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Fandango -- The Next Breakout Star
It was an introduction that made the viewer look twice, a short clip nearly indistinguishable from a bizarre commercial. Campy, glittery, and "naughty," the first vignette announcing the arrival of one Fandango immediately set the wrestling Twitter world ablaze. What was this gimmick about? Who is this guy? A new wrestler, just signed, or a familiar face, repackaged? Amidst the speculation, three names came to the forefront more than any others. The first was Jack Swagger, who, after a lengthy hiatus from Raw, had recently reemerged with a new look, longer hair and a full beard. The second was Dean Ambrose, a man who had been wrestling in FCW for over a year, but had been working the independents for nearly a decade, and had yet to appear on TV. The third name was Johnny Curtis. Curtis was the winner of NXT season four, besting runner-up Brodus Clay in the season finale. The only problem was, Clay was on Raw almost every week and Curtis was largely forgotten by the general wrestling population. Certainly fans believed that he had silently been "future endeavored," and had faded away into oblivion. Unbeknownst to the WWE Universe, creative had something for Johnny Curtis. Shortly after the first video package aired, a clip began to circulate online of Curtis at a recent house show, entering the arena to the same music heard in the vignette. Gyrating behind a silk screen and holding a red rose, this was proof positive that Fandango was indeed the NXT winner, repackaged as a tango dancer. Two more announcements have aired, both keeping the theme and style of the first, with the latest video actually depicting Curtis dancing, erasing any lingering doubt about Fandango's identity.
Initial fan reactions were mixed, with some hesitancy about the longevity of this type of portrayal. Others were quick to dismiss what they saw as "another dancing gimmick." However, completely altering Curtis' character was a smart move for WWE, and makes sense on many levels. First, Curtis' original persona, that of a shady greaseball, was easily forgettable. The desire, passion and talent that Curtis had displayed on NXT was mired in a generic gimmick that has been beaten to submission. The "let's get weird" shtick wasn't doing Curtis any favors; it certainly wasn't getting him on TV. Dismissing Curtis as "another dancer" due to Brodus Clay's current gimmick is short-sighted, since Curtis will likely debut as a heel, and per his sleek, slithery persona, will certainly not be entertaining children in the ring after a match. Debuting a ballroom dancing wrestler in the fall/winter is also a clever little jab at one of WWE's biggest ratings competition on Monday nights, Dancing with the Stars. It may even be a way to draw a different demographic of viewers after the finale. One would have to believe that if the Fandango character sustains its popularity until the return of Chris Jericho, that the WWE Universe might be treated to a naturally developed rivalry between Curtis and Y2J, centered around the latter's unsuccessful foray into ballroom dance.
Though the vignettes have not explicitly revealed whether Fandango will be a crowd favorite or a villain, the manner in which he is portrayed makes it much more likely that he will be a heel. After all, he is "fabulous." He is "dapper" and "attractive" and "noteworthy." These bombastic attributes all point toward an arrogant heel, a slippery jerk, a self-professed ladies man who doesn't expect you to mind when he "cuts in." If Curtis is given ample opportunity to truly develop his character's personality, Fandango may evolve into a PG-era Rick Rude. Rude was very aware of the effect he had on women; he loved to exaggerate it and use it to his advantage, all the while drawing the ire of the men in attendance and the wrestlers in the back. Perhaps Curtis will retain some of the creepiness he displayed in his previous persona by continuing to attempt to seduce women who either find him repulsive or have rejected his advances. Perhaps the Fandango character, like Rude, will consider himself the "Sexiest Man Alive," and will be unable to comprehend why any woman would reject such a "dashing," dancing specimen. Johnny Curtis has the wonderful opportunity to make this gimmick something pretty special and entertaining, and if he is booked and pushed properly, then Fandango will be a success. Luckily, Curtis is not physically imposing enough to engage in 30-second squash matches for the first few months of his debut, which heightens the probability that his push will be more substantial.
A curious note that has never been explained by the WWE has been the slight altering of the character's name in less than 24 hours. The very first vignette on Raw advertised "Fandangoo," and was written the same way by wrestlers commenting on him on Twitter later on in the broadcast. The next night on Smackdown, and the next week on Raw, the name appeared as "Fandango." Was it a typo? Hard to believe, since getting a new wrestler's name right on their very first video package should be of utmost importance. Was it a rib? Far more plausible. Was the character's name originally really supposed to be Fandangoo, but it did not come across as catchy on the screen as creative had thought? Also plausible. It will be interesting to see if the reason for the sudden name change will ever be revealed, or if it will be similar to the Willie Green mystery from the Mean Street Posse vignettes, all speculation and no hard fact.
None of the three video packages have pinned down a date for Fandango's actual debut, but apparently he has already made a good impression on wrestlers like Wade Barrett, Alex Riley and Curt Hawkins. Barrett even went so far as to suggest that Fandango should make himself available for selection for Team Ziggler at Survivor Series in the event that Cody Rhodes is unable to compete. The fact that Curtis has already earned the support of his peers as he is testing the waters with a brand new gimmick is a positive sign. It will be exciting to watch this character evolve, watch him explain his back story, see if he or the commentators make any mention of the Johnny Curtis character. A rivalry with Brodus Clay is a natural first step, not only because of the obvious similarity in their personas, but because of the bad blood they harbored throughout the duration of their season of NXT. This will also give Fandango an opportunity to expand on his reputation as a ladies man by attempting to seduce Brodus' dancers. It may take a couple of red roses, or some pelvic thrusts reminiscent of Rick Rude, but there is no way Cameron, Naomi, or any Diva or female fan would be able to resist the magnetic pull of Fandango. He is, after all, outstanding.
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