The Big Valbowski is, he says, a lot like the Rubik’s cube. The more you play with him, the harder he gets.
Hmm! I shall warn you now: that’s more or less the level of character we’re dealing with. The WWF has never been the most bashful of organisations, but never has it been so controversial as the days of Val Venis. Think ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude turned up to eleven and tailored to the nineties product. Naturally, he’s a porn star; his debut was hyped on this premise, supplementing a series of risqué vignettes before he’d eventually turn up in the crowd, bearing a sign that read “I have come”. The next week, he’d storm the ring with a skin-coloured SuperSoaker and blast everyone with a curious white fluid.
As an active wrestler, the lewdness would continue in much the same vein. He’d strut his way down to the ring in his towel, treating us to a gyration or two before grabbing a microphone and smothering the crowd with more innuendo than you can, well, shake a stick at:
“I came, I saw… and then I came again!”
“The Big Valbowski may not yet be the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, however, he is most definitely the biggest!”
“While Halley’s comet only comes once every seventy-six years, The Big Valbowski comes on command!”
At which point, of course, the crowd would go crazy for him. It was a shamelessly one-dimensional gimmick, at least in terms of what was done with it, but the reaction of the people proved his popularity beyond any doubt. It helped that he was also a solid performer, so once the ‘romance’ was out of the way, there was normally a decent contest to follow. He had several championship reigns, and really was a greatly entertaining ‘mid-card’ wrestler – his feud with Rikishi over the summer of 2000 was one of the highlights of the period, and I assure you, that’s nothing at all do with Val cutting his hair and donning white trunks.
For a gimmick that had run its course within a year or two – some would say much quicker! – it’s incredible to think how much the WWF got out of it. It became a bankable go-to character for Sean Morley. They tried a number of times to repackage him, some personas the very antithesis of Venis, but none were nearly so memorable nor successful. It was inevitable that the towel and cheap pops would be back before long.
The problem was, though, that the industry has changed almost beyond recognition by this point. The WWF of the nineties was all but gone, times had changed – the gimmick simply could not be allowed to play out as it did back then. This resulted in a rather watered down, restricted version of Val Venis which fared less well, even with his mic work and matches as strong as ever. But, on that, The Big Valbowski in his pomp shall ever remain a piece of that ‘Attitude Era’, a time when the WWF was crazy, brash, and, for its faults, totally unpredictable. A time when it was doing the business, probably better than even Venis himself could boast!