ON THE SOAPBOX
I know that you've been forced to form a private alliance of your own with
three-quarters of the superstars in that locker room. And the lighting
crew, and the camera crew, and the sound technicians, and the stagehands,
and the prop guys, and the merchandise sellers, and the popcorn vendor in
the fifteenth row - congratulations, Louie!!!
Say, did you guys know that they used to call me Louie in high school? Well, okay, they didn't. But wouldn't it have been a cool tie-in with that quote if they had? Just goes to show that my lousy friends can't get anything right...
Anyway, this past week I got an email from a guy who said that I should do a column about another underrated superstar, much like I did last week for Hardcore Holly. And I've got to give it a shot - mainly because I don't want to alienate either one of my readers (thanks Mom and Dad!).
This wrestler is a former WWF title holder, who's competed under 3 different identities in the WWF. Had he been in a different company, he might have been more widely known and better used. Yes, today we're talking about the man... the myth... the Essa Rios.
Essa Rios's first appearance in the WWF was in 1997. He was masked and went by the name "Aguila." He competed in the Light Heavyweight title tournament alongside such performers as Too Sexy Brian Christopher and Taka Michinoku, who would go on to win the title. Aguila eventually disappeared and Rios reappeared as Papi Chulo. Papi Chulo also was not used on the WWF's American programs a great deal, instead showing up on Super Astros.
Finally, the WWF tried again. Papi Chulo came out on Smackdown in a new identity as Essa Rios, accompanied by the lovely Lita. That night Rios defeated Gillberg and took the WWF light heavyweight title. Unfortunately, soon thereafter, Lita left to join the Hardys and Dean Malenko took the title. Essa Rios soon vanished from the main programming again.
Essa Rios's greatest problem has not been his lack of talent or ability. He has both in abundance. The problem is that he cannot speak English, and he is not one of the larger guys on the roster. But there is hope for Rios. Let's look at some examples.
Taka Michinoku is also smaller and can't speak English. And yet, a mic gimmick has made him one of the most "Evil" men in the WWF. The fans love Kaientai now, even making their new T-shirt a top seller in the WWF shopzone. Indeed.
Tajiri never speaks English, but his usage with William Regal, as well as his background in ECW, have made him a fan favorite. Now he's carrying the WWF light heavyweight title as well.
So how can the WWF get Essa Rios over? Easy. Send him to WCW.
Under Bischoff, WCW's cruiserweight division was unmatched. Competitors such as Rey Mysterio Jr., Kidman, Juventud Guerrera, and Psychosis tore the house down every night. The fans loved it. Then Vince Russo came on the scene and promptly fired most of the competitors, leaving the division a shell of what it once was.
Once WCW gets its own show (Jim Ross confirms in his Ross Report that is still the plan), they should move to reestablish this division. It was a viable part of the old WCW, and should be in the new. Grab Rey and Psychosis. Let Juvi wait a little while to let his naked rampage in Australia be forgotten. Grab all the talented cruiserweights you can, including some from the WWF, like Essa Rios or perhaps Jerry Lynn. Send them out on Monday night and tell them to go ten minutes. Sure, this may mean the end of the 20-minute show-opening mic segments, but I know that I wouldn't miss them that much. You can even give Essa the cruiser title for a while. Just let the cruisers do what they do best, and the fans will respond. That's one way to start the differentiation between the WWF and WCW. And that's a good thing.
Well, we've taken a different route this week. See you next week!