How he got over back then in the land of overly muscular super-heroes is anyoneâ<80><99>s guess. Yeah, he was a heel, but he didnâ<80><99>t give off a villainous vibe. He was a classic bad guy. A bumbling goof who thought he was better than he actually was, yet would beg off like a coward. He fashioned himself as a talented singer and songwriter.
They just donâ<80><99>t make â<80>~em like the Honky Tonk Man anymore.
In 1987, I was looking forward to a Ricky Steamboat run as Intercontinental champion following his Wrestlemania III victory over Randy Savage. It was not to be. Steamboat was on his way out. His successor for the gold? None other than the Honky Tonk Man. What was your run-of-the-mill, meaningless television title match was the start of history.
Experts, myself included, predicted a short-run for the Elvis wannabe. Clearly, this was a transitional champion situation. Randy Savage was in the midst of a babyface turn. Surely, he would get the belt back from HTM.
Honky Tonk Manâ<80><99>s Intercontinental title reign chugged along. Opponent after opponent, Honky walked away with his belt. Mind you, title reigns were longer back then, but the WWF seemed committed to him holding on to that IC belt, even if storylines dictated that it would be by a thread.
Every Saturday Nightâ<80><99>s Main Event. Every pay-per-view (They were quarterly back then). You would think that it was time for Honky to drop the strap. But at some point in his 15-month reign, he became credible. His claims of being the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time began to ring true.
A long reign does not make for the greatest run with any belt, but what Honky and WWF booking did with the strap was maintain interest. Hogan and Savage may have been the world champs during Honkyâ<80><99>s run, but he still made each and every match count. Not by being the greatest worker. But being the cowardly heel that seemingly everyone could beat, but no one could. Thatâ<80><99>s compelling storytelling — a rare feat these days.
Everyone wants to see the villain vanquished. The WWF denied that for a year and three months. It took a last-minute replacement, the Ultimate Warrior, to knock Honky off the perch at Summerslam 1988. Warrior held the belt for several months, followed by Rick Rude and many, many others. Today, of all people, a Honky-wannabe named Santino Marella holds the gold.
Marellaâ<80><99>s reign is a tribute to HTM. While he fits the bill as the clueless, bumbling, not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is heel, my hope is that the 15-month cool, cocky and not bad at all reign of Honky stays intact.
Have a news tip? Attended an event and want to send a live report?