Wrestling history is home to some truly polarizing personae and performers. They are characters that appealed to some but left others with a bitter taste in their mouths. Whatever the case may be, they left their marks on the industry, for better or worse.
Peter Polaco, known to millions by his most memorable moniker, Justin Credible, entered the wrestling industry with aspirations of greatness and success. Trained in the legendary Hart Dungeon and hired by respected WWE agent Pat Patterson, he certainly had the support of some highly influential people.
A horrible gimmick, though, would make his time in Vince McMahon's promotion a major disappointment from a career-progression standpoint.
Luckily for him, Paul Heyman would come calling and reinvent the performer as a cocky, arrogant villain who would run atop Extreme Championship Wrestling until its demise in 2001.
Throughout his career, Polaco would endure numerous bumps in the road and several setbacks. But he overcame them to achieve heavyweight championship glory.
This is his story, told through his greatest matches and moments.
In 1993, Polaco made his debut on a national stage, working enhancement matches on WWE television. Like so many other nameless, faceless wrestlers whose job it was to get beaten up and pinned for a living, he found himself on the receiving end of beatings at the hands of Razor Ramon, Ted DiBiase and Jeff Jarrett.
As 1-2-3 Kid began mounting wins, becoming the most unlikely star in WWE history, Walker suddenly found himself in position to score his own victory over an established Superstar.
In the summer of '93, Polaco picked up a monumental upset win over I.R.S.
It was a win no-one saw coming, one that added further heat to the tax man's rivalry with Ramon and Kid more than it signaled the start of any kind of push for Walker.
The youngster would return to his role of jobber shortly thereafter, working hard to get noticed.
The Portuguese Man-O-War
Polaco had spent two years doing job work for Vince McMahon before the boss opted to hire him full time. It was a huge opportunity for him to make money, to make a name for himself and earn some credibility in the industry. Even if it did not work out for him in WWE, he would have the opportunity to go forward elsewhere, demanding a bigger payday based on his name alone.
Unfortunately, his stint as a main roster competitor got off to a rough start, thanks to a gimmick that will forever live in infamy.
When McMahon found out about Credible's Portuguese heritage, he created a character that fit it. Dubbed "The Portuguese Man-O-War" Aldo Montoya, he sported a yellow mask that more closely resembled a jock strap than anything.
From the look of the character to the cheesy entrance, complete with pyro, it was clear from the start that Montoya was a character destined to fail. But, to his credit, Polaco worked hard and did everything in his power to get the gimmick over.
There is only so much the man behind the mask can do, though, when booking clearly indicated that he was in no better a place as Montoya than he was as P.J. Walker.
For two years, he competed under the persona, scoring an occasional upset but losing most.
Frustrated by his place in the company, and the sporadic bookings he was receiving by the time 1997 rolled around, he asked for his release and was granted it.
But where would he go now? His plans of cashing in on his WWE experience were thwarted because no one in their right mind would want a lifelong jobber who was last seen sporting a yellow jockstrap on his head.
Luckily for him, Paul Heyman and ECW would come calling with the character that would forever change his career.
That's Not Just the Coolest, That's Not Just the Best...
That's Justin Credible, a cocky and arrogant newcomer who made his debut in the Philadelphia-based ECW in 1997. Understanding there was untapped potential in Polaco, he wasted little time pushing him to the moon.
Credible's first two rivalries in the promotion came against Mikey Whipwreck and Japanese star The Great Sasuke.
Beating both of those stars helped gain credibility with the ECW audience, but he still struggled to put his past behind him. Despite quality wins and strong performances on his part, Credible was regularly greeted with chants of "Aldo." It had to be disheartening at the time, especially since he was in the midst of establishing a new character.
Credible rapidly became one of the most despised wrestlers in the industry, a heel that incited choruses of boos in arenas up and down the east coast.
Whether he was bashing Tommy Dreamer over the head with his trademark Singapore cane or squaring off against ECW legend Sabu, Credible found himself in an unfamiliar position: headliner.
He made the most of the opportunity given to him by Heyman and regularly found himself in one of the night's marquee bouts. His Stairway to Hell match with Dreamer was one such bout, a match that stands today as one of Credible's finest.
In 1999, Credible partnered with Lance Storm to form The Impact Players, a tag team that would dominate the industry. Unlike other tandems, they were a team that could convincingly compete in the top matches on the card and not look out of place, a testament to the performances of the men involved.
And the dynamic just worked. Credible was the brash and cocky talker while Storm was more subdued, a technical wrestler who preferred to let his actions speak for him. Together, they continued the never-ending feud with Dreamer while also targeting The Sandman, Masato Tanaka, Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, Mike Awesome and Raven.
In April 2000, Credible scored the biggest win of his career when he colluded with "Queen of Extreme" Francine to defeat Dreamer for the ECW Championship. Suddenly the top dog in the promotion, Credible faced the backlash of fans who did not believe he deserved that spot. Greeted with venomous reactions and hate-filled chants, he did everything he could to carry the company on his back.
He defended against the regular cast of characters, but it was his title defense at Hardcore Heaven 2000 against former partner Lance Storm that made for the most interesting story. After a solid year of teaming together, Storm sought his first reign with the big belt and was not afraid to take out his longtime associate if necessary.
Credible would defeat the Calgary native in what was one of Storm's final appearances for ECW.
Left alone and without the backup of his former partner, Credible remained a main event attraction all the way until ECW's unfortunate demise in 2001.
Like many of the stars who suddenly found themselves out of a job when ECW and WCW folded that spring, Credible soon found himself fielding calls from WWE, who offered him a nice payday to return to the company in February.
"Well I Know You Hate X-Factor..."
Credible returned to WWE as an associate of former Kliq buddy X-Pac. Joined by the massive Albert, the three became known as X-Factor. The trio started off hot, feuding with the Dudley Boyz and beating them at April 2001's Backlash pay-per-view.
As the Invasion angle kicked into full gear, though, they suddenly found themselves shoved to the background.
Credible would split away from his associates and join The Alliance, a merger between former WCW and ECW talent. He would struggle to make much of an impact, though, working dark matches and D-level shows such as Jakked and Metal.
When the Brand Extension came about in 2002, Credible found himself a member of the Raw roster, where the WWE Hardcore Championship resided. He was a key member of the hardcore division and regularly traded the title with the likes of Crash Holly, Raven, Bradshaw, Bubba Ray Dudley, Steven Richards and even Booker T.
It did not take a rocket scientist to tell that Credible was not nearly as motivated as he had been in the past. And who could blame him? He had been shoved to the side and given nothing of real note to do for the better part of a year.
Then, in November 2002, he was the first tackling dummy for a young Dave Batista to bowl over on television.
By the start of 2003, he would be released from his contract with WWE and left to return to the independent scene, where he would go on to be one of the most sought-after talents in the business for years.