The Vaudevillains' guide to old-timey wrestling
Aiden English and Simon Gotch may look like they stepped out of a time machine from the 1920s, but the duo known as The Vaudevillains is one team that’s best prepared for the rigors of the modern mat game. The pair is the cat’s pajamas in NXT, and they’re making a name for themselves with a bit of old-school flair. That refined touch is what brought the two together in the first place.
“Aiden is clearly a gentleman of class and sophistication,” Gotch explained. “It made for a natural pairing, since the NXT locker room is rife with ruffians and the uncouth.”
“Very uncouth,” English concurred.
Though a paring between a dramatic actor and a strongman may seem rather unusual, it may be the very thing that brings them success in the ring.
“We’re both trying to wow an audience, captivate people and make them really pay attention to us as men and performers,” English told WWE.com.
The Vaudevillains have been doing just that in recent weeks. Though NXT fans may have been enjoying the old-school stylings of English & Gotch, the duo has revealed a more ruthless side of late, making a statement that even though their roots may lie in Vaudeville, they’re more than just show. And they’re not ashamed of unveiling their vicious attitude.
“Having seen the uncouth and the filthy and the morally diseased continually rewarded, we made a bit of a switch,” Gotch said matter-of-factly. “We’re enraged that people who are so lowly are allowed to rise. We wish to correct that.”
As Gotch and English set out to mold NXT in their gallant visage, WWE.com asked the gents which old-time grapplers they model themselves after. The answers might knock you for a loop.
It’s no surprise that The Vaudevillains idolize one of the greatest grapplers to ever lace up a pair of boots. Lou Thesz dominated the squared circle for decades as a master of the lost art of hooking, twisting anyone he faced into a painful pretzel.
Tales of Thesz’s uncanny ability to stretch the human body to its limits and strike fear into the hearts of foes have been passed down through the years. One in particular struck The Vaudevillains’ fancy.
“Lou Thesz was a man of such technical acumen that he was able to frighten the fearsome Original Sheik,” Gotch said. “Thesz beat him so badly that after five minutes, The Sheik ran outside and hid under a bus.”
Considering The Vaudevillains’ obsession with sophistication, it might shock some to see listed among their idols the unrefined Killer Kowalski – a brawler who showed no remorse after ripping another man’s ear off during a match.
Though English and Gotch have no plans to ruin the hearing of their foes in NXT, the two sophisticated grapplers know that catch-as-catch-can wrestling may have to go out the window.
“While we are gentlemen, there is a time when gentlemanly conduct must be put aside for the sake of achieving one’s goals,” Gotch said. “If we are to elevate ourselves, it may have to be by being vicious. If we’re to be vicious, we have to idolize one of the most vicious men in the history of the sport.”
“Intelligence is not revered enough in this day and age,” English declared while discussing the team’s admiration for the grappler known as The Genius.
Whether he was tossing Frisbees to the WWE Universe or formulating an equation to end Hulkamania, The Genius always had a poem ready to get a rise out of everyone around him. Once the bell rang, he moved about the ring with an unorthodox grace. The Genius evaded foes with cartwheels before busting out a beautiful moonsault off the ropes, at a time when backflips weren’t yet considered en vogue.
“He was a man of great intelligence, and also incredibly flexible,” Gotch said. “Both things that Aiden and I are.”
Gorgeous George may be the most influential wrestler to step through the ropes. Everyone from Ric Flair to Muhammad Ali has paid tribute to the impact that George had on their style.
“The minute he walked into a room, all eyes were glued on him,” English explained, “and he made sure you knew it.”
Clad in long robes, with flowing blond hair, the WWE Hall of Famer strutted to the ring as his servant sprayed perfume all around. It was so out of place in the macho world of 1940s wrestling that it makes perfect sense for The Vaudevillains to admire him. After all, would you expect a strongman straight out of the circus and a musical theatre maven to do battle in the rings of NXT?
Mad Dog Vachon
Though The Vaudevillains project a larger-than-life image, English and Gotch know they give up a little size to certain competitors in NXT. That’s why the duo have been studying the career of the fierce Mad Dog Vachon.
“Even though he was 5-foot-7, he was one of the most fearsome and vicious Superstars in the history of the sport,” Gotch said.
After filing down his fingernails into sharp claws, Vachon battered and bruised his opponents in matches that can be considered precursors to hardcore wrestling. Mad Dog was so brutal that he was banned from competing in three states.
It’s that kind of ruthless aggression that The Vaudevillians believe will bring them the NXT Tag Team Championship.
“We need to tap into that type of viciousness, that type of anger, to get where we need to go,” English explained. “As you’ll see in the coming weeks and months, that’s exactly what we plan on doing.”