Lulu Pencil is a professional wrestler for Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling. She is a freelance writer, passionate about gaming, that just so happened to find herself in the colorful world of wrestling. She began her training in the summer of 2019; only a few short months later, the earnest wrestler in pink overalls became a viral sensation. This wasn’t due to dominant performances or superhuman feats of strength. On the contrary, she became popular in spite of these.
To put it simply, Lulu Pencil is an enigma in wrestling. She isn’t particularly powerful or agile. In fact, even throwing simple forearms causes more pain for her than her opponent. Lulu Pencil can’t rely on physical attributes in the same way her peers can. Instead, she must use her resourcefulness and a bit of luck to gain the edge. This unique approach has made her a breakout star in Gatoh Move. More so, it established her as perhaps the greatest underdog in wrestling in 2020.
Even if one has never heard of Lulu Pencil, the underdog story in wrestling is nothing new. From Mick Foley to Eddie Guerrero to Daniel Bryan and beyond, there have been many wrestlers that punched above their weight. Yes, they have encountered more hurdles than most. Yes, they should have, for all intents and purposes, fallen short in their endeavors. However, through highs and lows, and peaks and valleys, they succeeded. This begs the question: what makes an underdog in wrestling?
Everyone seems to have their unique definition of an underdog. In this writer’s opinion, there are three common traits that these scrappy individuals share. It is due to these traits that they have not only gained the admiration of others but exceeded expectations. Using Lulu Pencil and her story, as a collective framework, here are the three base traits that wrestling underdogs should possess.
By definition, empathy is the ability to identify with someone else’s experiences. When we see someone struggle or overcome, oftentimes we can place ourselves in their shoes. Not only does this help a viewer better understand a wrestler, but more importantly, it makes the wrestler in question more likable. If an underdog fails to be an empathetic figure, they are unable to tell their story as intended.
Lulu Pencil is a tremendously empathetic figure. Her personality can best be described as awkward yet sincere. She is unlikely to be the most athletic person in her match. Despite this, what she lacks in physical capabilities she makes up in sheer heart. After all, time and time again, she has faced many tall challenges. By comparison to a seasoned wrestler, Lulu Pencil is easier to vicariously live through. Every bit of punishment she takes or momentum she builds is felt by the audience.
Lulu Pencil isn’t the only example of an empathetic underdog in wrestling, either. Case and point, Liv Morgan. The blonde-haired member of The Riott Squad recently had her own documentary, entitled “Liv Forever,” released on the WWE Network. A common thread in the documentary is the seemingly never-ending struggle she has experienced from a creative standpoint. Between inconsistent storytelling and being told her match was canceled seconds before her entrance, it’s easy to relate to being the victim of empty promises. This may not have been the way WWE intended, but regardless, the documentary made Morgan look like that much more of an underdog.
Speaking of empathetic underdogs in WWE, look no further than Leon Ruff. The current NXT North American Championship found himself in a prominent spot in short order. Perhaps he lucked his way to the title, due in large part to interference from Damian Priest, who had unresolved issues with Johnny Gargano. Nonetheless, Ruff has never failed to come off as likable, if not goofy at times. He may be in over his head, but in his situation, who wouldn’t be? Ruff’s swift ascent to NXT championship gold was unexpected in 2020, but his overall demeanor has been keeping fans invested.
An underdog is also characterized by how tenacious they are. Regardless of the obstacles in their way, an underdog will move forward with unbridled grit. Going back to the idea of empathy, who among us hasn’t had a goal they strove to achieve? When a likable wrestler faces insurmountable odds, their story becomes that much easier to get behind.
For her lack of brute strength, Lulu Pencil is all heart. Perhaps the greatest example of this can be seen on episode sixty-three of ChocoPro. This was a one-match show, featuring Lulu Pencil and Emi Sakura, collectively known as Pencil Army, taking on Yuna Mizumori and Chris Brookes, the latter of whom had been nothing short of a bully to Lulu Pencil. He even dared to steal her trademark pink hat, which not drew the ire of ChocoPro fans but increased support for the Pencil Army’s commanding officer.
This episode sixty-three bout was an “I Quit” Match. Brookes’ goal was simple: to make Lulu Pencil utter those humiliating words. No matter how much punishment she absorbed, she maintained her resolve. Lulu Pencil worked hard to become stronger; to verbally quit would go against the fiber of her character. Sakura, who was helpless as she watched Lulu Pencil trapped in a grueling submission, quit for her partner. Pencil Army lost, but Gatoh Move’s freelance writer never gave up. This earned Lulu Pencil major respect, even from Brookes, who decided to finally return her hat.
If there is one WWE underdog that defines tenacity, it would be Drake Maverick. This past March, he was among the numerous talent released following the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, he was allowed to work the NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. Maverick entered said tournament as, to no surprise, the underdog. Even if he was technically gone from the company, fans wanted to see him succeed. Maverick was scrappy, to say the least, putting on spirited efforts against names including Jake Atlas and KUSHIDA. Maverick may not have won the gold, but in the end, he was re-signed by WWE. This was one story in 2020 capped by a happy ending.
Fear is an essential human emotion. This past October, I wrote a column about fear in professional wrestling, spotlighting the characters and personalities that exemplified it. In the case of the wrestling underdog, fear is either overcome or simply not an option. When a wrestler encounters a challenge that eclipses them in size, power, speed, or any other attribute, apprehension is understandable. It is in the face of this that the underdog ultimately succeeds.
Come hell or high water, Lulu Pencil is unflinching. Seldom has she had the upper hand in her matches. All the same, she has been able to tackle each challenge with gusto, whether it was one of her fellow trainees, Sakura, or joshi veterans including Kaori Yoneyama and Ryo Mizunami. If she was fearful, she wouldn’t have the presence of mind to change her strategies on the fly, despite the unorthodox nature of her offense. Lulu Pencil possesses the underdog quality of fearlessness and in a major way to boot.
Shifting gears from WWE, let’s take a look at one AEW star that epitomizes fearlessness: Darby Allin. In short order, he carved a reputation as the most death-defying star on the roster. It mattered little if he missed the Coffin Drop or found himself trapped in a bodybag filled with thumbtacks before being powerbombed on the spot. At some point, fans wondered if he even felt pain at all. If he did, it wasn’t far-fetched to assumed he enjoyed it to some degree.
Allin’s bumps and bruises weren’t for naught. This past November, at All Out, he finally tasted AEW championship gold. The skateboarding, face paint-wearing daredevil defeated Cody Rhodes, the very man he failed to defeat time and time again, for the TNT Championship. Finally, Allin’s skill, perseverance, and willingness to take things to the extreme paid off. His short stature alone puts him in underdog status, despite being a current titleholder, but it’s his ability to laugh in the face of danger that truly sets him apart.
The underdog story is, in theory, one of the easiest to tell in wrestling. It’s much easier for a viewer to get behind someone that they see themselves as, whether it’s concerning their appearance, mannerisms, or the obstacles that they face. The year 2020 successfully showcased a number of wrestlers rising to the occasion with different results. Even if they failed to seize the day, they may have been able to win something much more valuable: respect.
It matters little what the odds dictate. It doesn’t matter whether one wrestler is bigger or stronger than another. Even if they must try time and time again, the underdog will find a way to win. At its core, this is what makes the underdog story so gratifying.
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