Former WWE Superstar George Gray (AKA The One Man Gang/Akeem) was recently interviewed by The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling Podcast, where he discussed Vince McMahon changing his character from One Man Gang to Akeem “The African Dream.” Below are highlights and audio clips from the podcast.
One Man Gang on the change to the Akeem character:
“It was just an idea of Vince McMahon and basically he wanted another character and he invented this character and that’s what we tried to go with. He just told me that One Man Gang was too black and white and just wasn’t a good character anymore and he wanted a good, colorful character he could trademark and market. So he came up with Akeem and that was basically it and there really was not too much to it. He came up with the idea and he had his artists come up with the drawings and came up with the costume and sent me to New York and had me sized up with the materials with whatever needed to be done.
They had the drawings and the artist renditions and that was it basically. When I showed up to TV, next thing you know they did the video where they bring us up to New York / Connecticut and do the little video and the change that we had talked about with the dancers and this and that, and they changed me to Akeem. Next thing you know I am on TV and now that’s what I am.”
On coming up with Akeem’s famous dance and hand movements:
“He didn’t give me any instructions on how to be Akeem. He just said go out there and whatever you think you should do, but you’ll be Akeem. That was basically my orders. After that it was anything I could come up with that I could add to the character, I’d add it myself. The little hand movements and stuff just came with the music playing and going out there and I was moving my hands around and now everyone calls it the Akeem dance.
I just tell them that I was being stupid out there and didn’t know what I was doing half the time. With the character at first I was terrified. I’ve been doing One Man Gang my whole career and now I’ve got to switch over and be this whole new character. I know people in professional wrestling that will tell you that it’s wrestling and it’s just a new character but it is like a whole different person. You’ve been the One Man Gang your whole life, a big bully and basically a big bad guy that would beat people up and now I had a totally new character that was just a goofy and I hate to say “white guy” trying to be cool and dance (it’s basically what it was) and people say it was making fun of Dusty (Rhodes).
Well, I tell people if that was the case, why did he bring Dusty into the company? Dusty came in shortly thereafter. So how was that a joke on him? They hired him into the company but I guess it caught on because people still talk about it thirty years later.”
On not realizing the character was getting over:
“At the time I didn’t realize it. I’m just doing the character and I don’t realize that it is really getting over. I am just doing this because if I don’t do this I don’t have a job. I didn’t realize at the time the people really started to take to it. Thirty years later now they want to talk about it and everybody loves it. I’ve even had people come up to my table and see that I’ve got two pictures (One Man Gang and Akeem) and they’ll look at it and look at Akeem and basically say that am I trying to tell them you were the same person? They are just learning this thirty years later.”