WHAT'S IN A NAME?
I'm bored. No email lately, laid up in a knee brace, and debating the "rehab" issue over at the fine, fine EmZee Delphi Forum was about as exciting as watching paint dry, so I pull out my box of wrestling tapes and pop one in.
I'm rewatching Smackdown (or was it RAW?) when I see the highly amusing APA vignette. For those of you that missed it, the Acolytes riffed on Pulp Fiction, with the punchline being "aPa Protection: Because We Need Beer Money." This, for some reason, gets me to thinking about all the goofy gimmicks that Bradshaw [investor extraordinare!] has had in the WWF.
HOW is this guy still in the WWF, and so over? I mean, how many of you remember Blackjack Bradshaw, of the fake-mustached, stellar [har, har, har] New Blackjacks? How about his award-winning transformation to "Hawk" Bradshaw, thug and Clarence Mason flunky? He's been handed bad gimmick after bad gimmick, so how does he still have enough presence among the fans to get over?
If you read the title, you guessed it: His name.
Looking back, through all of my memory, he's always had the last name "Bradshaw." It's been a common link in his quest to get a marketable presence, and every time he returned, it was a link to his past history as a WWF Superstar. Sticking to one name through your quest to get over and as you are being repackaged pays off in the long run, at least in the WWF.
The Godfather is another example: save for his highly sucky run as Papa Shango, he used the name Kama Mustafa for most of his career. Kama Mustafa: Godfather of the Nation was the predecessor to his highly successful & controversial present day persona. How about Brian "Too Sexy" Christopher and Scott "Too Hot" Taylor? They're still "Too Sex(a)y" and "Too Hot(tie)" but they're WAY over as Too Cool, and are thankfully not marrying each other [ahem.] Speaking of Too Cool, Fatu was Rikishi's name of choice for most of his career [save for his high-profile (snicker) run as the Sultan]. One cool first name, change the spelling of "Fatu", and thong later, his ass is more over than most of WCW!
And even when names are changed, JR and the WWF acknowledge the past gimmicks: Dennis Knight was the "former Phineas Godwinn" as a member of Southern Justice, and his name change to Mid[i/e][a/o]n was explained on air, with acknowledgement of his former gimmick.
Let's go south.
Alex Wright is not getting over as a dancing heel. They decide to repackage him as a "Hitler-esque" german heel, complete with bodyguard The Wall. It's a bad gimmick, sure, but it's worth a try. So what happens when Berlyn finally debuts?
Tony: "We have NEVER BEFORE seen this man in World Championship Wrestling."
ARRRRRGH! NO no no! Even Berlyn himself said: "I was once here before." As the case study above shows, there certainly is no harm in linking the character to the past gimmick, as past presence can do nothing but good for a wrestler getting a fresh start. Dale Torborg has been a baseball pitcher, a Demon, and most recently, a "machine." You can't throw somebody out there with a mask, or a new hairdo, that you've recycled/repackaged 14 times already, and say, "Wow, who's this? We ain't never seen him before, have we Dusty?" Insulting the fan's intelligence is another reason why WCW is in the gutter.
So in wrestling, what's in a name? A chance to get over, and until CRZ signs with WCW, and is put as a manager in the all- new "family friendly" stable with repackaged stars Dale Torborg [Pooh Bear], Jimmy Hart [Piglet], Hulk Hogan [Eeyore, the ass], and surprise signee Shane McMahon [Tigger], you *can* quote me on that.
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