Culture

The Spinning Lariat: Park, Park and Parked

joseph park

Every Friday, The Spinning Lariat brings you Trent Zuberi’s observations on the latest developments in America’s other major wrestling company, TNA.

Reinvention in the wrestling business is common. Wrestlers often jump gimmicks and repackage themselves under new characters depending on a particular storyline, promotion or timeframe. Usually when these things happen, fans see shades of the previous character, be it through movesets or mannerisms, enough to know that the performer they are watching essentially used to do something else. It isn’t often that a performer in 2013, when exposure is at its highest, can still kayfabe (Google that if you don’t know) an audience. The modern-day standout in this case is a wrestler known as Joseph Park.

Joseph Park is played by Chris Parks, who is also famous for playing the character Abyss in TNA Impact Wrestling for many years. Abyss is a masked monster of a character from Parts Unknown who thrives on the amount of blood he spills during a match. Joseph Park is the brother of Abyss: a nerdy, pacifistic attorney from Chicago that originally came to investigate the disappearance of his brother but then parlayed his stay into a wrestling career. Does the CliffsNotes version of this story sound a bit wacky? Remember, this is pro wrestling. The two characters are worlds different, but played by the same man.

It’s actually wonderful how well Chris Parks is able to pull this off. Abyss is a trained wrestler that has a moveset and fighting style that has been defined. When he is donning the Joseph Park jumpsuit (yes, jumpsuit), he truly acts like a guy that just set foot in the ring for the first time. Everything from running the ropes to throwing a punch looks exactly how it would if you took the most awkward person you knew and threw them into a wrestling ring. The brilliance at work here is that Chris Parks makes this look so natural. When I’m watching the show I get lost in the character, and I begin to truly believe that Joseph Park is this rookie that just started in the business.

The storyline has played well in that they showed Joseph, who initially had no interest in fighting, get pushed to the point of training by various wrestlers who would pick on him and beat him up as he continued the search for his brother. Even the speaking style is different, again to the point where you could never imagine the same man playing both characters. It is almost as if Chris Parks had to forget everything he was ever trained and start from scratch, but once again the brilliance here is how he pulls off two characters simultaneously (though Abyss hasn’t been seen in a while), so differently that many fans are still left confused as to whether or not it’s one guy or two different ones.

The tragedy this character is facing now is that it’s stuck. Joseph Park is over with the crowd, they love him and he truly is very entertaining. But because every summer/fall TNA holds the annual Bound for Glory Series, a point-based tournament in which the victor fights for the World Heavyweight Championship at their flagship PPV Bound for Glory, Park’s character progression is a bit halted. Though he is in the tournament (with negative points!), he has little room to progress through the “Searching for Abyss” storyline as most of the show’s time and focus is dedicated to the guys in the series as well as the World Title picture. There simply isn’t enough TV time to set aside to further this storyline properly. In the meantime, Joseph Park is an absolute pleasure to watch. Every single segment he is in is entertaining. Here and there they have begun to start dropping the hints that Joseph is actually Abyss. For example if he begins to bleed during a match he snaps, goes insane and wins the match using moves his “brother” does. He then immediately wakes up, not knowing what happened. Eventually we are getting the merge, but just have to wait it out.

Chris Parks has been an absolute gem with his work here, not only for his acting ability but for the psychology behind every single move he makes in the ring. The man is such a pro that he was perceptive enough to focus on the little things that help further the character. Many people I speak to about the character want Abyss back full-time. Many want to keep him as Joseph Park. It really is a double-edged sword because each character appeals to different crowds. I personally feel that they will stretch it out until after the next PPV so they can give it the proper reveal with enough time. After all, this has been a year plus in the making, so it definitely needs to end on a strong note. I hate to essentially see this character “parked” until the reveal, but I’m willing to wait it out if they do it right and they do it big.

Questions? Comments? Connect with me on Twitter @vanillajoke