Stevie Richards never should have achieved the success that he did in the wrestling industry.
A skinny kid out of Philadelphia who trained at "Iron" Mike Sharpe's school under Jimmy Jannetty, he overcame the reputation of lackey, a neck injury that threatened his career and numerous gimmicks that would have killed a less determined performer's credibility to achieve success in one of the most grueling industries on the planet.
And in the process, he earned the respect of his peers and ultimately became one of the most despised heels in the entire business.
Having found success in both WWE and ECW, Richards proved himself adaptable, taking on numerous characters and personas in an attempt to find the success he spent his youth chasing.
Whether he was "taking over" with the Blue World Order, dancing to the dismay of the Philadelphia fans, standing by Raven's side as his most trusted associate or censoring the vulgarity and sexuality of the Attitude Era, Richards did whatever bookers asked of him, and he did it to the best of his ability.
Now, celebrate the career of one of wrestling's greatest chameleons with this look back at his greatest matches and moments.
ECW, Raven's Nest and the Blue World Order
Richards overcame a tough start to his career, including a stint as "Dancin'" Stevie Richards in a very young Eastern Championship Wrestling, to find his first great success as the right-hand man of one of the most influential and revolutionary characters in the business.
For weeks, he would appear on ECW television under the aliases of Stevie Flamingo and Stevie Polo, obviously making reference to characters previously played by Scott Levy. After enduring loss after loss, a frustrated and infuriated Richards revealed to the world that the real Johnny Polo would appear in the promotion.
Instead of the entitled rich boy, fans were greeted to a grunge-influenced enigma known as Raven.
Disenfranchised with the society around him, Raven would cut outstanding promos and play mind games with some of the most popular stars in the promotion. Tommy Dreamer and Sandman both found themselves at the mercy of the diabolical heel. Richards was always by Raven's side, taking abuse in the name of helping his friend.
He would hold the ECW Tag Team Championships with his friend, defeating the Pitbulls to win the gold. Their Dog Collar match against the former champions still ranks as one of the few legitimate five-star matches in the promotion's history.
The males in the audience will always be grateful to the him for introducing two of the greatest females in ECW history.
First, Richards debuted Beulah McGillicutty, the former fat girl-turned-knockout Raven and Dreamer had known as children at summer camp. Then, he revealed Francine, his girlfriend and groupie who would eventually go on to become the Queen of Extreme.
To entertain Raven both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, Richards and friends the Blue Meanie and Super Nova began impersonating pop culture icons and legendary tag teams. Eventually, they delivered their finest impersonation to date, a mocking glimpse at WCW's New World Order.
Dubbed the "Blue World Order," Richards was the mouthpiece. As Big Stevie Cool, he was joined by Hollywood Nova and the Blue Guy. Together, they became one of the most over acts in all of wrestling, catapulting the trio to heights they never could have imagined.
With Richards gaining popularity, the decision was made to split him away from Raven, something that was officially accomplished when the Philadelphia native shook hands with Tommy Dreamer, ending their years-long rivalry.
At the first ECW pay-per-view, Barely Legal, Richards competed in the night's main event. There, he battled Terry Funk and the Sandman for the right to challenge Raven for the heavyweight title immediately afterward. Though he lost, it was hard to find any young wrestlers as hot as Richards was in the renegade promotion at that time.
Unfortunately, in 1997, an injury and poor business decisions threatened his career growth and everything he had worked so hard to achieve.
Neck Injury and WCW Disaster
Richards' rapid rise to stardom nearly came to an end when he suffered a serious neck injury during a match with Terry Funk.
At one point, the legendary competitor smashed Richards in the back with a guard rail, injuring his spine. So bad was the injury that Richards announced his retirement from the squared circle.
When Eric Bischoff and WCW threw money his way, though, Richards made the decision most young stars would and came out of retirement.
It proved a costly mistake.
Once one of the brightest young stars in the industry, Richards was horribly misused by WCW, thrown back into the role of Raven's lackey before disappearing from television completely. When he failed a physical, the promotion released him from his contract, ending what had to be one of the worst and most trying times of his entire career.
Luckily, he would find redemption in the most unexpected role imaginable.
WWE and the Right to Censor
WWE's Attitude Era brought with it criticisms from censorship organizations such as the Parents Television Council, which believed the contest of the weekly wrestling programs was deplorable and reprehensible. It called for advertising companies to boycott Vince McMahon's company.
McMahon responded by creating characters based on his attackers.
Enter Stevie Richards, who had been floating around WWE's midcard after signing with the company in 1999.
Richards appeared in July 2000, clad in a white dress shirt, black slacks and tie with a crew cut to complete the package. Infuriated by the vulgarity and sexuality that had dominated the show for years, Richards set out to put an end to it.
The leader of the Right to Censor, he and followers such as former adult film star Val Venis, longtime pimp-turned-brother in righteousness The Goodfather and hired muscle Bull Buchanan, not to mention multiple-time women's champion Ivory, set out to clean up the federation.
They did so by interrupting Bra and Panties matches, targeting men and women they felt were adding to the immorality of the programming and doing so in violent fashion.
Richards was brilliant in the role, despite rarely competing inside the squared circle. He was engaging on the microphone and showed so much conviction while playing his alter-ego that it was easy for fans to buy into the character.
The Right to Censor's run lasted through the spring of 2001 before the impending WCW invasion angle began dominating the airwaves.
In the wake of the Right to Censor, Richards would float around the midcard once more, playing the role of Victoria's psychotic boy toy while simultaneously chasing after the WWE Hardcore Championship. In short order, he won the title 22 times, mostly during house show events.
He would also attempt to make the most of the time he spent on the company's Sunday Night Heat show, referring to the program as "Stevie Night Heat."
Over the course of the years that followed, he would revive the Blue World Order for a brief period but would again fall into irrelevance, as WWE Creative failed to recognize the gifts he brought to the table. A failed stint in the resurrected ECW led to his departure from the company in 2008.
Like most stars it hired from WWE, TNA never really knew how to use Stevie Richards.
Despite being a phenomenal talker and an above-average professional wrestler, TNA saddled the veteran with a lame "Dr. Stevie" gimmick in which he provided psychiatric help to Abyss. When it became clear that he was hurting the masked competitor, manipulating him mentally, it ignited a rivalry between them.
They battled in hardcore matches, sometimes involving Taylor Wilde and Daffney, but it was abundantly clear the company had no idea how to utilize the talent it had.
To make up for the blunder, TNA stuck Richards in the EV 2.0 faction, a poor man's ECW reunion. They battled Fourtune. There were a few good matches here and there but hardly anything that made the lengthy rivalry worth it.
By the end of 2011, Richards opted to leave the company, ending his run in nationally televised wrestling promotions.
Today, Richards hosts technologically based podcasts and even teaches at the Stratford campus of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.