WWE it markets itself as a sports-entertainment genre, and to its credit, that genre helped the company become a global phenomenon. One of the ways WWE was able to garner mainstream success was by using larger-than-life characters as its main attractions, as the concept of characters has become one of the most essential aspects of the professional wrestling industry. . However, there have been plenty of cases where certain characters who are just too goofy made their way onto prime-time TV, characters making promoters look bad in the process. One of those characters was the infamous gimmick of TL Hopper in 1996, WWE’s resident plumber and one of the worst characters in that company’s history.
The ridiculous over-the-top gimmicks of WWE’s next-gen era
It’s no secret that WWE was trying to find its groove in the early to mid 1990s, especially with stiff competition from World Championship Wrestling. Although WWE finally surpassed the competition with the launch of the Attitude Era in 1997, highlighting a crop of successful talent, it doesn’t change the fact that the company had questionable characters showing up on TV before this.
During WWE’s next generation era, the company came up with a roster of goofy characters that didn’t present WWE in the best light. And while certain characters didn’t come off as the best acts, the general silliness of these characters didn’t make WWE look good in regards to their creative reserve.
One of those characters who didn’t even get a chance to smell the WWE Championship was the crazy TL Hopper, arguably one of the worst gimmicks in WWE history. Because TL Hopper was short-lived and no one expected that character to achieve any success, some fans may not know much about the “TL Hopper” gimmick or the wrestler who plays the character.
Tony Anthony’s pre-WWE background in professional wrestling
Those who grew up during the 1980s and 1990s and watched Jim Cornette’s United States Wrestling Association and Smoky Mountain Wrestling may be familiar with the name Tony Anthony, the man who ultimately pulled off the “TL Hopper” gimmick. “in WWE. Before coming to WWE in the late 1990s, Anthony had been wrestling for around fifteen years.
Debuting in the professional wrestling industry in the early 1980s, Tony Anthony won many championships both as a singles and tag team wrestler in the United States Wrestling Association and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. For example, Anthony’s impressive resume includes being a three-time Smokey Mountain Wrestling Champion and a former three-time USWA World Tag Team Champion. Wrestling the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jerry “The King” Lawler over the years, Anthony had been wrestling for a long time and had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the professional wrestling industry. .
TL Hopper was one of the most disgusting WWE gimmicks in history
It was only a matter of time before Tony Anthony got a shot at WWE. In 1996, he signed with WWE, but unfortunately for him, he wasn’t going to accomplish much with the gimmick WWE gave him. Built as a lower card comedic talent, Tony Anthony would become TL Hopper in the waning years of WWE’s Next Generation era, as his persona was that of a dirty plumber. There were cartoons showing TL Hopper working as a plumber that were meant to get laughs, with him appearing in a stained T-shirt and dangling jeans.
TL Hopper made his WWE in-ring debut on a July 1996 episode of WWE Superstars, defeating Duke Droese and even pushing a plunger in one of the most disgusting things a WWE Superstar has ever done on WWE TV. And as for his most memorable moment, some may remember TL Hopper’s sketch comedy finding Baby Ruth cleaning a pool for poop during an episode of Free For All promoting SummerSlam 1996, parodying a scene from caddyshack.
TL Hopper was there for a purpose, to put fighters further up the card. Throughout Tony Anthony’s short run as TL Hopper, he ended up losing the vast majority of his matches until going on hiatus in mid-1997. And while he was repackaged into a different character upon returning as Uncle Cletus, until the To this day, Tony Anthony is best known for his short-lived persona as TL Hopper.