When the vignettes first began to air advertising the debut of Fandango, to most of us it looked like a losing gimmick. Dancing With The Stars was already on its way down, and why would wrestling fans care about a ballroom dancer anyways? Similar to a plumber or a garbage man, why would a ball-room dancer be interested in professional wrestling?
He teased us with his name for about a month and began to get a small amount of heat. After his debut at Wrestlemania, he hit the jackpot with the always enthusiastic post-Wrestlemania RAW crowd. As many of you have probably seen, the crowd was humming his theme throughout the whole show and well after it.
That crowd at RAW did more for Fandango then the WWE creative could do in about a year. The Fandango theme became a top-seller on iTunes and its run on the internet began to cross over into main-stream media. Fandango-mania was at its peak.
What the WWE has somehow failed to realize is that not all crowds are created equal. Most fans knew that the crowd at the post-Wrestlemania is always outstanding, because it is mostly made up of hardcore fans who traveled to the city to see Wrestlemania. Someone that is white-hot for that crowd could very easily fall flat with other crowds. Judging success by the post-Wrestlemania crowd is an inaccurate assumption, because that crowd differs greatly from the typical WWE crowd.
Fandango is a perfect example of that. The WWE saw how big Fandango was that night, and figured that the reaction from the crowd meant that Fandango was going to over everywhere. The Greenville, South Carolina crowd got a lot of flak because it was so quiet, but in reality it was closer to the average WWE audience than the post-Wrestlemania crowd was.
What happened to Fandango when he was faced with a more typical WWE audience? He drowned out in the ring. The WWE figured that he was going to be a big draw, so they trotted him out for a promo at the coveted 10pm timeslot, in hopes of gaining a large audience. In return, they gained 69,000 viewers at the hour change, a historically bad gain for that timeslot. Instead of belting out Fandango's theme song like the Newark crowd had done, the South Carolina crowd mostly sat on their hands and waited for Fandango's lackluster performance to conclude.
To be fair to Fandango and the WWE, it is still very early in the process of Fandango's popularity. Next week the WWE will be in the UK, where Fandango's theme had reached #11 on the iTunes charts. Perhaps the UK will treat Fandango more kindly then did South Carolina, and his popularity will be reinforced. Unfortunately, the WWE only travels to the UK about once or twice a year. Even if Fandango was much more over in Europe, it would not really benefit him a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
One of the reasons that may have hampered Fandango's success and what will probably continue to do so is that the WWE jumped all over Fandango-mania, trying to make it as large as possible. Regrettably for the WWE, it seemed to have a reverse effect, as now Fandango's seems a lot more artificial because the WWE is trying to shove it down everyone's throat, instead of letting it go organically.
Wrestling Inc. reader Dan Skeans probably put in best when describing the WWE's promotion of Fandango. He said that the WWE was like the unhip teacher in class, who tried to connect with the students by trying to do something that the kids think is really cool, but instead it backfires because now that a teacher is doing it, it lost its entertainment value.
Part of the reason that Fandango was cool was because the WWE didn't really want us to cheer for him. In a way, the humming of his theme song was more of a taunt then it was support. The WWE never intended, nor did they want, Fandango to get a bigger pop then top faces such as Randy Orton or Sheamus, but there he was last Monday, easily being much more over then either Orton or Sheamus. Now that the WWE seems to be committed to making Fandango a huge star, the novelty of rooting for him has already warn off, making his rise and fall one of the most rapid in history.
So what does the future hold for Fandango? So far he has only had one legitimate match in the WWE, a nightmarish outing at Wrestlemania against Chris Jericho of all people. I admittedly have not seen a lot of Fandango/Johnny Curtis in NXT, but if Chris Jericho cannot get a good match out of him who possibly can? That match can easily be atoned to first match jitters, as he was making his real WWE debut in front of 80,000 people at the biggest event of the year. Perhaps he can settle down and become a solid in-ring worker on a consistent basis.
In my opinion, for Fandango to be consistently successful in the WWE, he is going to need to add a lot more depth to his character, along with the improvements in the ring. Right now his character is stagnant and predictable, he needs to become deeper, be more varied in his promos. Simply yelling at the crowd about mispronouncing his name is not going to cut it. The WWE currently has very high hopes for Fandango, but he needs to reach those goals for him to really be a legit guy in the company.
To be honest, I don't see any long-term success for Fandango. If Curtis has the ability to expand his character, I don't think the WWE will allow him to do it. Right now, they are convinced that they have gold in Fandango, and they will probably be cautious in what he does. Unfortunately, being cautious is something that Fandango cannot afford right now, and it is likely that he may have reached his peak last Monday.