Editors’ choice: 9 Superstars we’re not embarrassed to admit we love
We’ve all had those unexpected instances of vulnerability, when you express fondness for something — a song, a sitcom, a Superstar — that you just assume everyone else already loves, too. With the foregone conclusion that your opinion is held universally, you state it freely, without a second thought.
Then reality sets in, and you notice your declaration is greeted by blank stares, condescending tones or worse, false empathy. Your taste on everything is questioned going forward, and suddenly your friends, family and colleagues — now painfully aware that you think t.a.T.u. is a “pretty solid group” — begin acting differently around you.
Well, not here, not now. Join the editorial staff at WWE.com as we dig in our heels and proudly proclaim our affection for those Superstars we loved … even if nobody else seemed to.
Jean Pierre Lafitte
Whether Pierre Carl Ouellet was teaming with Jacques Rougeau in WWE or WCW, I was constantly impressed with the speed and agility of the bulkier Quebecer-turned-Amazing French Canadian. In contrast to the conservative Rougeau, Ouellet always seemed eager to cannonball the first Superstar in sight, sometimes resorting to tope con hilos to prove the point. And for someone who was constantly darting around the ring, the exhilarating competitor seemed to waste little movement.
Yet, it was the brief time in 1995 when Ouellet’s purported lineage to French pirate Jean Lafitte came to light and he started dressing like a swashbuckler and going by the name Jean Pierre Lafitte that I dug him the most. Sadly, that sometimes feels like a minority opinion.
Looking back, the record books didn’t treat Jean Pierre Lafitte kindly. Though he demolished lesser competition, he ran into trouble against The New Generation’s upper echelon. Hurting his legacy further are the selective memories that too often recall Lafitte as simply the guy who stole Bret Hart’s jacket.
Ouellet’s wrestling style — spectacular, explosive moves, tempered by a methodical prowl — generated awe, and when he went solo as Jean Pierre Lafitte, he finally had a platform befitting his ahead-of-its-time offense. The pirate persona is unfairly maligned; by embracing his questionable ancestry in 1995 — years before Jack Sparrow, or for that matter, Paul Burchill, entered the vernacular — Lafitte wasn’t preposterous, he was prescient. Just like his wrestling. — JOHN CLAPP
“Blood Runs Cold.”
That was the tagline hyping the imminent debut of Glacier on WCW Monday Nitro in 1996. WCW Magazine profiled him as a competitor who studied a hybrid style of professional wrestling and martial arts in Japan. And when he finally debuted after months — and months! — of hype vignettes, he walked out with the most extravagant ring entrance ever, complete with blue laser lights, fake snow and elaborate ring gear. There was no doubt this guy was going to be amazing, right? Well, most WCW fans didn’t think so.
It’s not that I didn’t understand why a major cross-section of the audience didn’t like the cartoonish Glacier, I just didn’t agree. Look, whenever I playedMortal Kombat, I’d pick Sub-Zero. Glacier was basically the same guy without all the super-powers. He was actually just a martial artist from Georgia. Nevertheless, I’m not afraid to admit he was pretty neat. He amassed a decent undefeated streak for a few months, and although he never won any titles, he was a mainstay on Nitro throughout the Monday Night War.
Did I turn on Monday Nitro every week to see Glacier? No, I didn’t. Nor did I turn the channel every time he made his entrance. Yes, he was overhyped and over-the-top, but Glacier was one of those competitors that reminded us all that sports-entertainment can be a lot of fun when you don’t take it so seriously. — KEVIN POWERS
I was eight years old when, on May 22, 1993, I watched a 6-foot-6, 290-pound bruising monster absolutely maul Bert Centeno on Monday Night Raw. I was too young to understand why this man was billed as hailing from “Three Mile Island” and certainly hadn’t yet seen the cinema classic, “The China Syndrome,” but it didn’t matter. With his colorful singlet, blazing red tongue, giant safety goggles, messy dark hair and imposing frame, Adam Bomb was a truly captivating behemoth to a boy raised on Happy Meals and Power Rangers.
Only two weeks later, another intimidating goateed mercenary debuted on Raw named Diesel, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Why bring in this guy when his much cooler twin was already wreaking havoc all over the roster? WWE broadcasters kept telling me Diesel was destined for great things, but I just couldn’t get invested. I was too busy being hooked on that nuclear warrior Adam Bomb and his mushroom cloud of destruction. Even the sniveling Harvey Wippleman couldn’t curb my thrill of seeing Bomb destroy opponent after opponent.
Call it nostalgia, but I still love everything Adam Bomb did. And yes, that includes KroniK. — ZACH LINDER
If you’re anything like me, the first time you saw Alex Wright you were mesmerized by his singular dance moves. With those scintillating steps, pulsing techno music, unnecessary leather jacket and ring entrance via backflip off the ropes, there’s no doubt that “Das Wunkerkind” knew how to make an impression.
But “Germany’s youngest professional wrestler” was much more than some strutting novelty act. A second-generation competitor brimming with smooth athleticism, polished technique and a certain in-ring precision that could only come from Deutschland, Wright was nothing short of awesome in the squared circle.
Trained by his father from an early age, the "World Superstar" debuted in WCW at the age of 18 and made a major mark during nearly a decade with the company. In addition to capturing the Cruiserweight, Television and Tag Team Championships, he locked it up with a who’s who of in-ring legends, including Goldberg, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho and Ric Flair, putting on great matches with anyone who stepped in the ring with him.
I am unashamed — nay, proud — to say that I am a fan of Alex Wright, who is not only the greatest German professional wrestler of his generation, but also one of the most unique and memorable grapplers in WCW history. And if you think I’m misplacing my admiration, then why does it feel so “Wright”? — JAKE GRATE
The Wall straddled two archetypes of wrestlers I love — one being the indestructible big man, the other being guys who wrestled in everyday clothes.
Introduced as the muscle of a German Zionist named Berlyn (An aside: I didn’t get that The Wall’s name was a play on The Berlin Wall until six months ago when the guy I sit next to pointed it out and then laughed in my face for not realizing it sooner.), the near-seven-footer entered WCW at the height of their post-boom years panic when they were scrambling to create a new generation of stars.
So when The Wall broke away from Beryln (who, thankfully, went back to being the awesome Alex Wright), he was positioned as an unstoppable monster who constantly put guys through tables and once stood right back up after getting decimated by Hulk Hogan’s Atomic Leg Drop. It was complete absurdity, but I couldn’t help but get excited every time he hit the ring in his black sunglasses and sleeveless dress shirt. I even liked his Best of Five Tables Match against Shane Douglas from Great American Bash 2000, which made absolutely no sense!
I lost interest in The Wall when he changed his name to Sgt. AWOL and joined up with the dopey Misfits in Action, but, to this day, I still watch clips of his ridiculous 2000 run (“That’s The Wall, brother!”) and grin like an idiot. — RYAN MURPHY
These guys ruled.
The fact that Taka Michinoku and Sho Funaki, aka Kaientai, weren't in constant contention for the World Tag Team Championships was practically a violation of international treatises. Not only were the sinister twosome from The Land of the Rising Sun aces in the ring — peep former Light Heavyweight Champion and Michinoku Driver II inventor Taka — they had easily one of the most entertaining shticks in WWE history: Whenever they spoke in their native tongue, a "Voice from Beyond" would dub them over like a "Godzilla" movie. Their pontifications would always end the same way, too, where Taka would proclaim the duo's prevailing "EVIL" accompanied by a kung-fu villain cackle, and Funaki would provide the one-word kicker: "INDEED."
Sadly, Kaientai got their keisters kicked nearly every time they set foot on Raw, though they ruled the roost on the likes of Sunday Night Heat, Metal and Jakked. Still, these guys never got a chance to shine on a truly grand stage and that, to me, is the greatest EEEEVIL of all.
And no, I never got the T-shirt. I still regret that. Get on that, will ya, Shop? — ANTHONY BENIGNO
To the fans at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, local wrestler JT Smith was a crowd favorite. In fact, Smith was a star in ECW’s predecessor, the Philly-based Tri-State Wrestling, who defeated NWA Legend “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel to win the organization’s heavyweight championship in 1991. Smith’s talent and popularity allowed him to remain part of the ECW locker room even while the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Tazz and Sabu took over.
Smith’s biggest break came by accident in 1995. During a match, Smith dove out of the ring, but his toes caught the top rope, sending him crashing headfirst to the concrete floor! He managed to get back to his feet and — with a disgusting, softball-sized contusion on his head — showed how tough he was by finishing the match. ECW’s mad scientist, Paul Heyman, turned this nearly tragic incident into a unique character for Smith.
The idea was that JT’s head injury caused him to believe he was not black, but, like most of the South Philly fans, Italian American. With genuine Italian, 500-pound “Big” Val Puccio now watching his back, Smith would enter the ring to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” speak with a newfound Italian accent and try to get the audience to sing Sinatra and Dean Martin songs with him. The plan was to get the Italian inhabitants of the ECW Arena to revile Smith. However, the most cynical fans in the world had adopted Smith as one of their own so long ago that they good-naturedly booed him as a way to ensure he’d keep singing and never recover from his identity-impairing injury. What made Smith even loveable was that he continued to botch moves on purpose, which entertained the audience even more.
As for me, I loved the character — even going so far as to nickname JT “Ol’ Brown Eyes” —and I’m not afraid to admit it. Capiche? — JOEY STYLES
Okay, so let’s get this out there right away — sometimes, things you remember from childhood aren’t nearly as cool when you revisit them later in life. Actually, come to think of it, that’susuallythe case when trying to recapture a fond memory.
Such is not the case when I look back at the (short-lived-but-nonetheless-awesome) Repo Man. With a classic catchphrase (“What’s mine is mine … and what’s yours is mine, too!”) a hilariously fantastic Zorro mask disguise and a mean-as-can-be persona, he was one of the more colorful Superstars of the early ’90s. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was a little scared of the guy when I was a kid.
And ya know what? I still think Repo Man was a great concept for a wrestler.
There. I said it. — ALEX GIANNINI
There were plenty of colorful characters to get excited about in WCW’s legendary cruiserweight division, with masked marvels like Rey Mysterio, Psychosis and Blitzkrieg taking flight. I, however, threw all my support behind the red-headed guy with his initials carved into his sideburns — Lash Leroux.
I can’t quite explain why “The Ragin’ Cajun” is one of my favorite wrestlers, but he is. I would have bet money that he was a Cruiserweight Champion in the making. Sure, his Chris Jericho knock-off nickname, “The Ayatollah of Shrimp Creole-ah,” was a little cringeworthy, but LeRoux had charisma that couldn’t be denied. Did I mention the sideburns?
After all the Mardi Gras beads were tossed out, LeRoux had some cool moves in the ring, which was enough for me to be sold on him. “The Ragin’ Cajun” even had two finishers, a twisting slam called the Whiplash and a slightly less impressive maneuver for the new millennium called the Whiplash 2000.
Despite the rookie upstart laying it on a little thick with an overabundance of finishers, nicknames and items to toss out to the crowd, I couldn’t help but love the guy. It was probably because of the sideburns. No, it was definitely because of the sideburns. — BOBBY MELOK