How can a wrestler so easily carry an aura of coolness, toughness, and mystery while eating a bag of chips?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Since 2020, the “Cold Hearted Handsome Devil,” Hook, has been able to straddle that line. Some detractors will say AEW has not used the son of Taz to his full potential. Given his limited yet impressive experience of 48 matches on national television, are those folks expecting too much? That one is a rhetorical question.
The booking has protected and tried to capitalize on aspects of Hook’s character that fans have been drawn to. Before he even wrestled, he was a meme. “Send Hook” went viral and endured (see a sign at Raw this past Monday). Until now, has the character been overprotected?
In the ring so far, Hook has been showcased as a grappling and suplex savant. There are clear shades of his dad in his in-ring style and plenty of Hook’s personality (more on that later) to make him distinctive.
His matches feel more unique. Fans want to see more of him. However, with 48 under his FTW belt, by any wrestler’s standards, that is still green. No matter how good of an athlete you are. Early on, his mistakes were overlooked.
Before Team Taz split and Hook was still new to the group, during one beatdown, Hook’s stomps were so soft he could have been one of The Dark Order creepers from the infamous Dynamite closing angle assault from December 2019.
If not for Ricky Starks and Powerhouse Hobbs flanking him with more precise shots or the goodwill earned through his aura, would this have been a bigger issue online?
Hook was allowed to be a mysterious figure to protect his limitations in-ring. It also permitted him to learn on the job at ringside and develop something even more significant to his success than his in-ring ability: his character work.
A Gimmick of Two Halves
Think carefully about the “El Diablo Guapo” gimmick. The incredible hair was stolen from a fighter from a Shounen anime. The black hoodie and its tropey ties to street hoodlums. The emotionless yet smoldering model stare invites you to pick a hand. The man of few words carries threat and intent. The solid gangsta walk doesn’t feel like an act.
As if born to match the lyrics of his theme music, “The Chairman’s Intent,” Hook embodies the multiple layers of the song. We don’t really know him. He’s full of confidence and badassery. And yet wears the “same outfit every day like a cartoon.” Hook’s so legit, so serious, he’s almost ironically unreal. Hook is both a “real” tough guy and, at the same time, a cartoon superhero come to life.
On the previous Dynamite, they did give him a Bat-signal.
This fine line between exuding this aura of being a lethal weapon while playing it so straight that it doesn’t cross the border into parody is tricky to accomplish. Which other twenty-four young wrestlers could make this work?
Protecting the Meme
Having started in meme territory, Hook has yet to become the source of countless tough-guy facts/jokes like Chuck Norris. However, the fact is that Hook could choke out Chuck Norris. Even recently, there was a debate between wrestling fans on X over who’s better: Jinder Mahal or Hook?
A video of Hook at a gentleman’s club was used to show support. How little is known or demonstrated about Hook as a real person behind the persona that endures Hook to his fans? If Hook were to go and get more experience in the Indies, it could dilute his aura. Make him less of an attraction.
Excelling with his character work, AEW had leaned into utilizing the humor created by Hook’s ultra straight-man figure. Early interactions with Lexy Nair had Lexy flustered by Hook’s smoldering presence. A running gag of constantly eating bags of chips developed into a storyline device to move Hook towards the tweener roles from the heel with Team Taz when Hook saved Danhausen.
The team of Hookhausen was comical and over. Signs in the crowd and discussion online showed fans loved the opposing nature of the characters. The deluded, puny, and ineffective Danhausen and the superhero-like figure who came to his rescue. If the marketing department had capitalized on merchandise, the conversation may have been different.
Slowly Increasing Perimeters
In a similar vein to Jade Cargill, another prospect that AEW was scared to damage with poor booking or overexposure due to their greenness, Hook also experienced repetitive booking. Fans were told both these wrestlers were the future of AEW. Fans were asked to be patient in their development. Yet repetition can get boring because it’s transparent.
Unlike Jade, Hook’s booking had more thought into his presentation. In the ring especially, the quality of opponents Hook defeated in squashes widened gradually. Yet only fractionally as Hook went through QT Marshall, Matt Menard, Angelo Parker, The Dark Order, and Matt Hardy. Wrestlers are not considered threats in the wider title pictures.
Hook has got a lot of moments. Hook beat an up-and-comer Ricky Starks for the FTW Championship, his father’s belt in a masterful piece of story-telling that dissolved Team Taz. Yet it was an angle disguised as a match.
There have been showcase matches like FTW rules matches against Jack Perry and Wheeler Yuta to show how far Hook’s come. However, these were interspersed with the trope that Hook teams with X wrestlers.
Yet across 2023, Hook’s main competition came in tag matches with partners that include Jack Perry, The Hardy Boys, Darby Allin, Orange Cassidy, Sting, Shitbata, and Rob Van Dam. These bouts were entertaining, and beyond what we as fans see, it’s likely Hook learned invaluable lessons in the ring from these varied partners and veterans.
Hook got to face the likes of Jay White, Jon Moxley, and The Young Bucks. Nonetheless, tag team matches have a different pace and psychology to singles matches. The perimeter has widened, but glacially and with stabilizers on both sides.
Send Hook (As Support)
Recently, Tony Khan has applied Hook as a utility player to fill a gap on the card and be a tag team partner for X wrestler. Given Hook’s age and experience, that shows a lot of faith and trust in him. Even though it isn’t necessarily what fans might want or were told to expect, given the stacked nature of the AEW roster and only one of the four pillars has properly broken into the main event sphere, is there a rush?
Contrastingly, using Hook to support other wrestlers’ character development stagnates his character. Teaming Hook with Orange Cassidy repeated a trope. Hook and Cassidy are more similar out of the ring than they are different in the ring. Minimal-effort wrestlers who want to exert just enough energy to get the job done.
Men of few words. Both had backpacks. Underneath the humor, Cassidy looking at the FTW Championship fuelled Cassidy’s redemption arc to regain the International Championship and beat Moxley. Hook might have had higher profile matches, but the story was Cassidy’s.
On Dynamite, Hook challenged Samoa Joe for the AEW World Championship. Hook’s first major championship shot. AEW, at its best, builds milestones and significance into its matches. Hook was a refreshing choice for the problem of the first challenger to the new championship reign. Fans were excited for this match, and despite the outcome being clear, it hasn’t stopped the big fight feeling.
This match has been a coming-out party for Hook. The stabilizers were off. He has swum with the King Shark and survived. AEW is changing, and a new year means wrestlers have a chance to ascend. Coming off this match, there are new possibilities: Thrive, if Tony will let him.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
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