FeaturesThis article was originally published on October 31, 2011 and has been re-edited and re-written to make it suck less (don’t worry I wrote the original, so I’m not punching anyone’s dignity in the face…except mine). For the original article in its entirety, visit Pro Wrestling Nostalgia.
In the time before the Monday Night Wars pro wrestling television was a largely mundane affair, with most shows being one hour commercials for their upcoming pay per views and arena events. Not wanting to give away their big matches for free companies relied on “squash matches”, quick non-competitive bouts where the name wrestler would showcase his moves for two minutes on an opponent whose sole purpose in the contest was to make the “money” guy look good. These bottom rung competitors were known as “jobbers” or “enhancement talent”. If you followed a promotion for a long enough time, these men became familiar and household names in and of themselves and in the World Wrestling Federation there was perhaps no “enhancement talent” better known than Barry Horowitz.
Although an accomplished wrestler on the independent scene, when the cameras rolled on a WWF show it was Horowitz’s job to take the punishment and either lay down for the three count or submit quickly to his opponent’s “devestating” submission hold. But Horowitz had what most of the other enhancement talents lacked: personality. Horowitz played the “heel” persona brilliantly and had the gimmick of patting himself on the back in a smug fashion (he even went so far as to wear a ring jacket with a giant hand on the back, just in case you weren’t paying attention and couldn’t pick up the cues). Through out the late 80’s and early 90’s, if a wrestler was needing to look good Horowitz was called in and he became a weekly fixture. But no matter how good at his job he was, it seemed like he was never going to get a break. But in 1995, Horowitz’s loyalty and hard work finally paid off.
The World Wrestling Federation has had many questionable years while in operation, but 1995 is widely considered to be its worst quality-wise. Every wrestler had a cartoonish gimmick, be it a clown, a trash man, an aristocrat, a retired hockey player, etc. The WWF was finally living up to being the circus that many had criticized it as since the 1980’s. With the roster depleted of talent (thanks to the deep pockets of WCW, owned by media mogul Ted Turner), the company was throwing whatever it thought of against the wall to see if it would stick. And that meant that finally, after years of being a loser, Horowitz was going to get his chance.
1995 saw the debut of The Bodydonnas, two fitness-obsessed heels named Skip (the late Chris Candido) and his valet Sunny (Tammy Sytch, widely considered to be the archetype of the modern WWE Diva). The two would come out week to week making fun of all the out of shape people in the audience and the enhancement talent they wrestled against. On the July 7th edition of WWF Action Zone, one of the many smaller shows centered around Monday Night Raw, Skip went up against Horowitz who was working as a face for this match. As expected, Skip had total control of the match and the finish seemed inevitable. Until…
(for a way better quality version, check this out on Daily Motion, who I apparently can’t embed here)
As Skip arrogantly started doing push-ups in the center of the ring, Horowitz came to his senses and rolled him up. 1…2…3! He had done it! After years of losing to every wrestler under the sun, Horowitz had finally did it! The crowd went crazy and Jim Ross (a man who can make any match legendary) gleefully screamed “HOROWITZ WINS! HOROWITZ WINS!” as Horowitz jumped up and down in shock/excitement. Naturally Skip was beside himself and demanded a rematch for Summerslam 1995, marking Horowitz’s PPV debut. A much longer and even affair, Horowitz managed to pull out the win once again to the joy of the crowd. From then on, Horowitz moved up a rung and became more of a threat, scoring wins over other mid to low-card wrestlers. Was this the beginning of a Horowitz mega push? Would he break out of the mid-card for once and for all? Could we be saying “And NEW WWF World Heavyweight Champion Barry Horowitz”?!? Unfortunately that would never come to pass.
Horowitz’s star fell just as quickly as it rose. Now cemented as a babyface, Horowitz couldn’t go on being the “cocky loser who pats himself on the back”. So this being 1995-era WWF he was given a brand new gimmick: that of a Jewish nerd. Outside of the ring, he wore giant glasses and a pocket protector to give him the stereotypical “Jewish Accountant” look. To make it even worse when he was finally given an entrance theme, one of the way you know you’ve made, it ended up being a cheesy take on “Hava Nagila”. Because he’s Jewish you see.
As 1995 continued on, Horowitz was paired off with a Japanese wrestler named Hakushi who had made a splash with his matches against superstar Bret Hart earlier that year. Hakushi was turned into a babyface, with Horowitz playing the mentor hell-bent on “Americanizing” him. Stereotypes and racism; sometimes it’s hard to defend pro wrestling. The two became a tag team and lost much more than they won and soon enough Horowitz became enhancement talent once again, albeit one with a theme song this time.
Eventually Horowitz left the WWF and showed up in WCW in 1998. Horowitz reverted back to his heel character and became a fixture on all WCW programming. He still lost his fair share of matches, but this time he wasn’t just enhancement talent as he came out on the winning end more times in the company than he did in the WWF. Nowadays Horowitz makes occasional appearances at wrestling events, but is for all intents and purposes retired.
The brief push of Barry Horowitz is one of the few jewels in the crap that was 1995-era WWF and looking back on it, it’s a heartwarming story. Here was this journeyman who after years of being the one everyone beat to look better, the WWF finally gave him a shot to shine. Horowitz was finally given his chance. And although it was marred quickly by the horrible babyface “Jewish nerd” gimmick and his ill-fated team with Hakushi, it still doesn’t erase the fact for a few brief months, the WWF’s most recognizable enhancement talent was finally allowed to break the glass ceiling. And that, my friends, deserves a pat on the back.