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Curse of the 'Man in Pants'


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I've been thinking recently about the changes in the way wrestling as evolved over the years and the problems (at least I have had) with the product. This relates particularly to WWE but I suppose could be attributed to the wider wrestling population.


Taking a trip down the wrestling memory lane I have been thinking about the 1980s and 1990s. Back in the day you had characters galore. Be it the 'Hitman' Bret Hart, the 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair or the All American Hero Hulk Hogan we had characters. As we moved into 90s an 'Undertaker' strode into the world of wrestling along with a 'Bad Guy' and a 'Sexy Boy'. The big acts all had a character, something you could get hooked onto and something you could relate to in some way.


As we moved into the 2000s things changed. Characters died off, possibly in an attempt to rid the wrestling business of a certain stigma or even to compete with 'real' sports like UFC. Of course we had the likes of the Boogeyman amongst others but we began to get in influx of non characters. Or what I call the 'Men in Tights'.


This is where I think wrestling as a whole (particularly WWE) lost it's way. Instead of having loveable characters with clearly defined features and attributes we got a long line of 'Wrestlers' who were just another guy in tights. Randy Orton is a prime example of this. Although he is/was called 'The Viper' he is essentially just a wrestler. What makes him such a Viper? Sure he is menacing and cold and calculated but so was Jake Roberts and he did it much better.


Same can be said for Sheamus, Christian, Cody Rhodes and many others.


We are currently on the up it seems. The Shield (self styled Hitman group), Adam Rose (the ultimate partier!), The Wyatt Family (creepy butters!) and others have carved a niche for themselves that goes beyond 'A Wrestler' - something I can relate to. For a long time I couldn't buy into a lot of the wrestlers WWE bought up but this is beginning to change. It's worth noting that the following wrestling megastars all had 'character' opposed to the above:


Undertaker (speaks for itself)

The Rock (Comedic Jock with an Attitude)

Ric Flair (Ego Maniacal Playboy)

Brock Lesnar (Hardnut UFC Fighter)

Triple H (Clever, Hard Bastard!)

Steve Austin (Tough SOB that doesn't give a shit!)

Kurt Angle (Olympic Gold Medalist)

Big Show (The Token Giant)

Hulk Hogan (Ultimate American Hero)


It would be interesting to see opinions of other people on the site. I don't mean we should have nutty characters who are goofy and unrealistic. However I do feel that the likes of Randy Orton, Batista, AJ Styles, Magnus and others don't grab me and pull me in like the characters of old (and present!)

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It's more about talent and not characters for me. You diss Randy Orton, and I can see why, he's a fucking bore, but you're dissing his lack of character. Steve Austin didn't have anymore of a character than Orton. But he had an infectious attitude and cut interviews people loved.


A lot of the other guys on your list had no especially definable character. They were mostly just an extension of themselves. Jurt Angle and Brock Lesnar just where themselves. "Token Giant" isn't a character.


Plenty of the guys these days have a character that's easily definable. Sheamus, Del Rio, Ziggler, Jack Swagger, etc. But they aren't fantastic talkers who can get themselves over to the extent of Austin or The Rock. Or even Punk or Cena. They're also quickly over-exposed by the masses of TV there are these days (and has been for years and will be for years to come).


The one thing I do really miss is vignettes being shot for existing guys outside the arenas. If they turned Sheamus heel and shot a series of vignettes of him beating up people in Irish bars, that's be more entertaining. Might not get him over anymore but I'd enjoy it.

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I think over time characters and gimmicks change or evolve either subtly or obviously. For example Orton came in as a rookie guy whose family had been in the business for a long time, then he joined Evolution and his character became more of a suited up young, arrogant ladies man, then the Legend Killer, where he'd keep a tally of all the legends he'd beaten down, then when Evolution dropped him he became the guy who was against a stable, who either outsmarted them or got beat down by them. Once Evolution was finished he became darker, that's around the time they began the Viper and using every descriptive word for snakes to describe him, he headed The Legacy and became unhinged, punting people, including his boss and now he's more of a 'Man in Pants' type character as he's back in Evolution but more just a part of a group who is taking on another group.


For me I like to be entertained by characters and gimmicks, don't get me wrong though if someone has no character or gimmick but is an amazing wrestler or they are really charismatic then I am going to be watching. Using Orton again as I've detailed how I viewed his change through time already I would say when I really liked watching Orton and he entertained me was his Legend Killer gimmick as it was building him up and made for some exciting moments, when he left Evolution and they were chasing him as Champion, one of my favourite moments involved the time he was in the cage and they were looking to beat him down but he outwitted them and escaped. I enjoyed his time heading The Legacy as that was also the time he had a dark character and was punting people and so on. Since then though I haven't really seen any character or gimmick from him, he has seemed like a 'Man in Pants" and I'm hoping once this Evolution thing finishes or even during it he does become darker and more unhinged and psychotic as I did enjoy that Randy Orton.

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There are plenty of characters about today:


Cena (The ultimate good guy, simular to Hogan)

The Shield (The Hounds of Justice)

Los Materdores (How much more 80's do you want)

3 Man Band (These guys are perfect for the roles they have been given)

Rusev (Big Bad Foreign Bloke c/w equally foreign manager)

Santino (simular vein to Hacksaw)

Evolution (the big guys in suits running the show)

Kane (Resident monster)

Lesnar (the shoot fighter)

Wyatts (Spooky cult)


Loads more too. Character depth is looking better than it has for years, at least since Umaga and Khali first debuted when they had a ton of weird acts appearing, espeacially on Smackdown. I personally think that WWE is in a big transition period right now and the future is looking good with people like Wyatt, Cesaro, Bryan, Shield all looking to take the company into the future. NXT has been doing wonders for some of these guys and there are a good few looking to take the step up too.

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It's a combination of the lack of characters and the lack of things for them to do. Everyone's overexposed now, where they get ten or fifteen minutes of TV time developing nothing, just even-stevening and the win or loss means nothing. They'd be better off getting thirty seconds to a minute and maximising their time.

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I think gimmicks and characters work better when they are an extension of the persons real personality and being allowed some creative freedom to explore the character. I think one of the problems with some of the gimmicks in WWE at the moment are that they are hard to buy into because they are very PG\cartoonish. It would be nice to see more gimmicks that had a controversial gritty edge to them with an interesting backstory and meaning.


I remember Vince Russo saying that when he wrote for WWE he made sure that everybody from the top of the card to the bottom of the card had a storyline and a direction. There's to many similar characters in WWE at the minute, very generic young guys in tights who have nothing unique about them. At least in the Attitude era you have a wide variety of characters all shapes sizes, ages, backgrounds etc it made for far more interesting TV. I suppose you could have the best gimmick in the world however but if the writting is shit then you don't stand a chance.

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I long for more mature themes like Pee Pee extraction and hand babies. As has been said, there's loads of characters but for the most part they're over exposed and under-utilised. It has to be a conscious decision on WWE's part to only feature certain guys and angles because now more than ever they have the means to showcase the entire roster but don't.

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A character and a angle are different things. The Legend Killer was not a character; it was an angle to get a character over. I do agree about the lack of characters though, which I think stems from both the developmental system (mainly the previous OVW and FCW runs; the current NXT system seems to be going the right way) and the same writers penning everyone's promos. It's hard to care about a character on a wrestling show who speaks in the same intonation as everyone else and never looks at the camera (ie ME) when they're talking. Wrestlers today flipflop between mannerisms depending on whether they are face or heel, whereas back in the day they had the strength and definition to remain the same but use those characteristics differently. The angles were more about engineering situations in which the characters could interact and make you want to pay money to see. Nowadays I think it's more about the angles, which makes the in ring talent much more disposable. Matches are now about move sets interacting than characters interacting. Fewer signature moves, more prerecorded vignettes, and more squashes are some things I think are needed to boost character definition and creativity and longevity.

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The issue is WWE not giving performers a platform to show personality, they give them a platform to wrestle. Fans are presented with cold matches because it translates across all languages. Meaning they have more markets. They also want to be presented more as a sport because advertisers see that as something people will want to watch live, rather than recording (which means you can fast forward the adds.)


Cody Rhodes and Big E have bags of personality, but watching Raw you wouldn't exactly know that. To see personality you have to watch pre/post shows and online content. The stuff that would make matches matter isn't presented along with the matches, it's a separate little entity the hardcore fans with too much time on their hands can seek out. I proposed the idea of turning a Main Event level show into a show exclusively for character building a while back, and outside of existing contracts I think this would turn a lot of it around. Saying that on the whole WWE is doing their best in years at providing a platform for new acts to get them selves over like The Shield (all three of whom are capable of making big money,) The Wyatt Family, Bryan and so forth.


Right now WWE have more outlets than ever to distribute content. They have so many guns blazing when it comes to programming in different formats, which has allowed the flagship show to be diluted. In the attitude era everything was basically crammed onto Raw, making that an easier to watch programme. These days being a wrestling fan is a lot of work to find everything to make you care about what happens in the ring

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