Weight: 7 lb
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Glory Days: June – August 1992
Fun Fact: Rocco actually made his debut at a house show but was introduced as ‘Freckles’, despite him not actually having any freckles. Reports claim that the gimmick bombed with the live crowd, yet the company still went ahead and wrote it into a TV storyline.
We’ve all heard about the proverbial ‘school of hard knocks’. Well, as with all schools it has a faculty of staff and one of the teachers there is a puppet called Rocco. Bear with me here because a couple of Rocco’s former pupils just so happened to be Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal; The Legion of Doom (LOD). The scary thing is, I am not totally bullshitting here. This was, kind of, how Rocco was introduced to us wrestling fans.
Back on the June 27th 1992 episode of Superstars, Paul Ellering took LOD back to their roots in order to get them back on track. I’m not sure exactly why because having spent two years in the WWF, they had lost just once and had a six-month run as tag team champions. Anyway, back to their roots they went and it would appear they lay buried in a demolition site. Two things immediately struck me during this segment, 1; why were these guys allowed to just wander through what was clearly a demolition/construction site? 2; Hawk and Animal did not wear street clothes, apparently they wore their tights and shoulder pads wherever they went. Back to the segment and after some rambling from all three men about how shit their former stomping ground had become – no shit lads, it’s a demolition site – Ellering uncovered a surprisingly well-preserved body. It was of course Rocco the ventriloquist puppet, only this was not made immediately clear. Instead, Ellering held the limp body in his arms, it’s face pointed away from the camera, while Animal exclaimed that it was their old “buddy”. Thankfully he went on to compare Rocco to a wrestling buddy which kids in 1992 were encouraged to wrestle with, rather than their friends or siblings. It would appear that Rocco helped to teach a young Hawk and young Animal about right and wrong by means of letting them beat the shit out of him. From here the three agreed to fix up Rocco and bring him wherever they went, to remind them of their roots.
A couple of weeks later, Rocco made his debut at ringside with LOD. He appeared to have been given a quick wash with a wet-wipe and some dashing new threads. Essentially, he was a puppet version of Danny Zuko from Grease, complete with an Elvis-esque snarl expression. Being a ventriloquist puppet, he of course had some things do say. Problem was, it was never entirely clear what he was saying because Paul wasn’t a very good (or enthusiastic) ventriloquist. Look out for Ellering being cropped from the shot every time Rocco speaks to the camera.
As you may have guessed, Rocco bombed, badly. The overwhelming majority of the blame lies at the feet of the idea itself, which was supposedly the brainchild of Vince McMahon. It was a two-fold idea; a merchandising opportunity and a way of softening Animal and Hawk to a younger audience. I know what you’re thinking, why do two of the companies most popular characters need to be softened when clearly kids like them just the way they are? Answers on a postcard with that one. The other, much smaller, fraction of the blame for Rocco not getting over can probably be attributed to LOD themselves. To put it mildly, the guys fucking hated the gimmick for all the same reasons the fans did. Gimmicks that are not fully embraced very rarely get out of the starting blocks. See the Red Rooster for a prominent example of that.
Rocco’s final, and most notable, appearance in the company came at Summerslam on August 31st at Wembley stadium in London. Making a badass entrance on motorbikes and wearing gold shoulder pads, LOD’s style was well and truly cramped by the presence of Rocco on Paul Ellering’s handlebars. This was a notable appearance for all concerned because we would not see LOD on WWE television for another five years. Hawk reportedly enjoyed himself a little too much in London and did not travel home with everyone else. Hawk’s ‘fuck it’ attitude reportedly stemmed from his displeasure with the team’s creative direction i.e. Rocco. Hawk was released and replaced by Crush as Animal’s partner in order to fulfil the remaining European dates of the tour. They also tagged a couple of times once they landed back in North America. Animal quit the company shortly afterwards with a back injury. As for Rocco, Animal has said that, like Hawk, the infamous puppet did not make it back home after Summerslam either.
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