Lord Tensai, Brodus Clay and the WWE's Monster Problem
In the over-the-top world of professional wrestling, namely in the WWE, bigger is better. But when is big too big?
The list of monster heels and babyfaces currently on the WWE roster is astounding if not irresponsible.
In recent weeks, the WWE has introduced a small handful of imposing talents, with their gimmicks being highlighted by lightning-quick victories and in-ring dominance. These stars join a list of similar wrestlers who have benefited from the same scheme.
Lord Tensai was previously known as A-Train in the WWE. He is a super heavyweight who integrates the Japanese wrestling style he perfected following his release from the WWE in 2004.
Accompanied by disciple Sakamoto, Tensai makes use of green mist to blind his opponent en route to their inevitable destruction.
Unfortunately, fans have sat in indifference during the majority of Lord Tensai's matches, because a one-sided victory by an enlarged talent is nothing new to a fanbase that was spoiled by the Attitude Era.
Been there, done that.
Ryback is SmackDown's answer to Lord Tensai. Ryback's squash matches come off as different because he receives the treatment of backstage interest.
Prior to making his entrance each week, members of the WWE locker room gather around a monitor to see who Ryback is going to obliterate next.
The jobbers in question cut a scathing promo against the audience, designed to get heat on them before they are fed to Ryback.
Ryback has been a bit more successful in captivating fan interest than Lord Tensai, but not by much.
Ryback has been doing the same act for about a month now. His recent pay-per-view debut was met with sarcastic "Goldberg" chants from an entertaining Chicago crowd.
Translation? They've seen this movie before as well.
The Great Khali channels memories of the Giant Gonzalez as an exceptionally tall athlete who simply can't work.
Despite all the potential money that his extra-large frame suggests he could make as a heel, fans refuse to embrace him given the fact that he has been exposed multiple times as a somewhat clumsy talent who can't wrestle.
Kane has been a monster mainstay for years, and the big red monster made his return earlier this year. Kane's supernatural gimmick was intriguing 10 years ago. Now, it's a stale act that fans only sit through out of respect for a character that has somehow managed to stand the test of time.
Kane has graduated from the squash matches that made him into the supreme force he is today, and he's now neck-deep in a feud with Randy Orton.
The feud has produced little to no compelling TV segments, and while the wrestling matches have overachieved, many see this feud as a placeholder for Randy Orton, who is a WWE superstar in decline.
The Big Show is yet another over-sized veteran who has earned the respect of WWE fans. He has never been an overwhelming favorite and still struggles for fan support in his ongoing feud with a heelish Cody Rhodes. But Show still has value when used as someone who can put younger talent like Rhodes over.
Problem is, he rarely loses clean, and when he does lose he almost always gets his heat back with an immediate post-match beat-down, thereby defeating his own purpose.
Brodus Clay has been the one bright spot amid the sea of bland monstrosity. Whether it's the dancing, the pretty dancers or the pyro, it didn't take long before Funkamania ran wild on the WWE universe.
With fans numb to the formulaic gimmicks installed in other 350-pound superstars, Clay added a breath of fresh air with his line-dancing and quirky, funky offensive tactics.
Brock Lesnar was brought back to be the monster savior in the WWE. With a proven track record in the WWE, UFC and the box office, Lesnar was the perfect acquisition to provide "legitimacy" to the WWE, as has been the tagline for his comeback tour.
Lesnar has been brilliant when used, with the glaring low-light being an inexplicable yet recoverable loss to John Cena in his first match in eight years.
Lesnar spent the majority of that match tearing Cena apart limb from limb, only to fall in the closing moments. Lesnar was last seen breaking Triple H's arm and will likely be off of WWE TV as a means to preserve the limited dates mandated by a very lucrative contract.
So what have we learned?
The WWE has had a noticeable influx of monster talents as of late, and with each bruising, intimidating super-heavyweight, more precious novelty is lost.
Perhaps the most novel superstar of this stature isn't even a superstar, but rather a diva in Kharma, who is set to add to the crowded pool of super-heavyweights through her imminent return.
Who is your favorite monster in the WWE?
The fact that she is the only diva billed at nearly 300 pounds certainly helps her. Unlike her male counterparts, her gimmick provides something new to the Divas Division
The WWE needs to take a "less is more" approach in booking these seemingly unstoppable beasts. Squash matches are already seen as yesterday's news, but they can still be relevant if they come off as special.
If Lord Tensai, Brodus Clay and Ryback are all winning quick matches in a span of less than a week of one another, any uniqueness left in the monster gimmick itself dies.
There needs to be some level of restraint displayed with any superstar who is being booked to take the Godzilla route to superstardom. And if the WWE thinks that it can squeeze the same act through fans' B.S. meters without any repercussion, they're in for a very rude awakening.
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