Truth or Consequences: The Next Big Thing?

Before I start anything, I’d like to say how shocked I was at the recent news regarding the death of Chris Candido. Whether you liked him as a wrestler, or not, 32 is far too young for anybody to pass away. I’d like to pass on my most sincere condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.

That kind of puts a dampener on the rest of my column for this week, but who gives a shit? Sometimes you’ve just got to realise that there are more important things in life than writing about wrestling. This column is a week late for various reasons and, as these reasons seem to be cropping up more and more often (a lack of time being the main one), I have decided to make Truth or Consequences a fortnightly column from now on. As much as I love writing about professional wrestling, these columns don’t actually pay the bills or anything, so I’ve decided to give myself some more time to spend on my other writing projects – full details to come in the fullness of time.

Anyway – back to the point in hand.

It’s no secret that Vince McMahon likes his men big. Hmm – that didn’t come out quite the way I intended. It’s no secret that Vince McMahon prefers wrestlers who are tall, muscular and, generally, built like the proverbial brick shithouse. You only need to look at the gargantuan pushes that have been afforded to guys like Hogan, Warrior, Lesnar and current World Heavyweight Champion, Batista to see the truth of that. On the other hand, members of the IWC and the rest of the so-called smart-marks, tend to hold a rather dim view of these kinds of grapplers, often with good reason. They will point out wrestlers like Chris Masters, Nathan Jones, Heidenreich and Tyson Tomko and make their shortcomings immediately clear to anyone who cares to listen.

“They can’t work!” is a cry that is often heard, along with “Fans want to see actual wrestling, not just a load of brawling.”

The way I look at things is that wrestling appeals to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of tastes. Believe it or not, some people would rather see Undertaker and Stone Cold beat the living crap out of each other for twenty minutes than sit through a one hour draw between Misawa and Kawada, just as some people prefer to watch a spot-laden six-man lucha libre tag match, rather than Abdullah the Butcher and Carlos Colon carving each other up like only they can.

There are, at least, six new-ish guys in the WWE at the moment who have this sort of stigma attached to them, that of being big, muscular meatheads who can’t work a lick. Tyson Tomko, Gene Snitsky and Chris Masters on Raw, and Heidenreich, Matt Morgan and Luther Reigns on SmackDown! They’ve all been working with the WWE for a while now and yet, in nearly all the reviews I’ve read, nobody seems to have anything good to say about them. I, myself, have been less that charitable in my assessment of Chris Masters, something that one of my readers, Rob Lehto, pulled me up on. Whilst I stand by what I said about Masters, I must concede that he is very new to the WWE and fairly new to the business as a whole (he debuted in 2002), so he can be forgiven for his greenness. Some people talk about how much of a complete package guys like Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin were in there debut years, but these guys are the exceptions, rather than the rule, with all three being NCAA level amateur wrestlers and one of them being a frigging Olympic Gold Medalist for God’s sake. Do you not think that might give him a slight advantage?

Not being a fortune teller, I couldn’t say in all honesty whether or not the likes of Masters, Tomko or Snitsky are ever going to ‘make’ it as bona fide superstars, or whether they’ll just end up floating around the bottom of the card for years to come. Certainly over the last couple of weeks all six men have improved their characters, if not their ring work, to the extent where Heidenreich is starting to get over and Chris Masters is starting to get a bit of heat with the live crowd. Now, we’re not talking about earth-shattering Nikolai-Volkoff-singing-the-Russian-anthem heat, but it’s a start and maybe it will sow the seeds of an actual character for Masters, as opposed to a gimmick. As for Heidenreich, his promo work has improved beyond all measure and the guy makes me laugh when he starts bringing out those poems, kinda like the Genius if was all roided up and ready to tear some f*cker’s head off, just for kicks.

With all of that being said, my personal tip for the top is Luther Reigns – the big, hulking ex-con who looks like a cross between Test and Road Warrior Animal…poor bastard.

Of the six men I’ve mentioned in this column, I think that Reigns is the one with the brightest future and I can definitely see him in the main event in a couple of years, or maybe even less. So what is it about the big lug that makes him stand out from the crowd, at least as far as I’m concerned?

Well, for starters, he is something of a veteran, compared to guys like Tomko or Masters, having been involved in the business for some 7 years. Whilst he wrestling repertoire might be a little basic compared to a Benoit or a Kurt Angle, it is a solid, power-based grappling style, that is no worse than the likes of Kane, JBL or Undertaker. He certainly has the WWE look so beloved of Vinnie Mac and the rest of the Creative Team and it’s important not to underestimate just how much of an advantage this is. Chris Benoit, for example, perhaps the finest technical wrestler in the business, waited 18 years for his big mainstream push, whilst a guy like Brock Lesnar who had talent, albeit nowhere in Benoit’s league, was pushed to the moon from day one because he looked like Championship material.

Reigns is a decent worker and, whilst that should be taken for granted in a company the size of the WWE, we all know that it’s not always the case. He is safe in the ring, which is perhaps one of the most important attributes a professional wrestler can possess (and something I chewed Masters out about, following the way he hospitalised Steven Richards in his Raw debut), but his moves are also convincing when he hits them.

There’s also the matter of his face. Luther Reigns is never going to be a pretty wrestler, by anybody’s standards, but that not the sort of gimmick he has anyway. Luther Reigns is, to put it bluntly, a Bad Ass Motherf*cker and that’s the way he likes it and such a gimmick suits the real life Matt Wiese down to the ground. He does, indeed, look like he just wants to hurt you and that’s a good thing for a heel to look like, whilst also being something you can manufacture. Reigns’ SmackDown! cohort, Heidenreich, for instance, has been marketed as a psychotic killing machine, replete with strait jackets, bad poetry and the best heel manager since Bobby Heenan in Paul Heyman, but even with all of this, he was not convincing as a heel. Nathan Jones, playing more or less the same gimmick as Reigns, was similarly brought in as a heel, through some devastating introductory promos, but was quickly turned face when it became apparent that no-one gave a shit and the guy just couldn’t work, despite being a former NWA International Tag Team Champion (with Heidenreich, funnily enough).

Reigns on the other hand, looks flat out menacing. He’s not playing a berserk psycho, or an introspective Hannibal Lecter style nutter – he’s just a tough bastard, ex-convict who seems to be more legitimate than the likes of Heidenreich, Jones or even the Undertaker. I personally think it was just bad luck for Reigns that he didn’t come in during ‘Taker’s American Badass phase, as that would have been an instant, ready-made feud.

His promo work is a bit of a problem. Though his interviews are slowly improving, these things only blossom if the worker is given sufficient mic-time and unfortunately, Reigns seems to be on a backburner at the moment. That said, I have great hopes that his promos will improve alongside his wrestling. Remember, Batista has only been cutting promos for a few months – before that, everybody assuming he was your typical meat-head, incapable of speech. By all accounts, Luther Reigns (the man, as opposed to the gimmick) is a very intelligent guy, so it will only be a matter of delivery for him to work on.

Mark my words, this is one guy who is set for big things.

Hope you enjoyed this rambling column and I’ll see you in two weeks with more disjointed blatherings.

Until the next time…farewell.