May 23, 2004
Return to old school hinges on acting skills
By DON CALLIS - Winnipeg Sun
Back to the future? The more things change, the more they stay the same. A friend of mine and I were chatting a few years ago and we both agreed that despite all the hard core, extreme, high-risk stuff that was dominating the business at the time, that there would at some point be a recoil back to more traditional wrestling and psychology. Well it turned out we were right. For a variety of reasons, mainly all of the injuries being incurred, WWE has moved to a more old- school style.
It's a bit like fashion. Just when you say those bell bottoms, Don Johnson espadrilles or Miami Vice jackets will never come back in style, they are all over the runways of Paris and Milan and you are once again paying two hundred bucks for mesh shoes.
Having said that, who ever thought after reality-based characters like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley and Vince McMahon that we would be inundated with a plague of Papa Shangos, Doinks and Repo Men? Welcome to WWE circa 2004.
Now I don't want to be negative because the Doink character in its original incarnation was one of my favourites of all time. But for every Doink there was a Goon or plumber.
I think the original thought process was that there are people you deal with in everyday life who are irritating: The guy who tows your car (Repo Man), audits your tax return (I.R.S.), criticizes your homework (Dean Douglas), the insincere grossly overweight preacher (Brother Love), the rich guy who lords his wealth over people (Million Dollar Man and now John Layfield)and the guy who performs voodoo and casts spells (Papa Shango). So if people have a problem with these folks in real life, then it should translate well onto television right?
As with any character, it is only as good as the guy playing it. Marlon Brando was great as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar, but could you imagine David Schwimmer playing the role? Many a great idea has been torpedoed by bad acting and execution. The other problem is suspension of disbelief.
While it is somewhat believable that Ted DiBiase, as a world-renowned wrestler, would be a multi-millionaire, it is equally unbelievable that an ex-hockey player who has gotten into wrestling would wear wrestling boots with soles like skate blades.
The reality here is that all of the great "character" gimmicks that succeeded, like Undertaker, the Million Dollar Man, the Iron Sheik and yes even Doink, were played by guys who were great wrestlers and good actors.
Whether Mordecai, Layfield or whomever is the new Papa Shango are in that category will be figured out in the next few months. For now, the shift in creative focus should be interesting to watch.
Jerry Lawler was said to not be upset about his son getting fired, and totally understood the office's side of it ... Hulk Hogan will be featured in the National Enquirer in a story about his 18,000 square foot home in Florida ... Rumours continue that Ted Turner is interested in starting up a wrestling company.
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