Midcard Faces: Flying Through History With ‘The Birdman’ Koko B. Ware

Midcard Faces is an ongoing series where I’ll be checking in with some fond memories of those wrestlers who got over, but never got to the top. It’s a mini-celebration of some favorite midcard babyfaces that we loved but didn’t love in the main event. We continue this series with the original Birdman, Koko B. Ware.

How They Got Their Start

You can already hear the music, can’t you? That staccato snare drum roll that sounds somehow like a cross between a marching band, gospel and boogie woogie piano music all at once? Yeah. If you want to take a moment and do The Bird, that’s cool. Take your time. I’ll wait for Morris Day.

Koko got his start in Jerry Jarrett’s territory around 1978 and had some fun feuds with Jimmy Valiant and the incredibly underrated Bobby Eaton. The Eaton feud led to a particularly fun “Loser Leaves Town Match” that introduced the world to the masked Stagger Lee upon Koko’s inevitable return for vengeance.

Since “Stagger Lee” (or sometimes “Stacker Lee”) is an old folk tale about a guy who is synonymous with murder, I’d say Koko was more of a straight-up assassin than Frankie The Macaw would have let on. Feel free to watch “Stagger Lee” chew up and spit out Pre-Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase in 30 seconds.

Speaking of masked men and murder, Koko was as strong as an ox and it’s the guys in the goofier gimmicks later in their careers who you just know are the toughest S.O.B.s because they can handle themselves if anyone slips up and tries to get too cute. Like, apparently, The Masked Patriot.

I said, GOT DAMN! It’s a good thing my man was wearing a mask, because I would never be able to show my face in the state of Tennessee again if that were me being taken to the woodshed like that.

Four seconds after the bell rang, Koko decided he had already had enough of this dude’s bullshit. Five seconds after that, this dude is out cold from a clothesline so vicious Sam Houston would have sold it like he was ascending to Heaven to sit at the Right Hand of God.

The Masked Patriot is just a 208-pound sack of twice baked potatoes at this point, and Koko hoists him up in the air and drops him on his neck like it was nothing.

Koko is listed at 222 pounds here. February 22nd is my least favorite date on the calendar of all time, as it is the ex-fiancee and I’s anniversary, but I’d rather spend Christmas with her family than get Koko’s sandwich order wrong. The little baby stomps to the back and the slap to the face during the count is just mean.

Koko is so pissed off the ref has to literally chase him to the curtain to raise his hand, and Koko couldn’t be more disinterested in the television program he forgot he was currently on.

Yeesh. This is a squash match where the jobber literally left as a squash. Seriously, I bet they planted him behind the building and every summer young masked lovers carve their initials into his singlet.

How I First Became Aware Of Him

WrestleMania III is the first time I ever saw Koko B. Ware, but it would be against the spirit of these articles if we didn’t point out that our feathery friend was actually in the very first Raw match. Ever.

You are a Super Midcard Legend if Big Daddy Vince is going to hand you the keys to the new car and say, “Go out there and get this show started.” That is called being a professional wrestler. I’d kill for something like that on my CV.

To be entrusted to get someone as important as Yokozuna over on the new flagship show is no small task. That Koko was taking the L here is kind of the entire point of a midcard face, and Koko did his job like the veteran hand he is. If nothing else, this match is enjoyable just to hear “ass” from a commentator get bleeped out, when just half a decade later, Jerry Lawler will be leading the crowd in chants for tits.

I mean, Koko is the guy that was tapped to take the first ever Perfect-Plex AND Tombstone piledriver ever performed on television. What the hell else do you need on that resume?

Why I Stopped Seeing Him

I was never much of a WWE fan growing up. I’d go to Ken Cagle’s house when his parents would spring for the big PPVs and get caught up with the storylines.

Even when watching WWE, I was always drawn more to guys like Jake “The Snake” Roberts who seemed similar to the wrestlers I was enamored with in the NWA. I mean, I didn’t think Koko was a total clown like The Honky Tonk Man, but I wasn’t watching for the subtleties either, you know? Then again, there is also this:

Koko retired immediately after that video was released (not really, but yes) and entered into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2009 (as Englebert Humperdink, not really, but yes). Of course, he was inducted by The Honky Tonk Man, so what the hell do I know?

What Are They Doing Now?

Oh, you know, nothing much. The usual. Just suing and being countersued by the WWE for concussion-based injuries sustained during his tenure with the company. I imagine that Yokozuna Raw match from above will be submitted into evidence. As counter-evidence, Vince’s lawyers will wheel in The Masked Patriot like a potted plant.

When your single greatest achievement is making it to the HOF but never wearing the big gold belt, you sir are a fantastic Midcard Face.