On July 25th in the Pennsylvania area, a motorcycle accident put 51 year old Howard Saunders, father of three into a coma. He remained in that coma for about three weeks before succumbing to his injuries. On August 18th at around 4 pm, Howard Saunders was officially pronounced dead.
Why do I mention this story? Howard Saunders was a member of an exclusive fraternity known as professional wrestling. Who was he? What did he do? Why didn’t many/if any wrestling websites mention his death? He was known as the Cosmic Commander of Wrestling. He was best known as a manager and he wasn’t mentioned because he wasn’t a household name from the WWE, TNA, ROH, Mexico or Japan. He was your classic “Indie Guy” who did what he did because he loved what he did.
I had to do some digging to find a handful of things about him. His gimmick looked like a straight up homage to the late great “Grand Wizard of Wrestling” Ernie Roth…turban, funky shades, eclectic jackets and all. He cut promos that sounded like a cross between Superstar Billy Graham and Mr. T…Perhaps his biggest claim to fame in wrestling was managing Salvatore Bellomo in the infancy days of ECW. As a matter of fact, if you look on Youtube, one of Kerry Von Erich’s last matches was in ECW that also involved the Cosmic Commander.
His pro wrestling resume might not have been comparable to a Paul Heyman, Bobby Heenan or even The Grand Wizard himself, it doesn’t mean he should be treated with less dignity. In actuality, The Cosmic Commander Howard Saunders was also formerly a punk rock singer for the group Rancid Vat and an acclaimed tattoo artist who inked actresses and NBA stars. A guy who did what he loved to do, no matter what it was. From the few people I could find that met or knew Saunders, he was beloved. Not a bad word was found about him and this was before his tragic accident. Most importantly, he was a father to three young children named Leor, Lola and Gram. At the end of the day, that what really matters.
His story leads into a bigger story, when is a wrestler deemed important enough to be talked about? My answer is simple…they all should be recognized. Firefighters, Police, Military all honor their own no matter if they were high ranking or at the very bottom. They are fraternities, brotherhoods, etc…the media covers every single one of them.
Everybody should be acknowledged…Everybody should be honored. No matter if you’re “The Prince of Aesthetics” Damian Gibbs from Pro Wrestling Syndicate or “The Immortal”Hulk Hogan they are all one in the same. They do what they do out of love and passion for the sport and all should be honored in some way equally. Now some will say that a Damian Gibbs is just an Indy guy and shouldn’t even be compared to the contributions of a Hogan…While Gibbs may be on the lower rungs of the ladder, compared to the Hulkster who is at the top rung…Gibbs and countless others like Prince Nana, Tim Arson, Mike Bennett, The Briscoe Brothers are the foundation…the future, the backbone of wrestling…they keep the traditions alive with their hard work, passion and determination. If, God forbid any of them should pass unexpectedly or due to some unforeseen illness, you would hope that all of us as fans, website administrators, wrestling journalists (both on websites and periodicals)will mention them, thank them and honor them for their contributions.
In my years as a wrestling fan, I have had the honor and privileged of talking and befriending some Indy guys/girls as they battle and struggle to “Make It.” For example, if The Kodiak Bear or “The Arsonist” Tim Arson passed, I know I would be upset, their families, friends and loved ones would hurt too….but would they be remembered…honored for their sacrifices as entertainers? I can assure you, I would…but would others? Every performer, manager, promoter, producer etc… who gave us even an 10 minutes of entertainment…an escape from reality should get their due…So should everybody in every walk of life.
That brings me to the WWE and the original inspiration for this piece. A few months ago, a couple of greats passed away. Matt (Doink, Maniac, Big Josh) Osbourne and Jackie (The Fabulous One) Fargo died and the WWE on both RAW and Smackdown were silent. They may have have put together something on WWE.com, but nothing as far as 10 bell salute, video montage or even a picture flashing on the screen with birth and death dates. Nothing. Why?!?
In my sole opinion, the WWE should feel obligated to honor those legends who made some sort of significant impact in the industry. Regardless if they actually worked for the company or not. It seems a lot of times certain “outsiders” like the Gagnes and Von Erichs get recognition so the WWE could obtain their vast video libraries. Otherwise, nothing or hardly anything. The main reason that they should honor all those who’ve passed away is because they are the most recognized Wrestling/Sports Entertainment company in the world. They essentially ate up the territories and rival companies, so in my view owe it to fans to keep their legacies and traditions alive in some way.
Think about one of the biggest gripes about the Academy Awards every year. Besides critiquing the host or hosts and who wore what…many complain of a certain actor or actress who died that was snubbed off of the annual “In Memoriam” montage. They’ll build up their cases with history and biographies of that actor and complain that this person never should’ve been snubbed. Pro wrestling doesn’t nearly have that same kind of passion from many of their fans. Why not? Is it because you don’t recognize the name…you didn’t like that particular wrestler…didn’t feel they were important enough?
As a stated, everybody should get their due once the lights are turned off permanently and they have nothing left to give. Whether you are John Cena or the Cosmic Commander…
If you would like to donate to the late Howard “Cosmic Commander” Saunders fund for his 3 small children…Leor, Lola and Gram…go to: