At the end of a fully-in-character episode of Ride Along, it was revealed that WWE will be putting everyone’s favorite obnoxious troubador on iTunes in the near future.
Elias “The Drifter” Sampson is one of the best examples of a gimmick that’s elegant in its simplicity. He stops the show to sing a self-indulgent acoustic ballad about how much whatever city he’s in sucks and threatens to stop if the crowd boos, which is maybe the most direct form of begging for heat that I can think of. His wrestling is pretty good but not so good that you just have to cheer the talent. His finisher is kind of boring and hard to brand in the vein of the RKO or the Stunner.
The way to make a character this simple and unassuming work is to lean the hell into it. Don’t even dial it up to 11, just take it to its natural conclusion. And for Elias, the natural conclusion is an album release.
It appears that the album was recorded with Elias and CFO$, who’s good at riffs but not so much full songs. Hopefully their styles mesh to create a track listing that’s genuinely kind of obnoxious and narcissistic but equally fun to listen to, even just for a laugh.
But more important than the album’s quality is the fact that it’s happening at all. This is what people mean when they say they want a greater commitment to kayfabe. It’s not just staying in character on social media, which is the wrestler’s prerogative. It’s things that flesh out the character’s inner world and the character’s relationship with the outer world, especially the world outside of the confines of TV. With an album, Elias seems to exist.
I don’t even know the wrestler’s real name. I don’t hear about all the backstage drama with him. Unlike a situation like, say, Daniel Bryan’s, the onscreen character is the only thing that exists. And that gives him the freedom to will the character into being, the way the old kayfabe masters did.
Plus, I’ll say it: he’s not a terrible musician. Just one you love to hate.
Written by Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph)
Image courtesy WWE