WWE History Vol. 7: The Gimmick Wrestlers
Pro Wrestling is a business that thrives upon archetypal representation. It's important that an individual wrestler's 'brand' be easily recognizable, and therefore marketable.
But in the modern era, most pro wrestling gimmicks are more grounded in reality than in times past. Most fans expect to interact with their favorite superstars on social media or at conventions. This limits the type of gimmicks which can reasonably be employed.
If we turn the clock back to the early 1990s, however, we find a much different world. The internet as we know it now was years away, and fans by and large only saw their favorite wrestlers either at an arena or on television.
During this era, WWE was experiencing some drop off in their fan base, as some wrestling fans went on to more complicated forms of entertainment, while several scandals rocked the wrestling industry and hurt the market share across the board.
WWE decided to try and appeal to both wrestling purists and the younger generation of children who were still watching their product. Top tier technical wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would comprise the main event scene, while the lower to mid-card would have larger than life, easily discernible characters to appeal to the children in the audience.
This is the story of the gimmick wrestlers, those chosen few who were meant to fill this niche role with the company.
#1 Repo Man
Barry Darsow cut his teeth in the southern wrestling promotions, particularly in Georgia. He portrayed a character named Krusher Krushnev, who was an American turned Soviet sympathizer. He would hold the tag team titles with partner Ivan Koloff before heading to the WWE in 1987.
It was during this period that Darsow played his best character, Smash from Demolition. Though they were created as a knock off of the Road Warriors, Demolition was quite successful in their own right, winning the tag team titles and holding them for a record sixteen months, nearly a year and a half.
But several things happened to Demolition. Ax, Darsow's partner, was aging and WWE wanted to replace him with Crush, who was not as skilled in the ring as Ax. Also, the WWE hired the Road Warriors, and wished to push them as the premier face painted monster heel team.
Ax left the company, Crush was repackaged as a Hawaiian, and Darsow became the Repo Man. Why exactly a man who repossesses cars for a living would also need to wrestle is unclear, as was the gimmick. Darsow ran around in a coat, mask, and chain acting sneaky. Unfortunately, the Repo man was never able to abscond with any title belts.
Darsow left WWE, and went to work for rival WCW, though he never made it out of the lower card.