BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #44 - Mr. Ooh La La
As a kid, I used to read Pro Wrestling Illustrated from cover-to-cover. My old man used to come home from working in the city and bring home the latest edition from a Manhattan newsstand he used to frequent.
There were days I would just stay in my room and read all of the old back issues of PWI that he had garnered throughout the years. Nothing was more exciting than reading, however, than the PWI 500.
Starting in 1991, the PWI 500 was a list, according to writers of the PWI staff, of the top 500 wrestlers in the world. This list included performers over the years from WWF (WWE), WCW, AEW, TNA, ECW, NWA, New Japan, All Japan, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Mexico, Europe, and the American Independents.
So many names have been a part of these lists, but there was one that caught my eye as a teenager.
In the 1999 PWI 500 issue, I remember looking at the list and seeing #324 listed. On top of which, there was a color photo attached to the listing in the magazine. One look, and at 14 years old, I smiled and laughed.
324 - MR. OOH LA LA (5’10”, 230, 9, 349) - This snooty Parisian has improved quite a bit in recent years…Held the ECWA mid-Atlantic title…Lost a scaffold match to J.J. the Ring Crew Guy and as a result, had to work as a member of the ECWA’s ring crew…His bumbling ring entrance may give one the impression that he’s incompetent, but he has solid all-around skills that make him a formidable opponent.
I still have the magazine to this day and I still smile and laugh.
When I first heard the name Mr. Ooh La La, for whatever reason, it reminded me of the old Shoprite “Can Can Sale” commercials. The artist in cartoon form ended the commercial with “Ooh la la.”
Well, there’s your reason.
Mr. Ooh La La’s look was very reminiscent of the Can Can Parisian. He wore a purple beret, a purple jacket with a nicely placed bow, and purple trunks and boots, topped with very outlandish sunglasses. He would bumble out to the ring and, just like the PWI description read, surprised many with his in-ring prowess. He could go in the ring, but not be afraid to demonstrate his comedic side. He reminded me of a slapstick villain from Batman ‘66.
Mr. Ooh La La became one of my favorite wrestlers, solely from reading the Apter Mags. Reading the exploits in little blurbs about the East Coast Wrestling Association, run by legendary promoter Jim Kettner out of Delaware, Ooh La La was frequently involved in rivalries, most notably with the Japanese Pool Boy, Boogie Woogie Brown, Cheetah Master, and the Persian Prince. In the days of tape trading, I found myself watching him perform and loving the throwback style of Ooh La La, especially in contrast to the then-current styles of the Attitude Era and ECW.
Although in the early 2000s, the ECWA was home to some of the young stars of tomorrow, such as Low Ki, the Haas Brothers, Jay and Mark Briscoe, and the Super 8 Tournament, Mr. Ooh La La always figured himself into title contention, frequently listed in the Top 10 contenders to the ECWA Heavyweight championship, thanks to PWI. He was always in the mix.
When then-WWF wrestling commentator Kevin Kelly became ECWA Heavyweight champion in 2001, Mr. Ooh La La linked himself up with Kelly as dastardly villains in the promotion. Ooh La La also personified his greatness in ECWA during this time, winning the Mid-Atlantic Title three times.
Besides video tape, I never had the privilege of seeing this East Coast independent legend live in person, until 2020.
In the height of the pandemic, Stan Stylez’ Intergender Bonanza ran a show outside of the H20 Wrestling Center in Williamstown, NJ. Looking at the card, I learned that Ava Everett would be facing off with Ooh La La one-on-one. In truth, I’d hadn’t heard of Ooh La La in years as an active performer. I knew what I had to do.
I masked up, gassed up the car, and drove to Williamstown to watch this event.
In the middle of the card, Mr. Ooh La La bumbled out to the ring, jaw jacking with fans, strutting around like he owned the place. When the bell sounded, Ooh La La took it back to yesteryear and put on an incredible show. Although the uber-talented Everett won the battle, my mind was racing to one thought:
Mr. Ooh La La not only still “has it”, but he never lost it.
In 2021, Mr. Ooh La La finally achieved the career-long dream, winning the ECWA Heavyweight championship in Morgantown, NJ against Joey Ace at the 25th Super 8 Tournament. He held onto the gold for six months, defending and defeating “Hybrid” Sean Carr, Avery Good, and Teddy Fine, until losing the belt back to Ace at Super Clash in November.
The last time I saw Mr. Ooh La La live was at HONOR: Autism Acceptance on April 29 as a part of the Robbie Rumble. “Brutal” Bob Evans’ son Robbie, who had the opportunity to book the Rumble, personally placed Ooh La La in the match.
The wily veteran entered the match, made his presence felt with a moment that made the fans and wrestlers laugh, and left as soon as he came. Ever the entertainer, Mr. Ooh La La made me “pop” with humor.
And that’s what it’s all about. Of course, in this ever adapting world of pro wrestling, the in-ring athletics are what gets the critical acclaim. For the casual fan, going to a wrestling event, wanting the characters and fan interaction, Mr. Ooh La La still fits the bill. He personifies multiple eras of independent wrestling and the journey of where we are today. You need performers like him in the game. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most fun wrestlers going. I’m proud to have caught him live.
Some wrestlers deserve their flowers. Mr. Ooh La La fits that mindset especially. I wanted to give him that today.
Thank you Mr. Ooh La La for what you’ve done for wrestling. Thank you for being so talented that you were listed in the PWI 500, which imprinted in my mind to this day. And thank you for being you.