By Mike Mooneyham
June 27, 2004
Move over Hulkamania – Eugenemania is running wild.
World Wrestling Entertainment’s newest character may have the goofiest act in the wrestling business, but it’s also one of the hottest. The performer known as Eugene, whose apparently clueless, guileless persona hearkens back to the days of similar happy-go-lucky simpletons such as The Mighty Igor and Bugsy McGraw, is taking the wrestling audience by storm.
Former Ohio Valley Wrestling performer Nick Dinsmore plays the part of Eugene, an endearing, overgrown toddler who wears his warm-up jacket inside out but possesses uncanny knowledge inside the ring. A cross between Rain Man and Forrest Gump, the 6-1, 240-pound Eugene has become a bona fide superstar since making his WWE debut less than three months ago.
The fact that he plays the lovable character so well makes the act that much better. Eugene’s merchandise is flying off WWE shelves, and his appearances have accounted for some of the company’s higher TV ratings. His Raw main event with Triple H last week drew a stellar 5.1 and helped propel the show to a 4.2, its highest number in several months, prompting the writing staff to look for even more ways to incorporate Eugene into storylines.Unlike other performers whose ring gimmicks have been left flailing in the wind, Eugene’s character has been carefully crafted by a WWE creative team that obviously sees big-time potential in the 28-year-old. Since his April 5 debut on Raw, Eugene has been given steadily increasing air time. Putting him in angles with the likes of The Rock and Triple H have given him instant credibility, and pairing him with the inimitable William Regal has given his character an added dimension.
Fans, of course, are naturally startled to see the dull-witted Eugene, with his frizzy hair in tangles and a hand-scrawled name tag pinned to his jacket, perform so proficiently inside the ring. But that’s one of the elements that has made the character click – he’s an exceptional performer who knows how to wrestle.
Introducing a character such as Eugene didn’t come without risks. The WWE office received a flurry of negative comments upon Eugene’s debut, with fans criticizing the organization for making light of a mentally challenged wrestler. Many inside the business predicted that the character was destined to fail. Some even suggested that the gimmick would be a career-killer for Dinsmore, much like The Red Rooster derailed the career of Terry Taylor.
The character, WWE responded, was being portrayed as “a person with a mental disability whose dream is to become a professional wrestler.”
“WWE intends to portray the character of Eugene as a hero, as are the many people with disabilities around the world (many of whom are WWE fans) who must every day face challenges to live the type of life many of us take for granted,” stated a WWE release. “Eugene, despite his disability, will get a chance to achieve his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. We hope that Eugene’s story will encourage other people with disabilities to strive to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.”
It didn’t take long for the critics’ cries to cease. It soon became apparent that Eugene wasn’t making fun of anybody and, in fact, was making a lot of folks happy with his entertaining character.
The plot line, like Eugene, is simple enough. Eugene’s impressive record has come in spite of his “Uncle” Eric Bischoff, who looks at Eugene as a family embarrassment. Because of this, the Raw general manager has stacked the odds against Eugene, in hopes of forcing him to quit WWE. Eugene, however, continually beats the odds, earning victory after victory.
It’s a simple formula that, so far, has worked to perfection.
Although he’s being dubbed an overnight success, Dismore is anything but. Dinsmore, who signed a developmental contract with WWE in 1999, broke into the business in 1996 at Danny Davis’ wrestling school in Jeffersonville, Ky. He’s come a long way since making $25 a night in dingy armories and middle school gyms, to now appearing in front of thousands of fans at major arenas and in front of millions more on national television, and even having his own action figure.
Dinsmore earned rave reviews working for Ohio Valley Wrestling, the Louisville-based territory that develops talent for WWE. But it wasn’t until WWE brought him up earlier this year that his wrestling career paid off.
The character Eugene and the real Nick Dinsmore, of course, have little in common.. Dinsmore possesses a communications degree from Indiana University Southeast, while Eugene would most likely flunk kindergarten. While Dinsmore toiled for years on the independent circuit, Eugene has become a household name in just months.
– Orangeburg native Shelton Benjamin, who suffered a broken hand when he punched Garrison Cade’s knee brace in a recent match, is expected to be out of action until August.
– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Great American Bash pay-per-view tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5.
– Matthews Sports Bar and Grill, 613 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., also will air the Great American Bash PPV tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5. – Paul Bearer’s current run with WWE is expected to end following tonight’s pay-per-view.
– WWE is looking to hire a storyline editor to help bolster the creative staff and oversee the long-term direction of the company. Paul Heyman’s name should immediately come to mind.
– WWE is expected to name a figurehead president in November to oversee the Raw and Smackdown brands.
– The Warrior (Jim Hellwig) addressed a number of subjects in a recent interview with the British online edition of The Sun. Warrior, who retired from the business in 1998, currently gives talks at schools and colleges “about using your mind not muscle.”
Warrior took a number of verbal shots at his former profession.
“I’m not like some of the idiots I used to work with who never grew up and ended up dying in cheap motel rooms doing dirty drugs. These guys are dropping dead for the very simple reason that when you’re in your 20s you can get away with doing certain things, but when you’re 45 years old you’re taking a big risk that your body can’t handle.”
On Hulk Hogan, Warrior said, “In WCW in 1998 I spent a weekend at Hogan’s place in Florida, and I was disappointed and disheartened. The guy was still wrapped up in materiality.”
– A Legends Fanfest will be held Aug. 14-15 at the Clarion Hotel in Fayetteville, N.C. More than two dozen former NWA stars will get together for two days to meet and greet fans. Former Four Horseman Tully Blanchard will be featured in one of two Saturday night VIP question-and-answer sessions. Among the stars already signed include Sting, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley), Ricky Steamboat, Magnum T.A., Ole Anderson, J.J. Dillon, Baby Doll, Dory Funk Jr., Ivan and Nikita Koloff, Tommy Rich, Jimmy Garvin and Precious, Dustin Rhodes (Runnels), The Rock ‘N Roll Express, George South, Bill White and David Isley. Bob Caudle, the voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, will emcee the weekend’s festivities. Tickets are on sale at http://www.NWALegends.com.
Charlotte will host the returning Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest Nov. 26-28 at the University Place Hilton with a special tribute to the early Starrcades. Among those confirmed for the three-day event include Harley Race, Jack and Jerry Brisco, Dory Funk Jr., Paul Jones, Ricky Steamboat, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A., Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Baby Doll, Jimmy Garvin, The Rock ‘N Roll Express, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Valiant, Sir Oliver Humperdink, George South, Italian Stallion, Don and Rocky Kernodle, Tony Romano and Bill White. Two evenings of VIP question-and-answer sessions will feature Race, The Briscos, Jones and Caudle. Tickets are on sale at http://www.MidAtlanticLegends.com.