Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: John Bradshaw Layfield, Proud American


John Bradshaw Layfield, Proud American – WWE, 2004

Okay, before we get started, a bit of an introduction. I am not a JBL fan. I think that he’s undeserving of the push (or more like shove, IMHO) that he’s received, feel he’s useless in the ring, and have not been impressed by tales of his backstage behavior. The only thing about him that I really approve of is his support for our military men and women. With that said, normally I’d disqualify him from the column, because I want to try and be fair and balanced (© Fox News) in what I cover. However, after viewing the Ultimate Warrior DVD, I’m feeling particularly snarky, so here we go.

Kurt Angle had a brilliant idea. As the new general manager of Smackdown, he needed a gimmick to grab people in. He finally decided on creating “The Great American Award.” As announced on April 1st, the contenders were Charlie Haas, Booker T, John Cena, and Bradshaw.

The next week, Angle announced the winner. As decided by online voting, the winner by a landslide was John Cena. Just then, Bradshaw came out with a special video to show how he deserved the award. It was filmed last night, and showed him chasing illegal immigrants back over the border. Great. JBL, Border Patrol agent.

Anyway, in Angle’s mind, that pushed Bradshaw over the top, so he won the trophy and the #1 contendership to Eddie Guerrero’s WWE title. Of course, when the cover was pulled off, the trophy had been replaced by one covered in ribbons and Eddie’s picture. Eddie came out with the real trophy and, since this is the WWE, its lifespan was limited. Eddie destroyed the trophy, devastating Bradshaw and infuriating Angle.

The following week opened with Eddie coming out and announcing that Angle had been calling him all week, demanding an apology. He was interrupted by a campaign ad for Bradshaw to be the champion. Eddie demanded a match against Bradshaw for the title that night. Angle came out and chewed Eddie out for a few minutes, then agreed to make the match. That brought Bradshaw out, who said he couldn’t compete that night because he was tired from all of his campaigning. So Angle made the match for Judgment Day, and tonight Eddie would face the Big Show.

We finally got to the match – with Big Show’s added stipulation that, since the match was non-title, he’d quit if he lost. Big Show did lose, and as he left, chucked Kurt Angle off a ledge.

That led us to Paul Heyman returning as GM for one night only. That night, Bradshaw took on the champion of Mexico, “El Gran Luchadore.” Needless to say, Bradshaw won easily.

Eddie? Well, he had to take on “The Dudley.” That turned out to be D-Von, with Bubba Ray at ringside. In the end, Bubba held Eddie’s legs down to let D-Von get the pin, and then Bradshaw nailed Eddie with the Clothesline from Hell.

The next week we saw Eddie once more taking on “The Dudley,” with only “the other Dudley” and Paul E. at ringside. This time, it was Bubba. Eddie won, then got jumped by both Dudleys, which brought out Rob Van Dam for the save. Angle then ordered Eddie and RVD to tag against the Dudleys the next week.

That show opened with footage from a house show in El Paso, where Eddie brought out his wife, kids, and mother. Bradshaw planted Eddie with the title belt, then turned and laid his hand on Eddie’s mother’s shoulder. She dropped to the mat and Bradshaw cleared out as Eddie started screaming for the paramedics.

Bradshaw appeared later in the show via satellite from New York, where he was taping a show for CNBC. He claimed no responsibility in causing Eddie’s mother’s heart attack, and said it was Eddie’s fault instead.

Because of the family tragedy, Eddie was pulled from the match and replaced by Rey Mysterio. The match ended with D-Von getting pinned and Eddie coming out to destroy both Dudleys with a chair.

Bradshaw had Rey the next week. Angle started the evening’s fun by warning Eddie he would be stripped of the title if he interfered. Eddie headed out to the ring to talk about how he was going to destroy Bradshaw, which brought out Bradshaw’s limo. Eddie punched out a window and Bradshaw had him arrested. In the main event, Bradshaw obliterated Rey and then promised to take the belt on Sunday.

That brings us to the 2004 Judgment Day. Eddie met Bradshaw in the main event and was reduced to a bloody mess. He retained the title when Bradshaw tried to attack him with the belt. Eddie ducked, grabbed the belt, and nailed Bradshaw with it for a DQ.

Smackdown opened with Eddie coming out to brag about his title retention. He had a trophy with him, Bradshaw’s blood-stained hat. He then challenged Bradshaw to a match that night. Bradshaw refused, saying he’d already won, and demanded the belt.

That brought Angle out, who made a six-man tag: Eddie, RVD, and Rey Mysterio vs. Bradshaw and the Dudleys.

The main event ended with Eddie making his way out late, then collapsing in the ring and allowing Bradshaw to steal the win.

The next week, Eddie defeated Danny Basham in a non-title match. Later that night, Bradshaw came out and announced that his rematch with Eddie at the Great American Bash would be a bullrope match.

Bradshaw spent the next week by getting cleaned up at a salon. After deciding that he looked too good to be in Long Island, he climbed into his limo and ordered his driver to go. The driver revealed himself to be Eddie and said that Bradshaw was going on a ride.

Later in the night, the now-devastated limo pulled into the arena, and Eddie popped out. He opened the rear door, and a disheveled Bradshaw fell out. Eddie promised that would be what he looked like after the Bash.

Eddie came out the next week and talked about Bradshaw’s firing from CNBC. You see, the WWE had been on a tour of Germany, and Bradshaw decided it would be a keen idea to give the Nazi salute and goose-step across the ring (which just happens to be illegal in Germany). Needless to say, CNBC was not pleased and Bradshaw’s career on that network came to a sudden end. Anyway, Eddie’s speech brought out the Bashams, and suddenly Eddie had a match against Doug. Eddie won by taking out not only Doug, but brother Danny as well.

Bradshaw came out later and ran his mouth about how wonderful he was and such a great American. Eddie snuck in, grabbed Bradshaw’s bullrope, and took a swing with it as Bradshaw slid out of the ring to safety.

The next episode of Smackdown saw Eddie taking on Luther Reigns. Eddie won the match, and then Bradshaw looped the rope around Eddie’s neck and tried to hang him over the top rope. Eddie, however, was able to pull forward quickly enough that Bradshaw went throat-first over the top rope.

That brought us to the Great American Bash. The match ended in controversy – as Eddie and Bradshaw hit the last turnbuckle at the same time. That brought out Kurt Angle, who used instant replay to decide that Bradshaw hit it first, and therefore Bradshaw was the new champion.

Bradshaw would go on to hold the belt for ten months. Eddie would go on to team with Rey Mysterio, win the tag belts, and hold them for two months.

Where to begin. This entire angle had one purpose – shove Bradshaw into the main event, whether the fans wanted to see it or not. After all, you had Eddie Guerrero as champion, someone the fans had wanted to see win that belt for years (much like a certain Mr. Benoit over on Raw). Finally he upset Brock Lesnar and got the title. Then (also much like that certain Mr. Benoit), he loses the title and gets moved from the title picture.

People criticize the writing on Smackdown, and it is obvious here. While feuding with Bradshaw, we also had Eddie fighting with GM Angle, and a diversion with the Dudleys and Paul Heyman (which was never resolved). One man fighting what seems to be half the roster? Well, this is the WWE, so we have to have somebody fighting the “evil boss,” and we needed Eddie to help set up the Dudleys-Rey/RVD feud. Great. Let’s just go scattershot with Eddie and have him involved in everything. At least the Eddie-Bashams thing tied in with Bradshaw (as the Bashams were part of Bradshaw’s “Cabinet”).

Where Are They Now?
Eddie and Bradshaw remain with the WWE, and both are still on the Smackdown roster.

From the Mailbag
After writing this, I had an idea. I want for you to email me with a Smackdown wrestler you would never want to see in the main event and why. Here are the rules:

1) The wrestler must be male. I know you’ve probably got a lot of reasons why Christy Hemme should never win the world title, but let’s stick with people who have a shot.

2) The wrestler cannot currently be considered “main event.” This includes Batista, Eddie, Bradshaw, Benoit, Randy Orton, or Undertaker. Like it or not, they’re already there.

3) Put some thought into it. Don’t just send me an email that says “LOL He Suxxorz!” Give me reasons why.

4) Don’t put too much thought into it. I reserve the right to edit. I’m sure that your 497 page doctoral thesis entitled “Why Ken Kennedy Should Not Become World Champion” is fascinating, but most people will tune out along about page 100.

5) The deadline is Monday, October 17th. The column gets entered into the system the next day, so this will give me time to look over your submissions and pick the best.

The top three will receive a grand prize of being posted here. Also, if you’ve got a website, I’ll throw in a free plug.

Next Week
Jamie Noble as a Japanese man.