A lot has changed since WCW entered WWE airspace and made them struggle to remain on top. One of the major things to disappear was the traditional “job guy”. Guys like the aforementioned Barry Horowitz, SD Jones, and Ron Shaw are gone, of course, but what about the others? I don’t mean the “Jobbers to the Stars” like the ones mentioned above. I’m talking guys like Adrian Bivens, David Isley, Dave Spearman/Spencer, Bill Mulkey, Tony Zane, Chris Gantner, Josh Stroud, and others who would get into the ring with a star and just get their butts handed to them on a regular basis. Some of these guys (Gantner and the extremely green yet muscle-bound Stroud) could actually get in the tiniest bit of offense from time to time. However, they were mostly relegated to “punching bag” status. The others (Bivens, Isley, Bill Mulkey, and, yes, Stroud) were so wretched in the ring that they couldn’t be trusted to go on the offense. They’d just get in the ring and get killed by the star du jour.
So what happened? Why no more “jobber matches”? W-C-W. On “Nitro” we hardly ever saw them. Once in a while, you’d see Pez Whatley (who was also a trainer at the PowerPlant) or a very small handful of others. However, these guys, though you knew they’d lose, weren’t awful in the ring and would actually put up a fight in most cases. This made for far better television. Gone was the Crockett formula of putting a star in the ring with someone they could steamroll over. Since WCW said goodbye to your traditional “jobber match”, WWE had little choice but to follow suit. From that moment forward, we saw relatively competitive matches on WWE television.
Were these guys without talent? Well, in most cases, yes, but we can say they flopped well. Adrian Bivens in particular worked a ring so horribly that you wondered if he even knew where he was. There were many guys like him that you didn’t care about but that was the point. The focus was squarely on the star. How else was Magnum TA or Sting going to beat someone incredibly quickly (some in less than 1 minute) if not for a “ham n’ egger”? (thanks, Bobby Heenan)
Of course, WWE still has it’s jobbers, but they’re more like your “Jobbers To The Stars” and they aren’t referred to that way anymore. They’re still referred to WWE Superstars. Zack Ryder, JTG, and the whole of 3MB are used in this role constantly and there are good reasons for that. In a match, there must be a winner or a loser. Superstars in angles have to be very careful not to lose too much so you have to have guys that can lose without being hurt by it. Ryder, JTG, and 3MB are not in meaningful programs so it hardly matters.
For my part, I miss the Mulkey’s of the world. The way they worked the ring was the stuff of unintentional comedy. Watching Josh Stroud “work” was funnier than any John Ritter prat fall you can think of. Still, this article was crafted out of love. I miss the “jobbers”. They dutifully came to the ring match after match, did what they were paid to do, and slunk off to the next town without getting any credit or love for it. These guys provided our favorite stars with someone to beat up on. In many ways, they were unsung heroes. Some of them (Tony Ulysses and Chris Gantner) could be downright funny in the way they over-sold moves. You’d see Chris Gantner or Tony Ulysses in an armbar and you were sure they were going to die*. While there was no way either of these guys was going to win a match, they could seriously entertain. While I know we can never see the days of the traditional “jobber” , it was certainly fun while it lasted.
*Tony Ulysses has continued to do that – working in the Northeast as “Mr. Fabulous” Tony Ulysses in a managerial role.
P.S.: The quality of the photos isn’t the greatest. Many are screen grabs from YouTube clips so there was only so much I could do as they were all I could find. They work for illustrative purposes.