Wrestlecrap Induction – Cheatum
Watching WCW in the 90s raised a lot of questions in the minds of wrestling fans, many of which were never answered. Questions like “Why am I watching this show?” or “Seriously, who thought PN News was a good idea?”. The ones that really burn in my memory, however, have still never been answered and are just accepted by us poor fans and dismissed with “Because WCW.”
For example, who exactly was Cheatum and how did we even know that was his name?
Now, I’m sure, like many people employed by WCW in the 90s, he had a real name and family outside of Turner’s ongoing tax writeoff mascarading as a wrestling promotion, but I’m not concerned with that. Much like referees, most of WCW’s extras and weirdos don’t warrant names anyway. But obviously when I refer to “Cheatum”, with or without adding “the Evil Midget”, you as a wrestling fan know exactly who I’m referring to. BUT HOW?
Much like the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, Cheatum was never given a name on WCW TV that I can ever remember. Is it some kind of weird collective Mandela Effect but for bad gimmicks? Did WCW actually manage to fall ass-backwards into getting a character over enough that people actually remember his name based on three minor appearances in the low point of the promotion and nothing else?
Actually that’s pretty much 100% on trend for WCW, come to think of it.
So Cheatum, who was not only a dwarf but also wore an eyepatch for no adequately explored reason, debuted in the infamous “mini-movie” that was created to hype the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” match between Jake Roberts and Sting in 1992.
So in WCW canon, Cheatum can be attributed to Jake Roberts bringing him into the promotion, and I’ve actually built up a whole head-canon about his introduction. I like to picture Jake driving around Atlanta in his Snake-Mobile (I can only assume it’s a Ford Pinto with a cobra decal on the hood), only to stop by his dealer for a refill and discover Cheatum stealing his hubcaps like Jason Todd in the Batman comics. Always in need of someone to perform evil deeds for him, he decides to take pity on the down-and-out dwarf and employ him as a general contractor of mayhem, just in case the need ever arose.
Obviously, the relationship between Jake and his new right hand man went south in a hurry, because Jake was fired from WCW after losing to Sting (did Cheatum in fact rig the wheel to screw his employer, like I’ve speculated in my head? Huge if true!). But you can’t keep a good dwarf down, because he showed up again in 1993, now working for Vader and Harley Race while promoting the White Castle of Fear match.
Still sporting an eyepatch because WCW didn’t offer health insurance in 1993, Cheatum served the purpose of alerting Vader when Sting entered the White Castle of Fear. To clarify, there was no actual castle shown in the movie, and it was more of a metaphorical castle by way of a cave in the Rocky Mountains. But let’s face it, castles cost money and are hard to come by in Colorado, although I’m pretty sure Jim Crockett bought one for Dusty Rhodes in 1988 and that’s one of the reasons why he had to sell to Turner. Cheatum didn’t really do anything explicitly evil in this new role, but obviously he was just getting warmed up in his hatred for Sting.
Yes, by summer of 1993, Vader decided to employ Cheatum again, and poor Cheatum was still in dire financial straits due to his missing eye and out of control gambling addiction (I mean, I assume) and needed money. This time seeking revenge against Sting and new partner Davey Boy Smith, Vader came up with a cunning plan even more deadly than the White Castle of Fear. You see, Vader and Sid Vicious wanted to prove that they were the Masters of the Powerbomb, so they lured Sting and Davey Boy to the beach under the guise of playing volleyball with disadvantaged youth, and then tried to BLOW UP THEIR BOAT.
Indeed, hitting rock bottom on an already tragic career path downwards, Cheatum was given an actual bomb to put on the boat of the babyfaces, attempting to murder them so that Vader could win a tag team match by forfeit. Unsurprisingly, giving that kind of task to someone with no depth perception meant that it wasn’t put in the proper place, and the heroes survived.
(For those wondering, this was actually where Cheatum was named for the first time, by Harley Race, in his third and final appearance.).
Cheatum wasn’t so lucky, however, as he was the one to take the fall for the heels, getting arrested immediately after cameras stopped rolling, while the Masters of the Powerbomb disavowed all knowledge of him and never mentioned him again. After a lengthy trial and appeals process, he was sentenced to 20 years of the worst punishment that could be afforded by the law in 1995: Cleaning out the grease traps at Hulk Hogan’s Pasta-Mania restaurant in the Mall of America.
Luckily, he was freed when the restaurant went out of business, and then his financial fortunes finally turned around for good when he was able to successfully sue his former employer, WCW, for cultural appropriation after seeing Buddy Lee Parker do the Leprechaun gimmick on TV. I can only assume that Cheatum was Irish, because the joke works better that way.
Unfortunately, he spent most of his legal windfall on gold eyepatches and gambled the rest of it away by betting on Rollerjam in early 2000, leaving him toiling in obscurity for many years and looking for work. He was last seen acting as Virgil’s booking agent for autograph signings.
That’s him under the table.
The story did have something of a happy ending, however, as he reappeared in AEW as part of Jake Roberts’ crew of weirdos who were training Lance Archer, and has reportedly even obtained his legal degree.
You can find him at the law offices of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe.