Grandmaster Sexay was the sort of goofball that made you love wrestling
Brian Christopher Lawler died on Sunday, aged 46
It’s always heart-breaking when a figure from your childhood dies young. But the death of Grandmaster Sexay, who hanged himself in a jail cell this weekend, feels particularly crushing.
The former WWE wrestler - real name Brian Christopher Lawler - was never one of the industry's top superstars, but he made his impression in a different way.
The son of Hall of Famer Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, his in-ring debut came in 1988 and he wrestled for nearly a decade before making it to the big leagues of the WWE. Once there, in 1998, he and his tag team partner Scott Taylor adopted the ring names Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay and formed the tag team Too Cool.
They started doing hip-hop dancing before and after their matches. The wore beanies and bucket hats, and googles and wraparound shades. They’d be head to toe in baggy Sean John or Wu-Wear or Fubu, shaking and moving.
They were definitely far more NSYNC than Death Row. But it that didn’t matter. They were soon joined by Rikishi, the Samoan pseudo-sumo wrestler and despite how it might sound it was brilliant. Two dorky white guys and a fat Samoan dude, standing in line doing clumsy dancing, had the crowd in the palms of their hands.
This was during wrestling's late-1990s heyday. The much-lauded Attitude Era, when it seemed like every kid in the UK was a regular viewer of Raw and Smackdown. It is easy to overlook how popular Too Cool were. Scotty 2 Hotty’s Worm finishing move was much copied in playgrounds across the country. Live crowds burst into rapture whenever the familiar “Turn it up!” intro to their theme music blasted through the speakers.
The faction's most famous moment probably came at the 2000 Royal Rumble - during the brief period when Channel 4 was broadcasting pay-per-views live and for free. All three members found themselves coming out one-after-another during the Rumble match. After clearing the ring, instead of fighting at first, the music hit and they all danced.
Of course, this was all very silly. But professional wrestling is silly. To kids who got into wrestling during the Attitude Era, Too Cool were just as big a part of the appeal as Stone Cold or Triple H or The Undertaker. The trio connected with the crowd and they gave people a lot of joy.
Silliness and comedy in wrestling is something that is often sneered at by the ‘hardcore’ fan, but it is what gets many younger fans watching in the first place. Two guys in their pants pretending to fight is a difficult sell when you could be watching boxing or UFC. But you will never get Too Cool, or contemporary wrestlers like Fandango and Tyler Breeze, anywhere else.
Sadly the group's stay in the WWE was shortlived. In 2001, with Scotty out injured and Rikishi having been pushed into the main event scene, Brian Christopher Lawler was fired from WWE for trafficking drugs across the Canada-US border. He later wrestled in the independents and TNA - along with making the odd nostalgic appearance on Raw - but his personal life was troubled
Earlier this month, he was jailed for driving under the influence and evading police, and on July 29th he hanged himself at Hardeman County Jail, at the age of 46.
It is a terrible, tragic end for someone who was once such a captivating presence on television. But for a generation, he will always be the Grandmaster Sexay of 2000 - dancing with Scotty and Rikishi, wearing silly glasses, and making people happy. And that’s as good a legacy as anyone can have.