You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, know when to……get your ass kicked?!?
Those aren’t exactly the lyrics Kenny Rogers crooned way back in the day, but I think those words sum up this week’s Jobber Of The Week better than ol’ gray beard’s original version. While my generation grew up watching the Mulkeys and Iron Mike Sharpe getting pummelled on a weekly basis, they had all but vanished by the time Generation Y rolled around and started watching wrestling. As countless new fans tuned in record numbers to witness the fresh antics of the NWO, the funfilled, silicone-jiggling action of the Nitro Girls, and half of the NBA’s active roster step into the ring, a new jobbing icon was on the rise. One that – in my opinion – became THE whipping post of the 90’s. He was perhaps the world’s last 100% full-fledged piece of nationally televised enhancement talent. The one and the only. The token stealin’, card flingin’, taxi cab ridin’ son of a gun himself – the Gambler.
Our bumbling low roller first appeared on WCW tv screens in late 1993. Going by the name of Jeff Gamble, he – much like all of WCW at the time – wallowed around and didn’t make much of an impact. He soon dropped the Jeff name and took on the alias that would later become famous. As the Gambler, he stuck around for a little while longer, but much like a casino in Vegas whose slots aren’t hitting, you gotta hit the road and try the next one. His next stop was destined to be the only ever jackpot he ever hit.
April 15th, 1995. A mid-nineties day like any other day for everyone back then. For the Gambler, it was the best day of his career. The day he hit it big. Teaming up with Brickhouse Brown, they defeated all 297 pounds of PG-13 to claim the USWA tag team championship. After a long dry spell, he finally tasted some gold. The good times didn’t last too long, however. Logic dictates if your partner’s gimmick is patterned after a song sung by Lionel Ritchie, then you’re in for a rough time.
And sure enough, after a two week title reign, PG-13 regained the straps from Brickhouse and the Gambler. After tasting success in Memphis, he decided it was time to return to where it all started. It was time to reattempt to strike it rich in WCW.
Upon his return, the Gambler sure was an odd sight to behold. He looked
less an Atlantic City high roller than a long lost relative of Colonel Sanders. After initially looking like he was auditioning for the lead in Pepsico’s future summer blockbuster known as KFC:Episode I – The Leg & Thigh Menace, he wisely changed his looks.
Adopting a slick looking satin jacket, the look-a-like bug struck him again. The Gambler was now a spitting image of Arn Anderson. Look at this pic of them together and see if you can tell who’s who.
He may have looked like Arn, but he had one thing going for him that Double A never did. Props. Who could ever forget his that legendary deck of cards? You talk about intimidation. Hacksaw Duggan has a 2X4? Ha! That ain’t nothing compared to how bad the Gambler could muck you up by flinging a 3 of diamonds at you. And if the Road Warriors tried bullying him around and the s#!t was sure to hit the fan, the Gambler could always break out his jumbo-sized magic playing cards (on loan from the Black Scorpion of course) to try to even the odds.
Looking back at how deadly he was with the cards, it got me thinking about something. Nowadays comic book movies are all the rage. We’ve seen Kevin Nash star in the Punisher, and soon Triple H will cameo in Blade 3. I think Marvel really missed the boat with the Daredevil movie. The main villain, Bullseye, was lethal in his marksmanlike card-throwing. That role was custom-made for the Gambler, and Marvel goes and gives it to Hollywood wussy boy Colin Ferrell. Geez. Compare these two shots and tell me who you would want to have kicking Affleck’s ass on film. No wonder that flick bombed.
Despite his groundbreaking gimmick, it didn’t help the career out much. Years were spent making everyone else look good on WCW Saturday Night and Worldwide. Perhaps the Gambler’s biggest match would be when – after months and months and months and months of hype for the debut of Glacier – he faced off against him in the Mortal Kombat wannabe’s debut match on WCW Pro. Sure he went down in defeat to the master of the hard, soft, and semi-erect fighting styles, but hey, at least he got a little main event time.
Sadly, that was the only real highpoint that stood out in his time there. The years and losses mounted, but as 1999 approached he did what all wise bettors do. Before risking too big of a loss, the Gambler finally folded.
For a man who was around the mainstream for the better half of a decade, he surprisingly is shrouded in mystery. I was barely able to uncover his real name. Supposedly it’s Jeff Gann. Where the greatest and most talented enhancement talent of the Monday Night War-era is right now, who knows? Perhaps these guys here might have a better clue than I do.
A very wise..excuse me..very drunk Jake “the Snake” Roberts once mumbled on a national pay-per-view, and I quote, “to gamble you must accept losing.” Our JOTW definitely took those words to heart. He may have come up short in the win column, but if it came down to picking WCW’s Jobber of the 90’s, I think most everyone – even Pete Rose – has got his money ridin’ on the Gambler.