Features

WWE’s Chinderella Man James Ellsworth by Ron Pasceri

AJ Styles was out in the ring on WWE SmackDown Live giving his victory speech. He said after beating John Cena and Dean Ambrose at the same time most other champions would take a year of or a month or at the very least a night, but not him. He said SmackDown is the land of opportunity and he was about to give someone an opportunity. Ambrose made his way out to the ring saying that he wasn’t through with AJ yet and that no one on this roster was going to jump him in line. AJ informed him that his opponent was not on the roster. I won’t pretend I knew who it was, but I know that it turned out to be exactly who I hoped it would be: The Chinless Wonder, James Ellsworth.

You may remember him as the first “enhancement talent” used on Raw after the brand split. He waited in the ring for Braun Strowman to destroy him as Byron Saxton interviewed him for 28 seconds. In that 28 seconds he gave an impactful promo by coining the phrase, “any man with two hands has a fighting chance.” He had a very interesting look and couldn’t have been more overmatched against Strowman. He landed two right hands on his opponent causing him to shake out his hand in pain. Michael Cole commented that he looked like Tweety Bird. As he got beaten to a pulp Corey Graves laughed and said that someone needed to notify his next of kin and call the EMT’s. Ellsworth was dispatched of in 68 seconds and with that his 96 seconds of fame was seemingly up. The internet had different ideas.

Within hours Ellsworth blew up on social media. His face was plastered on memes showing him holding Championship belts and the Money In The Bank briefcase. His face was superimposed over other people in hilarious photographs. The best part is, it was completely organic and not planned ahead of time. Something about him, whether it was his words, his look or the way he sold like an old school jobber, caught people’s attention. In the coming weeks there were more jobbers to come, but none that made quite the impression of Ellsworth. Nearly two months after his debut, AJ Styles was in need of a tag team partner. After trying and failing to secure one on his own, one was provided by General Manager Daniel Bryan. Yes, that man was once again James Ellsworth.

On sight Ellsworth was hilarious. His look, the way he awkwardly held his hand out for Styles to shake, which he never did and the level of disgust showed by Styles at the idea that he’d have to tag with this man. Even after AJ stormed off, the entertainment continued when Bryan told Ellsworth that he was going to do awesome. Upon his introduction, JBL wondered how “this emaciated guy could even pass a physical” before The Miz stormed out and leveled a grisly beating on Ellsworth, hitting him with a Skull Crushing Finale on the ramp. This led to JBL saying the attack would have broken his jaw, if he had one. Once again, Styles had a priceless reaction to the performance of Ellsworth as his lifeless body was left short of the ring, denying him the opportunity of sharing the ring with the Phenomenal One. After another 74 total seconds on screen, for a second time I assumed the Ellsworth Era had come to an end.

https://youtu.be/2uys3wsSl9c

Over the next few days he would appear on Talk Is Jericho and I happened to see him at a signing prior to House Of Hardcore in Philadelphia. In person, while his look is so unique, he appears as nothing more than just another guy. He was unassuming and pleasant and you could see the joy written all over his face. I remember just feeling happy for the guy because I am sure he was enjoying the ride of his lifetime. Being around HOH twice in the past six months it has really taught me how much more there is to wrestling then the men and women on TV every Monday and Tuesday night. There are so many more men and women chasing this dream and making a living for their families in this industry completely out of our view. James Ellsworth is one of those men.

I will admit that I didn’t do any deep research on Ellsworth for this column, because it isn’t about detailing his life and career, but appreciating what he has accomplished in the past few months. It is about appreciating the idea that he can be an example for all of us. In listening to his interview with Chris Jericho, I learned that he had worked in wrestling for 14 years. He runs his own promotion, Adrenaline Championship Wrestling in Maryland and Pennsylvania. His previous moniker was Pretty Jimmy Dream and he was one half of a tag team called Pretty Ugly.

He came across as completely genuine and thankful for the opportunity he had gotten. I also have to credit Jericho for being so welcoming and interested in his story and what he had to say. It goes to show what a fraternity the world of pro wrestling truly is. Chris Jericho, despite his wildly successful career and his current celebrity, could still relate to Ellsworth’s story because he was living it once and hasn’t forgotten what he had to do to get to where he is. I really respect Jericho for still having that aspect to his personality and that appreciation for others at the bottom and on the way up in this industry. Ellsworth has also been interviewed by various websites where he has preached his message of continuing to chase your dreams because you never know when they will come true.

While the odds of Ellsworth reaching the heights of Chris Jericho are stacked against him, he did reach yet another high point on SmackDown last night in his non-title match with AJ Styles. He entered hilariously to no entrance music. He was perfectly awkward and jumpy and excited. The crowd popped for him, AJ Styles popped for him and even Dean Ambrose said he wanted to see the match. He also said that Ellsworth 3:16 says any man with two hands has a fighting chance. How cool must that have been to hear his catchphrase repeated by a former WWE World Champion prior to his match with the current one. Daniel Bryan then entered the fray confirming that he himself was a big James Ellsworth fan. When Dean Ambrose was named the Special Guest Referee, he could be seen coaching Ellsworth on how to properly execute an arm drag takedown. Ellsworth even popped for himself when he managed to put the lesson into practice.

Eventually he was carried to victory by Ambrose who had to drag him out of the ring. He pinned the WWE World Champion and then was laid out on the ramp after the match, possibly not even knowing how his match ended. He was then advertised as a guest on Talking Smack along with Nikki Bella. Who would have ever thought Ellsworth would be advertised as a guest on SmakDown’s live recap show? He said that it had been the best night of his life, he cited the inspiration he derived from Daniel Bryan and he told a little of his story. He was in turn put over by Renee Young who said she hoped to see more of him in WWE, he was put over by Daniel Bryan who said he was an inspiration to a lot of people before granting him a WWE World Championship match on SmackDown next week.

I don’t know if that was really how he was notified, but it seemed like it may have been. He seemed blown away and reiterated once again that it was a dream come true. I also don’t know if this is all more of a joke storyline that WWE believes has captured social media attention or if this is WWE’s way of rewarding a guy who has been at this a long time that people in the company seem to like. Either way it is really cool to see and as corny as it sounds, it is an inspirational story. James Ellsworth would be the first to tell any of us that there is nothing about him that makes him any better or any more special than any of us. The main difference is that he has kept at it and kept working hard long enough for it to pay off.

If you think about it, SmackDown has started to carve out an identity as the upstart show, the underdog show, the land of opportunity as AJ Styles said. James Ellsworth perfectly encapsulates the spirit of what SmackDown is striving to be. So anyone out there who thinks they can’t do something or thinks a dream isn’t worth chasing, look no further than James Ellsworth. You can’t win a fight without actually being in the fight. You can’t achieve anything without putting in the effort. CM Punk and Conor McGregor have both sent a similar message recently but James Ellsworth has truly brought to life the idea that any man with two hands has a fighting chance. He will prove that to us again in one week when he challenges for the WWE World Championship. Just one more chapter in the world’s first Cinderella Story.

Check out my new podcast, Mat Madness, every Wednesday on iTunes and Podbean, as well as the video show on YouTube. It’s a fan oriented show, so if you’d ever like to take part, let me know. Thank you!