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Whither, Stone Cold? 
June 27, 2002

by Jeb Tennyson Lund
On Loan to OnlineOnslaught.com 


Recently, Stone Cold Steve Austin was released from the former WWF (now WWE) due to creative differences in the direction of his “character.” This poses serious difficulties for middle- and lower-class America, as their foremost spokesman and exemplar is seemingly gone forever. Austin struck a chord with a large portion of our country’s population as an everyday southern Joe who enjoyed driving trucks, drinking beer and sticking up for himself. Perhaps the greatest feud in wrestling history (at least from a storyline standpoint) was Austin’s nearly two-year long battle to assert his individuality and validity as a performer against his “evil boss,” Vince McMahon.

Yes, he’s gone, leaving no one who can fill the place in our hearts that he once occupied.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: there are plenty of drunk rednecks in wrestling. True, but you have to understand that those people are in the stands. There is no average American Joe in the ring anymore. The remaining wrestling role models are, in the resultant imbalance, going to tilt our cultural smorgasbord, sending us careening off the side – onto the conceptual shag carpet of the Elks’ Conference Hall floor of imbalanced messages – like so much mixed-metaphor casserole. Without Austin’s corrective influence, Goldust’s breathy, sexually ambiguous tones might eventually seduce our children! Booker T’s infectious enthusiasm might throw us all into a spinarooni! Mark Henry might make us lift stuff!

Who will – nay, who can – set us aright? Who has the potential to help maintain our pride in our automotive manufacture, in our refined combinations of barley and hops, in our kick-ass rock and roll, and in our periodic national tendency toward armed rebellion? Let us examine the candidates we have before us on the basis of their American-ness, affinity for beer, charisma and talent:

Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Lance Storm, Test, Christian, Edge, Val Venis –– too Canadian. Although most Canadian wrestlers are exceptionally fit and talented, it’s difficult for them to incite a random “USA! USA!” chant without simultaneously inciting ironic humor.

Rikishi, Haku –– too Samoan. While their cultural devotion to large amounts of barbecue has wide appeal, American heroes must come from the heartland.

Taka Michinoku, Sho Funaki, Yoshihiro Tajiri –– Japanese. Strictly a no-no with the patriotic audience. Also, many believe that the Japanese cannot hold their liquor.

Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Scott Steiner, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Sid Vicious –– too old, too semi-retired, or too decrepit.

Lou Thesz –– intriguing, but dead. He invented/popularized the Lou Thesz Press, a move Austin often used, but would be largely immobile in the ring and mostly uninspiring on the mike.

Kevin Nash, Lex Luger –– both quite popular at one time, both “un-decrepit” enough to still create a stir. But their in-ring and mike performance is too similar to Lou Thesz’s to catch on.

Essa Rios, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero –– talented, but Hispanic. Derisive middle-American attitudes toward Mexico would prevent their elevation to the main event. They could never get a clean pinfall in Texas.

Spike Dudley –– too small and too smart. Has a degree in something from some place. The audience would see him as a pointy-headed intellectual. But he could get some great heat as a heel by playing this up and creating a stable called “The Brain Trust.” He could carry a picture of FDR to the ring and threaten to bureaucratically micromanage the lives of fans or rezone their children’s school districts.

Triple H –– a possibility, but a long-shot. First, he began his career as “Hunter Hearst Helmsley,” a snobbish blue-blood from Connecticut. Second, he is too good as a heel and will likely go back to a heel persona after a while. Finally, his real name is Paul Levesque, which smacks of French-Canadian too much. (Steve Austin’s real name is Steve Williams – a solidly American name. The audience can relate.) Triple H’s proficiency with a sledgehammer should be noted, though.

Kurt Angle, Bradshaw –– too competent. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, the first American ever to do so in the wrestling division in which he competed. Bradshaw (real name: John Layfield) is a very successful independent investor and occasional commentator on CNN’s “Moneyline.” Both these men are simply too good at doing things. The average American rejects people who set ambitious goals and succeed at them. Austin’s appeal was based largely on the fact that his ambitions were restricted to ass-kicking, beer drinking and truck driving. Even though Bradshaw drinks beer and smokes cigars, he also understands the stock market: this is too foreign for fans.

The Big Show, Brock Lesnar –– physically abnormal. The Big Show suffered from a pituitary disorder, and Lesnar is unusually large and well-built. America needs someone with an attainable figure and a more readily attainable gut. Plus, Show and Lesnar have the combined charisma of a toaster.

Goldust, Billy Gunn, Chuck Palumbo, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy –– too sexually ambiguous. Any of them could headline a main event in France.

X-Pac –– too contemptible. I don’t want to get off on a rant, here, but this guy couldn’t pull off “physically threatening” while holding a blood-covered machete. There are caged rabbits that accidentally inspire fear more regularly than this bastard. Watching an X-Pac match is like getting kicked in the groin repeatedly for several minutes: you can’t move; in mute horror, you clutch your stomach and feel ill. He has three moves, none of which is particularly difficult, revolutionary, or plausibly damaging. And, if you close your eyes, you can’t differentiate the sounds of the crowd from a daily lesson in a school of mime. That is, until the crowd starts up the refrain, “X-Pac sucks,” which is vicariously comforting but no more satisfying than the silent litany of sailor’s curses going through your head.

The Rock, Booker T, Rob Van Dam –– too established. These guys are who they are. Altering their personas would be unfeasible.

D-Von Dudley –– currently undergoing career suicide as a “preacher.”

Kane –– monstrous but loveable. Kane already enjoys large appeal as a pretty smart, determined Frankenstein-like character. Any change would be too drastic.

Given these considerations, who can guide us? Who will be the focal point for our sublimated but common national desires? Who, alone, can embody our fury, violence, inebriation and love of driving, tempered by ordinariness and apathy? I’ll tell you:

Buh Buh Ray Dudley –– Think about it. A moderately fat, slightly tall white man. You can tell instantly that Buh Buh (hereafter: “Bubba”) likes hitting people and sitting down. His appeal is virtually universal. Liberals will love the fact that he comes from an impoverished mixed-race family. (He and his many brothers share one father, but have different mothers – or is it the other way round? Who cares?!?) Conservatives will love his convenient religiosity. Southerners will love his name. The physically disadvantaged will admire his devotion to taped-up black-rimmed eyeglasses. The lazy will fondly aspire to his flabby body but high endurance and good cardiac rate. And men everywhere will envy his willingness to put bitches through tables when they get too mouthy. If he develops a love interest and only punishes “wicked” women, he can even have a female following. The man is a marketer’s dream come true a walking, talking demographic spectrum!

I, for one, look forward to the day when I can warmly embrace Bubba Ray Dudley as my new hero. As one, following Bubba’s lead, we shall walk boldly into broad, sunlit uplands. The natural conclusion to Austin’s conceptual heyday, his zeitgeist, is Bubba Ray Dudley – a multicultural diverse incarnation of Americana... a man enjoying driving, fighting, drinking, working, family, religion. There is a part of all of us in Bubba Ray.

Come, let us go this way together.


Jeb Tennyson Lund is a regular columnist for Citizen Scholar, an online
journal. If you want to read his sadly less wrestling-oriented columns, go
to www.citizenscholar.net.

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