Dirty Dango, formerly known as Fandango in WWE, has recently been discussing all things pro-wrestling with Chris Van Vliet on his latest podcast episode.
The former NXT Tag Team Championship spoke about the inception of his ballroom dancer gimmick and how he was moved to Houston, Texas to take ballroom dancing classes.
“This is a good story. I was tag team champions with a guy named Tyler Reks [Gabbi Tuft]. A good friend of mine. [He goes by] Gabriel, I believe now,” Dirty Dango began. “Gabe and I were Florida tag team champions, he come up and was doing some stuff with ECW. Hunter put Gabe and Curt Hawkins together and he had an idea for them where each week they’d come on SmackDown dressed up as strippers, firefighters, Brezzango essentially, you know? Gabe didn’t want to do it, asked for his release.
“We all supported him. He went home to his family and did his thing. Hawkins then went to whoever was in charge and said ‘hey, what about Johnny Curtis? He’s just kind of hanging out in the back doing dark matches, and eating catering, and walking around selling.’ They were like, ‘yeah, that’s a good idea!’ And they come up to me next week and they go, ‘we want you to do the gimmick, don’t tell Hawkins.’ So, like, I went and told Hawkins, ‘sorry bro, they asked me, they want me to go dancing school and be a stripper,’ and he wasn’t into it. It wasn’t his first choice. I don’t think it was anybody’s first choice to be a stripper. He was cool with it.
“They started sending me to a stripper school, dance school in Tampa. This is around the time they started filming at Full Sail, so I was tagging with Michael McGullicuty, who is Joe Hennig, a good friend of mine. I would come out kind of like, you know, pole dancing on the ring posts and grinding real weird. We were actually doing live events too. I was the stripper and he [Michael McGullicuty] was like ‘what’s this guy all about?’ and ‘Simply’ Johnny Curtis was the gimmick. This was like November 2012. Then one week at Full Sail, Hunter comes over to me, goes, ‘we’re not going to do the stripper thing.’ I’m like, cool. I’m gonna be in the f*****g Shield or something. Now we’re going to have you go to the ballroom dancing school. I was, ‘oh, great, even better!’ I was moved out to Houston and started going to the ballroom dancing school out there, which was super hard, bro.”
During Dirty Dango’s time learning his craft at dancing, his vignettes to be introduced onto television were produced by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. McMahon, initially, did not like the way Dango pronounced his Fandango name.
“I was training for three or four months doing that [ballroom dancing classes], and then Vince flew me up to Manhattan. Then started filming vignettes there. I remember he rented out the Highline Ballroom, and we filmed for a couple of days there. He didn’t like the way I said “Fandango” into the camera. So he cut all of those vignettes.
“One day, I was just working out in Atlanta and Mark Carrano was just calling me, ten missed calls from Carrano and I’m like, ‘oh f***’. He was like, ‘Vince has been waiting up in production for you for like half an hour.’ So apparently, he was going to produce all of the vignettes and no one told me. So I’m just working out and Vince is waiting for me for like an hour and they had this whole room set-up with like a screen and all of this stuff. I’m like, ‘oh, s***’! So I ran over, and then Vince produced the vignettes. He turned the whole thing where I didn’t say the name correctly in the original vignettes, and he turned that into an angle where I debuted on TV and nobody could pronounce my name correctly. Ain’t that cool? You know.”
Over time, after the Fandango gimmick had debuted, the character began to fizzle out. Dirty Dango mentions at one stage, the WWE had planned to put the Intercontinental Championship on him.
“You know, they were going to put the IC Title on me, then I got concussed working with The Great Khali. I didn’t tell them. I didn’t tell them I was concussed,” Dango explained. “If you go out, get concussed, and then get hit again, it’s a lot easier to get concussed. If you don’t give the swelling enough time to go down, it’s really easy to get concussed again. I was concussed, and I kept performing. I didn’t tell anybody and I think I wrestling Zack Ryder at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, and I took like a shoulder tackle and I was completely out. Somehow, got through the rest of the match, then got to the back and I thought I’d just wrestled Khali. Your brain kind of goes back to where you originally got f***** up.
“I ended up stooging myself, and the companies protocol I was completely wrong. You should definitely tell them when you’re hurt because they don’t want any of their athletes to get seriously injured, but you know, if someone’s going to put the IC Title on you, you don’t take yourself out of the game. They took me off TV for like a couple of weeks, three or four weeks, and then I think Curtis Axel won the IC Title. I think kind of derailed me a little bit. I was partying a lot, bro, at the time too. I kind of let up.
“So my whole thing was that I was in developmental for so long. I finally, in my mind, got to the finish line and made it. You don’t just make it, you’ve got to keep grinding after you get there even harder. I take full accountability for that. I got there, I thought I was in, I was like Vince’s little pet, you know. I just let up, and that’s on me.”
Despite Dirty Dango taking full accountability for letting up, he did have one admirer in the former of former WWE Champion and Hollywood superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“He came up to me at TV and he goes ‘hey, what’s your name?’ I’m like ‘Curt, sir, how are you doing?’ He was like ‘no, your name!’ ‘Curt, how are you doing, man?’ He was like ‘dumbass, the f****** gimmick’ ‘It’s Fandango, how are you doing?’ I f***** the whole thing up. It was cool to hear him say that, man. It’s tough. When you’re in the land of midcard with all of your other buddies and stuff. Then you start to get a little attention, no one really has heat with you. Not saying I had heat, but when you’re not doing s*** on TV, nobody really cares. But then you start getting shoutouts by The Rock, and then you’re getting WrestleMania matches. That’s when you kind of hear people whisper and it gets a little weird backstage. It was cool to hear him say that, obviously, and I’m a huge fan of Dwayne.”
In reference to Vince McMahon having little pets who he likes to push and get behind, Dirty Dango singled Drew McIntyre out, who he claims that the WWE Chairman loves.
“Drew McIntyre. He loved Drew, and probably still does now. Drew was young, maybe not quite ready for where he’s at now, but I feel like if you’ve got that ability as Drew does, it’s cliché to say it, but the cream rises to the top. He’s just too good not to be there, you know what I’m saying? He just had to go out and grow up a little bit. It’s tough man, you have to think, Vince has so many different talents coming up and probably so much stuff going through his brain. It’s like someone driving a cool car on your parking lot all the time, like, ‘f*** I’m going to drive this one, I’ve never driven this one before,’ it’s just the business, man.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Insight with Chris Van Vliet with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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