News Sentinal Entertainment

Wrestler's success going to his'Head'

Ex-Unibomb has a blast in WWF

February 12, 1999

By Terry Morrow, News-Sentinel entertainment writer.

It's not often you can say a pro wrestler thinks with someone else's head, but Al Snow does. In an arena dominated with the Stone Cold Steve Austins of the world, Snow of the World Wrestling Federation is not stealing the spotlight with clever moves and witty trash talk but with the use of a mannequin head.

Dubbing it simply "The Head," he carries it with him into the ring and pretends to listen to its instructions. If it commands him to pick up a folded steel chair and smash his opponent across the back, then Snow will do it -- to the raves of his audience.

Sounds stupid? Yeah, all the way to the bank. "I'm psychotic," Snow says during a telephone interview from Canada hours before a match. "People love The Head."

But just trying asking him where the idea came from and he suddenly gets into character. "I've suffered a nervous breakdown," he says. "I'm paranoid and the only one I'll listen to is the voices in my Head."

To add to his persona, Al arrives in the ring with the words "HELP ME" written backward in ink on his forehead. The same words appear on the mannequin head, too.

This gimmick has helped bring new attention to Snow, whose real name is Allen Sarven. It's also drawn sharp criticism, not for drawing laughs from mental illness but from the catch phrase that accompanies his arrival.

The phrase involves the use of the word "head." Snow, who says he is 35 years old, a right-wing conservative, married and father of two children in Ohio, says he can't help what the crowd does. "I'm there to entertain," he says.

Does he let his own children listen to the blue language and see the finger gestures that have become part WWF's prime-time TV matches? "No," he says, "they should be in bed by the time that starts. Most of it does not begin until about 10 a clock and most kids need to be in bed on aschool night by 10.

"And I'll say that what we have on WWF is what 98 percent of the children already see in their own home anyway. It's not a new experience for them. They see and hear it all the time anyway."

Snow, who has been with the WWF for more than three years, got his start in the East Tennessee-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling. It was former Smoky Mountain Wrestling manager Jimmy Cornette who discovered Snow and brought him to the WWF.

Snow garnered a local following as part of the tagteam called the Unibombs.(editors note:where did he get that?) The other half of the team belonged to Glenn Jacobs, a Dandridge resident who now wrestles as the mysterious masked man known as Kane.

"Smoky Mountain was fun," he says. "It was a whole different experience for me. It was a challenge, but WWF is different. For one, it pays alot more." With the right gimmick and deal, TV wrestlers are making millions of dollars each year when merchandise sales from T-shirts, video games and action figures are factored in.

Snow, who wrestles close to 200 dates a year, has hit a chord with The Head. "My friends and family are supportive of what I do,"he says. "Sometimes, my mother looks down, though, and shakes her head." Snow is on the card for the WWF match at 7:30p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.