Whether you love professional wrestling or hate it, the odds are you have at least a passing familiarity with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. You know, the bald guy with black t-shirts who ran around beating people up through the late 1990s and early 2000s? The six-time world champion?
The thing that a lot of casual fans don’t realize about Austin, one of the biggest stars in wrestling history, is that he didn’t always play the same character, and wasn’t always a huge success. He had humble beginnings in the dying days of Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling, before moving on the World Championship Wrestling, where “Stunning” Steve Austin was half of the pretty-boy Hollywood Blonds tag team. From there, he got fired via FedEx, as a reflection of what his bosses perceived as limited potential.
A year later “The Ringmaster” debuted in the World Wrestling Federation as the protégé of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. He had an uninspired run which Dibiase ended up leaving midway through to work for a competing wrestling company.
It was only after nearly a decade had passed that wrestling promoters and writers decided to just let Steve Austin be Steve Austin. The real Austin was a foul-mouthed redneck tough guy who bordered on alcoholism. And so, the character followed suit, raising not fists of triumph, but middle fingers in the air; not sipping Gatorade but rather dousing himself, opponents, and the ring in foamy beer as he chugged Budweiser after Budweiser for all the world to see. Austin was everything that his wrestling icon predecessor Hulk Hogan was not—not a super hero, but a pissed off everyman who was sick of taking orders and prepared to take what he wanted.
The “Stone Cold” character worked for any number of reasons—the time was right as children of the eighties reached their teenage years; and wrestling fans in general were burned out on the white meat good guys of generations before. But for more than any other reason, Austin thrived because he didn’t invent a character, but rather played himself with the volume cranked up to almost cartoonish levels; he was honest and found a way to make that entertaining.
When you’re thinking about how to best utilize the members of your a cappella group, there’s no point in trying to make the nervous, shy guy your comic relief; there’s no sense in making your diva play it like she’s meek. You need identify your talents and let them run wild with their areas of excellence. If someone’s already a ham behind the scenes, he’s the one who should get that Blink 182 solo. If you have a Gospel-raised, powerful female soloist, let her take a whirl on “Proud Mary.” If you have a thinker, a natural thespian, someone with an interesting tone, let him be the one to add the necessary texture to those John Mayer songs that need to be made interesting to be worth the audience’s while in this day and age.
Take what you have in your group, and call upon your members to exaggerate their personalities on stage. You’ll be pleased with what comes out.