Tarnished Legacy: Shane McMahon's New Tough-Guy Image Recalls Other Embarassingly Bad Moments In Wrestling Nepotism
George Gulas' 45-minute Broadway with NWA kingpin Harley Race in 1977. Mike Von Erich's time-limit draw with NWA World champion Ric Flair in 1984. Greg Gagne's enlistment as Sgt. Slaughter's new camouflaged recruit in 1985. Jeff Jarrett's promotional poster commercial in 1986. Erik Watts' ass whippings of Arn Anderson in and out of the ring in 1993. Moments that will live in wrestling infamy. All the stars in questions had one thing in common -- their daddy was running the promotion.
The latest such nepotism-fueled transgression against the business: Shane McMahon's Mega-Power push on RAW, which continued this week when Sweet Daddy O'Mac made the save for the Undertaker. (Did I really just type that?) Although unable to subdue Shane in a three-on-one situation mere weeks ago, Legacy easily overpowered 'Taker, delivering a Horsemen-style beat-down until Shane came in cleaning house a la Cody Rhodes' father, the American Dream himself, Dusty Rhodes -- former three-time NWA World heavyweight champion.
Shane nailed the young DiBiase with the Van Terminator after finally getting that trashcan placed just right (seconds that seemed to last forever) in an OK spot that seemed to hurt McMahon more than his target. (I'll bet everyone was holding their breath backstage until the moment Shane connected -- and he just barely did.) As Shane writhed in pain on the canvas, struggling to his feet, Lawler screamed that he was "sacrificing" his body. That's fitting considering the number of buys the company is sacrificing by sticking with Shane vs. Orton as a PPV main event. (NO WAY OUT, indeed.) They really should have pulled the plug on Shane/Orton following the Jan. 19 RAW debacle in which Shane blew up five minutes after attacking Orton and delivering the weakest punches I've seen since Randy Hales attacked me at the WMC-TV Studio on Union Avenue.
I swear, when Stephanie threatened the Legend Killer, uttering the words "bigger plans" and Shane stepped onto the ramp to confront Orton, I just knew Steve Austin or Undertaker would appear behind him seconds later. The collective fart heard around the country when reviewers realized "bigger plans" in fact meant "just my fat brother" was deafening. I'm not speechless often (imagine that), but I really couldn't believe what I was seeing -- an out-of-shape Shane destroying the WWE's hottest heel faction -- without even the benefit of a single bionic elbow. I half expected a snippet of Shane thumping Legacy set to the Hank Williams Jr. cover of "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," airing repeatedly before commercial breaks the following week on RAW a la the Dusty vignettes that aired endlessly on WTBS and during the syndicated NWA WORLDWIDE WRESTLING shows. Any fan of Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid-['80s has to cringe at the mention of that. But as disgusting as it was seeing each member of the Horsemen line up and bump like crazy, one by one, for the dreaded bionic elbow, Dusty at the time was as least one of the biggest stars in the biz, so it sort of made sense. Shane, on the other hand is not even a wrestler "superstar" entertainer -- or whatever WWE refers to its performers as nowadays. (Lucky for Shane, he's a dancing machine.)
Yeah, I caught Orton's lame excuse about not fighting back the following week on the Jan. 26 RAW, but the only thing that could have repaired the damage to Orton's rep was Legacy giving Shane a thrashing of epic proportions and having someone -- anyone -- step in to defend the McMahon family honor in his place at NO WAY OUT. Hell, even Vince would have been a more compelling opponent for Orton; after all, the owner of the company is another legend -- some (i.e., Vince, Linda, Shane, Stephanie) would even say the biggest -- for Randy to conquer.
Ironically enough, the ones suffering for Shane's Superman push are two third-generation stars (Orton, DiBiase) and one second-gen performer (Rhodes), all of whom the company is counting on to carry the company over the next decade. Orton is cemented as a star, while DiBiase and Rhodes show a lot of potential, as does the rumored fourth member of the group, D.H. Smith, son of "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith. (With Cody, it's not surprising, since he came from the much-ballyhooed "loins" of Dusty, the American Dream, former three-time World's heavyweight champion.) Legacy got their heat back -- sort of -- with the aggravated mugging of Shane and Stephanie on Jan. 26, but it was nowhere near the level of, say, the Four Horsemen breaking Dusty Rhodes' arm.
Though, thankfully, Legacy's attack that night did at least interrupt of one of those awful, contrived, casual conversations that the amazing cameramen from RAW seem to catch week in and week out between the McMahon siblings. Stephanie: "I mean, Sunday's a really big night...and y'know, it's no-holds-barred..." The rest was inaudible mumbling, since obviously that was Legacy's cue to pounce. Steph is usually decent on promos, but this was bad acting, even for her. No wonder Orton almost punted her in the head.
Shane’s TV appearances of late have nearly been as embarrassing to watch as George Gulas, son of longtime Tennessee wrestling promoter Nick Gulas. Nick's insistence on pushing George as a main-event talent in Memphis as well as Nashville led to Jerry Jarrett breaking away to start his own wrestling company. I couldn't help but think of ol' George when watching Shane make the save for 'Taker the other night. Maybe that's because I'd seen a 1975 clip of George clumsily rushing to the ring in his street clothes to clean house on heels Don Duffy and Luke Graham. (George is even wearing jeans and a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up a la Shane, letting you know he indeed means business.) The post-match interview is equally as hilarious as George is more concerned about the heels ripping his pants than anything else, as is daddy Nick, who interrupts babyface Jimmy Golden to complain: "They tore his clothes off!" Heck, Duffy and Graham at least fared better than Legacy, as Shane escaped without a scratch in their initial encounter.
Again, wrestling promoters pushing their sons is nothing new. AWA fans were polite enough when wrestling legend Verne Gagne pushed skinny-though-athletic son Greg as a tag-team champion with partner Jim Brunzell in the late '70s and early '80s. Greg was never good on the mic, but he was more than capable in the ring, albeit quite bland. Still, fans never took him seriously as a threat to perennial AWA World heavyweight champion Nick Bockwinkel, despite Greg headlining several cards challenging for the title. In 1985, the game had changed, and Greg looked even smaller when matched against guys like the Road Warriors. Enter Sgt. Slaughter, who was fresh off a hot babyface run in the Former Fed. I believe Verne was thinking that Greg would get a new lease on life as the Sarge's private. But first, Greg would have to endure grueling (for the viewing audience at home, that is) boot-camp training under the guidance of Slaughter. Several fans took to taunting Greg with chants of "Rambo" in the months that followed until the angle quietly died -- he never recovered from that humiliation. A few years later, when Jerry Jarrett was negotiating to buy the AWA, the deal soured when the elder Double J refused to hire Greg.
Of course, then there's Erik Watts, who in 1993, not long after his debut, seemingly had the owner's manual on Arn Anderson, the longtime Enforcer of the Four Horsemen. Despite still being one of the best workers and interviews in the company, Arn was relegated to doing a TV jobs for Erik, who was in no way ready for the push his father, "Cowboy" Bill Watts, was giving him in WCW. Watts even got the best of Arn in a "street fight" that aired on WCW, awkwardly ensnaring Arn in his STF finisher in a parking lot that was "captured on home video by a fan." Watts later formed the poor man's (Vince Russo) version of Legacy, with Brian Lawler and David Flair.
There's no question that Jeff Jarrett has developed into a good worker and a star who has enjoyed longevity, capable of having great matches with the right opponent (e.g., Shawn Michaels, and most recently, Kurt Angle). But the son of Memphis promoter Jerry Jarrett almost never got out of the gate in 1986 when he cut a taped (thank God) promo vowing revenge for injuries stemming from the beating he and his father endured at the hands of Memphis heels Buddy Landel and Bill Dundee. Shorty thereafter, a TV campaign for a full-color poster of Jeff just about killed him in the eyes of male fans in Memphis.
I was a sophomore in high school around the time of the poster campaign. My friends and I would attend the matches holding signs that read ":Jeff is a sissy" and "Daddy's boy." Jeff would get his revenge years later when he delivered an incredibly stiff chair shot to my back in 1994.
It wasn't until 1988, when Robert Fuller's Stud Stable "broke" Jeff's wrist and the young Jarrett toughed it out by wrestling in a cast, that male fans in Memphis started to rally behind him.
OK, there's a shot that Shane might just rise to the occasion and deliver a PPV-caliber performance -- he's certainly done so in the past. At one point, about 10 years ago, Shane got over because it was a novelty seeing him in the ring. He even pleasantly surprised us all with some amazing moves, commanding the adoration of the "Holy Shit"-chanting marks. However, that time has passed. Here's hoping Orton leaves Shane -- or his character, anyway -- for dead on Sunday. The set-up and execution of this has been such shit, I almost believe Stephanie might be purposely sabotaging Shane to get him off TV for good. But she's not that conniving --- is she? If so, stroke of genius; well done, Steph. However, I fear that this might be another swerve, with Shane or Steph joining Legacy. Believe, that's the kind of heat you don't want -- change-the-channel kind of heat. Or as Bryan Alvarez so eloquently wrote as the lead headline of his FIGURE FOUR ONLINE NEWSLETTER the morning after Shane’s RAW comeback: "There goes the money."