[Tribeca] Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana! Shows Why Some Wrestling Gimmicks Succeed and Others Fail

The Inadvertent Creation of a Heel Through an Awful Gimmick

Which brings me back, finally, to Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana. Our heel in the film and on the dive bar stage is a guy named Paul, but he begins the movie as a babyface.

Paul upbringing was troubled. His mother was a neglectful alcoholic, and he’s spent much of his adulthood scrimping and saving to pay off the house he grew up in and lead a normal life. Paul, a natural loner whose demeanor recalls a brooding Michael Keaton, talks about riding his bike around Seattle and picking up spare change wherever he spotted it on the road or in drive-thrus. His house was paid for in part with this money—there’s a value in what other people have lost or discarded.

The SSP roster prides itself on being this family of outcasts. The documentary recounts other struggles by SSP wrestlers to settle in Seattle, find a community, build something they can care about. Josh Black, who wrestles as Ronald McFondle, declares that SSP is inclusive and accepts everyone, like an Island of Misfit Toys in the Pacific Northwest.

It would seem like SSP would be a perfect fit for an outsider like Paul, but the personalities never mesh.

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Paul, who’s built like he could wrestle on the indie circuit, probably expected SSP to be something more like Ring of Honor (ROH) or Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) (i.e., a more legit/athletic wrestling promotion). Instead, it’s comedy cabaret show. It doesn’t help that Paul is straight-edge because of his mother’s alcohol abuse while everyone else at SSP hangs out in bars.

There’s a sense that the members of the SSP roster get to design their own gimmick in a way that best fits/complements their personality. While Black is introverted in real life, the Ronald McFondle persona gives him the confidence to perform because he believes in the gimmick. Paul doesn’t seem to have any say in his gimmick, so they stick him in a banana costume and call him The Banana and expect him to be zany. Paul isn’t naturally wacky or comfortable with being wacky, so they give him a sidekick, The Second Banana, who dances to that Buckwheat Boyz song.

The SSP clique call Paul awkward. In an interview with one of the SSP crew, he talks about seeing Paul riding his bike looking for change. He calls Paul a loser. Another SSP guys calls him an asshole. Yet another SSP guy admits that the banana gimmick was a “rib” (practical joke) on Paul. Even among outsiders, there’s a pecking order; even among misfits, there’s always someone lower on the totem pole. Someone is always the butt of a joke rather than in on the joke.

SSP lets Paul go. And then just when you start feeling bad for Paul for being an outcast among the outcasts, he acts like a total asshole. In the process, Paul becomes the perfect heel.

Hubert Vigilla

Hubert Vigilla is a writer living in Brooklyn, which makes him completely indistinguishable from four-fifths of people living in Brooklyn.

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