The recent rise of Fandango should come as no surprise to longtime WWE fans; the company has been enamored with dancing and dancing characters for a long time.
Monday's WWE Raw saw Tons of Funk and Chris Jericho score Fandango's entrance before the ballroom dancer's match with fellow dancing wrestler R-Truth. The previous week, Fandango and Great Khali competed in a dance-off. The May 13 episode is advertising a dance-off between Fandango and Jericho.
Tons of Funk, Brodus Clay and Sweet T, are a pair of former monster heels who now shimmy in the ring alongside the Funkadactyls. Where's the edge and aggression, you say? It's getting drowned out by funkiness.
It's beginning to feel a little like WWE Raw is turning into a dance program.
Fandango or Tons of Funk can't take all the blame. Blame Junkyard Dog. Blame Rikishi. Blame Too Cool. Blame the fans who erupt for wrestlers who dance.
Anything that gets a reaction is going to get repeated and rehashed ad nauseam.
WWE has long been about bolstering the entertainment side of wrestling. When Vince K. McMahon took over the business from his father, he traded away some of the grit of the sport in favor of fun. In order to appeal to a larger audience, one that included kids and their families, McMahon shifted WWE from sport to sport-like carnival.
Junkyard Dog had been in brutal battles during his time with Stampede Wrestling and Mid-South Wrestling. With WWE, he traded street fights for hip-shaking. JYD began a routine of bringing kids into the ring after a victory and dancing with them.
Listen to how giddy McMahon is in that clip. He knew that happy kids meant bigger payouts. Dancing is an easy way to get over with fans. It's fun and infectious and requires no complicated story.
Can you blame him then for going to that same well so often?
Koko B. Ware's story is similar to JYD's. He was a far more edgy character while wrestling for the territories. After signing with WWE he became a fun-loving, family-friendly character with a love for dancing. Ware's pet bird, Frankie, sure helped get him attention, but his dancing was a big part of his success.
Ware flapped his arms as he entered the ring. Many fans followed suit.
WWE turned legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes into a polka dot-wearing dancing buffoon. Rhodes' charisma and energy made the gimmick work despite its silliness. One would expect these kinds of goofy gimmicks in the cartoony era of the late '80s and early '90s, but the dancing didn't stop even after the Attitude Era arrived.
In The Godfather’s case, the dancing just got racier.
The Godfather boogied down to the ring accompanied by a flock of scantily-clad women. This wasn't a dancing character meant to connect with kids, but to further WWE's aura of irreverence and envelope-pushing.
Compare his success as Kama to how popular he became as The Godfather. Dancing, for The Godfather and several others, was an easy path to popularity.
Before he began to shake his oversized booty in the ring, Rikishi wasn't nearly as popular. Where would Grand Master Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty have been without dancing?
Listen to how excited this crowd gets when Too Cool enticed Chris Jericho and Chyna to dance with them.
When WWE hears reactions like that, it's no surprise that the company has continually found ways to infuse dancing into the product. From the Great Khali to Flash Funk to Ernest "The Cat" Miller, WWE has showcased dancing as part of the wrestling and entertainment package.
It's an easy addition to anybody's gimmick. One doesn't need a certain build or move set. One doesn't need to be especially talented or charismatic.
Dancing in wrestling is like slapstick comedy. It's not sophisticated, deep or complicated, but people react to it.
If WWE's current amount of dancing on its shows feels like a product of the PG era, just remember the company’s history of boogying. As easy and effective as dancing has been in winning over audiences, it's not something that is likely to go away.
When Fandango and Tons of Funk fade away, a new set of dancers will be ready for their music to start.
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