Name: Thomas Lister, Jr.
Ring names: Zeus (WWF and WWC), Z-Gangsta (WCW)
Famous runs: Was pushed as a monster heel to face Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 89, after the movie No Holds Barred.
One sentence career summary: An actor who had no business in the wrestling ring, he was an embarrassing mockery of the “sport”.
Power: Above average.
Ring Psychology: Poor.
Terror/Menace looks: Great.
Notable feuds: Tag team matches against Hulk Hogan
Gimmicks: (Invincible) Monster
Real Personality: Born again Christian/motivator/actor.
Awards: Ranked #500 in the PWI’s Top 500 Wrestlers in 1991
Career Push: Occasional wrestler
History: A character actor with menacing roles based on his looks, he opposed Hulk Hogan in the B-Movie No Holds Barred. WWF owner Vince McMahon brought him in before the movie was released to promote a “rivalry” between Hogan and Zeus.
Zeus made numerous appearances on WWF’s TV shows in 1989, and would give interviews and run-ins, with evil alliances with Ted DiBiase and Randy Savage (he would be in Savage’s corner, along with Sensational Sherri). He finally got into an altercation with Hogan and his friend Brutus Beefcake on Saturday Night’s Main Event, leading up to a tag team main event match at SummerSlam 89: Hogan and Beefcake vs Randy Savage and Zeus.
There was a lot of heat going into this match, but the only people who really were into this storyline were kids. Older fans and teenagers realized that Zeus had no skill and blurring a B-Movie into “reality” was too much. Many wrestlers probably resented Zeus’ huge push (and payday) at the main event. (After all, he was an actor, while the other wrestlers were working 300+ days a year).
Hogan used all the publicity to push his friend Beefcake, as Hogan let Beefcake save him in the main even in SummerSlam by finding Zeus’ only known weakness- raking his eyes (Zeus had previously withstood chairshots to the head, and never sold any move). However, Hogan finished Zeus with the legdrop for the pin.
Zeus became a bodyguard for Ted DiBiase, and would run interference in his matches, but hardly wrestled. Towards the end of 1989, once again was in a main event tag team match at Survivor Series 1989, but by then his momentum was very low, and just a background player.
The final blowoff for this long storyline was a steel cage match at 12/27/89 where Hogan and Beefcake once again beat Savage and Zeus after Hogan legdropped Zeus three times.After being used up, Lister continued to appear in movies and TV shows as character roles, but he actually had a match with Abdullah the Butcher in WWC in Puerto Rico in 1990.
His last wrestling appearance was in 1996, when Hogan pulled strings to bring him in WCW in a Tower of Doom match, which was a chaotic match featuring a bunch of monsters facing Hogan and Savage at WCW Uncensored. Hogan and Savage won the match. Lister was called “Z-Gansta” due to WWF owning the copyright to “Zeus”. Smart wrestling fans realized how desperate WCW and Hogan were for resurrecting a ridiculous storyline and character.
Irony of ironies: for someone who was supposed to be invincible, he never won a watch, only had around matches, yet was a main eventer.
Conclusion: Lister is a nice guy in real life, and actually landed some pretty well-paying movie and TV roles in his career, so I don’t blame him for taking the wrestling jobs Hogan and McMahon signed him up for. However, that doesn’t excuse how whenever he shows up in a wrestling ring, it’s a jump-the-shark moment.
His only skill is his terrifying appearance, which means he should have been a bodyguard only. Anyway, wrestling is not his first vocation, and he had some pretty solid acting jobs in the movies. I wish he just stayed in Hollywood, though. His wrestling legacy is infamous, ridiculous, and makes wrestling seem fake and a big joke.
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