The Attitude Era is fondly remembered for its Hall of Fame worthy stars; superstars that thrust themselves into the mainstream. Be it The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin, their names remain revered to this day with the likes of Triple H and Mick Foley not far behind. However, this ‘worshipped’ era of wrestling is often remembered for its undercard as much as its main event scene. In a world where seemingly every superstar and every character had a storyline – good or bad – performers were given the chance to grab the proverbial ball and run with it. Enter Crash Holly. Notably dwarfed by his larger counterpart, the Elroy Jetson of the WWF – as Jim Ross would famously refer to him - never allowed his size deficiencies to hold him back from making an indelible mark on the industry. In fact, Crash Holly took a ridiculous gimmick and milked it to its last drop like the prize cow on a cattle farm. Not only did Crash get himself over with the audience, he was a fan-favourite and a constant highlight on every card he found himself on. The Houdini of Hardcore, Crash remains the definitive example of what can happen when a performer is given an opportunity and a semblance of creative control. Born and raised in California, Michael Lockwood debuted for Bay Area Wrestling in 1989 under the moniker of Jonny Pearson. Following a 5 year stint in BAW, an injury sidelined the diminutive Lockwood for eighteen months before he returned to the independent scene as ‘Irish’ Erin O’Grady. Shortly after, ‘Irish’ joined All Pro Wrestling and match between himself and Michael Modest garnered some interest… of the extreme variety. After viewing a tape of the O’Grady-Modest bout, Extreme Championship Wrestling stalwart Taz referred Lockwood to ECW owner and visionary, Paul Heyman. Wrestling four untelevised matches for ECW at the back-end of 1997, Lockwood began to draw the attention of another company. This time it was the ‘Big Fish’, the World Wrestling Federation. Following a successful try-out match in January 1998, Lockwood was signed to the WWF and sent to their developmental promotion, Power Pro Wrestling, to train and fine-tune his craft. To further improve and enhance his in-ring skill and acumen, WWF Talent Coordinator Bruce Pritchard sent Lockwood to Mexico where he would become familiar with the lucha libre style. Under a mask and the moniker of The Green Ghost, Lockwood wrestled in Monterrey for three months as he waited for his WWF opportunity. Over eighteen months after signing his WWF contract, Lockwood finally debuted as Hardcore Bob Holly’s storyline cousin, Crash Holly, in August of 1999. Branded ‘The Holly Cousins’, Hardcore frequently threatened and intimidated his smaller cousin, with their relationship appearing strained from the off-set.
A self-proclaimed "super heavyweight" despite weighing 240 pounds, Hardcore had ascent within the Hardcore Division had led to him developing into a solid midcard heel. When his yapping, even smaller cousin arrived on the scene and began teaming with him, the duo demanded that they be announced as weighing in at well over 400 pounds—each. Crash began symbolically carrying a scale to ringside to weigh in before matches and whilst the gimmick was idiotic if a little sympathy-inducing, it demonstrated Lockwood’s comedic touch and timing, as well as his ability to poke fun at himself – something that would become pivotal to his character in the long-run.
Summerslam 1999 saw Crash’s pay-per-view debut as the The Holly Cousins participated and were defeated in a Tag Team Turmoil match. A little under two months later, Crash would get his first taste of WWF gold as the kayfabe cousins defeated The Rock and Mankind – known collectively as The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection - for the Tag Team Championship belts.
Unfortunately for the duo, they could not get past their differences and, like a knock-off, far smaller version of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, the ‘Holly Mega Powers’ exploded, becoming hated and heated rivals in the war for the company's hardcore championship.
Following the loss of their Tag Team titles in November 1999, the new millennium saw Crash’s arrival in the company’s Hardcore Division. An ultimately pivotal moment in Lockwood’s career, Crash Holly would become arguably the greatest Hardcore Champion of all-time. Defeating Test on the February 24th episode of Smackdown for his first title reign, Crash decreed that he must defend the championship 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anywhere, anytime, anyplace, – known as the 24/7 rule – Crash’s misplaced confidence found himself dodging challengers from all directions, from the likes of his cousin Bob to one of Godfather’s… ‘ladyfriends’. With a bravado and moxie that belied his size, Crash’s mouth had written a cheque that his body was struggling to cash.
As the great Patches O’Hoolahan once said, “you have to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge”, and this became more than pertinent for Crash’s situation. When escaping from The Head Bangers in the middle of a funhouse or slipping away from a conniving clown at the circus, Crash’s guard had to be permanently up. This guard needed to remain up even at the most relaxing of times, as a massage turned into an assault as Ivory attempted to defeat the Houdini of Hardcore for his beloved and tattered title. Months of narrow escapes and sleepless nights culminated in the first-ever Hardcore Battle Royal at Wrestemania 2000. In order to retain his title, Crash would have to endure 15 minutes of brutality as 11 men vied to take his Hardcore Championship. After losing the title early on to Taz, Crash regained the belt with a minute remaining and seemed destined to do the ‘impossible’. However, an infamously botched call by referee Tim White would cost him the title, with his ‘cousin’ walking away victorious. Regaining his title the following night on Monday Night Raw, Crash continued to find himself in bizarre, ludicrous and absurd situations as the most unlikely competitors pursued his title. One of the aforementioned unlikely suitors, Gerald Brisco pinned the elusive Crash as he slept before Crash ultimately regained his title over Brisco’s sworn enemy, Pat Patterson, at King of the Ring. Forever aligned and associated with the nostalgically admired Hardcore Championship, Lockwood was able to not only popularize a ‘gimmick’ championship, but also shine a spotlight on the many wrestlers that were otherwise forgotten in the WWF’s undercard. Even after defeating William Regal for the European Title at Rebellion, fans clamoured to see Crash’s return to the top of the Hardcore Division. As 2000 drew to a close, a third Holly cousin arrived in the company as Molly Holly joined Crash and Hardcore. The start of the new year say The Holly Cousins feud with The Dudley Boyz, with Molly beginning a romantic relationship with the ‘runt’ of the Dudley clan, Spike. Akin to a sports entertainment re-enactment of Romeo and Juliet, the Holly and Dudley families warred as if they were the Montagues and Capulets – only in a wrestling capacity. Having won 3 separate title belts with the company, Crash defeated Dean Malenko for his fourth, taking the Light Heavyweight Championship from the ‘Man of a Thousand Holds’. The reign however was short-lived as just over a month later Crash dropped the belt to a debuting Jerry Lynn. Unfortunately, the end of the year would bring about the end of Crash's status as one of the breakout stars of WWE. The debuts of The Radicalz (Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and the aforementioned Dean Malenko) and the rise of Kurt Angle created a logjam of performers in the company’s midcard and undercard, leaving Crash on the outside looking in. Despite a reattempted tag-team run with cousin Bob Holly, Lockwood found himself slipping further down the card as Vince McMahon’s purchase of World Championship Wrestling saw the arrival of new stars. A brief run in the Cruiserweight Division and as one of Matt Hardy’s ‘Mattitude’ followers paid little dividends for Lockwood and he was released from the company in 2003. Lockwood signed a contract with NWA Total Non-Stop Action (later known as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) in July 2003 and debuted as Mad Mikey. The former Crash Holly wrestled nine shows for NWA-TNA before briefly wrestling for Pro Wrestling Iron in California. In late 2003, Mad Mikey and Rory Fox defeated Quiten Lee and The Human Time Bomb with Ricky Steamboat as the Special Guest Referee for the Heartland Wrestling Association in what turned out to be Lockwood's final match.
Sadly, here is where Lockwood became yet another ‘gone too soon’ story in the wrestling world. On November 6th 2003, Crash died at the house of friend and fellow wrestler Stevie Richards. After receiving divorce papers from his wife, Lockwood was found partially clothed and surrounded by empty bottles of prescription drug Carisoprodol and alcohol. His death was ultimately caused by choking on his own vomit, with official ruling declaring it suicide.
A sombre ending to a jovial gimmick and career, Crash Holly remains a quintessential member of the WWF’s Attitude Era. The founder and grandfather of the 24/7 rule – that has now been brought back with the 24/7 Title – Lockwood elevated the Hardcore Title to a level of importance that ‘bigger’ stars such as Road Dogg, Big Bossman and Mankind had not been able to.
At a time when smaller performers simply did not get over in the land of giants that Vince McMahon had created, Holly stood among the big men and let it be known that he was every bit as capable of entertaining the masses as they were. Whilst few fans will clamour for Crash Holly’s place in the WWE Hall of Fame, it is safe to say that the gravestone of the WWF’s Hardcore Division will forever be etched with his name.