Last week, we talked about Glen Jacobs and Charles Wright, two wrestlers who started out with bad gimmicks but eventually ended up with gimmicks that brought them fame. Not all wrestlers are so lucky, however.
This week we look at what happens when fortune’s wheel goes in the opposite direction. Here are two wrestlers who started out as stars and ended up jokes.
You may not recognize the name, but Darsow had a fantastic early wrestling career in the NWA territories, WCW and the WWE. Unfortunately, he also had a terrible ending career in the WWE and WCW as well.
Darsow’s career started during the cold war, so it was natural to play a turncoat American turned Communist. He played this character under two different names. He started out in Hawaii as Tsar Mongo and a year later in the Mid-South region as Crusher Darsow. Both were reasonably successful characters an American who, seeing injustice, embraced the Soviet Union. Thus changing his name to Krusher Krushev.
By the time Darsow entered the Florida territory in 1984 he was announced as from Russia but used no accent in interviews. He was still very successful winning several regional titles as well as the NWA tag team titles with Ivan and Nikita Koloff. His voice might have sounded American, but the character was a success as a heel.
In 1987 Darsow switched to the WWE, at the best possible time. The hottest tag team in wrestling were Animal and Hawk, The Roadwarriors. The WWE wanted their own Roadwarriors, but instead of going to the expense of hiring the originals they created their own, Demolition, Ax and Smash.
Ax was played by Bill Eadie, who will be featured next week, and Smash was, of course, — Randy Colley?
Yes! Darsow was not the original Smash, Colley was. Colley was a journeyman wrestler who had had a lot of gimmicks himself one of which was Moondog Rex. Even though kayfabe was still strong in those years, Colley still looked like Rex, even under face paint, and audiences would shout “Moondog” wherever he went. The WWE, already sensitive that Demolition was a copy of The Roadwarriors, fired Colley and replaced him with Darsow. This would be Darsow’s most successful gimmick.
Demolition held the tag team championships 3 times between 1987 and 1991, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. At one point Demolition held the titles for 478 days a feat only recently topped by the New Day.
By 1991, Ax had retired, and Crush had left the WWE, Darsow continued to wrestle as Smash but was mainly used as a jobber. The WWE decided to repackage his gimmick, and it was all downhill from there.
The early 1990’s was a terrible time in the WWE as we’ve discussed. Wrestling plumbers, clowns, baseball players, and dentists were all active. Into this Darsow was dropped in as the memorable Repo Man.
Darsow has no one to blame but himself as he had been a former repo man and thought up the character. If you are unfamiliar, a repo man is someone who repossesses your car if you’re behind on payments, a legal thief, if you will. A thief gimmick might have gotten over, but Darsow wore a Zorro-like mask, an outfit with tire tracks and acted like the Riddler on Batman, to make it worse he used a tow rope as a weapon. Few things are less intimidating. He used this ridiculous gimmick until 1994.
In 1994, Darsow returned to the NWA, now WCW, and became The Blacktop Bully. See, he was a bully who drove on the blacktop. If you don’t remember this gimmick don’t worry it lasted less than a year. WCW was a confusing place to work for at the time, and Dustin Rhodes and Darsow ended up bloody after a — King of the Road match held on a moving truck. Sound dumb? It was, but it gets worse. WCW had a no bleeding policy, and both Rhodes and Darsow were fired.
From 1995 to 1997 Darsow wrestled as either Smash or Repo Man on the independent circuit never staying anywhere too long. In 1997 Darsow returned to WCW wrestling as Barry Darsow. It wasn’t long however until he became Mr. Hole-in-One, a villainous golfer. He didn’t even attack people with his club all that often. He mostly challenged people to putting contests.
In 1999 Darsow briefly returned to Barry Darsow until being hit in the head by Booker T. Darsow suddenly could not remember who he was and wrestled as his old gimmicks Krushev and Hole-In-One. This was even worse than it sounds.
Darsow left WCW in 2000 and wrestled in the independent promotions as Smash for the next twelve years. Nevertheless, he never regained the status he had at the height of his career.
You know Ed Leslie as Hulk Hogan’s best friend and due to that friendship had a long career but that doesn’t mean it was all good.
From 1977 to 1986 Leslie had a fairly successful career as Ed Boulder. He won numerous singles and tag team titles including a championship with his “brother” Terry played by Hulk Hogan. In 1984 Leslie left the NWA for the most successful run of his career.
From 1984 to 1987 Leslie was repackaged as Brutus Beefcake. He started off as a flamboyant heel managed by Johnny V and won the tag team titles with Greg Valentine. After helping Roddy Piper shave Adrian Adonis’s head, Beefcake became Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. There was no reason for this to get over but to Leslie’s credit, it did. He carried huge hedge clippers to the ring and would often cut a lock of hair off of an opponent after the match. Leslie played this character on and off (he was injured for two years) until 1993 when Leslie joined Hogan in WCW.
At first, no one knew exactly what to call him, Hogan referred to him as Brother Bruti, but he didn’t last long before he turned on Hogan and became The Butcher. The Butcher wrestled with Kevin Sullivan, really as just an evil Brutus Beefcake, as part of The Three Faces of Fear until 1995. In ‘95 The Faces of Fear broke up, and Leslie briefly played an amnesia victim as, the Man with No Name. No, I’m not kidding.
Later in 1995, Leslie regained his memory and briefly wrestled as The Zodiac before turning on Sullivan and rejoining Hogan. For two years Leslie wrestled as The Booty Man using the high knee (get it? hiney.) as his finisher. In 1997 Leslie took some time off to deal with personal demons.
Leslie returned in 1998 as the forgettable Disciple, Hulk Hogan’s evil bodyguard. He was briefly turned into a face by The Warrior, but by 2000 Leslie was done with WCW.
After WCW, Leslie was semi-retired and wrestling occasionally on the independent circuit as the Barber, his most successful gimmick.
Next week we’ll look at two wrestlers who had so many successful gimmicks it wouldn’t be clear what to call them.