Brian Hildebrand Death – Cancer (Stomach)
1962-1999 (Age 37)
While Brian Hildebrand would train as a wrestler, he became best-known for his work in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as referee Mark Curtis.
Despite a brutal battle with cancer, Hildebrand remained determined to live every day of his life to the fullest, leaving a lasting memory on everyone who knew him.
Steel City native Brian Hildebrand was born on January 21, 1962. A fan from a young age, Hildebrand trained with Bobby Bold Eagle (aka Robert Cortese) and despite his small stature, was determined to make it into the wrestling business.
He initially worked as manager Professor Hymie P. Schwartz and became friends with Jim Cornette and Eddie Gilbert after meeting them at a Memphis wrestling convention in 1979.
In 1986 he continued training at wrestler Dominic DeNucci’s wrestling school, working with future grapplers Mick Foley and Shane Douglas.
While Brian Hildebrand’s height prevented him from wrestling in any serious kind of capacity, he excelled as a referee. Hildebrand would referee in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and WCW as Mark Curtis.
According to Dave Meltzer, Hildebrand worked full-time at a shoe store until WCW finally brought him in full-time in 1996.
While referees are supposed to be background figures in a wrestling bout (with exceptions such as heel referees), Curtis entered the spotlight on the September 8, 1997 episode of Nitro when a fan foolishly entered the ring. Curtis quickly dispatched him with a knee to the face and a guillotine choke, earning him the nickname “The Shooter.”
Announcers Tony Schiavone and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan could not believe the sight of the small referee effortlessly dispatching the bigger intruder.
Fighter Until the End
In October 1997, Hildebrand was diagnosed with stomach and bowel cancer.
Hildebrand, already a popular figure behind the scenes inspired everyone around him with his courage and indomitable spirit. Hildebrand was well-liked backstage and the wrestling community pulled together to help both him and his family. In 1999, a group of wrestlers from the WWF, WCW, and ECW came together to perform in a benefit on his behalf. Titled Curtis Goes Home, the show featured some of the top workers in the United States and Canada and was considered one of the greatest shows ever in terms of talent assembled and the quality of the matches.
On September 8, 1999, Hildebrand passed away. Just days before, he’d refereed a match, a testament to his toughness and his love for the business.
According to the website, Find a Grave, Hildebrand was cremated.
Following Hildebrand’s passing, several charity benefits were named in his honor.
As we’ve reported, many other notable pro wrestlers and wrestling personalities have died from cancer. Other wrestlers to pass in 1997 include Brian Pillman, Fritz Von Erich, and Stan Stasiak.
What are your favorite memories of Brian Hildebrand? Let us know in the comments below.