Last week on TNA Wrestling, Mick Foley fought a “match” against a cardboard cutout of Rocky Balboa.
“The Dummy” was sort of like a mannequin, except that it wasn’t the hard plastic kind you would normally see in an unnatural pose in a store window. This one had some kind of a wire-frame skeleton that was covered in padding and wrapped in a skin of fabric. Not quite burlap, but something close. I’m not sure what the official name of this contraption would be, but it looked like it was something that fabric could be pinned to. An oversize pincushion in human form. It had a torso, a head, and some skinny arms and legs that were sort of posable.
The Dummy was ranked just below “the rookie” on the seniority scale of the trainees. If someone was working on perfecting a new move, they might work it into match with one of the “veterans”. If it was the first time trying the move out, the veteran could tell them NO (possibly running the risk of being called a pussy). If that happened, then the move would instead be tried on a rookie. The rookie already got to do fun things like setting up the ring before the shows and tearing it down after (and of course doing the same at the wrestling camp if the camp ring was being used at the show). Why not inflict more punishment to make them “pay their dues” for the privilege of someday also being able to say NO (and also possibly being called a pussy).
However, there was some fine print and a hidden clause in the unwritten rules of the wrestling camp. If the move was potentially too dangerous even for the lowly rookie, the move would be attempted instead on The Dummy.
When wrestling The Dummy, the only person at risk for getting injured was yourself, which was acceptable since you were the one trying to do this crazy thing in the first place. The Dummy could take a punch, although he wasn’t the best at selling. He never refused a beating, probably because he didn’t have a mouth or the ability to do hand gestures.
Some of the better guys, like Austin Aries, could have a pretty entertaining match with The Dummy. It always reminded me of a quote that people had said about Ric Flair 15 or 20 years ago: “Ric Flair could have a great match with a chair.”
The Dummy couldn’t refuse, but that also meant that he couldn’t tell you how much it hurt. That part seemed to be the job of Terry Fox. If you tried a move with The Dummy and it looked like it was really stiff, Terry would shout out, “You kiiiiilled him!“.
Nobody wanted the reputation of working stiff. You wanted to work “snug”. There is a big difference. If you ended up “kiiilling” him, good luck finding someone to take that move in a match. Now would be a good time to look around and see who didn’t show up to camp that day. Maybe they would be willing if you told them, “I worked on it in camp- the guy didn’t complain“.