wrestling / News

Ask 411 Wrestling: How Did his Biker Gimmick Affect the Undertaker’s Legacy?

October 30, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
The Undertaker American Badass

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Night Wolf the Wise is rollin’, rollin’, rollin’:

1. Undertaker was in his Deadman gimmick for 10 years (1990 to 2000). He was the American Badass/Big Evil for 4 years before going back to the Deadman gimmick. How different would Undertaker’s legacy have been if he had never gone back to the Deadman Gimmick?

One of the strategies to having a long career in professional wrestling – or any form of entertainment, really – is to periodically reinvent yourself so that fans don’t burn out on you doing the same act for years and years at a time. Chris Jericho is perhaps the best example of this in recent memory, and to a lesser extent you can praise Mick Foley and Kane for doing the same thing.

In my mind, that’s what the Undertaker was doing when he first became the American Badass (or, as I I prefer to call the character, BikerTaker). Though there were some variations over time, he had been doing more or less the same act for a decade, and he was forced to take some time off by an injury from 1999 headed into the first part of 2000. Given the duration of the Deadman’s run and the extended hiatus from the ring, it was the perfect opportunity for him to change some things up upon his return. He did just that, both for the benefit of the fans and probably also for his own benefit as well, as I suspect that an extended time in the same gimmick can be just as draining for the performer as it is for the audience.

If we don’t have those two gimmick switches in the prime of his career, I suspect that, even though he was already well-established as a legend by 2000, Undertaker’s legacy might be marred a little bit. He may well have been seen as a guy who overstayed his welcome, simply because there were only so many stories that you could tell with that version of the character. This is the kind of thing that we’ve seen with X-Pac and the Dudley Boys at various points, where they start to get heat simply because fans are tired of seeing them do the same thing time and time again.

Ultimately, given the goodwill he has engendered with wrestling fans and his aptitude as a performer, I suspect that the Underaker would still have been able to overcome this and enjoy something approaching his current notoriety, but his popularity might have started to wane in that early 2000s period as opposed to remaining as consistently high as it did.

2. Continuing with question 1. Say Undertaker had stayed in his American Badass/Gimmick, would Brock Lesnar beating him have had less of an impact then when he beat him as the Deadman?

Assuming that the streak played out the same way that it did, then I think that the version of the Undertaker wrestling that match is irrelevant. Brock Lesnar defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania was a mind-blowing moment because of Taker’s history at the event, not because Taker was some kind of magical zombie man.

David is willing to disfigure himself for our pleasure:

I need you to settle a little disagreement if you can, sir. The scars Dusty Rhodes had on the outside of his upper arm . . . how were they caused? I seem to remember a match where the Original Sheik repeatedly using a fork or some type instrument to cut it up. Cuz says it was The Spoiler with the silly claw (even back then that would be silly for that amount of damage). Or are we both wrong?

The answer is . . . you’re both right.

The scars on Dusty Rhodes’ arm weren’t caused by any one particular incident. There were several occasions during his career where the American Dream would intentionally cut his arm open with a spare razor blade in order to add a little bit of drama to his matches. He did this against several opponents, including but not limited to Terry Funk and Abdullah the Butcher.

Rhodes isn’t the only wrestler to do this, either. You can see similar scars on the arms of Mick Foley and Steve Corino, though Corino may be the last wrestler to gain any national fame to sport these marks, as blading in general is losing popularity and doing it in places other than your forehead definitely is.

Tyler from Winnipeg is freshly squeezed:

I’ve seen guys like Ricky Starks appear on WWE TV in clips. Has Orange Cassidy appeared on WWE TV in any capacity?

Cassidy has been wresting since 2004 and is based out of the northeast, so you’d think he would HAVE to have been a WWE extra at some point in time, but I have searched and not found any record of it. However, I will say that during his most notable run on the indies, he was working under a mask (as Fire Ant in CHIKARA starting in 2006), so there are a lot of people who were fans of his who wouldn’t necessarily have recognized him if he popped up on Raw or Smackdown. It is true that he wrestled without a mask prior to becoming Fire Ant – under the name JC Ryder – but he was not very prominent as Ryder and the fact that Ryder was Fire Ant was somewhat guarded.

Probably the most noteworthy television exposure that Cassidy had before AEW was appearing on several episodes of Ring of Honor’s old show on HDNet as an enhancement talent. He also had some international tours with Big Japan Wrestling, Osaka Pro Wrestling, and as part of the World Wrestling Network’s tour of China.

Marc has a head scratcher that I’m actually looking for help with:

I’m always interested in planted “fans” since they usually are indie wrestlers. But there’s one I haven’t been able to identify and I’m hoping you can help.

Recently I’ve been watching the original Weekly PPVs of NWA:TNA and just enjoying how terrible it is. In the 9th episode, Bruce makes an open challenge for his “Miss TNA” crown. A female fan signs a waiver of sorts and jumps in the ring and is obviously a trained wrestler. She is identified as “Tina Hamilton”, but has she done anything else notable?

When this question first came through several months ago, I did some research to try to uncover the identity of Tina Hamilton, but I could not find any source that indicated she had a career beyond her one-off appearance on the TNA pay per view that Marc references.

I am writing this answer during the weekend of TNA’s 2020 Bound for Glory pay per view, during which the company allowed anybody who wanted it a free preview of their Impact Plus streaming service. As soon as I heard that promotion was happening, I remembered this question and hopped online to watch the Bruce vs. Hamilton match of the first time to see whether I would recognize her as an independent wrestler.

Unfortunately, she didn’t look familiar, even when I went and compared her image to those on a few websites that are still up from the early 2000s which discuss women on the indy scene.

I will say it doesn’t seem that she had too much training. Her offense consists entirely of bodyslams, dropping a leg, and throwing Bruce over the top rope, with the first and third entries on that list being maneuvers that really involve Bruce doing all of the work. The only thing that makes me think that she has been trained at all is that, before she throws him out of the ring, you can see her ask him if he’s ready to take the bump, which somebody without any training probably wouldn’t think to do.

In any event, I did grab this screencap, so check it out and let me know if you recognize this woman. (Or perhaps even if you are this woman.)

Lee in Liverpool is fighting with his family:

Could you put together the best wrestling family? By this I mean for each traditional family member can you select one wrestler who shares a name with that role. For example, for the father a couple of the options would be Big Daddy or Papa Shango. Try and find a wrestler for as many family member roles/relatives as you can.

This is a bit of an unusual premise, but I’ll play your game.

Beginning with the patriarch of this faux wrestling family, Big Daddy is a solid choice and there are many more to choose from. Sweet Daddy Siki comes to mind as well, but ultimately I’m going to have to go with “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, a.k.a. Kevin Nash, as he’s probably the most prominent wrestling “father” on this side of the Atlantic.

Who could stand alongside Big Daddy Cool as the head of this fictional clan? He needs somebody of similar physical stature, so I’m going with Big Bad Mama, who used her voodoo powers to torment the “good girls” on the third and fourth seasons of GLOW.

In many circumstances, you can describe the parents of a family as mother and father, which defines them in relation to their children, but you can also define them in relation to each other, namely as husband and wife. In a bit of cruel irony, the only wrestling wife that I was able to hunt down was the Wifebeater, a CZW wrestler active between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s. Fortunately we live in a world where opportunities for men and women are becoming more equal, because in 2016 Swedish indy wrestler Aya Frick debuted her short-lived gimmick of the Husband Beater.

In your traditional family structure, a mother and a father are expected to have some children, so let’s posit a world in which Big Daddy Cool and Big Bad Mama are raising their own kid, perhaps one Kid Kash.

You’re probably not going to want little Kid Kash to grow up on his own, so how about some siblings? We’ll go with both some brothers and sisters, perhaps the Dudley Boys under their TNA monikers of Brother Ray and Brother D-Von and wrestling’s most infamous sister, Sister Sherri, the moniker that “Sensational” Sherri Martel used when she was managing Harlem Heat in WCW. (I suppose that we also could have gone with the Steiner Brothers, though Team 3-D gets more points in my book for having the word “brother” in their individual ring names.)

And of course every family needs the littlest brother or sister, the baby of the family. For that, I’ll go to joshi wrestler Miho Watabe, who gained more fame under a mask as Baby-A in the promotion Arsion and later Baby-M in JWP and other promotions.

With the traditional nuclear family rounded out, let’s move on to the extended family. There have been a handful of wrestling uncles, but the best of the bunch in my opinion is Uncle Zebekiah, perhaps best known as Dutch Mantell but more recently known as Zeb Colter.

Unfortunately wrestling aunts are few and far between, but I was able to track down one after a little bit of research. There is a California-based independent wrestler who goes by Auntie Hydie, whose character is reminiscent of a local TV station’s late-night horror host. She most recently wrestled in February of this year, with her career presumably being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re ever in the San Fernando Valley post-COVID, go see if you can check her out on a Millennium Pro Wrestling show.

Cousins in professional wrestling tend to be guys doing stereotypical hillbilly gimmicks, and I’ve never been a huge fan of the hillbilly gimmick. Therefore, I’m going to fudge a little bit on this one an select The Bushwackers, or Cousin Luke and Cousin Butch, as they called each other.

I’m not aware of any pro wrestling nieces or nephews, but . . .

WE’RE STILL NOT DONE! Let’s pull it back another generation and talk about grandparents. I was able to find one and only one pro wrestling grandparent, that being Grandma Butcher, a wrestler you’ve probably heard of before even though you don’t realize it. See, in 2013 and 2014 the Necro Butcher wrestled in drag on two otherwise all-women’s shows promoted by the New Jersey indy Pro Wrestling Syndicate.

Of course, any family could also use a pet or two, and we’ve got options there like the Junkyard Dog, Jerry Lawler’s ex-wife The Kat, and, if you’d like something of a more avian persuasion, you could go with Colibri, the Spanish word for hummingbird, which was also the original ring name of Rey Misterio Jr.

If you’ve got your own additions to this mixed-up wrestling family, feel free to drop them in the comments. I’m particularly interested if any Spanish or Japanese speakers could take this listing international.

Donny from Tamaqua, PA is all about the buffalo:

I would like to know your take on Tatanka during his ’92-’96 WWF run. When he first showed up, they did give him a lengthy undefeated streak that would always be mentioned by the commentators and he even had matches with Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental title. It was apparent to me and please correct me if I’m wrong they gave him the rub by mentioning him in the same category as Chief Jay Strongbow and even Wahoo McDaniel as a future Native American great. Once he did the heel turn angle with Ted DiBiase it appeared he lost any momentum whatsoever and never recovered. What happened?

I was late in my elementary school career when Tatanka made his WWF debut, and as a kid I remember being really into him because of the red streak down his hair, the “war dance,” and all of his turquoise jewelry. In retrospect, though, he wasn’t the greatest at what he did. Don’t get me wrong, nothing about him was actively bad, but his matches were average, his interviews were average, and his connection with the audience was average. The only thing that he really had going for him was his Native American persona, and, while having “ethnic” babyfaces in the WWF worked in the 1970s and to a lesser extent in the 1980s, by the 1990s as the company truly cemented itself as a national organization, solely having that sort of gimmick wasn’t enough for a wrestler to build a career around.

So, for the first two years in the promotion, Tatanka is doing moderately well but it becomes apparent that he is not going to break out as a big star. They got just about all of the mileage that they could out of his gimmick and his undefeated streak, and, when that happened, they decided to end the streak and transfer whatever heat they could get out of it to Ludvig Borga, who was meant to be the company’s top foreign heel at the time, in the vein of Ivan Drago according to Bruce Prichard on his Something to Wrestle podcast.

When Tatanka no longer had even the undefeated streak to prop him up, the character seemed even more dull than it had before, so the natural response is to give him something new in order to freshen him up, meaning that a heel turn is on the table. The angle building up to the turn was relatively well done, even though the outcome was predictable, but the problem was the follow-up. WWF fans just never got that excited about Lex Luger, no matter what storyline you put him in or what role he played. Tatanka couldn’t save Luger’s career, as their feud fizzled and Tatanka once more had nothing to do. He was part of the Million Dollar Man’s Corporation stable, and with guys like Bam Bam Bigelow and King Kong Bundy also in the stable at the same time, he was always going to be third in the pecking order at the best.

And that’s the deal with Tatanka. He was an average performer, and as a result he had an average career. There was an attempt to give him something a bit different and more interesting to do, and, though the buildup worked out, the follow-through was a disappointment, in large part due to the identity of his opponent.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].