There aren’t many active wrestlers from the WWF’s “New Generation” anymore. That pastel-colored, pre-Attitude Era cohort which marked something of a creative doldrums for Vince McMahon and company have aged out. They’re 50 and 60 years old now, officially old, or old-ish. The era was marked by sublimation of self to strong, career-based gimmicks—this was the age of wrestling sanitation workers and repo men, of Puerto Rican ninjas and in-ring minotaurs.
Almost all of them are gone, relegated to one-off special attraction status. One who’s lingered, and who is currently undergoing a twilight renaissance at 50 years old, is Carl Ouellet, or PCO (Pierre Carl Ouellet) as he’s now billed.
You remember him. Or more accurately, you remember the gimmick, because that’s what you always remember from the New Generation. He showed up in 1993 as the teammate of Jacques Rougeau, formerly The Mountie. You remember his gimmick, too. He was a mountie.
Rougeau had to ditch the gimmick because (the story goes) the Canadian government didn’t like the portrayal of mounties as heels. The name went, though the outfit strangely didn’t, and Rougeau showed up with Ouellet in tow as a new tag team called The Quebecers. They were pushed to the moon in the relatively brief time they were together, winning two tag team titles in the process.
That was the high water mark for Ouellet’s prime years. He was a respected hand, a wrestler’s wrestler. He was a power guy, but he had a penchant for high flying moves which defied his wrecking ball physique. He had a brief run as a wrestling pirate after Rougeau temporarily retired (a play on the fact that Ouellet has diminished vision in one eye) before the two reunited in the waning days of WCW.
He’s been an indie mainstay ever since, including a memorable one-off against Kevin Nash which played on the fact that they had a very real fight 15 years prior. Mostly, he’s hung out in the Montreal wrestling scene, helping usher in new stars and give a sheen to promotions like IWS. Respectable, steady, successful, sometimes thrilling, Ouellet seemed content with where he was.
Something changed over the past year and a half, though. After a deserved hiatus, Ouellet became PCO and has started garnering the sort of buzz wrestlers half his age get. He’s still the same guy: a barrel-chested, high-flying, slightly off-kilter but always safe wrestling machine. But he is, and this is important, 50. He isn’t young, or close to young, and he looks maybe a bit older still.
That combination of age and his ability to do things he should not have been doing when he was young, let alone now, is the immediate spark to PCO’s appeal. When he does a moonsault, the mind can’t reconcile what it’s seeing. For a moment, there’s that friction of slightly sickening voyeurism, the way nobody wants anyone to get hurt but also everyone is living on the knife’s edge of what if. And PCO is fine after his real-time stunt routine, so the chants go up and the cheers get louder because the tension is resolved.
This reached a head at Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 over WrestleMania weekend. It was a fun show, but the match of the night was between PCO and current PWG champion, Walter.
Walter is an Austrian giant, made of equal parts fat and muscle. Importantly, he goes hard, which suited the match just fine. The two chopped, slammed, and just generally beat the shit out of each other in ways which lived on that knife’s edge. And when it was over, the reviews were glowing.
Accompanying the fact that PCO just never seems to stop, perhaps even overshadowing it, are his promos. They are utterly bonkers in the best way possible, an unholy mix of manic old school screaming and arch postmodern winking. They can’t be real, but they are, except maybe they’re not. Maybe PCO knows screaming and spitting is passé, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.
The vignettes have to be watched to be believed. They all take place in a frankly terrifying looking basement gym. PCO does some sort of masochistic workout while screaming, while his greasy manager yells at him to keep going harder. In the course of the vignettes, PCO has bent iron bars, folded pans, and chewed decks of cards in half. By the end of each, he’s worked himself into a frenzy over whoever his next opponent is, practically frothing at the mouth while his red face turns into a rictus of physical anger.
They’re frankly amazing and work for pretty much any wrestling fan. PCO vignettes are the perfectly engineered synthesis of 40 years of promo styles. Old school callouts? A little irony? Raw emoting? Threats of extreme violence? A lack of clarity over what’s real and what’s not? All of it is here in PCO’s gym. There is absolutely something for everyone, no matter what sort of wrestling promo you’re into.
It remains to be seen just how much longer he can go. It can’t be much longer. He’s 50, and he is big. At some point, the joints and sinews have to seize up, the muscles have to sag, the voice has to break. But not yet, not now. For now, PCO is eternal, returned as something somehow better and wilder than he has been before, and it’s glorious.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.