Since the WWE RAW SuperShow on Monday, I have seen a lot of negativity towards the Lord Tensai character, and I’m not sure why.
He’s only wrestled one match!
My initial reaction to the criticism was simple—is the Lord Tensai character any worse than calling him A-Train?
My second reaction was more involved. I wondered if the character was so old school that some newer fans rejected it offhand.
Yesterday I posted an article about Reasons to Love WWE Right Now. It focused on the big-tent feel that is going on in WWE at this moment.
Within that tent are Attitude Era Wrestlers, Wrestlers from the Era after Attitude, Ring of Honor Guys, FCW Guys and WWE-Produced Guys.
I purposely left out one group—the Mid-90s WWF Revival Group, which is popping up quite a bit lately. I left them off because I knew this group would need its own conversation. Recently we’ve seen an influx of these guys, from the Flash Funkasaurus to the re-emergence of loud-mouth manager Abraham Washington (who is courting Mark Henry, because back in the day if you were over 300 pounds, you had to have proper representation).
Now we’ve seen the arrival of Lord Tensai. He’s Big Van Vader with the disposable headgear and the experience in Japan; he’s the Great Muta with the mist; he’s Hakushi with the tattoos.
But he was not just introduced as Lord Tensai.
He was also introduced as a former WWE wrestler.
That makes me think this might work. It is a mix of past and present.
In the 90s, we would have met Lord Tensai as a new character, as if A-Train never existed. Today we are told he is a former WWE wrestler, but a changed one due to his time in Japan.
I like the mystery that allows.
It leaves the door open for questions like how and why he changed? Who did he face in Japan? Will those experiences eventually follow him to America and the WWE? Who is this manager—nay, worshipper—who follows him about?
One rumor circulating is that Lord Tensai is being groomed to face CM Punk.
If executed properly, this has a world of potential. For the 90s, think Shawn Michaels versus Big Van Vader or (if you want to be downright optimistic) think Shawn Michaels versus Mankind at In Your House: Mind Games.
I’m not saying Lord Tensai will work. I’m saying he could work.
And I know for sure it’s too soon to say he’s failed.
Is there room in the WWE for character-driven wrestlers like Lord Tensai?
I hope we have not become so cynical as wrestling fans that we reject the imaginative outright. I hope we have not become so smart that we dupe ourselves out of enjoying the content.
I’ve noticed some of the complaints are with the so-called Squash. While I don’t wish to go back to a time of whole shows filled with Monsters and Jobbers, neither do I wish to reject them wholesale. Jobbing serves a purpose, and it hardly hurts a guy like Alex Riley. If WWE wanted to use him now, they would be. If they choose to later, a tough loss to Lord Tensai will not stop them.
I like the big tent WWE is developing, and I think there is room for all kinds. WWE, as the current sole major American wrestling company, is offering the best of many worlds, with more each week.
It’s funny. While some doubt the gimmick, my only worry is whether or not Matt Bloom can properly sell it. The only concern I had with Monday Night RAW is either the match lasted too long or the move set didn’t convince me of a knockout.
The moves have to be exact, decisive, flawlessly timed and executed. They have to be the right choices.
RAW was an attempt at something different on the part of WWE. They should be applauded for that. There will be trial and error, and if it doesn’t work, I will be the first to say it. But if it fails before it starts, that will not speak against the gimmick or the guy. It will only speak to an unfortunate bias in the current wrestling base—a bias that disrupts first and asks questions last. That would be a failure on the part of the fans.
Not the WWE or its newborn character.