When you think about a story of an underdog, what comes to mind? Is it one of having the odds stacked against you? Is it one of unexpectedly overcoming the odds? There are so many tales to tell about the always relatable underdog. Many times throughout most of our lives we all must have felt like the underdog. The guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. The guy who everybody doubts, but yet silently wishes to succeeded. To me, the 1-2-3 Kid encapsulates what it means to be an underdog.
What a feel-good story it must have been for 1-2-3 Kid to defeat Razor Ramon, thus earning his name – and the respect of fans – in the first place. But the story of this underdog doesn’t end here. No, he would even go on to take Bret Hart – who was considered the best wrestler in WWE at the time – to the limit and barely coming up short in his quest to take Hart’s title from him. Yet another respect fuelled notch on Kid’s belt. Thus is the adulation and emotive response a true underdog can elicit.
And that’s exactly the response Kid managed to evoke from the crowd going into RAW on August 15, 1994. He was an underdog in every sense of the word, perhaps the first of his kind, and the fans absolutely loved him for it. What helped his cause as the ultimate underdog is that he looked like one too; unlike Hulk Hogan years prior who WWF always made out to be the underdog, although it came across as forced and unbelievable. But not Kid though, who was a natural underdog. This was on full display when he jogged his way down to the ring – with fans showing their full appreciation for him – to face Owen Hart, who was accompanied by Jim Neidhart.
Once again Kid would have to play the role he knew all too well. Once again he would have to face a man who nobody thought he’d be able to beat, albeit rightly so considering he lost to Owen at King Of The Ring not too long ago. But this time he felt ready. This time he was not going to be second best. Owen thought he would be a pushover, but with every fibre of his being he would prove him wrong. Owen only faced Kid because he thought he could do anything that Bret could do; and do it much better than the Excellence Of Execution himself. However, in Owen Hart’s overwhelming overconfidence, he didn’t realise that the 1-2-3 Kid would not be overlooked.
This was evident before the bell even rang, with Kid attacking Owen with a leg lariat before the match started. Kid knew what he was up against. He knew Owen would have done the same thing given the chance. But lightning doesn’t strike in the place twice and Kid was not going to allow Owen to get the upperhand on him again, like he did before their King Of The Ring bout in similar fashion. This time things would be different. For although Kid was the underdog in this contest, he firmly believed that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. This notion is what the 1-2-3 Kid embodied.
And for the first few minutes of this bout Kid’s fight shone through. Countering a charge in the corner, Kid managed to maintain the good start he managed to have in this match. This feeling was new to him. Instead of him being the one beaten and bruised he was the aggressor. He focused on Owen’s shoulder. The same shoulder which was connected to the arm that got raised when Owen defeated him not too long ago. With that loss engrained in his memory, he focused all his energy on keeping control of the match. And that he did, with the icing on the cake being the crowd loudly chanting “1-2-3” in approval.
Owen finally manages to get some offense in but Kid smoothly reverses his attempts at becoming the aggressor. Those reversals meant more to Kid than meets the eye. Despite eloquently reversing what Owen had to offer, there was more to it than that. You see, in those series of reversals, Kid was proving to the world that he was the little engine that could. Not only was he reversing Owens offense, but he was trying to reverse the stigma of underdog that was attached to him. Yes, him being an underdog was endearing to the fans, but that is not the legacy he wanted to leave behind.
After being the driving force in the offense department, Kid finally got dropped back down to earth with a back suplex. Was it all starting to come crashing down? He had a lot of time to ponder that very thought whilst Owen had him in a rear chinlock. But no, Kid would not be denied. Not this time. Using his will to demolish the underdog label bestowed upon him he overcame Owen’s hold and sent him out of the ring. This was his ring and no underdog could make that claim. After a baseball dropkick taking out both men, and a cross body thereafter, Owen and Jim were reeling. This was Kid’s time to shine.
That brightness, however, dimmed pretty quickly after Owen suplexed Kid to the floor. Owen gave Kid a taste of his own medicine with a cross body and then just started slapping him around. Was Owen slapping sense into the Kid? What was he thinking? There’s no way he could really be more than just the underdog. That sudden feeling was reinforced when Owen started manhandling Kid by just battering him. As Owen came off the second rope with a nice flying elbow, like Jesus descending upon him, Kid began to doubt himself. But yet that doubt paved the way for Kid to react in a way filled with hubris.
For although he was down, he certainly was not out. He made sure to quickly release himself from a chinlock, a metaphorical attempt to release himself from being shackled as the underdog. However, Owen was just too damn good and managed to drop him to the mat again, this time with a neckbreaker. But Kid would not allow himself to give up and managed to evade Owen coming from the top, whose knees connected flush with the canvas. It was now or never. If he wanted to win this match he would have to react quickly and with the cleverness of a jackal. Kid sprung to life and strained Owen’s hurt knee by locking in a single leg crab. This was his moment. He would defeat Owen Hart and shed himself of his underdog skin.
But it was not to be. Before Kid could attain victory, the bastard Neidhart saved Owen by attacking Kid and in the process breaking the hold. Owen naturally got disqualified and Kid picked up the win. At least that’s what it will say on the record books but this certainly didn’t feel like a victory. Once everything was said and done, Kid – despite being hailed as victorious – was stuck in a Sharpshooter writhing in pain whilst Neidhart stomped away at him. But it was more than just getting stomped on; it was as if Neidhart was stomping away all Kid’s hopes and dreams of being more than an underdog.
In that moment Kid learned a sad truth. His destiny was crystal clear and the disappointing reality hurt more than the menacing hold he found himself in. For in that moment of clarity, Kid came to the realisation that no matter how hard he tried, he would always be known as the underdog. All that is left for him is to embrace it. And that’s his story. The story of an underdog.
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