The Mean 6.03.01: Justin Credible


What’s up everybody, I’m Ben, this is The Mean, and Chris Benoit still sucks ha! Sorry, just making sure people read beyond the title

Thanks as usual to everybody who contributed to my mailbag this week. The feedback on The Undertaker column was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I don’t believe I got one negative response to the column, which just goes to show that either the big guy still does have a solid fan following on the net, or I’m developing one myself so I guess congratulations are in order to The Undertaker.

Something a bit different this week, inspired by perhaps the most famous brother duo in Eastern Massachusetts, Eli & Nate Freedman. For the past three weeks, I’ve examined guys who are for the most part established main eventers and World title contenders. This week I’m going to diverge a little bit and take a look at a guy who has had a lot of success over the past couple years, but has never quite been able to succeed where he truly wants to: the WWF. Let’s get to it

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that everything in life could be broken down into two extremes: excess and deficiency. He believed that if a person could find the medium or mean between the two extremes in all that they did in life, they would travel down the path to happiness and virtue. With pro wrestling fans, the two extremes are clear: the deficient “mark” enjoys watching wrestling more than anybody but has very little knowledge of anything not on TV, while the excessive “smart” knows every backstage dealing, but as a result can become highly bitter and cynical, losing their ability to enjoy the show. These two extremes view each wrestler differently, often disagreeing with each other. Each week I look at both perspectives and then attempt to find “The Mean” between the two. This week, let’s take a look at Justin Credible

The man who was supposed to be ECW’s future before ECW went under now finds himself back where he was five years ago: firmly entrenched in the WWF’s mid-card. From the day Justin Credible signed the contract to come back to the WWF, there have been promises from Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, and Credible himself that “this run will not be like the last one.” Yet, so far, there has not been much to distinguish Credible’s last WWF run from his current one; granted he no longer has a silly gimmick and has considerable air time, but does anybody see WWF Champion Justin Credible in the near future? Intercontinental champion? European champion even? What is it about Justin Credible that allowed him to become a main event player in ECW, but somehow prevents him from making any headway in the “bigtime?” Let’s take a look at the history of the man’s career

Aldo Montoya: it is the name that will haunt Pete Polaco (better known as Justin Credible) for the rest of his natural life. After years of wrestling in independents, the USWA, and as a WWF enhancement talent as P.J. Walker, Polaco was finally being given a shot at a bigtime WWF gimmick; unfortunately, it was perhaps one of the most ridiculous gimmicks the WWF has ever created (and this is the same company that brought us the Gobbledy Gooker and The Goon). The gimmick was “Aldo Montoya: Portuguese Man’o War.” The idea (I think) was that Montoya was some sort of Portuguese warrior, come to the WWF to represent his people. There were two major problems with the gimmick. First: Polaco was not from Portugal, he was from Connecticut, and second: the jock strap.

As Aldo Montoya, Polaco was forced to wear one of the most ridiculous wrestling outfits ever conceived (and again, this is a company that brought us Adam Bomb and Max Moon). The costume consisted of hideous yellow, green, and red tights in some bizarre diamond pattern (the color combination gave even me headaches, and I’m colorblind), and then the centerpiece of this masterful creation: a yellow “mask” that looked more like a jockstrap than anything else.

Montoya was given little to no back-story and because of this, because of the fact that Polaco was clearly Caucasian (and not Portuguese) and because of the ridiculous costume. Montoya was given very few wins of note and basically spent 1995 and 1996 jobbing to other WWF stars alone and in teams with the likes of Bob Holly, Savio Vega, and others. The biggest part Montoya ever played in any storyline was probably in the summer of 1996 when he was out of nowhere revealed to be a protégé of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who had just made a WWF comeback; Montoya scored an upset win over Roberts’ archrival at the time, Jerry Lawler, and was then destroyed by Lawler a week later and had a bottle of Jack Daniels poured down his throat (Roberts was a recovering alcoholic at the time but that’s about three other columns). Montoya also inexplicably began giving promos in perfect English (up until this point it was assumed that he did not speak the language), confusing fans even more and giving them even less reason to care about the character. Probably the only good thing to come out of his first WWF stint was friendships with Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman (X-Pac), Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and the future HHH; all men who would go on to become huge stars in the industry.

To Polaco’s credit, he really gave it his all despite a completely unworkable gimmick. Even though his costume looked stupid and his back-story made no sense, Aldo Montoya would go out each and every night and lose to his opponent with a tremendous zeal and enthusiasm, if nothing else. In mid-97, with nothing to do with Montoya, the WWF decided to send him down to ECW to hopefully help him learn how to get over; this was a move that would change the career of Pete Polaco forever.

Paul Heyman, the man who ran Extreme Championship Wrestling for all of it’s glory years and down to the bitter end, has been called a genius. He has taken young wrestlers with seemingly nothing to offer and made them superstars. He has taken old wrestlers who the general public considers to have nothing left and given them one final glorious run. If anybody could get Pete Polaco over, it was Paul Heyman; and damn if he wouldn’t give it his best shot.

Heyman knew full well that the minute the man formerly known as Aldo Montoya walked into the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, he would be booed mercilessly. ECW fans were the most brutal in the business, and if there were two things they hated, they were the WWF and stupid gimmicks; Polaco was a former WWF wrestler who had the stupidest gimmick of all. Heyman decided to capitalize on this; he made Polaco a full out heel the likes of which was rarely seen in wrestling. Rechristened “Justin Credible,” Polaco was given a new manager (Jason, the obnoxious male model who was already hated with a passion by ECW fans), a new finisher, (“That’s Incredible,” a corkscrew tombstone piledriver), and most importantly, a new outfit (jean shorts, as far away from Aldo Montoya as he could get). Credible was told to do everything in his power to make the ECW fans hate him with a passion. He debuted at the 1997 “As Good As It Gets” ECW Arena show and put on a solid match, defeating Jerry Lynn. The crowd chanted “Aldo” in mocking fashion; little did they know this was just what Heyman wanted.

Though he lost his pay per view debut to Mikey Whipwreck, Heyman pulled out all the stops in getting Credible over as the company’s most callous and obnoxious heel. He broke Mikey’s leg, he gained two upset victories over and humiliated Japanese legend Great Sasuke, and was given an ever-shifting entourage of valets that over the years has included the muscle bound Nicole Bass, Chastity, Jazz, and Francine. Then Heyman pulled out his trump card: he placed Credible in a feud with ECW’s most beloved babyface, Tommy Dreamer. But this was not just any feud; this feud began in a manner in which no other company had dared to go: Credible interrupted a ten bell vigil for Dreamer’s deceased grandfather to tell Dreamer he wished that it was him that had died. Now the Credible character was established as the ultimate jerk, a guy hated by faces and heels alike and who would go to any length to get himself over. A chant was christened that night by Buh Buh Ray Dudley that would last the remainder of Credible’s ECW tenure: “Justin Asshole.”

Credible had some bloody and brutal matches with Dreamer in a feud that would continue off and on for over two years. In the summer of 1999, Credible dropped several matches to the unheralded Jerry Lynn (the man Credible had defeated in his ECW debut) to set up an intense series of quality matches that ended with a Credible victory at Heatwave ’99. Next, Credible was programmed into a feud with another ECW legend: The Sandman. However, after Credible upset The Sandman at the ECW Arena to kick off the feud, a snag occurred: Sandman left ECW for WCW. However, Credible used this to his advantage, claiming to have been the man who ran Sandman out of ECW, and further cementing his heel status.

In 1999 Credible formed a key partnership with a man he had trained under years earlier: Lance Storm. While they were not exactly known for the best promos in the business, Storm and Credible were both solid workers who complimented each other well in a tag team. “The Impact Players,” as Credible and Storm called themselves, first feuded with Dreamer and Shane Douglas. When Douglas left ECW for WCW, Credible again took credit. Now that ECW fanbase was truly starting to accept and hate Credible, Heyman took a gamble and put him over one of the company’s biggest stars, Sabu, cleanly. The gamble paid off as Credible & Storm became the over heel team ECW needed to replace the departing Dudley Boys.

The next step for Credible again led back to Dreamer as The Impact Players challenged Dreamer and the recently returned Raven for the Tag Team titles the duo had won from The Dudleys. Working with Raven, one of the most creative minds in the business, taught Credible more about building a storyline and improving his character. The Players won the titles and became one of the most dominant championship teams in ECW history.

Credible’s biggest break ever came at an ECW Arena show in April of 2000. ECW World champion Mike Awesome had signed with WCW, and ECW brought in former champ and current WWF star Tazz to beat Awesome for the title as a slap in the face to WCW. But ECW needed the belt on one of their own, and decided to reward Tommy Dreamer for his years of service by putting him over Tazz at the April 2000 show. It should have been a classic ECW moment as Dreamer had worked years and sustained numerous injuries for the title; but again, Credible ruined the moment for his eternal rival. Credible emerged from the dressing room and challenged Dreamer to an impromptu match which the proud Dreamer accepted; Credible won after Dreamer’s valet Francince turned on him and joined Credible. In the subsequent weeks, Credible dropped Storm (who went to WCW) and Jason, now having only Francine in his corner.

As World champion, Credible did not draw the hugest crowds or put on the best matches, but he held the title for six months and defended the title on just about every ECW show before dropping it to Jerry Lynn (now a star in his own right). In the waning months of ECW, Credible remained in the World title picture, feuding with Lynn, a returned Sandman, and Steve Corino, and even brought in old friend Scott Hall for two shows (although personal problems doomed the Hall-ECW relationship from the start). But, loyal as he had been to the company that made him, when it was becoming apparent that ECW was on its last legs in early 2001, Credible, with Heyman’s blessing, began to inquire with his former employer about work. Indeed the WWF was interested in Credible, and not a moment too soon, as Credible signed mere weeks before ECW closed its doors for good.

Now Credible is back in the WWF, one third of the mid-card heel stable X-Factor (led by his old buddy Sean “X-Pac” Waltman; the third member is the massive Albert). Credible is hardly the superstar he was in ECW, and has to wonder: were the last four years worth it? Can Justin Credible ever be a true WWF superstar? Let’s examine things a bit more closely

THE MARK: Part one of Justin Credible’s problem. Justin Credible is far from incredible in the ring; he’s a solid worker, but not spectacular. His problem is that he is not a great power wrestler, not a great high flyer, not a great technician, not really great at anything, but good at everything; however he is unable to blend those things into a solid enough package the way others have in the past. He’s not particularly skilled in interviews either; he’s enthusiastic, but not very compelling. The only time Credible was really over with the fans was after Paul Heyman did everything short of having him shoot an elderly woman to get him over as a heel in ECW. In the “bigtime” world of the WWF, Justin Credible is an average sized guy with average skills that does not stand out in a world of superstars. Sticking Credible in a stable with a well-known veteran (X-Pac) and a physically impressive big man (Albert) has probably not helped Justin Credible emerge from the background.

THE SMART: Internet fans have been hard on Justin Credible since he was shoved down everybody’s throats in ECW. They were resentful of the fact that Heyman gave Credible such a push even when it was clear that he was not the most skilled competitor and not particularly over with the fans. They resented Heyman’s guerilla tactics to try to get Credible over. They were unimpressed with what they saw as a poor imitation of the mannerisms of Credible’s more well-known friends (HHH and X-Pac especially). When Credible won the ECW title, the internet backlash was tremendous. I don’t really know why Paul Heyman pushed Justin Credible as hard as he did, but it served to turn the smart fans against him just as the Aldo Montoya had turned the WWF marks against him in years past.

And finally

THE MEAN: At least give the guy credit for trying. Justin Credible is clearly not the best in the business, but he shows an enthusiasm and love for wrestling that is rare. The fact that he continued on after the Aldo Montoya gimmick is admirable. The vigor he puts into his matches and interviews is respectable even if he sometimes lacks the ability to measure up. Yes he’s swiped some moves and mannerisms over the years, but I bet he only did it because of his incredible desire to be over in a business that has given him hell over the years. He might not be the coolest, and he might not be the best, but his dedication and enthusiasm is just incredible.

I’ve never been the biggest Justin Credible fan, but I’ll give credit where credit is due, he really wants it. Whether or not he will ever get it, I don’t know. Much as I’d like to see him succeed, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that sets Justin Credible apart from the hungry mid-card pack in today’s WWF. I could be wrong though; I kinda hope I am. Maybe Justin Credible will someday prove me wrong.

In the mean time, thanks for reading.