Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Essay about Taz

Via @OfficialTAZ

The above is Taz's new headshot. He proudly debuted it on Twitter, and it's even his avatar. The shot is professional and tasteful, everything one should want when getting a picture taken for professional dissemination. In my opinion, he should be proud of it. However, the above picture, the classy, polished development with the rehearsed, cheesy pose, is a far cry from, well, this:

Photo Credit:

Again, I am not passing negative judgment on the headshot. Taz grew up, which is cool. A guy looking for voice related work probably shouldn't look like he's about ready to rip your throat out. But the difference in appearance 15 years between is jarring, almost as if Taz, the Human Suplex Machine, and Taz, the jovial, sometimes confused announcer are different people. Shifts in personality are not uncommon in wrestling, but something about Taz going from the world beating buzzsaw to mediocre, gladhanding announcer with a glossy headshot is especially disconcerting.

Where did Taz go wrong? What should have been his big career break, signing with WWE, ended up being his undoing. He debuted at Madison Square Garden of all places, the WWE's most famous arena, ended Kurt Angle's winning streak at a Big Four pay-per-view. His debut was one of the most impactful in company history, but after they left the Royal Rumble, he fell off a cliff.

I don't know the reason why he didn't catch on. Obviously, injuries played a role in his sputter-start, but those problems didn't happen until the summer. What befell him between the Rumble and the King of the Ring tournament that year? Some speculate that Vince McMahon's size fetish played a role, although the rumor is that even he regretted having Triple H defeat him when he was ECW Champion for that short spell during the Mike Awesome fiasco. Rumblings suggest that Taz got a giant ego when he arrived backstage, and if the folklore of wrestling holds true, nothing is worse in a locker room than a new guy with a big head.

Some even speculate that maybe Taz in WWE wasn't meant to be. Playing "what if?" can be dangerous but fun. However, I think enough evidence is there to suggest that Taz was the most over guy in ECW. Obviously, ECW crowds were smaller and thought to be more passionate than WWE crowds, but shouldn't common logic dictate that if an act is popular in front of a smaller crowd, that you should give it a shot in front of a larger crowd? If an act kills with five people, then it should be tried in front of 50. Then if it succeeds there, 500, then 5000, then 20,000, and then finally, in front of millions on television. That process is how a small burger joint in Virginia called Five Guys becomes a nationwide presence.

Taz could've succeeded, but he didn't. I would argue that for whatever reason, the disparity between his runs in ECW and WWE illustrate the difference in philosophy between the processes in each company. In ECW, Paul Heyman was able to take spare parts, misfits, and castoffs and create a dynamic environment where drunk slobs like James Fullington could be cult heroes, where everymen like Tom Loughlin could be a lovable loser, and where a tiny, stocky Pete Senerchia could be an absolute wrecking ball. He tried his best to hide weaknesses and accentuate strengths.

Meanwhile, in WWE, Vince McMahon seems to have his way. He will send a wrestler out into a spot that fits into his vision, regardless of whether it exposes a glaring flaw in his character or a gap in training. He always seemed to have left room for guys to freelance and get over by themselves, but from day one of national expansion, the modus operandi of Titan Sports has been to find talent and shove them into roles defined by McMahon and his braintrust, whether they fit there (like Hulk Hogan) or not (like Rocky Maivia).

However, eventually, McMahon found a role that Taz could shine in. And that role was what set him on the path to his headshot above. Obviously, the Taz that I wanted to succeed didn't, but the guy behind the role found something that fit him. Isn't success for people you're a fan of, no matter what the avenue of said career happiness is accomplished? For awhile, Taz wasn't half-bad as a color commentator. When he moved to TNA and stopped caring, yeah, he became as appealing as a dead dog's innards, but still, he was entertaining on Smackdown.

So I've come full circle, and a lot of this is just verbal exposition on a guy whose career has been enigmatic if not successful in its own way. I guess I just felt like writing about Taz after seeing him post his headshot. Funny where inspiration comes from, I guess.