Operation Gimmick Impossible – Mission 7: Lance Cassidy

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Cpl. Dick Peter has returned from another mission, and this time my friends I am back to discuss the trials and tribulations of the WWF’s resident cowboy, Lance Cassidy! It was late 1992, and the WWF had been short a cowboy for far too long. After leaving Ted Turner’s WCW earlier in the year, Steve Armstrong (brother of the more famous “Road Dogg” & Brad Armstrong), would find himself looking for work. What happens when you take a ‘good old boy’ from the south, and bring him into the north? Well you’re about to find out! This week’s mission follows Steve Armstrong on his journey from Atlanta, to New York, by way of the professional wrestling industry. From Wild-Eyed Southern Boy to WWF Cowboy, saddle up partners, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Objective 1: The Wild-Eyed Southern Boy
As a second generation star of the famous fighting Armstrong family, Steve Armstrong spent most of the 1980’s competing in the Southeast, with brief stints in JCP and Memphis before getting a call up to the big time. It was 1990 when Steve, and his usual partner Tracy Smothers, got the call from Ted Turner’s WCW promotion to come wrestle for the the big time. Using their “Wild-Eyed Southern Boys” tag team character, the two good old boys packed their bags and headed for the big leagues. The duo exploded onto the scene with an amazing match against the Midnight Express, and believe it or not the Southern boys were even able to get several good matches out of the Freebirds. But by 1991, the new booker Dusty Rhodes had entered and the Boys saw their push slowly decrease. It’s also reported that the “higher ups” in WCW felt the Southern Boys team was too…….wait for it…… “Southern”… Yup… So they changed the team name to the “Young Pistols” and shipped them off from the heart of the south, straight to the more “national” area of Wyoming. By the end of 1991, their once promising career was relegated to a generic heel turn that saw little more than a U.S. Tag Team Title feud with the Patriots, who hailed from “WCW Special Forces”, which may also have been located in Wyoming. Shortly thereafter, Steve would leave the company, while Tracy continued on for a bit working as upscale enhancement talent for new booker, Bill Watts. Armstrong would be MIA for much of 1992, when he got a call from up north. Entre, Lance Cassidy!

Objective 2: Support Your Local Cowboy
Not to be confused with Al Snow’s “Leif Cassidy” gimmick from the mid 90’s, Lance Cassidy was straight out of the wild west… I think. Steve Armstrong would make the journey down from Wyoming, and take on his new persona who hailed from the “Great State of Texas”. Lance would ride into the town of the WWF in October of 1992 and begin to immediately leave a trail behind him. A trail of bodies that is, not feces. He left that for his horse to do. And no, he didn’t have a horse, it was figuratively speaking.

Sporting a fake leather jacket and his Southern Boys style boots and trunks, complete with the crossed pistols embedded on the rear, Lance Cassidy would make his way to the ring to the tune of some good old wild west Saloon music. Pretty catchy theme, that’ll get you over, but not really. Unfortunately, Cassidy didn’t provide any drinking girls with his theme, but he did provide a lot of fun inside the ring, including one of his personal favorite signature maneuvers, the ARMBAR!

In all seriousness, Lance Cassidy did put on a pretty good display of wrestling during his handful of squash matches, as a wrestler he was certainly more entertaining than many others during the period. His match finishers ranged from a flying cross body, to a really nice looking flying clothesline off the top, before settling in on the good old stereotypical cowboy finisher, the Bulldog!

After scoring a victory, Cassidy would provide us with a catchy “taunt” that I can only wish would be found in today’s WWE Video games. He would raise his hand, shaped to look like a pistol, and blow the smoke from the barrel.

The ORIGINAL Smoking Gun, baby!

YEE HAW!

For the next few months, Lance Cassidy’s track record, both on TV and off, was unblemished, scoring a slew of victories over a variety of enhancement talent, with his biggest televised win being over Steve “Skinner” Keirn on an edition of Prime Time Wrestling. The closest Lance came to a loss was a 10 minute draw against “Terrific” Terry Taylor, again also on an episode of Prime Time. The only known interview made by the Cassidy character was during one of his matches on an episode of Wrestling Challenge, where Lance cut a pre-taped promo in the old square box routine while his match was going on.

Not so surprisingly, during his brief one-shot interview, Lance made it clear that he was from the south and ready to make some noise in the WWF! Look out all you black hat wearing bad guys, there’s a new young gun in town!

Objective 3: Yippee Ki-Yay, Mother F*cker
Alas, after only three and a half months with the WWF, Lance would be just another one of the many gimmicks whose time on top would be short-lived. After managing to remain undefeated for his run with the company, Steve Armstrong would be the one to quit the company. While the Cassidy character was scoring victories, it was clear his character wasn’t breaking any ground or making it anywhere important. Generally during his matches, the announcers would use the time to focus on discussing other current angles going on in the WWF and putting over the top talent, using Lance’s match as a backdrop. By mid-January 1993, Cassidy would disappear from the house shows, and his final TV matches would air shortly before the Royal Rumble PPV. There have been rumors throughout time that the spot given to Maxx Moon in the Rumble, was originally slotted for Armstrong. It appears the WWF had given up on the Moon character by this point, but kept him around too fill the void left by “Lance Cassidy”. It makes you wonder if maybe we would have gotten a Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Armstrong match on the first episode of Monday Night Raw, could have been good, but that’s just fantasy booking I suppose. At least Armstrong can say he left on his own terms, citing he was tired of the travel and felt his character was going nowhere. To quote Dave Meltzer, “He was going nowhere in the promotion and that’s an awful lot of travelling to get nowhere.“.

By far, even though it was evident that Armstrong was on his way to an upscale enhancement slot, he would have made one of the best undercard guys ever to work for the company. It sure beat guys like Sparkplug Holly and the Portuguese Man O’ War. With the company heading down the slope of popularity and Steve leaving on his own terms, I can only salute him for decision to keep his sanity. Armstrong would go on to work for Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling and eventually return to WCW.

Debriefing Mission 7: Lance Cassidy
Steve Armstrong’s time in the Cassidy gimmick would begin at a TV taping in September of 1992 (airing in October), he would join the house show circuit by November, and gone by the middle of January. His time with the WWF was short, and given that his gimmick wasn’t flamboyant or outlandish, it’s usually forgotten or overlooked so I was happy to take on this mission and give Steve the props he deserves. Armstrong was a great tag team wrestler, I don’t know how far his success as a singles wrestler would have went in the “land of giants”, but Cassidy was still given a fair push out of the starting gate. I can see his logic of going nowhere, as the character was really just being built up to level off as a lower-mid card wrestler in the long run. Here’s a guy who caresd more about his personal welfare than being on TV, and I can’t fault him for that. Mission Accomplished, Steve Armstrong!

Though he would never achieve the success he did during his original WCW run, or even his WWF run for that matter, Steve would continue to work on and off for WCW for the remainder of the 1990’s, many times teaming with brother Scott. The legend of Lance Cassidy left us with two important cowboy sayings.

1. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Steve did just that, he found himself going nowhere, and he did something about it.

What’s the other thing Armstrong taught me during his run as Lance Cassidy???

Don’t squat with your spurs on!

With that in mind, I’ll be back with a new mission very soon. This has been Cpl. Dick Peters, standing at attention!

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