The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
New Characters for 21st Century Wrestling!
The Kingfish Arnie Katz offers some ideas for characters more in keeping with today than goose-stepping Nazis and Fu Manchu-like villains.
Characters are an important element of every wrestling promotion. Colorful and entertaining characters are the hallmark of a successful wrestling promotion. The day is long past when two anonymous boots-and-trucks guys can draw big crowds. Fans want to feel involved with the combatants and, in pro wrestling. That means dynamic personalities.
A vivid and intriguing characterization can spell the difference between success and failure. Look at all the guys who were flops with one character and main eventers with another. Kevin Nash, Steve Austin and Undertaker probably had the same level of wrestling school before they hit on winning characters, but they didn’t climb to the top of the card until they assumed a character that fans loved and/or hated.
Anyone who has watched wrestling for a couple of decades knows that there are enduring archetypes, characters that are periodically renewed and reused. Jules Strongbow was a wrestling Native American character in the 1930’s, Don Eagle and Chief Bigheart did similar characters in the 1950’s, Jay Strongbow and the second Jules Strongbow wore the headdress in the 1960’s and 1970’s and Tatanka used the gimmick in the 1990’s and the current decade.
Other examples of stock characters are: The Nature Boy, the Nazi Fanatic, the Cowboy, the Yellow Peril, the British Lord, the Rock ‘n’ Roller, the Country & Western Star and the Wrestling Savant. There are plenty more, but you get the idea.
One thing about these archetypes (or stereotypes, if you want to be realistic) is that a lot of them originated shortly after World War II when Gorgeous George, Ricki Starr and others brought forth the modern style of professional wrestling that took it from pseudo-sport to athletic entertainment.
Some of those characters are pretty much out-of-step these days, no matter how promotions try to refresh them. Take the Nazi Fanatic… please. The character made most sense in the 1950’s, when wartime Nazis were still young enough to make a Nazi wrestler a credible concept. Now, Von This or Von That really doesn’t work, because fans realize that anyone involved in World War II is in his late 70’s today.
A lot of those post-WW II characters played of the war-inspired xenophobia of many Americans. They distrusted most foreigners, so just about anyone nationality could be the basis for a heel.
Characters purporting to be from France were an exception. They generally worked as babyfaces. Interesting, French-Canadian wrestlers were almost always rulebreakers outside Quebec.
Since this is the 21st Century, it’s probably time to invent some new characters that fit in better with contemporary society. They’ll be more relevant to new generations of fans than the Cowboys and Nature Boys.
Here are a few Modest Examples, including both wrestlers and non-wrestling participants in the show:
The Unemployed Oil Platform Worker
He’s big, he’s muscular and he has a chip on hi shoulder about the loss of his incredibly well-paying job on an oil rig platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Nerdy Manager
He looks like such puny managers as Jimmy Hart and Wild Red Berry, but his strength is in his mind, not his voice. He is the spiritual descendant of The Grand Wizard, now with computer assistance.
The Gambling Referee
This character, ripped from the sports headlines, is not evil; he sick. He wants to referee right, but one or more heel wrestlers have him in their grip after he accumulates losses no honest man can pay. He can be counted on to shade things for the men who control him, though he will sometimes find a way to do the right thing.
This is a character for a slightly older, but still alluring woman. She operated a legal brothel in Nevada and now she wants to apply her experience to running women’s wrestling. The babyface women will oppose her attempts to corrupt the newer girls on the roster.
Once he endured the derision of those who did not share his love of Star Trek. Now he has the strength and wrestling skill to make them pay for denigrating “the most important work of literature in human history.”
Got Any Ideas?
If you have any ideas for similarly new characters, send them to me and I’ll publish the best ones in a future installment of this column.
That’s it for today. I’ll be back Monday with another installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising pro wrestling column. I hope you’ll return to join me – and, please, bring your friends.
— Arnie Katz