Weight: 270 lb
Hometown: Somewhere in Italy
Glory Days: 1996-1998
Fun Fact: Tom ‘Salvatore Sincere’ Brandi previously wrestled as Johnny Gunn. As Gunn, he tagged with Tom Zenk in WCW and won the ECW Tag Titles alongside Tommy Dreamer.
Over the years WWE has produced some great, some good and some rubbish characters. The good and the great are remembered fondly and as such are even recognisable to younger fans through the legend and nostalgia that has grown around these performers. Even the crapper characters from WWE’s past are considered memorable by most due to WWE’s subsequent admission, and often celebration, of their ridiculousness; see pretty much every other Icon of Wrestling for examples of this. Today, however, we introduce a rare exception to this rule. Today we celebrate a performer who, unless you watched WWE very closely between 1996 and 1998, you will be left wondering ‘who the hell is that?!’. Yes, today we induct Salvatore Sincere into the Icons of Wrestling Hall of Shame.
Allegedly hailing from Italy, Sal made his debut in June 1996 against Dan Jesser. Prior to defeating the local enhancement worker with an impressive looking Full Nelson Bomb, Sincere cut a promo proclaiming his “love” for the fans, which he meant “sincerely”. The pink-clad grappler sounded anything but sincere, thus hammering home his one-dimensional gimmick, just in case the penny had not already dropped. Basically, think Brother Love with a bad Italian accent and you have Sal Sincere.
Sal’s next outing saw him defeated on Monday Night Raw by The Undertaker before bouncing back with victories over Aldo Montoya, Savio Vega and Bob Holly. Sadly for Sal, it was all downhill from there. His only other televised victory after this initial flurry came against Alex ‘The Pug’ Porteau on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night from February 1997.
So what happened? Why did his promising start not amount to anything? Believe it or not, the Salvatore Sincere experiment did go according to plan because the untrustworthy Italian’s purpose in WWE was to lose. You may be familiar with the likes of TL Hopper, Freddy Joe Floyd and The Goon. These were ridiculous gimmicks handed to seasoned professionals who were hired in the mid-90s to bolster WWE’s roster and make the ‘real stars’ look good. Their job was to, erm, do the job. However, unlike traditional jobbers these guys would not only be given gimmicks but occasionally be afforded victories, albeit against each other or actual jobbers. Well, Sal was one of these guys and being a native of Philadelphia he was on hand to do more jobs than most given that WWE’s home territory was the North East.
If such a thing exists, then Sal Sincere’s most memorable moment came right at the end of the character’s life. On the December 8th 1997 episode of Raw, Sal was scheduled to face Marc Mero. Before the bout The Marvellous One called Sincere “a jobber” before outing him as journeyman wrestler Tom Brandi. Without missing a beat, on commentary JR ad-libbed a line about Mero being “a baaaaad man”, which would have been the highlight of this segment had Mero not ordered his “property” to come to the ring. He was referring to Sable, who came out wearing a potato sack, per Mero’s orders. Sable soon found her way out of said potato sack to create an iconic Attitude Era visual. The sight of his wife wearing very little did not please Mero who berated Sable until our man, Sal, came to the rescue and drop-kicked The Marvellous One over the top rope. The following week (taped the day after this angle) Sal Sincere was no more with Brandi now wrestling under his real name. Again, it was a promising start to this new chapter in his career because Tom managed to defeat The Sultan – who was still a thing in late ’97, apparently. The explanation for the gimmick change was that Brandi had portrayed the character of Sal Sincere because he thought that is what he needed to do to succeed in WWE. Having not succeeded, Brandi’s new gimmick was that of a fiery babyface who was being true to himself; this time he really was being sincere.
Somewhat ironically, Tom Brandi proved even less successful than Salvatore Sincere. Following his victory over The Sultan, Brandi defeated a random jobber on Shotgun before returning to his losing ways. He even lost (albeit by disqualification) his one-on-one match with Marc Mero on the December 30th Raw. Worse still, he saw his chances of hooking up with damsel in distress, Sable, disappear too. It was Stone Cold Steve Austin who caused the DQ in this match by attacking Mero. Afterwards, Steve exchanged glances with Sable in what was the first, and possibly only, interaction between the most popular man and the most popular woman in the company during the Attitude Era. This is often cited as a memorable moment that did not actually amount to anything but what nobody remembers is that it occurred during a Tom Brandi match. Yep, Tom’s thunder was well and truly stolen here.
Brandi quietly returned to his modest placement on the card in 1998 before quietly leaving the company in April. His final highlight – if we can call it that – was making his one and only pay per view appearance by entering the Royal Rumble at number three. He lasted twelve seconds and was eliminated by Chainsaw Charlie and Cactus Jack.
After leaving WWE, Brandi hit the independent circuit using both his real name and the Sal Sincere gimmick. Controversially, he also wrestled under a mask as The Patriot. Apparently he did so without the blessing of the real Patriot, Del Wilkes. Wilkes has accused Brandi of not only stealing his gimmick but stealing his identity. I guess insincerity is a habit that dies hard for Mr. Brandi.
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