer Bees, Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell & B. Brian Blair would mix it up with their contemporaries, and make history in the process. While The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, and even the makeshift merging of Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake were elevated to the top of the division, the Yellow and Black Attack was right there with them.
The Bees were incredibly popular and well-liked by the fans. As their popularity grew, they added a new wrinkle to the act: Matching masks. In time, Brunzell and Blair, with their matching gear and masks, as well as similar builds, would fool opponents and officials. They are considered the first babyface team to use the ‘switcheroo gimmick’ with their masks to thwart the efforts of their adversaries.
The Killer Bees Were Part of the Rise of the McMahon Empire, but Largely Never Received Their Just Due
One of the most egregious mistakes that Vince McMahon made regarding the team was that he never put the World Tag Team Championships on the Bees. At the height of their popularity, the two men were not only poetry in motion in the ring, but they looked the part. Both were in great shape, fast, and could flash million-dollar smiles. They were easy to like, especially in the kid-friendly atmosphere of that time period.
In that same vein, The Killer Bees gimmick itself should have been a HUGE moneymaker in terms of merchandising. The colors alone would make for great t-shirts and hats, but the masks are where the cash machine should have been roaring. If McMahon had marketed those honey-bee hoods as he did a generation later with Rey Mysterio’s mask, Brunzell and Blair might still be cashing their royalty checks today. It was unique and especially cool to younger viewers.
Alas, the team always seemed pushed to the side and was never pushed as an ‘elite’ twosome. They were always one rung below the top. This is somewhat baffling to those who saw them at their best. Both Brunzell and Blair could literally hang with anybody in the ring.
In fact? They were typically more athletic than their opponents. Moving like lightning, they kept the crowd in a fast-paced fever.
Shut Out of any Gold, they Have Now Been Overlooked Again, in Terms of Their Place in History
The Killer Bees are always going to be remembered as part of the carnival of characters McMahon created in the mid-80s. They were right there in the middle of the famed Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. The pair also appeared on the massively successful WrestleMania III card. They were part of the lifeblood of The Federation.
They were also a big part of the marketing machine. Nearly every video, poster, or lunchbox that featured the Superstars of the World Wrestling Federation had them somewhere in the background, as representatives of a new age.
Both were already accomplished wrestlers in their own right. Blair had forged a terrific singles career in Florida. Brunzell was already a two-time AWA World Tag Team Champion. So, the combination was not just a mix of two great grapplers, but also worthy representatives of what the Federation was evolving into. The very best talent, dressed up with larger-than-life pageantry.
Despite never wearing the big silver belts at the time, the Bees left their mark as characters. Much like Hillbilly Jim or Koko B. Ware, they didn’t really need the titles to sell themselves. They were over as characters. But unlike many of those Superstars, they have yet to receive the call about their rightful induction.
So, the duo hasn’t flown from the hive to the Hall of Fame. At least not yet.
WWE should right this wrong and acknowledge one of the most popular teams in its amazing history
While some can argue that there are more worthy candidates ahead in line, it still doesn’t change the fact The Bees should be enshrined someday. Hopefully, it’s a day when both Brunzell and Blair are still young and healthy enough to bask in the glory. Many may consider the WWE Hall of Fame a farce. But to be recognized by fans, your peers, and the promotion is priceless. That HOF ring not only raises a veteran wrestler’s profile, but it’s also something he can look down at and be proud of. That their achievements didn’t go unnoticed.
As much as anyone else, Jim and Brian are a symbol of everything that was great about their era. They had a unique and colorful gimmick, they were established stars elsewhere who reinvented themselves in McMahonland, and played their roles perfectly. They’re part of the fabric of those legendary letters on the promotion’s banner. And there’s no doubt that they are all-time greats.
Yet, The Killer Bees are still being denied the sweet nectar of WWE immortality… and that really has to sting a little bit.
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