Just over four years ago, 24 hours removed from WrestleMania 29, Fandango had something of a minor Daniel Bryan moment. The international audience gathered at New Jersey’s now-shuttered Izod Center was in rare form for Monday Night Raw, raining subversive cheers and jeers and generally hijacking proceedings. But they reserved their most resounding, contrarian endorsement for Fandango, a cheeky heel/purported expert ballroom dancer coming off a shocking win against legend Chris Jericho in his debut match. Thousands in attendance transformed his tacky, instrumental entrance theme into an onomatopoeic rallying cry, replete with swinging hips and bobbing index fingers. “Cha Cha La La” became a literal overnight phenomenon, rocketing up near the top of iTunes charts here and abroad. And the unlikely earworm’s accompanying shimmy – instantly dubbed Fandango-ing, cause, duh – scanned as an absurdist counterpart to Bryan fans’ earnest “Yes!” chants.
But unlike Bryan, who would celebrate a WWE Championship win at the following year’s ‘Mania along with nearly 100,000 digit-hoisting faithful, Fandango’s momentum was promptly grounded. After showing flashes of gratitude that night in 2013, he quickly reverted to scripted antagonism. Despite the efforts of diehard Fandango-ers, particularly in the U.K., a combination of viewer ambivalence and the injury bug doomed the striking, gifted talent to lower-card doldrums.
Meanwhile, Tyler “Prince Pretty” Breeze bounded onto the main roster in 2015 after a successful run in NXT, but was one of several prominent early call-ups – including Bo Dallas and The Ascension – whose gimmick didn’t quite stand out amid the spectacular nature of WWE’s primetime programming. In NXT, Breeze’s deadpan narcissism was perfectly outsized for his promotion, similar to how Dalton Castle’s winking flamboyance complements Ring of Honor’s scale and its followers’ savvy. But projected to bigger live rooms and millions more homes, Breeze’s selfie sticks, fringed getups and paradoxical mean streak failed to set him apart from any number of wrestling’s notorious handsome devils.
In the midst of mutual creative slumps, Breeze and Fandango’s paths would finally intertwine in May 2016. With little to bind them besides snake-bitten pasts and a shared history of being asked to largely shun legitimate ability and ostensibly lampoon their good looks, Breezango – continuing the grand tradition of mash-up tag names — was christened. And after months of toil and tinkering with a cohesive identity as self-described fashion police (all due respects to the late Joan Rivers), the duo’s number was called. With the Usos carrying gold and larger division plans more or less on hold until the New Day came back into the fold, Fandango and Breeze were tapped to come out victorious in a Beat the Clock Challenge for number-one contender. In the ensuing weeks, they carried the stopgap storyline by gamely heightening their Zoolander-ish antics in a series of Law & Order spoofs titled Fashion Files and, most crucially, made for convincing fan favorites after straddling the fence since sojourning to SmackDown.
The occasion has represented a full-circle second chance for Fandango, even if WWE’s largesse is a bit Johnny-come lately. And Breeze is better suited goofing on his cliché persona than placing emphasis on originality. The Fashion Files bits can be hit or miss, but the buildup to Backlash allowed them to style and profile in the ring with a string of wins, even if they’re no “tag-team specialists” like their humorless adversaries Jimmy and Jey (or, for that matter, ex-champions and humdrum heroes American Alpha). And last night, they outshone their ultimately victorious nemeses with a combination of killer kicks and comic relief (“let’s go grandma” beats “this is awesome” any day).
This is, after all, a
partnership closer in spirit to oddball combos like Too Cool and Team Hell No. And
their run is as much a reminder of each superstar’s individual gifts – Fandang’’s
leg-drop finisher is worthy of flash photography, and Breeze is a
multi-disciplinary threat – as a way to keep fans sated till Kofi Kingston and
crew bring their big-E brand of entertainment to Tuesday nights. And a la Jinder Mahal’s makeover from squash fodder to
Maharaja, Breezeango’s current push as lovable contenders is only be
conceivable on this new, more improvisational SmackDown. It’s the kind of freeform approach that, ironically,
made Raw must-see back when potential
journeyman like Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor could sell T-shirts as
Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay. Those guys managed to snag themselves a
championship. That result was never realistically in the offing for Breezango
come Backlash, but at least, all
these years later, Fandango-ing is finally back in fashion.