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Few men epitomise the struggles of the WWF in 1995 more than "King Mabel" (Nelson Frazier Jr.). And believe me, there's a long list of people queuing to take that crown – Diesel, Bam Bam Bigelow, Shane Douglas, Owen Hart, Yokozuna, Bob Backlund, Lex Luger and more! But what makes Mabel's struggles stand out so much, unlike the others, was that he didn't struggle because he wasn't pushed properly, he struggled because he was pushed in the first place.
It's no secret that Vince McMahon has almost a fetish for wrestlers with "size". Before the steroid trial in 1994 this manifested itself as a preference for guys with extreme musculature – see Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior as two of the biggest examples. As the circus of the steroid trial came to town in the early 1990s, this emphasis moved away, but McMahon still had his thing for bigger, larger than life wrestlers.
Who took over from Hogan as Champion in 1993? Yokozuna. There was nobody on earth that looked less like he was on steroids than Yoko – he was the perfect guy to have on top, even if the company did work very hard to get Lex Luger over. Once Luger failed, and Yokozuna passed the title to Bret Hart, the next man groomed for top spot was Diesel. Not fat, not overly muscly by 1990s standards, but Kevin Nash is a big dude.
All of those names mentioned had their positives and negatives. Yokozuna had fantastic facial expressions and, in the early half of his run, excellent agility for a man of his gurth. Luger's positives need closer attention, but he was the closest resemblance to Hogan. As for Diesel, his run alongside Shawn Michaels in 1994 threatened to inject some big "cool factor" into a company that desperately needed it. That all being said, once the WWF turned him face it quickly began to overexpose two of his biggest negatives – he couldn't talk like Hogan, and his size meant it was difficult to believe him selling over long periods in main event matches as a babyface.
All of those guys had positives and negatives – where Mabel comes in, it's hard to see the former. Mabel was big – whatever direction you go in. Not far off Diesel's 6ft 10 in height, and well over 400 lbs, Mabel was not a Vader or a Bam Bam Bigelow, he was just a big guy. While that was isolated as part of a tag team alongside Mo and Oscar that worked – Mabel could work short bursts, showing off his arsenal of big moves without 1) needing to sell and 2) blowing up physically.
But come 1995, and once Diesel had run through Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart – two guys who were both good enough to get good matches out of the champion, even if they were both also faces – Vince McMahon needed to find new challengers for him. He first went to Psycho Sid. Sid Vicious came in as Shawn Michaels' bodyguard – but once Michaels turned face earlier than expected Sid was shot into a feud with Big Daddy Cool that, in all honesty, was horrible.
In that time Vince had caught onto his next idea – giving Mabel the King Of The Ring crown. This was King of the Ring at a time where it still meant something. Bret Hart won it in 1993, Owen Hart won it in 1994. Both were challenging for the WWF title within 12 months of winning the crown. 1995 had bought the introduction of monthly pay per views – the winner of the King of the Ring was the perfect guy to face the champ.
So Mabel was moved into a singles act (Oscar left, Mo became his manager). Then showcased one of the most horrid pay per views in company history. King Of The Ring 1995 had nothing going for it – once Razor Ramon was ruled out with injury and he was replaced by Savio Vega (who wrestled four times on that show), it was off to a bad start.
Mabel faced Undertaker in the quarter final, of course he did. Undertaker was no stranger to being put in the ring with horrible opponents. Worse still, Mabel won, even if it did include the help of Kama. We were spared Mabel wrestling three times in one night, Shawn Michaels and Kama themselves went to a time limit draw, so Mabel went straight to the final, where he faced Vega.
Now, OK, this isn’t the worst wrestling match of all time. It was close, mind. After the show we’d seen so far, and Savio Vega on his fourth outing of the evening (Vega himself had been a character for about a month at this stage on TV), things were starting to drag. Mabel, because he’s blowing up, locks in an incredibly long bear hug, before hitting a splash for the clean win. Mabel is the King, long live the king.
The company wasted little time getting Mabel prepared for the main event. At the second In Your House show, Mabel was one of thirty lumberjacks in the main event of the triology of Diesel vs Sid. Mabel attacked Diesel on the outside during the match starting the catalyst for their match in the Summerslam main event in August.
The original plan for Summerslam called for Diesel vs Mabel and Sid vs Razor Ramon as the two biggest matches on the card. The company, concerned at the feedback over the recent run of poor pay per views, were worried that the lack of work rate in those two top matches would see them have another poor show. So Shawn Michaels was subbed in to replace Sid, and he and Razor would have another ladder match, following up from their match of the year in 1994.
But the change didn’t go far enough. Now, of course, the best course would’ve been to go with another opponent entirely but, if they insisted on going with Diesel vs Mabel, then surely they would’ve let Razor and Shawn go on last. It’s not like the company didn’t have previous when it came to not putting the title on last, Bret Hart wrestled three consecutive pay per views as Champion in 1994 – he didn’t main event any of them.
But Diesel vs Mabel was to go on last. The show up until this stage was actually one of the best WWF PPV efforts to date, with an oddly receptive crowd that even got into the match involving Skip and Barry Horrowitz. Michaels and Razor tore the house down in a match where they weren’t even allowed to use the ladder as a weapon. Then came the main event.
The match as you’d expect was horrible. Diesel was in his big guy selling role – although early in the match Mabel basically sat on the base of his spine, a move that it’s said Diesel told Mabel explicity not to do, and one that could’ve caused the champion far more damage than it even did. It summed up a match that went nowhere, featured a confusing interference from Lex Luger right before his departure to WCW.
For Mabel it was the beginning of the end. Vince McMahon wasn’t happen, and it’s said he was ready to fire him after the match until Diesel, of all people, talked him out of it. Mabel grew a track record of injuring people – he broke Undertaker’s orbital bone less than two months later. By Wrestlemania the following year he was gone from the company.