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WRESTLING COLUMNS

WWE Deja Vu
July 29, 2006 Larry Williams


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As long as I have been watching wrestling, I have seen many wrestling personas come into the business. Some were pretty good ones like Big Sexy Kevin Nash, and Diesel. Some were really stupid like Oz and Vinny Vegas. In today's WWE they seem to be re-using certain gimmicks again with new wrestlers using similar personas. Don't get me wrong I am not referring to fakes, as in the fake Undertaker (Brian Lee), Outsiders (Glen "Kane" Jacobs and Rick Bogner), Sting (Jeff Farmer) etc. Or even blatant rip offs like modelling a wrestler after Undertaker and calling him Gravedigger. I am also not referring to gimmicks that have been passed down from one wrestler to another such as Doink the Clown or the Patriot. I am however referring to the current gimmicks in WWE that may or may not be inspired by a past gimmick. In this article I intend to compare these very gimmicks.

First we shall look at Rob Conway. After splitting with Sylvan and going solo, he became the "Conman". You maybe asking me "What does that have to do with a gimmick from the past"" Well read on:

I believe he has the "stuff" to be a carbon copy of Marcus "Buff" Bagwell. Let us compare shall we" The two men have a similar cockiness and arrogance. As well Rob comes out to the ring wearing similar hat and sunglasses. In WCW Buff always came to the ring wearing sunglasses and a somewhat flamboyant hat. For example the top hat with his portrait on the top. His haircut, sideburns and goatee are also strong evidence that he was inspired by Bagwell. Oddly enough Conway is only 4 years younger than Bagwell. I can safely say the Conman stole Buff's stuff.

Next we move on to the second generation star Carlito Caribbean Cool. Unlike the man he's inspired by, he has a legit claim to the Caribbean. His father is Puerto Rican Legend Carlos Colon. But the persona seams a bit familiar. I mean he isn't that close of a match as Conway was to Buff, but I do see in Carlito a gimmick that graced the WWF ring from 1992-1996. The wrestler I am thinking of wasn't a legit Latino but he pulled off the Tony Montana persona quite well. I am of course referring to Scott Hall's star making persona of Razor Ramon.

First off Razor was billed from Miami Florida, and was a slick Cuban street thug. His persona was complete with long greasy hair, gold chains, nice threads, and a tooth pick. Carlito is Puerto Rican and has a similar street thug gimmick instead of long greasy hair he has an afro, and instead of the tooth pick he carries an apple. He also wears the nice threads on the street. Razor used to flick his toothpick at his opponent and Carlito spits out his apple. Look a little familiar now" So far not exact but still very eerie. Even more eerie is that Carlito has held the Intercontinental strap, as well as the US title. Scott Hall also held the IC title 4 times and held the US title in WCW. From what I remember Hall came in through a series of vignettes, as did Carlito. These vignettes showed the men on the street dressed quite nicely but acting like a street thug, ie. verbally abusing someone on the street for no reason. The catch phrases also seem similar. Razor Ramon always said that he was "Oozing with machismo". Carlito also saying "That's not cool" or "That's cool" to something that he likes or dislikes. Also similar is that Razor came in as a strong heel, but became popular and turned face. Carlito Cool also came in as a strong heel but became popular and turned face by splitting with Chris Masters. .

Next up is Paul Burchill. Burchill's interpretation of the pirate is to act like Capt Jack Sparrow of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. However I believe that Vince McMahon had in mind to revive the same pirate persona once portrayed by Pierre Oulette. The former Tag Team champion, (w/ the Mountie, Jacques Rougeau) came back to the WWF in 1996 with the name Jean Pierre Lafitte. The gimmick was based on a real life pirate captain named Jean Lafitte. (Pierre was supposed to be a descendant of Lafitte.) It is interesting to note also that Jean Lafitte had a brother named Pierre. He went so far as the plundering pirate to start a feud with "the Hitman" Bret Hart by looting the champ's signature ring jacket.

You are probably thinking that I am fixing to compare Bobby Lashley to Bill Goldberg but I'm not. First of all it's been done before and secondly I think Lashley has a lot more potential than Goldberg ever did. I look forward to seeing the World or even the WWE belt around his waist soon.

Instead I will compare the former IC champ Shelton Benjamin to a man who held the title about ten years ago. I am referring to the "People's Champion" the Rock. Rock held the IC strap twice where as Benjamin held it three times. However the main comparison lies in not only the super sized ego but also lately Shelton has started wearing shades and expensive shirts to the ring. Is it me or did the Rock wear his $500 shirts and a pair of sunglasses during his promos first"

There is currently on RAW one Matt Striker. His current persona is of an evil teacher. I believe around ten years ago WWF also had an evil teacher played by Shane Douglas. The Franchise of ECW was once the Dean of the WWF.

I also want to mention Michelle McCool, on Smackdown she is dressed a little like Stacy as Miss Hancock. However the gimmick is pure Teacher. Complete with the holier than thou, I'm smart but your stupid attitude. I believe I saw on WOW a woman called the Disciplinarian. She was also an evil teacher with the "you need to learn a lesson" attitude. The difference is that Michelle is quite a bit prettier than her Women of Wrestling counterpart. (I promise that's the last time I mention WOW, at least until I write a column about the women in WOW who deserve a decent chance in WWE or TNA.)

Now ladies and gents I'm going to look at a couple of big mistakes. When I say big I mean BIG. Namely Giant Gonzalas and his counterpart from India the Great Khali.Both wrestlers are above the 7 foot mark, both are very clumsy in the ring and both have been managed by very short and obnoxious men. Giant Gonzalas was managed by Harvey Wippleman and now Khali is managed by Daivari. And shockingly enough upon their debuts in WWE both attacked the Phenom himself, the Undertaker. Outside the squared circle both men have been in movies. Giant Gonzalas real name Jorge Gonzales, can be seen in "Hercules in the Underworld". The Great Khali real name Dalip Singh, can be seen opposite Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, and fellow wrestlers Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, and Kevin Nash in the remake "The Longest Yard". I am not going to go into any detail on the similarities to Umaga and every other wild, Samoan head hunter/shrinker that has graced the ring, ie. Umaga's big brother Fatu (Rikishi) and their cousin Samu as the Headshrinkers. As well as Afa and Sika the Wild Samoans.

I think you can see now why I am experiencing Deja VU in the WWE. I am sure there are a lot more wrestlers who are giving me reason to do a flash back. Such as The Highlanders, Rory and Robbie McAllister's resemblance in manners or lack of to the Blu Brothers, Jacob and Eli (Ron and Don Harris.)

I would but I believe I have over stayed my welcome.

by Larry Williams..


Johnny wrote:
I thought this was a very thought-provoking column. These gimmicks you said, all make sense. Conway, well, he's a hopeless case. I thought he had potential, but he has yet to make an impact. WWE should try something, like "creating" ideas! Great Column
:
What's really interesting is I just got done reading the "Smart Wrestling Fans" article just before this one. What a contrast.

Look, understand something: anything analyzed as much as you have (Wrestling and it's gimmicks/storylines ESPECIALLY) will show similarity to another product, especially within it realm. Heck, South Park did a running gag through a whole show about it. Your observations are not incorrect, just completely misjudged. Everything you have cited is STEREO-TYPICAL. A cocky wrestler is going to be cocky, he's going to eccentric and all the things that Bagwell does because, and I know this is hard to believe, but 90% of wrestling gimmicks are NOT original within the world of wrestling. Buff Bagwell - Dennis Rodman" Rock Stars" CCC & Razor Ramon - As you have said, Tony Montana being a good example of it, but those are also stereotypical Cuban/Caribbean characters, and as such is how they are portrayed. Their pushes and title reigns are similar to MANY other wrestlers, not just each other, and many strong heels end up turning face (Can't think of many that didn't)

Of course, me being Pirate Dave, I'll have to touch on your issue of Burchill/Lafitte, as I am quite familar with both characters. Here's the similarity: they're Pirates. That's it. Until Johnny Depp and Capt. Jack Sparrow, there wasn't very much 'range' in playing a pirate (I should know) it was basically the same thing, so even in THAT instance, they're different. It didn't occur to you that a Pirate gimmick was created because Pirates are FRIGGIN HOT right now" Of course! And who knows, maybe next year Vikings will be on top, in which case you'll probably be referencing some obscure Viking character that never really got over.

Benjamin/Rock" Ever hear of Flair" He didn't wear suits, ride limos, fly jets, etc." It's been done man, many times over. DEAN DOUGLAS" ARE YOU KIDDING ME"! You do realize you're talking about SHANE f'n DOUGLAS, right" Even insinuating that the WWE believes The Franchise's already huge popularity at that time DIDN'T overshadow a crappy gimmick is naive. Michelle McCool" A hot teacher" This is original" Watch many movies, or pron for that matter" (Yes, pron) THE GIANT GONZALES"!! KALI"! I can't even begin to touch on that one. As for Umaga, well, how many Samoan gimmicks have there been in the WWE/F, let alone wrestling in general"

In conclusion, there are two things I've found incredibly wrong with your article. One, wrestling is not original, and takes most of it's ideas from Popular Culture. In fact, just about every gimmick you've cited here was created when said gimmick was a hot topic in society, and usually just ended up sticking with the performer using it. Second, SOME of the gimmicks you try to compare here NEVER GOT OVER. Dean Dougles" Lafitte" GIANT GONZALES"! These gimmicks didn't fail because of the performers (Well, maybe that last one) they failed because they FAILED. I'm not saying someone wasn't talking to Burchill and saying "Hey, go watch Pirates of the Caribbean and...uh...maybe some Lafitte tapes from '96, they might help too." No doubt they did. But I don't think any, even your first example, comes close to being carbon copies, they're just gimmicks with the same subject matter. End of analyzation.
Mike M***** wrote:
Wow, you made many valid points. And the Conway and Bagwell one is just plain obvious! Whats next" Conway does a Over the Castle off the top rope!" And not to mention Umaga's obvious resemblance of several of the Headshrinkers. I just hope to see WWE pick up the pace in the creative department with some new interesting gimmicks and less Diva Search promos. Not to sound sexist but god is that annoying!
Kevin S. wrote:
i think you could also throw mr. kennedy into the clone thing here as well. if you watch his enterence, he is a knock-off of the rock. the whole misssssssssssster kennedy, just sub that for if ya smeeeeeeeeeeeeell what the rock is cooking.

my question, can vince and his brain trust up there come up with anything new" i know this worked in the past, but give me a new idea once in a while.
Freddy Sturguess wrote:
First, the writer claims to have "seen many wrestling personas come into the business." He proceeds to name examples such as Big Sexy Kevin Nash, Diesel, Oz, and Vinny Vegas. Well, this comparison would be much more vast...if all four of those gimmicks he named didn't all belong to the same person (Kevin Nash of course). Some of the writer's points seem to come directly from the editorial notes of the Raw and Smackdown results on OWW; the comparison of Michelle McCool to Miss Hancock, and the comparison of Carlito Cool to Razor Ramon, though very true, have both come up in editor's notes in the results.

Also, I hope the writer was kidding when he stated he hoped to see a world title reign for Bobby Lashley. Lashley is an unimaginative, one-dimensional, recyclable "strong guy" with the same tired power-moves and absolutely no personality.

A comparison the writer failed to mention is that of the authority-defying John Cena to the authority-defying Steve Austin. And now, Cena has decided he wants to be Chris Benoit or Dean Malenko, using a you-tapped-out submission hold to end his matches now.
Marc Mattaliano wrote:
I think you've made some astute statements here, Larry. I've been a fan of wrestling for quite some time, and even I didn't realize some of these things.

It's true, I didn't notice the similarities you've cited between Conway and Bagwell. I was actually quite a fan of Bagwell when he was in the New World Order. I also didn't notice your similarities between Razor Ramon and Carlito, but you can hardly call those two particularly the same. Like you said, Razor was a bad ass thug. Carlito, although starting out as an arrogant carribbean fella, is now kind of a loveable cartoon character who carries an apple wherever he goes. Khali and Gonzales, all right, I'll give you that one. Same with Umaga, though I think Umaga paired up with Armando Alejandro Estrada (gotta admit, that's fun to say) makes him a bit more modern a character than typically tribal Samoans like the Headshrinkers, that carried little talismans to the ring and had a witch doctor or chieftan following them around. Someone on this thread mentioned Cena and Austin being the same....I suppose that's reasonable a comparison, at least in fighting style, although plenty of people have been anti-authority over the years. I hardly see a redneck like Austin bobbing his head to any rap songs, do you" They may both share a beer together after a dream match, but they're not anti-authority in quite the same way.

I think one thing we have to remember here, as some people have already said, is that most gimmicks aren't entirely original. Sometimes, you can have a person recycle an old gimmick but make it more their own, do more with it because they care about the gimmick more. After all, plenty of wrestlers have been thrown into gimmicks they probably didn't appreciate. Look at Chris Candido (RIP, by the way). The very first time I saw him wrestle, he was Skip of the Bodydonnas, and as much as I liked bashing his character, he was probably more comfortable being in ECW just as Chris Candido as opposed to some corny health nut. Also, we have to keep in mind that in the wrestling industry, it seems very difficult to walk the fine line between an overly gimmicked up character and someone with no personality. Some people look at WWE and think it's nothing but a circus full of characters doing next to no actual wrestling. Yet, other people look at things like TNA and most indie wrestling promotions and see an unentertaining bunch of people with nice names but no personality to latch onto. These two schools of thought could go on battling forever.

Ultimately, we all just have to lighten up about gimmicks, realize that unless every bit of the competition we see on tv is absolutely real and that wins and losses are totally unscripted, then wrestlers need some kind of hook. They need to exude some trait or traits that we, as fans and viewers, can judge and say, "yeah, I really like his style as a [fill in the blank]," or "naw, I think his style as a [fill in the blank] is pretty crummy and stupid." If you don't like gimmicks or scripts or drama, there's plenty of other promotions or physical sports that are way more hardcore and way more real and down to earth. Take UFC, as far as I know, Ultimate Fighting is probably some of the realest fighting there is on a popular pay-per-view kind of scale. Professional wrestling has changed a lot over the years, but I suppose that's why it's nice to have many different wrestling promotions out there. Some are more real and down to earth and devoid of potentially silly gimmicks and others feature crazy characters and over the top speeches, jokes and innuendo. And I'm not saying one is any better than the other, they're just different. After all, look at the ups and downs John Cena's had. When he started in WWE, he was just a nameless rookie giving the pros occasional runs for their money. Neutral, not up or down really, his style wasn't going anywhere. Then, he started his hip hop gimmick and it still wasn't going over, in fact, people hated him. Down. Then, he started freestyling against heels and people liked him. Up. Soon, he began winning high profile matches and eventually won the WWE Title, which he kept pretty impressively (in my opinion) for a good long time. Way Up. But now, for some reason that I've been hard pressed to figure out, some people don't like him again. Down. Or maybe, more like Neutral...I went to a live show the other day, and the reaction to Cena was rather mixed. Some booed, some roared. So I'll say Neutral instead. As you can see, certain gimmicks and certain wrestlers' interpretations of certain gimmicks can have extremely touchy results. A more interesting gimmick comparison would be John Cena to Too Cool. When John Cena started rhyming and hip hopping, I immediately thought to myself, "okay, why is it that Grandmaster Sexay and Scottie 2 Hottie can dance all over the place like dumbasses and people love 'em and cheer for The Worm, but John Cena's actually trying to be hardcore about it and people boo""

I guess in the end, I'm half agreeing with the author here. I agree that some gimmicks are recycled, but I'm not saying that's entirely bad. Maybe wrestlers just need more unique gimmicks, deeper ones, more interesting premises or personalities, some kind of complex origin story.
Sebastian wrote:
Hey there, my name's Sebastian and this is my first-time response to an article on oww, allthough I'm a long-time reader already. First off, great column, but I miss some of the more obvious deja vus in it. First there was the - now luckily over - phase in Big Shows career when he was more or less just an updated version of former "giants" like Andre and King Kong Bundy. Large, mean and for crying out loud, he even wore the same black, one shoulder string attire like both of em did. In fact, he even merely looked like Bundy with a goatee and some more hair. Maybe that "similiarity" is even stretching it a little, but that's bringing me to my second example: "Our Olympic Hero", Ken Patera... oops, I meant Kurt Angle. Granted, Patera wasn't one of the big players back in his days, but he was at least big enough for even me to remember him, and his gimmick was - you guessed it - that of a former olympic wrestler for the US-Team (which he just like Angle actually really was, of course). Would the smiliarities end there, nothing would be wrong. But just like with Angle, the gimmick stressed the "OUR olympic athlete"-part of the gimmick with stars'n'stripes-attire and whatnot. Then there's this one: Egomaniacal rich man who comes to the ring in finest threads, looks down on everyone else and always has some goons around to do the dirty work" Could be the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase - or Bradshaw. Val Venis' "pornstar"-gimmick was pretty much an "adult" version of the Ravishing One, Rick Rude (RIP). I won't even bother about the Hulk Hogan- or Scott Steiner-personas, which can be traced back over Jesse Ventura to "Superstar" Billy Graham or Steve Austin, who to me always seemed like a modern version of David Schultz (and interesstingly enough also utilised a very "Billy Graham"-like gimmick in the beginning of his career). I bet there are more that just don't spring to my mind right now, but I guess this will do for the time being. Also people, please don't get me wrong, as I certainly don't try to bash anyone over the fact that gimmicks get "recycled" every now and then (hell, I'd LOVE to see a new "Warrior"-type in ring-persona, or somethiing like the Demos or the Road Warriors),I just thaught credit should be given where it's due.
JACK RIPPY wrote:
good list but you are forgetting Vito strongest men to wear a dress gimmick because in WCW perry Saturn also wore a dress. it was very stupid and dumb. raven said he was sexy and no one would face him willingly. now the only difference was that Saturn did not go undefeated.
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