It seems a bit old hat by now, but it's a shame WWE has never been able to elevate the talented Shelton Benjamin to a more deserving position on its roster.
Benjamin is one of the finest pure athletes in the industry, and that covers a lot of ground, but the Orangeburg native seems destined to remain mired in mid-card territory almost seven years after signing a full-time contract with WWE.
Officials in the company readily concede that Benjamin is as gifted an athlete as anyone on the roster. That's before they add that his inability to cut an effective, compelling promo is the reason he's not headlining shows.
A few years ago current TNA star and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle said Benjamin was missing that "X factor." He possessed all the athletic skills, Angle said of the two-time college All-American, but he somehow needed to be "more real," and "let that energy and that character come out a little more."
The reality is that Benjamin is a very funny and engaging individual - outside the ring.
He just hasn't had the best material in the world to work with on camera. And it's not for a lack of self-confidence.
"I don't think I'm going to do too much more improving wrestling-wise. I can do anything and everything at the tip of a hat. But fans still don't know how to relate to me," the former Orangeburg-Wilkinson High and University of Minnesota standout once confided. "They never really hear me talking. They know I'm a great athlete and they know I'm a great wrestler. But they really don't know what type of personality I really have. That's a big hindrance in my career until I get that aspect across to them so people can relate to me and buy into who I am."
That's been easier said than done. So far.
And one of the problems is that the WWE writing team consistently puts the 32-year-old performer in either awkward storylines without a future or portrays him as a character he really doesn't seem comfortable with.
In the bygone days of old-school wrestling managers, Benjamin might have been a great candidate for a mouthpiece to do his talking. Or, better yet, he could have emerged as the black version of a latter-day Sting-like character, keeping his promos to a minimum while letting his action in the ring do the talking for him.
His new gig on the ECW brand doesn't seem to offer much hope for upward mobility.
Hopefully someday Benjamin will get the chance to really shine. And the WWE creative team will have done its job.
- Brian Christopher, son of WWE commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler, entered a guilty plea to a public intoxication charge last Monday in Jackson, Tenn., where several days earlier he had been arrested outside of a convenience store.
Christopher, 37, was ordered to pay a $50 fine and must attend 30 days at a rehabilitation facility.
A store employee said Christopher fell over a cooler placed outside, and was belligerent to police once arrested.
This was Lawler's second arrest in 2009, as he had been arrested in February for disorderly conduct.
Christopher, whose real name is Brian Lawler, has been wrestling since 1988. As Grandmaster Sexay, he formed a popular tag team with Scotty 2 Hotty (Scott Garland) as Too Cool during the mid-'90s. He was released from the company in 2001. He returned to WWE in 2004 for a month before he was cut once again.
- Rowdy Roddy Piper was arrested at 1 a.m. Thursday in Hollywood on suspicion of DUI.
The 55-year-old Piper, whose real name is Roderick Toombs, was stopped by police, given a field sobriety test and then arrested. He was released from a Los Angeles county jail Thursday morning on $5,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles court on July 23 to be assessed his penalty for the misdemeanor violation.
Piper claimed in an interview that WWE recently had contacted him about returning for a storyline on Raw or Smackdown.
- Child abuse charges against former pro wrestler and Hillsborough County (Fla.) Commissioner B. Brian Blair have been dropped.
Blair, 52, was arrested on Father's Day and charged with several counts of child abuse following a 4 a.m. incident with his two teen-aged sons. He spent the night in the county jail before being released on his own recognizance.
Prosecutors decided that Blair's 17-year-old son instigated the scrape, and that Blair was only disciplining his sons for breaking curfew. Florida law allows parents to use corporal punishment to discipline children as long as it isn't excessive.
It was determined that Blair took the brunt of the injuries in the scuffle with sons Brett, 17, and Bradley, 14. The former wrestler suffered a tear of his earlobe, swelling to his face and large swelling and bruising to his chest, and redness and abrasions to his back and redness to his forearms.
The Blair boys weren't seriously hurt and had minor bruises and injuries, according to authorities.
"I'd like to thank the State Attorney's Office for their diligence in this case, for their wisdom, for their knowledge, for their understanding, for the way that they analyzed the entire situation before they made a decision," Blair said at a press conference Thursday.
"I didn't hit my children, even though it says that," Blair said. "I did not hit my child."
Blair said he hadn't seen his sons in 10 days, and that they were vacationing with wife Toni.
Blair, best known for his mid-'80s tag team with Jim Brunzell as The Killer Bees, was elected Hillsborough County Commissioner in 2004. He did not win his bid for re-election.
- Two Lucha mini performers were found dead Monday in a Mexico City motel. The minis, who were 35-year-old twin brothers, worked as La Parkita and Espectrito, real names Alberto and Alejando Jimenez.
Authorities believe the two midget wrestlers picked up a pair of prostitutes and took them to a hotel room where the brothers allegedly were drugged and robbed. Officials say tainted drugs spiked with a mixture of alcohol and eye drops, commonly used date rape drinks, ended up killing them.
Post-mortems are being performed on the pair. Authorities say two women were seen leaving the men's hotel room before the bodies were discovered.
- WWE will return to the North Charleston Coliseum on July 18 with a Smackdown show.
Tentative top bouts include Jeff Hardy vs. Edge, and a Fatal Four-Way with Christian, Finlay, Jack Swagger and Tommy Dreamer for the ECW crown. Others on the bill include C.M. Punk, Great Khali, John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin, Vladimir Kozlov, Evan Bourne and WWE divas Gail Kim, Melina, Natalya and Maria.
- Old School Championship Wrestling will hold a show July 19 at Weekend's Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek.
Tag Team Wars 4 will feature a tag tournament including former WWE star Scotty 2 Hotty joining forces with OSCW fan favorite Josh Magnum. Also on the bill is a Universal title match between current champ Johnny Blaze and Chris Mayne.
Bell time is 6 p.m. Doors open at 5. Adult admission is $10; kids 12 and under $5.
For more information, visit www.oscwonline.com or call 743-4800.
Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at 937-6000, ext. 3090.