Paul Burchill: A Cult Tribute
And we’re back with column number two! That’s right, you guys are getting two columns from me today, a) because I actually have the energy to do so for the first time in weeks and b) I love you guys. Well, at least some of you. So what do I have on the docket for this second column? Well, I’m thinking an extra special Cult Tribute that is sure to get my British readers excited. You see, I was playing WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2007 earlier today (I actually like a GM mode that tells me how well my shows are actually drawing), and I was reminded of a former WWE Superstar that I enjoyed…until he disappeared off the face of the earth. So simply put, I decided to write about the guy. And with that, I think we’re set to begin. Without further ado, let me present to you a Cult Tribute for one of the most unsung British wrestlers of the past decade; the one, the only, Paul Burchill.
What You Already Know
Paul Burchill (born Paul Birchill. Evidently he thought a U fit better into his ring name than an I) is best known for a five year stint with WWE from 2005 to 2010; and boy was it an eventful one. Originally debuting as an apprentice of fellow Brit (and greatest man that ever lived candidate) William Regal, Burchill became best known for a) portraying a pirate gimmick while on Smackdown and b) nearly being part of an incest angle involving himself and his storyline sister Katie Lea Burchill. Talk about going from Pirates of the Caribbean to Spankin the Monkey. Alas, Burchill was spared from the latter storyline, and instead settled into being “The Ripper” a gimmick which involved him wearing an executioner’s hood, performing a precursor to Seth Rollins’ curb stomp and feuding with the Hurricane before quietly departing in 2010. That doesn’t sound like much, until you take into account that the man worked with Regal, was a pirate, and almost was part of an incest angle. If that’s not a look into the mind of Vince McMahon, I don’t know what is.
What You Didn’t Know
Originally working a teacher, Burchill started training to be a wrestler in 2001, when he walked into a tryout being held by the British Promotion Frontier Wrestling Alliance. Impressed with his look, wrestler/trainer Mark Sloan (a man who would go onto train Burchill’s storyline sister Katie Lea and cult hero Drew Galloway) took a liking to Burchill and began training him. Burchill would spend year training before debuting for FWA in 2002. For the next two years, Burchill became known as one of the best wrestlers in Europe, thanks to his athleticism, a two year long winning streak (broken only in his final match with FWA) and his awe inspiring finisher, the C4. What is the C4 you ask? Only a half moonsault, half rock bottom maneuver that has since been adopted as a move by many luchadors down in Mexico. More than anything, the C4 helped Burchill stand out, and was a large reason WWE ultimately signed him (more on that in a moment). And to be honest, aside from his main roster run, Burchill’s time within the WWE was pretty successful. He continued to be a beast in OVW (the poor man’s NXT during the mid 2000s), winning the OVW Heavyweight Championship four times and reigning as one half of the OVW Southern Tag Team Champions with Stu Sanders. That’s pretty impressive, although not as impressive as Sanders eventually going on to become Wade Barrett. That’s right; Barrett and Burchill were tag partners, because THEY’RE BOTH BRITISH MAGGLE! Come on, you know that’s the reason.
Despite all that developmental success, the most interesting aspect of Burchill’s career all goes back to his days as “Pirate Paul”. I know, I know, how could a pirate gimmick in WWE be any good? Well, against all odds, Burchill actually did do a great job with it. If you go back and watch anything from his run as “Pirate Paul”, you’ll notice that the crowd largely ate it up, mostly because Burchill was able to wrestle his same style (a solid blend of high impact power moves and great athleticism) and completely and utterly owned the gimmick. Most importantly, he was allowed to actually use the C4 (renamed Walking the Plank, because PIRATES!), which really helped because it’s very hard to not get over with a move that cool. So what went wrong? Reportedly, Vince McMahon (having not watched Pirates of the Caribbean) didn’t get the character, and felt Burchill needed to be more like a real pirate than a man embracing his pirate ancestry. Thus, the gimmick was dropped and Burchill ultimately was never the same. Leave it to Vince McMahon to somehow watch a pirate gimmick get over, and then inexplicably squash it. That would be like Roman Reigns becoming the greatest wrestler ever, and Vince pushing Heath Slater as a top star instead. Oh goodness, I hope he’s not reading this.
After Burchill’s WWE stint ended, he continued to wrestle a bit on the independent circuit, notably having a match with AJ Styles for Pro Wrestling Syndicate back in 2010. After that however, Burchill’s career appears to have dried up, and Wikipedia has him listed as a retired wrestler. His last match, as of now, took place last year against a man named Stingray, which I suppose is a fitting way for Burchill to go out considering his old pirate gimmick. Then again, I don’t think any wrestler ever plans on going out after wrestling a dude named Stingray. That’s the sort of thing that would make Terry Funk want to come out retirement; who am I kidding, everything makes Terry Funk want to come out retirement!
Gotta go with the debut of “Pirate Paul” against William Regal. Burchill may have had better matches than this one, but from top to bottom, I can’t find anything more entertaining. For one, Regal kills it with a pre match promo running Burchill down for becoming a “buccaneer”, to the point that it almost feels like the gimmick is being buried. Alas, Burchill swings off the titantron on a rope, pulls out a sword at one point, and somehow manages to make it all work. Combine that with a very solid five minute match between the two, and you begin to see just what got the “Pirate Paul” gimmick over. Cue all the British readers praising Regal in 3, 2, 1…
If you gave Paul Burchill one hundred shots to become a wrestling star, I’d be willing to bet he’d make it ninety nine times. It’s amazing how underrated he is; the guy was a 6’4, 250 lb wrestler who could mix power, high flying and technical ability into one unique blend, while also having the charisma to get a PIRATE GIMMICK OVER! Seriously, isn’t that enough evidence of Burchill’s skill? It’s hard enough sometimes to get over by being yourself; to get over by portraying a character that most times would be ruined from the moment it began is a testament to how well Burchill played the role and how high his ceiling was. That he didn’t get there is a travesty. There’s no reason that Burchill, only 36 years old today, should be out of wrestling, and it amazes me that no one called him after his WWE release. TNA couldn’t have used him? New Japan didn’t have room? Mexico couldn’t have taken a shot at him like they did a similarly talented Marco Corleone? If Burchill is indeed done, it’s a shame, because we deserved to see more of him. Let’s hope that he isn’t. Give him a call Lucha Underground! As your biggest fan, I’m telling you that you could use someone as talented as Burchill. Hell, even make him a pirate again. That would at least work better in the wacky world that is LU!
That’ll do it kids. Hope you enjoyed this look at a truly talented performer who deserves more than he got. I’ll be back later with…something. Who knows what? Till next time, how about some more crazy Vince memes? Those are always good.
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