Tensai: Can WWE Salvage the Former 'A-Train' with a New Gimmick?
A completely new gimmick will not save Tensai aka A-Train aka Prince Albert aka Matt Bloom. WWE's best bet is to peel off his current one, piece by piece, a process they've already begun.
Doing an about-face and saddling him with a new gimmick altogether would be making the same mistake they had made in the first place.
Moving towards having no gimmick is the best bet for him.
With Tensai, WWE made the mistake of trying to pretend it was 1991. They brought back an old wrestler under a new name, slapped on an outdated gimmick and a fake facial tattoo and asked fans to swallow it.
WWE fans can suspend their disbelief, but asking them to accept that a guy they know as A-Train is this radically different person isn't going to work.
It was easier to pull a switcheroo like this before the Internet. It was easier to completely reinvent a guy when kayfabe was real, when fans believed most everything they were told.
Had Tensai performed at an out of this world level, fans might have looked past the gimmick and enjoyed his work in peace. But fans were souring of him before he even performed a single move, making Tensai's road to getting over a steep one.
WWE misjudged their audience with Tensai. They underestimated the WWE universe's long-term memory.
Why Ryback is Successful and Tensai Isn't
Transforming Skip Sheffield into Ryback sounds like the same kind of major gimmick change that has done Tensai in. From the looks of things though, he'll be muscle-busting foes long after Tensai gets sent home.
The difference is that Ryback was not Skip for very long and wasn't prominent in any way.
A-Train fought The Undertaker at WrestleMania. He wrestled from 1999-2004 with some derivative of the name Albert. In five years, even the worst wrestlers make an impression on fans.
Skip Sheffield was on NXT, which very few fans watch and was a face in a crowd with Nexus. Plenty of fans had never even seen him before he came stomping into the ring as Ryback.
Ryback's gimmick isn't silly like Tensai's either. A human wrecking ball with anger issues is something fans can buy into.
It's a persona that has room to grow and evolve. It already has, as the silent destroyer has become the grunting ball of anger. It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it works.
What WWE Can Do Now
WWE has removed Tensai's hood and the Lord from his ring name. They should do the same for all the Japanese-inspired elements of his character and have him be himself.
With kayfabe all but gone from wrestling, WWE has its work cut out for it to create characters fans can buy into. Gimmicks like Tensai’s, a remnant of WWE's cartoony days, won't win fans over.
Wrestlers are better suited playing exaggerated versions of themselves. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and John Cena aren't playing characters as much as they are projecting personas.
They should have Tensai start to speak to the crowd about how he's not going to be pretend to be someone he isn't anymore. Tensai would talk about WWE forcing a gimmick on him, about doing it for the money, etc.
Though his tout was controversial, when Tensai opened up to a video camera, it was the most compelling we've seen him be. He was relaxed; he was himself.
WWE needs to ask him to be that guy, toned down and cleaned up, but that same guy.
A frustrated, renewed A-Train (perhaps have him even go by Matt Bloom) is WWE’s best option for him. Fans will respond to the honesty. Bloom will flourish without having to play a part he wasn't suited for.
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