The Undertaker’s return this past Monday has spawned a lot of talk this past week. Some of it positive and some of it negative. Whether you are for or against seeing The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar is immaterial because it’s going to happen and it’s going to be a brutally physical match. It’s not going to be as good as Undertaker’s matches in the past few years but it will still be a good match. Taker can pull a good match out of anyone. However while watching the contract signing between the two it got me wondering, “What gave The Undertaker’s gimmick so much staying power over the years?” In my opinion it comes down to two things, the evolution of his character and WWE’s confidence to push him once his gimmick started taking off. Yes he is a great worker in the ring but if gimmicks had staying power based only off of ring work then the main event of Wrestlemania XV would’ve been The Ringmaster vs. Rocky Maivia.
The Undertaker, Goldust, and Kane are prime examples of gimmicks with long lasting ability but sometimes the crowd kills a gimmick before it gets a chance(Luckily Bray Wyatt got past the Husky Harris chants.) And then sometimes the gimmick dies due to lack of confidence from booking.
In late 2011 the WWE was promoting the return of the monster Brodus Clay. In early 2012 he debuted as the Funkasaurus. Much like everyone else I initially rolled my eyes at this and asked, “WHY?!?!” Over the next couple of weeks I couldn’t believe what was happening. The crowd was getting into him and so was I. He was beating people like Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and The Miz. Not just beating them, he was squashing them. And then it happened.
Clay was handed to the Big Show to legitimize Show’s heel turn and to show what a monster he is. Over the next couple of weeks there were a handful of confrontations between the two but Big Show always got the upper hand. It seemed like at first the crowd was actually interested in this rivalry and started to pop a little when Brodus would get an advantage (even though it would only last for a few seconds)..
My question is: why was it necessary to have Big Show repeatedly squash Brodus? Yes it made since for their first encounter but why not have Brodus attack Big Show the next week by running in after Show squashes some random mid-carder like Santino or JTG. Brodus hits the ring and proceeds to beat down the Big Show and chases him off. Brodus stands in the ring begging Big Show to return but he retreats. This could set up a PPV match between the two. Big Show could win the match but maybe in the match Brodus has a spot where he slams Show or some other big moment. It elevates Brodus while letting Big Show still walk away victorious. Instead he is made to look weak unless he’s facing guys that are 220 lbs. Maybe he never would’ve been World Champion but he could’ve been a constant in the mid-card for sure. Instead he is…where is he anyway?
Another gimmick that has lost its momentum is Fandango. What more did they need? The prefect portrayal of an antagonizing heel persona…Check. A great match with Jericho at Wrestlemania…Check. The crowd singing his song and dancing his dance through an entire match…Check. Fandango has all the tools to be a star and is perfectly capable of being in the upper mid-card at least.
I understand he had to sit out a few weeks with a concussion but how does he go from triple threat for the Intercontinental Title (which he is perfect for) to the money in the bank ladder match to being a supporting character opposite Santino in the Summer Rae/Emma feud?
Just imagine him winning the IC Title and the humorous segment they could have on the next Raw with him dancing in the ring focusing more on the belt than Summer Rae. But hey why would they think a good looking, flamboyant, cocky guy who was in love with himself would be able to get over with the crowd?
What about Alberto Del Rio? Here is a guy that, for as much heat as he gets for his ring work, had a fantastic gimmick. Sure it had been done before with The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase and JBL but if done right it’s a gimmick that should always work. And ADR was doing it right. He was driving fancy cars in and honking the horn to annoy the crowd. He talked about being the Mexican Aristocrat and how you were beneath him because success was his destiny.
Then for some reason he became an overnight face. I was actually a fan of him as a face but thought he still could’ve had a high society attitude, but there was minimal mention of his wealth even after he returned to being a heel. He went from being Alberto Del Rio the arrogant, wealthy, aristocrat to Alberto Del Rio the guy… that’s…a guy… who just happens to be a wrestler. Why did they stop having him flaunt how rich he was?
Presently he is Batista’s returning feud and the future doesn’t look bright for him. The top of the card is overcrowded with talent and I’m afraid ADR is going to fall down to the mid-card for the foreseeable future.
There are so many gimmicks that could have more success if given the right attention but WWE just seems to miss the boat on a lot of them. There are some that are successful because of the right time such as Sgt. Slaughter’s heel run in the early 90s. And others have succeeded because the right person was playing the character. Would Kane have been as successful if Kevin Nash was under the mask?
At the end of the day gimmicks can have all the right tools but if there is no confidence from above then they won’t get over whether the fans want them to or not. Until next time…