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DENNY'S DUNGEON
The Big Ugly Henchmen
June 11, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

Hey, how 'bout that Luther Rains, huh? He's a big boy!

And what about this Tyson Tomko? I'd sure hate to bump into THAT guy in a dark alley on a stormy night. He's an absolute monster! And that beard is a true sign of an evil bastard with no remorse.

What else is there to say about either of these men? How do you form an opinion either way on an untested, non-speaking henchman? You don't. That's why nobody cares about them. They're brand new to WWE TV, and we've been given no better reason to care about Luther and Tyson aside from their associations with Kurt Angle, Trish Stratus and Christian.

Piggybacking the new guys on the success (or perceived success) of well-known competitors is nothing new. For that matter, pairing up a green rookie with the seasoned pros is neither a new concept nor a bad one. If you're gonna put the big lugs on TV before they're ready, you might as well pair them with an Angle or a Christian, so they have a chance to get better, and so their experienced mentor can keep the fans from falling asleep. Or worse - actively turning against the new guy before he's had a fair shot at improving. First impressions are a bitch. Ask Mark Henry.

Batista is a magnificent example of this. Remember the Reverend D-Von nightmare? The gimmick that was supposed to finally break D-Von Dudley away from the typecasting of tag team specialist? Yeah, that kind of TANKED. But all was well, said WWE. They had a guy named Leviathan working in OVW who had a ferocious look, and he might just be able to salvage the D-Von fiasco.

Leviathan arrived as Batista, but he salvaged nothing. Batista got a few "Oohs" and "Ahhs" from the crowd, but they were mostly because of his size and his out-of-nowhere attacks. If anything, he magnified how pointless and hokey the D-Von gimmick was. People were more interested in marveling at Batista's gigantic shoulders than they were in anything Our Holy Dudleyness was serving up.

In the past year, Batista has become a good example. WWE changed their strategy with him some time ago and placed him in Evolution with Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. Now, Batista was working WITH a pair of talented veterans, and because Evolution is a main event faction, he was working AGAINST some very skilled wrestlers as well. Batista has flourished in this arrangement. He's become a much better wrestler. "Deacon" Batista is a distant memory. Once a muted musclebound freak, Batista is now a solid wrestler with a good grasp on the performance aspect of the show - facial expressions, psychology, and the sort.

Tyson Tomko needs the same opportunity. You can't really assume that Tomko's involvement in the Christian-Trish Stratus-Chris Jericho angle is an attempt to save anything. Simply put, the angle didn't need saving. Jericho, Trish and the CLB are each fully capable of entertaining us, and had done a superb job before Tomko arrived. The only person benefiting from Tomko's involvement in that angle is Tomko. But still, that's dependent upon whether he can work (or be carried to) decent matches. If Tomko repeatedly drops a turd in televised matches, fans will no longer care who his on-screen friends are. They will hate him.

For that reason, it's hard to grasp whether Tomko's PPV shot against Chris Jericho at Bad Blood is a blessing or a curse. Certainly, every wrestler likes to be considered for a spot on PPV, and for Tomko to have a match against a star like Jericho at this early stage of his career has got to be a thrill. He's got a high-profile chance to show people he's for real. If he does, he'll be a step closer to the upper echelon. If he phones it in, he's a step closer to Mark Henry.

By most accounts, Tomko has a lot of improving to do. If that is true, the best we can hope for is that Tomko has an exceptionally good night and pulls an entertaining match out of his ass. I don't feel comfortable writing off Tomko or Luther just yet, since I believe everyone deserves a chance to improve. It's not their fault they're on TV already, and they certainly cannot be faulted for accepting the invitation. In Tomko stinks it up, he remains a silent henchman for a few more months. If a few months turn into a year, then it's time to start worrying.

For WWE's part, though, it's disappointing that they couldn't have put a little more booking effort into giving Luther and Tomko a more interesting character for fans to sink their teeth into. The hulk-sized bodyguard is an extremely tired pro wrestling gimmick. Would it have been too difficult to add a little depth to the character? Did Tomko know Jericho years before? Is he trying to steal Trish from Christian? What the hell is there to this character other than being huge and being friends with Christian?

With Luther, we know that Kurt Angle needs protection, given the Big Show attack and Angle being physically unable to defend himself. Fine - how did Luther get the job? Why was he chosen by Angle, over all other candidates? What can Luther do for Kurt Angle that no other two-bit nightclub bouncer can offer?

Rather than give viewers the smallest little nugget of character development to chew on, WWE just props these guys out there and has a current superstar say "Everyone look at my big, mean friend." As if bringing them up to New York while they're still green isn't enough of a risk, they throw these guys to the wolves with no backbones to their characters. Simply put, nobody knows why the hell they're here.

Well, shit. I don't know why the fans seated next to me in section 108 are at Raw, and I donít care about them, either.

E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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