Gimmick infringement. In basic terms, gimmick infringement is when someone “borrows,” or directly steals an idea or concept from someone else and passes it off as their own. Everybody does it in one way or another. Almost nothing in this world is original. It’s all been done before in some form or fashion. In the world of pro wrestling, often times the very best stuff is “borrowed” from someone or something else.
In the 1970s, “Superstar” Billy Graham was a fresh act. It was a cool gimmick that seemed revolutionary for its’ time. When you get right down to it, Graham jacked his entire style from Muhammad Ali. When you listen to his promos, not only was his style a direct carbon-copy, but some of his actual catchphrases were directly taken from Ali. Graham himself will admit that even the name “Superstar” was taken from the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Fast-forward to the 1980s. In the ring, Hulk Hogan and “Hulkamania” was sweeping the nation. Behind-the-mic, Jesse “The Body” Ventura was setting a new standard for color commentary in professional wrestling. Both guys were clear rip-offs of Graham’s. Hell, they’ve gone on record and basically admitted that they stole a lot of their style from the “Superstar.”
Another big hit in the 1980s was “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Go back and watch the original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. It is almost the exact same act. Rogers had the same nickname, the same bleach-blond hair, the strut, the figure-four leg lock. He had the cocky, charismatic promos. Flair will even admit that he got his famous “Wooo!” from the Jerry Lee Lewis song, “Great Balls Of Fire.”
Moving ahead to today’s top acts. Long before John Cena was waving his hand in front of his face and saying, “you can’t see me,” hip-hop artist Tony Yayo was doing his signature dance, “The Tony Yayo,” where, you guessed it, it featured the same hand gesture.
The hottest and most popular trend in pro wrestling today is Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” movement. About ten years ago there was a hot-headed Mexican mixed-martial-artist named Diego Sanchez. Sanchez gained popularity on season one of UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show for being a bit odd. One of his trademarks was walking to the cage (and even at pre-fight weigh-ins) with an incredible amount of intensity and for no apparent reason, passionately and repeatedly yelling “Yes!” while throwing his hands in the air.
It’s all been done before. The only sad part is that when someone establishes a hot act, whether it’s “borrowed” from someone or something else, pro wrestling usually features it prominently. “Superstar” Billy Graham had a lengthy run as the WWWF Heavyweight Champion and is credited as being one of the first guys to bring “sports entertainment” to the forefront. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were the poster-boys for professional wrestling for well over a decade. WWE centered its’ entire company around John Cena and even attempted to make him a rap star when he caught on with the younger generation.
Daniel Bryan clearly borrowed the right gimmick. It’s literally sweeping the nation as much as “Hulkamania” did. It’s caught on with today’s fan base as much as anything Graham, Hogan, Flair and Cena did. When is WWE going to “get the machine” behind it? Even the NFL’s Super Bowl champions got caught up in the “Yes!” movement. How much more evidence does WWE need?
When the Hogan era finally died-down and “The Hulkster” left for Hollywood, and WWE was in the midst of a steroid scandal, the company was forced to go a different direction. No longer were the bodybuilder acts that were more “show” than “go” going to be able to get the job done. It was time for WWE to focus on the actual bread-and-butter of this form of entertainment, which is the actual work in the ring. This is when we saw guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels get an opportunity to carry the company on their shoulders.
And guess what? It worked.
Not only does Daniel Bryan have the flash and pizzazz of a Hogan or Cena with a catchphrase that is as over as anything in wrestling today, he is arguably the best worker in the business right now, much like Hart and Michaels were in their day. Bottom line? He’s the best of both worlds. Yet, as we travel on the road to WrestleMania, it’s not a Daniel Bryan run at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that is going to be the featured act at the biggest event of the year. We’re gearing up for the moment “we’ve all been waiting for” ….another title run for Batista.
What’s your favorite Batista catchphrase, by the way? How many five-star matches of “The Animal’s” stands out in your memory? What has Batista done since April of 2013 to deserve the spotlight on the grandest stage of them all? The answer is simple: absolutely nothing. But, he’s a big jacked-up dude who happens to be friends with the most powerful figure in the company. Oh yeah, and he popped one rating, so now the people who need to justify this decision have something to point to.
Working hard, having the best matches, getting over the most with the fans, it doesn’t mean as much as it should these days. It really seems to be more about who you’re friends with. Kevin Nash gets a meaningless spot in the Royal Rumble. The New Age Outlaws dust off their spandex and walk right into the WWE Tag-Team Championship picture. Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels come in-and-out of television for big shows and key angles. Batista walks right into a Royal Rumble victory and a title match at WrestleMania XXX. And, of course, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon get more television time than anyone on the roster.
Gimmick infringement. It used to be about “borrowing” or stealing the right stuff and making it your own. I guess guys would be better-served to steal Triple H ‘s attention backstage and tell him how great D-Generation X was. That they learned everything they know from watching The Clique as kids. Maybe that’s the best way to get over these days. Who knows. All I know is …whatcha gonna do, brother, when that’s the bottom line, because ….ahh, nevermind. That stuff doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters these days is how you play “The Game.” WOOO!
Right now, I’m going to steal a page out of CM Punk’s playbook and get out of here. Until next time, leave your feedback in the “Comments” section below. You can also steal a moment of my time and hit me up directly if you’d like at Facebook.com/MattBooneWZR.