RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES — APRIL’S FOOLS

Posted April 1st, 2010 by admin

Ringside Remembrances

April’s Fools: The Silliest Characters in Wrestling

“Never be so wrapped up in making a living that you forget to make a life” — Anonymous

This week in wrestling has been so serious. With Shawn Michaels retiring and Bret Hart finishing up (possibly) his latest return in WWE, things have been just down-right depressing. I decided to take advantage of the April Fools’ Day “holiday” and present some of the silliest characters in wrestling. This column is not meant to humiliate any of these men. It is to embrace the fun that they have infused into the world of pro wrestling.

The Ding Dongs

They were one of the oddest tag team I ever saw. The masked duo came out ringing hand bells. Their outfits also small ornamental bells stitched into them. They jingled the entire time they were in the ring, which usually wasn’t that long. The Talent Enhancement team were adored by the kids and, more than 20 years later, they still have a special place in my memory. I still smile when I think about them.

Curly Moe

The big guy looked a lot like Jerome “Curly” Howard of the Three Stooges. He often did many of the vocalizations of Curly during his matches. His big finisher was the Soitenly Splash. The derby-wearing behemoth would “Hulk Up” in much the same way Curly did in several of the short films and then unleash his power onto his victim. The Southern oddity didn’t have an extended career but he was fun to watch while he Nyuk Nyuk’d his way around the ring.

Bugsy McGraw

McGraw was adored by the fans in the Southern U.S. He danced around and played with the little kids. He even made my old college professor, Bill Mercer, take a trip down a waterslide in Grand Prairie, Texas. He would come to the ring in a wildly-colored jacket, wearing an avaitor’s hat. When the bell rang, he played for a few minutes, then got down to business. The fun and games stopped, especially for his opponent. I remember meeting him at a Reunion Arena Supershow. He got a bunch of kids, including my best friend, Fred, up to dance with him. I had hurt my knee and couldn’t but he came back and told me “Next time, you get to dance too” It never happened but I sure enjoyed watching him make us all grin.

Hornswoggle

Midgets/Dwarfs have been a part of wrestling since the old carnival days, back around the turn of the last century. Minis, as they are known in Mexico, are just as popular as the much larger Luchadores. The WWE has used the diminutive dynamos for decades. Sky Low Low, The Haiti Kid, Lord Littlebrook, etc… have all made their impacts. In the US, right now, there is only one Mini…Hornswoggle. The former and final Cruiserweight champion served as Finlay‘s sidekick for awhile. He was then announced as the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon. That was around the time he switched from being Little B*stard to Hornswoggle. JBL finally exposed that Finlay was, in fact, the little guy’s dad. The Draft split up the “father/son” duo, with Hornswoggle heading to Raw. There he got into a “small” feud with D-X. Eventually, he became the mascot of the duo. With Shawn Michaels’ retirement, the future is unclear for the little leprechaun.

The Bushwackers

Butch Miller and Luke Williams were holy terrors as The Sheepherders. In the late 70s and early 80s, they tore up the NWA, Florida and Southwest Championship Wrestling (Texas). In Texas, they worked with Lord Jonathon Boyd to wreak havoc on all the faces. When the Hulkamania-era exploded, Butch and Luke were recruited to join the then-WWF. Instead of coming in as the vicious New Zealand brutes that they had been in the Southern U.S., they became the biggest “Family Friendly” team of all time. They never won the tag team titles, barely even got to challenge for them. They didn’t need the straps to be successful. They are still one of the most beloved teams of all time.

Shockmaster

In the WWE, he was Tugboat and Typhoon. When Fred Ottman came to WCW, he was supposed to be a powerful ally to Sting and Davey Boy Smith. WCW had Arn Anderson to provice the mysterious voice of the strange new grappler. All the stars seemed to be in alignment to unveil a grand new superstar. There was only one problem, Fred was clumsy as Hell. During a segment of A Flair for the Gold, Shockmaster was supposed to make his grand entrance. Arn was in place to provide the “voice” to the brutal battler. A small pyro was set off and Fred went to break through the wall. The poor guy tripped over his own two feet and his silver, rhinestone-encrusted, Stormtrooper (Star Wars) helmet fell off. His character was turned from a feared competitor into one of the biggest jokes in wrestling history. Shocky disappeared almost as quickly as he arrived. More than a decade and a half later, Shockmaster is still a source of laughter for fans and wrestlers alike.

George “The Animal” Steele

Early in his career, George was a vicious wrestler that would rip his opponents apart at the drop of a hat. By the 1980s, George had mellowed into a child-like battler that the both kids and adults adored. George became smitten with Miss Elizabeth (didn’t we all?) back in 1987 and had a running feud with Randy Savage. George also carried around a stuffed animal that he called “Mine”. The Hall of Famer was so popular that he was cast in the role of another wrestler, Tor Johnson, in the Johnny Dep film, Ed Wood. I never look at a turnbuckle without thinking about George ripping them opne and throwing the stuffing at his opponent, the ref and the fans.

Cryme Tyme

They have been called “The Bushwackers of the 21st century”. Shad Gaspard and JTG were a brutal street-gang-based tag team in the WWE Developmental system. When they got called up, the WWE decreased the gangster image to fit in with the new “Family Friendly” enviroment of the WWE. They became more Trickster than Gangsta. One of the funniest things that I remember them doing was selling off Lita‘s personal items, on the night she retired. They have played pranks on dozens of unwilling victims. Sadly, the biggest trick has been against them…they have been all but pushed out of contention for the tag team belts. That could still change.

“Black Machismo” Jay Lethal

Don’t get me wrong, Jay Lethal is a tremendous wrestler. I do agree with several who have suggested he is a future Hall of Famer. What I’m talking about here is the Black Machismo character. Lethal was doing well in the X-Division but Kevin Nash felt that Jay needed an “image update”. Jay was already able to do a spot-on imitation of Randy “Macho Man” Savage so Nash ran with it. Lethal was giving the neon cowboy hat and fringe jacket and Lethal began to do a perfect Macho Man imitation, including using his move set. The jacket and hat would eventually be replaced with the 1985-era robe and headband. Lethal is loved by the fans, who get a kick out of his character. I’ve read, online, that Savage is even amused by the character.

Red Rooster

Terry Taylor was a rising star in the Mid-South area and in NWA/WCW. He was an All-American kid with good looks but his personality just didn’t stand out in the midst of all the stars in the WWF. Bobby Heenan decided to give him a new image. Terry got a red mohawk-like streak in his blond hair. His character was based on a Rhode Island Red chicken, therefore the name Red Rooster. Taylor adopted the strut of a banty rooster and threw in so many chicken references that fans were ready to toss eggs ar him. Rooster would eventually turn face and battle the Heenan Family. By the end of the Hulkamania era, Rooster had found a new barnyard, as a road agent for the WWE. He eventually left to join Jeff Jarrett in TNA.

Dude Love

Mick Foley had several characters in his arsenal of personas. Most of them were vicious, borderline psychotic warriors that wouldn’t think twice about risking life and limb to inflict pain and torture on poor, pathetic victims. Then there was…The Dude. Based on a character Mick created as a teen-ager, The Dude wore tie-dye and was basically “a hippie”. He did hold the tag team straps with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The character was the least successful of any of Foley’s personalities. Mick still shows an occasion Dude-a-tude by wearing the tie-dye under his regular gear. Now that he’s out of TNA, The Dude just might show back up. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Koko B. Ware

“The Birdman” is an incredibly nice man. I’ve heard that from so many people that have met him at Reunion Shows and such. His character was just a bit silly. He would always dance to the ring with his parrot, Frankie. Koko has a great singing voice and did a lot of stuff in the 80s, including singing the track “Piledriver” on the first WWE music CD/Album. Koko did kinda modify his character, without losing his enthusiasm, when he partnered with Owen Hart as High Energy. Some people were surprised when Koko went into the Hall of Fame but I think it was a great choice. His character was a major hit with the fans and he was very marketable. Sometimes, silly is a good thing.

Gillberg (Duane Gill)

Duane was one of the top Talent Enhancers (Jobbers) of the 1980s. Creative decided to have a little fun with Gill. That had him shave his head and wear ring gear to match Goldberg, who was the hottest commodity at the time. Goldberg got a huge pyro show. Gillberg got a pair of Fourth of July sparklers to waive around. Gillberg had a short, successful run, before heading back into Talent Enhancement mode.

Santino Marella

Santino started out as a serious competitor. He won the Intercontinental title on his debut match. He would win the title on one other occasion. Then, he had an adjustment of character. Marella started doing Yogi Berra-like promos, often mispronunciating names and events. Santino then did a run as his own twin sister, Santina. He is a throwback to the 1980s Talent Enhancement Tradition, only he is hilarious to watch. He could always switch back to being a serious contender but he works so much better as the comic relief on Monday nights.

(KISS) Demon

Eric Bischoff worked out a deal with the band, KISS, to have wrestlers represent the four main characters: Demon (Gene Simmons), Starchild/Starbearer (Paul Stanley), Celestial (Ace Frehley) and Beast King (Peter Criss). Brian Adams was first pegged to play the Demon character but turned it over to Dale Torberg. Fans absolutely hated the rip-off character and it was quickly eliminated. It was never revealed who would have been picked to take the other three spots. WCW dropped the KISS portion of Demon’s name and his character was slightly altered after the agreement with KISS ended.

Doink

The Green-Haired Clown (no, not The Joker) was originally played by Matt Borne. Borne left the WWE in the Fall of 1993, and the roll was handed over to Steve Keirn. Steve Lombardi, Dusty Wolfe and John Maloof were also under the white face paint from time to time. The original premise was that he was an evil clown (aren’t they all?). He would play pranks and tricks on his opponents to cheat his way to a win. Borne’s version used a Stump Puller as a finisher. Other versions used a Bombs Away (called the Whoopie Cushion) and other carnival sounding finishers. Doink still works the indy circuit. Actually, several men work as the clown. Doink also had a sidekick, a midget named Dink.

Norman the Lunatic

Take a nearly 500 pound escaped mental patient and put him into a wrestling ring and what do you get? A favorite with the kids. Long before he was Bastion Booger, Mike Shaw portrayed the character that was supposed to be a cross between Abdullah the Butcher and George “The Animal” Steele. Norman walked around with a stuffed teddy bear and waved at the kids. He would eventually team with Abdullah and “Captain” Mike Rotunda in WCW. Shaw would move to WWE to become the character of Booger. Normie was managed by a rather new manager, Teddy Long.

Shark Boy

The Finny Fighter was a staple in the TNA X-Division. His entire character was aquatically-oriented. Sharky took a blow to the head that led him to believe he was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He suddenly began to shout out “Oh, Shell Yeah” when he would do promos. He also chugged Clam Juice like Austin chugged beer. Sharky adopted the Stunner as his finisher. Shark Boy disappeared from wrestling due to personal issues. he could return at any time to a huge cheer from his thousands of fans.

Curry Man

Christopher Daniels created a very popular alter-ego in Japan, Curry Man When Daniels lost his Feast or Fired match, a couple years back, he donned the crimson, orange and yellow mask with the fake plate of curry on top and the bright sunshine-colored outfit. He danced around, spoke broken English and became a big hit. He never really excelled in TNA but was incredibly popular. He joined Shark Boy and Super Eric (Eric Young) as the Prince Justice Brotherhood. Abyss who originally was planned to join the group, as it was named after his former character, Prince Justice. They never happened as the group disbanded not long after it began. Curry Man lost the second Feast or Fired match and Daniels returned.

P.Y Chu-Hi

Phil Hickerson was a husky Southern boy from Kentucky, until he teamed up with Tojo Yamamoto. Tojo converted the big haybailer into a Japanese grappler. In a move that the WWE would copy, years later, with Yokozuna, P.Y. would do ceremonial entrances, throw salt and all the typical Oriental routines that many other Sons of the Rising Sun had performed. P.Y. had numerous feuds in the USWA, against stars like Eric Embry, Matt Borne and Jimmy Jack Funk. Phil has since retired but is still much respected in the Southern U.S., despite his silly transformation.

Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant

No one loves life more than Boogie. He has thrilled fans for decades. He worked his early career as part of the Valiant Brothers, along with Johnny and Jerry. Eventually, he would strike out on his own. Heading South, Valiant let his beard grow really long and began to dance his way to the ring. One of the funniest moments in his career came during his feud with Gary Hart and Kabuki in the Mid-Atlantic area. Valiant lost a “Loser-Leaves-Town” match to the Oriental Assassin. Suddenly, Charlie Brown showed up. Brown wore a half-mask that let the chest-length beard slide out from underneath. It was so obviously Valiant. Hulk Hogan would rip off the gimmick, almost two decades later, with his Mr. America character. Valiant and his wife adore children, having several of their own. They never miss a chance to make the children feel special and loved. Valiant may be a bit silly but he has an absolute heart of gold. He stands at the top of the list of wrestlers that I admire, for both their in-ring and out-of-ring antics. A lot of young kids would do well to follow in the dancing shoes of the Boogie Woogie Man.

In Conclusion:

As with most of my columns, I try to put a positive spin on everyone I profile. There are some characters that I don’t care for, but they aren’t listed here. These men have made me smile for many, many years. I appreciate them, yes, even Shockmaster, for going out there and doing their best to make sure that everyone has a good laugh and a lot of fun. Wrestling would get really stale if it was all brutality and pain. Even the best horror movies have touches of comedy to make them work. Look at Freddy Krueger, Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator, etc… and you’ll find laughs mixed in with the gasps. Wrestling needs it’s comedy. It’s what has made it fun for me for almost 40 years.

Peace

Jay Shannon

Jade89512@yahoo.com

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