The Eugene character was a controversial one in the mid-2000s but Nick Dinsmore, the man who played Eugene, believed it still could have worked had he debuted in 2020.
Dinsmore portrayed Eugene, a wrestler with special needs, from 2004 to 2007 during his time in WWE. During that time, he was involved in storylines with William Regal, Kurt Angle and Triple H.
Had the character debuted this year, which has a different social landscape compared to the mid-2000s, Dinsmore believed WWE would have found a way to make it work as he told Chris Van Vliet in a recent interview.
"One thing I know about WWE is that they can almost always make anything work. You know what I mean? When Eugene first started, I didn't have my first match on TV for two or three weeks and in those first two or three weeks some people I had heard, like radio stations or news outlets were saying 'What is WWE going to do with this character?'. But the minute I won my first match, then they know it's an underdog story of a boy with a dream wanting to be a wrestler and he's fulfilling that dream," Dinsmore said.
Portraying a character with special needs did open the door for Dinsmore to receive a lot of criticism, thinking that he is mocking people with special needs. Dinsmore thought about that pushback at first but then started to receive a lot of compliments for giving people with a special needs a voice and giving them newfound confidence after watching him on TV.
"I thought about [the criticism] going in but it was my opportunity but I was either going to sink or swim on it. But I had got so much positive affirmation afterwards. So many people said to me, 'My brother has special needs and he told me that he can do anything because Eugene did it'. I heard that more times than I heard, 'You're making fun of people'. No, instead I heard 'You're giving them a voice' or 'Oh my God, there's someone like me'. That's what I want to be. That's what WWE should be a representation of every type of person that there is around the world," Dinsmore said.
The full interview can be seen in the video at the top of the page. Credit to Chris Van Vliet for the transcription.