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Whatever Happened to Manhunt's "Big Tim"?by Dale Sherman -- 07/10/2002
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Back in August 2001, a six-part reality series premiered on UPN called Manhunt. The series (nicely recapped by Melinda Smith here) was essentially a variation of the old Most Dangerous Game storyline, only with a group of 13 contestants trying to avoid three hunters with paint-guns who were set out to eliminate them. A straightforward premise for a reality show, really.
At least, it seemed so when the show started. As Melinda Smith reported, trouble soon surfaced around the program when it was revealed that portions of the show were refilmed for greater impact and circumstances controlled to allow certain “photogenic” contestants to stay on, while others were let go. The six-part program was nearly yanked off the air before all the episodes aired, as more and more individuals came forward with such accusations; not to mention that ratings were downright terrible for the series. Nevertheless, the series hung on long enough to announce a winner and then quietly disappeared from the television landscape forever.
Of the three “hunters” on the show, the obvious leader was “Big Tim.” BT was a loudmouth, obnoxious “bad guy” who tried to goad the contestants into making mistakes that would cost them; taunting them with relish, as he would eliminate the group one by one. In other words, he was what they call in the wrestling world, “a heel.” And who better to play such a role than a man who had experience in such a role for months on end at that point in time?
The series was produced in part by the WWFE, although as time went on they distanced themselves further and further away from the show. Even so, it was obvious that the WWFE (now known more simply as the WWE) would be the best place to find a huge man that could fill the role of the dastardly villain in the series. Picked for the role of “Big Tim” (which is hardly a name that sends chills down the spine in terror, to be honest) was a man who was essentially a newcomer to wrestling and had only worked in some of the WWFE’s developmental areas up to that time. The man was John Cena, although he was better known in both UPW and OVW under the name Prototype.
After an impressive start in football (captain and MVP of his high school team, not to mention being selected All-American by the Associated Press in 1999 during his college days), John Cena had started a career as a bodybuilder. In fact, you can see an early shot of him as a runner-up in a bodybuilding contest from 1999 here. As is the case with people in bodybuilding and football, wrestling became a possible career and Cena found himself in 2000 working for the Southern California wrestling promotion UPW.
Cena would find his niche in the company working as a “heel” during matches and he would eventually be recognized by the WWE as a potential wrestler in the main promotion. In mid-2001, Cena was brought into OVW – the promotion where the WWE sends many of their developmental prospects, as was done with the winners from the Tough Enough series. Before that could happen, however, he was trained to be “Big Tim” in the Manhunt series. There he would play his villainous role as expected, and no doubt, Cena probably hoped that the series would lead to better things. However, after the controversy that occurred, it was never referred to again when he made public appearances and is not even referred to in his official history on the OVW website (www.ovwrestling.com).
After finishing the series, Cena entered OVW still under his professional wrestling name of Prototype. There he would be introduced as the “young protégé” and tag-team partner to Rico Constantino, another heel in the promotion. Together, the two would put together a classic cowardly heel combo that would sabotage their opponents – and sometimes each other – as they worked to gain and maintain control of the tag-team belt in OVW.
The duo were impossible to not like – their antics were great, old-fashion, “bad guys against the good guys” style of wrestling. Both Rico (who now can be seen weekly on Smackdown! as a “stylist” for the tag-team of Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo) and Cena were perfect in their roles and it was no wonder that they held on to the belts for several months in 2001. Nor was it any wonder that they each were being eyed by the talent agents at WWE for a possible move up to the big times.
Then, in October 2001, it became apparent that Rico was to be moved up from OVW to the WWE and the tag-team would break-up. The duo would soon lose the belts during a match on October 29, 2001, against the Minnesota Stretching Crew (which, ironically enough, featured future WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar), leading to Prototype turning on his former partner and eventually drumming Rico out of the promotion with a “loser leaves OVW” match in November 2001 (and into the waiting arms of the WWE). In doing so, Cena became an even bigger heel in the promotion than before.
With Rico gone, Cena would only occasionally work with a tag-team partner, focusing instead on one-on-one matches with many of the bigger names in the company. As time went by, Prototype would be seen as one of the main eventers in the promotion. He was still a heel, of course, which is always needed for a match; yet more specifically, he knew how to work the crowd into a frenzy when he came out into the ring. Just one comment or one look from his face, and the audience would be ready to see him take a beating. He also knew how to get a good match out of his opponents, leading to more and more appearances as time went on. By the end of 2001 and into 2002, it was common to see Prototype used as the final opponent for wrestlers who were moving up to the WWE, because it was known a good sendoff would be had for the departing wrestler if Prototype was in the match with them.
As more and more OVW wrestlers were being promoted to up to the WWE (not only Rico and Lesnar, but also such talent as Deacon Batista – aka Leviathan – and Randy Orton, besides others), Prototype’s name kept coming up as someone on his way up, even by those in the higher areas of the WWE company. Now, as we will see this Thursday, Cena (dropping the Prototype label and going by his real name) is about to show everyone that he is worthy of the move up as well.
Cena’s match, filmed Tuesday, June 25, for broadcast on Thursday, must have been a nerve-racking one for Cena. On the bright side, his opponent was none other than former Olympic gold-medalist, Kurt Angle. Angle, one of the top heels in the WWE, is considered one of the best performers today in the squared circle. Known for his ability to fire up an audience while also being purposefully hilarious, Angle is also well known for his skill in making his opponents look good in the ring. Angle is also familiar with the individuals in OVW, as his brother Eric has worked in the wrestling promotion; thus, Angle would be familiar with Cena’s work. With these elements combined, Angle was an excellent first opponent for Cena.
On the downside, while Cena is known in OVW, OVW is not seen nationally and thus Cena’s work over the past year is unknown for many of the fans watching him on Tuesday in the arena. The match was also set for the beginning of the show, and a lackluster match early on could make or break the entire show for the night. Therefore, a lot of pressure was on Cena as he came out for the match.
As for who won? Well, you will just have to see for yourself this Thursday on UPN. What can be said is that online reports from those who attended say that the match was very enjoyable, with Cena getting a good series of offensive moves in during the match. There was also some backstage filming done with Cena and everything looks to be set up to be the start of a promising career in the WWE.
Moreover, with hope, a further distancing from the disaster that was Manhunt.
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