Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #86 – Konnan

86. KONNAN

Real NameCharles Ashenoff
AliasesK-Dawg; Konnan el Barbaro; El Centurión
Debuted6th January 1987
Titles HeldWCW United States; WCW World Tag Team; WCW Television; AAA Heavyweight; CMLL Heavyweight; CW-USA Northwest Tag Team Championships; IWAS Heavyweight Championship; IWAS Tag Team Championship; IWC Heavyweight Championship; LAWA Heavyweight Championship; WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship; WWC Tag Team Championship; NWA World Tag Team Championship
Other Accomplishmentstaught Bret Hart how to apply the Sharpshooter; whilst in Mexico he lost his mask to Perro Aguayo in 1991; made two music videos, “Psyko” and “Bow Wow Wow”

Konnan is a polarizing figure in professional wrestling. On one hand, he’s skilled promotional assassin, capable of cutting through his opponents on the microphone in a style so viciously authentic that few can best him. As well, he’s credited for not only teaching Bret Hart the sharpshooter, but also bringing the Lucha Libre style of wrestling (and the wrestlers trained to deliver it) to the United States, giving opportunity for smaller and more athletically talented wrestlers to be portrayed on a larger stage. On the other hand, Konnan isn’t the greatest of wrestlers. Often compared to Hulk Hogan, both in terms of political power and limitation of technical wrestling knowledge, Konnan has often been seen as a group pariah and a bit of a heat-killer. Still, it’s difficult to ignore that Konnan’s presence has been both an integral and influential aspect of pro wrestling in the last decade.

Konnan first wrestled under the title “El Centurión” in the Universal Wrestling Alliance, wrestling for the first time on January 6, 1987, but soon moved to Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre and changed his moniker to “Konnan El Barbaro.” He, like most Lucha Libre wrestlers, wore a mask. That is, until 1991, when Perro Aguayo beat him in a hair vs mask match. Unlike the majority of Lucha Libre wrestlers who lose their mask and are never quite the same, Konnan soon became the first ever CMLL world heavyweight champion. This was just after his first tryout match in WCW. It would be six years before he actually entered the company.

During this time, Konnan, along with a number of other Mexican stars, left EMLL due to political corruption within the union (this would not be the first time Konnan would be involved with political corruption, and would in fact utilize the idea within many of his storylines), and joined AAA, shortening his name to just Konnan in the process. He fought and lost to Jake Roberts in a career-ending match on April 30, 1993, and left to work for the WWF. This is not a particularly great run, for several reasons. For one, the WWF was not a particularly lucrative place to be oneself at the time, instead opting to give everyone a gimmick and see how well that took. So Konnan spent eight months being “Max Moon,” a Japanese cartoon character that shot confetti out of his arm blaster-things. Secondly, Konnan felt the character was not only terrible, but also that he was being discriminated against. Immediately following his release, Konnan went back to AAA and defeated Roberts in a hair vs hair match.

It was at this point Konnan began to turn into the man we know today. He was offered a role in a Spanish soap opera due to his crossover appeal. He won the AAA world title. He also became the booker for AAA. He also left Mexico for WCW, where he is—at least stateside—where he gained most of his exposure.

First, though, he had a cup of coffee in ECW, and was able to talk Paul Heyman into bringing in a few other Lucha wrestlers like Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psychosis. It was from this that Eric Bischoff got the idea to bring these wrestlers to WCW. Discussed in more detail on the ECW dvd, Eric successfully invaded ECW and took the Lucha wrestlers for display on WCW. While we don’t know exactly how much influence Konnan had on all of these events, one can argue that without him, WCW might never have infused Lucha Libre.

Konnan was often announced in WCW as the “Mexican world champion” even though no such belt existed, and sometimes without holding any real Mexican belts at the time. The first few months of his time there were spent holding the US championship, which was a reign mostly soaked with irony. Following a loss to Ric Flair, Konnan joined the Dungeon of Doom, dropped his Lucha outfit for more street gang-styled attire, and began incorporating catchphrases that would become mainstay in the next few years.

Konnan joined the nWo on July 14, 1997, finally becoming the loudmouth gang member his character seemed destined to be. Konnan was a natural fit for the group, and probably would have been better served if he had joined much earlier. When the nWo split in early 1998, Konnan went with the wolfpac side and began referring to himself as K-Dawg. His impact on television became pretty one-note at this point. Much like the New Age Outlaws, Konnan’s job was seemingly to come down to the ring say the exact same annoying catchphrase week in and week out, have a completely forgettable match with no real consequences, and repeat until everyone became pretty sick of his schtick.
This changed slightly in 1999, as he began to tag with Rey Mysterio Jr. He made up a group called the “No Limit Soldiers,” which soon became “The Filthy Animals.”

The Filthy Animals were a great idea. They were comprised of Rey Mysterio Jr, Juventud Guererra, Eddie Guererro, and the Disco Inferno. They were neither heels nor faces, instead pranksters with chips on their shoulders. Dressed mostly in street clothes, they felt authentic and modern at a time when we saw WCW returning to pre-nwo styles of programming. Unfortunately, they were never handled particularly well, and the idea fizzled near the end of WCW’s run and has since been largely forgotten. Konnan left WCW when it was purchased by Vince McMahon and left for Europe to tour with World Wrestling All Stars, mostly acting as a colour commentator.

Konnan returned stateside for the debut of NWA:TNA. Though just as aimless and annoying in character, he soon founded another harmless group; the 3 live kru, along with catchphrase-you-to-death BG James and Ron Killings. This gimmick lasted way longer than it should have, consisted of no memorable matches, and is really best forgotten. Konnan broke up the group by turning heel, and slowly built to something incredibly interesting.

Konnan debuted two wrestlers of Puerto Rican descent into TNA, Apollo and Homocide, near the end of 2005. Though their intentions were not clear at first (possibly because they had to fine tune the group first, replacing Apollo with Machete and then finally Hernandez), Konnan began a series of promos so strong, the last several years of forgettable performances were soon forgotten. He was fed up with how American audiences and promotions treated Latin wrestlers, and was not only refusing to wrestle, but he also took over the commentators stand, created his own entrance area and commentating booth (a nice nod to the Spanish Announce Team that was part of early TNA). The new group was called The Latin American Exchange, and was TNA’s opportunity to set a precident on social commentary in professional wrestling.

The summer that followed was an incredible one for both Konnan and the group, both because his manifesto was emerging as something viable and potent, but also because they were given a high profile feud with AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. Billed as “poser boys” of TNA, Styles and Daniels fell victim to four months of blood-soaked passion crimes, all narrated beautifully by Konnan. His promos, paired alongside imagery of Spanish militant footage that peppered the group’s presence on screen (a method stolen from D-Generation X), fueled the group’s fast rise to being the definitive reason to watch TNA in 2006.

For Latin wrestling fans, Konnan has always held special place, but insofar as his American resume is concerned, he’s never really been a serious threat. Heading the Latin American Exchange has revitalized Konnan, and in the last year he’s appeared inspired and hungry. This is perhaps because he’s finally telling the truth with his character, or perhaps it’s because he’s finally been given a role that suits his artistic passions. Either way, the last twelve months have been a hallmark year for Konnan, even though he’s pretty much retired. If the year he spent with LAX was his curtain call, then one can hardly call it wasted. Arguably, there was for once a threatening, spontaneous presence in professional wrestling, and we can credit Konnan for that.

As of this time, Konnan is out due to hip replacement surgery, and is fairly desperately in need of a kidney translplant. He has also recently quit TNA Wrestling due to his unhappiness with how the company has helped (or not helped) him with his health issues. He is expected to go back and help out AAA in Mexico.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.