(NOTE: This column may be offensive to anyone who is a friend, fan, or relative of Andrew “Test” Martin. Though I soften the blow and explain my perspective later in the article, I was politely asked by my colleague and site runner Eric Gargiulo to either change the tone or provide some kind of disclaimer in this writing. I will mention here, as I will again do later, that I have no problem with Andrew Martin whatsoever. I wasn’t a big fan, but I do respect that he has since passed on and has left behind many who appreciated his gentle nature and kind spirit. I just hope that when you read this, you understand that there is no malice here, but rather an unbiased presentation of a marketing pattern that Mr. Martin falls into. Again, may God bless the soul of Andrew Martin, and may his loved ones find peace in knowing that he’s in a better place.)
Why did people cheer for Hulk Hogan?
Well, that’s easy. Hulk Hogan won over the majority of wrestling fans nationwide (and hordes more overseas) with a simple, yet hard-to-obtain formula. Hogan had unmatched charisma, a knack for telling a basic story between the ropes, and a Herculean physique that helped present him as an unbeatable fighter, one who no mortal man could beat without weapons or chicanery.
It’s this last quality that World Wrestling Entertainment (Vince McMahon moreso than anyone) seems to be the most enamored with in terms of deciding who to push.
Yet, it took the arrest of Zahorian, a federal investigation, and a very public trial (which McMahon narrowly won) for McMahon to distance himself from the muscle heads clogging up the works. An apparent mark for hard bodies himself (his own body being proof), McMahon doesn’t think twice about pushing these “genetic freaks” to the moon, putting them over his more talented, albeit more natural bodied, performers. It’s this belief that the bigger man will always beat the smaller man, no matter how much ability as a “fighter” that the smaller man has.
To anyone who follows wrestling with any zeal, this is not news.
However, during my two decades of loyal viewership that I have devoted to this unique business, I’ve noticed a rather interesting trend as it pertains to the wrestlers who have Adonis-like bodies.
Beginning in 2001, after WWE had defeated both WCW and ECW, and thus now controlled the market, they could no longer “steal” talent from other promotions. Instead, they would have to solely focus on creating their own, in-house “Superstars”. Since the creation of said stars would happen under the administrative eye of Vince McMahon himself, then there’s a good chance that these wrestlers would be created in his image.
If you believe that such developmental training would involve an emphasis on mat wrestling and innovative aerial tactics, there’s a chance that you believed that Buddy Rose’s “Blow Away” diet was a stringent part of the training regimen.
Largely, Ohio Valley Wrestling (and later Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling) was a meat factory, teaching only the most basic of skills to these jacked up brutes before calling them up to the main roster, hoping that they would pick up the rest of their skill set by sheer osmosis, working against the seasoned veterans on the roster. OVW is less guilty of this, given that when Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman ran the show, the emphasis was largely on making respectable television performers out of the roster, not half-heartedly preparing glorified gym nuts for their WWE careers.
You can kind of see why WWE doesn’t like having Heyman and Cornette around.
This column has to do with a certain segment of wrestlers who make it to the promised land and find their way onto WWE television.
I truly believe, and I don’t think I’m alone, that Vince McMahon sees dollar signs in tall, muscular, Fabio-haired warriors, and doesn’t think twice about the fact that they can’t move across the mat without falling over themselves. I also believe that he is thoroughly surprised when the fans react with utter apathy when said wrestlers are in action.
The patron saint of this theory is the late Andrew Martin, aka Test. Now, I’m not trying to rag on the guy. Test was apparently a nice man and a stand guy, but geez, the man displayed zero personality, and was a marginal wrestler who could only have a good match with a seasoned opponent. Yet, there he was in a prominent role, time and time again, because he had a body similar to Hulk Hogan.
But there are two problems.
Uno: He didn’t have Hogan’s charisma
Dos: He didn’t have Hogan’s ability to perform at a main event level, using presence and savvy to his advantage.
(Quick aside: Again, don’t get me wrong. I can’t think of a single person in the business that considered Test an enemy. My boss on the blog, Eric Gargiulo, will even attest to the fact that he was a nice man who fit in with the group and did as he was asked for any promoter, any time. It’s not his fault that WWE and Vince McMahon fell hopelessly in love with him for his look, and thus pushed him accordingly over more talented performers. After all, with such money at stake, is Test going to turn down such a push? I doubt it highly.
If you’re a Test fan, I hope you realize that this piece is written as an objective fan, not as someone who loathes Andrew Martin. I’m sad that he died young and I’m sure his peers in the business miss him even more. This is based on Andrew Martin, as presented by a corporation, not Andrew Martin, the man who was loved by his peers and was a good-hearted man.)
This leads me to write this piece, introducing the world to a scientific theory that can be applied if you watch wrestling religiously enough. That theory is:
The Andrew Martin Corollary.
When a wrestler with a tremendous physique and not much else is pushed hard as a babyface, his heat will be non-existent or die out quickly, due to the fans having nothing to really connect with. This will lead to a sudden, sometimes inexplicable heel turn. He will then be pushed hard, or fairly consistently, as a heel, until one of two things happens: he fails to set the world on fire as a heel and is depushed/released, or his new gimmick DOES catch on, to where he becomes so interesting and cool that he is immediately turned back face, where he loses his edge.
Whew! That’s quite a theory there. Of course, being the latent, amateur scientist that I am, I can’t present a theory without examples.
Here are eight performers who fit the bill for the AMC.
The only person that has to wipe with toilet paper wrapped around a baseball bat that ISN’T morbidly obsese. Despite having his best career run in the dying days of WCW as a sailor-mouthed heel who bullied everyone around, which included a four month run as WCW Champion, Steiner came into WWE in 2002 as a face, and was plugged into a feud with Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title. Sadly, Steiner was so deteriorated and his matches so poor, that he was shunted down the card into a team with (wait for it) Test! When Test turned heel, the two men feuded over the love of Stacy Keibler, with Test winning and the once-proud and vicious Steiner now playing lapdog to Martin. Steiner then turned full heel and became Test’s best buddy (inexplicably), with WWE figuring again that to bully Stacy is to incur the wrath of the fans. The angle was largely forgotten, and Steiner was gone from WWE within months.
We’ll jump right to his last run in WWE, when he returned to television in 2007 as a free spirited biker with a rockin’ physique. Everyone loves bikers with custom shops! Paired with Michelle McCool (more on her later), they rode to the ring on one of his “CP Customs” before he’d demolish another lower card heel. That’s all well and good, but the act drew about as much heat as a scented candle on Mount Erebus. Palumbo was turned heel, turning on McCool (which is like turning on Stacy, except without anyone caring in the least), and earning the coveted role of “vanilla mid-carder who gets to abuse Jamie Noble” in early 2008. Palumbo wouldn’t survive the year, getting axed that November.
In 2003, Lance (Back when I was Garrison) Cade teamed with Mark Jindrak on Raw. They had no official name, since they had no official gimmick. What do you call two vanilla white guys with a little bit of upside who get a few random wins? If “Utah Jazz” wasn’t copyrighted, you could have gone with that, but instead, after failing to excite even a nymphomaniac, they turned heel by year’s end. Which is interesting, because nobody could explicitly remember them being faces. Cade would go on to such prominent roles like “Coachman’s lackey”, “the handsome partner of Trevor Murdoch”, and “the tall and handsome sidekick of Chris Jericho”, seemingly being groomed to feud with Shawn Michaels in late 2008 before a bizarre incident on board an airplane led to his release. However, since has maintained his nice hair and chiseled frame (no cure for his ventriloquist dummy’s eyes), he was rehired in late 2009, though has yet to be assigned. I’ll bet he gets pushed!
Cade’s old partner? He kicked around SmackDown for over a year, first as a knockoff of Lex Luger (how far gone in life do you have to be….), then as a henchman for Kurt Angle. Both instances were about as exciting as watching a cockroach have an aneurysm. Jindrak didn’t make it past the cutbacks in July 2005, winding up in Mexico shortly thereafter. But he’s still got that six pack, you know.
After his 2003 debut, he was given respect on Smackdown from The Undertaker. He would then spend a year as a bland, Rocky Johnson showcase, hardly being used before turning on ‘Taker to become JBL’s chief of staff. That led to a US Title reign, but didn’t lead to the fans caring. A changeover to a Sheamus-like hairstyle didn’t help. His greatest claim to fame was getting mauled by Chris Benoit, back when watching Benoit destroy a person wasn’t awkward. In 2006, Jordan got the heave ho for having an unauthorized person on the road with him. I’ll bet anything that it wasn’t his charisma teacher.
The priestess of suck herself! Despite not one fan caring about her as a face, she was pushed hard before even WWE said “Sorry, Undertaker, but your buttafaced bride ain’t cuttin’ it.” So they turned her heel, where even less people care, no matter how many times she beats Mickie James and Melina. Once Undertaker finds himself a new woman, McCool will find herself McEndeavored. I’ll bet cash.
On house shows, Reks has begun to show heel symptoms, indicating that he’s turning against the fans for not embracing his loveable surfer ways. It remains to be seen what will come of this, but if he’s anything like the face version of his character, 2010 will end with him writing angry blogs about how WWE is unfair, and how he doesn’t need a pilot’s license to know that he’s right.
Earlier, I listed that it’s possible for a heel turn to completely rejuvenate a bland face. Two good examples are John Cena (plucky good guy with “RUTHLESS AGGRESSION!”) and Randy Orton (“Look at me! My dad was a famous midcarder!”). They took drastic turns when the fans stopped caring (Angry rapper and spoiled jock, respectively). Cena’s natural charisma and hard work, as well as Orton’s athleticism and penchant for playing a heel, led to the fans accepting them in their heel roles. So of course, they turn face again, with Cena losing his transcendent mojo and Orton becoming a babyface cliche. Orton turned heel again and refound his spirit as a demented predator, whereas Cena makes a ton of money as the posterboy for WWE’s family friendly campaign, so all is well.
But all is not well for the stiffs that Vince McMahon thinks we’ll buy into, simply because they have great bodies. Eventually, water finds its own level and such performers are flushed out of the roster. But the endless circle can be entertaining to anyone who’s familiar with it. As long as Vince McMahon loves hard bodied physiques, the circle will continue.
And so will the future endeavors’ list.
When he isn’t watching WWE, TNA, or his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, Justin Henry can be found writing. It is his passion as well as his goal in life to become a well-regarded (as well as well-paid) columnist or author. Subscribe to The Cynical Examination, his wrestling blog, at http://www.facebook.com.