by Pat Cadigan
March 2000 Rampage Magazine
"Help Me,Help Me,Help Me!"
If we all heard voices the way Al Snow does,this is what we might hear right now,in the wake of the latest misguided salvo in the war of fanatically politically correct vs. popular culture,pro wrestling in particular.
Let's face it,this is not entertainment for people who like to feel coziy self-righteous,or who insist that every aspect of their lives should reassure them.Even those who never,under any circumstances,mark out have seen sights in the squared circle that make them distincly uncomfortable.One of those sights might well be Al Snow and Head.
Would the sight of a man with Help Me printed on his forehead-backward-give you pause?
How about if he were carrying a female mannequin head with the same thing printed,also backward,on its forehead?
OK,smart guy,how about if the guy with the backward Help Me said that he heard voices coming from the head,and referred to the head as"they"?
Pro wrestling is full of angles and gimmicks and the seasoned fan will barely blink.A mark will just shrug and then go looking for the T-shirt,up until now,the T-shirt most commonly associated with Al Snow said J.O.B. Squad,Pin Me,Pay Me.For almost 20 years,Al Snow has put his body on the line,trying for the recognition and stardom that has come to so many others in this business.
It's not like he hasn't been dedicated-hell, back in 1981,the man sold his car for busfare so he could get to the Anderson Brothers try-outs in North Carolina from Lima Ohio.
Even after they kicked his ass and told him he'd never make it,he didn't give up.He just kept going,like the guys he'd watched on Big Time wrestling when he was growing up- the Sheik and Cowboy Tex McKinley,among others He managed to talk Jim Lancaster into training him and learned how to fall and take bumps on a concrete floor with a mere half-inch of padding on it.
He got good
He got real good,good enough for his reputation to spread though wrestling locker rooms everywhere
He was wrestling's best kept secret,they said-"they"being other wrestlers,not Head,But eventually secrets get out.It took long enough but he got a match with Sabu pretty much by accident.He'd already wrestled on that particular night with Dan Severn,,but Sabu's opponent didn't show.That accident turned out to be his break-out match.Extreme Championship Wrestling came calling in 1994 and it looked like Al now would finally get his real break.
The secret of Snow's drive?Simple-the man just loves wrestling.Always has.He even opened a wrestling school nine years into his pro career,training guys who want to work hard for the entertainment they've devote to.Al did the When Worlds Collide PPV.He did Japan.He fought Chris Benoit,and he got a tag-team championship in Smoky Mountain Wrestling.partnering the Guy who eventually became know as Kane in the WWF.
Ii was 1995.WCW beckoned;WWF was paying attention.
Things were looking real good,and when Al Snow finally signed with the WWF,he was sure that he and Vince McMahon understood each other-Al wanted his shot at the big time,and Vince McMahon would give it to him.
What he got was a lot of down time at home.He didn't even get on the road until the following spring.
When he finally went into action,he was good,just good as ever,but it didn't matter.You know that legendary glass ceiling that woman talk about?Well,sometimes men get to look through it,too.
Al Snow certainly did
Other wrestlers' careers blossomed,and he found himself as the jobber who made them all look good.
It seems to me that Al Snow could probably relate,better than most people,to the frustrations of professional woman who find themselves continually passed over in favor of some country club as the boss.I'm willing to bet he'd have no problem understanding the aggravation of the hard-working adminstrative assistant who always finds herself breaking in a new boss after the previous one gets promoted.
This is what makes the great toy fiasco so magnificently ironic-not just that a protest by a college professor would have stores yanking his action figure off the shelves as an example of sanctioned violence against women,but that it took this specific incident to give Al Snow the widespread recognition he has been striving for,in match after match,since 1981.
I mean,think of it,pal.Put yourself in Al's place.
You do all the gimmicks they throw at you.You put on a mask and call yourself Avatar.Then you go in with another mask calling yourself Shinobi.
Then-and spare a shudder here,will ya?I mean,be afraid,be very Afraid-you hit the squared circle as a character called Leif Casssidy,which they tell you is supposed to combine the best of Leif Garett and David Cassidy,and tell you to act like you love 70s music(oh the pain!)>
You get paired with Marty Janetty as a team called The New Rockers.The New Rockers break up,and you go it alone again,looking for your shot,your break.
And they job you,and they job you,and they job you.
So after that,if you started hearing career advice from a mannequin head,maybe you'd decide that taking that advicd wasn't such a bad idea.
Maybe you'd decide carrying the head around calling it Head-hey,at least that makes sence,doesn't it?-doing interviews with it-excuse me,with them-was a pretty good idea.
The fans seemed to understand,no matter what fed he wrestled for,ECW or WWF.
What does everybody want?What does everybody need?
Anyone who didn't know the answer only needs to look at the visual aid Al was holding up in the ring:HEAD!
In all the time Al Snow was coming to the ring with Head,not one person,in the stands or at home watching TV,ever mistook Head for a woman's Severed head.It just wouldn't have occurred to anyone that Al Snow would be capable of such a thing.
Everyone knows he's hardcore-he's been harde champ,after all-and violence is inherent in this business.
There are even violent woman who get violent with men.But Al Snow isn't one of those men.
Well,that's OK.The resulting notoriety has made Al Snow the household name he should have been for years,and it's turned his action figure into a highly sought-after collector's item.Way to go,Al!
In its press statment responding to the situation,the WWF let it drop,in a by-the-way manner,that Al Snow would be getting a new look anyway,so the fact that Wal-Mart had decided to pull the product from inventory didn't worry them.
Well,I don't know about you,bud ,but this gives me cause for pause.
A new look?
No more Head?
Even after Mankind gave him Head right on TV,in front of everybody?Is it possible?
Or will Head's presnce become even more pronounced because of their very absence?It's been known to happen.
After all,this college professor's protest gets Al's figure banned-and what happens?Even people who barely know one wrestling fed from another suddenly know about Al Snow and Head.Everyone knows about Help Me printed backward on both Al and Head.
Like Poe's tell-tale heart,the tell-tale head's message is everywhere,only instead of one person with a guilty conscience hearing it,we can all hear it.We all know.
"Help Me,Help Me,Help Me."
Makes you wonder,doesn't it,who the crazy one is here?
Al Snow is supposed to be a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.But does reading a complete misogynistic antipathy to women into miniature Head packaged with an action figure strike anyone here as being slightly,um,off?
They say wrestling gimmicks and angles can get pretty wild.Well,have you tried so -called real life lately?
They say insanity is the sane responce to an insane world
So the next time you come across some politically correct-inspired absurdity,or hear some politician's double-talk that seems to promise plenty but actually says nothing,take a moment and listen to that still small voice,It just might be saying."Help me,Help me,Help me."