The Road To WrestleMania is one of the most entertaining times of the year (and it might be even better if WWE bothered to announce anything about ticket sales, but why bother making that easier on people who want to go to the show) as there are all kinds of things to get ready before we get to the biggest night(s) of the year. That is the case again this year, but there has been a development that has left some people less than a little happy. We’ll get to that, but first it’s time to hop into the time machine.
Back in 1987, the Honky Tonk Man made his debut on WWF TV and the company tried everything they could to get him over as a face, because when you think 1987, you think wrestling Elvis impersonator. Even Hulk Hogan gave him the endorsement to try and make the people like him but….yeah I think you know how this wound up going, as Honky Tonk Man is pretty much never remembered as a face at any point in his pretty crazy long career (I’m sure he is still popping up to this day).
So instead, the company did the logical thing (finally) and made him the heel that he always should have been. After a bit of a rocky start, Honky Tonk Man shocked the world and won the Intercontinental Title from Ricky Steamboat, ending his reign at 65 days (the shortest reign in the title’s history and the shortest reign until the Mountie in 1992, because the Intercontinental Title used to be VERY different).
Honky Tonk Man went on to hold the title for a record 454 days, a mark which is never likely to be touched (the longest since then is 280 days and that was Mr. Perfect in 1990/1991, with only three other reigns making it halfway to Honky Tonk Man since he lost the title). It was a reign that caught lightning in a bottle and there was nothing to suggest that it would last nearly as long as it did. Granted there was a thing or two in there that made it better, but what exactly made the reign so successful?
In short, the idea worked for one reason: Honky Tonk Man was a bad wrestler. Look at the names who had held the title in the nearly eight years before he won: Pat Patterson, Ken Patera, Pedro Morales, Don Muraco, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. That’s a list of all time greats plus Patera as a bonus name. Those people are the reason the title enjoyed the reputation it earned, so what the heck was Honky Tonk Man doing with the title?
It came off like the WWF was trolling the fans because they had never seen an Intercontinental Champion like him. Honky Tonk Man was a complete joke as champion with a ridiculous character and Jimmy Hart out there running around with the megaphone like a goof. How many times do you remember Honky Tonk Man winning anything outside of a squash without help?
With Hart’s help, it would be a disqualification, a countout, a shot with a guitar or the megaphone or something close to it ensuring that Honky Tonk Man escaped with the title one more time. Over the year plus that he held the title, Honky Tonk Man cheated one more deserving wrestler out of the title after another with every kind of cheating known to man. He was outmatched every single night and no matter who he was facing, it had to be time for him to finally get what was coming to him.
And that’s where the WWF had the fans in the palm of their hands. This was one of the greatest ideas that the company has ever had: what better way to milk fans out of their money than by putting Honky Tonk Man in one situation after another where the fans say “THERE IS NO WAY HE CAN DO IT AGAIN!”. Then they fork over their (or more likely their parents’) money to watch Santana, Jim Duggan, Savage, Brutus Beefcake or some other more worthy wrestler try to take the belt from him.
After all that, it took the Ultimate Warrior (the last of the great thinkers) to cut the Gordian Knot (look it up) and beat Honky Tonk Man up so fast that neither he nor Hart had the chance to cheat. Warrior won the title at the first Summerslam to one of the loudest reactions you will ever hear. Madison Square Garden comes totally unglued because FINALLY someone has done what needed to be done by slaying the blue suede monster once and for all. After that, Honky Tonk Man put over everyone in sight and never came close to the title again because the story was over.
This was a BRILLIANT angle and went on far longer than it ever should have had the chance to, mainly because it worked so well. There is almost no easier way to make money in wrestling than by making them think that they are going to see something special because it HAS to be this time. That’s smart booking and it worked like a charm about 33 years ago.
But KB you say: that’s just old thinking and not something that works today. Well flash back with me to about three days ago.
The Miz cashed in Money in the Bank on Sunday night to steal the WWE Title from Drew McIntyre. Yes that’s right: the Miz, the 40 year old dork, best known for reality TV, a bunch of mediocre straight to DVD action movies and being that one guy who never leaves is the WWE Champion once again. How could WWE do this to the fans when they have people like McIntyre, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Cesaro, Bobby Lashley and more sitting right there in front of them?
If you’re paying attention, I think you get the idea here. Of course Miz is in over his head as WWE Champion and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Miz feels like the most beatable champion in the world and that look of terror when he thought he might have to face Braun Strowman and Lashley at the same time told you everything you need to know about his reign. This includes why the reign is exactly what we need right now.
I don’t think there’s any secret to the fact that Monday Night Raw has been a really boring/bad show for a while now. It feels like what happens on there is either the same stuff or something really stupid. Those feelings are there because they are true. It feels like almost nothing good or interesting has happened on Monday Night Raw in forever.
Well this coming Monday, Lashley is getting his shot at Miz. How likely do you think it is that we have a title change? It wouldn’t shock me, but I’m honestly not sure. That’s how you know you had a well done story: you don’t know for sure. We haven’t had a WWE Champion who felt like he could lose the title on any given night in a little while (probably not since Kingston almost two years ago). That kind of a feeling adds in some excitement and that’s what WWE is dying for at the moment.
I’m not saying Miz is the next big thing or the long term solution for WWE. I’m not saying he will or should headline WrestleMania (he won’t, even if he is still champion). I’m saying that right now, he is the champion that the show needs because he is something different. People complain about how bad the show is, so maybe different is how to make it awesome. Or at least a little more interesting.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
Keep up with the LATEST WRESTLING RUMORS! Click here to sign up for the exclusive Wrestling Rumors daily newsletter, delivered right to your inbox.