Anatomy of a Match: Fandango vs. Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29
We are ALL armchair wrestlers and fantasy bookers for Wrestlemania; it’s like Vince McMahon has sent us engraved invitations to Do A Better Job Than the WWE, and we RSVP with pleasure.
I was motivated to take a microscopic view of Fandango vs. Chris Jericho for two reasons. First, as a fan that has truly only seen Fandango as shown to me on RAW, I was curious about his in-ring skills. Obviously Johnny Curtis has wrestled elsewhere, but this story was about the Fandango character making an in-ring debut at Wrestlemania. Second, an unexpected compulsion to chant Fandango’s music has swept over us since Wrestlemania, making him a sensation of a different sort. Debuting at Wrestlemania is risky business: let’s see how they mitigated their risks, and how they fared.
When I first saw the Fandango vignettes, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. The ballroom-dancer-turned-WWE-Superstar. How ON EARTH did the WWE think they could pull this off? So cheesy! Further vignettes got shorter, and spaced apart, so I wondered if they were losing interest themselves (we know there’s a fine line between “pet project” and “future endeavours”). But the shorter the vignettes became, the more I was entertained. “How much shorter can this teaser be? Hahahahahaaa! It is just his name this time! Next week it will be a split-second frame that we won’t even see, yet will register in our subconscious!” Well, dammit that must be what they did, because they wore me down.
“This Was Not In My Contract” – Lillian Garcia
When Fandango finally made a live appearance, the fromage oozed down the RAW ramp and I kept thinking how old-school this was. Gimmicks like this have been rare since the Attitude Era (John Morrison may have been the Shaman of Sexy with a slo-mo entrance, but this ballroom-dancing douchebag was another kind of creature altogether).
Fandango’s “say my name” schtick was somewhat reminiscent of Ziggler’s “My name is Dolph Ziggler”, but Chris Jericho set his sights on the former (when we all wished he’d pursue the latter, after their great showing at the Rumble). Fandango refused to wrestle until they could pronounce his name correctly, and Jericho said things like “Fan-Danny-DeVito!” to raise his ire. After interrupting a Jericho match by dropping a leg on him from the top rope, Fandango got his debut at Wrestlemania.
At Least We Don’t Have to Call Nobody’s Mama
Wow. Fandango is so greasily committed to this gimmick, and he gets a ring entrance to prove that the company is as well. A group of synchronized dancing girls present him in all his gum-chewing, sleazy glory, and I’m thinking Val Venis meets Rick Rude meets Patrick Swayze (the Dirty Dancing AND Roadhouse versions). Fandango is so calm and measured in his movements, executing smarmy little gestures on the way to the ring. Cut to clips of his “feud” with Jericho, and the only item worth noting is Fandango’s signature move. I like the beginning of it when he does a nimble two-footed jump onto the top rope, but the ensuing leg drop doesn’t suit his suave and precise persona. It reminds me of M telling James Bond that they need more of a blunt instrument and not a gentleman spy. Which will Fandango be?
Ring the Bell
As soon as the bell sounds, Fandango strikes a dancer’s pose, executes some fancy footwork, and limbers up for Jericho. Watching this at home, we all erupted into laughter and cheers. Yes, we WILL have the cheese after all!
Let Me Show You How It’s Done
- Jericho cuts him off with a short spear and some pummelling
- Fandango does some awkward scrambling to break free, and is thrown into the ropes for some chops to the chest (he oversells the chops, but it is somehow a dancey oversell)
- Jericho whips him across to the opposite ropes where Fandango manages an escape to the floor (classic heel)
- Fandango slips back in and tries to clothesline Jericho but the veteran spears him again for more fists and kicks (this is the payback portion of the match, take that you dancer!)
- Punching and kicking continues around the ring, with Jericho only somewhat subtly instructing Fandango as they go (in Fandango’s defence, Jericho has always been a very obvious in-ring communicator)
- Fandango finally retaliates with a few punches and kicks of his own, before Jericho picks him up and drops him gut-first on the ropes (note that Jericho holds him up in the half-suplex position to give more instructions prior to dropping him; this is not necessarily a reflection on Fandango but it really disrupts the flow of the match)
- Jericho panders to the crowd for cheers as Fandango recovers on the mat (when you need to encourage a Wrestlemania crowd to cheer, it somehow amplifies the silence)
It Ain’t Easy Being Green
- He throws Fandango into the corner; Fandango jumps backwards over a charging Jericho, and Jericho somehow responds with a Codebreaker (which Fandango really just stood and waited for, when technically he should have had the element of surprise on his side and followed up immediately with an attack on Jericho)
- Fandango rolls out of the ring, as JBL crows about what a mismatch this is and Jericho baseball-slides into Fandango’s chest
- Jericho then takes to the top turnbuckle and shows us he never lost it baby with a beautiful leap onto the waiting Fandango on the floor (then more pandering to wake up the crowd, even jumping up onto the barricade for a rock n’ roll pose – you cannot deny that Jericho is just living in the moment while he helps someone along)
- Jericho bangs Fandango’s head on the ring apron, which somehow dazes Fandango to the point that he staggers over to the barricade and bangs his own head again (He’s wrestling himself! He’s Tyler Freakin’ Durden!)
- More chops to the chest and Fandango is thrown back into the ring for additional kicks and slaps (we are 3 long minutes into a wrestling-deficient debut)
- The filler continues as Jericho gives him a lackadaisical one-handed toss back out of the ring
Transition to the Turning Point
- Jericho cockily gestures that he’s made light work of his opponent, then jumps up onto the second rope for an attack that is met mid-air by a respectable scissor kick from Fandango
- Fandango gets a 2-count on Jericho then does some pummelling and posing of his own (deemed “prissy” and inappropriate by JBL)
- Chinlock time then back to the ropes for Jericho to administer some shoulder blocks
- A quick scale to the top turnbuckle for a chop to Fandango’s head - more pandering - then 15% of a running bulldog before deciding on a Lou Thesz press to bring Fandango down (here we go, some wrestling!)
- More pummelling and chops, an enziguiri then a count of 2 on Fandango (“I’m surprised the match has gone this long!” says JBL)
Maybe This Kid Can Hold His Own
- Jericho leaps from the top turnbuckle for another lateral press and another cover for 2 (making a face that says, “Geez this isn’t so easy” and gives Fandango a half-hearted swipe across the head)
- After an exchange of kicks, Fandango throws Jericho into the corner, where Jericho lands shoulder-first against the ring post with a clang (kudos to Jericho for timing that sound with his contact, and cue the commentators’ concern for Jericho’s shoulder)
- The front row holds up score cards to grade Jericho’s gaffe (some things you need to do but once for fans to latch on; maybe this kid DOES have something)
- Fandango gives Jericho a mini splash in the corner, Jericho whispers in his ear, and Fandango awkwardly delivers what I will call a facebuster that didn’t look like an offense
Maybe You Have to Hold His Own For Him
- Fandango leaps to the top for his leg drop, and does a decent job of it – 2 count
- Recovery time on the mat while Jericho communicates to him
- Jericho rolls him up for a 2 count then goes back to the chops
- Fandango misses a drop kick as Jericho grabs his legs for the Walls of Jericho
- Fandango counters by pushing Jericho away with his feet
- Fandango clotheslines Jericho (“An impressive debut!” says JBL)
- Fandango climbs to the top turnbuckle, and Jericho follows to tease a superplex (the fans stand up for this in anticipation)
- Fandango counters with a headbutt (and JBL admires his tenacity)
- Fandango goes for the leg drop off the top rope but nobody’s home
- Jericho tries for a Lionsault but is wildly off the mark
- Jericho goes for the Walls again but wobbles as the commentators suggest that he must have tweaked his knee on the Lionsault
- Fandango rolls him up, 1-2-3
You Can See Fozzy On Tour Next Week
- “This is one of Wrestlemania’s biggest upsets!” proclaim the commentators
- Jericho’s face says, “Well, there you go, kid.”
- Fandango’s dance partner materializes beside him to celebrate (nice touch)
- If you took a drink every time someone said “impressive debut”, you are now drunk
This match, at face value (which is how it should be judged, this is entertainment and not the Olympics), is unremarkable. But I enjoyed breaking it down to look at its components:
- The hugely successful investment in the Fandango gimmick (the company gave Johnny Curtis a shitty lemon that he made into shitty lemonade with an unidentifiable addictive ingredient)
- Chris Jericho’s commendable efforts, intentions, and skill (he by far did the most wrestling and seemed to enjoy it; he did his best to pump up the crowd)
- The commentators (particularly JBL’s voice of authority) played a large role in telling the story. If you had your eyes closed, you’d picture a very different match.
- The exhaustive list of Fandango’s offense: some punching, a high scissor kick, throwing Jericho towards the ring post, a wee splash, an questionably-damaging backwards stumble, a leg drop, and a head butt.
Fandango’s big-match abilities are far from proven here, and yet here he was. He wrestled like someone who was making a debut, but one week later we can call his debut a big victory.
He got cheered en route to the ring the next night on RAW, as JBL recited the list of Chris Jericho’s achievements to validate Fandango’s SWEET FANCY MOSES THEY HAVE GIVEN HIM A PYRO SILHOUETTE. Kofi didn’t stand a chance. And faster than you can say Fandango, you have his music in your head. Glorious.
Fads will come and go, but if the wrestling isn’t good, I lose interest. Will Fandango’s gimmick be the best thing about him? What comes next? That’s why we are compelled to watch. Until then, #ChaChaLaLa!
I want to say a public thank you to John Canton and Andrew Johnson for letting me write and post this before Fandango-ing is no longer a thing – wait, it’s still a thing, right?