Our offbeat plan to make Z-man the Man It's obvious that "Z-Man" Tom Zenk has the skills and stamina to be a top contender for the WCW World title, but something seem to be holding him back. Leave it to our most controversial scribe, Eddie Ellner, to come up with a plan to make the fan favorite a new man - and the man in the federation by Eddie Ellner PWI October, 1992
Brian Pillman said it best. After he retained his WCW light heavyweight championship with a victory over his ex-tag team partner, Tom Zenk, Pillman congratulated his pal during an interview.
"Tommy gave it his all," said Pillman without the slightest hint of ill will. "There were no losers in this match. He just didn't win".
Nice as Pillman is, the simple truth remains that those were Zenk's shoulders on the mat for three seconds, not his. By any standard, Zenk lost that match - but that isn't the problem. Everyone loses - even the greatest of champions.
The problem lies in the "Z-Man's" attitude about the loss. It didn't keep him up all night. He didn't stay up until 5 a.m. reviewing the match videotape. What he did was meet a few friends and have dinner.
A nice dinner. A pleasant dinner. The kind of dinner that sits in a man's stomach and makes him complacent.
Which is exactly what's happening to Tom Zenk.
It is easy to consign Zenk to the BWAPAPW category - that is, Boys Who Are Pretty And Pretty Worthless. He has the look, the hair, the body, the electrifying moves - everything a wrestler needs to drown in mediocrity. Zenk is gasping for his wrestling life, but doesn't yet realize it.
The qualities listed above, all qualities Zenk possesses in abundance, are common fodder among wrestlers. So what is he can drop-kick and suplex with alacrity? Big deal... his execution is above average. Yawn....64 dozen other wrestlers can say the same thing. If Zenk wants to crack wrestling's elite - which he claims he does - one must examine those tools he lacks.
First and foremost, Zenk doesn't possess the championship strain. What is that? It comes in many forms. A broken nose. A scar. An unquenchable blood lust. The inability to sleep after a loss in a title match. For example:
Stan Hansen's crooked pinkie finger. While defending the AWA title, Hansen's finger caught in a turnbuckle hook and was nearly snapped off. Despite almost unendurable pain, Hansen continued the match and retained the title.
Sting's philosophy. "Losing a title match is like a small death," the WCW World Champion once said. "There's nothing to compare to it. It is the most excruciating thing an athlete can undergo".
Steamboat's obsession. "I would be up for hours, consumed by every move I made that night," Rick Steamboat has said. "I'd already be preparing for the next match."
What does Zenk do after an unsuccessful title match? He eats! Socializes with friends! The "Z-Man" may generate enough heat to melt hearts, but that's about it.
Why am I spending so much time on a man so obviously dedicated to driving down the middle of the road? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, there appears to be more to Tom Zenk that meets the eye - a lot more! I traveled with Zenk after his Wrestle War loss to Pillman and learned that beneath that bland demeanor lies the heart of a possible rulebreaker - and, even more possibly, a champion.
The problem is that Tom Zenk doesn't know it yet. So I'm here to tell him.
The first indication of Zenk's potential was a conversation we shared while driving to a card in Baltimore.
We were discussing our childhood sports heroes when he confessed his love for Killer Kowalski. "I loved the way Killer stormed the ring," Zenk said, practically misty-eyed. "I always admired that kind of ferocity. "Killer Kowalski? But Zenk wasn't finished.
"I was always attracted to renegades," he admitted. "When my friends and I wrestled, I was always the masked man, the rule-breaker. But when I started wrestling professionally, it didn't seem right. It wasn't really me."
The obvious question, which of course I asked, was: Why don't you change? Zenk's answer joined him on the fence. "I'm trying to get more aggressive and not pay as much attention to my reputation," he said. "I think I'm doing okay."
Wrong, Tom. Brian Pillman thinks you're doing okay, because he can pin you. You're not doing "okay", you're floundering. Which is why, for no extra charge, I'm providing you with five easy steps to change your attitude, your career, and your life. The decision is yours.
Step 1: The next time you do an interview with Pillman, break his arm. This will permit you to, psychologically , bury your past before it buries you.
Step 2: Alienate as many fans as possible. Spit on a young girl. Refuse to sign a crippled child's autograph. This will make you angry. You will begin to hate yourself.
Step 3: Transfer your newly found self-loathing to your opponent. It is the fault of your opponent that you have become a hated socio-path. Make them pay for it with their blood.
Step 4: Join forces, at least temporarily, with a team of rulebreakers. This will terrify your old friends - now your new opponents - into thinking you've gone insane. Don't discourage it.
Step 5: Dedicate your first World Championship to Killer Kowalski. He deserves it.