Shane "The Hurricane" Helms had a successful mid-card run during the Ruthless Aggression Era. The over-the-top gimmick was a big hit with kids, but after being a babyface for a couple of years, WWE decided to turn him heel in late 2005.
He then started a brief feud with longtime partner Rosey before setting his sights on the Cruiserweight Title. Helms discussed WWE's decision to turn The Hurricane heel during an interview on Back Sports Page.
"It wasn't hard for me because I had been a heel in the indies and I was always--when I was a heel, I wanted to actually be a legit heel, not a tweener. Three Count was kind of a tweener heel to a degree. Like the stuff I did on the indies, I wanted people to hate me. I wanted them to not buy my merch out," said Helms. "If you see a yield on people buying this much, that's not a heel, that's a tweener tween. It used to be a bad thing and it really shouldn't be anymore. It's just different, so I knew I could do it. It wasn't a matter of whether I could do it or not; I just had to get the company to understand what exactly it was I was doing.
"That was difficult, at times. But as far as my in-ring work as the Hurricane, I kind of had to wrestle it down. You know, if you watched me as Sugar Shane – one of the best light heavyweights in the world – when I came to WWE, I got to keep an eye mask on. I can't wrestle. I shouldn't be ashamed anymore because the audience, they weren't accepting it because I would try these things on live events and would try to go out there and wrestle just like Sugar Shane, and they didn't like it. They wanted the pose. They wanted the thumb. They wanted me to try a choke slam. I'm dressed like a superhero, so I needed more character and personality, and not just a flip flop fly. It just didn't work for that character.
"And the thing about the Hurricane is, too, I was having so much fun doing it. I knew the limitations; they were never going to make the Hurricane the world champion. Maybe now, because of the success of the superhero movies and Hollywood, maybe it would have a better chance today. But back then, there was still a kind of a bigger guys business back then, so there's a couple of things that were working against me. So, I knew the limitations that the character had but also, I was having so much fun whereas I saw the top guys being miserable all the time. So I'm trying to figure out--you know, I'm having fun and I'm happy. They're miserable. So, what do I do here? But I felt like I had a good run and I really kind of plateaued at a point where, okay, they're not going to need to do anything else."
After splitting with Rosey and going solo, Helms dropped The Hurricane gimmick and experienced immediate success as he became the longest reigning Cruiserweight Champion. He said that people backstage in WWE had forgotten how good of an in-ring performer he was because he was doing comedy acts as The Hurricane for so long.
"After the Rosey run with the tag championships, we won those and that's my favorite championship run. And then they took them off of us for another experiment of Cade and Murdoch, which might've been the least over team we ever worked up there," admitted Helms. "And it was just like really another gimmick like this. In this time, too, you know, Flair was always kind of a mentor for me. And Flair was just like, 'You're too good for this gimmick.' And like, he's saying that to me like a couple of years before the turn, but it was something that has stuck with me because me and Flair had a pretty good run there for a little while and got to work TV a couple of times, a couple of times on live events. And just that stuck with me, you know? 'You're too good for this gimmick.'
"And I'm like, 'Man.' That's what the Gregory Helms thing was. It was just a reminder to them of what I could do and it worked so much that after one of my matches, Arn Anderson came up to me and he goes, 'Kid, I forgot how good you were.' And I have a memory thing going, 'Thank you. Sorry.' And then he walked away and I was like, 'What does that mean? Did they not realize that The Hurricane was just a character that I was wrestling like that for a reason?' You know? So, I think after seeing it for so long, you start to forget you do it.
"It happened to Jerry Lawler, and I see it now more so in retrospect. Jerry was as over as over could be and then he got so good at the comedy, which is what I did too. I got so good at the comedy that they forgot that I could wrestle. And then when they would try comedy with other people and it would be a dud, and that meant that this Hurricane is really funny. Let's just keep putting him in these comedy situations and then not letting me be that performer. So, I was a victim of my own success, which is a weird thing - your comedic success. Cause not everybody can be funny… We see it all the time, people trying to be funny, and it's just nuts. And that's the worst. The worst thing is when you're trying to be funny and it bombs."
Helms was directly affected by the COVID pandemic as he was furloughed from his WWE producer job in April. He was eventually brought back in November, but he was asked how all pro wrestling promotions are handling shows during the pandemic.
"I'm sure they all hate it. Everybody wants audiences. They all hate it, but they're all trying different things. And you can talk all day long whether they should have shut down or not, you know? They didn't, so no point in even talking about that, but they have tried different things to try and do their best. I think all companies have been trying their best," stated Helms. "Impact still doesn't have any people in the audience which sucks because they're putting out such a good show right now. And like always, they're having a hard time getting the noise out about the show just because it's Impact. But they're putting out a really good show right now. But I think different companies, based on the amount of money they got behind them, try and do best, you know?"
Because of the popularity of The Hurricane character, Helms was often featured in video games and had action figures made of him. He recalled seeing himself in a video game for the first time, and when his action figure was featured at a Comic Conn.
"That was really cool with the first video game. It was actually one of the WCW ones that sucked: Backstage Assault!!! It was a terrible game, but Three Count was in that somehow. So that was the first one and that was pretty cool, and then when I got into WWE and the merch, the merch started doing really well with The Hurricane. So when the video games came and everything, that was pretty awesome.
'I know at one time when my Jakks figure came out as The Hurricane, somebody from Jakks called me and he said it was their best-selling action figure of all time because they kind of crossed over with superheroes as well," revealed Helms. "The kids that didn't even know wrestling would see the superhero guy and buy it. So, that's cool. Yeah. So, I mean, but I think a Cena ended up beating it a couple of years later, which I'm totally cool with. The fact that I was even in that conversation for me was awesome.
"When I went back to WWE, they had just started me back as a producer. I wasn't even an employee; I never really even got to employee status there. But I'm doing the producing thing. They got me going out to San Diego Comic Con because I'm a producer for the 24/7 [Championship] segment with R-Truth. And then I ended up being in the segment as The Hurricane. He told me to take the outfit, and I was like, okay. But on the plane flight there, I know we flew through Phoenix and then Phoenix to San Diego. When I'm on the plane about to take off, I'm getting all these tweets about the Mattel booth at the San Diego Comic Con and they put up images of The Hurricane action figure. I didn't even know they were doing it. And fans are so good about making things, images, you know, Photoshop and all of that.
"I didn't know if it was legit. So now this whole ride, and it wasn't a long ride, but it was like an hour-and-a-half. I'm like, 'Man, did they make an action figure up for me? Why wouldn't they tell me?' And so, I get to San Diego and I find out it's legit. And we got to go to the Con to kind of check out the scene--where are we going to fill them at? And I go to the booth and was like, 'Oh, you should have told us you were coming.' And I'm like, 'Y'all should have told me y'all were making one.' But it's cool."