411’s Buy or Sell Wrestling 10.21.13: Vader, Doink the Clown, Masked Wrestlers, More
Posted by Matt O’Connell on 10.21.2013
Was Vader the best WCW champion ever? Should Doink the clown have stayed a heel? Is El Santo the most successful wrestler of all time? 411's Matt O'Connell and Wyatt Beougher discuss all this and more in this week's Buy or Sell!
HELLO, THERE. MAY I OFFER YOU A DRINK, OR PERHAPS A LOZENGE? TO SOOTHE YOUR INJURED THROAT.
Welcome back to 411's Buy or Sell: Classic wrestling edition! It's many things to many people, but I'd like to think that to you, my loyal readers, it's a bright spot in an otherwise ashen world, one that, however briefly, restores your faith in the disgusting ball of garbage and hatred that passes for our planet. Joining me this week in my futile crusade is Wyatt "the Local Weatherman" Beougher. Shall we Buy or shall we Sell now?
Taking the entire scope of his career into account, there has been no professional wrestler more influential and successful than El Santo.
Matt O'Connell BUY: You want to talk about the Rock being bigger than wrestling? El Santo so far eclipsed the wrestling business that if the video footage of all his matches were all erased by a particularly malicious electromagnetic pulse, he would still be a pop-cultural monolith on the strength of his work outside the ring. Sure, Rock, Austin, Hogan and Cena have been in movies, but Santo's films are so numerous and beloved that a closer parallel might be James Bond or Godzilla. And then you've got the comic books, and the toys, and the masks, and the kind of pop culture ubiquity that's enjoyed by Sherlock Holmes or Dracula. I mean, to think of Santo as ONLY a wrestler would be like thinking of Elvis as ONLY a singer: sure, that's where everything began, but to do so would be to completely miss the larger cultural impact.
Wyatt Beougher BUY: Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, aka El Santo, wrestled for nearly fifty years and is widely credited as being THE GUY to popularize professional wrestling in Mexico. When you add in the fact that he's one of the biggest legends of lucha libre, you could already make a case for this statement being worthy of a "buy", but that's really only scratching the surface. Think Hulk Hogan or the Rock have done well outside of wrestling? El Santo did it first, starring in multiple films and comic books and actually transcending both those and wrestling to become a national figure symbolizing truth and justice. I think Dave Meltzer said it best, "He totally transcended wrestling. He was much bigger than just a wrestling star. I think there have been wrestlers as big as him and as popular as him but none for 40 years where everybody in the country knows him. Santo was more than just a wrestler. Nobody had the enduring popularity he had." Throw in the fact that there are still celebrations of his life all across Mexico even today, nearly thirty years after his death, and that his mausoleum site is probably more popular in his home country than Elvis' Graceland home here in the States, and I think this one is pretty easy to BUY.
Vader was the best champion WCW ever had.
Matt O'Connell BUY: I was originally going to Sell in favor of Ric Flair, until I remembered that most of the Nature Boy's best work occurred under the aegis of the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions. From the very beginning of the transition to WCW, Ric Flair was marginalized and made to take a backseat to countless other wrestlers. Vader, conversely, was the monstrously dominant heel champion that the promotion in transition needed, and his work against Sting probably edges out the latter's feud with Flair as the best pre-nWo storyline in WCW's history. That, and WCW never really had a history of great champions; franchise players like Goldberg and Dallas Page had disappointing reigns, and Hollywood Hogan had essentially zero credibility as a serious champion. Vader was a great
Wyatt BeougherSELL: I'm a huge fan of Vader, I really am, but RIC FLAIR was the WCW champion on multiple occasions before Bischoff (and later Russo) completely marginalized him in favor of Hogan and the nWo, and that's something that's extremely hard to look past. Is Vader a personal favorite WCW champion? Absolutely, as his combination of power and agility were almost unheard of in his day. But "best"? I don't think so - I have to give that nod to Flair, and, as much as I despise Hogan, he'd end up higher on my list than Vader would. I have a hard time moving Vader any lower than third (though that's probably largely because I never did care much for Sting).
Doink the Clown should never have turned face.
Matt O'Connell BUY: Unless he started as a face and slooooowly turned heel. A truly creepy and evil Doink would have been an amazing fit in the early Attitude Era, alongside Goldust and the like. And perhaps then, when Doink winds up on Legends reunions and old school Raws, we'd get to see Steve Lombardi burn Heath Slater with a cigar instead of inoffensive clown hijinks. Plus, can you imagine the nuclear heat when Doink turned heel on a poor, defenseless Dink? Solid gold, I say!
Wyatt BeougherBUY: This times one thousand. When Doink first debuted, he seemed like just another of the then-WWF's goofy gimmicks - repo man, garbage man, Puerto Rican masked ninja, clown. But Matt Osborne's work as Doink really served to set the character apart from his cartoonish fellows, as he was as mean-spirited with his pranks as he was technically sound in the ring. Had the character come along just a few years later in the Attitude Era, we might have gotten something truly special, but by that time, the character (and whichever wrestlers were portraying him) had morphed into a latter-day version of Santino, simply there for comic relief and putting over other talent. To see what might've been, look no further than Borne's work in ECW as "Borne Again" Matt Borne, who wore only half of the facepaint and humiliated his fallen opponents post-match with clown-related accessories (Dustin Rhodes did something similar with Goldust just a few years later). Imagine if they'd gone full-on Pennywise with the character? So much potential, sacrificed for comedy, something the WWF/E has never done particularly well.
Doom should have had a longer run as a top tag team.
Matt O'Connell BUY: Doom, not to be confused with Legion-of, was a tandem comprised of two huge, pissed off dudes whose main strategy seemed to be literally killing their opponents dead. It was a popular gimmick in the late 80's and early 90's, but one that Ron Simmons and Butch Reed did better than most. They had some VERY physical matches with the Steiner Brothers and a truly amazing streetfight with Arn Anderson and Barry Windham, and a very solid 9 month run with the tag team titles. But the team broke up pretty abruptly, and Ron headed into singles success while Reed hooked up with fellow tag team cast-off Bararian. In a way, though, Doom had a spiritual successor in the Acolytes, with Bradshaw being a better complement to Simmons in any case.
Wyatt Beougher BUY: If there was any justice in the world, Doom would be mentioned in the same breath as the team they had their highest-profile feud with, the Steiner Brothers. What's not to love about two big, strong, hard-hitting guys who beat the holy hell out of anyone who stepped into the ring with them? It's a formula that worked extremely well during the same time period for the Steiners, the Road Warriors, and the Miracle Violence Connection. Can you imagine if all four of those teams had been in WCW at the same time? That era would've stood up as the tag team wrestling Renaissance, but unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. The Road Warriors were in the WWF at the time as the Legion of Doom and the MVC didn't debut in WCW until after Doom had already broken up. In masks or out of them, I really wish had had more time at the top, as my nine- or ten-year-old self was absolutely blown away by wrestling that was a lot better than what I was used to in the WWF (which I had grown up with).
And now, a brief intermission before the switch. Look at the fear in OIe's eyes!
The Black Scorpion was the worst "mystery wrestler" of all time.
Wyatt BeougherSELL: Maybe if the Shockmaster never existed, but he did, and even in the same promotion as The Black Scorpion. At least the Black Scorpion had a few good matches to balance out the crappy magic tricks; Fred Ottman just fell on his stormtrooper helmet during his debut and made a joke of the whole gimmick before it could even get started. Besides, if it weren't for the Black Scorpion, who knows if we'd have ever gotten Hunico as Sin Cara and the scintillating Sin Cara vs Sin Cara Negro storyline that developed out of it, or, closer to my own heart, Sami Zayn playing El Local to earn an NXT title shot against Bo Dallas. Un-BO-lievable!
Matt O'Connell BUY: It is the absolute worst, for two reasons: not only was the Black Scorpion the biggest heel in the company for months leading into WCW's biggest show of the year, but legend has it that booker Old Anderson had no idea where he was going with this monstrosity at any point in its entire run. Supposedly Ole's best case scenario was that he could woo the Ultimate Warrior away from the WWF in what would have been a major volley in the then-nascent Turner/McMahon war. He did, after all, fit the criteria of having unexplained magic powers and a past with the Stinger. But Ole stuck with the gimmick long after it became apparent that he was not going to get the Warrior, or anyone else marginally impressive, and the big reveal involved a cardboard spaceship and an embarrassed Ric Flair.
The recent repackaging of Los Matadores makes you pine for the days of masked Gladiators, Executioners, Assassins, and so on.
Wyatt Beougher BUY: I can't love this statement enough! We need more Gladiators, Executioners, Assassins, Machines, Conquistadors, Killer Bees...should I go on? Seriously, though, Primo and Epico weren't exactly setting the world on fire (truth be told, the only good part of the team was Rosa Mendes gyrating on the ring apron), but as Los Matadores, they're already more memorable and a lot more fun. El Torito is my favorite thing in the wrestling world right now, and I would love to see WWE bring in some more masked teams with minis as their mascot/manager. There are plenty of guys in development void of charisma and/or personality, and that particular liability can be minimized with a mask. Plus, in the current PG era, kids LOVE masks, so adding a few more heel and face masked teams only makes sense.
Matt O'Connell BUY: Masks are a great way to make boring wrestlers slightly less so, and the modern wrestling landscape is littered with guys who could use that advantage. WWE and TNA have hired a bunch of guys who they've pushed for months to no avail, sometimes with several different gimmicks, finally releasing them in seeming frustration. Jack Swagger, Ted DiBiase, Tyler Reks, half the Aces and Eights, and a hundred others could be placed under hoods to instantly give them SOMETHING to work with. It's also a great way to pad out the tag team scene which, while better than it's been in years, is still a bit thin. Hand out some matching masks to our bloated undercard and watch the magic happen.
That's all for this week, folks. I'd like to thank all my readers, and my fellow 411 staffers that participated in this week's round of questions. I hope to see you all this same time next week for more 411 Buy or Sell: Classic Wrestling Edition.