We still hear it – oh wrestling’s not like it was back when I was young. Back when Lou Thesz fought Buddy Rogers for seventeen hours at the old Chickenshit Arena, sixteen hours of which was one of the best headlocks ever in the history of locking heads. Oh, those were the days. But is it really that different? Are the wrestlers really that different?
In my last ‘Now And Then’ I looked at the Attitude era, because that seemed to be the general thing everyone wanted to hark back to. Well, on a few sites I peruse (not just here at the ol’ Pulse), the argument seems to be the wrestlers aren’t the same as they were back in the old days.
Let’s look, shall we? So I set the Wayback Machine for pre-Attitude Era, back to when I started to watch wrestling. Let’s go back to the era of the first 5 Wrestlemanias and see what we can see.
John Cena is Hulk Hogan.
It’s been said often enough. Appealing to the younger demographic, on top (even if not the champion) for a long time, bad albums, showing only a limited moveset (though evidence of better movesets does exist – Cena in OVW, Hogan in Japan), making movies that are never going to shake the Oscars, divorces… the similarities are abundant. But I am also not the first person to point any of this out. This one is a “gimme”.
Daniel Bryan is Randy Savage.
The not-quite-as-big guy with awesome skills who is just plain crazy. And Savage’s run as Hogan’s l’il buddy was even resurrected when Cena chose Bryan over the Miz to fight against the Nexus. They even tried a male-female dynamic with Bryan and AJ, but no-one could ever really compare to the Macho-Miss Elizabeth pairing.
CM Punk is Rowdy Roddy Piper.
First of all, I know the main difference is that Piper won one title in his whole WWF run, while Punk is a multi-time champion. But they are both superb talkers who have the attitude of not caring what anyone thinks, just doing their own thing. In both cases, the crowds warmed to them and they became faces, but you just know it’s not going to take much to make them a heel again.
Jack Swagger is The Iron Sheik.
Okay, Swagger isn’t insane. At least, not that I’m aware of. But both of these guys were legitimate amateur wrestlers with a decent background (even if Sheik’s actual claimed accomplishments appear to be dubious). And they both had a coffee break World Title reign in order to transition the title from one face to another, before being stuck in a tag team. I just hope this one goes through to its ultimate end – I so want to hear Swagger do shoot interviews like the Iron Sheik in fifteen years, saying how he was offered money to break Cena’s leg.
Christian is Tito Santana.
The reliable veteran who can be trusted to go out there and have a good match with just about anyone. Perennial mid-carder, a few title runs, the odd tag team, used to put others over, but still put over enough to be seen as a legitimate threat to anyone. Your dependable go-to guy.
Heath Slater is The Honky Tonk Man.
Again, one of these was the longest running Intercontinental Title holder ever. The other… isn’t. But, bear with me. Honky went out and was put over everyone in the company until he lost to the Warrior. And then what did he do? He returned the job to all of them. He jobbed to everyone, and he really did not seem to mind. More than that, the people wanted to see him get beat. He could take a beating so damn well. This is where the comparison comes in. Heath Slater’s interactions with the “Legends” have been nothing short of awesome. And you can tell he’s having fun out there. Not only that, but the “Legends” have been full of praise for him. I wouldn’t mind seeing him reverse Honky’s career and turn this into an extended IC title run.
Randy Orton is Jake Roberts.
After two Wellness Policy violations, this could write itself, but it goes deeper than that. No, really. As face or heel, neither of these guys actually changed their personas. Their intensity remained and they still looked like they wanted to rip your head off. And especially in Orton’s early heel singles run, the psychology they utilised was pretty intense. Oh, and to play the bleedin’ obvious game, Orton is the Viper, Jake is the Snake.
The Usos are The Islanders.
All right, this is probably an unfair one because of the relations and everything else. But they are a tag team that never quite made the big one and were really there to make up the tag team ranks and to help make others look better, while still being a threat themselves.
Brodus Clay is The One Man Gang/Akeem.
Repackaged from a badass to a dancing fool. Overweight. Hasn’t really amounted to much in the WWF/E. Yep.
The Big Show is Andre the Giant.
They have more than just size in common. They both made their names elsewhere and came into the WWF/E arguably after their peaks. Despite being beaten pretty consistently at the end of their careers (which Big Show is surely approaching), both of them have maintained the mystique of toughness. Beating them is/was still seen as something of an accomplishment. Also the Big Show has that sort of easy going personality Andre portrayed (especially in The Princess Bride).
R-Truth is Junkyard Dog.
While R-Truth is certainly crazy and intense enough, maybe he’s had too many flirtations with the heel side of things for this to be an entirely fair comparison. But, again, both are/were perennial mid-carders over enough with the crowd. The only difference is, really, I can’t see Vince going to R-Truth if the Cena experiment had failed, as it was rumoured he was going to do with JYD if Hogan hadn’t panned out.
Kofi Kingston is Hillbilly Jim.
Both of these guys were/are loved by the crowd no matter who beat them. Replace southern USA with Jamaica, the same laidback, genial cultural stereotype, and there you have it. I wonder if Kofi will become a manager later on in his career as well. And Kofi has also spent time as a buddy of Cena.
Ryback is Hercules/Hercules Hernandez.
While it may be too early to really tell, he’s one double DQ at Wrestlemania away from becoming just another mid-carder with an over-jacked physique, eventually forming a tag team with Paul Roma. But, really, it’s probably too early to tell.
Cody Rhodes is Rick Martel.
Escaping from a few tag teams to cut out a nice niche as a good-looking, arrogant mid-card heel. Even late in his career, Martel was having good matches (as seen in WCW before that knee injury that ended his career), and I can see Rhodes having a long run somewhere in the middle.
Dolph Ziggler is Rick Rude.
He has the looks and has some decent skills, and can even talk a bit, but maybe he just lacks that certain something to take that next step to the top and stay there. Sure, Rude challenged the Warrior for the world title eventually (hell, he was the WCCW world champion, along with half of Texas), but he was never seen as the real deal by the powers that be. I feel Ziggler, no matter how much those in the know think he has “it”, may be in the same boat. Sure, he may get a MITB title run, but his longevity at the top is yet to be seen.
The Undertaker is The Undertaker.
Good to know some things never change.
Having said all that:
But there are also a few people missing. Where is this generation’s Ricky Steamboat – a talented face who can fight anyone and sell like a demon? Where is the new Greg Valentine – the heel version of Tito Santana who’s been around the traps for a while? And where the hell does the Miz fit in?
Anyway, that’s the second “Now And Then.” Anyone I’ve missed?
This fortnight’s Australiana comes to you from my hometown of Adelaide and a talented comedienne named Lori Bell (2011 Adelaide comic of the year), and her character Granny Flaps.
Language and content warning – it’s possibly NSFW. And speaking of comedy NSFW, have you ordered a copy of my book yet? And if not, why not?