Monday night, Brodus Clay finally debuted. The vignettes hyping his arrival have been playing for months, and each week, his reintroduction was pushed back, usually via John Laurinaitis calling him and apologizing for the delay. It became somewhat of a meme among wrestling fans, even to the point where a website was set up to ask whether he had debuted or not.
The vignettes had promised a brooding, animalistic monster, one who would tear through all competition with ferocity, leaving a trail of human wreckage behind him. Despite the fact that Mark Henry had been doing the same for the last six months (ironically enough using a trope in the “Hall of Pain” that Clay himself had pitched to Creative) and that Kane had just come back with a similar oeuvre, it made sense. The guy seemingly is built to be that kind of destroyer.
The biggest thing that won me over about this debut was the amount of fun that was involved in it. Clay looked like he was having fun. After the initial shock, the fans started reacting like they were in on the whole thing. The gimmick doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it is totally rife with possibilities for fan interaction and response. Clay made the entire atmosphere of the arena feel like a party. That’s what great wrestling can do, make everything feel fun again.
Wrestling by its very nature isn’t a serious art. It’s two or more guys pretending to hit each other and exaggerating the damage to get a crowd reaction. Yes, it can and should at times be tense and dramatic, but if there isn’t an inherent sense of humor, if there isn’t comic relief, if someone can’t attend an event without feeling like they can poke fun at themselves, then it becomes a bunch of people crowding around, deluding themselves that what they’re watching is real when the rest of the world is in on a joke that no one in the arena gets.
That’s how people get ashamed of watching wrestling rather than reveling in it against the haters. That’s how we get people who go to the high school gyms and cry while exclaiming “It’s still real to me, dammit!” to Terry Funk and Harley Race. Do we really want the entire arena to be filled with the “It’s Still Real to Me” guy? I say no, and I think most people would agree with me.
That’s why Clay’s reintroduction on Monday was sorely needed. WWE didn’t need another big bad wolf. They already had two, and one could argue that Big Show is a third one despite his jovial outer shell. I’m not saying people have to like Clay’s new character either. Everything is subject to personal taste.
But for me, the Funkasaurus was a smash hit. I hope he succeeds, because he’s so fun to watch. I hope he gets the mythical Kane/Diesel push in the Royal Rumble and eliminates guys with dance moves. Right now, he is everything that is good with pro wrestling.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.