As just about everyone who reads this column knows, I’m in the midst of trying to watch every NWA / WCW PPV (and Clash of Champions) on WWE Network. It’s an arduous task, especially when you consider that the talents and matches at some of these points, and I apologize to the uber-fans like my dear friend Magnum here, just weren’t very good!
For me, though, its not really about the matches. It’s about the characters, particularly the lesser known / mildly terrible ones.
I mean, come on, I’m the guy who spent 10+ minutes discussing New Day on NAIpod this week! I’ve always been drawn to the undercard when it comes to professional wrestling, and boy, does late 80’s and early 90’s WCW have an undercard!
Rather than do a traditional DC Diaries this week, I thought I’d instead introduce many of you to a cast of characters that, in many ways, defy descriptions. The following are NWA and WCW talents that, in my opinion, you should know.
(Honestly, I’m only writing this column for one specific reason. You’ll see what it is at the end. Trust me, its worth the wait.)
Yes, I know what you’re thinking and Yes, you’re absolutely right – That’s a guy in a YELLOW Spider-Man costume. Meet Arachnaman, and if you think this is WAY more “gimmick infringement” than a Springboard Stunner, you’re not alone. This character was very short-lived as Marvel Comics, the owners of the real, red Spider-Man, weren’t so friendly when WCW tried stepping into Peter Parker’s neighborhood.
Arachnaman is just one of many gimmicks given to fantastically underrated wrestler and almost certainly a future Throwback Thursday all his own, Brad Armstrong, the late son of Bullet Bob and brother to Scott, Steve and the Road Dogg himself, Brian James. As I said, I’ll likely go into greater detail on the career of Brad Armstrong in a future column, or perhaps someone who is more familiar with the Armstrong legacy will do so.
Magnum, Keith, I’m looking at you two.
The uber-gimmicks of the WWF are well documented – the trash man, the dentist, the escaped convict. One thing that, if memory serves, they never did was have a wrestling fireman, and that is probably only because WCW did it first.
Behold, Firebreaker Chip, seen here with his tag team partner Todd Champion. There’s not much to tell about his gimmick – Chip was a fireman, teaming with soldier Champion as “The Patriots”, part of WCW’s “Special Forces”. Chip wasn’t half bad in the ring, though outside of holding the United States tag titles (yes, friends, there was a time where tag divisions were so big they needed 2 sets of straps), he didn’t do much.
Fun fact from the research – Before becoming a firebreaker, Curtis Thompson’s previous gimmick was the “US Male”, a wrestling postman. Look it up, I’m not kidding.
The York Foundation
Kids, gather round, I have some shocking news. There was a time, boys and girls, before every person in the world owned 3-5 computers, the majority of which fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, in the early 90’s, the personal computer was more science fiction than reality.
This enabled WCW to create a gimmick where, by using the power of the computer, a group of wrestlers could gain an advantage over the competition, and the York Foundation was born, so named because of its leader, manager Alexandra York.
Sharp-eyed fans will recognize Miss York as Terri Runnels, ex-wife of Goldust and formerly Marlena and then Terri, manager in the WWF/E. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that giant monstrosity that she’s holding happens to be what a computer looked like back then. Weird, right?
Quick aside to tell the Terri Runnels story, though you could go to Wikipedia like I did to get more details. Terri was a makeup artist working for CNN (helping keep Larry King looking like he was 90, not 900). She also did make-up for pro wrestling in her spare time until she was finally asked to be an on-air talent.
The first wrestler to join Miss York was Michael Wallstreet, otherwise known as Mike Rotunda, yet another talent whom I shall need to devote an entire Throwback Thursday. Before long, Rotunda was off to join the Internal Revenue Service in WWF, so the Foundation expanded.
At its peak, the York Foundation was home to Terry Taylor, Tommy Rich and Ricky Morton, three talented guys with no chance of a singles push on their own. Apparently the first thing the computer suggested they do was go by their full names, so we now had Terrence, Thomas and Richard. The York Foundation was just a blip in the radar for all three men, finding their biggest success and notoriety (Can you say Red Rooster?) elsewhere.
WCW embraced the cultural and musical changes of the era, creating both a rapper (PN News) and a heavy metal talent, in this case one Van Hammer (sometimes even called Heavy Metal Van Hammer, for reasons that completely elude me).
I have no desire to talk to you about Van Hammer. Truthfully, I don’t. He was agile for a big man but a pretty lousy wrestler, and the less said about his career, most likely the better.
I bring this name up for one reason and one reason only, and friends, this is why I’ve dragged you all here.
I warn you. . . What is about to be seen cannot be unseen.
Spooky, isn’t it?
It’s like that Old West picture of a guy who looks exactly. . . EXACTLY. . .like Nicholas Cage. If you told me that this was the same guy, cursed with immortality, who just kept trying to make it as a pro wrestler? I’d almost believe you.
Seriously, if you take Ryback, give him Dolph Ziggler style hair, and put a guitar in his hand?
Yes, this is why I wrote an entire column about WCW wrestlers from the early 90’s. JUST so I could put those two pictures someplace other than Twitter. . . And my nightmares.
What do YOU think? Favorite gimmicks from the early 90’s? Think I’m totally wrong on the Van Hammer / Ryback thing? (Hint: I’m not.) Be Heard.