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[WNS Column] Five of Wrestling's Most Overlooked Inspirational Characters
Posted By: Caylon Knox on Aug 16, 2015
Everybody is well-aware of wrestling's most inspirational Superstars such as John Cena, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero (R.I.P.), Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, and other stars whose careers have been well-documented. But what about those performers who have been overlooked or even downright forgotten? There have been a lot of wrestlers over the years who have had to overcome a lot of obstacles to achieve success. The following list profiles five of wrestling's most overlooked and unmentioned performers who can be viewed as being inspirational.
Honorable mention: Zach Gowen and Chris Melendez
I couldn't decide if I wanted to include these two on the list or not. It's not that they aren't inspirational because they definitely are, but this article is talking about overlooked wrestlers. Zach Gowen got a lot of attention during his time in WWE back in 2003 and Chris Melendez has been featured on TNA Impact Wrestling as well. They aren't quite as overlooked as some of the following names that will be featured in this article. Still though, you have to tip your hat to both of them. Zach Gowen lost a leg after a battle with cancer and Chris Melendez lost a leg serving his country. They both overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and broke into the wrestling business and were signed by major wrestling promotions.
5. Crash Holly
When you think of some of wrestling's most inspirational characters, Crash Holly may not come to mind right away. But if you think about it, Crash was actually a very inspirational character during WWE's legendary Attitude Era, whether he was intended to be an inspirational character or not. Crash was presented as being not much more than a boy. He was physically small, had boyish looks, and often behaved like a young child trapped in a (small) man's body. But Crash Holly is widely regarded as being the greatest WWE Hardcore Champion of all-time. Crash introduced the "Hardcore 24/7" rule, which meant that the Hardcore Champion was susceptible to defending the Title anywhere, anytime, as long as a sanctioned WWE referee was present to officiate the action. Crash put an incredible amount of pressure on himself by implementing this outlandish rule, but not only did he survive the Hardcore 24/7 stipulation, he actually seemed to thrive in it.
Crash Holly often reminded the fans that he stood at approximately 6'6" and weighed in at "well over 400 pounds". Crash was physically a Light Heavyweight on the outside but a true Super Heavyweight on the inside. He had the heart and the fighting spirit of a Champion, even though he was not even six feet tall and barely weighed 200 pounds, if even that. Despite his small stature, Crash Holly survived in a world full of giants. Many longtime wrestling fans have fond memories of Crash Holly as the Hardcore Champion and remember him as being one of WWE's most prominently featured Superstars in the year 2000.
Sadly, Crash Holly, whose real name was Michael Lockwood, passed away on November 6th, 2003.
Anybody who has dealt with depression and other mental disorders can relate to the Raven character. Raven was depressed. Raven had a bad childhood and suffered from abuse growing up. Raven was an outcast. Raven was shunned from conventional society. But Raven was a household name in wrestling for over a decade from the mid 1990s until the mid-2000s. Raven was a one-time WCW United States Champion, a 27-time WWE Hardcore Champion, a one-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and a two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
Anybody who lives on the darker, more macabre side of life can understand the Raven character. People who have lived in constant emotional torment can feel Raven's pain. The character itself was an inspiration to those who have dealt with mental health issues. But not only was the character inspirational, but the man behind the character was inspirational as well.
Scott Levy went through his fair share of trials and tribulations both in the wrestling business and in his personal life before becoming the Raven character, and still fought against a lot of personal demons after becoming the Raven character. He's overcome drug abuse and depression, and also lives with Type 2 diabetes.
It's a shame that many of today's wrestling fans are not familiar with Raven. But the die-hard wrestling fans will always remember Raven as being one of the most overlooked and underutilized performers in the history of the business. The work that he did for TNA in their early years should definitely be mentioned. From 2003-2005, Raven and Jeff Jarrett were basically the two established veterans who carried TNA. There were a lot of other big-name stars who came in for short periods of time, but besides Jarrett, Raven was pretty much the only one who stuck around on a full-time, weekly basis. Raven helped carry TNA during their early years and was rewarded for his work at the 2005 Slammiversary pay-per-view when he won the King of the Mountain Match and finally achieved his destiny of becoming the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion.
"Quote the Raven... Nevermore."
"The Human Suplex Machine" Taz was probably the most dominant force in the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling... despite only being 5'8". Taz was short compared to most other professional wrestlers, but his legitimate toughness and accomplished Judo background proved to everybody that just because he wasn't a giant didn't mean that he couldn't topple a giant.
Taz was actually a revolutionary wrestler in the United States because he was really the first one who brought the element of mixed martial arts and shootfighting to the States. There were plenty of wrestlers in America before Taz who had legitimate backgrounds in amateur wrestling and other Martial Arts, but Taz was years ahead of his time. Taz was presented as being "the shootfighter" of ECW who could "legitimately" defeat most of his opponents in a real fight. At a time when mixed martial arts fighting was still relatively unknown in the United States, Taz was presented as being a shootfighter from what seemed like the "underground" world of UFC/MMA fighting.
Taz was a monster and a powerhouse in ECW. Despite his short stature, he weighed in at about 240 pounds of muscle and sheer bulk. He would lift his opponents up and Suplex the living hell out of them with ease before locking them in the Judo chokehold known as the Kati-Hajime, which he called the "Tazmission". Taz defeated opponents left and right and captured every Championship that ECW had to offer. He was a three-time ECW Tag Team Champion, a two-time ECW World Television Champion, a two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion, and even created his own World Title which was known as the ECW "FTW" (F The World) Title.
After achieving everything he possibly could in ECW, Taz moved on to WWE where he made a memorable debut in Madison Square Garden against Kurt Angle at Royal Rumble 2000. Now with an extra "Z" in his name, Tazz choked out the undefeated Kurt Angle with the Tazzmission in the opening match of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Tazz never really became a very major player in WWE though. He did enjoy some success in the Hardcore Division but was never really pushed as a major threat to top Superstars such as Triple H, The Undertaker, Steve Austin or The Rock. He ended up retiring from in-ring competition in early 2002 and enjoyed a lengthy run as one of WWE's leading ringside commentators until departing from WWE in 2009.
Despite not achieving much success as a wrestler in WWE, Taz did cement his legacy as a true badass in the Land of the Extreme, ECW. He was proof that you should not judge somebody based on their physical appearance, especially their size. Despite the fact that he only stood at 5'8", Taz was the most feared and ruthless competitor to ever step into the ECW ring.
2. "The Glamazon" Beth Phoenix
Many within the WWE Universe often compared Beth Phoenix to how Chyna was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chyna was certainly an inspirational character in her own right. Chyna was the first female in WWE history to capture the prestigious Intercontinental Championship and was a two-time Intercontinental Champion at that. However, with all due respect to Chyna and what she accomplished, Beth Phoenix was like a new-and-improved version of Chyna.
In a world where everybody, men and women alike, feel pressured to have the body of fitness models, Beth Phoenix boasted one of the most impressive physiques of any WWE Diva in history. She looked beautiful but had a killer body to match her gorgeous looks. And when she stepped into the ring, her mission was clear: Total annihilation.
Beth Phoenix never showed much skin at all. Beth Phoenix was never overly sexual. Beth Phoenix was never very flirtatious, except for maybe during her run with Santino Marella in 2008 as "Glamarella". Beth Phoenix was not a "gentle" or "playful" WWE Diva. Beth Phoenix was the powerhouse, the difference-maker, and quite honestly, the ass-kicker of the WWE Divas Division.
Another remarkable thing about Beth Phoenix that was sometimes overlooked was her outstanding amateur wrestling background. Beth was a very accomplished amateur wrestler when she was in school and she did it in hopes of one day becoming a WWE Diva. Beth wasn't just beautiful and she didn't just have a powerful and athletic body, she also had a legitimate background as a grappler.
Beth Phoenix made her WWE debut in 2006 and retired from WWE in 2012. During her six-year WWE career, she became a one-time Divas Champion and three-time Women's Champion before the Women's Title was retired in 2010. She was one of the most dominant and unstoppable Women's/Divas Champions of all time and carried herself with class and dignity. It was clear that Beth Phoenix respected herself and respected the business that she was a part of.
Beth Phoenix can be viewed as an inspirational character to both men and women, but especially women. She looked like a real-life superhero out of a comic book. Her body was incredible, her strength was frightening, her looks were impeccable, and her work in the ring was downright ferocious. Beth is quite possibly the most overlooked inspirational female in the history of professional wrestling.
Who could ever possibly forget Rikishi's time in WWE during the Attitude Era? Along with "Grandmaster Sexay" Brian Christopher Lawler and Scotty "2 Hotty" Taylor as Too Cool, Rikishi was literally and figuratively one of the biggest Superstars that WWE had to offer in the year 2000. Fans may also recall that before he was known as Rikishi, Solofa Fatu was also one half of The Headshrinkers in the early and mid-1990s and enjoyed a reign with the WWE Tag Team Championship along with his cousin Samu in 1994.
However, before he became a major star in wrestling, Solofa Fatu's life nearly came to an end in 1987 when he was the victim of a drive-by shooting. At one point, Fatu had actually passed away for around three minutes in the hospital, but doctors were able to revive him. The shooting resulted in the large scar that was visible on his stomach during his matches.
Along with surviving a near-fatal shooting, Rikishi is known as being a true "big man" in a business dominated by big men. Obesity runs in his family. But Rikishi never let his weight issues stop him from accomplishing his goals in wrestling. He was a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion with three different tag team partners and also captured the prestigious WWE Intercontinental Championship in June of 2000.
Rikishi also moved around surprisingly well for someone his size. He moved at an alarming speed, was able to get his foot to his opponents' chin for a Superkick, and was also known for doing an impressive-looking flip when he would get Clotheslined by an opponent. Rikishi also performed two very dangerous stunts in the year 2000. At Fully Loaded 2000, Rikishi squared off against Val Venis in a Steel Cage Match for the Intercontinental Championship. At one point during the match, the 400-pound Rikishi climbed to the top of the cage and paid tribute to his uncle Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka by leaping off the top of the cage onto a prone Val Venis below. And at Armageddon 2000, Rikishi took a Chokeslam from The Undertaker from the top of the Hell in a Cell structure and fell onto the back of a flatbed truck on the floor below.
Rikishi finally parted ways from WWE in 2004 but has remained active on the independent circuit ever since. In 2010, his twin sons Jonathan and Joshua Fatu made their debut on WWE programming under the names of Jimmy and Jey Uso and have gone on to become two-time WWE Tag Team Champions.
Rikishi was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 28th, 2015, the night before WrestleMania 31.
What did you think of this list? Who would you include on your list of wrestling's most overlooked inspirational characters? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section below, and also join this article's Facebook and Twitter conversations!
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