For every Wrestler of the Week, there are performers who came before or after them that either learned from their work or influenced it. As a recurring bit of the festivities, we’ll be looking at some of those performers and how their work fares relative to our Wrestler of the Week. This week, it’s Davey Boy Smith, Rey Mysterio, and Magnus.
Given TNA’s dearth of depth, Magnus has risen to the place of top star in only his early-20s. He has been placed in the interesting position of being the centerpiece of a wrestling company while still rather green. With that said, Magnus has shown much-improved skills over the last two years and could easily continue to grow into an era-defining star for TNA.
Most importantly, TNA is far more popular in the United Kingdom than many American fans understand. Their tours of the British Isles draw crowds that far exceed the business they do on their actual home turf. Given the state of events, TNA is wise to build their country around an English wrestler. Using Magnus as a centerpiece works both in the United States, where he can play the foreign heel, and also in Europe, where he can play the dapper, proper-accented class snob.
Magnus is an imperfect wrestler, and still a work in progress on many levels, but he’s a decent in-ring worker and solid talker with a very good look. Most importantly, however, he gives TNA the opportunity not to seem like an “American wrestling” company promoting shows abroad.
Unless you count taking steroids, Davey Boy Smith wasn’t an all-time great at anything. With that said, he was a strong all-around performer with a unique charisma and a skillset that kept him in big time professional wrestling for twenty years. His true value was as a marketing entity, a man who seemed to stand against American domination of a business that was quickly becoming dominated by Americans.
The British Bulldog exemplified the career trajectory of so many almost-top-tier wrestlers. He started as an indy legend (to those who could somehow get tapes in the United States, World of Sport was the ROH of its day, and Stampede was not far behind), then became an exemplary tag team wrestler in a major company, broke out to early singles success punctuated by a few big title shots, and gradually settled into an upper midcard role.
Davey Boy Smith was deserving of his main events, but he was also deserving of his midcard matches. As talented as he was, The Bulldog was known to go less than full bore on nights when he didn’t feel like pushing himself, and he had a Ken Anderson-esque penchant for screwing up when there were big plans for him. For those reasons, Davey Boy Smith, while a great talent, was never “the best.”
Just like Davey Boy Smith, a young Rey Mysterio was unimaginably athletic. His work in WCW cemented the reputation of lucha libre in the United States, where many Americans had never “gotten” the style. Mysterio masterfully blended the style of his ancestors’ homeland with the main event American style and turned himself into a wrestling and marketing entity with broad appeal and tremendous money-making potential.
Mysterio’s career coincided with the emergence of Latinos as a major political and economic force in the United States. Just as Smith helped Vince McMahon make inroads marketing to Brits who weren’t interested in an “American” product, Rey helped the wrestling business transition toward appealing towards a growing Latino American population who wanted and deserved representation in mainstream entertainment.
Unlike Davey Boy, Rey parlayed his popularity into an actual Royal Rumble win and World Heavyweight Title reign. Mysterio’s run as a top was hampered by injuries, but he ascended to heights in the WWF that no ethnic star since Bruno Sammartino had attained.