I created a character that I would end up using for years: the Oakland Oddball. He was an erratic bad guy. looked like a bald surfer (but despised surfers). For a brief time, I even had a Website for him.
I created three other characters around him, two his brothers (and fellow wrestlers, one their manager:
The Fresno Fanatic His younger brother. He was an even wilder aerialist. If you know wrestling on TV, he was based on Sabu.
Kodiak His older brother. Wrestled for many years in Japan. If you’ve ever seen puroresu and strong style, you know they work stiff there. Some performers there have broken their necks for real there, and one man died in the ring a few years ago (a stunt went wrong and a vertebra in his back was severe.
Kodiak was loosely inspired by an American who made a huge career in Japan, Big Van Vader, but his look and style were bear-based.
To round them out was their manager “Maniac” Michael Gates. He was a mix of Rocky’s trainer Mickey, brother Paulie’s style of dress, and a touch of Hockey Night in Canada announcer Don Cherry.
I also created two Japanese technicians: the Gyroscope and his rival Githyankii.
My time in SWF was a good…bad, and the ugly situation:
During this time, I got together with the other guys who ran the fed. We recorded an ad-lib version of a show. I played “Maniac” as a color commentator.
Out of the blue I riffed on a line Don Cherry says about players he doesn’t like:
He wrestles like a Swede!
(If you’ve ever heard Cherry, you get it.)
Both other guys broke into laughter. Even now, over 25 years later, we still laugh at that line.
I built up a cast of characters for the Oakland Oddball. Two of them (“Maniac” Michael Gates and the Oddball himself) became well remembered.
What writing lesson it taught: A detailed cast fills out a character.
In the SWF, most of my characters went nowhere fast: Doug Christian got to the end of the heavyweight title tournament, didn’t win, then vanished.
Gyroscope had two matches, the guy running the e-fed got bored with him, he vanished. Githyankii didn’t even have one.
The Oakland Oddball had a batch of matches to establish him as a viable threat — for the sole purpose of giving wins to another wrestler gimmick.
Kodiak and Fresno Fanatic each got one match, then nothing else.
A lot of what happened was similar to the Creative departments of real-world wrestling promotions: if they have no more interest in you, you no longer get used.
I wrote a card. I was one of the three people in change, it was my turn.
I wrote the show, listing all the mechanics — without any emotions. Every performer seemed impervious to pain.
There’s a term used in wrestling: a move is ‘sold’. Wrestlers act as if a move actually hurts. A Terminator-like dominant wrestler is said to ‘no sell’ moves.
In my card, everyone no sold.
What writing lesson it taught: When writing fight scenes, remember to also use the emotions and reactions involved. Just the mechanics alone won’t make a satisfying read.
My current novel has fight scenes like that. I need to rewrite them.