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.
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.
I had a Throwback Thursday column all set to write… Research had been done, pictures filed, I was really ready to go…
But it just. . . keeps. . . snowing. . .
If you’re a New England wrestling fan (and there seems to be a lot of us), you know how its been these last few weeks. For whatever reason, Boreas (Greek god of the north wind and of winter) has deemed that Mondays in late January and early February are where New Englanders get another foot or so of snow… Happened 2 weeks ago, happened this week and if you believe the forecast, it’s going to happen again in a few days.
So I’m sitting here in my home office, looking out the window, and the piles of plowed snow are over my head. I can barely make out the top of my SUV, which coincidentally, has snow on it, because we’re just having a slight 1-2 inches on a Thursday, just for Funsies.
And I’m thinking. . . “All this weather makes my blood run c. . . . Damn it, now I got to write about Glacier.”
In the mid 90’s, literally weeks before the seeds of the nWo were planted and the Monday Night Wars truly began, both WWF and WCW still had some over-the-top gimmicks, the hog farmers, the stereotypical Japanese wrestler (complete with calligraphic tattoos and kasa) and, of course, “The Booty Man”.
Note: Each of these gimmicks, I’m sure, will someday warrant their own Throwback Thursday.
WCW decided to borrow from the popular world of video games, specifically the uber-violent (yet still all sorts of “toasty” fun) Mortal Kombat, introducing their own version of the Sub-Zero character, known as Glacier. Claiming to have studied a hybrid of martial arts and professional wrestling, Glacier came to the ring wearing armor and a helmet supposedly handed down to him from his master. As he walked to the ring (at least, for his first couple matches), blue lasers danced around and there was snow. . .Yes, SNOW. . .falling.
You know, my description isn’t going to do it justice.
Glacier was portrayed by Ray Lloyd, journeyman wrestler with a legitimate martial arts background. He had been part of NWA and WCW house shows in the past but had (to my knowledge) never appeared on television. He had been signed after a conversation with 2015 Royal Rumble entrant and my personal yoga master Diamond Dallas Page, who convinced Bischoff to sign him.
Glacier was originally set to debut in the summer of 1996, but the legdrop heard round the world from Hulk Hogan put a hold on his emergence, since WCW had actual storylines and programs to run. After a few short weeks, though, even the WCW mucky-mucks had to admit that this whole schtick was TOO over the top, and he was taken off of television, returning in the winter (naturally) with much less fanfare and much less of an extravagant display.
There really isn’t a whole lot of note to talk about with Glacier, save for his most major storyline. Glacier’s biggest feud was with the camp of James Vandenberg, evil manager and a guy I wish was still floating around WWE. Always liked him. Vandenberg’s initial charge was Mortis, a masked (and supposedly Asian) pitfighter who had a history with Glacier, a history, I should mention, that we never discover.
Mortis was actually Chris Kanyon, one of (in this writer’s mind) the more underrated talents of the last 10-20 years. Who better than Mortis? Well, Glacier was, really, until the debut of Wrath. Bryan Clark, the former Adam Bomb and future. . .Well, Bryan Clark (one half of Kronik), was yet another masked assailant, though I do believe he took the mask off while wrestling.
Here’s a picture, and no, we’re not in a really bad 80’s movie. This is 1996, I remind you.
Anyway, the storyline went basically nowhere (though it did lead to the debut of Ernest “The Cat” Miller, yet another candidate for Throwback Thursday. . .so many gimmicks, so little time), and was over within a year or so. That was pretty much it for Glacier’s future in WCW as well, as he wallowed in lower to mid-card obscurity the remainder of the time he wore the frozen gear.
Lloyd had a brief run as “Coach” Buzz Stern in WCW, which went over even worse than the Glacier gimmick. After a very brief return as Glacier in 2001 (and let’s face it, NOBODY was watching WCW in 2001), Lloyd returned to the independents.
Here’s the major problem, folks. I remember watching Glacier in 1996, and for a just-turned-teenager at the time, I really dug the look. I played Mortal Kombat 2 on my Sega Game Gear (NAIstalgic folks just shed a tear reading that sentence), so having a wrestler look like Sub Zero was super cool! The schtick worked for me, and considering I still am a fan of the gimmick (obviously, why would I be writing about it?), perhaps it was not as bad as people thought at the time.
What do YOU think? Do you remember watching Glacier? What were your thoughts? Shouldn’t somebody in WWE be using “The Ice Pick” (essentially an Asian Spike) as a finisher? (The answer to that question is YES, and his name is Bray Wyatt. . . He’s got the thumb covered in leather already, he’s halfway there.)
In hindsight, one could sum up WCW’s “Clash of the Champions 7” with a Dickens quote.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
While the talent pool for the former NWA was deep at the time, with names like Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, The Great Muta, The Midnight Express and a very young Steiner Brothers among their ranks, there was trouble brewing.
Jim Herd, who was running WCW at the time, was trying to compete with WWF. Seeing that WWF was home to the ‘over-the-top’ gimmicks, Herd decided to create some of his own.
Ladies and gentlemen, without any further ado, I give you. . .
You might be wondering why I used such a poor quality picture - Thankfully, the Ding Dongs didn’t have enough of a run to justify a photo shoot.
So there they are. Ding and Dong. Or Ding Dong 1 and Ding Dong 2. Again, their careers were so short, they never got names, I believe.
They wore orange lycra suits with bell graphics. . . They each had bells strapped to their wrists and ankles, like they’re part of the worst band in history. (You might ask - Wouldn’t the bells have come off during the match? Answer: Of course they did, leaving the ring strewn with them.)
Both of these pieces of info I knew before watching the Clash. What I was unaware of, however, is that there was a bell hung up on the post by their corner, so while one Ding Dong wrestled, the other rang the bell.
Trust me, I’m a fan of bad gimmicks. I love Papa Shango, Duke Droese, and the like. Clash of the Champions 7 was also the debut of Norman the Lunatic, the mental patient wrestler. Loved it.
But The Ding Dongs might be a bridge too far.
Take two nobody wrestlers. . . Seriously, I did research, never heard of the guys behind the masks. . . Give them the ugliest outfits you can find and the most annoying accompaniments you have lying in the back. Let them wrestle, which if you watch the match, you see wasn’t really in their skill set. . . And history is made.
I want to hear from you. In your honest opinion, what is the WORST gimmick in history? Not even “best worst”, so don’t you dare name Glacier - he rocks! What is actually the worst thing you’ve ever seen?
On today's installment of NAIpod, Jason and Liam discuss the unique situation regarding John Cena, and how he's NEVER GOING TO EVER GO AWAY!
Excuse me. . . Got a bit emotional. . .
In doing so, they discussed Hulk Hogan's departure from the company in mid-1993, and wondered what may have happened if the Real American never left WWF?
Sounds like the perfect "What If Wednesday" to me. . .
To set the scene for those too young to remember, Hulk had spent most of the early 90's answering the siren call of Hollywood, and Vince McMahon had used this opportunity to get a little younger, wrestling wise. Bret Hart became the flagbearer of WWF, winning the World Title from Ric Flair in 1992 and carrying it into Wrestlemania IX against Yokozuna.
Perhaps because Vince didn't have faith in Bret as company lead or perhaps just to mollify Hogan and get him out, the booking wound up with Hogan beating Yokozuna for the title at 'Mania, carrying it until King of the Ring. After losing (thanks to the mystery bearded flash-bomb photographer) to Yoko, Hogan disappeared.
So, let's start our hypothetical in the beginning of that decade. Let's presume that Hogan and Vince sign a long-term extension somewhere around Wrestlemania VII, right after Hogan beats Sgt. Slaughter. Let's see what could have happened. . .
We'll let him keep Suburban Commando, but Mr. Nanny is right out.
With Hogan staying at the top, which is frankly the only way he remains in WWE, Bret Hart has no chance of main event success. He becomes a multi-time IC title winner, but most likely just becomes Hulk Hogan's lackey. Like Randy Savage of the Mega-Powers.
Now, he could turn heel and challenge Hogan that way, but we've all seen Bret Hart as a heel, and it doesn't really work.
More than likely. . .
Without the possibility of signing the Hulkster, Bischoff and WCW wind up picking up Bret Hart, who likely wins the World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair (possibly even around the same time of late 1992, but likely not is Saskatoon, Canada.)
Bret Hart going to WCW and finding success likely sets a light bulb off in Bischoff's head, so. . .
Curt Hennig is likely a top target, as could be re-signing former WCW talent Mark Callaway (aka, The Undertaker.) Vince would of course hold on to some of these talents (for some reason, I don't see Shawn Michaels in WCW), but a lot of these guys head South with the promise of being given opportunities for career growth in WCW.
Embracing a youth movement means holding onto some of their young studs. . .
With guys like Bret and Mr. Perfect around, you need "Stunning" Steve to have good matches with them, so he stays. In fact, after Ric Flair "passes the torch", you might not even need him anymore.
If WCW is going young, WWF might try to capitalize on the nostalgia market, plus be able to book Hogan vs Flair, the feud between the 2 top wrestlers of their generation. Adding in Savage, Piper, Bossman and the like, WWF has a top card in the mid 90's that looks remarkably like WCW's did.
As you can see, Hulk Hogan staying in WWF likely turns the entire wrestling world upside down, with WCW and WWF essentially switching places, roster wise.
A couple other things that could happen.
Assuming little brother follows big brother to Atlanta, there's no need for Owen to become the Blue Blazer, which means he's not up in the rafters on that fateful day in 1999.
While Ted Turner would undoubtedly want to compete head-to-head with Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff might have other ideas. A younger, "trendier" roster might mean he wants to have a 'trendier' time slot, so he might go for a "Must See TV" spot. Thursday Night Nitro, perhaps?
Not quite free agents, but guys like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Mick Foley and, a few years down the road, Triple H and The Rock have quite the conundrum. WWF is still the biggest name in wrestling (or is it?) and has the star power of Hogan, Flair and the like. . . But WCW is where the young talents are making a name for themselves.
I imagine Hall, Foley and Triple H stay / go to WCW, where they become part of an incredibly deep roster. Kevin Nash goes to WWF to be a Hogan-battling heel, and The Rock eventually becomes Hogan's successor in WWF, as by the late 90's, even Vince sees that its time for Hogan to ride off into the sunset.
While he would still be the lovable irritant that he is today, Paul Heyman would likely have found a role in WCW. While he and Bischoff may never have been able to work together particularly well, they both would do well with the young evolution of the roster.
If Heyman stays in WCW, then there is no ECW. The "Extreme" mindset remains in WCW, who continues to innovate and elevate the sport of wrestling.
With the aged roster in WWF, they can't keep up.
You see where I'm going with this. . .
A roster of young. hungry, talented guys with opportunities for career growth and the ability to get "extreme" trumps a group of older wrestlers still clinging to PG conventions and battling under a single top guy who doesn't know when to get out of the way.
Sound familiar, ROH and NXT fans?