The Anti-Antagonist: Tensai Takes Some Time

Adam Gorzelsky

Lord TensaiI’ve always found it interesting to observe the phenomenon surrounding books that are made into movies. People often relay disappointment in such movies due to the fact that the characters do not match up to their personas from the book…Naturally, this more than likely means that the character’s on screen image simply does not meet the image created in that particular reader’s mind.

When a wrestler debuts or returns after being repackaged, I liken the reaction of many fans to the book/movie phenomenon. Maybe it’s a young up-and-comer who just finished slogging his way through the Indies…Or maybe it’s a former superstar returning with a new gimmick…In either case, any fan who previously has watched and invested emotion into that individual has some sort of preconceived vision of a proper debut. When that vision isn’t met, disappointment is to be expected.

This isn’t necessarily a negative reaction as much as it is a natural reaction. However, more than anything, it is a reminder to be patient with any new character…To allow a persona adequate time to develop in order to ensure that a shitty idea really is a shitty idea and not merely the victim of lofty personal expectations.

In the case of Lord Tensai, I’m not sure whether or not the negativity surrounding his debut has been the product of unmet expectations…In fact, it may be the inverse. To be perfectly honest, I never was a huge fan of Matt Bloom during his previous run in WWF/E…Maybe it was the dead gorilla that took up residence on his back…Maybe I was overly distracted by Trish from the T&A days…. Nevertheless, for some reason he never connected with me regardless of his gimmick.

With this in mind, it is safe to say that I simply did not know what, if anything, to expect regarding Matt’s return to WWE. I knew he had considerable success during his stint in Japan, but honestly cannot say that I watched enough of that content to have a legitimate frame of reference. However, for those who are familiar with his work in Japan and thus expected more from his debut…Or for those like me who followed his previous WWF/E career and thus may have expected little from his debut…My only advice at this point is to be patient. Give this character time to develop because to this point, creative has taken numerous positive, well thought out steps towards establishing a unique star.

My initial concern regarding Matt’s return as Lord Tensai obviously related to the ability of fans to recognize his former self. There’s no question that all IWC fans knew who was behind the Lord Tensai character, and let’s face it, Matt Bloom isn’t exactly the easiest person to disguise in front of even the most casual fans. I wondered aloud if he would remain clothed and masked to shield his identity, or if we simply would be asked to close our eyes and pretend that one of these things was not like the other.

I was pleased to see that creative ultimately decided not to hide from the obvious truth…In fact, I thought it was a rather brilliant solution to recognize Bloom as a past superstar and glorify his accomplishments overseas…Ok, maybe the word brilliant is a bit generous, but WWE hasn’t always been quick to acknowledge the distinct possibility that its fan base has a collective level of intelligence exceeding that of a 5-year-old child…Nonetheless, continuing with the recent pattern of embracing rather than ignoring the wealth of knowledge held by its fans, WWE has utilized Lord Tensai to inject a bit of realism into its product. To the hardcore fan, this sort of touch goes a long way.

In addition to avoiding a major identity crisis, the Lord Tensai character itself, as well the execution of the debut, has served a greater purpose that truly has piqued my interest in a manner that was completely unexpected. Let me say this now…Matt Bloom HAD to re-debut with a Japanese moniker that is somewhat over-the-top. His appeal comes from the fact that he was a mediocre WWE wrestler who absolutely found his way in a new culture. Had he returned in more of a subdued manner, the narrative has no life…It has no meaning to the average WWE fan…It is nothing more than “cool story bro, but you’re still Prince Albert to me.”

Quite frankly, this character has allowed Bloom to be his new self…To have an excuse to utilize the cultural influences that have resurrected his career. More importantly, from a fan’s perspective, it is the perfect excuse to bring some of the Japanese influences back to the States…Has anyone but me missed the green mist ala the Great Muta?? How about Ceremonial salt being used as a weapon for the first time since the days of Yokozuna?? These may seem like small details, but they’re different…They’re a change of pace…And in a wrestling culture sporting little to no challenge to the supremacy of WWE, any change of pace is more than welcomed.

At the end of the day, I’m not saying that the debut of Lord Tensai has been flawless or even that the character ultimately will be a success. I certainly have my doubts about Bloom’s ability to compete at the main event level and I certainly can understand if his fans from the Japan and/or early WWF/E days have not seen their image of his character met.

All I’m saying is that time and patience are required in such a unique situation. Vince hasn’t always been the best at pushing individuals who were established as stars outside of the company. However, the creation of Lord Tensai is an interesting attempt to recognize these achievements and allow the building blocks of that success to translate over to a WWE audience. This translation won’t occur over night, but as more of the Japanese influence trickles out into the forefront of Bloom’s move-set, such diversity has the potential to catapult Lord Tensai into the WWE stratosphere.

Will it happen? It’s way too early to tell…However, take it from a generally positive guy who was not in the least bit excited to see Matt Bloom return…I’m interested…I’m watching…Clear any previous expectations, or lack thereof, from your head and give this character a chance. A high ceiling provides plenty of room to grow, but such growth often requires a degree of incubation time before it fully develops.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @PolishHMR if you have any questions, comments, or random thoughts throughout the week. Thanks to everyone for the tremendous feedback on last week’s column. Good or bad, your comments make this worth it every time!

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