On July 1, 2022, a man calling himself Max Dupri stood in a WWE ring and made good on his promise to bring together a posse of men with a passion for fashion. As Dupri debuted his two new discoveries, existing roster members Mace and Mansoor, it was clear this would be a very different presentation for both men. With the additions (slightly) rebranded as “ma.çé” (Mah-SAY) and “mån.sôör” (Man-SWAH), the three swaggered around with an air of self-delusion that has wafted from many a great wrestling heel over the years.
From Ravishing Rick Rude to The Model Rick Martel (himself a made-over babyface turned into a vainglorious bad guy), holding yourself to be a far more desirable specimen than anyone paying to get in has a rich history. Dupri himself was no stranger to this – as Eli Drake in IMPACT! Wrestling, he once named the fans one of his top five “Dummies of the Year.” For the tag team members themselves, hell, it had to beat being a generic smiley babyface and a member of goddamn Retribution, right?
The only issue was that it was all bullshit, and not in the sense of kayfabe or character change that covers all of wrestling in just a little bit of bullshit. The guy leading things up was very clearly, VISIBLY, L.A. Knight with weird glasses over his eyes. Fans had been desperate for Knight to get out of NXT 2.0 and get a chance to go toe-to-toe with the best on the main roster. Instead, we got to see him made strictly into a manager and stripped of any of the things that made people feel compelled by him (even if they were compelled to boo). This turned out to be one of the last great examples of “Vince gonna Vince,” as he took what we wanted and said “oh yeah, pal? Try THIS.” A simple reminder that he can take our nice things away just because he says so.
This immediately kneecapped the gimmick, it reminded fans how much better the product could be but wasn’t. What’s worse, “Max” was the only one talking so there was little to no chance for the actual wrestlers to save the whole idea. It seemed destined to tank, soon be repackaged again or sent back to NXT altogether.
Then something interesting happened. Just three weeks after the debut of this very New Generation-style gimmick, Vince McMahon stepped down and Triple H took over the booking of WWE. Over the next two months we saw organic change as Maxxine Dupri began popping up to enthusiastically push the next seasonal line, or mindful preparation while Max slowly turned from the group as if coming out of a fugue state. Soon enough LA Knight was back and nobody cared how we got there. MMM then moved to RAW, severing any ties with the Megastar who began doing his thing on SmackDown.
This freed the group to 1) shine more evenly, displaying their own characters and inclinations, and 2) lean into the kind of wacky comedy that this whole idea was meant for without us feeling like it was dragging down a more serious contender. I initially thought I was glad to be rid of the group, but over time I noticed MMM and their transition to a new manner more and more on the red brand, which had severely lacked consistent and pure entertainment for years.
WWE has long been seen as a place that values story above all; if you can get over with a character or an arc, the matches can (for better or worse) take a back seat sometimes. The Bloodline has in-ring promos, backstage segments and angles main eventing shows and finishing pay-per-views like the Royal Rumble! Further down the page, WWE’s TV has also had successful characters shine through in recurring bits like The Fashion Files and Daniel Bryan and Kane’s anger management sessions. With this in mind, MMM got its own dedicated time in backstage segments and the online feature series “Making It Maximum”, where we get to see more of what each member brings to the table. You may be surprised at just what gets revealed.
Mansoor, who had not been a standout character even when succeeding in-ring, carries a lot of the comedy chops, which I did not know he had in him, describing himself as not being “cosmetically cleared” to compete and other hilarious nonsense. His exclamations when struck by some calamity, or by another superstar, have escalated to strictly dog frequencies and never fail to pop me.
Mace (the character, not the person mind you) plays the sweet but more distant and, well, sort of dim friend who says less but often has the funniest line each time out. At one point, after Mansoor plays the old joke of trying to bribe their way into a TV match with his “close friend” Abe (a $5 bill), Mace quietly and sincerely exclaims “you never told me you knew Abraham Lincoln” on the way out, making the whole bit.
Maxxine brings all the usual heel manager mean girl energy towards others, but interacts with the team in a genuine way and comes across as sincerely fighting for them, even if telling them hard news for their own good, like critiquing their carb intake. Believing in each other and what they’re doing, even if it’s outrageously misguided, makes it easier to laugh with them. They’re still the butt of the joke, but it feels more like their joke now.
Owning the material also means putting in little pieces of themselves and what they like. A recent search for the missing Mace ultimately led to something that felt like any Very Special Episode of Saved By The Bell, Punky Brewster, or so many other pop culture devices I grew up with. They had to raise [X amount of dollars] to stop [Generic important spot in the community] from getting demolished by big bad business, and wouldn’t you know it a local karate tournament offered exactly that amount in reward!
The characters ruining this trope with just the right amount of trademark stupidity as it played out made for an enjoyable satire of the pop culture I grew up on. Not what I was expecting from this crew! Sprinkled along the way were nods to video games; Mace, a streamer and table-top gamer, let loose a genuine “Hadouken!” while training for the karate event, with further nods to Star Wars and even Scrubs! This gives lots of folks with similar passions and favorites a chance to not only enjoy MMM, but even relate to them in small ways. That’s how you successfully go from “you suck, get off my tv” to a lovable loser who people want to laugh with and see try again.
Such teams have a longstanding history in WWE; from the Bushwhackers to the Headbangers to Hawkins and Ryder. Several have managed to stick around, get into feature stories, and that last one managed to even win gold at WrestleMania! MMM may not get that far up the card, but they clearly have the ear of creative to be able to get the chances to spread their goofball wings so consistently. And with the title picture largely monopolized by people who live on SmackDown, there’s time for stories to unfurl on RAW and grab people’s attention. It worked for Breezango, who Triple H believed in so much he brought them back to NXT as credible challengers.
It appears there’s belief behind this version of MMM also, given that recent weeks have seen them consistently reaching out to, and now acquiring, the services of another popular character in former Mr. Money In The Bank Otis (excuse me, Otìse). Whether the big man’s pursuit of another blonde bombshell ends in backstabbing, her ditching her original boys, or long-term friendship, that’s already more options and future stories than the gimmick seemed to have only a short time ago.
Given how far they’ve come since they started and their dedication to posing, avoiding saturated fats, and purging the locker room of (as Mace put it) “Sandoval-esque ick,” I’m actually looking forward to seeing what they pull off next. If you spend enough time with them and hide your carbs, you just might do the same.