The term "utility player" has often times been used negatively to describe those athletes who were not at an elite level. They were those who simply filled a role on the team and were, more times than not, veterans of their given sport.
In the professional wrestling world, said utility players are far more important. They fill out a card, elevate potential main event players and make headliners look invincible. They are typically solid in-ring workers who know how to keep an audience invested for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. They do what they are asked in hopes of one day moving up the card, even if they know the likelihood of doing so is relatively low.
Throughout the first-half of the 1990s, one of the great utility players on the WWE roster was Irwin R. Schyster, or IRS for short. Under his real name Mike Rotunda, he had been a solid midcard competitor for World Wrestling Entertainment and the National Wrestling Alliance. As IRS, however, he would experience his greatest career stability while also achieving the most success of his career.
He would even headline WrestleMania IX under the moniker.
Eventually, he would do as many WWE Superstars did and chase after the money being handed out by Eric Bischoff and World Championship Wrestling in 1995, ending his career with the Vince McMahon-owned company for over a decade.
Today, he still makes appearances in backstage skits and during special "legends" editions of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.
In celebration of his recent appearance on WWE's Old School Raw, here is a look back at one of the more technically proficient Superstars of the last 25 years, IRS.
The US Express and the WWE Tag Team Championships
Mike Rotunda made his wrestling debut for Eddie Graham's Florida Championship Wrestling but it was in Vince McMahon's promotion, known then as the World Wrestling Federation, that he experienced his first success in the industry.
Teaming with real life brother-in-law Barry Windham, Rotunda became one-half of the US Express tag team.
On January 21, 1985, the popular babyface duo defeated the doubly tough Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch to capture their first tag titles. Their reign would be short-lived, however, as they entered the inaugural WrestleMania as champions defending against the hated Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.
Thanks to the cane of the legendary villain "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Sheik and Volkoff would leave the historic Madison Square Garden with the win, albeit in controversial fashion.
Rotunda, as he would do on a number of occasions, would rebound and regain their titles just three months later.
Unfortunately, the promotion was headed in a different direction and soon, both Windham and Rotunda would be NWA-bound. They lost the tag titles for the second time in 1985, this time to the Dream Team consisting of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine.
NWA and the Varsity Club
One of the most memorable runs of Rotunda's career came in the National Wrestling Alliance as a member of the Varsity Club. The group consisted of Rotunda, Rick Steiner and Kevin Sullivan, all of whom were former collegiate athletes.
In January of 1988, Rotunda defeated the intense, monstrous Nikita Koloff to claim his first major singles title, the NWA Television Championship. Rotunda successfully defended the title for exactly 11 months before dropping it to former partner, turned hated rival Steiner. He would regain it just a few months later before ultimately dropping it to Sting.
He would undergo several character changes following his days in the Varsity Club.
First, he would become Captain Mike Rotunda. Then he became Michael Wallstreet and was accompanied by Alexandra York, who wrestling fans later became familiar with as Terri Runnels. The Wallstreet character claimed to have a complex computer system that provided all the details on how to defeat the top stars in the promotion, which had been re-branded "World Championship Wrestling" following Ted Turner's purchase.
Clearly he had flawed information because Michael Wallstreet did not necessarily move up the ranks in WCW and by 1991, he was on his way out the door.
"You better pay your taxes."
Rotunda's greatest claim to fame came as Irwin R. Schyster, the villain who demanded that the WWE fans pay their taxes or expect a visit from him.
For the most part, he was a very solid middle-of-the-card performer who tangled with the likes of the surging Bret Hart but never really made it anywhere past a certain position.
That changed, somewhat, when he and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase began teaming together.
As Money, Inc., they would waste little time in taking the tag team division by storm. They defeated the massive Natural Disasters (Earthquake and Typhoon) to win the WWE Tag Team Championships on February 7, 1992 and spend the following year trading them with some of the top teams in professional wrestling.
Their battles with the Legion of Doom and the Steiner Brothers are some of the more memorable matches during their title reign.
In April of 1993, the duo met Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake in a tag title match that had been hyped as the co-main event of WrestleMania IX. Money, Inc. would retain their titles via disqualification.
Unfortunately, a back injury suffered by DiBiase would prematurely end their partnership, meaning IRS was forced to go it alone once again.
He competed in matches against the likes of Razor Ramon, The Undertaker, Diesel, Shawn Michaels and the earlier-mentioned Hart. A thin roster allowed him to compete against stars of that magnitude but he never was portrayed as being on their level.
A return to WCW and life after the ring
Rotunda's in-ring career in North America came to an unceremonious end during his final stint in WCW.
As VK Wallstreet, he was an opening match heel who was afforded the opportunity to join the New World Order just as the faction got hot. Unfortunately, coming to the ring alongside the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash did not mean one was considered untouchable.
Wallstreet lost regularly, unless matched up against a jobber, and did little of note despite his association with the cash cow that was the NWO.
In late-1999, he reformed the Varsity Club because Vince Russo thought it would be a great idea. As was the case with most of his WCW stint, Russo was wrong and the gimmick died quickly thereafter.
Rotunda would compete in Japan for nearly three years before hanging up his boots and moving on.
Today, his legacy in sports-entertainment lives on in the form of Bray Wyatt and current NXT champion Bo Dallas (you better BO-lieve it).
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