There’s been a bit of reshuffling in WWE Creative lately. As Dave Meltzer’s reported, the Big Show turn was done because the Lord Tensai character went over with the WWE’s audience like a lead balloon, except a lead balloon would at least make a noise when it hit the ground.
It should surprise no one. The problems with the Lord Tensai character are many, and to devote actual paragraphs to it would be a waste. I mean, it’s pro wrestling. So instead, I’ll be lazy and do a bulleted list.
- WHAT THE HELL IS HE? WHAT THE HELL DOES HE THINK HE IS?
This actually seems like I’m just making fun of the gimmick (which, let’s face it, is pretty terrible), but it’s at the root of the problem that the live crowds had with it. What is he supposed to be? Are fans supposed to think he’s Japanese? Does he think he’s Japanese? Or is he just an enthusiast of Japanese culture? Is this guy a cosplayer? Was he granted honorary status because of his victories in Japan? Again, these seem silly and like I’m just poking fun, but the confusion was real and you could hear it (and often not hear it) every time he came to the ring.
- “LORD” TENSAI
Why is he a Lord? Is he a God of some sort? Well, obviously, no. They acknowledged that he used to be in WWE in commentary (more on that in a bit). That’s the problem: nobody bought this as a Japanese element. For one, it’s 2012, and as uneducated and unwashed as the masses may be, they know that Japan isn’t some backwards feudal empire ruled by Lords and nobility. And as my brother (Brooklyn_Jack on Twitter) pointed out, what it would basically mean is that he was a landowner. That’s what we’d refer to him as: Landowner Tensai. When they dropped the “Lord” from his name a couple weeks ago, I got a text from my brother that read “They’ve dropped the Lord from his name. That means he sold his land. Pretty impressive in this economy.” Indeed.
- TOO MANY GIMMICKS
He’s called a Lord. He has a feudal slave that “worships” him (WHY?!). He has Japanese characters tattooed all over his face. He walks down to the ring in a mask and robe. He’s a big monster. Oh, he also sprays mist. It’s too much. Want to know the secret to wrestling? The simplicity. Steve Austin’s “Stone Cold” gimmick didn’t work because of convoluted gimmicks and storylines, it worked because he was a bad-ass who hated his boss and beat him up. That’s it. The Rock worked because he was funny and he beat people up. Brock Lesnar works because he’s a legit tough guy and a beast. John Cena works because he acts like a charismatic 12-year-old. You get the idea. This hodgepodge of token Asian gimmicks was just too much for the audience, and they tuned out.
- NO PROMOS
Speaking of that feudal slave/worshipper that accompanied him to ringside, what was his deal? He was useless. If he did “worship” Lord Tensai, why would he occasionally interfere in his matches as if a God would need his help? The worst part, though, is that the guy was mute. The one thing you use a manager/valet for is to cut promos for a guy who can’t cut promos. The Great Kabuki had Gary Hart, not because Gary Hart “worshipped” him, but because Gary Hart cut great promos and was excellent at getting people over. This guy didn’t speak at all, and Lord Tensai didn’t speak either. So the audience didn’t know what to make of him and he, nor his slove, would deign to explain themselves. Great.
- HE’S NOT JAPANESE
I can’t emphasize this enough. Here’s the thing with green mist: you can only get away with it using Japanese workers, ad only because it’s a cool bit of nostalgia and a throwback to simpler, stranger, and yes, more racist times. A white guy doing it comes across as goofy, and not a good kind of goofy. Mist can be utilized in the same way Santino’s cobra or Mick Foley’s “Mr. Socko”: as a goofy spot that the crowd is willing to participate in and suspend their disbelief for the sake of goofy fun. They’re not going to take Albert spitting green mist seriously, and it’s not going to get him over a lick. Oh, speaking of which, our final point:
- WE KNOW HE’S ALBERT
This. Drove. Me. Insane. It’s not even that we all obviously know it’s Albert and the commentary team pretends to not be able to remember his name. Wrestling fans are trained from the beginning to just accept that we’re supposed to forget guys whose names and gimmicks we know from other organizations. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they had a golden opportunity to, despite all this nonsense, get him over: “Albert.” The chant. It broke out in a few matches, and instead of acknowledging it or telling him to acknowledge it, they instead instructed him to work through and completely ignore it. Meaning the chants died out, and a perfect opportunity to get him heel heat, or at least some traction, was wasted.
The shame of it all is that the guy’s actually a good worker (his awful chemistry with CM Punk in that handicap match a few weeks back notwithstanding). They should just bring him back in as Matt Bloom, have fans chant “Albert” at him, and have him go nuts and destroy guys. See how simple that is? If they do that or had done that from the get-go, I guarantee it would get over in a heartbeat.
Oh well. So long, Landowner Tensai. We hardly knew you. Because you were confusing and didn’t say anything.