Though known by several aliases over a successful mat career, Lawrence “Mike” Rotunda always exhibited skill and a signature athletic style as a WWE and WCW fixture through several decades. The Syracuse graduate was a top amateur wrestler, and even parlayed that background into a gimmick during the late 1980s as “captain” of The Varsity Club, an NWA heel stable consisting of fellow former collegiate standouts like Steve “Dr. Death” Williams and Rick Steiner. Following a popular stint as a WWE fan favorite in tag-team action with real-life brother-in-law Barry Windham and also Dan Spivey, Rotunda found success in singles’ matches in the Crockett promotion via the elitist roughneck role, shedding his affable “good guy” image.
Not long after the break-up of that contingent, an impeccably dressed Rotunda competed in-ring as financial maven Michael Wallstreet, founding member of the York Foundation, his guise a take-off on the greed-driven Gordon Gekko movie character played by Michael Douglas. This unusual and elaborate characterization was ahead of its time for showcasing the alleged use of computer analytics as a technique in how to defeat rivals. However, in 1991, the WWE beckoned again, this time with a curious twist on his money-predicated persona.
Rotunda quickly resurfaced convincingly in a campy manner as angry auditor Irwin R. Schyster (IRS), the scourge of the company’s “tax cheats.” Working in an accountant’s attire instead of traditional gear, he was still very fluid in action. After an initially strong solo run, he joined forces with “Million-Dollar” Man Ted DiBiase to form Money, Inc., a smooth-working duo challenged by the likes of The Legion of Doom, The Natural Disasters and The Steiners. Money, Inc. won the tag team titles on three occasions before DiBiase’s injury-oriented retirement. Rotundo’s IRS was subsequently booked into a major “death vs taxes” feud with The Undertaker before electing to rejoin WCW, where he’d be reprising the Wallstreet character.
During the final stretch of his U.S. tenure in the mid-to-late 90s, Rotunda appeared in assorted contexts, sometimes as a member of the hot nWo faction, and later reviving previous gimmicks like The Varsity Club. He then spent the better part of five years working for promotions in Japan until 2003. Next, a WWE homecoming brought new responsibilities as a road agent, though he also made a few cameo televised appearances in the time since. To the younger fan base, he may be better known as the dad of Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. But such notoriety should not detract from his impressive record as both a champion singles and tag performer through his prime for not just the two major organizations, but the AWA and Florida territory as well. Despite various incarnations, Mike Rotunda was clearly recognizable as a winner.
- Kenneth Mihalik