“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” – Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
“Vincent, don’t make your wrestlers dress up like cowboys” – “Real Deal”, RD Reynolds
While Terry Funk and Stan Hansen may have ruled the roost in the 70’s and 80’s, it seems that every grappler stuck with a cowboy gimmick has been a bomb.
Note I said “a” bomb, not “the” bomb – it’s a big difference.
So it should surprise no one that the WWF’s mid 90’s tobacco chawin’, chaps wearin’, hootin’ and hollarin’ Texas cowboy Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, didn’t make much impact either. Apparently someone forgot to tell Vince McMahon that cowboys haven’t been cool since that the heyday of the Village People.
Come to think of it, the cowboy in the Village People wasn’t cool at all either. But he was cooler than Justin “Hawk”, though, and that’s saying something.
Bradshaw was your stereotypical rough rider, as it was painfully obvious that the WWF was trying to duplicate the mystique of cowboy legends like Hansen and Funk. Bradshaw not only wrestled like Hansen (his finisher was Hansen’s trademark move, the lariat), but he also stole Hansen’s signature hand gesture and bellow. As if that weren’t bad enough, he also unearthed the old branding iron gimmick from Funk, right down to the hokey paint they used for the “branding”.
The WWF further handicapped Bradshaw by teaming him up with Uncle Zebekiah (aka Dutch Mantell), whose heat was best described with the technical term “absolute zero”.
Bradshaw continued to float around mid-cards and opening matches until he got his big break as a member of the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness, which led indirectly to his current gig as one half of the Acolyte Protection Agency (APA), in which he now plays a poker playin’, beer drinkin’, cigar smokin’ badman from Texas.
Which is far more cool than a cowboy, anyway.