In a week where everyone is covering ethics, murder, and politics I thought that maybe some of you might want to read something fun and wrestling related. If not, my bad. I just kind of assumed. This time I’m discussing 5 gimmicks the WWE dropped too soon.
Like many, I was left in the dark as to why Mordecai’s character was suddenly dropped off television. I had looked it up over the years, but all I had found was numerous columnists and “journalists” declaring that the entire thing is a mystery. Turns out, it was more like a Scooby Doo mystery where a dumb dog could uncover the truth if he tripped into the keyboard long enough, because the question had been answered numerous times by Kevin Fertig himself. It took me about 30 seconds to find it, too. Journalists my ass.
For those of you who don’t know, Mordecai was a priest type character who worshipped a God figure. He’d wear all white, he’d talk about the light, and he claimed he was there to cleanse the world of sinners, oh boy, and here’s the catch: we’re the sinners. You can tell this is the Attitude Era since we’re supposed to be proud of being a sinner at this point whereas in today’s PG era the WWE expects us to be mad at someone like Becky Lynch because she’s a big ole meanie head. The idea is that Mordecai would come out and “cleanse” the babyfaces one by one until it eventually led to a feud with the Undertaker. Yes, the Undertaker. In a rare bout of cleverness from the WWE writers, this would take a creative twist of the old good versus evil feud where the guy wearing all white and praising God would be the heel, and the guy wearing black who kidnapped, sacrificed and nearly murdered a young Stephanie McMahon was the babyface.
The lesser known twist to the story – though, if you didn’t see this one coming, welcome to the world because you must have just squeezed out – the God that Mordecai was praising was going to be revealed as Vince McMahon. Yes, the guy who once called himself the Higher Power, a God, the God, God, and then beat God in a tag team match was going to call himself God. Again. Talk about a twist! The third and final twist is that none of this happened because Kevin Fertig went to a bar one night and alcohol attacked him.
As Kevin Fertig retells the story, he was called backstage one day after a tag match where Vince McMahon tells him, “I don’t need another tag team. I don’t want another tag team,” which I’m sure every wrestler’s story could start that way, and no one would question them. Kevin proposed an idea he had been working on: Mordecai. Vince loved the idea, and legend tells that after Vince found out he’d be playing Mordecai’s God that his boner is still extending to this very day. Vince even called The Undertaker over to hear about this idea. Kevin Fertig was told he was about to become a millionaire.
It all goes downhill is when Mordecai, Mordecai’s wife, and Maven walk into a bar, and no this isn’t the start of the coolest joke ever told. Another customer had a little too much to drink and decided to start a fight using a beer bottle, and once he found out it wasn’t a good idea to attack someone using a drinkable phallic metaphor, he tried suing Kevin. Of course, at the time Kevin didn’t have any money, but do you know who does have money? Kevin’s employer: WWE – who we won’t even mention centered several feuds around bar room brawls. After being told how badly he fucked up by the Undertaker, because if there’s one thing the Undertaker is exceptionally good at its waiting until someone is extremely depressed and sticking a middle finger deep in the gaping wound, Vince fired him because he didn’t want the bad PR. Yeah, screw you Kevin for being too broke to sue thanks to someone else’s alcohol problem, ya jerk!
Paul Burchill seemed to have been given a break. He cut a very small promo after Vince McMahon once again wanted nothing to do with tag teams towards William Regal and Generic Authority Figure #92245 informing them that he wanted to go solo from their current partnership and embrace his pirate heritage – which despite how it sounds is not a wanking metaphor. William Regal shakes his hand and wishes him the best which makes their split completely amicable, so be prepared to forget that fact a week later. Things get a little loopy in the next couple weeks when Paul Burchill debuts a gimmick where he’s dressed just like a pirate, talking like a pirate, and moving like… Well, Johnny Depp, who’s anything by a pirate. That’s Johnny Depp the pirate, by the way, and not Johnny Depp the racist Indian or Johnny Depp the real-life wife beater.
It seemed to be getting over well. The audience was getting into it and for good reason. There was so much here to love. His entrance consisted of him swinging in from a rope from the top of the Smackdown set, complete with pirate theme music and the entire Pirates of the Caribbean ring attire. This could have been a child favorite except there was one problem. See, when Vince McMahon originally proposed the idea that Paul Burchill would be a pirate, he wanted him to be an actual pirate. Like, a real-life pirate, not a caricature of one. The conversation between he and McMahon, as Paul Burchill recalls in an interview, went, “You’re going to be a pirate!” “Like Keith Richards?” “Yeah, but as a pirate!” If you understand who Keith Richards is then you can probably see where this story is going. Vince McMahon had no idea that Pirates of the Caribbean was a movie. Not long after the debut of what could have been a sure-fire gimmick, Disney sends WWE a cease and desist letter. When I said he resembled Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character what I meant was that he blatantly ripped off in its entirety, without any doubt, the entire Jack Sparrow gimmick from big feathery hat to toe. I guess you could say he… pirated… the pirate character? I’ll show myself out.
His next gimmick could have been interesting in the Attitude Era. The idea was that Paul Burchill was re-debuting with his sister Katie Lea in what was supposed to come off as a directly incestual rip-off of Cruel Intentions, because if there’s one thing the WWE doesn’t learn, it’s anything. Not incest per se, but about as close to incest as you can get without banjos playing and your father walking in to catch you having sex with not him. There’s a conflict of stories here, as Katie Lea retells the story that their love was heavily implied to be sexual, and Paul Burchill says it was only supposed to come off creepy but not sexual. Okay. Imagine hanging all over your sister in sexual poses while using sexually charged puns and telling people they were looking too much into it. Seriously, do it. Did you do it? Freak.
I can’t speak for everyone, but literally everyone enjoyed Bad News Barrett. He started out on some internet segments and ECW’s comedy sketches, which is fine. Zack Ryder started out that exact same way and look at hi—oh. Oh, shit. Bad News Barrett created an idea where he’d go around letting wrestlers know he’s afraid and that he has got some negative news to tell them, but with a catchphrase or something. Did I nail that gimmick? It caught on with fans as they would chant his catchphrase with him. Barrett tells the story of how everyone, including Vince McMahon, would say the phrase backstage for fun. Obviously, he’s on to something, right? I mean, if everyone you know is repeating the catchphrase, including the guy who’s in charge of making it a catchphrase, that’s probably a good sign.
You know how it seems like Vince McMahon thinks that everyone who is foreign has to be the heel because Vince is a time traveler from the 1980s who happened to be extremely racist and also the owner of a worldwide wrestling company? That’s because he does. Wade Barrett discussed how Vince McMahon believes certain accents are only good for being a heel and couldn’t see Wade carrying himself as a heel, so he didn’t want Wade doing that thing that has already caught on with people. Since Wade was a heel, Vince asked him to stop using catchphrases because they couldn’t get us to stop saying it with him. That made him just a normal guy who had the moniker “Bad News” inexplicably attached to his name and I can’t fathom why that didn’t get over.
Imagine Braun Strowman before we knew we needed Braun Strowman to be a Braun Strowman. Nathan Jones was 20 feet tall with biceps the size of at least one of Stephanie McMahon’s implants and 1.94% more natural. He had a real-life reputation of escaping his prison in Australia and even made headlines all over the world. They gave him the gimmick of someone who sat around in prison going insane, which makes absolutely no sense considering my last sentence just told you he could escape whenever he pleased but go with it. They even gave him good vignettes leading up to his debut that featured him talking to himself, reaching through cell doors, smiling maniacally and using a cool Australian accent. It’s worth googling if you haven’t see him before. Preferably after you’re done reading this. I’m talking to myself now, aren’t I?
So, he had the look, the gimmick, and the appeal all down? “Perfect,” said the WWE, “But I feel like there’s something we forgot.” Then, Nathan Jones debuted. “Oh, shit, we forgot to train him!” Yeah, see, the problem was that Nathan Jones couldn’t wrestle himself out of spider web if the web had mostly been washed away in the rain and the spider helped. After a few tryout matches, the WWE reeled back on Nathan Jones by doing the only thing reasonable – They gave him a program with the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Wait… what?
If you’re realizing how stupid of an idea that is, congratulations, you’re overqualified to write WWE logic. Luckily, the WWE had a backup plan: they had someone hit Nathan Jones backstage and that kept him out of the ring for 99% of the match which is a nice precedence you want to set with a giant you’re wanting to portray as invincible. The Undertaker with cheerleader Nathan Jones won the match against 3 people that could easily take out Nathan Jones, but stop it stop it WWE logic, bad Tim.
Even if this list was written by someone who freely traveled the multi-verse and witnessed billions of different renditions of pro wrestling, Sean O’Haire would still be in the top 5. This is the best gimmick to never happen. For those of you living under a rock, how are you reading this right now? But for people who don’t know about Sean O’Haire, he had a gimmick that was a devil’s advocate. They aired vignettes for weeks straight of him talking about terrible things we do as people and how those things are totally okay, then he’d end each segment with his catchphrase, “But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.” Chills.
If you get around to watching his vignettes on YouTube you’re going to end up like everyone else. You’re going to wonder how in the hell a gimmick like this could get shelved by the WWE. Well, do you notice how the vignettes show Sean saying one line then doing a jump cut to him saying the next line and repeat over and over? That’s not some creative choice they used. That’s because, as Jim Cornette explains, Sean O’Haire didn’t understand the gimmick or how to cut a promo. They had to edit the vignettes the way they did because Sean would often go so far off on a tangent that Hollywood took notice of a guy who looked like Brendan Fraser dragging a very short premise through the center of the world and made a movie based on it. The gimmick was dropped because Sean O’Haire had no idea how to cut a promo so that the rest of the world could follow along.
The WWE tried to remedy the situation by giving Sean O’Haire a mouthpiece like Roddy Piper, except the problem was the Roddy was so charismatic and Sean O’Haire was… what’s the opposite of that? Curtis Axel? It didn’t help that Sean O’Haire had theme music that sounded like it was recorded from a concert a teenager girl would attend at the mall, or that he wore sunglasses with nearly no tint, or that he was still Sean O’Haire.
Of course, Bray Wyatt went on to steal the gimmick and make millions, so… whoops.
Of course, those are just a few of the gimmicks WWE dropped way too soon. What are your top 5?
Name a gimmick that the WWE dropped too early
— Tim Rose (@TimRoseJr) October 16, 2018
I’m a freelance writer, professional photo manipulator, and temporary nap taker. I like to go grocery shopping, pick up the kids, fix the sink, and other things my wife tells me I enjoy. You can follow me @timrosetweeting