Have you ever named an object?
Come on, think again. I bet you have. I bet some of you have named a car something like Baby or Kitt. I bet some of you have named your guitar something like Bumblebee or Blackie.
Then again, I play off an enormous handicap in gambling terms so you probably shouldn’t trust what I’d bet on, particularly as I’ve never actually named an inanimate object in my life. But I do know several people who have.
I also know several wrestlers who have, because it seems clear to me that WWE understands the value in a name. If you give something a name it’s automatically more important. It personifies it. It gives it something extra.
One of the most iconic inanimate objects over the past few years has been Triple H’s sledgehammer. It’s synonymous with him. It’s been there with Triple H through thick and thin, something he’s always been able to rely on. A trusted ally.
Only Triple H has never named his sledgehammer, because it doesn’t really work when a wrestler like Triple H names something. Triple H is portrayed as too tough to call his sledgehammer Lucy or Peregrine or something but by contrast, his earlier character the Connecticut Blueblood could easily have got away with calling his sledgehammer (had he had one) Justice or Class or something – because it would have fitted the character.
Even without a name though, Triple H’s sledgehammer stands for something. It works with his character – he’ll use any means he can to win and he really, really doesn’t mind hurting his opponent. Kurt Angle’s gold medals worked in a different way. They were a constant reminder that this guy was already a success before he even came to WWE. He was just better than the rest of them – he was an Olympic gold medallist! If he was an Olympic gold medallist then sure he could find a way to beat almost anybody?
Perhaps the best known prop without a name was the Undertaker’s urn. Used in storylines for years, held by Paul Bearer (and others) to exercise control over the Deadman, the urn played perhaps as significant a role in WWE programming of any prop and yet this, too, never got named. Tough guys don’t name their things.
So does being able to name your prop in WWE indicate you’re not tough? It would certainly seem to seem that way, if you look at Perry Saturn’s Moppy, Santino’s Cobra and Xavier’s Francesca, you’d have to say it’s definitely more of a comedy thing than not. That being said, they all still fitted the character who held them. Perry Saturn, Santino and Xavier are all silly characters. Which isn’t to say they weren’t great – I would put Perry Saturn in my top ten underrated wrestlers because I really enjoyed watching that guy work, but the whole falling in love with a mop thing? Yeah I think you could call that ridiculous.
Same for Santino and Xavier – great as they are, they’re ridiculous characters and ridiculous characters do ridiculous things. Only the Undertaker’s urn is pretty ridiculous as well, when you think about it. Controlling one of the WWE’s toughest SOBs with a prop? Well, ridiculous as it is, this also makes sense. The Undertaker is a supernatural character. Therefore, as a supernatural character, you can apply supernatural storylines and devices to him without it seeming ridiculous. Similarly, Kane’s prop is fire – as a demon he’s perfectly capable of setting fire to ring posts, you almost don’t bat an eyelid that he can do it.
When the Wyatts played with the Undertaker’s lightning and Kane’s fire? Utter nonsense.
There’s a notable exception to all these categories though and it’s what makes this guy so utterly great. When Mick Foley pulls Mr Socko from out of his pants and shoves it in someone’s mouth with a mandible claw, you don’t think Mick Foley is a comedy character. You also don’t think he’s ridiculous. This is probably the toughest wrestler there’s been in the modern era, along with Vader, and yet however strange, crazy and funny his character gets, he’s never anything short of dangerous.
I could say the same for Al Snow. Whilst Snow didn’t have the same stellar career of Mick Foley, there are actually quite a few similarities in their characters. They’re both naturally funny guys, they’re both tough as hell and they’re both nuts. And they’re also both characters who you never doubted could kick ass at a moment’s notice. Head encompassed Al’s character and added something to not only the matches but the character as well. Here was a guy who knew how to play a lunatic fringe.
Talking of which, last week saw the demise of one of WWE’s newest named props. Let’s take a moment and raise a glass to Mitch. In a way, I’m glad Mitch has gone, because I got quickly sick of the whole “who gets to run a TV show segment on Raw” angle and growing steadily more sick of the “you broke my thing so I’m going to break yours” that’s followed it. But if there was a guy on the roster who could carry on the tradition of Mick Foley and Al Snow, it’s Dean Ambrose.
They implied as much when Foley and Funk donated their hardcore props to his cause against Brock Lesnar. Ambrose is cut from that same cloth – ridiculous but you never doubt his toughness or ability to win. He could wield a prop, named or not, with it making sense for his character and have it add something to the story, but I’m kind of glad to say I don’t think it’s going to happen because Ambrose, while he could do it, doesn’t need it.
Which leads me to the point of writing this article, because there’s someone in the WWE it definitely should happen to and that’s Tyler Breeze.
The guy carries a prop down to the ring every night with his selfie stick. It’s ridiculous. The guy loves himself so much he’s more obsessed with his looks than his matches (something I’ve written before that WWE should write into his storylines). He’s also tough as hell, as we’ve seen in NXT – the guy can get hardcore if he needs to do so to win, and he should do more of that.
Selfie stick round the back of the head of the opponent when the ref isn’t looking. Attempted selfie stick to the back of the head which the ref sees, takes it off him and Tyler attacks while the ref’s back is turned. Have him use a submission move where he pulls the phone out and takes a selfies as he’s applying it and the guy taps out. Simple stuff, but stuff that retains continuity and impact.
It also paves the way to develop the character a bit more. Why is Tyler Breeze a narcissist? What drove him to that? Why doesn’t he care if he wins matches and what would flick that switch to make him care? There’s such a huge upside to the guy and the character that it’s such a shame to see him languish where he is right now, as part of the comedy filler segments with Goldust, R-Truth and Fandango.
A guy’s prop, just like Undertaker’s urn, Foley’s sock down his pants or Al Snow’s mannequin head, doesn’t have to just be stupid, it can be part of a wider exploration of character. That little thing called depth. Give Tyler Breeze a little depth and he won’t flounder in it, but leave him in this shallow end he’s in now and all he’ll ever be is the guy who carries the stupid selfie stick.