He was buff, he was the stuff and his career just wasn't enough. Buff Bagwell looked the part, and it was even more maddening that he acted the part.
Carved out of stone. Knew how to work a pseudo-big-man style with athleticism sprinkled in. A competent talker. But immaturity issues and red flags sprung like marijuana in Modesto County when it mattered most. And WWE's long, hard look at Buff Bagwell ended with The Fed rolling its eyes and closing the door on a once-auspicious career.
This summer series will examine talents, moments and matches that crumbled under the weight of their immense potential.
Buff Bagwell's career played out like that of any unassuming wrestling superstar. The clear-cut star of a young, hungry tag team. The money-drawing physique. The charisma that captured the hearts of the always-valuable female audience. There was so much right with Buff Bagwell fans were even willing to look past that tribal tattoo.
Bagwell's big break in WCW came alongside Scotty Riggs as The American Males. The name was generic but fitting for a pair of young hunks looking to rise up WCW's then-loaded tag team ranks. They were the suburb's answer to Harlem Heat. Hampton Heat.
Amid a division that included the likes of The Steiner Bros., The Road Warriors and Sting-Luger, The American Males would capture the WCW Tag Team Championship after unseating the aforementioned Harlem Heat.
Following a brief run, the two would split with Bagwell aligning himself with the juggernaut nWo stable. It was as a heel with The nWo that Bagwell allowed his over-the-top yet contagious personality to shine through. The big hats. The overalls. The pencil-thin goatee and still with the tribal tattoo.
Buff Bagwell was Jersey Shore before MTV exploited Italian stereotypes for profit.
Bagwell was able to stand out in what became a herd of homogenous sheep wearing nWo T-shirts. He was a brand unto himself. Opting to team up with fellow former tag team-wrestler-turned-vigilante Scott Steiner only strengthened that brand.
Steiner and Bagwell would go from town to town, antagonizing fans using a shtick that WWE's Edge and Christian liberally borrowed from up north.
Bagwell stayed true to his heel character even in his most sympathetic moment. Following a serious spinal injury suffered from a botched bulldog by Rick Steiner, Bagwell appeared before his home state to address a partisan crowd.
Instead of building upon the outpour of sympathy for an easy babyface turn, Bagwell would attack Rick Steiner with help from ally Scott Steiner. The moment was a '90s version of Mark Henry's phony retirement speech last month on Raw.
Like his peers, Bagwell would waste away in obscurity during the dying days of WCW. His next chance at superstardom wouldn't come until he opted to be bought out of his contract once WCW folded. This enabled him to sign with WWE.
Bagwell was one of the few pieces of WCW shrapnel the WWE felt like it could revitalize and remold in its vision. The same could be said about Booker T, who faced off against Buff Bagwell in a WCW-branded segment on Raw.
The match bombed.
Booker T remained a salvageable piece, while Buff Bagwell would be discarded shortly thereafter.
There's no telling how many world championships were left on the table following the incomplete career of Marcus "Buff" Bagwell. Babyface or heel, Bagwell was supposed to be a big star in the ranks of professional wrestling. Unfortunately, his story will always be one of the sizzle rather than the steak.