ROGER: BRYAN CLARKE as ADAM BOMB– one of four wrestlers we’ll be discussing on this SPECIAL edition of SISKEL & EBERT we’re calling: THE HIDDEN GEMS of THE SQUARED CIRCLE.
GENE: Each of the wrestlers we picked for this episode is underrated and deserving of a second look by wrestling fans everywhere. I’m Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune.
Bryan Clarke a.k.a. Adam Bomb
ROGER: And I’m Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and my first hidden gem is ADAM BOMB, a 6 foot 6 290 pound comic book hero come to life. In fact, a comic book/sci-fi/fantasy artist named Tom Fleming is responsible for the Adam Bomb concept and design, so that explains a lot.
Bomb’s backstory is he’s a survivor of the nuclear meltdown accident on Three Mile Island. To drive home the nuclear premise, Bomb was outfitted with a pair of very cool steampunk welder’s goggles and a singlet emblazoned with fiery radiation symbols.
Tom Fleming did a great job with the design of the Adam Bomb character, adding nuanced touches to the character like glowing yellow lizard contacts to Bryan Clark’s eyes and a bright red tongue he never failed to show the audience during his ring introductions.
Bryan Clark the wrestler did a great job with the action parts of Adam Bomb as almost every single move or finishing move had a tie-in to the nuclear meltdown motif. There was the Neutron Bomb, a diving clothesline from over the top rope, the inverted atomic drop, and Adam Bomb’s finishing move: a quick-release power bomb called the Atom Smasher.
While Clark’s wrestling style may have been steeped in the classic powerhouse style of the strongman, Clark displayed a lot of high-flying agility in the ring, proving he had the wrestling versatility powerhouses like Goldberg and Ultimate Warrior lacked. Adam Bomb had sharp wrestling skills and an eye-popping look that should have made him a wrestling champion or at the very least a mainstay superstar in the WWE, but he was steadily pushed down the
Card and eventually out of the WWE altogether. Sadly, Adam Bomb was defused before he ever got a chance to blow up with the fans.
SISKEL: I’ll tell you when the defusing began: when they paired him up with that Johnny Polo character. That, uh…
ROGER: Spoiled preppy rich kid manager.
SISKEL: Yeah, right out of a John Hughes teen comedy, and what that has to do with a guy who survived a nuclear meltdown I have no clue…but it was clearly a dumb move on the WWE’s part to pair Adam Bomb with this doofus of a manager. This tells me they had no idea what they wanted to do with this character from the start.
ROGER: They were probably wondering how to merchandise Adam Bomb for kids and gave up on him when they couldn’t figure it out. Fundamentally, he was a dark character, and a little too intense for kids. You could see it on the faces of the kids in the audience whenever the camera panned around the arena. And, of course, when they finally did figure out a merchandising angle, they turned Bomb into a face that threw little rubber nuclear missiles at the fans. Then again, a lot of other wrestlers were scary-looking. It didn’t stop them from making the Undertaker a star.
GENE: The Undertaker and the fans did that, not WWE executives. Left to their devices, Undertaker would have been throwing little wooden caskets at kids’ heads.
Uh, Adam Bomb was a good technical wrestler. I’m not as big a fan as you are of the flashy-gimmicky characters, but I didn’t think his promos were so great. He was better off doing a lot less talking and playing more of the strong and silent type, but those managers, including that last one…the guy dressed in all whites.
ROGER: Harvey Whippleman. Right. Terrible.
GENE: There was no chemistry with those two whatsoever. How about no manager for Adam Bomb? That’s different. It would be better than having someone who saps the credibility right out of you. When you get it right, a good manager can put you over big time. When you get it wrong, you get
mismatches like Adam Bomb and Harvey Whippleman, and that can undermine everything a good character is trying to do.
ROGER: Gee, Gene, you sound like a bigger fan of Adam Bomb than I am.
Curt Henning a.k.a. Mr. Perfect
GENE: I’m not. I just hate to see good wrestling talent wasted. And that brings us to our next hidden gem: Curt Hennig, Jr. a.k.a. Mr. Perfect. Talk about wasted talent. I remember Curt Hennig when he started out as an enhancement talent for the then WWF with another bright future star, Eddie Gilbert.
Even though they were basically cannon fodder for wrestlers like the Samoans and other bad guys, these two already showed a glimmer of the stars they would eventually become. Hennig, whose father was legendary wrestler Larry The Ax Hennig, especially impressed me. He had solid quality technical wrestling skills and ring presence.
After his initial run as a talent enhancement, Hennig disappeared from the WWF for a few short years but reemerged in 1988 as Mr. Perfect. His character quickly caught on with the audience. The 6-foot-3, 257-pound Hennig oozed confidence and charm at every turn with his rugged Val Kilmer good looks and superb technical wrestling skill.
To really reveal his wrestling skills, the WWF matched Mr. Perfect against Brett “THE HITMAN” Hart, another quality technical wrestler and fan favorite. And although these turned out to be a great series of matches between two of the best technical wrestlers in WWF history, the downside of their culminating match during SummerSlam 1992 was the worsening of a serious back injury Hennig sustained in a match a few nights before SummerSlam.
Here’s Hennig in one of his best wrestling promos:
CURT HENNIG WRESTLING PROMO PLAYS
GENE: The aggravated back injury sidelined Mr. Perfect for three years, during which time he worked as a commentator—a very funny and incisive one at that. With his back improved, Hennig had a few comebacks in the WWE and the WCW but he never quite regained the consistency needed to stay in the fan spotlight.
In May 2002, Vince McMahon fired Hennig after getting into a fight with Brock Lesnar on a charter flight. Coupled with a growing cocaine addiction, Curt Hennig hit the skids and never bounced back. He was found dead in a Tampa hotel of acute cocaine intoxication on February 10, 2003.
ROGER: I liked Hennig too, Gene, and it just goes to show you how dedicated pro-wrestlers are to their craft. Hennig went against the doctor’s orders when he fought Brett Hart in SummerSlam, which means he probably fought through excruciating pain during the entire match. Who knows how his career might have turned out of he’d followed his doctor’s advice? And I also think Hennig’s commentator role in the WWE helped keep him relevant to the fans. Hennig’s contributions as a commentator are right up there with those of a Bobby Heenan or Jesse Ventura.
GENE: After the SummerSlam match, Brett Hart called Hennig “the best wrestler and one of the best workers he had ever worked with”.
Charles Wright a.ka. Papa Shango
ROGER: And that’s saying a lot. My next hidden gem is a weird one: PAPA SHANGO. Played by wrestler Charles Wright, Papa Shango was a 6 foot 6, three hundred and thirty-pound voodoo witch doctor, replete with a feathery black top hat, skeletal face paint, and a necklace made from bones.
GENE laughs in the background.
ROGER: As if that didn’t paint a scary picture, SHANGO also carried a smoking skull in his hands that would one day cause the Ultimate Warrior to ooze a strange black liquid from his head. This incident with the oozing black liquid actually sent the Ultimate Warrior packing from the WWE for a few years. That alone makes Shango one of the most underrated wrestlers of all time.
ROGER: Charles Wright’s character was based on Baron Samedi, a god in the Haitian voodoo religion. The natural expectation for any wrestling fan would have been to match Papa Shango against The Undertaker, but that never happened on a one-to-one basis.
Instead, Shango got a title shot against new champion Bret Hart on Saturday Night’s Main Event and lost. Hart was a great wrestler so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was Shango wasn’t given the opportunity to exploit his darkness to good effect. Here was a character that had the power to “cast spells” and control arena lights but was eliminated in less than 30 seconds at the 1993 Royal Rumble.
It’s almost like the WWE was saying this town isn’t big enough for two dead guys. Shango had his last matches in the summer of 1993, and then returned to being the father of the spirits of the dead, never to be seen or heard from again.
GENE: Don’t you mean pimp, Roger?
ROGER: Charles Wright the wrestler went on to play the Godfather—a “lovable” pimp-type who garnered more fame than his Papa Shango character.
GENE: And I’m going to tell you something, Roger: there’s nothing “lovable” about a pimp, and both characters—Shango and Godfather–were reprehensible stereotypes. Other than the fact that Shango was able to get rid of the Warrior, I didn’t think this character was the least bit interesting. Shango’s based on Vodou prejudices meant to scare audiences into thinking there’s something nefarious about the Voodoo religion and that’s a complete disservice to the Haitian community.
ROGER: Wait! Now, wait one second, Gene. Baron Samedi is a real part of Haitian voodoo folklore. He’s not some character created out of whole cloth. He was based on a real god from the Haitian Voodoo religion. For you to assume Charles Wright or anybody else just, you know, conjured this character without some sort of historical basis is wrong.
GENE: Well, Roger, I don’t care if there’s a historical basis or not. The character is reprehensible. He paints an ugly image of a legitimate religion and it does a disservice to everyone. And so does the pimp character, by the way.
ROGER: Well, can you at least admit Charles Wright played two interesting and diverse characters, hate-able/lovable or not?
Power and Glory: Hercules Hernandez and Paul Roma
Moving on to my second hidden gem and the final one of the show, I’ve chosen a tag team named POWER and GLORY. HERCULES HERNANDEZ and PAUL ROMA were POWER and GLORY respectively and, boy, were these two an exciting tag team. And not because they had some wacky gimmick but because there was a genuine camaraderie and chemistry between the two wrestlers you just don’t see in a lot of tag teams anymore.
As an individual wrestler Hercules Hernandez—the POWER of the tag team—was already a semi-successful journeyman wrestler in the WWE who fought some pretty big matches against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and Billy Jack Haynes. Arguably the most impressive of these matches was the one against Billy Jack Haynes in WrestleMania 3, where Hercules’ size and strength were put to the test against the equally brawny Billy Jack Haynes.
With a big showcase like WrestleMania 3 to boost him, Hercules looked like he might rocket to Hogan status, but along came; you guessed it, the Ultimate Warrior.
In 1988, Hercules lost a high-profile match to the Ultimate Warrior during WrestleMania 4. That and an obnoxious storyline about Hercules being sold into servitude as “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s personal slave really put the brakes to Hercules’ rise to the top. He languished for a year or more in relative obscurity outing over another wrestling talent, until 1990.
In 1990, Hercules joined forces with Paul Roma, who was also having a tough time getting his solo career going, and these two had instant chemistry. You could see it when they fought together—this chemistry. As a team, the pair had one of the best finishing moves of any tag team: THE POWER-PLEX. Hercules suplexed an opponent from the top rope and Roma followed with a splash onto the downed opponent. It was an awesome finishing move to behold and you can tell they had a lot of fun executing it.
The pinnacle of their tag team success was beating the Rockers at SummerSlam in 1990. Even though Power and Glory had a few title shots against the Hart Foundation, they never won any championships in the WWF. A humiliatingly quick loss to the Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal of ROAD WARRIOR fame) spelled the beginning of the end for POWER and GLORY.
In 1991, just one year after their seemingly out-of-left-field formation, the duo dissolved and went their separate ways. But if there’s one thing Power and Glory taught this wrestling fan, and let this be a lesson to all aspiring wrestling superstars: having a wrestling gimmick is great. Wrestling with passion is better.
ROGER: You know, Gene, Paul Roma’s said in interviews he and Hercules Hernandez were pressured to fight the LOD even though he and Hercules had seriously painful injuries. The 58-second match they had with LOD was a kind of compromise with Vince McMahon. He got his match and Power and Glory got to avoid prolonging their pain. It’s such a shame they had to be put in this position, to begin with. They were just as good as LOD and could have given wrestling fans a great match.
GENE: And such are the rigors of the wrestling business, Roger. There is no doubt in my mind the punishing work schedules and fighting through pain against doctor’s orders and the drugs they used to help them get through it all led to the deaths of many young wrestlers–Hercules Hernandez among them. He was only 47 years old when he died. What a shame!
ROGER: I couldn’t agree with you more, Gene. That wraps up this special edition of Siskel and Ebert.
Join us next week as we review four new movie releases including the new 007-thriller: FOLLOW THE RAVENITE, featuring the new Bond theme song by Amy Winehouse. But for now, the balcony is closed.
ARIEL: You’ve been listening to WRESTLING WITH HEELS ON. Join me in two weeks as we take another stroll down villainy lane, only on THE SPORTS HISTORY NETWORK.
Hi everyone. My name is Ariel Gonzalez, originally from Brooklyn, now living in the Garden State and I have a new podcast called “Wrestling With Heels On.”
On the podcast, I get to reminisce about my favorite wrestling bad guys from yesteryear. Light on stats and heavy on nostalgia, this little trip down villainy lane gives me a chance to visit the dark corridors of my wrestling soul, and it’s also fun to have a podcast.