There are precious few moments in recent memory that made me think, “Well, that’s ruined forever.” Seeing trailers for movies based on books because there are no original ideas in Hollywood anymore occur far more frequently than I feel they should, but they do. But it doesn’t really capture the ruined feeling, since I don’t see those movies. However, this feeling did manage to occur to me just yesterday, whilst watching the most recent episode of Friday Night Smackdown. What am I talking about, you ask? The answer is simple.
Umaga spoke English.
Three years of character gone. Three years of my suspended disbelief that there was a wild Samoan running around the back, being summoned to the ring, and proceeding to destroy his opponents with very little knowledge of what professional wrestling is, all gone in a puff of smoke. Or, rather, in a puff of a strangely well-spoken challenge to CM Punk at Extreme Rules to a Samoan Strap match. Now, let me explain first that I don’t think Umaga should never speak any English. If anything, I love the idea of a Samoan savage holding a microphone, talking into it, and wondering why his voice is suddenly surrounding him. I was hoping that was going to be the case this past Friday. But then he started speaking in English. And not even disjointed, stuttering sentence fragments. Complete, coherent sentences. And then when he left the ring, he reverted to speaking Samoan and screeching and sticking his tongue out as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. But something very, VERY out of the ordinary had, indeed, happened.
I can never look at Umaga, the character, the same way ever again. My suspension of disbelief over this character has been completely shattered. I can no longer think of Eddie Fatu as The Samoan Bulldozer, a savage man-beast who only knows how to hurt. He is simply a man playing a character. A character who should not actually be able to speak English. When I finished watching that segment, I thought to myself, you know, if he’d just grabbed the mic and yelled, “Samoa…Strap…Match!” it would have been so much more effective, and it would have kept the character believable. I might still think of Umaga as Umaga. But as it stands now, Umaga is a character portrayed by Eddie Fatu. The illusion has been broken, and it can never be repaired.
This is truly unfortunate, because up until that moment, Umaga was one of my top five favorite current WWE wrestlers. He was a gifted athlete, a mammoth human with incredible agility, and a great sense of psychology. He knew how to work a match, no matter if he was winning or losing in the end. He was unique, he was strangely fun to watch, and he was damn good. All of it is gone for me. He’ll still be great in the ring, but the character is gone. And while I do tend to harp on the in-ring abilities of a performer than I do some other qualities, character is also extremely important in getting over to a strangely fickle crowd full of hypocrites (huh, Jericho was right again…). I’m not talking about any one of you, so don’t think I’m talking directly to you. But you’ve got to admit that wrestling fans are an odd bunch. But I’m getting off track.
Umaga is gone. I wonder if the writers will try to erase that memory out of our minds like they’ve done so many times before.