6 Times The WWE Tried (And Failed) To Tackle Serious Issues

 
 
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6 Times The WWE Tried (And Failed) To Tackle Serious Iss…

Vince McMahon apparently believes wrestling is the perfect medium through which to tackle complex societal issues, and here are six examples of him trying to do exa…
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How DID X-Pac get away with doing Blackface, anyway?

​I knew someone would send me this one as soon as I saw it on Cracked this morning.  The funny thing is that WWE played up the Billy and Chuck stuff as this lighthearted and beloved angle on the Jerry Springer deal.  ​

Luger’s WWF run and why it failed as heel and face.

Scott,

In the King Lear rant you wrote (copying and pasting from the Scott Sez version):

"Well, now Hogan was gone and fans needed another reason to care. Want an example of what I mean? Take Bob Holly, for instance. When he started in the WWF, he was called "Sparky" Thurman Plugg, which is a semi-clever play on "STP" and "spark plug". Hah hah, right? But just looking at that gimmick, do you cheer him or boo him? And why?  (You boo him because he’s a dick, although we didn’t know how much of one at that point.)  
It was that "why" that really got to the fans. Because Vince would just keep sticking guys out there with silly names and silly costumes and pretty soon no one cared anymore. Vince produced the evil martial artist Kwang, who didn't get a reaction because he didn't do anything particularly evil. So he repackaged him as the good Caribbean legend Savio Vega, and again he didn't get much of a reaction because he didn't do anything particularly good. Vince, ironically, was the last to "get it". The fans were asking "Why should we boo a plumber? Why should we cheer a garbageman? Why should even bother to care one way or another about Jerry Lawler's evil dentist?" The WWF's answer was basically "Because we told you so" and that's where it all went bad. (Doesn’t THAT sound familiar?) "

You know which guy this point really reminded me of (and yes I know this was a few years before the period you're talking about in the rant)?

This reminded me of Lex Luger's entire WWF run- and largely for the same reasons for both his heel and face runs.

They bring him in as The Narcissist and don't give him any character development beyond "He's a guy who loves to look at himself in the mirror".

He didn't do anything particularly bad, and didn't really get any mic time to build himself up as any kind of character. He just posed a lot in front of his mirror and knocked guys out with his STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION AND EXTREME UNCOMFORT!

How is that supposed to make me want to boo the guy? If I had the abs of Lex Luger circa 1992 I'd probably be kind of narcissistic, too!

Okay, so obviously that gimmick wasn't getting him any heel heat, so with Hogan gone they hit the panic button and abruptly (very abruptly!) turned him face, had him slam Yokozuna, and stick him on a bus to kiss hands and shake babies in an attempt to make him Hulk Hogan 2.0.

And that ultimately failed too, because for all the effort they put into pushing him (at least this time he got over to some degree) they again didn't do anything to develop him as a character or give him any kind of reason for kids (or anyone) to particularly give a damn about him beyond the fact that he loves MURICA instead of himself now.

So they stuck him in a heatless mid card tag-team with another guy who wasn't able to get over.

The difference between Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger was that Hulk Hogan had character and charisma, and could make a 12 year old really believe in him and care about whatever feud he happened to be in at the time.

Yes, the fact that they booked Luger to win SummerSlam 1993 against Yokozuna by count out (?) didn't help him any, but even a world title run wouldn't have saved the gimmick.

I'm not sure I agree 100% with your detective work there, Lou. I think Luger's big push was working just fine once they focused on the Made in the USA aspect and gave him the bus and everything, but it was specifically building to him winning the World title and once he failed at that everything else became aimless.  You can say a lot of things against the gimmick in hindsight, but at the time this wasn't a Daniel Bryan situation where there was someone else fans were screaming to be champion more than Luger.  Yeah, that became Bret Hart later on, but people were more than ready for Luger to win that belt and accept him as champion.  

Alex Wright: His Failed Rise To The Top In WCW

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 In mid-1994, a nineteen year old prodigy from Germany joined World Championship Wrestling. Alex Wright quickly became an important part to WCW television for next several years and had a few chances to become a major star, but never made the impact that fans were often told to expect from the young rookie sensation.
Wright came to WCW during the middle of the summer and often would compete against enhancement talent to get him over with the fans. Wright’s gimmick was that kid who danced to techno music and had the nickname of “Das Wunderkind”, meaning wonder child.

His first major opponent would be Jean Paul Levesque, who some may now know as being Triple H on WWE television. By Starrcade 1994 in December both men were undefeated and easily defeating opponents. After fourteen minutes of action, Wright picked up his first substantial victory since joining WCW. 1995 would mark an either make it or break it year for Alex Wright.

Alex Wright in action against Jean Paul Levesque.

Before I go further, I want to address his gimmick. At a time when fans were tired of the over the top good guy, squeaky clean babyface, Wright would develop a fan base that would be vocal about their disapproval for him. It was similar to what Hulk Hogan was dealing with. Despite the character persona, Wright was capable of putting on entertaining matches.

Early in 1995, Wright would feud with Bobby Eaton, one of the easiest guys to work with ever in wrestling as often stated by wrestlers. Wright easily won the brief feud and ventured into a minor feud with Paul Roma that came to a head at Superbrawl V. Roma, not liking that he had to put Wright over, didn’t follow the plans of the match, though he still lost, and was promptly fired.

Over the spring Wright continued to pile up victories over the likes of Paul Orndorff and Diamond Dallas Page.

With this momentum, Wright was awarded a WCW Television Championship match against Arn Anderson at Slamboree. Wright would end up losing the match and his undefeated streak came to an end as well.

Oddly enough, Anderson would lose the belt the following month to the Renegade. So, why not put over Alex Wright, who was being build as the future of the company, to win the undercard championship? I must have a different logic than the higher ups at WCW.

At the Great American Bash, Alex Wright had perhaps the best match of his WCW career against Brian Pillman, which he won. I recall reading a PWI magazine where Wright had been concerned about breaking his neck due to a dream he had prior to the contest. The opener was one of the best openers the company had managed to book in quite some time the summer of ’94.

The remainder of the year saw Wright team with Marcus Alexander Bagwell, which typically spelled doom for a wrestlers career at the time, and often times competed against Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Diamond Dallas Page in losing efforts, for the most part. With the influx of talent such as Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero, the spotlight was dimming on Wright and shifting towards a more exciting form of wrestling.

For most of 1996, Wright was lost in the shuffle losing often to guys like Ric Flair and Chris Benoit. He did get some television time throughout the year, but he didn’t have a lengthy feud nor did he have a storyline for fans to care about him.

For most of the year, Wright would feud with the Disco Inferno, which I guess was a natural feud due to their differences in musical taste. Certainly not a memorable feud.

For the first half of 1997, Wright would have some good matches with the likes of Benoit, Chris Jericho and Ultimo Dragon. However, his baby face persona had really ran its course.

Thus, on June 30th in Las Vegas on Nitro, Wright turned heel and claimed that he was being held back because he was German.

 

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Of course, the heel turn took place at the peak of the New World Order and largely forgotten about. However, the turn by Wright was nicely done and he played the role extremely well. It was during the heel run that Alex accomplished the most in WCW. On the July 28th episode of Nitro, Wright would win his first WCW championship he pinned Chris Jericho to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.

He held the title until August 16th where he lost it back to Jericho.

Five days later, Wright captured new gold when he defeated the Ultimo Dragon to win the WCW Television Championship on COTC #35. Wright’s annoying dancing habits and overall cocky attitude was rewarded with a decent push during the second half of 1997.

Wright lost the TV Championship to rival Disco Inferno on the September 22nd episode of Nitro. For the remainder of the year, Wright would often be on the losing side of matches and by the time 1998 rolled around he was virtually forgotten about.

Take a moment and try to think of what Alex Wright accomplished in 1998. Did you think of anything? I didn’t think so. Wright didn’t compete in 1998 until May and for the year he was saddled into a tag team with Disco Inferno known as the Dancing Fools. They feuded with teams such as the Public Enemy, High Voltage and the team of British Bulldog & Jim Neidhart.

Change of look didn't help Alex Wright as Berlyn in 1999.

Vignettes started to air for a new wrestler named Berlyn in the spring of 1999. The wrestler who was anti-America and obviously pro Germany, was none other than Alex Wright was a drastically different look. He made his official debut on August 30th with a promo. During the promo, Berlyn and a female speaker, who wouldn’t last long, talked about how disgusting Americans are and that Berlyn refused to speak the English language.

His first target was Buff Bagwell.

And, yet again, Alex Wright just couldn’t get momentum. They were scheduled to wrestle at Fall Brawl, but Bagwell refused to lose the match. WCW replaced him with Jim Duggan, who none to happy about it and didn’t elevate Berlyn at all. The character, which could have had poetiental to give WCW a new top level heel, quickly sputtered and ended feuding with the likes of Brad Armstrong, who defeated Berlyn at Halloween Havoc.

By the end of 1999, Alex Wright was off television yet again.

It would be nearly a full year before Wright appeared on WCW television again. Wright changed his look again and returned on the September 27th edition of Thunder. Wright was sporting a completely bald look and associated himself with Disco Inferno once again to form the Boogie Knights.

Shortly after their reunion, Disco would get hurt. Wright briefly won the WCW World Tag Team Championships but lost them four days later on Nitro back to the Natural Born Thrillers.

Following a brief angle where he hired Kronik to destroy smaller wrestlers that lasted to November at Mayhem where Wright lost to the Filthy Animals, Wright wouldn’t be on television again for WCW.

So, why didn’t Alex Wright become a top star for WCW? I think a lot of it was WCW not knowing their audience and being behind the times. Coming in as a clean cut nineteen year old foreign kid isn’t going to really connect with a largely southern based company. He was a good hand in the ring, but appeared to lack the ability to connect to fans as a baby face.

As a heel, I thought Wright was great. The summer to late fall run he had in 1997 showed he was a capable heel and had the New World Order not been happening, I think Wright could have been a more important piece to their television product. I mean, throughout 1998 Wright could have been involved with guys like DDP, Booker, Benoit and others and fit in perfectly fine, in my opinion.

The Berlyn gimmick was supposed to be a big deal but again, bad timing. I’ve read that because of the Columbian shootings that the company held off on the push. While the character had some strength to it, it did appear that Wright wasn’t the same in-ring performer, which may have been a necessary evil considering his new heel persona.

But, really at that point would anyone be able to buy into Berlyn feuding with a guy like Hulk Hogan? Sure there would be the ready made America vs. Germany feud, but I don’t see money to be made there.

Ultimately, I think Alex Wright fell victim to the company promoting him as a huge deal and then never delivering the goods.

At some point you need to pull the trigger on the prospect, which WCW never fully did.

What are your memories of Alex Wright? Did you see him as a main event guy? Leave your thoughts below.

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Thanks for reading.