Tag Archives: Cryme Tyme

Andy’s Angry: Breaking Down Brodus and Remodeling the Midcard

It’s always amazing to see how much certain wrestling fans truly hate their theatrical sport of choice.  If they’re not getting what they want, these fans explode about what WWE should be doing.  When they get exactly what they want, they complain that the angle is being hot-shotted, or just botched in general.

Take, for example, the midcard.  Fans have long cried out for a need to rebuild the midcard, and to make the matches matter.  Give the guys a reason to fight, instead of just having them fight.  You may have noticed, lately, a lot of tag guys and lower card guys are actually getting over, and it’s not a coincidence.

People also cried for new talent.  The Shield, The Wyatts, Cesaro, Fandango, and so many others say hello.

2 weeks ago, WWE attempted to rebuild a floundering mid-card tag team, while also introducing and establishing a promising new talent.

And it was brilliant.

A week after he was introduced to the mainstream audience, Xavier Woods came out with Brodus Clay’s dancers – and his theme song.  A few days later, Big Brodie was PISSED that the young guy was stealing his gimmick – and his spot on the show.  It immediately established Woods as a relatable underdog, and set the wheels in motion for a long overdue Brodus Clay heel turn.  It also set up a series of matches where Clay gets to finally work like the big man he is, and let the crowd get behind Xavier.

So naturally, the internet drops trou’ and declares this a big ol’ steamy pile of wrestlecrap.

Are you kidding me?

I didn’t see many complaints about Woods, but man do people have a problem with Brodus Clay.  In particular, people hate him for declaring himself a “main event player,” in comparison to a rookie like Woods.  Apparently, these folks would rather have Clay declare himself a jobber, or a failed comedy gimmick, than try to sell himself and sell the feud.  And since when do heels have an accurate opinion of themselves? Part of what makes them heels is the disconnect between reality and what they say reality is.

Which makes me  think that the people complaining have never actually watched professional wrestling.  Story lines like this one are almost literally Wrestling 101, and everything that is right about the business:  It uses established undercard monsters (Clay and Tensai) as a platform to introduce a new character (Woods)  using a clear and obvious size disparity and they’ve attached him to an established babyface (Truth) to make sure the fans cheer the new guy by association.  Even if it didn’t do all that, it would still be using two babyfaces to take two floundering guys, and give them new life as bad ass heels.Whether or not the internet likes it, this angle is already a success.

Not only does it work, it shows that WWE could take its “future future endeavors” list and create some midcard stars. There are a bunch of unused (or underused) guys who have been on TV – who could be used a lot better.  In no particular order- David Otunga, JTG, Ezekiel Jackson, Mason Ryan, Ricardo Rodriguez, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder, Evan Bourne…

Let’s start with JTG.  Right now, he’s dead in the water, but it wasn’t always that way.  He was OVER as a member of Cryme Tyme.  And he’s been off TV long enough that you could easily revive the gimmick, and retcon his miserable singles run.

There’s only one problem.  His former tag team partner thinks he’s an actor now, and isn’t coming back.  My solution?  Since Mason Ryan would be busy with my next idea, I’d team him up with Ezekiel Jackson.  JTG did all the work in the original team, and let Shad take the hot tag.  That would work just fine here.

And if you’re trying to recapture Cryme Tyme magic in 2014, give them a high-powered attorney who keeps them out of trouble. There’s a certain Harvard Law grad floating around who could use something to do.  Unless Mr. Hudson Otunga is busy, that is.

Just like that – you’ve got an undercard tag team that, if nothing else, could be used to build teams like The Real Americans and Tons of Funk for tag title shots.  And you’ve given them a Teflon gimmick with a charismatic manager to boot.

Zack Ryder has a segment of fans that love him.  Right or wrong, they’re going to chant “we want Ryder” at live events—especially in the northeast.  So cash in on it, using some other talented guys with nothing to do.

How? The FBI.

ECW fans will remember the original incarnation of the Full Blooded Italians.  They’ll also remember that half the stable wasn’t Italian.  Hell, some members weren’t even white.  But that didn’t stop the group from parading around as a family of tough-guy Italians.

Re-use that formula here, but with Ryder leading a group of quasi-Long Island douche bags.  Curt Hawkins is still under contract, right? Evan Bourne could easily fit the bill, given enough hair gel.  Mason Ryan could be the group’s muscle.  Better yet, Zack’s famous cronie The Big O is coming along quite nicely in NYWC.  And a fake-Italian/guido stable would be far more productive than anything else Yoshi Tatsu is up to.  Team them up as the L.I.E., and  make it stand for whatever you want it to.  Then feud them with Santino.  Sell a lot of t-shirts.

A lot of people love Ricardo Rodriguez.  He’s funny, he’s charismatic—and he can work.  The only problem is, it’s been established that he’s little more than a punching bag in a bowtie.  Now, in fairness, WWE did set him up for a future return and legitimate run, saying that he was moving to the WWE Performance Center to learn how to wrestle.  But I have a better idea.

Use Ricardo Rodriguez as your next masked luchadore.  Call him anything BUT El Local.

Give him a gimmick, a back story, and the chance to get over as a legitimate wrestler.  If it fails… he’ll always be Ricardo Rodriguez.

Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel were a good little “London & Kendrick” kinda tag team, until Kidd got hurt.  Now he’s back, and neither guy is doing squat.  Team ‘em up and let ‘em go.

No, seriously, that’s it.  Just let these guys wrestle.

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Of course, not every gimmick is going to work out.  Sometimes, a silly rapper gimmick turns into the biggest superstar in wrestling.  Sometimes it’s Slam Master J and nobody remembers you at all. Maybe Bad News Barrett turns into a main event gimmick.  Maybe it’s a “Just Joe” afterthought.  Who knows?

Not everyone makes it to the top.  But you can be a success without being number one and it wouldn’t hurt to give some guys a chance to grow as performers and connect with the crowd.  It certainly isn’t hurting Brodus Clay, Tensai, Xavier Woods and R-Truth to have a shot at something meaningful.  The proof is in the crowd reactions, and given enough time, the merch sales.  And WORST case scenario, every roster needs  a 3MB.

I hear and read a lot of complaints about Cena and Orton staying on top of the show, a decade after they took over.  You want that to end?  Someone else needs to get a shot—and everyone has to start somewhere.

So stop complaining, and enjoy the ride.

@AndyMillerJMS

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#WilliamRegalWeek: Essential Viewing

WilliamRegalWWENXT

It’s the Day Two of #WilliamRegalWeek, a celebration of all things Made in England and the third installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better and now we give you the finer points of the Darren Matthews oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. We’ll march through tomorrow with a GIF Parade before making our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…“. We’ll finish everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a tea-fueled civil war.) 

Writing about which William Regal matches to watch five years ago would have been a dream job for me. There was a stretch of time from his redebut as the snobbish Steven William Regal in 2000 until his push-ending sixty-day suspension in 2008 in which Regal was my all-time favorite (hold your nose) performer. To paraphrase the Beatles, there’s just something in the way he moves.

In the Eric Bischoff/Vince Russo era of storylines first, wrestling twenty-seventh, Regal stood out as a guy who was there to wrestle. However, for all his appeal, Regal was both poles with no equator.

His promos ranged from the menacing to the highly amusing, but while entertaining, the style was never main event and even when he had “help,” his look was never quite there either. While gorgeous and legit, his in-ring style made it nearly impossible for him to effectively work with main event stars. For me, contextualizing Regal’s place in wrestling is like that realization that Full Metal Jacket is “awesome,” but not even a top five Kubrick movie.

From the instant he arrived in the United States, Regal was acknowledged by anybody who actually understood what was going on as a next-level worker. Unfortunately, the North American wrestling world of the early-to-mid-90s was still reeling from the 80s’ crazy reliance on foreign heels. Regal, a heel who happened to be foreign, was highly respected and completely trusted to put on great matches, but not given much to sink his teeth into by WCW bookers. Here, at Clash of the Champions 28, we see the ultimate example of how William Regal was treated early in his career:

Yes, that’s the Antonio Inoki he’s wrestling. From a storyline perspective, it made as little sense then as it does now for a talented midcarder to be wrestling one of the most popular and successful stars of all time in a one-off, but it shows what WCW thought of Regal. Think about all the pressure on him in this match: Inoki was already in his 50s, had minimal connection to the crowd beyond name recognition to a small percentage of wrestling magazine readers, and was going to get himself over no matter how hard he had to kick, chop, or slap Regal.

The match isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it is yeoman’s work. Even though Regal was never presented as a main event wrestler, his bosses trusted his abilities to the point where they felt they could put him in the ring with a babyface nobody knew and get heat on the match. Conversely, you could say our hero was asked to do a job that nobody higher on the food chain was willing to do. Either way, it speaks to Regal’s greatness.

Regal didn’t become one of the most recognizable midcard acts of the last twenty years just because of his wrestling ability, though. After his (kayfabe) protege Jean-Paul Levesque left WCW, Regal embarked on one of the most humorous missions in the history of wrestling: transforming legendary Midnight Express member “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton into an adopted member of the British upper-class:

It’s hard to find a better comedy sketch anywhere, be it Monday Nitro, Saturday Night Live, or Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Eaton’s “mouth full of mashed potatoes” accent and bull doggishly determined but dumb facials round out a superb performance by Regal as the Upper-Class Twit of the Month. Regal plays the comedic heel masterfully while also satirically tearing down the British class system of which he and his family had been victims. Of course, Regal and Eaton were both tremendous wrestlers, which made the Blue Bloods gimmick work in spite of their odd couple pairing and comedic presentation. In a sense, the Blue Bloods were a microcosm of Regal’s career: tough enough to keep credibility in the face of slapstick.

Regal famously washed out of WCW for getting cute with a guy who got cute with everybody on the roster, ending up in the WWF as  “The Real Man’s Man” Steven Regal. The gimmick was legendarily terrible, with Regal wearing a bright yellow hard hat (which seemed a size or two too small) and a flannel vest. In spite of the sheer manliness of the gimmick, the year was 1998 and a construction worker character was about as relevant and sexy to then-Russo-loving fans as a wrestling Dickensian orphan. While the gimmick is a mere footnote in the career of a long-established great wrestler, it did give us the finest Titantron video in the history of Sports Entertainment:

Mixing your own concrete? Manly. Working construction? Professionally manly. Hand-squeezing orange juice? Domestically manly.

After bouncing back and forth between short runs on WCW TV and in WWF’s then-Memphis-based developmental territory, Regal suddenly became a hot free agent following a spectacular match against HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED at the third Brian Pillman Memorial Show.

Regal and Benoit’s match is something between a Japanese house show of the mid-80s and a English carnival show at the turn of the century. The two work holds with legitimate, sports-like intensity and work in multiple test of strength spots along with the signature tumbles of Commonwealth-style wrestling. The match also contains one of the best submission finishes this side of MMA. After nearly fifteen minutes of working holds, Benoit finally locks on his signature Crippler Crossface, and Regal taps instantly. If you suspend your disbelief only as much as you need to to enjoy wrestling, this match feels real.

Following his strong showing at the Pillman show, Regal embarked on the part of his career for which he is now most famous: his run as sometimes-wrestler, sometimes-authority figure William Regal in the WWE. This performance leaned heavily on the tricks and strategies Regal had learned leading the Blue Bloods: acting like a snob, making funny faces, and beating the ever-living tar out of people in the ring. He was simultaneously the comedic “that guy is such a maroon” and “I wish someone would shut this guy up!” heel.

Regal settled into a long run as a midcard “gatekeeper” heel. He would get the European or Intercontinental Title, beat up a couple of guys, and then work a program where he made someone look really good. His IC Title match with Rob Van Dam at Wrestlemania X8 is on the short list of matches that WWE brings up when touting the high-match-quality legacy of the belt. It’s Regal at his best: a tough, but easily duped jerk just flawed enough to be incredibly vulnerable.

One of the things that made the William Regal character special though was Regal’s own ability not to take himself too seriously. He understands the twenty-first century WWE style of entertainment-based wrestling as well as anybody. He can hit an internal switch and go from being a wicked villain to an object of ridicule. Perhaps the finest example of this is his backstage encounter with the then-more-over-than-people-remember Cryme Tyme:

Even now as his in-ring stints get further and further apart, Regal can wrestle and tell a legit-looking, dynamic story as well as any wrestler ever to grace the ring. This match from a 2011 episode of Superstars helped elevate the profile of Regal’s former student Daniel Bryan in the WWE. As with Benoit, Regal played the perfect, heelish adversary to “great wrestler” Daniel Bryan.

When you step back and look at the career of William Regal, he’s something of a mystery. There’s a near Goldust-level number of missed or spoiled opportunities, but also a main-event-level number of memorable moments outside of the ring that give him a truly unique place in WWE, and wrestling, history.