Not too long ago, I posted a “Mid-Card Comedy Review”, where I ranked the funniest members of the WWE’s mid-card in my humble opinion. One that list, I had Fandango at number 6, and at that point, all we had seen were his video packages that used adjectives such as “sexy” and “sultry” to describe the ballroom dancing brawler known as Fandango. I thought it was a recipe for a pretty funny mid-card gimmick.
Fast forward a few months, and the wrestler formerly known as Johnny Curtis debuted as Fandango, and refused to wrestle his opponent because Justin Roberts couldn’t say his name right. This wasn’t the kind of comedy I was expecting but I was willing to roll with it. Now less than two weeks away from Wrestlemania, it seems that this Fandango character is less for laughs than I had originally thought. He has a real mean streak, has a match with Chris Jericho on one of the biggest shows of the year, and is being treated more seriously than I imagined (I thought he’d be treated more like 3MB). That being the case, I have some real issues with the way the character is being presented, particularly the laziness with which his shtick has been developed for TV.
This week’s A Matter of Character is about the Wrestlemania bound Fandango. I will analyze the character a pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses in the character, while making suggestions for improvement as I see fit. Let’s Do This!
At 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighing in at nearly 250 pounds, Fandango is a physical specimen. He has a great physique, is strong and very athletic, which he demonstrates flawlessly every time he when hits his picture perfect flying leg drop, which he has cleverly dubbed “The Ballroom Breaker”. I am of course being facetious about the cleverness of his finishing maneuver’s name, but everything else I have said about Fandango is true. He is a very well put together wrestler, possessing raw athleticism and great technique. He without question has all the tools to be a great worker.
Furthermore, Fandango has a great look. The man looks like his body was chiseled out of stone, he’s a handsome, and the whole ballroom dancing shtick they’ve attached to him fits his physical build and good looks. The brightly colored ring gear sets him apart aesthetically, and without he’d probably be regarded as just another pretty-boy meathead. In that regard, I’d say the gimmick is a pretty great fit for him.
I’ve seen multiple incarnations of the performer behind Fandango, first in FCW and on NXT as the straight-laced competitor Johnny Curtis, then as the creepy, sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen, Dirty Curty, and now as the arrogant, hotheaded, ballroom dance enthusiast simply known as Fandango. You can tell he took his approach to each role very seriously, and I certainly commend the commitment and effort, but there’s a dryness in his personality that leaves a lot to be desired personality-wise. At the end of the day I get what he’s trying to convey, but just wish it had been presented more expertly.
I do like what the direction that they’re taking Fandango’s personality. He’s a hothead that can snap and really do some damage to other human beings at a moments notice, whom happens to love the art of ballroom dancing. It’s absurd in the best way possible. The irony of a character so consumed by such an elegant and artistic form of expression, with the proclivity for handing out brutal and vicious assaults is just plain fun. That being said, the whole arrogant “say my name right” trigger is a bit stupid in my opinion. There’s definitely potential narrative gold hidden somewhere in a brute consumed with elegance.
WORDS & ACTIONS
I can’t say enough about how much I like the two beating Fandango has put on Chris Jericho. They have looked great and he has looked like a complete and utter psychopath doling them out. The physicality of Fandango’s performance is great. The graceful nature in which he walks to and enters the ring is perfect and he flawlessly switches between that and sheer aggression and anger so well. He embodies the two sides of this character very well in his movements and actions.
All that said, his mic work is still one of the weakest parts of his performances. He’s just a very bland performer when he’s speaking into a microphone. It’s something that can hopefully be improved upon with time and practice, because he seemed very natural and expressive when yelling at Jericho while beating the living crap out of him on Raw. Hell I’d settle for him getting to a place where he can own his dry delivery on the mic. Either way he needs to get a better handle on his promo work.
So it would seem that Fandango, as ridiculous as such a character comes across, has some legs. The character stands out, the worker is a good one, and his personality is ironically layered, certainly more than most WWE characters. Why doesn’t this character on a whole work for me then? It’s because he has no context or motivation. Sure I like various parts of the composition of the character, and certain parts of its implementation, but I do not get the character at the end of the day. I have too many questions about Fandango, none of which add mystery and mystique. Why does he care so deeply about people saying his name right? Why has he decided to name himself after a lively couples dance from Spain (or a corporation that sells movie tickets on line)? Who is his dance partner? Is she also named after a dance (wouldn’t put it past the WWE to name her Lambada, Flamenco, Salsa, or Tango)?
Of all the questions I have that stop me from connecting or even caring about the Fandango character, there is one that absolutely needs to be answered to determine whether or not Fandango is a real character or just a silly gimmick. That question is, why the ballroom dancing? Seriously, what purpose does it serve? Is he a ballroom dancer turned wrestler, or a wrestler that learned to ballroom dance? In either case, what motivated him to incorporate them with one another? There has to be some reason his character thinks the ballroom dancing is helpful to his wrestling career. The character has no context and every time I see Fangango, I imagine Vince McMahon finding out that Dancing with the Stars has been one of televisions most popular series for years and yelling at the creative team “I want a piece of that action!” They created a character to capitalize on a trend and threw it out there without explaining why the ballroom dancing is part of the character. Would it really have taken too much effort to come up with a purpose for the ballroom dancing?
Right now all of Fandango’s conflict derives from a contrived annoyance with people that can’t pronounce his name correctly. It’s juvenile, it’s cheap, and it’s lazy. They just needed a reason to make him snap and went with the first one that could think of, that lends absolutely nothing to the ballroom dancing aspect of his character and explains nothing about why the ballroom dancing aspect is important enough to even be part of the character.
The worst part is, they had a simple source of conflict that is part of the character, and that is that he’s a ballroom dancer (and not a great one to be honest). He could be insecure about it and think everyone is criticizing him, which causes him to lash out at people. There are many better and more interesting ways to foster conflict than the contrived way they are going with.
As you can probably tell, I would have gone a different direction from the beginning with this character. Unfortunately that time has passed and he’s heading into Wrestlemania to take on Chris Jericho. Once Wrestlemania passes, the WWE needs to drop the “say my name right” junk and answer the most important question about Fandango, which is why is ballroom dancing so important that he does it on the way to the ring? He needs to be able to explain why if asked, and I’d hazard to guess he couldn’t if asked right now, because creative likely hasn’t tried to explain it.
They could tie Fandango in with Dr. Shelby, and have the good Doctor come back to check on the progress of another one of his anger management patients (the one we didn’t know about). Through that we can find out that Fandango has a serious anger management issue, and would oft get into brawls and has been charged with aggravated assault and battery on multiple occasions. With the help of Dr. Shelby, Fandango found that Ballroom Dancing was a good way to release energy and tension, and calmed the normally angry and confrontational Fandango, even beginning a stabilizing relationship with his dance partner. Dancing became an obsession. After a series of incidents at competitions where he assaulted judges and other competitors who insulted his dancing, Dr. Shelby used his new relationship with WWE to get Fandango a job and advised him to channel his aggression and his deep-seeded desire to be violent as a WWE superstar.
In this scenario, Fandango is a bit of a sociopath who is prone to obsession and anger. He likes to hurt people and dances partly because he is obsessed with the artistry of it, and partly to dare people to tell him he’s not very good so he can rip their heads off. In this case, the dancing wouldn’t just be a gimmick; it would be part of a fully fleshed out character.
There you have it but what do you think? Are you enjoying the Fandango character? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Could he really be the result of Vince McMahon only recently learning about the success of Dancing With The Stars? And how do you think Vince would fair on Dancing With The Stars (he seems to love dancing so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if he secretly wants to be on the show)?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying farewell to The Miami Heat’s winning streak. Sad to see it go before my San Antonio Spurs got a shot at breaking it this Sunday. Have a great week everybody!