The fat man, so often derided in the world of professional wrestling. From Mantaur to Rikishi, Akeem to Big Daddy V, the portly gentleman has always found it tough going in the credibility stakes.
The instinctive reaction to any guy over 350 pounds is to chastise them for their apparent lack of athletic ability and minimalist moveset. But for every Bastion Booger that gets consigned to the Wrestlecrap archives, a Vader comes along and moonsaults his way into our hearts.
So my question is, why, even after the success stories of Vader, Bam Bam, Andre, Dusty friggin? Rhodes and more recently guys like Big Show, Umaga (despite his fondness for dope) and now Mark Henry, are big guys still given a raw deal for the most part by a lot of ?fans??
?He is great! Geez, that old fat man. Look at the way he moves, like a dancer… And those fingers, them chubby fingers. And that stroke, it’s like he’s, uh, like he’s playin’ a violin or somethin.’?
?Fast Eddie? Felson ? The Hustler, 1961
Paul Newman certainly said it best didn?t he? Not only does he endorse a fine salad dressing (somehow from beyond the grave. That’s how good it is!) but he also recognized fat talent when he saw it. His character of ?Fast Eddie? Felson in The Hustler would certainly approve of Mark Henry’s transformation from ?Sexual Chocolate? into one of the best big men workers in North America. Yet, Henry can?t catch a break with some people who still see him as the injury prone disaster from his first eight or nine years with the WWE.
However, since Henry’s demolition of Randy Orton this past Monday night on Raw, something changed. He got a superstars reaction upon his arrival into the gauntlet match and many haters were actually begrudgingly converted into believing Henry might be the real deal for the first time in a decade. Yet, this transformation didn?t happen overnight. The World’s (not really) Strongest Man has been a solid worker for just over two years now, maybe more than that. Ok, he may not be 450 splashing anyone through the ring or delivering The World’s Strongest Corkscrew Plancha, but he doesn?t need to.
Sure, Vader and Bam Bam would often defy the laws of physics to leave us slack jawed when they careered through the air with the ease of a cruiserweight, but that was their party piece. It was special, but it didn?t make them better wrestlers. They were great without the moonsaults. They spent the majority of their time breaking faces and tearing ears off, and if the occasional eye popped out of a socket, they just popped that sucker back in and carried on destroying people. And it was glorious. Henry is similar. I?m not saying he’s in the same league as Vader, that?d be pushing it, but Jesus, is there a more satisfying sight than seeing a 400 pound beast saunter down the ramp after probably just devouring a Henry VIII style banquet backstage, just to put a five minute hurting on some poor soul, grunting a smile of satisfaction before heading back to the gorilla position to see what’s for dessert? I think not.
For every Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho or John Cena, there has to be a Henry or Big Show. The immovable object so to speak. I?ve seen countless members of the IWC and casual fans alike vent their bemusement at the fact that Andre the Giant is considered a legend in the sport. Yet, who else could have put Hogan over the same way? A guy doesn?t need to be a supreme athlete (and in fairness, Henry and Show are far from slouches in that respect) to be a great wrestler. Andre, whilst practically immobile in 1987 still had enough in the tank to be a part of possibly the most memorable and important feud in WWE history. With no one so much as questioning his athletic aptitude or move set. He stood there and let fools bounce off him, swatting away any piss ant that dare stand in his way. The fans bought it. Andre was unbeatable. Not because of his wrestling skills, but because of his sheer mass and strength. The guy was a freak of nature. You didn?t beat Andre, you conquered him.
Now, wrestling has evolved immeasurably since then to the point where size doesn?t mean invincibility, but it still counts for a lot. A guy returns and destroys Rey Mysterio, no one particularly bats an eyelid. A guy returns and smashes The Big Show to shit, and people take notice. As Hunter Golden mentioned this week upon Kane’s return at The Bash and consequent beatdown of the Great Khali, nothing’s more badass than taking out the biggest monster on the roster.
But back to our more rotund superstars. If a fresh faced Dusty Rhodes debuted tonight on Raw, with or without polka dots, who would honestly give the guy a chance? You?d see the man boobs jiggle and the love handles spill out over the trunks and your mind would almost be made up. After all, this is a guy who did confess to dining on ?pork and beans?. But this is also a guy who’s in the WWE Hall Of Fame and worked countless broadways with Ric Flair in the 80’s and is a two time NWA World Champion. He’s hardly the white Big Daddy V. Well actually, given Dusty’s dress sense and rare gift of rhythm, he’s barely Caucasian. So just because a guy’s an endomorphic somatype (when the . did you think you?d read that in one of my columns? FYI, it refers to body shape and an endomorph is a body shape with a high body fat ratio? see, not just a pretty face!) it doesn?t mean he’s lousy in the ring. It just means he likes to hump a few pizzas every now and again and supersize every meal he has.
If anything, dodging salads and still delivering the goods is more impressive in my eyes than a guy pumping iron, nailing a thousand thrust squats a day and enduring an ice bath. The heavy drinking, chicken fingers dipping wrasslers are the real heroes of the sport. The Dusty’s and the Vader’s are the Doug Heffernan’s of the wrestling world, and if you can?t appreciate that, then not only must you hate wrestling, but life in general, and should be ashamed of yourselves.
Now, I must dash and enjoy a chicken dinner. If you fat Nazi’s wish to shoot me down, do so at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JoeBaia. Fan mail is of course appreciated as well. Next week, I plan on indulging in that guiltiest or guilty pleasures, and fantasy booking the WWE through until Wrestlemania next year. Do I have what it takes? Check in next week to find out.
Until next time, Arriverderci.