Icons of Wrestling #22 – Akeem

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43_One-Man-Gang-Akeem-04

Jamie Lithgow

Height: 6’9″
Weight: 450 lbs
Hometown: Deepest, Darkest Africa
Glory Days: 1988 – 1990
Fun Fact: The Twin Towers only televised defeat in a 2 vs. 2 tag team match came against The Mega Powers on ‘The Main Event’ in February 1989. It was after this match that Macho Man turned on Hulk Hogan to set up the main event for Wrestlemania V.


Bio:
If you wanted to parody ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes by creating ‘The African Dream’, who would you cast in the role? Yeah, I would pick The One Man Gang too. As silly as it sounds though, this is the alleged origin of the Akeem character; another inside joke directed towards Dusty Rhodes.

The One Man Gang – real name George Gray – entered WWE in 1987 as a big nasty biker, managed by ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick. Gang would generally either flatten jobbers and low-card acts, or lay down for top tier talent like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Having plateaued as a beatable giant, Gang was repackaged as a beatable giant in a bright yellow dashiki.

Professional wrestling has a long history of attempting to pass off performers with identical faces and bodies as different people. Thankfully, if nothing else, this fate did not befall The One Man Gang/Akeem. The fact that Akeem started appearing in WWE just a few weeks after The One Man Gang stopped appearing was not treated as a mere coincidence. For in September 1988 a miraculous transformation occurred, which shook the very foundations of the wrestling world…. well, according to Slick anyway. In a pre-taped vignette, Mean Gene caught up with Slick in a poorly lit backstreet. Some African tribal dancers danced around for a bit before The Slickster introduced the world to Akeem; The African Dream. Mean Gene immediately recognised this large, white, man as The One Man Gang. However, from that day forward Slick – and Akeem himself – declared that he would no longer be referred to by that name.

Billed from “Deepest, Darkest Africa” while speaking in Jive talk, wearing a dashiki and perpetually dancing; the racial stereotyping of Akeem was not subtle. At best the character was massively inappropriate and at worst it was straight up offensive. In hindsight, a 6’9″ white guy pretending to be a jive talking African-American is so far beyond ridiculous that one cannot help but to laugh. In fact, that’s how many people reacted to him at the time.  Despite this, the gimmick still got over… somehow.

Forming an alliance with The Big Boss Man at the 1988 Survivor Series, the pair would be called ‘The Twin Towers’ – on account of their ample proportions. While the Towers never held the WWE Tag Team Titles, they were consistently positioned as one of the premier teams in the company. In fact, they were regular opponents for ‘The Mega Powers’ prior to their split. It was actually against The Towers that Miss Elizabeth took the tumble leading to Macho Man’s heel turn on Hulk Hogan.

Throughout 1989 The Towers maintained a relatively high profile, despite the break-up of their primary rivals. However, it was the Big Boss Man whose star shone brighter, and it was he would be more frequently booked against WWE Champion Hulk Hogan. To make matters worse, guess who debuted in WWE in the summer of 1989? Yes, the very man who Akeem was allegedly a parody of; Dusty Rhodes.

Booked on opposing teams at the 1989 Survivor Series, a score could have been settled between the two – had Akeem not been replaced at the last minute by Bad News Brown. Besides, that score had already been settled at ‘Wrestling Challenge’ the previous week. ‘The American Dream’ defeated ‘The African Dream’, demonstrating that WWE was not big enough for the both of them.

In early 1990 The Big Boss Man turned face on Akeem, and Slick, before moving his career forward as a singles star. Having lost to his former partner at Wrestlemania VI, Akeem slipped down the card to the point where he was jobbing to Tito Santana and only picking up wins against jobbers. By the end of September 1990 George Gray had completed another cycle in WWE as a beatable giant who had slipped down, and eventually off, the card. He would revert to his One Man Gang gimmick before signing with WCW in 1991.


All previous ‘Icons of Wrestling’ can be read here.

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5 thoughts on “Icons of Wrestling #22 – Akeem

  1. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2015 week 29 | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. Pingback: From Killer to Comedian: When the WWE Waves the White Flag | Ring the Damn Bell

  3. One of the best things to come out of this was Jive Soul Bro, one of my favourite entrance themes in wrestling, it just fitted Akeem so well that it ended up being one of the big charm points of it.

    Like

  4. Loved the Akeem character! Heck, I bought his action figure as a kid(The WWF Hasbro one). Him and Boss Man were great in the tag team Twin Towers.

    Like

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