“I’m ba-ack…and I’m better than ever!” -Eric Bischoff’s WWE theme
I will be the first to admit: my taste in the world of professional wrestling has gone through some rough patches. I don’t think I’ve ever admitted what I am about to admit, but I was a HUGE mark for Mantaur at the ripe age of eight. I had a villainous action figure from Biker Mice from Mars act as Mantaur and he claimed my WWF Championship from Sting and held it for a good while. I was aghast when Bob Holly defeated him in a 1995 King of the Ring Qualifying match. At that impressionable age, I didn’t understand how such a character could last such a short period of time.
Therein lies the rub. So many great (and not so great) characters in WWE have just fallen by the wayside when their full potential or their wide-reaching marketability hasn’t even been touched. So, I dug deep in my brain for five gimmicks that simply got the shaft. Gimmicks that were either so great, they were stupid to miss or gimmicks so bad that I just had a soft spot for in my heart.
If anyone in Stamford is reading this right now, consider bringing these gimmicks back.
I will kick it off with a character near and dear to Vinnie Mac’s heart. In an interview with WWE Magazine, Vince was asked about some of the zany characters that popped up in the mid-90s. Amidst completely forgetting about Max Moon (much like the rest of the world), Vince stopped the journalist when he listed off the name of Waylon Mercy.
Vince gushed over the character and said that it was a combination of this odd child he grew up with and, naturally, Max Cady in “Cape Fear.”
Leaving aside the fact that there was a kid in this world that even Vince McMahon found to be weird, using Robert DeNiro’s epic performance as Max Cady as the genesis of a movie character may largely go against everything I said in my first article for this website, but fuck it.
Dan Spivey, in the twilight of his career, OWNED this character. A soft-spoken, gentle Southern man who seems like he’s always one word away from careening into insanity? A Hawaiian shirt-wearing monster that came out to baller music, shook the ref’s hand, shook his opponent’s hand and then lashed into them with malicious intent? A guy with A FUCKING DAGGER TATTOED INTO HIS FOREHEAD?!?! This stuff is gold.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t really WWF that killed Waylon Mercy. Sure, he jobbed to Savio Vega for no reason on PPV, but afterwards, he was planned to be booked against main-event level talent like Bret Hart. Before he could get to the Hitman, who never injured anybody in the ring, he was pitted against Diesel, who injured more people in the ring that Hulk Hogan’s ego. Spivey had to retire due to his injuries, but Waylon Mercy has lived on as a cult favorite in the IWC.
I’m not saying that anyone could even come close to doing the masterful job Spivey did with this character. I just think that it’s a shame something as edgy and crazed as Waylon Mercy has to die because Kevin Nash is a worse wrestler than a baby deer.
(Upon further investigation, Waylon's career might of been cut short due to lingering knee injuries. However, I like ripping Kevin Nash whenever I can, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
Sure, there have been elements of Waylon Mercy in some characters since, but no one has been the dangerous enigma Waylon Mercy should have been for many, many years.
If anything, give Eli Cottonwood a crack at it. Maybe it will fit like a glove. Maybe it will be just like his moustache promo.
It will definitely be like his moustache promo. Give it to Andy from Tough Enough.
Doink the Clown
Leave Dink at home. Forget about dressing up The Bushwhackers as clowns. Never throw a pie at Jerry Lawler.
Give me demented Doink. Give me popping balloons Doink. Give me the clown that makes Pennywise from “It” look like Ronald McDonald.
Again, all the credit in the world goes to Matt Borne, who made heel Doink so damn good. (Side note: who would believe that the same guy who thrived as heel Doink was the same guy who portrayed Big Josh, everybody’s favorite smiling, wrestling lumberjack, in WCW? Talk about range!) He had the character down to a tee. Add in the creepiest entrance theme of all time and you have a cartoonish looking bad guy in a cartoonish period in wrestling history that was very, very uncartoonish.
Now, think about how badly many die-hard fans complained when a) Doink was turned babyface and portrayed by roughly 46 different guys and b) WWE went PG in the end of the last decade and we were forced to endure Hornswoggle running through holes in the wall, John Cena poop jokes and awful trash talking without the slightest bit of swearing? Imagine, if you will, WWE bringing heel Doink back to the WWE in 2009. While he would probably be over more as a face with the 18-34 male demographic, he would TERRIFY THE JOHN CENA DUNGAROOS off of every child in that crowd.
Throw the clean-cut image that you are trying to project on the audience right back in their face…in a very twisted way. Have Doink scare the bejeezus out of the four-year-old in a Rey Mysterio mask by spraying water in his face. Beat the holy hell out of Kofi Kingston with that famous weighted, prosthetic arm. Do the hand buzzer gag with Cena, but actually fake electrocute him. You already throw Cena through a spotlight!!! Why not have an insane clown give him thousands of volts via a handshake?
This could still work in the unofficial “Reality Era” given the right story to it. How about an unstable guy in FCW, like Conor O’Brian, come to WWE, complaining about his lack of opportunities and treatment on NXT and have him go off the deep end and turn into Doink? It’s better than making him a man-rat, for goodness sake.
I said at the onset that there would be some characters with no redeeming qualities included just because they have a soft spot in my heart. Kwang might be the softest spot in my wrestling heart.
Look, I have no idea why, but I loved Kwang. He was just a silent ninja that rarely won anything and he was managed by Harvey Whippleman, of all people.
Maybe that was it. A silent, no-nonsense assassin who wears a mask, does convincing martial arts and has the weakest looking handler backing him up. It’s basically Umaga. Swap a mask with face pain, martial arts with Samoan crap and the handler…well, Armando Estrada was ripped, but he STILL had a cigar. Close enough.
The possibilities are endless. Weeks of vignettes could show the new Kwang getting ready, doing impressive moves in a run-down dojo. He studies the ancient art of learning how to keep all the deadly green mist in his mouth for an entire match. Then, he debuts and tears through people because he’s a fucking ninja. If he’s treated seriously, why couldn’t a masked ninja work?
WWE, you had nothing for Kaval…yet, Rey Mysterio openly suggested bringing him up as a masked rival for him. Rey Mysterio had a good idea that actually would get somebody over and you don’t do it? Shame on you, WWE.
It’s not too late, though. Take Kaval and sadly tell him to never use that awesome, deep voice. Make him a silent, stealth machine under a hood and take out people left and right.
That way, I can finally wear my custom Boston Celtics jersey that reads “Kwang” on the back in public without getting as many awkward looks.
I will be the first one to say it: this idea started just as an excuse to give somebody the greatest entrance theme in the history of wrestling. But, as I thought about it more and more, the concept of the Fabulous Rougeaus in modern times became greater and greater.
Two fantastic French Canadian workers without much personality or charisma suddenly turn heel because…they love the USA too much? By that, I mean, they won’t stop talking about their “love of the red, white and blue.” They come out waving the tiniest American flags possible. They talk about the great things in the USA like Barry Manilow. It’s so over-the-top and cheesy that nobody buys it and hates them for it.
To quote the Guinness boys, BRILLIANT!
Jacques and Raymond may have only ever gotten a feud with The Bushwhackers out of it, but the crowd HATED them because they were so obnoxious and so tongue-in-cheek about loving all the embarrassing and awful crap our country produces. It was relevant 20 years ago and it’s even more relevant today.
Today, a tag team could come out singing Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and quoting “Jersey Shore” in thick, foreign accents and the crowd would boo their shoes off. However, once they got in the ring, the crowd would have to eat their words because they are great wrestlers.
Nothing is being done with Drew McIntyre. Justin Gabriel was practically MADE for this gimmick, if you ask me. Aksana has a funny voice. Deck them out in outrageous outfits, throw them in a studio to churn out a Casio-assisted hit and let them steal the show in the ring.
All-American Boys 2.0. There’s a lot of money on the table with that one, Paul. Think about it.
For the previous four ideas, I’ve been miffed, at worst, about the terrible booking/mishaps that caused the demise of these great concepts. Now, I’m about to get livid.
Put aside the fact that, since his release from WWE many moons ago, Sean O’Haire has become a talentless MMA fighter who can only land good blows against whatever woman he is currently dating. Take us to WCW in 2000 when the ship is sinking. One of the silver linings is this fresh-faced newcomer who is jacked to shit, a decent talker and can do a Swanton Bomb better than Jeff Hardy.
WWF saw his potential and, instead of keeping the green-as-goose-shit O’Haire on TV, sent him to OVW to get better in the ring.
Smash cut to late 2002 and guess who is in charge of Smackdown? The bloated, crazy genius himself: Paul Heyman.
Heyman builds an idea for O’Haire as the ultimate devil’s advocate character. Many online saw it being akin to Tyler Durden in “Fight Club.” Many online also knew the amount of potential O’Haire had and watched these promos just as I did, saying the following:
“THAT WAS SO FUCKING AWESOME. HE IS GOING TO BE THE NEXT BIG THING. WHAT AN AWESOME IDEA. HE IS MADE FOREVER.”
Every week, I would wait for the Sean O’Haire vignette and it had the entire internet buzzing about what would happen once in debuted on TV.
Finally, O’Haire debuts and he…convinces Spanky to streak? Gets Dawn Marie to flash the crowd?
Not really cutting edge stuff, but maybe it is just a slow start.
After several months of doing NOTHING, O’Haire is brought back as Roddy Piper’s apprentice. The “Devil on Your Shoulder” character is gone. He has Piper talk for him. He is just another guy lost in the shuffle.
Before you know it, Sean O’Haire is gone.
Not to steal a bit from Jon Stewart, but tell me what you think about that, Guy from the movie “Scanners.”
MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!!!!
An evil-looking advocate for all of the sins and guilty pleasures in the world. ..that’s a mint in the world of wrestling. He could turn babyface after babyface heel by convincing them to do what they, deep down, really want to do. Vice versa, as a rebel babyface, this character could pry and pull at a heel and weaken him to the max. Taking culture apart and using it against, not only his opponents, but the crowd as well is a unique concept that should have been huge for WWE and O’Haire, who played the part wonderfully (I’m noticing a theme here).
It’s never too late. An unused talent like Tyler Reks or Trent Barreta could give life to their careers by telling us to do what we want to do when we know we can’t. A skilled talker like Damien Sandow or Dean Ambrose could make it big on the main roster with this gimmick (although Ambrose should just keep doing what he’s doing, but that’s for another article). Someone who hasn’t found their voice on the mic like Seth Rollins or even Mason bleeping Ryan would have a great shot of superstardom if they just told us what we already know.
Or, maybe Sean O’Haire can stop going Dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” on everybody and bring it back.
Be Nike in this instance, WWE. Just do it.
That goes for all of these ideas. Don’t trot stereotypes like Hunico out that TNA has already offended with. Don’t give talented guys like Matt Morgan a stuttering gimmick. Look in the vaults and find those gems that have all their mileage left in the tank.
Just don’t bring Mantaur back. I will be forced to like him all over again.