Characters Need More Than A Country

An enduring theme of pro wrestling characters has been a tie in between a character and the hometown in which their billed from. This can be effectively done, when it is logical and subtle, like Hunter Hearst Helmsley being billed from Greenwich Connecticut. I’d even say that I thought The Boogeyman being billed from The Bottomless Pit was an enjoyable feature and addition to the character. With that said, The Boogeyman, with as many flaws as his character possesses, had so much more going for him than strictly being born inside of a Bottomless Pit. Then you move on to a character like Vladimir Kozlov who essentially did not have a character except that he was a stoic Russian with a bad attitude. Which goes onto a big chunk of why building a character around the idea of where they were born is such an awful plan; because most ideas that go into the character from that point on are generally created out of stereotypes. While I would disagree with the recent review of the WWE as racist; I believe some of the writing comes from an unenlightened perspective which creates something worse than racist television and that’s boring content.

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There are very few things as boring as stereotypes because they are simple and two-dimensional, leaving them with very little to do from one program to the next. And bringing back up Vladimir Kozlov, he is strangely reminiscent of the Rusev character we now get; although I will admit Rusev is far more television friendly than Vladimir. Most of that involves Lana, but even as much as I enjoy their presentation I worry about what they will do in their next feud and if they will be able to do anything more than insult America and support Russia. Jack Swagger has a more in depth character with originally only having concern with illegal immigrants and now he’s a fan favourite who is very pro-America and deeply believes in the constitution apparently. There are awful characters like Jinder Mahal when he first showed up, being dressed as a stereotypical Indian and given little beyond that. This is directly opposite to a character like Muhammad Hassan who was hurt from how his people were treated after 9/11; a concept that can be used, expanded and further explored on television over time.

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Inside a slew of just awful wrestling gimmicks being pumped out of the WWE in the late 80′s, Skinner the crocodile man from Australia was one that always struck me as just stupid. Sure this wrestler could be from Australia; maybe they’ve even wrestled a crocodile, but why would they wear the same clothing for that as a high paid job as a professional wrestler on television? Alright it’s not as bad as The Goon, wrestling in hockey gear, but still pretty horrible; however this also raises another point that I need to address. While wrestling gimmicks based solely around where this person hails from is bad, having a gimmick based on that person’s job (shouldn’t it be wrestler?) is admittedly even worse. While wrestling is a genre that requires a fairly large cast of characters that are constantly changing, it simply does not excuse the use of boring characters. Television personalities need to be able to grab the attention of the audience so that they care enough to see how they progress and spend money to do so. Stereotypes and 2 dimensional ideas that aren’t even close to what a real human being is wil simply not accomplish that goal.

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A classic feud that culminated with a main event match at WrestleMania 7 was Hulk Hogan versus Sgt. Slaughter, centering around the conflict in the middle east at the time. While some will say to use such serious to sell tickets is reprehensible, the fact is every television show plays on the fears and perceptions of our society; wrestling is a mirror of the real world. What’s most important is that neither Hulk Hogan or Sgt. Slaughter were based solely on the idea of where these characters were born. It certainly plays a major role in both of their characters, but is entirely different than a gimmick like The Patriot who was essentially a guy covered in red, white and blue while waving the stars and stripes. In the same sense that Rowdy Roddy Piper was from Scotland, wore a kilt, played the bagpipes, but was so much more than just a Scottish person; he was a damn character. Compare that to the tag team of The Highlanders, who were weighed in stones instead of pounds; and essentially were showcased as just two guys from Scotland, they never really had a chance to matter because there was no substance to the character.

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The final point I’m going to raise on this subject in this article is the differences between The Undertaker and his little brother Kane. The Undertaker is a character that has gone through changes, transformed into all different incarnations and has grown with each subtle change. While I wouldn’t say that Kane has remained the same, because we have certainly seen different versions of The Big Red Machine, there’s simply not nearly as much substance to the character as that of The Undertaker. Undertaker has been so many different things, from a zombie, to a demon, to a biker to a cult leader to strictly just The Phenom. Kane on the other hand, while we have seen different sides of him has essentially been a monster born in Hell for his entire career; and no matter if they want him to be scary, funny, good guy or bad, anything Kane does stems from the idea that he’s from Hell. I’m not really sure how to fix the problem as Kane does have a long, arduous back story; however it does not change  the fact that every line he says manatees strictly from the idea that he was born in flames and is the devils favourite demon.

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