TCWNN #37: Giants And Strongmen And Acrobats, Oh My

My original plans were to continue with the examination of some of the views in prior columns and how they have or have not change, but I’m going to take a quick intermission instead to talk about something else. Because, you see, a little over a week ago, the Giant Gonzalez passed away. And because I actually didn’t hear about it until after that week’s column had been written, I didn’t get to touch on the thoughts it brewed up in my brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to do so now, probably in more of stream on consciousness manner than usual (and if you do mind… it’s my column. So nuts to you).

Giant Gonzalez was never my favorite wrestler. He was never even a good or charismatic wrestler, for that matter, though by all accounts he was a very nice man. But I would have never, ever decried someone like him having a place in the business of professional wrestling. Because much as I love an athletic presentation over a sports entertainment presentation, the simple fact is, there is always a place for the giant. Just like there is always a place for the comedy wrestler, or for the diva, or even for the midgets.

Thinking about, I guess this column IS piggy backing off of one of my earlier ones. A year ago (give or take a week), I wrote this:

Some of the anti-Hornswoggle contingent maintain there’s no place for a midget in the WWE. Yet wrestling has often been described as a three ring circus, without the tent. The idea being, it’s got something for everybody. Giants, high flyers, strong men, tattooed men, pretty women, etc. So there absolutely is a place for midget wrestlers or characters, if done right. Hornswoggle, for a time, was done right. Has the character outlived its shelf life? Maybe. It does seem like that there’s nowhere to go with the character of Hornswoggle other than continued random pairings. But as long as Hornswoggle keeps working hard to be the best damn leprechaun bastard child he can be, I’m still going to enjoy watching him work, even when he’s working on something I can’t stand.

I still stand by this, even though the WWE doesn’t really subscribe to that idea. It really has never been a secret that the giants and strongmen are what the WWE like best. But, in my opinion at least, professional wrestling needs a little bit of everything to work. I’m fine with seeing a giant or a strongman (or a little person pretending to be a leprechaun) as long as I get to see the other parts of the circus get their moment in the spotlight. But even though they have the circus style tag line of “we put smiles on people’s faces”, the WWE doesn’t want anyone to think of the circus or the carnival when they see their show. The problem is, and this is far truer for the WWE than a promotion like ROH that relies on more of a sporting event style, that’s part of the very appeal of their product. That you can see are acrobats AND strong men AND clowns and freaks and exotic women and so on and so forth, often mixing together but still getting equal spotlight.

Look at WCW. As Chris Jericho said on his recent dvd (which is, by the way, a truly excellent purchase, and possibly one of the last dvd sets the WWE can put out that will actually have a documentary feature that manages to hold its audience’s attention so spectacularly), one of the main reasons for the company staying on top for so long was the high flying cruiserweights exciting the crowds in the under card. Are these not the acrobats and contortionists of the wrestling world? And yet the WWE sees no place for them except as dumb bells for the strong men and giants. In their haste to separate from the stigma of carnies, they have narrowed their focus down to those two particular things, along with a smothering dose of clowning. That’s not the type of mixing together that helps a show succeed.

Case in point, look at John Cena. He’s the main event, arguably the number one star they have, whether he’s holding the title or not. His Superman persona and in ring feats of strength fills the strong man role to a T. And yet every feud he’s in, he’s cracking jokes and not taking it seriously, even when things get serious. WWE has taken their whole circus and dedicated it to comedy. In my opinion, that’s part of why their ratings are dropping. They had a hot, SERIOUS angle with Nexus, and it quickly became full of wisecracks and strongman antics and inevitability. What good is a lion tamer act if there’s no danger or seriousness? The constant sameness has resulted in everything on a WWE show tending to have the same flavor, and while that’s not going to kill the juggernaut known as World Wrestling Entertainment off, it’s certainly hurting their best known products: PPVs and television shows.

What does this all have to do with the former El Gigante? Nothing directly. His passing is just what made me think of it. For all his lack of wrestling talent, he still was a stunning visual. But now even the giants have an air of sameness in the WWE. Not because they still aren’t visually impressive, but because they’re over exposed. I think that’s part of why Aloisia the giant NXT diva was so eagerly anticipated by the audience for the hot second she was with the company: she was something we had never seen before, a mix of the giants and the beautiful women parts of the show. Now, you don’t have to ACTUALLY be something the audience hasn’t seen before to make it feel new to them, you just have to put a twist on it. And I don’t mean a return to Russo-esque swerves either, I mean you need to find a way to present the product so that every segment doesn’t feel like the same one you just saw.

In other words, they need to be more like the circus.

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