Friday, April 16, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Past gimmicks can haunt
Do past gimmicks hurt the success of future ones?
I think it's a simple question don't you? One that makes you stop and think of all the ones gone by, and the wrestlers that came with them. Are most of them around today? Or, are they vegitating in Ted's retirement villege? Many would say yes, and many would say no.
There isn't a high percentage of wrestlers today who haven't gone through the stages of character re-development. In fact there's hardly any who haven't changed. Can you think of more than ten wrestling characters today who hasn't had more than one different persona? What about five? (Omit the ones who've been in the limelight for less than two years, i.e. Goldberg) Have any of them had the same name? Sure, "Sting" has always been "Sting", but has he changed? Has Shawn Michaels always been the "Heartbreak Kid"? I myself can only think of the "Hitman".
Take a man like Glen Jacobs, otherwise known today as "Kane". It hasn't been that long since Jacobs was "Isaac Yankem, DDS" or the "Fake Diesel". Sure, his hair was coloured, and he didn't wear a mask, but it was him nonetheless. Fortunately for him though, those past "personas" didn't hurt his future success. He has been a main-eventer ever since, and has a cult following unlike that of any dentist I know.
Sean Waltman didn't let the "1-2-3 Kid" stop him from finding success in the WWF again as "X-Pac". He has now risen to be a little more than a mid-carder. And is getting his needed push. Other than being the man (er...boy) who beat Razor Ramon, he's gotten past it.
There is the downside though. The side where many talented wrestlers call home. The place where past gimmicks like the "Blue Blazers" and the "Avatars" of the world reside (Owen Hart and Al Snow respectively). Gimmicks that, if not planned well, will haunt wrestlers for the rest of their careers.
Remember a little over a year ago when Bret Hart left the WWF, and left his little brother behind? Owen was re-signed to a big contract and after a while, came back onto television yelling "Ass" this and "Up yours, Vince" that, or something to that effect. At that time, He was getting some good pops from the fans. He finally got his cheers when he took a "Stone Cold" type attitude toward Vince McMahon. Tragically, all it took was for Shawn Micheals to call him a "Nugget", to put him in the perverbial doghouse with the fans. Shawn Michaels simply shot down a man trying to get over. (Under the circumstances, I wonder if he did it on purpose. Hmmm.) He hasn't recovered since. Sure, he may be getting cheers now, but honestly, do you really think those cheers are for him and Jeff Jerrett?
Al Snow is now a crazy man talking to a manequin head. This is a unique situation really. The fans are responding, but he's not getting anywhere. He hasn't even gotten the "Hardcore" title yet, many shots, but no title.
When I say names like "Papa Shango", "Crush" and "Flash Funk", you don't think of real winners do you? Only one, ("Shango", now known as the "Godfather") has been getting his cheers from the fans. He's a good talent. It's just too bad he has to parade around with a bunch of silicone to get over. Ah well , business is business. The latter two are now out of the WWF. Never to have seen the limelight through dumb gimmicks like "Chainz" & "2 Cold Scorpio" (Brian Adams and Charles Skaggs respectively). Both haven't recovered, not even Brian Adams in WCW. Being paired with the legend Terry Funk didn't even propel Skaggs to stardom.
Even big time main-event names like "Stone Cold Steve Austin" & "Mankind" still had to be "Stunning Steve/The Ringmaster" and "Cactus Jack/Dude Love" before they got over. Austin was a glorified jobber before that fateful "King of the Ring" where "Austin 3:16" was born. "Mankind" even had to be re-established as "Dude Love" in order to get his "Mankind" character over again with the fans. Both, with the help of a sock in one hand, and a can of whoop-ass in the other. They are now darlings to the short attention spans of (D-)Generation-X.
There are still questions that remain after these chosen few, (and they are chosen) have gotten over with the fans. What happens when we the fans get tired of the socks and cans of whoop-ass? What would those wrestlers be after that? Especially when they become such commercial successes as Austin has now become. Are they just another "Hulk Hogan" waiting for the inevitable? Even the great "Hulk" had to go "Hollywood" to re-establish himself. Austin is on that same path. What with all the talk shows and T.V. appearences. We'll just have to wait and see. Like the saying goes: "All good things...must come to an end."
I don't really know if I answered the question or not. You be the judge. Think of all the gimmicks gone by and the wrestlers who made them. Are most of them still around? Think again.
Junior Nurse is from Brampton, ON, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.