In 2015, KFC re-cast the role of Colonel Sanders after the death of their original founder (in 1980).
The company’s commercials featured a string of guest Colonels, from country music’s Reba McEntire…
….to Seinfeld’s Jay Greenspan.
While this author felt that simply giving some random person the title of Colonel was a slap in the face to Harland Sanders, audiences disagreed. By the following year, even WWE was getting in on the Colonel Panic, fielding their own chicken man in a commercial airing during WWE programming.
It played out thusly: A family sat around the dinner table, all facing the hard cam and wondering what’s for dinner…
…when the Miz flew through the window in a chicken suit with a chicken sandwich.
And the family went nuts over this disgusting chicken sandwich. I’ve gotta say, this commercial sucks!
You know who else thought so? Colonel Sanders, who hopped the rail to cut a promo on Miz.
“I came to this event to be entertained,” said Sanders, sounding a lot like Dolph Ziggler. “What do you know about chicken, chicken? Anybody in the whole wide world knows that KFC’s Chicken Little is the world’s best chicken sandwich!”
He continued: “I came to this event to be entertained. What do you know about chicken, chicken? Anybody in their right mind knows that KFC’s Chicken Little is the world’s best chicken sandwich!”
“I came to this event,” he added, “to be entertained. What do you know about chicken, chicken? Anybody in their right mind knows that KFC’s Chicken Little is the world’s best chicken sandwich!”
Yes, he did say the same thing three times in a row, but no, this wasn’t a case of WWE’s overdoing their scripted promos. They just needed to make sure they got multiple takes to choose from in the final cut of the commercial.
Say everything thrice, say everything thrice!
Getting different takes was especially important, seeing as some restless members of the live audience started a “We want Popeyes” chant that thankfully didn’t make it into the ad.
Miz taunted Dolph Sanders until he could take no more, walking up the ramp and *into the commercial*. Not gonna lie – it’s five years later and I’m still trying to figure out how they pulled that off.
Miz insulted the colonel’s honor with a glove slap, leading Ziggler to strip off his jacket.
This wasn’t your daddy’s Col. Sanders; this one was mean, lean, and (more) sexy.
The seasoned veteran threw Miz out of the commercial and into the ring…
…where he battered the chicken with clotheslines and elbow drops…
…before finishing him off with a super kick, complete with a slap to the (boneless) thigh.
Sanders celebrated with pyro. You’d think he’d go ahead and eat the chicken, but it was from one of those other chicken places. Miz lucked out this time…
…but wouldn’t fare so well in 2021.
At Christmas that year, Colonel Ziggler made another appearance, interrupting Sgt. Slaughter as he delivered a greeting to the troops. “With all due respect,” said Ziggler, “a colonel outranks a sergeant.”
Well, with all due respect to Dolph Ziggler, his rank is entirely fictitious. So is Dolph’s, for that matter.
Colonel Sanders showed up randomly at the Summerslam Kickoff the following year.
The Heartbreak Colonel was a last minute replacement for Ric Flair, who had just had a health scare. So not only had HBKFC retired Flair, but now he’d stolen his chicken endorsement, too.
New auditions soon followed, with former Colonel Dolph Ziggler competing against the likes of R-Truth, Enzo Amore…
…and, at the end of the pecking order, Mojo Rawley, whose costume was clearly thrown together at the last minute.
Ultimately, Kurt Angle got the part, announcing Colonel Sanders’s inclusion on the WWE 2K18 roster.
For the record, Colonel Sanders had now been in more wrestling games than the other master of the chicken wing, Bob Backlund.
The year 2018 was a special one for WWE and Royal Rumbles, with the company hosting not only its standard 30-man Rumble, but also a 30-woman Rumble and an unprecedented 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble. Less memorable was that January’s first-ever KFC Colonel Rumble, where nine or ten men competed for the right to dress as an elderly fast food cook.
In fact, all the competitors donned Colonel Sanders garb, some more convincingly than others.
Rusev, for instance, looked more like the future Cameron Grimes than Harland Sanders.
He started the match against the Miz, who at least donned a glue-on triangle for a goatee.
They locked up, and immediately it was time for another entrant:
Titus O’Neil, who entered the ring safely and uneventfully.
Next was Heath Slater, who sported a white double-breasted tuxedo T-shirt. Due to his prior association with Wendy’s, Heath was a long shot.
Then came Mojo Rawley, decked out in his college colors. Now I’m as big a fan of the Maryland flag as the next guy, but this was Kentucky Fried Chicken, was it not?
Mojo was the first to exit the Rumble, putting forth minimal effort to avoid getting chucked over the top.
Titus and Heath soon followed, and we were back down to the original two Colonels.
Both members of Breezango then entered within seconds of each other, but greed got the better of Breeze, who flung ‘Dango to the floor.
Goldust entered and got in a few good (finger)licks on Breeze…
…but was eliminated in just a few seconds, putting up as little fight as Rawley before him.
Breeze hit the deck as well, and we were down to our final two, who were also our first two. But Shawn vs. Bulldog at the 1995 Rumble, this was not. For one thing, their opponents’ gimmicks were far less embarrassing this time.
But before Miz and Rusev could settle it, the buzzer rang for one final entrant.
After a pause that was literally longer than Goldust’s ring time in this match, the final man’s music hit. It was…
Maddeningly, the current WWE champion did not bother wearing a costume. By the time he finally entered the ring, nearly a minute had passed. Since the whole match lasted maybe six minutes, that’s like a ten minute entrance in a regular Rumble.
Styles low-bridged Miz to narrow it down to two men.
After another minute staring down Rusev (the equivalent of another ten Rumble Minutes), AJ gave the Bulgarian Colonel his glasses back…
…then stunned him, sending him over the top rope in about as convincing a fashion as the average wrestler in this match. Hey, no one wants to break his neck for a chicken commercial.
AJ Styles had just made history, becoming only the second man to win a Royal Rumble while WWE Champion. You might be wondering why I had to rely on fan footage to illustrate such a momentous occasion — that’s because this ending never aired.
Instead, a new ending was shot during the Royal Rumble kickoff show that Sunday. Now, in place of AJ Styles, it was his one-time mentor Ric Flair who drew the coveted #9 spot in the KFC Colonel Rumble.
Decked out in a gorgeous white robe made, perhaps, of chicken feathers, Ric Flair so looked the part that you’d think he’d been stolen at birth from a Kentucky couple (instead of a Tennessee one).
The bad news was, this finish was as half-assed as the original one, with Flair gently guiding Rusev out of the ring, with the Miz simply rolling off the ring apron a second later. And just like that, Ric Flair was WWE’s new Colonel Sanders!
Although WWE filmed Ric Flair’s ending separately to avoid him wrestling an official match —and therefore breaking his retirement — they still presented it on TV as if it all happened in one match. And if WWE’s pandemic era taught us anything, it’s that whatever ends up on TV is canon, regardless of the editing tricks involved.
So in kayfabe, Undertaker and AJ Styles really did fight for twenty minutes nonstop in a cemetery…
…all the Superstars in the empty Performance Center really did wrestle through the commercial breaks…
…and Ric Flair’s last match really was the KFC Colonel Rumble.
No wonder Naitch wants to wrestle one last match. And you thought it was just because he’s broke.
All in all, WWE’s cross-promotion with KFC was pretty dumb. Was it the worst thing to ever happen in WWE? Of course not.
But it was certainly the worst thing in WWE involving a man dressed as poultry (unless there’s something obvious that I’m forgetting).