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THE BROAD PERSPECTIVE
A Simple Plan... for a Simple Man
April 9, 2004

by Erin Anderson
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

As happy as I was to see William Regal this Monday, my heart sank when I found out that he would be saddled with Eugene. I must give a lot of credit to Nick Dinsmore for playing the part so well; had I met him on the street while he was in character, I truly would have thought he was "special."

But no matter how good the performers involved are, one question still remains: is this even a good idea?

On the surface, for Dinsmore, the answer is no. Mental retardation is not a gimmick in wrestling; it is a glass ceiling. A character like Eugene is a mid-carder at best and lowbrow comedy relief at worst. Comedy relief is not a bad thing in and of itself, but characters that exist strictly for it are given a one-way ticket to Jobberville. Just ask the Hurricane and Rosey.

But does it really matter where his place on the card is, so long as he gets airtime and makes us laugh? With this type of gimmick, it does. Eugene is being portrayed as a face, but the laughter is supposed to be directed at him, not with him.

As wrestling fans, we can make fun of the heels. Kurt Angle was the master at getting laughs without getting cheers. Vince McMahon's manic facial expression as he peered over the ring apron at Wrestlemania XIX received howls of laughter from everyone I was watching with. It's fine for us to laugh at heels because we are supposed to.

But when a babyface makes us laugh, he or she is in on the joke, like in any John Cena promo or gleeful Stunner by Stone Cold Steve Austin. It's really the only difference between a comedic face or heel: you don't laugh at a face. You laugh with him.

But Eugene is not in on the joke, and our laughter will be at the stupidity of the things that he says and does. When you think about it that way, it's incredibly mean-spirited and tasteless, even by wrestling standards. Has the business really sunk so low that WWE is willing to introduce a mentally retarded character for the sake of a few laughs? Coming from a company that gave us Katie Vick and Al Wilson, I think I already know the answer.

Despite all of this, WWE can make this character work without any kind of social backlash. If they play their cards right, they may even be applauded for putting Eugene on television. Here's how:

1. Have Eugene constantly drive Regal crazy.

If Monday's show is any indication, WWE is already getting this one right. Regal will be the real star of the show here, and if Eugene is always putting him in compromising and embarrassing situations, our laughter will be directed where it should be: at the heel. It's a nice ethical loophole for the writers; the fans get their chuckles in without feeling bad for laughing at Eugene.

And it shouldn't stop there, either. Eugene should get on the nerves of any and every heel who crosses his path. It'll put huge heat on and heel who responds to him with anything but patience and tolerance. Even Uncle Eric shouldn't be immune. The more Eugene frustrates the heels, the more he will endear himself to the fans.

2. Treat Eugene no differently than anyone else.

This may seem rather obvious, but it is essential to this character. WWE could follow in the footsteps of South Park and its treatment of Timmy, the wheelchair-bound Special Ed student. The other children in South Park interact with Timmy just like they would anyone else; they all talk to him like a normal person despite his one-word vocabulary, and none of them make a big deal about his disabilities.

In a similar vein, the babyfaces need to act completely normal around Eugene backstage, without dumbing down their words or actions towards him. They shouldn't protest if Eugene is their tag team partner for a match. WWE should make a point to have Eugene interact with top-level baby faces; the fans could see a more personable side of Benoit that way, or get a good laugh by having Eugene agree with Mick Foley that Randy Orton is a tool and ending the conversation with, "You know, Dinsmore, you're a lot smarter than anyone gives you credit for." . If the wrestlers don’t make a big deal about it, neither can the critics.

3. Smarten him up, just a little.

This may need to be a gradual process given the way he was introduced, but Eugene's limited mental capacity also severely limits any angles he could be involved in. Make him just a little bit smarter, graduating him from "mentally retarded" to "Forrest Gump": dumb enough to get himself into trouble and require a babysitter in Regal, but just smart enough to really understand what's going on around him.

For another Forrest Gump comparison: just as Gump had a talent for running and ping-pong, make Dinsmore appear sharp and intelligent in the ring. He shouldn't give any indication that he is a mentally challenged individual when he wrestles. And to take the analogy even further, apply it to the Eugene/Regal relationship, mirroring the Gump/Lt. Dan dynamic: Regal my resent having Eugene around, but dammit, the kid eventually grows on him.

Eugene could become a universally well-liked and memorable character, but you can only take a one-dimensional gimmick like that so far. Eventually, there will only be one thing left for the creative team to do…

4. Turn Eugene heel.

It would impossible for Eugene to go bad with his current character. The solution? Have him drop it completely. As long as I'm busting out the movie comparisons, consider Edward Norton in The Score, in which he pretended to be a mentally handicapped man who worked as  a janitor in order to gain information on a location for a high-stakes robbery.

You want a memorable heel turn? Have Eugene interrupt a promo after months of building up goodwill with the fans, pick up a mic, and start speaking in a clear, intelligent voice. Casting Bischoff as his uncle may confuse things a bit, but since when has continuity been a major concern of the writers? Perhaps Uncle Eric could be in on the ruse, using Eugene as a backstage spy whom the other wrestlers would never suspect could "tell" on them.

WWE could take a gimmick that, on the surface, screams "Bad Idea," and turn it into something clever, memorable, and potentially blindsiding if they decide to go through with the heel turn. Or, they could have the next Zach Gowen on their hands and eventually send Dinsmore packing to the indies. It's entirely up to them, and here's hoping that we don't have another S.H.I.T. on our hands.
  

E-MAIL ERIN
BROWSE THE BROAD'S ARCHIVES

Erin Anderson is an Atlanta native and a student at Georgia State University. Since writing about wrestling didn't go over too well with her English professors, she vents here at Online Onslaught.


  
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