Thursday, 20 March 2014

What a Difference A Year Makes - Fandango

Welcome to a brand new series of articles, looking at the fortunes of a number of WWE wrestlers following on from Wrestlemania XXIX, heading into Wrestlemania XXX

Name: Fandango
Wrestlemania XXIX Opponent: Chris Jericho
Feuds following Wrestlemania: The Miz, Wade Barrett, The Miz (again), The Great Khali & Natalya, Tyson Kidd, Santino Marella & Emma
PPV Win Loss Record: 1 win, 4 losses

Raw Win Loss Record: 12 wins, 21 losses
Smackdown Win Loss Record: 9 wins, 10 losses, 1 draw
PPV Kick-Off Win Loss Record: 1 win
Main Event Win Loss Record: 4 wins, 7 losses

Superstars Win Loss Record: 2 wins, 2 losses
Tribute to the Troops Win Loss Record: 1 loss 
NXT Win Loss Record: 1 loss

Overall TV Win Loss Record: 29 wins, 46 losses, 1 draw

What better way to start off than looking at Fandango (pronounced: have to let the A's breath apparently) the man who made his in-ring WWE debut at last year's Wrestlemania. Okay, so technically it wasn't Curtis Hussey's WWE debut, after he spent some time working as Johnny Curtis, both down in FCW, and then NXT, including winner Season 4 under the original NXT format, and technically it wasn't even Fandango's WWE in-ring debut after working numerous house show dates with the likes of Ted DiBiase, Jamie Noble and Yoshi Tatsu, however we all know, that it doesn't mean squat dibbly if it ain't on the television screen! So yes, it was Fandango's WWE in-ring debut, so DEAL WITH IT! Anyway's Fandango's opponent on the grandest stage of them all, was none other than Chris Jericho!

The storyline was that Fandango was refusing to wrestle a number of opponents, due to them being unable to pronounce his name, therefore when Jericho pronounced his name intentionally incorrect on a March 18th episode of Raw. This enraged Fandango who would attack Jericho on the following episode of Smackdown, with the two trading attacks from then up until Wrestlemania 29. It wasn't the strongest build-up to a Wrestlemania match, but there was certainly some intrigue in how WWE would handle Fandango's debut match and WWE clearly had big plans, with the ballroom dancer taking part in the Wrestlemania Press Conference, debuting new dance partner, Summer Rae. Below is the review of Fandango vs. Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29 taken from our review of that event. "The Fandango and Chris Jericho match was marred with a number of errors in a match that did neither men any favours. A lot was expected from these after WWE held off the former Johnny Curtis's début until the Granddaddy of them All and against a competitor of Chris Jericho's standing, it's understandable that the pressure was huge on the two to perform. However that performance never came and the match felt like the two going through the motions, with the awkward ending not helping towards this. It also seemed an odd decision for Jericho to kick out of Fandango's finish on his début, and Fandango to still win." Yes, the match itself wasn't that great, but it was the night after that people would remember. Whilst Fandango made his Raw debut in a bout with Kofi Kingston, the audience in attendance began to sing and dance along to Fandango's entrance theme, and continued to do so even when the music had stopped, in one of the bizarrest moments in Raw history. This would continue, with a campaign building in the UK to get the theme into the UK Top 40, just falling short.

Fandango's feud with Jericho would continue, with the pair continuing to trade attacks during an after matches, while Fandango went on a winning streak on Raw and Smackdown seeing off, Santino Marella, William Regal, Justin Gabriel and Zack Ryder. The highlight of the feud, came on the May 13th episode of Raw, in a dance off segment. In what should have been a fairly awful segment, Summer Rae quickly feigned an ankle injury, and whilst Jericho and his partner looked tried to help, this allowed us to see a more vicious side of Fandango, as he sent Jericho into the steel steps, before clobbering him with a bit of the dance floor, which looked superb. This set the pair up for a rematch at Extreme Rules. The Extreme Rules encounter (although just a regular match) was a much better bout than the one the pair put on at Wrestlemania 29. Fandango looked a lot crisper in the ring and the match made a lot more sense. Jericho picked up the win with a Codebreaker catching Fandango after a dive from the top rope. This pretty much finished their two month feud, allowing Jericho to move into a feud with CM Punk, whilst Fandango wasn't particularly hurt from losing to a veteran in competitive fashion. 

Fandango then moved into the Intercontinental Championship picture, being inserted into a feud between then champion Wade Barrett and The Miz. The feud started on 20th May Raw, with Fandango teaming with Barrett to take on Jericho and Miz, however Fandango left his partner high and dry to dance with Summer Rae, allowing Miz to get the victory over Barrett. After Fandango got involved in a Intercontinental Championship bout between Barrett and Miz, Fandango got a match of his own with Barrett. The Miz served as Special Guest Referee and allowed Fandango to ultimately pick up the victory with a Skull Crushing Finale to Barrett. After walking out on a bout with The Great Khali on the next Raw, Fandango ended up suffering a concussion whilst defeating Zack Ryder on Smackdown and was there for removed from the Intercontinental Championship Three Way at Payback, being replaced by Curtis Axel.  This for me was the turning point for Fandango over the last year. The smart money would have been on Fandango picking up the Intercontinental Championship at Payback and continuing his ascent up the card, however with the concussion costing him just shy of a month of TV time, meant that any momentum that the he had more or less disapearred and he hasn't really recovered since this moment, as you'll see as I continue to look at his year.

After being announced as a contestant in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank Ladder match on the 28th June Smackdown, Fandango made his return to WWE on 1st July Raw, facing off against Sheamus. It was a bizarre choice of opponent and lengthier TV bout than usual for Fandango, who ended up walking out on the contest. In the build up the bout, Fandango squashed Justin Gabriel on 5th July Smackdown, before recieving a Bull Hammer Elbow from Wade Barrett in an interview segment on 8th July Raw. This was followed up with a disapointing match between the two on Smackdown, that saw Fandango get the victory, due to a distraction from The Real Americans on commentary. Fandango wasn't much more than a bit part player in the Money in the Bank match, and bar an interesting section that seemed to tease a possible feud with Barrett heading out of the PPV, ending with Fandango hitting a Springboard Legdrop onto a Ladder, and taking a Cross Rhodes from Cody Rhodes, he really wasn't that involved in the bout that was eventually won by Damien Sandow, as his star continued to fall. It was then that Fandango then embarked on a lengthy losing streak, suffering his first TV pinfall defeat to Randy Orton on the 15th July Raw. This would be followed up with losses to Christian on the 17th July Main Event, Cody Rhodes on the 22nd July Raw, CM Punk on the 25th July Smackdown, Rob Van Dam on 29th July Raw (via countout, at least) and Kofi Kingston on the 5th August Raw. Fandango had essentially became a jobber for the stars (and Kofi), with most of these matches being set up through an altercation earlier on the show (like Fandango interrupting Orton during whilst Orton was talking to John Cena). 

Fandango was getting a lot more time for his matches on TV and it certainly helped the in-ring quality of the matches which for the most part were entertaining and easy to watch, but so many loses in a row harmed Fandango's credibility for sure.  The losing streak came to an end on 9th August Smackdown, with Fandango getting a return victory over Kofi Kingston, in a classic exampe of WWE's even steven booking. It would then seem like WWE were planning him a feud with R-Truth, after Fandango re-entered a battle royal on the 12th August Raw, to eliminate The Suntan Superman. 

Instead, it would seem that Fandango would be renewing his stop start feud with The Miz, after interfering in Miz's bout with Wade Barrett on  19th August Raw. I never really understood why Miz and Fandago were feuding, and with Miz being perhaps the most miscast babyface in WWE history, it did nothing at all for Fandango. The feud continue the next week, with The Miz coming out during Fandango's bout with Cody Rhodes, dressed as Fandango, alongside Rosa Mendes (I have no idea), allowing Rhodes to pick up the victory. After Damien Sandow got involved as well, Brad Maddox morphed into Teddy Long and made a TAG TEAM MATCH! After Fandango left his partner again, The Miz picked up the victory for his team. After a botched finish cost Fandango a 28th August Main Event bout with Kofi Kingston by DQ, it seemed that the feud with The Miz concluded on Raw on 2nd September, however due to a broke nose suffered by Fandango, the feud continued until Night of Champions. Fandango went over Justin Gabriel in a sloppy bout on 4th September Main Event, cost The Miz a bout with Damien Sandow on 9th September Raw and lose a dance off to The Miz that also included The Great Khali and R-Truth on 13th September Raw, meaning that the excitement to see Miz v Fandango at Night of Champions was at an all time high(!) Unsurprisingly, the PPV bout between the two fell flat, with no one particularly caring who picked up the victory. 

It wouldn't get much better for Fandango as he competed in a series of short and ultimately pointless matches. Whilst his win-loss record wasn't terrible, with victories over R-Truth (16th September Raw), Santino Marella (23rd September & 14th October Raw), Zack Ryder (7th October Raw) and Justin Gabriel (25th October Superstars) balancing out defeats to Kofi Kingston (18th September Main Event & 30th September Raw), The Usos (teaming with Big E Langston, 25th September Main Event),  Rob Van Dam (4th October Smackdown) 

The next feud for Fandango was one with The Great Khali, also involving the pairs valets Summer Rae and Natalya. After Khali had defeated Fandango in a messy bout on 16th October Main Event, the pair engaged in another on 25th October Smackdown, ending in a No Contest after less than two minutes, when Rae and Natalya brawled on the outside (Yes, I don't know why that's a know contest either). Somehow this earned them a Mixed Tag Team bout on at the Hell in a Cell PPV, with Fandango and Summer Rae coming out the victors in a match that was more entertaining than it deserved to be. The feud was over by the 29th October with Fandango defeating Khali on Raw. 

Whilst the Khali feud was over, it seemed Fandango hadn't seen the last of Natalya, as her real life fiance Tyson Kidd returned, with the defeating Fandango and Rae in Mixed Tag action on the 4th November Raw. Fandango would get revenge on Kidd in under three minutes the following week, and after a victory over Kofi Kingston on 20th November, the feud was over with a victory for Fandango on the 22nd November Superstars.  It was then time for another losing streak for The Ballroom Brute, with defeats to Kofi Kingston (27th November Main Event), Zack Ryder (29th November Superstars), Mark Henry (2nd December Raw), Big E Langston (6th December Smackdown) and Daniel Bryan (9th December Raw - The Slammy Awards). 

With the expection of Bryan, it was clear that quality of opponent Fandango was losing to was decreasing, and the majority of these bouts went no longer than four minutes. Therefore it was some what of surprise when Fandango, not only faced Dolph Ziggler on the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs Kick Off, but defeated the two time World Heavyweight Champion, even if the match itself wasn't much to write home about.  Ziggler got his win back the night after on Raw, with Fandango picking up a victory over Kofi Kingston on 20th December Smackdown, before bettering Ziggler to come out on top of their mini-feud picking up the victory in a "Christmas Present on a Pole" match on 23rd December Raw, earning himself an Intercontinental Championship shot in the process, with a Christmas Day Main Event victory over Kingston seemingly confirming that Fandango was back on the rise, even if a defeat to R-Truth at Tribute to the Troops on 28th December halted his momentum slightly. 

Unfortunately for Fandango, things returned to normal as he succumbed to Big E Langston in his Intercontinental Championship bout on 30th December Raw, the bout however was impressive, with Fandango looking great in a lengthy title contest, this could easily have been built upon. However, WWE decided against it once again, with Fandango falling to R-Truth in quick fashion on 3rd January Smackdown.  Fandango didn't have the greatest of starts to 2014, losing three matches on the bounce on Smackdown, the afforementioned 3rd January bout with R-Truth, followed up by quick loses to Xavier Woods & Big E Langston on 10th and 17th January respectively. However, he did even the score with Woods in just over a minute on 20th January Raw, before falling to Kofi Kingston once again on 24th January Smackdown, heading into the Royal Rumble PPV. Entering the Royal Rumble match on 27th January at Number 19, Fandango lasted just under three minutes before being eliminated by El Torito. It was clear here that WWE had no plans of making Fandango a big player for the company.

Fandango and Summer Rae began to engage in a feud with Santino Marella and Emma on January 27th on Raw, when Emma was present in the crowd for Fandango's defeat to R-Truth. On January 31st Smackdown, Emma was involved once again, with Summer Rae removing her fan sign, as Fandango defeated Xavier Woods. After Santino pulled Emma out of the crowd to face Summer Rae in a dance off on the 3rd January Raw, with Emma picking up the victory, both Marella and Emma were on commentary, as Fandango fell to The Miz on 5th January Main Event. Fandango and Marella then battled on February 10th Raw, with Fandango coming out the victor in a dull encounter.  The feud continued onto 14th February Smackdown, with Marella's Cobra costing Fandango a bout against The Miz, whilst Emma and Summer Rae got physical (calm down) at ringside. However, Fandango quickly got revenge on Marella with a victory on Raw on 17th February, however due to the focus on Emma and Santino's blossoming relationship, came away looking more like an after thought than anything else. The feud was not over just yet, with Emma and Summer Rae battling in a dance off on Smackdown on 21st February, ending in a brawl that saw Emma dropkick Fandango out of the ring. The 24th February edition of Raw saw Emma picking up a submission victory over Summer Rae in a stellar diva's contest, leading to a Mixed Tag Team Match on Raw on the 3rd March, that saw Emma pick up another submission victory for her team, in another short bout to end the feud. Whilst I was fairly entertained by this feud, and was more than happy to see Emma promoted from NXT, this really didn't do a lot for Fandango and whilst he technically didn't lose to Marella at any point, the focus was clearly on Emma and Summer Rae, which harmed Fandango even more. 

With Wrestlemania XXX just over two weeks away, Fandango is currently on a four match losing streak, being put away by Big E (14th March Smackdown), Dolph Ziggler (14th March Superstars), Goldust (17th March Raw) and even Fernando (21st March Smackdown), which really can't bode well for Fandango heading into the Show of Shows, as he takes part in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, sharing the spotlight with 29 other wrestlers.  It's been an interesting year for Fandango, and I have to wonder what could have been, if he had not suffered that concussion in June. What if he won the Intercontinental Championship as planned? I'm not quite sure what can be done with the Fandango character at the moment, I mean he is still appearing on Raw on a regular basis, and has had a number of good matches with various competitors and has a decent amount of feuds throughout the year, even if most of them were with The Miz. I can't see much changing for The Ballroom Brute heading past Wrestlemania, I expect more of the same, although I'd like to be surprised.  But remember let the A's breath and keep Fandangoing and who knows what could happen.

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