The Professional 3 3.03.13: Top Brad Armstrong Gimmicks
Posted by Jon Harder on 03.03.2013
The second column on 411 from Jon Harder comparing Fandango to the crazy gimmicks of WCW underrated competitor Brad Armstrong!
Welcome to the second installment of the Professional 3 here on 411mania.com! I first have to thank everyone for checking out the first edition of this column last week and for all the feedback given, good or bad. It takes a load of hard work to build a fan base, and hopefully column by column, I am able to do so with the P3. Trust me, I will do my damnedest to find and write the most unique columns on this website. It's tough, but so far, so good.
Before I go any further, please check out this week's Hardway Podcast with Brian Fury from Chaotic Wrestling in the New England area. He truly is a hard working wrestler who deserves a big time break. If nothing else, enjoy the stories of a young independent wrestler trying to pave his way and make a little niche in the world of underground pro wrestling.
If there is anything I have to base the Professional 3 around this week, it is the lovely thing wrestlers love to call GIMMICKS. A good gimmick can jumpstart a wrestling career and get people recognizing your talents inside the ring. With a good gimmick, you can become marketable and ultimately, make some serious money in the game. Fans connect to characters as much as in-ring work, and the more unique, yet somehow connected to wrestling persona you have, the bigger fan base you will have.
Yet, if you gain yourself a character which is borderline ridiculous that no one understands, gets, or cares about, you will find yourself stuck in the bowels of a wrestling company. Some wrestlers dread being given a gimmick that they can't make work, thus making them bitter and frustrated at the sport in general. It's all about what gimmick you get. That's why I'm completely shocked at a lot of wrestling fans already not getting behind Fandango.
Fandango has had vignettes on television for the past few months, with the gist of him being a ballroom dancer with a smug attitude. Basically, just by looking at him, you want to punch him in the face. Almost immediately, the majority of the internet responded with how awful Fandango will be as a character. They see Fandango not clicking with the audience and just not working in general within the WWE Universe.
Fandango already has you hooked. With the hate surrounding him BEFORE his television debut, the gimmick will work. Johnny Curtis is a made-man for years to come. This is picture-perfect for a wrestler trying to make his name.
However, for some wrestlers, they can't just seem to gain a break with certain characters they are given. One in particular never got the respect he deserved as an in-ring competitor, despite the multiple gimmicks he was given and how hard he tried to make them work. This week in the Professional 3, I am here to give exposure to a man who more than deserved his fair. Ladies and gentlemenů
THE PROFESSIONAL 3: Top 3 Brad Armstrong Gimmicks
First things first, I absolutely have to say I was a huge fan, believe it or not, of Brad Armstrong growing up. I have followed Brad since 1992, when inside my father's WCW Magazine; there was a picture of Brad with Rick Steiner, celebrating backstage when Brad became WCW Light Heavyweight champion on July 5, 1992. Granted, I was intrigued more over the cool championship Brad had, but regardless, I instantly became a fan of Brad Armstrong just from one picture.
Despite the crispness Brad had in the squared circle for a 20-plus year career, Brad wasn't given the props he truly deserved. Although he was a WCW Light Heavyweight champion and had the respect of all the wrestlers in the locker room for being a solid technician, Brad always gets the vastly underrated label from a lot of fans. After putting a lot of thought into possibly why, it hit me suddenly like a flash in the night: he always got saddled with an awful gimmick in his exposure for television.
Even before his Light Heavyweight championship run in the summer of '92, Brad had received some absolutely ludicrous characters by the WCW booking committee. Even worse, his final two years before WCW closed were not any better in the character department. An impossible list of characters were given to Brad, and yet, he did his damnedest to make it work.
Here's the deal with wrestling when it comes to making it in this crazy sport: Sometimes you have to work with what you're given. Wrestlers are not always a fan of what characters they are forced to play, but to pay the bills and to get mainstream recognition, you make the most of what you are given. Trust me when I say, Brad definitely attempted to do his best with what he was given. This week in the Professional 3, I am here to list, in my opinion, the Top 3 Brad Armstrong Gimmicks. I had a lot of fun researching the majority of these characters, and it's an honor and a privilege to give my take on these three.
1) BADSTREET (AKA FANTASIA)
At SuperBrawl 1 in 1991, the opening match saw the Fabulous Freebirds face off with the Young Pistols for the vacant WCW United States Tag Team Championships. Earlier in the match, Brad made the save for the Young Pistols due to the early interference from Diamond Dallas Page and Big Daddy Dink. However, later on, when the Freebirds were about to lose to Steve and Tracy, a masked bird with feathers galore ran into the ring and delivered two separate flying DDTs to the Pistols, costing them the match and giving Michael "PS" Hayes and Jimmy "Jam" Garvin the WCW US Tag Team championships! There was a lot of speculation on who Fantasia was back in the day, but years later, it came out that Brad Armstrong was the masked Freebird! Although the name was changed to Badstreet, due to possible legal action from Disney via the movie they released under the same name, the gimmick never really lasted in WCW. The biggest moment for Badstreet during the 6 months he was around was winning the largely forgotten WCW Six-Man Tag Team Championships in the summer of 1991, in what was the last gasp of the Fabulous Freebirds in the world of wrestling. It just didn't work.
2) BUZZ KILL
Oh you didn't know? It's he, it's he, it's the B-U-DOUBLE Z! In 1999, just as the Powers-That-Be started taking over WCW, Brad was called into the mysterious Dr. Claw type figure's office, and was told to find a gimmick. Confused and conflicted for weeks, Brad came up with BUZZ KILL, a burned-out hippie rocking tie-dye, blue jeans and dreadlocks. Realistically, it was a take-off and a carbon copy of the Road Dogg. Unbeknownst to the majority of wrestling fans, the Road Dogg and Brad Armstrong were brothers. And perhaps to the internet fan base, Buzz Kill was an inside joke to the brothers. However, the WCW audience did not take lightly to the Buzz Kill character, as copied Road Dogg down to a T, even including theme music and catch-phrases. Sadly, this was the last gimmick Brad had in WCW, as he was hit by a vehicle driven by Juventeud Guerrera and Psychosis, causing him serious knee surgery and staying out of the company until it was sold to WWE in 2001. On the bright side, at least Brad wasn't hit with a Mexicool lawnmower. Too soon?
My personal favorite! Arachniman debuted in the winter of 1991 as a web-slinging crusader to save the world from the injustice of rule breaking wrestlers. Shooting webs from his hands, the blue-and-gold in-ring dynamo stood tall for the common man, defending the honor of the WCW promotion. To a 6-year-old ME growing up, this was AWESOME. To me looking back now...it was a big time, blatant rip-off. Down to the spider on his full-body costume, Arachniman was just a second-rate Spider Man. Although he did some nifty moves in the ring, Marvel Comics' legal team shut down Brad as Arachniman quicker than Peter Parker switching into his superhero alter-ego outfit. I look back now and am disgusted that Arachniman never got his due. He was the prototype for what the Hurricane and Super Eric became in this crazy business. Sad, but it was awesome while it lasted.
BONUS: The Candyman's 1990 WCW THEME SONG
I went looking for some Candyman footage from 1990, in which Brad played the Candyman, a fan-favorite who handed out candy to the crowd. Trust me, if I ever received candy from the Candyman, he would have been my all-time favorite wrestler. Sadly, there is no real footage on YouTube of the Candyman in action. HOWEVER, after some die-hard nerd searching online, I have uncovered the Candyman's theme song for you all here today. After listening to it, just like many of WCW theme songs, it is a cover of a popular song from the 1980s. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes cover for the Candyman? HOW DID THIS NOT LAST?
Now, I bet a few might be asking, "Why aren't you covering Brad Armstrong's gimmick in the No Limit Soldiers from WCW in 1999?" Bottom line, that wasn't entertaining enough to put in this column. Not because of Brad, but because Master P is the worst rapper of all time, and the fact that "Hooty Hoo" was a hit to the youth of this country and worth a WCW contract worth $1 million is a disgrace. Sorry, had to rant on that for a quick second.
Bottom line, some wrestlers can't catch a break if they aren't given a good enough character for the fans to connect to. Brad Armstrong, despite the in-ring wrestling greatness he was blessed to have, never got the right gimmick to make it to the next level of superstardom. But Brad made the most of every opportunity he had with some of the goofball gimmicks. And for nothing else, this is what Brad Armstrong left to the wrestling world: the ability to try different things to make a name for himself.