Throughout the second half of the 1990s and into the new millennium, no other Superstar embodied what it meant to be a silent assassin more than the "Lethal Weapon" Steve Blackman.
A native of central Pennsylvania, the performer combined his knowledge and expertise in martial arts with his experience as a professional wrestler to become one of the most dangerous Superstars in the industry.
The cornerstone of WWE's hardcore division by the time the year 2000 rolled around, Blackman became a fan favorite thanks to his no-nonsense approach to his in-ring work and the manner in which he unleashed a beating on his unfortunate opponent.
Never a headline act or one that even got close to main event status, he was a staple of the midcard for his entire run with Vince McMahon's wrestling empire.
Whether he was punishing opponents with trash cans and steel chairs while defending the hardcore title or showcasing his underrated wrestling skills against the late Owen Hart or the egotistical Jeff Jarrett, Blackman left his mark on the industry during its hottest, most successful and profitable era.
Now a mixed martial arts instructor in his hometown, relive Blackman's underrated career with this look at his greatest matches and moments.
Unbeknownst to many, Steve Blackman's career in professional wrestling did not begin in 1997 with a run-in during an episode of Monday Night Raw. Instead, the Pennsylvanian got his start a decade earlier, training under Tony Altamore.
Fresh out of the world of bodybuilding, Blackman recognized the potential the wrestling industry had to provide him with a good life and jumped at the opportunity to join the circus-like business.
He worked for the legendary Stu Hart in Calgary and even competed against the legendary "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith.
In the late 1980s, he would make it as far as WWE, working as enhancement talent. Unfortunately, illness would cut his in-ring career short.
At least for the time being.
A Reintroduction to the Lethal Weapon
In 1997, the hottest angle in WWE was Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation's anti-American crusade. At that year's Survivor Series, the British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart captained a team of heels against Vader and his pro-United States squad.
With The Patriot unable to compete due to injury, it left the Mastodon stuck with an opening on his team and mere days to fill it.
Enter Blackman, who hit the ring as a fan, attacking the heels. From there, he found himself thrust into a high-profile pay-per-view bout, teaming with Vader, Goldust and Marc Mero to represent the United States.
The team was unsuccessful, thanks to selfishness and general distrust and dislike among the competitors, but Blackman had an impact on the fans, most of whom were interested to find out more about the mystery competitor.
He would embark on an undefeated streak in singles competition that lasted well into 1998, often teaming with the likes of Ken Shamrock, Ahmed Johnson and Faarooq in tag wars with the Nation of Domination.
In May 1998, though, he suffered his first defeat at the hands of wannabe country music star Jeff Jarrett. It was a minor setback but hardly one that derailed the tough competitor.
A feud with Owen Hart late in the year allowed him the chance to work with the man whose family was so very influential in giving him his start in the industry. Their matches were technically outstanding, even if they lacked the attitude, intensity and violence fans had come to expect from that era of WWE programming.
Feud With Ken Shamrock
In 1999, Blackman underwent a dramatic character shift, becoming an associate of the hated Shane McMahon in his war with Ken Shamrock.
The friendship between the two disintegrated earlier in 1998 but reached new heights of hatred when Blackman assaulted the World's Most Dangerous Man, causing internal bleeding that kept him out of the 1999 King of the Ring tournament.
From there, the two would do battle at Fully Loaded in July. In the inaugural Iron Circle match, they pummeled each other in the parking lot, surrounded by the numerous rental vehicles of their fellow WWE Superstars.
With their issues still unresolved, they would clash one last time, at SummerSlam, inside the Lion's Den cage. Shamrock would win the match, ending the rivalry and leaving Blackman in limbo, without any real direction to speak of.
In early 2000, Blackman formed a tag team with Al Snow. The straight man to Snow's more comedic character, Blackman could only watch and listen in disgust as Snow came up with ridiculous name after ridiculous name for their team.
Eventually, it was Head Cheese that stuck, a combination of the mannequin's head that Snow carried and the idea that Blackman would wear a Green Bay Packer's cheese hat. It was stupid fun and helped Blackman get over with the audience in a way he never had before.
Thankfully, though, the team fell apart before it had the chance to become stale or tired, leaving Blackman on his own yet again.
With the hardcore division experiencing tremendous success and popularity, WWE made the decision to unleash the Lethal Weapon on his fellow Superstars, giving him free reign to punish them with whatever weapon he could get his hands on.
While Crash Holly established a 24/7 rule for the WWE Hardcore Championship, vowing to defend it whenever and wherever, few Superstars were willing to test Blackman in that fashion by the time he won the title. So tough and dangerous was the star that it was not worth the potential injury and suffering for another Superstar to take advantage of the rule.
Shane McMahon, though, had a plan. With the assistance of midcard heels such as Albert, Test, Edge and Christian, the cocky son of the WWE CEO captured the hardcore title, leading to one of the most memorable matches in the careers of McMahon and Blackman at SummerSlam in August 2000.
With no one to help him, McMahon endured tremendous punishment before falling some 50 feet off of the entrance way and to the arena floor. Blackman followed up with an elbow drop from the same distance, pinning his opponent and regaining his title.
It was during this time that Blackman became the face of the hardcore division, restoring seriousness to it after the funny vignettes and over-the-top humor of Crash Holly. In many ways, Blackman restored credibility to the title.
Unfortunately, a defeat at the hands of Raven late in the year, coupled with incoming talent from WCW and ECW in 2001, crowded the roster and left Blackman with nowhere to go. His tag team with Grandmaster Sexay fizzled and by October 2002, having done nothing for over a year, he left the company, bringing his full-time career as an in-ring competitor to a close.