The history of wrestling is littered with families who have collectively achieved a deal of success, at one level or another – with many almost exclusively linked to one promotion. One family who was heavily linked with one promotion, in this case World Championship Wrestling, was the Armstrong family. Today we take a look at that family curse.
When you think of the term “family curse” as it pertains to professional wrestling, you may immediately think of the Von Erichs in World Class Championship Wrestling. A family that was absolutely decimated by a series of unfortunate events which included drugs, horrific accidents and suicide. To a smaller degree, the Hart family in Calgary, Alberta Canada also have had their fair share of incidents. With all that said, however, does anybody think of the Armstrongs?
Back in the early 1990’s, there was an often mentioned curse that supposedly plagued this family of wrestlers back in the days of Jim Crockett and WCW. Just in case you don’t know who the Armstrong family are, they are a father and his four sons that were all professional wrestlers. The patriarch of the family is ‘Bullet’ Bob Armstrong who had a pretty successful career back in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s mostly competing in the southeastern territories like Alabama and Georgia….as well as touring Japan.
Bob Armstrong would have fours sons who he trained and would follow in his footsteps. They were Brad, Scott, Steve and Brian Armstrong and would all have varying degrees of success in pro wrestling. There was Brad who was considered the most technically gifted of the four brothers. Scott was the powerhouse and Steve was the ladies man….youngest brother Brian started his career a bit later, but was the most charismatic of the four.
Brad, Scott and Steve all had success in their early careers…as their father Bob did in the southeastern territories. It wasn’t until the brothers moved onto WCW that things started to go downhill a bit. Now granted, Brad and Steve did get pretty decent pushes with the company. Brad won the WCW light heavyweight title and Steve formed a tag team with Tracy Smothers called The Wild Eyed Southern Boys/Young Pistols that won the United States tag team titles.
Despite the moderate pushes and success, the brothers for the most part were lost in the shuffle. As discussed in a previous piece, Brad Armstrong went under several gimmick changes in his WCW career. Steve’s team turned heel and then ultimately fizzled out. Brothers Scott and Brian were used mainly as preliminary talent during their WCW runs.
Around this time, former wrestler turned color commentator Larry Zbyszko started mentioning about an Armstrong curse whenever one or more of the brothers were competing in a match. While Zbyszko gets a lot of the credit coining the term “Armstrong Curse,” in reality it was Brad himself who actually originated it. Brad would use the term jokingly backstage in reference to the Armstrongs lack of push or lack of success in WCW. Zbyszko heard the joking and started using it on broadcasts.
The curse started to take on a life of its own in WCW. Every match that featured the Armstrongs would have a reference to the family curse. To play off of it, the Armstrong’s had competitive matches, yet would constantly be on the losing end of them. The curse didn’t just remain in WCW, it apparently extended to the WWF where Steve Armstrong attempted a singles career under the name of ‘Lance Cassidy.’ After an initial push, Lance Cassidy would wind up a glorified jobber for the WWF as well. Scott would end up as a referee for WCW and Brad would suffer a serious near career ending knee injury.
While fans and maybe even the Armstrongs themselves were starting to believe there was some validity to the curse….brother Brian Armstrong joined the WWF. His career WWF career didn’t start off great, as he was used as a lackey to Jeff Jarrett known as the Roadie. Brian left or was pushed out of the WWF briefly when his addiction to drugs started to affect his performance and attitude. When he returned to the WWF as the Road Dogg, things began to turn around. He formed a tag team with Billy Gunn as the New Age Outlaws where Brian’s charisma began to shine. The New Age Outlaws quickly became one of the most popular acts in the company winning a few titles along the way.
During that successful run, Brian started wearing an airbrushed tee shirt that acknowledged the Armstrong curse. It read, “Look Mom, no more curse.” While there was no real curse to speak of in the first place, that didn’t prevent tragedy from rocking the James/Armstrong clan. Brad Armstrong, who was signed by WWE and was working as a wrestler/trainer/commentator died suddenly in 2012. The cause of his death was believed to be from a heart attack. Brad was just 50 years old at the time of his death.
The Armstrongs were a very talented family of pro wrestlers. They did have success in several territories and promotions like the UWF and Smoky Mountain aside from WCW. The Armstrong Curse was a joke that led to moniker that took a life of its own.