WWE To Blame For Fan's Tepid Response To Lord Tensai
I am quite annoyed with how the Lord Tensai character has been received by much of the WWE fan base since his return. Tensai is the walking embodiment of an old school heel. He’s theatrical, a bruiser and his work looks legit. Had this character been around in 1987, he would have main evented WrestleMania against Hulk Hogan. In today’s WWE, the Lord Tensai character is having a hard time finding footing. Considering the massive level of success Matt Bloom (Tensai) enjoyed over in Japan, I lay virtually all the blame for his tepid fan response at the feet of Vince and World Wrestling Entertainment.
During his time in Japan, Bloom won several different accolades, including the Japan Cup in 2006 and the IWGP Tag Titles in 2007 and 2010. His 2010 run lasted 564 days, the longest reign in the history of the title. The man is a proven commodity, but something just seems off about his latest run with WWE. My personal opinion, WWE has spent so many years marketing a particular type of superstar, when someone way outside the box like a Lord Tensai comes into the fold, many fans aren’t sure how to react.
A sad byproduct of WWE becoming the only real game in town is that it has stunted the growth of the wrestling business. The industry as a whole is far less accessible now than it was 10 years ago, and the television ratings certainly bear this out. Though there are plenty of things one could point to as causes for the drop in interest, one the main things that is rarely discussed is WWE’s sometimes myopic approach to talent evaluation. WWE, for whatever reason, have a certain ‘look’ that they seek out when acquiring new talent. If you look like Dusty Rhodes or Dick Murdoch, you’re probably not gonna get much of a shot. Husky Harris, whom I thought was fantastic, is proof of this fact. He could flat out ‘go’ in the ring, and yet was given next to no shot after the Nexus storyline played itself out. Sure, they have Big Show and Mark Henry, but both of them work ‘giant gimmicks.’ Brodus Clay, once a serious character, has been turned into a clown to get over. It’s worked, so I certainly can’t fault them, but it’s hardly the type of character with any real legs to it. Once people tire of the dancing, then what?
So, in comes Bloom with this cool, old school heel character, complete with Muta/Kabuki green mist and the Von Erich Claw finisher, and it’s been mostly a dud. Why? Because, thanks to the WWE marketing machine, the overwhelming majority of the fans have been conditioned to think that only giants and/or shredded up dudes with spray-on tans can wrestle. Those of us old enough or aware enough of the fact that there was an amazing, entertaining wrestling business prior to the ‘Attitude Era’, know differently. We can vividly remember seeing Dusty Rhodes, big, ol’ fat belly and all, beat Ric Flair in a steel cage for the World Heavyweight Title at the 86’ Great American Bash. We can remember jumping out of our chairs for the various Indian Strap Matches Wahoo McDaniel had against Curt Hennig and the Four Horsemen. We even remember guys like Adrian Adonis and “Playboy” Buddy Rose, two of the worst bodies in pro wrestling history, gassing opponents ‘in better shape’, night in and night out for years. None of these men had WWE bodies, but they were all able to carve out impressive runs thanks to their talents. The truly sad thing is, I believe were any of them in Tensai’s shoes. attempting to win over a crowd used to seeing very few characters and even fewer body types, they’d have the exact same problems he’s having. The bottom line is talent should override all else. God bless the Mason Ryan’s of the world, they certainly have their place in the business. To focus your marketing dollars solely on guys with six pack abs, however, is selling the entire thing short.
What's the answer? I don’t know that there is one, not for Tensai, at least. If WWE is truly committed to him, he may finally reach a level where he’ll begin to see some return from the fans. It’s certainly not something he’s getting from them right now. My hope is they decide to stick with him and he’ll begin to make some hay with fans, because the guy is very talented. I’d hate for him to have to go back over to Japan, to a fan base much more in tune with the art of professional wrestling, to receive the type of crowd response he deserves. I wanna believe the U.S. fans will realize they’re seeing something vastly different from what they’re accustomed to seeing, and that that’s not a bad thing. The WWE hasn’t given us very many of these old, ‘character-based’ wrestlers over the last several years, and if fans don’t realize they’re seeing something pretty cool, if Tensai doesn’t work out, it may be awhile before we see another.