Wrestlecrap Induction – Marvelous Marc Mero vs. Butterbean
The end of 1997 was a rough time for the WWF, especially for Marc Mero.
Mero had signed a big money, long-term contract with Titan after getting fired from WCW, and to say that he wasn’t an immediate sensation would be an understatement. Gone was the flamboyant and instantly recognizable character of Johnny B. Badd. I mean, it sums up his deal right in the song: He’s a pretty as a picture, and he looks just like Little Richard! That’s about all the information you need right there.
Once he got to the WWF, it was a tougher sell. He was now Wildman Marc Mero, a somewhat more generic babyface in vaguely jungle-themed attire who could do some cool moves. And he had a hot valet named Sable. That was about it for him as far as character progression went. Then, in early 1997, he blew out his knee and suddenly he couldn’t even do the cool moves anymore and that was kind of a problem for him.
So when he returned as a full-time character at the end of the year, he had to make a few changes. First up, he was no longer a Wildman, he was now a boxer. Also he was mean and resentful of his manager’s popularity. Truly a recipe for success.
In order to really sell his new boxing gimmick, the decision was made to have him face a real boxer in a real boxing match. But since they couldn’t find any real boxers, they called Eric “Butterbean” Esch. I’m just kidding, I don’t want him to punch me in the face like he did to Bart Gunn.
But he was at best an undercard attraction in 1997 with no real connection to the WWF. Basically he just showed up one week in the crowd and wannabe boxer Mero threatened him, and bam, it’s a feud. Sable even showed up as a ring-card girl on the undercard of a boxing show where Butterbean was competing the night before, but it was never mentioned on WWF TV.
They were booked for a four round boxing match on the legendarily atrocious “D-Generation X” PPV in December, but immediately there were problems.
Problem #1: Legally speaking, they weren’t allowed to have a boxing match.
OK, that one was kind of the biggest problem. But the show took place in Springfield, Massachusetts, and in order to promote a “boxing” match on your show, you had to go through the athletic commission and couldn’t fix the fight, both of which were not going to fly with Vince McMahon. So instead what we got was a hastily promoted “Tough Man” contest instead, which looked like boxing, but legally speaking was not boxing, we can’t stress that enough.
Ironic that the show was sponsored by Karate Fighters, which were slightly more legitimate than this mess was.
Problem #2: They couldn’t wear regulation boxing gloves because it wasn’t boxing.
As a result, they had to wear comically oversized 18 ounce gloves that were more like pillows than combat gloves, and it also meant you couldn’t throw a punch without blowing up.
So given those constraints, the “Tough Man Contest” was about as terrible as you’d expect. Mero spent most of it running away from Butterbean, despite being a legitimate boxing badass in real life, with an occasional bit of play-fighting in the corners where they would ineffectively paw at each other with their ridiculous gloves.
No one in the crowd cared at all. It certainly didn’t make Mero look like a real life badass boxer (which, I can’t stress enough, he absolutely was), and Butterbean wasn’t exactly a household name anyway. Butterbean clearly was only in it for the payday, looking bored for the most of the fight and even scoring a knockdown with an actual wind-up Popeye punch at one point.
The “fight”, after three rounds of boredom, ended with Mero getting frustrated at losing in lop-sided fashion, and he hit a low blow on Butterbean and attacked him with a stool in order to draw the DQ.
To be fair, it was no more ridiculous than what real boxing matches were giving us for finishes around the same time. Also most people in the arena don’t even remember the match because they all departed for the bathrooms and concession stands in droves as soon as it started.
Really the most amazing thing is that this wasn’t even the worst match of the night!
The whole thing was quickly forgotten, with Mero moving onto a gimmick of wacky wife-abusing loudmouth instead, but people backstage, who are still apologizing for it to this day, watched this travesty and thought “Hey, maybe we should do an entire tournament based on this concept!”
Well at least Butterbean couldn’t possibly be involved in anything worse.
Oh yeah. That.