The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
I have had some ideas floating around my head that I have been thinking about writing a column about, however I doubted that I could get an entire VFTT out of the topics, so here are just a few random thoughts about wrestling that I have that hopefully will interest readers.
Bret Hart's Mic Skills
Bret Hart is one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of the business; however there has always been a knock on his ability to cut a good promo. While his in-ring skills where never questioned, Bret was sometimes looked upon as a one-dimensional kind of performer. Yeah he was a great wrestler, but he was never on the microphone level of guys like The Rock, Steve Austin or Ric Flair.
While for a majority of Bret Hart's career his character was that of the simple face that fought for what was right and always stood up for the little guy. This character had been used by promoters for decades, but by the mid-90s, its value was wearing thin. Hart was a great wrestler, but he was boring and his character lacked the true depth that someone who appeared on weekly television needed to remain interesting.
Hart's character changed during his feud with Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, and through 1996 and 1997, Hart displayed a unique edge that he had never really shown before. With that new edge came much better promos, and suddenly Hart went from being too boring on the mic to being one of the best speakers in wrestling.
Hart was one of the first wrestlers to break kayfabe in his promos, and every heel promo he gave against Austin, Michaels or Vince McMahon he sprinkled in little inklings of truth. His best work probably took place on March 17th, 1997, when after losing a steel cage match to Sid with interference by both Steve Austin and The Undertaker, Hart cut an absolute beauty promo against Vince McMahon and the WWF.
"Frustrated isn't the goddamn word for it! This is BULLS***! You screwed me, everybody screwed me and nobody does a goddamn thing about it! Nobody in the building cares, nobody in the dressing room cares, so much goddamn injustice around here, I've had it up to here! Everybody knows it! I know it! EVERYBODY knows it, I should be the World Wrestling Federation Champion! Everybody just keeps turning a blind eye, you keep turning a blind eye to it, I've got that Gorilla Monsoon, he turns a blind eye to it, everybody in that goddamn dressing room knows that I'm the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be! [turns to fans] And if you don't like it, tough S***!"
When evaluating Hart's career, you cannot dismiss him by saying that he was boring and had no mic skills, because during his final years in the WWF, Hart showed that he could hang with anybody on the microphone.
Homicide's Wasted Potential
A reason the WWE always seems to be pushing guys like Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara is that, like every single other business in America, they are trying to tap into the rapidly expanding Latin American market.
While you cannot fault the WWE's business plan in trying to develop a demographic, I think that they have gone on about it the wrong way. Guys like Del Rio and Sin Cara have hardly been smashing successes in the WWE, despite their frequent pushes, and the reason is that I do not believe the WWE has a good understanding of what people actually want out of their Latino wrestlers.
The WWE sees a masked guy like Sin Cara and thinks "A fast guy under a mask, the fans will love him." While Sin Cara was a huge draw in Mexico, those fans are not the same fans who are going to be watching the WWE every week. Sin Cara was just another generic good guy for most fans, not someone that was particularly entertaining or popular.
The same can be said for Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio was popular in Mexico, and the WWE just assumed that if they brought in a Mexican star, all Latino people will suddenly become big fans of him. Del Rio's entire gimmick, whether he was a face or a heel, was that he was Mexican. Yeah he did the rich guy shtick for bit but in the end, the WWE hoped that fans would cheer for Del Rio because he was Latino.
It is almost prejudice to assume that just because a guy is Latino, Latino fans will automatically cheer for them. Latino fans are just like any other fans, in that they like and dislike certain things for various reasons, and they need to be shown why they should like a character beyond the fact that he is ethnically similar to them. A cheesy masked gimmick and un-charismatic aristocrat would not work for a white wrestler, so chances are it is not going to work for a Latino wrestler, or a wrestler of any other race.
This is why Homicide was so valuable, and why I think that his career was kind of squandered. Homicide not only possessed great charisma and ability, but he also had a character that was much more relatable and realistic then the Latino stars in the WWE have.
Not to break everything into race, but for white fans, did we want to see a boring face who always pandered to the audience? Hell no! We wanted to see a guy like Steve Austin, a rebel who swigged beer, pissed his superiors off and didn't give a damn what people thought of him.
Homicide is very much like Austin, in that he was a crazy son of a b---h who didn't care what people thought and never backed down from a fight. Of course, he also did this with a very charismatic Latin flair that endeared to Latin American fans. Homicide was the guy that nobody messed with, the guy that would break a bottle over your head for looking at him funny. That is the kind of guy that fans want to cheer for, not some boring goof that played to the crowd like Alberto Del Rio.
Homicide has a proven track record of success, as he is arguably the most popular star in Ring of Honor history, and he probably had the best gimmick in TNA history where he teamed with Hernandez to form the Latin American Exchange. At 36 years old and 20 years of bumps on his odometer, Homicide is probably never going to get a good look from the WWE, but that is their loss, because the man possessed a great amount of ability that most of their other Latino stars lacked.
Jim Londos could draw baby!
Quick question: Who is the biggest draw in wrestling history? Now that is an unanswerable question, because it is impossible to find out why each and every fan that buys a ticket or watches a program. Some fans in the 80s might have watched Wrestlemania to see Hulk Hogan, others to see Randy Savage, some to see Roddy Piper etc. Frankly it is kind of a dumb argument, but I would like to bring up something that most people ignore.
On a pure attendance basis, Jim Londos is probably the greatest drawing card in the history of professional wrestling. According to Dave Meltzer, Londos drew more crowds of 10,000 or more people than any other wrestler in history. That is made even more impressive by the fact that Londos wrestled from 1917 to 1946, a time where most arenas where wrestling took place did not have the seating capacity to sit 10,000 or more.
Londos was also wrestled in a time that is generally considered to be a down time for pro wrestling, and show business in general, the great depression. He revitalized the New York wrestling market, and was a top draw all over the globe.
His greatest accomplishment came in 1934, where the native Greek returned to his home country to defend his World Title. 100,000 fans packed Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, with an estimated 30,000 turned away at the gate. It is easily one of the largest crowds in wrestling history, made even the more impressive that it wasn't a huge event promoted on tv and shown on ppv, but instead the homecoming of a solitary individual.
Londos, for one reason or another, has never really been mentioned by the WWE and that is why he is a mystery to most fans. Londos was as big as Bruno Sammartino, Gorgeous George or Lou Thesz, but he is hardly recognized for some reason. Whatever that reason is, Jim Londos will always be one of the biggest wrestling stars of all-time.