Some things in life are fine to joke about.
A man on the bus trying just a tad too hard with his angular haircut and cravat – he’s fair game.
Poke fun at the woman taking selfies with a not so hilarious dog filter.
An obese child struggling to play on the swings at the park. Laugh as much as you want at their wheezing jolliness.
They all made decisions that led them to a point where you may find their lifestyle choices questionable.
One thing that is not questionable, is if we should take advantage and poke fun at those who have ended up in some way, less fortunate, or with more of a struggle in life, through no choice of their own.
In years past, when the long reaching effects of birth defects and mental health issues and the role they play on those effected and their friends and loved-ones were lesser-considered.
You could perhaps understand the ignorance of someone who may find these areas of human life humorous, or how their lack of information could lead to a lack of empathy. In some, miniscule way, relatable? Perhaps. Somewhat hurtful and incredibly stupid? Definitely.
But not today. In 2020, we’d hope that most people can see that mental health isn’t something to be taken lightly.
This brings us to the much discussed and often heatedly debated career of the controversial wrestling character, Eugene.
The man who would go on to play Eugene was born on 17 December 1975 Jeffersonville, Indiana, United States, his name is, Nick Dinsmore.
A man who spent years training with the likes of former wrestler The Nightmare Danny Davis.
Some of the blame for this distasteful portrayal of disability falls directly at the feet of Nick Dinsmore. For some, Dinsmore’s actions were his and his alone, after all he was the man who messed up his hair, crooked his back and slapped that ridiculous ‘Hello My Name is Eugene’ sign on his chest.
But let’s explore his potential reasoning from another angle. At this point Nick Dinsmore had been a professional wrestler since his debut in 1996 in United States Wrestling Association (USWA). He had spent many years working hard on his fitness and strength in training camps and gyms.
He had followed through on his early dreams of becoming a pro-wrestler like his heroes on television.
And then the biggest wrestling company to have ever exist gives you a call and tells you that you have potential and show a lot of potential. They invite him to their Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion with the ideas of furthering his training.
Nick Dinsmore had already been the most successful champion in OVW history with the most reigns at as their world champion and had a successful run as part of the Ohio Valley Wrestling Tag Team Champions with Rob Conway, under the superb ring-name: The Lords of The Ring.
In 1998 Dinsmore appeared sporadically in WCW through 99 where he was predominantly used to give shine to better established stars on WCW’s Saturday Night show, also losing to Ernest Miller and Kanyon on two episodes of WCW Thursday Night Thunder and on Monday Nitro, teaming with Larry Lane in a handicap match loss against Big Puppa Pump Scott Steiner (sty-ner) and against Wrath in singles competition.
Nick Dinsmore’s run as an early career jobber continued as his made his first appearance on a show called Shotgun Saturday with WWF in 1999.
Dinsmore is also one of the many wrestlers to have been under the disguise of devilishly evil Doink, appearing twice as the menacing clown in his career.
He also made an appearance with Rob Conway as tag-team Los Conquistadores (con-kee-sta-doors) whilst he was still signed to Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Then it happened.
The moment Nick Dinsmore had probably lied in bed countless nights thinking about. He got the call to go and be a part of the main-roster in WWE.
Take a moment to put yourself in Dinsmore’s position at this time. All of your dreams for your career, your hopes of what you wanted to be when you were a child was about to be realised.
Then the owner of the WWE Vince McMahon comes to you and says “Hey there little fella! I want to put you on television more often and give you your first proper on-screen character. He is strong and a real good guy, the fans will be very supportive. You will also get to interact with the likes of The Rock and other industry legends who you’ve admired for your whole career.” – or words to that affect.
Wouldn’t you at least consider chomping Vince’s hand off, falling over yourself to agree to his terms, relieved that you’d finally gotten a chance?
Nick must has seen a bright future ahead of himself at this moment.
But, when you saw the script the next night and the references to disability, when you saw your new ring attire, and realised the kind of character that Vince Mcmahon wanted you to. How would you feel?
This is exactly the predicament that Nick Dinsmore found himself in 2004. Making his televised debut as Eugene on an episode of Monday Night Raw on the 5th April, 2004. In front of a live crowd of fans who were more than happy to join in confusedly mocking Eugene for his appearance and mannerisms.
He was quickly introduced as the over-energetic, odd-ball nephew of at the time Raw General Manager and all around smarmy git – Eric Bischoff.
There was a palpable air of embarrassment from Bischoff as he soon tried to pass Eugene off, treating his like the child that the WWE wanted you to see him as.
Handing over Eugene to the watch of William Regal as a supposed punishment, just shows how we were meant to feel about Eugene at this time.
All credit to Willian Regal & Nick Dinsmore at this point, they worked with the backroom staff to develop a story that saw the wiser and cunning Regal at first try to manipulate Eugene, before eventually warming to the character and showing the more human side of the evil William Regal.
One side-effect of Eugenes fabricated disorder, meant that he had an almost autistic savant level of memory retention in reference specifically to wrestling.
Allowing him to perfectly recall the techniques needed in order to pull-off some of the industry’s most iconic signature and finisher moves, such as Hulk Hogan’s leg drop and The Rock’s Rock Bottom.
In the world of pro-wrestling this makes no sense. In the real world, this makes even less sense.
People that suffer from mental health issues are not fucking Marvel super-villains who you can just add magical brain control powers or super-human strength to as the story requires.
This also borders on another issue which WWE has displayed over the years. Look at Luke Gallow’s previous life as Festus. Look at the clear mental deficiency of The Great Khali.
This isn’t fucking Of Mice & Men.
Someone that can’t read doesn’t gain the ability to squash a man’s head with a single chop.
Why does WWE insist on it’s character’s that lack in mental strength instantly gain a plus 10 buff to all of their power stats? That isn’t how it should be, like in the real world. I’m dumb as shit and I can’t do a single press-up.
But back to this convoluted timeline. Eugene, with the support of Regal went on the face Jonathan Coachman, another backroom staffer in WWF at the time, Coachman’s character disagreed in principle with Eugene being allowed to compete in the ring and actively sought to remove Eugene from the roster.
Eugene was saved at the time by the Rock, further using Eugene’s disadvantage to give shine to more established performers and use Eugene’s disability as a tool to garner real emotions from the crowd. Pretty scummy if you ask me.
Eugene’s feud with Jonathan coachman culminated at his pay-per-view debut at Bad-Blood, a match which after lots of shenanigans saw Eugene’s hand raised at the end as the winner.
Regal became very fond of Eugene as their friendship blossomed, leading to Regal famously delivering, what some consider to be the promo of his career in defence of Eugene in a feud with Triple H.
Triple H made a mockery of Eugene, routinely de-humanising him for the way he behaved and wrestled. This led to a match at Summerslam, which in truly questionable fashion, Triple H decimated Eugene.
Yes, this is most likely exactly what would happen in these circumstances in the real-world.
But that’s not why we are here, now is it?
We watch wrestling for their larger than life action and (sometimes) deep routed, long-term story telling. Realism is secondary to spectacle in WWE, where the Entertainment means just as much as the Wrestling.
In the real world, on a stage like UFC there is zero chance of someone in Eugen’s condition would ever be allowed to enter the octagon. He would be smashed to smithereens’ in 3 seconds flat.
But WWE isn’t UFC.
And in this world we are meant to believe that Eugene has been cleared for combat by the company that hires him and sanctions his matches. So you can see why in this context, the presentation of Eugene’s character and how the crowd were meant to feel about him became murky for some.
It didn’t build sympathy for his character in the eyes of some, who seemingly wanted to see Eugene get beaten in the ring.
Because after all, what could possibly be more entertaining in 2004 than seeing a gigantic, muscle mountain, portrayed as a trained wrestling assassin, physically beating a man who was born with special needs who seemingly has no training. Wrestling.
The rest of the blame, is probably best placed at the feet of WWE. Their head writers and decision makers are the ones who concocted such a shameful and tasteless way to earn money.
Aiming to milk dollars from the core idea that either a) the crowd would hate the new Eugene character and the WWE could profit from seeing him defeated or b) the fans would feel pity for Eugene and would want to see one of the ‘bigger’ stars come out and save him from the clutches of evil.
One man, who like lots of others in the wrestling business and watching at home as fans, disagreed with the Eugene character’s portrayal of mental disability was Olympic hero Kurt Angle.
That is one person I think most could say they would never want to piss-off, especially face-to-face. It’s Kurt frickin’ Angle. When on Raw in July 2005, Eugene’s music hit and he entered to face Kurt in the ‘Kurt Angle Invitational’ the amateur and pro wrestling legend was clearly not impressed.
Battering Eugene around the ring, Kurt Angle took his frustration out on Nick Dinsmore for his career choices.
In a situation which most would consider un-professional, was much more physical in the match than is usual for WWE.
Blending the line between Kurt Angle’s real-life career and his in-ring personality in a moment which saw Eugene forced to re-evaluate the path he’s taken to this point. Eugene won the match in a huge upset surprise, which as the stipulation of the Invitational challenge dictated saw Eugene win Kurt Angle’s much cherished Olympic gold medals.
This culminated in the two men facing off in an easy won victory for Angle which saw him regain his medals at Summerslam.
Eugene on working with Kurt Angle: "Kurt has such a grasp on the business and he really understood it. He was really rough on me. Every time I came out with a black eye or some sort of bruise or my hair pulled out. As much as I cursed him when we were in the ring together, he always brought it."
After this, Eugene became more predominantly used as a circus side-show type attraction, pulled out to be the butt of jokes, humiliated for his confusion and then more-often-than-not, beaten by the supposed bad guy of the story in effortless manner, usually whilst the bad-guys draw heat from the crowd with their continual mocking of Eugene and his condition.
Squeezing ever last drop of crowd empathy for the Eugene character in an attempt to make the heels seem more evil for their involvement.
Eugene competed in matches with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Superfly Jimmy Snuka and Umaga – spending much of this time, paraded around in backstage segments as supposed light-relief, between more important and serious segments of shows. By 2007, Eugene was used almost solely as a devise to continue this attempt at drawing a crowd reaction.
He accidentally spilled a drink onto Vince McMahon who forced Eugene into a match with the vicious Umaga, a match Eugene was sure to lose in brutal fashion. McMahon lauded the punishment over the terrified Eugene until the final bell rung with Eugene defeated on his back.
Vince McMahon decided this was not punishment enough however. Continuing after the match to instruct more damage be dealt to the prone wrestler by Umaga and then Vince turned his own hand to the defenceless Eugene and shaved his head.
An ultimate sign of disrespect in the world of pro-wrestling.
The last of Eugene’s power as a magnet for crowd emotion was drained, along with his perceived power in the ring. Losing in a match where he entered with WWF legends Doink The Clown, Kamala and Jim Duggan in his corner to Umaga at Vengeance and being mainly relegated to WWE’s B-show Heat.
As his power was metaphorically squeezed from his character, Eugene found himself being fittingly squeezed in a bear-hug my Mark Henry in August 2007, in what would be his last appearance for WWE on Smackdown for two years. Bloody hell Mark, how hard did you squeeze?
Nick Dinsmore travelled the US independent wrestling circuit for the ears that followed and re-joined with Ohio Valley Wrestling from 2007-2013. This last chapter of his career saw Dinsmore fluctuate between wrestling under his real name as a more aggressive in-ring veteran and also as U-gene spelt with a U, to avoid legal issues with WWE who owned the Eugene character.
Eugene would feature sporadically in small segments for WWE in the years since and made his last appearance for the company in 2013 before spending a year as a trainer in NXT, WWE’s developmental brand. Nowadays Nick Dinsmore has continued giving back to the wider wrestling community, running a wrestling camp and training centre in Sioux Falls, called Midwest All Pro Wrestling. And best of luck to him.
Perhaps nowadays Dinsmore regrets the mistakes he made in the past. Perhaps he still sees no issue with the way in which he would nervously come out in front of crowds, his tongue twisted as his child-like verbiage spews from his lop-sided mouth. As a human being we all have morals and benchmarks which we try to hold ourselves to. On each person’s conscience lay the good and bad deeds that you have done throughout your life. I’m sure most of us have done things in the past that we’d later come to regret. Should I have eaten an entire rotisserie chicken in bed last night? No. Do I regret my delicious decisions on the matter today? Yes. But at the time, I was blinded to my ill-thought-out actions, because I was living my dream.
Same as Eugene.