Nasty Boys vs Ken Shamrock

Date: October 1990
Location: South Atlantic area (exact city unknown)
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter,, No Kayfaben, Charleston Post Courier

This occurred before the Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) were in the WWF and before Ken Shamrock was in UFC.  They were both working for South Atlantic Pro Wrestling, and Shamrock was wrestling as Vince Tirelli.  It was the Nastys’ last night in the territory.

Trouble started at a night club, in which Shamrock was sitting with a woman, her boyfriend, and one or two other friends.  In one version of the story, the woman was the girlfriend of pro wrestler Trent Knight.  In another version, she was the fiancé of a small man who may not have been a pro wrestler.  One of the Nastys in later stories called her a “no good rat.”  Most likely she was involved with Knight, but Knight was not a small man.  In Ken’s story, he claimed Knight was in the bathroom when the incident occurred.

Knobbs admitted to drinking a lot and starting things.  Shamrock claimed that the Nastys came over and started joking around, and then reached around and grabbed the breast of the woman in question.  Ken kinda laughed it off, but then they did it again and again and the guy next to Ken was getting upset (this may have been the small man Ken referred to in another story who wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it).  At this point Shamrock felt enough was enough, and started to feel like they were making him look bad because he didn’t want to be lumped in with them as the jerk pro wrestlers picking on the defenseless woman.

Shamrock then told the Nastys that they had their fun and it was time to stop it now.  Knobbs then grabbed and pie faced Shamrock, who rightfully went off.  As he was going off, a huge bouncer (bigger than any of the wrestlers involved) bear hugged him and put him in the bathroom so he could calm down.

Shamrock came out of the restroom and was told the Nastys had left.  When they left, Knobbs stumbled over on the curb and was half asleep, and had to be carried to the car’s passenger seat because he was so drunk.  Shamrock knew which motel they were staying at, so he went down there later.  He first went to Robert Fuller’s room (Colonel Robert Parker in WCW) and was in a rage again, demanding to know which room the Nastys were in.

Ken then knocked on their door.  He claims Sags shouted back to get the f*ck out of here and wouldn’t open the door, and that he had to kick it down in order to get in.  Most motel doors are very secure, but this was 1990 and not a major city, so it’s possible he kicked the door down.  Sags’ version is that he was on the phone (believed to be with his girlfriend and later his wife) and put it down to answer the door.

All versions of the story say Knobbs was face down on the bed, passed out.  Ken’s beef was primarily with Knobbs, since he was the one who pie faced him.  And all versions are that Ken went right after him, pounced on him, and started punching him in the face.  Sags had either moved to the side (Ken’s version) or pushed over the TV and fell down (his version).

This is where the stories differ.  Ken claims to not remember anything, but “was told” he was hit with a phone from behind, after which the Nastys both kicked him in the face repeatedly until he was black and blue.  Sags claims that story is untrue, and that he pulled Ken off of Knobbs and the two then went at it, with Sags getting the better of it before Knobbs recovered enough to join in and double team Shamrock until he was unconscious.  Knobbs was so drunk that he claims to not remember any of this.

Shamrock and Sags would both have reasons to tell their versions of the story.  Ken’s version allows him to say he was cheap shotted from behind, while Sags’ version allows him to say he beat down a UFC champion by himself.  Either story may very well be true, but neither can be confirmed because there are no witnesses.  Knobbs was the only witness, and he was either too drunk to remember, lying to cover up for his friend, or too stunned from the punches to see what really happened.  The only other possible witness may have been Sags’ girlfriend, but that’s only if he never hung up the phone with her, and even if he didn’t, she would only have heard the commotion and not seen anything.  It’s also possible that if Sags isn’t telling the truth, he may have told the truth to her in private.  We’re not sure where the rumor (if in fact it is a rumor) of the phone being smashed over Shamrock’s head came from.

What is known is that Shamrock took a serious beating, described as “half to death.”  Fuller heard the commotion and came up to stop it, and promoter Frank Dusek said Ken’s face was “a mass of purples, greens, and shades of yellow.”  His head was said to have been swollen so badly that it almost didn’t look human.  Dusek also said that Fuller and the Pit Bulldogs (Rex and Spike) had to talk the Nastys out of throwing an unconscious Shamrock out the window and onto the cement.  Sags said Shamrock was eventually carried out on a stretcher on an ambulance.  Knobbs was confirmed as having two black eyes from the blows Ken threw when he first entered the room.  Ken also had his jaw wired shut.

The Wrestling Observer reported that the promotion brought Shamrock to the TV tapings and tried to make an angle out of it, saying Fuller was responsible for it.  Footage of that hasn’t surfaced online anywhere, but it must exist somewhere.

The Aftermath

In the years that followed the incident, the Nasty Boys became big stars with the WWF, and later WCW.  Ken Shamrock became an even bigger star as one of the key faces of UFC in their early years.  Because Shamrock could legitimately lay claim to being among the toughest man on the planet (at the time), the Nastys apparently took delight in “bragging” how they beat him to a pulp.  We never heard either of the Nasty Boys boast about it, but Shamrock heard that they did.  It would’ve been before the internet became popular, so if the Nastys did brag, it would’ve been in the locker rooms or in the press.  And somehow word got to Shamrock about it.  He wanted to settle the score, and salvage his reputation even though he had nothing to prove.

Sags also said Ken’s lawyer contacted him about telling the story for Ken’s book.  Sags denied the request, saying he didn’t think Ken would want the real story in his book because it involved other things and also because it would make him look bad.  He said it was between the boys and should stay that way.

They were all at the same location at a celebrity baseball game in the early 90s, although we don’t have an exact date.  Nothing happened, as Ken’s wife and kids were there.  Sags said Ken’s wife talked to his wife, but that Ken ignored him completely.  But there were also no problems.

That wasn’t the case at an airport (city unknown) in what was either 1996 or 1997.  The Nastys were on their way to a toy fair at the same time the WWF (where Shamrock was now working) was in town.  The Nastys obviously had many friends in the company and were catching up with them.  One of their old friends was the Rock, whom they knew as a teenager when Rock’s father worked Memphis while the Nastys were getting their start there.

Shamrock became unglued once he heard the Nasty Boys were there.  It didn’t help that some of the other guys were trying to rile him up, such as Steve Austin jokingly shouting, “The most dangerous man in the world (a takeoff on Shamrock’s gimmick), Jerry Sags!!!”  Billy Gunn was with Ken and had to calm him down.  Ken claims that Knobbs made a beeline for the gate once he saw Shamrock, but that hasn’t been confirmed elsewhere.  As Sags was hugging the Rock, Shamrock came right up to his ear and was “beet red.”  He was so angry he was shaking, and told Sags to get the f*ck out of there and that he was going to kill him.  Sags may have been holding his luggage during this, and from all accounts he just tried to calm Ken down and say how it was a long time ago.  Sags said he had no hard feelings, but Ken later said that of course he doesn’t, because he wasn’t the one who was cheap shotted and beaten down by two other guys.  Ken screamed how he and Knobbs had been telling lies about the fight all these years, that he hasn’t forgotten about it, and that Sags was going to pay.  He dared Sags to do something about it.

Sags left at that point (Sags’ version is that it was Ken who stormed off), and went to the gate area and spoke with old friends like Hawk, Owen Hart and Paul Bearer.  Moments had passed by this point.  Sags didn’t see Ken, and was telling the boys things like, “What’s up with Shamrock?  He needs to take a chill pill.”  Shamrock heard this and jumped over the seats, spun him around, and told him he was “Gonna kick his f*ckin’ ass.”  He also reiterated that the Nastys had lied all these years (so that all the boys could hear what he felt was the truth), and was again enraged.

With all the boys watching, Sags could’ve done something but said he didn’t because he saw all the security cameras and knew it would be a federal offense if he assaulted him.  He kept holding his bags, and according to Shamrock, Sags said, “If you hit me, it’s a felony.”  Ken claims all his anger left his body at that point, as in his mind, Sags had “pussed out” in front of all the boys and that was revenge enough for him.  Ken couldn’t believe that after all those years of lying about cheap shotting him and beating him two on one, that Sags was going to sue him for hitting him?

Ken said that if he sees them later and the opportunity is there, he will “beat him down.”  He said it’s something he can’t let Sags get away with.  But years later they were all at an autograph signing and nothing happened.

What really happened in that hotel room in 1990 is anybody’s guess.  Ken was an amateur wrestling star and had done tough man contests in the ‘80s.  He had not yet gotten hardcore into MMA, but was still a tough fighter even back then.  Knobbs and Sags are legit bar room brawlers from Pennsylvania.  Their reputation, true or not, is that Knobbs was not that tough but that Sags was.  Ric Flair said so in his book, when he described his own altercation with Knobbs.  Sags may have done some wrestling in the military.

Knobbs is the one who admittedly started this all with his childish behavior at the club.  He also was the first to get physical when he lay his hands on Shamrock.  Ken, however, was very foolish to go to their hotel room knowing it would be a two on one situation.  Sags had a right to have his partner’s back, but the two did take it too far.  Had they thrown him out the window like they wanted to, Shamrock would’ve either died or been crippled.  Shamrock was understandably pissed years later at the airport, and Knobbs and Sags, if they were indeed scared of him, had a right to be (Shamrock was still considered one of the world’s elite fighters at that time).

If Ken wanted to get even, the airport was the wrong place because there were absolutely cameras everywhere.  He at least got them to back down in front of the boys.  Sags may have looked weak in front of his peers, but he too would’ve been a fool to start something in clear view of the cameras and gotten arrested.

Another unfortunate situation that did nobody any favors.  Shamrock was easily riled up back then, and in this case it led to poor judgment because he was outnumbered by two guys who were collectively very tough and not afraid to get physical if they knew they had the advantage and opportunity.