Bob Dylan is just the most recent example of the Nobel committee’s long history of outside-the-box selections…
While many improvisers have the 17th annual Chicago Improv Festival marked on their calendars this week, WWE wrestling fans are hotly anticipating another major event: it’s almost Wrestlemania 30.
On Sunday, some of the biggest names from SC and SNL and iO and UCB and yes, the WWE will take to (very, very) separate stages to put their talents on display. If improvisers took to the ring, it would undoubtedly prove to be anti-climactic, as someone would surely edit before the intensity got too high.
But what would happen if wrestlers took to the improv stage? Meet the WWE Improv All-Star Team!
Team Coach: Jerry “The King” Lawler
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better improv coach in the WWE than Jerry “The King” Lawler. Not only does he have the respect of everyone inside the ring, but he’s got some comedy chops, too. Yep, Lawler teamed up with Andy Kaufman in the early 80s and pulled off one of the greatest hoaxes in wrestling/comedy history.
Even though their epic feud was fake, the commitment was real. Lawler is a natural showman; his energy is electric. He’s also articulate enough to be one of the WWE’s main commentators, ensuring he’ll be able to give his team concise notes and feedback.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Not every improv team needs a big name, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The Rock may be the biggest superstar to ever come out of the WWE— not only touting wrestling fame, but also by championing the difficult transition to the big screen. But before his roles in The Other Guys and Be Cool, wrestling fans knew of The Rock’s wit and impeccable timing. However, as wrestling fans also know far too well, The Rock is such a huge superstar that his appearances at shows will be scarce, opting to perform only at the biggest venues. So while he might miss out on those team bonding bar-prov sets, he’s most likely pulling half the audience to each show. So he gets a pass.
Greg “The Hurricane” Helms
When The Rock does show up, he’ll have one of his favorite wrestlers to play against: The Hurricane. He may not be a well-known name outside of the wrestling community, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth knowing. Over his career, Helms has perfected his superhero persona: a naive do-gooder who keeps his identity secret. With Helms’ experience immersing himself in a character, he would bring some great character work to the improv set.
Another big name as of late, Bryan has seemed to master one of the most crucial aspects of improv: YES! Bryan learned a lot from his enrollment in anger management classes with Kane and now embraces positivity. Energetically, he can whip a crowd into a frenzy with his signature “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant. His partnership with Kane speaks to Bryan’s ability to work alongside nearly anyone, which is another mark of a great improviser.
Aside from being the five-time (Five time! Five time! Five time! Five time!) WCW champion, Booker T is extremely in tune with his body. While most wrestlers can claim a heightened physicality, none have the control or the dexterity to execute Booker T’s signature “Spin-A-Roonie.” This guy would approach scenes with his body first; he’d inform his characters with his posture and demeanor. With his emphasis on showmanship, he’d also take stage picture into considertion. And let’s not forget the amazing chemistry he’d have with his friend (and former tag-team partner) Goldust.
Mick Foley is an everyman… who just happens to have an alter ego who uses a sock puppet to choke people. Okay, but regardless of reason or rhyme, wrestling fans identify with Foley and with his facial hair and flannel; improv fans will surely do the same. Wrestling fans remember Foley for his great sense of humor, and luckily he’s been able to keep his comedic disposition— despite no longer falling from 20 feet through tables. His commitment in the ring speaks to his passion to entertain, and that passion is perpetual. Foley is still an active performer and tours as a stand-up comedian. He’d be the heart and soul of the improv group – the guy emailing everyone about what nights he’s free to see shows.
Every team need an oddball, and they don’t get much oddballer than Goldust. Between his painted face, androgynous outfits and dramatic gestures, the improv team will have a lot to react to. But that’s a good thing – a completely different perspective will only facilitate original scene work. Goldust mixes his intelligence with his irreverence, successfully captivating and confusing audiences at the same time. His persona is constantly changing, and he would bring outlandish characters to scenes. He would be a crucial monkey wrench to keep everyone on their toes. And hopefully, he’s got access to actual gold to help finance the rehearsal space and Lawler’s coaching fees.
Dan DeSalva is a writer and comedian living in Chicago. He holds degrees in Film and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the iO Improv Program. Follow him on Twitter @DanDeSalva.