In the Summer of 1996, Professional Wrestling’s Monday Night Wars were heating up. The nWo became an instant ratings bonanza for World Championship Wrestling while the World Wrestling Federation was struggling for their piece of the pie. In August of that year, Jim Ross announced that Diesel and Razor Ramon were heading back to WWF. This created a tidal wave of controversy as the men who performed as Razor and Diesel, were under contract to WCW.
September 23rd arrived and Razor Ramon indeed made his return to the WWF. However, it wasn’t Scott Hall but Canadian Rick Bognar who was now calling himself “Da Bad Guy”. Glen Jacobs, before his tenure as Kane, assumed the role of Diesel instead of Kevin Nash. In the end, everyone remembers them as a failed parody, but Vince McMahon tried to push them as a serious act until they disappeared in early 1997. Even though it didn’t get over, it makes me wonder, what if the fake Razor and Diesel worked?
Could you imagine how completely different the business would be if this actually worked? Wrestlers would have no bargaining power because you could always get someone else to fill the role. It happens in movies and television all the time. I’ve always wondered if this was Vince’s experiment to see if the character meant more than the person playing the role. If this had worked, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and a whole host of others would have been back in the Federation in no time. Instead of Terry Bollea and Randy Poffo, it would have been two unknowns with a similar look.
Steve Austin walked out on the company over creative differences in 2003, Shawn Michaels injured his back in 1998 and did not return until 4 ½ years later, and reportedly, Jeff Jarrett held Vince up for $300,000 in order to drop the Inter-continental title to Chyna, one day after his contract expired. If casting someone else to play a character was the norm, these grievances and injuries wouldn’t have mattered, or possibly happened, because the individual would be expendable.
Masked wrestlers and those who wore face paint would be even more disposable because you don’t have to worry about getting the hair and or facial features to match.
There would also be a new element added to the greatest wrestler debates. Instead of comparing wrestler A to wrestler B, we would also compare who was the better performer with a particular character. Who was the best Ultimate Warrior? Jim Hellwig or the one who replaced him when he died? Now, let me clarify that Jim Hellwig is alive and well. I’m just poking fun at a long standing myth that there were two Warriors.
In the end, casting multiples wouldn’t get over because there is a certain realism in wrestling that you don’t see on other television shows. However, if fans were condition to seeing different people fill a role, the business, if it’s even possible, would be stranger than it already is.