If you’re anything like me (a United States resident, employed during the year 2018), you’re doing your taxes this time of year. What better time, then, to re-induct Irwin R. Schyster (otherwise known as IRS)?
I know RD caught a lot of flak when he inducted IRS nearly two decades ago, but I still think the tax man is due for an updated induction. That means it’s once again time to consider whether the IRS gimmick was actually Wrestlecrap.
Sure, the idea of an IRS accountant who also wrestled may be the butt of jokes today – John Oliver referenced IRS literally two weeks ago – but was it comedic fodder back in the day?
Yes, yes it was, as evidenced by this MAD Magazine cover from circa 1986, five years before IRS even debuted.
A one-dimensional wrestling tax man (with an improbable set of initials) seems like, at best, a seasonal gimmick that only appears one month out of the year, tops. Think Xanta Claus, the Christmas Creature, or the Gobbledygooker.
But Irwin R Schyster (otherwise known as IRS), wrestled all year round, never once relenting in his one-man crusade against tax cheats.
It’s tough work coming up with a new promo each show in every town one wrestles in, so it’s understandable that IRS would launch into nearly the exact same tirade every time, berating either his opponent or the fans for cheating on their taxes. Even fans in other countries weren’t outside of IRS’s jurisdiction, apparently.
Viewers at home couldn’t escape the watchful eye of IRS, which is a good thing, because Coliseum video viewers were notorious tax evaders.
It was a strange way to get heat. Did people really take that much pride in filing their tax returns that it’s the ultimate insult to be accused of tax evasion? And were any of the real tax cheats in the audience afraid that the wrestling accountant was going to report them to the Internal Revenue Service?
While IRS had tax-related promos instead of theme music, this wouldn’t work in an 8-bit cartridge-based video game like Wrestlemania Steel Cage Challenge, so the people at Sculptured Software made a theme song for him. Well, “song” isn’t the right word for an endless stream of clicks on the keys of an adding machine.
…and, by extension, all the tax evaders playing WWF Rage in the Cage instead of filling out their 1040s.
Seemingly every feud he engaged in revolved around forcing a wrestler to pay taxes, often by stealing his valuables until he paid up.
Paul Bearer fell victim to the tax man.
Razor Ramon fell victim to the tax mang.
But there was one particularly egregious act perpetrated by IRS. In March 1994, a Lumbee elder bestowed upon Tatanka a Native American headdress.
Immediately, IRS was on the case, demanding that Tatanka pay a gift tax on the sacred feathers.
April 15th, 1994 came and went with no taxes paid, so IRS took matters into his own hands, putting on the headdress himself like some Coachella attendee.
If there was one person who couldn’t stand it when people put on feathers and pretended to be an Indian, it was Joe “Chief Jay Strongbow” Scarpa, who made a vain attempt to stop IRS’s antics. Schyster put the boots to the Chief and ripped the headdress to shreds.
Insensitive as IRS’s act was, he had a point – Tatanka was obligated to declare all large gifts received in 1994 on his tax returns and submit them to the Internal Revenue Service by April 15th… 1995, the following year. See, as you surely know, tax returns cover only money earned during the previous calendar year.
I guess Irwin R Schyster (otherwise known as IRS) wasn’t quite the expert on tax law that he fancied himself.
Another major inconsistency with the IRS character was his choice of allies. On paper, a wrestling tax man seems like a gimmick designed specifically to feud with the Million Dollar Man, but not only did IRS and DiBiase never feud, they were tag team partners for years! You never saw Nailz and the Big Bossman team up, did you?
And while we’re on the subject of hiccups in logic, a wrestling tax collector was certainly a cartoony gimmick on paper…
…but unlike the other cartoony gimmicks at the time, this one must have been aimed at adults; five-year-olds tend not to file tax returns.
I mean, even the Repo Man stole the occasional kid’s bike. That hit close to home. But try asking a child watching WWF Superstars what a write-off is!
If they’d been paying careful attention to the commentators, they’d tell you it was the name of IRS’s flying clothesline.
Speaking of signature moves, IRS also used an STF called “The Penalty”…
…which – admit it – you probably would have guessed was The Goon’s finisher before you read this induction.
It’s a testament to Mike Rotunda’s skill as a performer that he actually managed to get fans to care about a wrestling accountant. Crowds would occasionally erupt into chants of “Ir-win! Ir-win!”, which, the announcers informed us, enraged Schyster. If he hated his first name so much, why did he tell everyone his name was Irwin R Schyster in the first place? Why not just stick to “Mike Rotunda”?
After all, Irwin was still supposed to be the same person as Mike Rotunda – I suppose “Rotunda” was Irwin Schyster’s middle name. Gorilla Monsoon used to vaguely refer to IRS’s collegiate career at Syracuse and his previous run in the WWF, where he won the tag team titles with Barry Windham.
This means that, while captain of his college wrestling team, Rotunda earned a degree in accounting…
…then kicked around in a number of other professions including boat captain…
…and Wall Street investor (and of course, pro wrestler)…
…before landing his dream job at the Internal Revenue Service (and returning to the WWF).
Rotunda’s last match as IRS in WWE came at 2007’s Raw 15th Anniversary battle royal, where he was the last man standing in the ring…
…until Ted DiBiase bribed him with a stack of $100 bills to eliminate himself, securing the win for the Million Dollar Man. Let’s hope IRS paid taxes on it!
Maybe IRS has one more match left in him, perhaps against Hillbilly Jim, who has been using offshore shell companies to shield his action figure residuals from Uncle Sam.