The late Chris Champion was known for many gimmicks here on Wrestlecrap.
Whether it was one half of the time-traveling New Breed, who jumped from the year 2002 to invade the NWA in the late 1980s…
…or Yoshi Kwan, who sported a Fu Manchu mustache and hailed from China, despite Champion famously being full-blooded Not-Chinese.
But in Memphis, the territory that hosted such intellectual property-busting gimmicks as Nightmare Freddy and Jason the Terrible, Chris Champion adopted his silliest gimmick of all:
The wrestling Ninja Turtle Kowabunga, presumably the long-lost brother of Leonardo and the gang.
Unlike the impressive costumery of the official TMNT films…
…Champion’s turtle costume resembled something out of Cruel Connection’s wardrobe…
…with a head that looked like one of those face transplant recipients, pre-op.
Arriving on the scene in the summer of 1990, Kowabunga managed to thrill – or at least severely confuse – the kids in the Memphis area with his totally radical antics, both in the USWA studio and in his suburban Memphis home…
…where the anthropomorphic turtle flipped through the channels on his color TV. Fans immediately knew they weren’t dealing with an intellectual heavyweight when right out of the blocks, Kowabunga started commenting on how totally awesome Jeff Gaylord’s muscles were, even though:
a) Jeff Gaylord was his opponent for the upcoming Wednesday night show…
b) Jeff Gaylord just thirty seconds earlier had promised to kill Kowbunga and put his shell in his trophy room, and…
c) the guy on his TV was clearly not Jeff Gaylord.
While turning the dial, Kowabunga sang the praises of The Beverly Hillbillies and The Bold and the Beautiful…
…called a US House of Representatives vote, “bogus”…
…and even got sprung over a JC Penney model, who was, in his opinion, a totally bodacious dude-ette.
But what really made Kowabunga bust a Wingnut was wrestling. Kowabunga wasn’t alone; watching over him was his unnamed master, who was either an anthropomorphic rat or, just maybe, Barry White, judging by that sensual silk robe.
All I know is, if it really was the Ninja Turtles’ wise mentor, then Kowabunga’s opponents were going to be pulling Splinter out of their faaaat asses.
You’d think that the USWA would want to play dumb about the plagiaristic nature of Kowabunga’s gimmick, but no: they came right out and said he was cashing in on the Ninja Turtles craze.
By the way, if your day ever needs brightening, just listen to Dave Brown say, “Kowabunga!”
But Kowabunga wasn’t exactly a Ninja Turtle; he was a “Karate Turtle”. That’s different because the Ninja Turtles practiced ninjutsu, not karate.
In the ring, Kowabunga’s offense drew from a variety of martial arts, including karate and tickling.
His wrestling prowess led him to quick victories over the likes of Ken Wayne, the USWA Junior Heavyweight champion, although the title wasn’t on the line. I guess he wasn’t light enough for the division; that shell does look pretty heavy.
After the bout, Ken saved Kowabunga from a beatdown and teamed with him on a later edition of USWA television.
They took on The Twilight Zone, consisting of Quasar & Nebula, the latter sharing a name with Topanga Lawrence’s sister.
Between the Twilight Zone’s purple and yellow body suits and trunks and Ken Wayne’s green facepaint and lemon-lime tights, Kowabunga may just have had the most tasteful ring gear in the match.
“He may look green”, said the announcer, but he clearly knew what he was doing in the ring.
Outside of the ring, not so much. I don’t know if Kowabunga thought he was cock of the walk or what, but all that head-bobbing has me wondering if it was Terry Taylor under the mask.
After all, if it really was Chris Champion in the turtle suit, how does one explain this photo?
It’s hard not to look goofy while dressed up as a giant cartoon character…
…but Kowabunga certainly didn’t help himself with taunts like these.
Or when he was setting up one of those board-breaking demos, and a “solid” piece of wood snapped right in two after being lightly tapped.
Even Bundy the USWA gorilla must have thought Kowabunga looked foolish after that one.
His promos were even more embarrassing, consisting of non-stop surfer lingo spoken by what sounded like a ten-year-old boy.
On one fateful edition of USWA, Eddie Gilbert drove his car right into Jerry Lawler, who bounced off the windshield before falling to the pavement on live TV.
Twenty minutes later, to drive home the seriousness of the heinous attack, Kowabunga weighed in, calling it “totally bogus” and “Pukus Maximus”.
Dave Brown concurred. “I must say, I’m in total agreement with exactly what he said” – even the allegation that Eddie Gilbert sported “total wiggage” on his head, presumably.
Brother Doug would defend his family’s honor against Kowabunga later that week.
For Kowabunga, everything was either bodacious, radical, and/or awesome, or bogus. In fact, here’s a chart to help track of it all:
After a few short months, Kowabunga disappeared from the territory, and Chris Champion resurfaced, but not before the Karate Turtle participated in a blindfold battle royal. Do you think he wore the blindfold over or under his mask?
Kowabunga would show up in Smoky Mountain Wrestling years later, this time with the late Brian Hildebrand (aka WCW referee Mark Curtis) donning a truly grotesque mask. He wrestled as a turtle for 15 minutes.
Against Jim Cornette.
It’s just too bad both Kowabungas never teamed up with the Toxic Turtles for Survivor Series.