|From POWER SLAM Magazine, Issue 53, December 1998, and written by Assistant Editor at the time Rob Butcher.
After 16 years spent dredging the murky depths of the wrestling business, it would appear that Al Snow has finally found an unorthodox path out of the doldrums. But can one of the most under-utilised talents of the last two decades defy his past and make a little Head go a long way in the WWF? Rob Butcher wishes the chief of The J.O.B. Squad all the luck he deservesâ€¦ Considering the mountain of disappointment and frustration Al Snow has been forced to scale since he 1982 pro debut, it's little wonder he's still running the ropes. That he does so under the guidance of a mannequin's head and has "HELP ME" scrawled across his forehead, backwards, in thick black marker are reflections of the obscurity he has endured.
In 1981, with High School graduation taken care of and having spent several years ringing around the major US wrestling offices in search of a clue as to how to enter their world, 18-year-old Allen Sarven sold his car, took the 24 hour bus ride from Lima, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina and blew his remaining bucks on a session at Ole and the late Gene Anderson's notoriously sadistic training camp.
Despite returning to Ohio battered, bruised and on rubber legs, Al remained undeterred and persuaded local journeyman grappler Jim Lancaster into schooling him on thin tumbling mats at a nearby community centre. After learning the basics, twice a week for three months, Al made his debut on May 22nd, 1982 and, by 1994, began to receive recognitiono,Whoa there! 1994? What about the first 12 years of his epic journey towards super stardom?
Well, there really isn't much to tell. Under the guise of Mitch Snow(Webmaster note:this is not true), Al paid his dues as a mid-80's TV Squash boy. Fed up with the lack of work in the Ohio and Michigan area, he also began promoting cards of his own and opened a wrestling school - which still exists today. Al's most noteworthy graduate was one Dan Severn, who Snow went on to train and second for his no-holds-barred debut at the Ultimate Fighting Championship IV in December 1994.
It was 11 months earlier, however, that "Wrestling's Best Kept Secret" begun to receive some long-overdue attention
The first of many celebrated meetings between Al Snow and Sabu came about by accident in January 1994 when Sabu's scheduled opponent for a Michigan indie main event no-showed and Al stepped in to fill the gap. Their chemistry on the mat, in the air and at the furniture store was phenomenal, and word quickly spread around the tap-trading circuit about this virtually unknown, 12-year pro who was playing his part in some of the best matches of Sabu's career.
As the most sought-after feud on the regional scene raged on into the autumn of '94, Al's credentials were bought to the attention of Paul Heyman, and "The Snowman" received a try-out with ECW. Despite losing to Taz, Snow made enough of an impression to be bought back at the start of '95 for a slick scientific victory over Osamu Nishimura, a surprisingly unremarkable loss to Sabu, and a show-stealing loss to Chris Benoit on Febuary 4th at Double Tables.
Before this relationship could blossom though, Jim Cornette had got on the blower and offered Al a spot as Glen "Unabomb" Jacob's tag team partner in SMW. Ironically enough, despite the enormous buzz over Al's bone-bending prowess, Corny's interest had been captured by his biting response to an inept UFC interviewer's query as to what Dan Severn had planned between fights. "He's going to have sex, what do you think?"
"Simply Sensational's" six month stint with SMW saw him develop this hither-to unseen and riotously entertaining and smart mouthed side of his character. As he and Unabomb became the latest tandem to threaten the livelihood of the ageing local legends Rock 'N' Roll Express. A three month run with the tag gold at the expense of Ricky and Robert began on April 7th at Bluegrass Brawl, and ended on July 6th courtesy of Tracy Smothers and "Dirty White Boy" Tony Anthony.
The following month at Fire on the Mountain '95, the thugs upended Snow and Unabomb once again, this time in a loser leaves SMW bout. In reality though, this was of no great concern to our man. Having already flirted with WCW's advances in July, Al had eventually decided to sign on the WWF dotted line and become the hooded high flyer Avatar.
On October 23rd, Al arrived in Brandon, Manitoba under the impression that he was in town to film a series of vignettes designed to introduce Avatar to the public. Instead, he was flung onto the live Raw with next to no fan fare, and took the victory in a sloppy squash match.
If you blinked you would have missed him. By the end of 96, Avatar's Hayabusa duds had been tossed in the dumpster behind Titan Tower. But not before he stared at the lights on TV for former partner Glen "Isaac Yankem" Jacobs. The following months taping saw a repackaged Snow performing double duty as Shinobi and Leif Cassidy. Never the less, the results were the same. The masked ninja's shoulders hit the canvas for Ahmed Johnson, while The New Rockers combination of Cassidy and Jannetty went out in the opening round of the world tag team title tournament to the legendary Godwinns.
Rumours of Leif Cassidy victories over the next 18 months are unconfirmed, and so should be taken as the ramblings of the delirious. At Summerslam and Survivor Series '96, The New Rockers were the 2nd team eliminated in 8-Man affairs. At December and Febuary In Your Houses, Leif's only single PPV appearances (unless your cruel enough to include One Night Only), culminated in, what else? Losses to world champions in the making Flash Funk and Marc Mero.
By the time Paul Heyman called wanting to "borrow" Snow in August '97, Leif Cassidy had gone from being a Geeky,happy-go-lucky, Rockin' Dude with a cult following, to a frustrated employee at breaking point. The latter characterisation was not too far removed from reality. Work had become sporadic, and without a downside clause, so had pay. He tried to quit, but stubborn top brass were having none of it.
While the trip to ECW gave Al a chance to be appreciated for being himself again, he continued to play the over-the-edge card. Following defeats on PPV to RVD, and at The Arena to Taz and The Great Sasuke, Al continued to flip out, and then started talking to himself. The next weekend, he brought a styro foam head to the ring and began arguing with it. Unfortunately, one such dispute turned physical, and the over matched head was left shredded on the mat.
Soon after, the Head, which Al currently courts in the WWF was found amidst the weaponry brought for New Jack to utilise. Al adopted his new improve psychic cheer-leader, and on January 10th at House Party '98, ECW went for broke by distributing 100s of styro foam duplicates amongst the fans, leading to the peculiar Head ritual which would stalk Snow's every move.
While purist were disappointed at the quality of the new Snow's performances, those who had witnessed his torture in the WWF could only be happy for him. Not only had the Head become the most talked about gimmick in ECW, but Al was winning matches for the first time since his SMW days.
The most significant victory came at Living Dangerously when he pinned ECW World Champion Shane Douglas as Lance Storm's mystery partner. This set the stage for the biggest night of Al's professional life. Wrestlepalooza '98, and a shot at the gold in the PPV main event. Sadly, though, the final twist in this chapter was all too familiar. Despite being banged up left-right-and-centre, The Franchise put Al away with an untidy Sunset Flip reversal in a drab climax to a tedious card
Since returning home to the WWF on May 12th Raw, Al Snow has been plenty busy after foolishly aligning himself with Jerry Lawler in a misguided attempt to secure a meeting with Vince. Al had a falling out with Lawler, which led to the KOTR debacle. That night, Too Much supposedly sent the Snowman packing for good, when Brian Christopher pinned the Head with the assistance of a popular brand of shampoo.
Following a 2-month hiatus, Al resurfaced on the post Summerslam Raw and eventually coaxed Sgt Slaughter into a Boot Camp match. Which Al won, earning himself official reinstatement for himself and the Head. Victories at subsequent IYHs in conjunction with Scorpio and Marc Mero along with the addition of Head-chant friendly tribal entrance music, and that all-important catch phrase "What does everybody want?" have certainly put Al on the WWF map. And what better time to be there than with titan's reconditioned star making machine working over time to create new heroes for the new breed of fan? Then again, Al's first proper rivalry with Jeff Jarrett should serve as a poignant reminder that no matter how many times you repackage someone, some people are just destined to never make it.
At 35 years of age, Al must be coming to the final furlong of his career. If he doesn't step up the pace now, he never will. His oddball tandem with top line fruitcake Mankind seemed to be a step in the right direction, but they then crashed to the NAO and The Oddities. At press time, he'd just recruited Scorpio and Hardcore Holly into The J.O.B. Squad. Will this succeed, or like most insider orientated jokes, will it simply fly over most fans' heads?
Whatever the outcome, the case of Al Snow, a talented, intelligent, articulate man who dedicated his adult life to pro-wrestling but had to resort to pretending to hear voices from a mannequin's Head in order to catch a bog standard break, is one that should be replayed to aspiring bone benders everywhere for years to come.