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Thursday Night Tanders (12/4/15): You’re Booked Stupid! Three More Champs Who Had the Wrong Kind of Heat

Howdy, Smark Henrytitos and Henrytitas of Manila and beyond! The Throwback Tito has returned after a toxic two weeks at work, including one week where he had wanted to go Stone Cold on his Mr. McMahon of a now-former client. By the time you’ll be reading this—and I don’t mean to make anyone jealous—I’ll be feeling the (relative) heat while on vacation. But that’s what I want to talk about right now—heat, in a wrestling context. Notice how the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion doesn’t have the right kind of it?

We can't tell what was louder: The "Roman sucks!" chants, or "You look stupid!"
Let’s take a look at the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Sheamus. Yes, we get it—he was this year’s Mr. Money in the Bank. But in the months that preceded his successful cash-in on Roman Reigns at Survivor Series, he was pretty much mired in the midcard, with no meaningful feuds or victories, alternating a win here and a loss there. With little heat on him, he Brogue Kicked his way to a successful cash-in, and right now, he’s getting little to no love from the WWE Universe and the IWC, with his new faction of foreign heels looking like the most interesting part of his reign thus far. Apart from scattered chants of “YOU LOOK STUPID,” Sheamus simply doesn’t inspire the good kind of heel heat, and the way I see it, it’s through no fault of his.

But as the Throwback Tito has been watching wrestling for the better part of three decades, he’s seen his share of uninspiring, often-poorly booked champions. In fact, Sheamus is beloved compared to these fellas at that time, no pun intended. And back when these men were champions, they were booked in worse ways than being jobbers to the stars ahead of their main event championship win, or losing roughly half their matches once they finally had the belt. In one case, said champion didn’t even want to, much less deserve to be in a wrestling ring. So join me this week as the Throwback Tito makes his comeback, and talks about a few champions who simply had the wrong kind of heat.

Mission Failed! King Mabel’s Short-Lived Main Event Push

So where do we begin? We might as well start with a guy who wasn’t a champ in the truest sense, but rather a King of the Ring at a time when that meant something: Mabel.

Frankly, there's enough fabric in Mabel's cape for another wrestling ring.
The man born Nelson Frazier Jr. and later, and arguably better known as Viscera started out as a smiling, dancing, rapping babyface, as one-half of the tag team Men on a Mission. Standing 6’9” and weighing close to 500 pounds, Mabel, as he was called upon his WWF debut, was only 22 at the time he arrived on the scene in 1993. Originally, he was a good guy through and through, an overwhelmingly positive African-American like the members of The New Day originally were. And back then, his gimmick went down very well with WWF’s largely kid-dominated fanbase. A tag team of big, beefy rappers and their similarly sizable manager? Yay positivity! Whoomp, THERE IT IS!

Then came the eventual heel turn. In 1995, Men on a Mission turned on fellow babyfaces The Smoking Gunns, beating up their manager Oscar for the coup de grace. Mabel was then given a huge singles push, with his more experienced teammate Mo mainly serving as his enforcer, and that’s where you’ll want to go back to the part about his size and his youth. At 24, with just a couple years’ experience in the ring, Mabel was not a good worker by any stretch of the imagination. According to Kevin Nash, he wasn’t very safe in the ring either, amplified by the fact that he was about twice as heavy as the average WWF superstar. As such, this was a man the smarks didn’t exactly like, and his King of the Ring victory over Savio Vega is still regarded as one of the worst KOTR matches of all time.

Still, Creative felt Mabel was owed a big push, given his massive size, and he was immediately put in a match against WWF Champion Nash, then working as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel. That match at SummerSlam 1995 was the one Nash was talking about in the above shoot interview, and if you consider Nash’s membership in The Kliq, it goes without saying that Mabel’s push was history soon thereafter. Oh, and in case you missed it, he still was a very dangerous worker, as he injured the Undertaker for real later in 1995. By early 1996, he was out of the WWF and back in the indies.

At least 'Taker got a cool mask out of his injury.
Frazier would later return to the WWF in 1997 as Viscera, becoming a fairly entertaining Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era midcarder, but never did he come so close again to becoming a legitimate threat to win a main event title. On top of being mostly unskilled, green, and dangerous, he wasn’t a good mic man either, and he became another case of Creative getting too enamored by a guy’s size and giving him too big of a push. Sadly, Mabel/Viscera/Big Vis is no longer with us, having died early last year of a heart attack, but it’s a good thing he redeemed himself in subsequent runs with the WWF/E, after being so unpopular backstage and with smarks as (King) Mabel.

Creative Says, You Can’t Smile Enough!

You can’t smile enough. That was what creative supposedly said to third-generation star Rocky Maivia, the first of his kind in the then-WWF. Dwayne Johnson’s ring name was a combination of his father’s ring name (Rocky Johnson) and his grandfather’s ring name (Peter Maivia), and announcers hyped him up as the Blue Chipper.

Quick—what comes to mind when you think of the words “blue chipper”? You think of transcendent young talents like LeBron James as a high school basketball standout headed to the NBA, or Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks in the UAAP. Granted, Rocky was the son of the Soul Man and grandson of the High Chief, and he had a legitimate athletic background, having starred in football for the University of Miami Hurricanes. But was he a good worker? Did he have an exciting, or should we say, ELECTRIFYING gimmick or character?

The answers to those questions were, on both counts, not yet. When he debuted late in 1996 after limited training, Rocky was as green as grass, and as a character, he was clean-cut, very, very positive and upbeat, and the total epitome of goody-goody. But the WWF still wanted to shove the Blue Chipper down fans’ throats, which is why he won the Intercontinental Title in February 1997, beating then-Greenwich Snob Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was still getting punished for his role in 1996’s kayfabe-breaking Curtain Call incident. Rocky would defend the title successfully in a few of WWF’s old In Your House pay-per-views, and by the time he lost the IC belt to Owen Hart towards the end of April 1997, Rocky was getting booed out of arenas despite being a pure babyface.

It wasn't all singalong with the People's Champ.
Obviously, the “Blue Chipper” experiment did not work out, though it was clear Rocky was getting better in the ring, and working his butt off to get over. I was able to see that after re-watching some of those old 1997 shows, but back then, I thought Rocky had been dropped by the WWF for being so boring, bland, and disappointing when he suddenly disappeared from TV. Yes, I was one of those who wanted to shout “Die, Rocky, Die!” or “Rocky Sucks!,” though people would soon get a chance to do that for 100 percent justifiable reason. Thankfully, Rocky Maivia was turned heel after he recovered from a knee injury, joining Faarooq’s Nation of Domination stable and eventually usurping his leadership.

By the time Rocky, now going by The Rock, became leader of the NoD, the Attitude Era was in full swing, and we FINALLY saw the man’s true potential as a jabroni-beatin’, pie-eatin’, trailblazin’, eyebrow-raisin’ People’s Champion-to-be. And as they say, the rest is history—with his wrestling skills now above average, and with him given a chance to show off his phenomenal promo skills, The Rock lived up to his Blue Chipper status when he became WWF Champion in 1998, and would win the title seven more times before semi-retiring from wrestling in 2003 to focus on his film career.

Ready to Grumble

The year is 2000. Vince Russo is in charge of the sinking ship known as World Championship Wrestling. The self-proclaimed architect of the WWF’s Attitude Era hoped to turn WCW around when he jumped ship from the WWF in late 1999, but at this point in WCW’s history, Russo was arguably making things worse. Without Vince McMahon to filter his ideas, Russo was like a kid let loose in a toy store, as he didn’t just spit on kayfabe, but shat on it for good measure. Storylines were all over the place, the fourth wall was broken till it could be broken no more, wrestlers turned face or heel with no reason or rhyme, and for a brief period in the spring of 2000, David Arquette was WCW World Heavyweight Champion.

His face says more than we ever could.
Yes, that’s right. Courteney Cox’s ex-husband was once world champion of a major wrestling promotion. David Arquette, an actor who genuinely loved professional wrestling but didn’t have the slightest bit of in-ring training, was WCW World Heavyweight Champion. How did this fiasco happen, and why is Arquette’s body of work as an actor often overshadowed by the fact he was once World Champion of a dying promotion that kept shooting itself in the foot?

Well, the reason behind it all was that WCW had helped in the making of a movie called Ready to Rumble, which starred Arquette and Scott Caan as two wrestling fans with dead-end jobs as sewage workers and not a lot of grey matter up there, and also starred several WCW talents such as Diamond Dallas Page and Sid Vicious. In order to promote that movie, Russo had the wild, crazy, and undoubtedly Vinny Ru-esque idea of making one of the film’s lead actors into WCW’s next world champ. And why not? People were going to talk about it, and in Russo’s point of view, it was something that would, in the words of WCW announcer Tony Schiavone, put a lot of butts in the seats. (Yes, he said that about Mankind’s WWF Championship win and not about David Arquette, but what the heck.)

To be fair, Arquette probably does the Figure Four better than The Miz.
Remember when wrestlers actually won belts on free television? There was a whole lot of that in the late ‘90s, and in WCW, belts changed hands almost as often as you and me change underwear. And the WCW World Heavyweight belt was going to change hands on the April 26, 2000 Thunder, just a couple weeks after Russo, with the returning Eric Bischoff, “rebooted” WCW and set all storylines and title feuds back to square one. It was supposed to be the start of a bright new beginning. Unfortunately for WCW, it became yet another one of its many beginnings-of-the-end.

Picture this—you’ve got a tag team match between Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett and reigning WCW World Heavyweight champ Diamond Dallas Page and David Arquette. The stipulation of the match is that whoever gets the pin in the tag match wins the World title. The show is taking place on Thunder, which was WCW’s B-show, and one that had always sucked in the ratings. So this is a tag match for a major singles title taking place on a B-show that hardly anybody watches. (WCW logic circa 2000, everyone.) And after another set of schmozzy events that were so common in late-‘90s wrestling, we see Arquette hitting a spear on Bischoff, Jarrett hitting a distracted DDP with the title belt, and Arquette pinning Bischoff even if neither of them were the legal men. Ladies and gentlemen, your new WCW World Heavyweight Champion—DAVID ARQUETTE!!!

The Fingerpoke of Doom, which took place in early 1999, is said to be the event that set WCW’s free fall in motion, but whatever last bit of credibility the company had went out the window when they made a 150-pound actor into their World Champion. And during his less than two weeks as champion, Arquette was mainly booked as a comedic, cowardly champ, relying on real wrestlers like DDP to defend his title. On May 7, 2000, Arquette dropped the title in a Triple Cage Match at Slamboree—same match used in the main fight in Ready to Rumble—and in what was now standard for WCW, this happened when he turned on his friend DDP and allowed Jarrett to come away with the win. The Nitro after, Arquette explained that everything that happened since his debut was just another “swerve.” Vintage Russo indeed.

As you might expect, fans were outraged by the fact that WCW’s top title was briefly held by the untrained, inexperienced Arquette, and that sent the company on a faster track than ever to its eventual demise, and buyout by the WWF. If there’s a happy ending to Arquette’s brief run as a professional wrestler, it’s that he donated his WCW earnings to the families of Owen Hart, who was killed two years before at WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view, former Hart Foundation member Brian Pillman, who died of a heart ailment in late 1997, and Darren “Droz” Drozdov, who was rendered quadriplegic by an errant D-Lo Brown powerbomb in October 1999. And if you ask Arquette, he was never in favor of being made World Heavyweight Champion to begin with.


Know of any other wrestling champions who got heat for poor booking, lack of experience, lack of skill, or any other reason aside from their character? Share them in the comments section—we’d love to hear from you!


The Throwback Tito is Enzo Tanos, a freelance writer and the drummer/manager for garage rock band The Myopics, where he hopes to debut his masked lucha drummer persona “Sin Verguenza” in future gigs. A wrestling fan since childhood, he’s old enough to remember watching Outback Jack’s pointless vignettes, and One Man Gang’s transformation to Akeem.

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