Very rarely in wrestling do we see characters who can say everything by saying nothing. The crow version of Sting, as he stalked the NWO in 1996-97 and the earliest incarnation of Kane, flanked by Paul Bearer, immediately come to mind. Characters so stark and memorable for not what they said, but by what they didn’t. Their expressions and actions conveyed all that was needed, and it was more than enough, because we still remember these larger-than-life characters all these years later.
These superstars have become more and more rare, because in this new wrestling landscape it is difficult to maintain such curious and stoic images due to widespread social media access. Someone must have the look. They must be able to emote entirely with movement and have eyes that can pierce the soul. When seen on screen, these characters have to be able to reach through and elicit visceral emotions and connections with the fans watching without uttering a word.
Enter Dexter Lumis.
Armed with eyes that stare daggers into opponents and uncertainty into fans worldwide, Lumis is one of those unique human beings who can steal the show with silence. I’ve watched every one of his matches, and I don’t believe I’ve seen him blink once. The camera alternates focus on those eyes of his and the reactions of his opponents, which range from uncomfortable to straight horror. No one has known how to react to Lumis in the ring, and that’s the beauty of his character. We wonder, and more importantly, we wait.
When I stare into the void that are his haunting eyes, I think of something I once read. It’s a passage from the great artist, Leonardo da Vinci, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
Mauro Ranallo dubbed Lumis a, “maniacal mannequin come to life,” during a match with Shane Thorne. It was a match in which Lumis, standing 6’2’’ and nearly 240 pounds did not hold his usual size advantage. That didn’t matter, because with his sinister stare, his carefully sculpted white blonde hair, his perfectly shaped mustache, black leather gloves, and ominous solid black tattoos, just based on his aura alone no one stands toe-to-toe with him in the ring.
After the match, as Thorne sat motionless on the mat, Lumis held his latest victim’s head in his hands and cradled it, petting it softly as he stared off into the void that was the empty NXT arena, just as he had after defeating Jake Atlas a few weeks earlier. It’s a shiver inducing image that I will not soon forget. It’s unclear if Lumis is admiring his latest kill or simply means to show respect or remorse for his opponent, but the almost robotic movements add a layer of scary that is not often seen in wrestling today.
In a year where wrestling is hurting, as so many are due to the worldwide pandemic, you could make the argument that not having any fans in attendance at shows has actually benefitted Dexter Lumis. The silence of the arenas, coupled with the silence of Lumis himself, and the eerie presence he carries with him, allow for a unique aura that has never been seen in wrestling.
Lumis’ music sets the stage for his character, and he delivers every bit of the creepy and vicious vibes you would expect when his music hits. Reminiscent of the introduction to Stranger Things, Def Rebel created a menacing soundtrack for the man that doesn’t blink, and after the first note fans find themselves within a horror movie, unsure if they are watching the hero or villain. All they know is that they don’t know a thing. Lumis already has everyone in the palm of his hand and he hasn’t hit the ring yet.
He gives Mauro Ranallo the creeps. Nigel McGuinness stated during a broadcast that he had never seen anything like Lumis before. Releasing guttural screams and grunts while fighting, it’s easy to remain unsettled watching one of his matches. That is indeed the point. In addition, his work in the ring is legitimate and powerful, always measuring his opponents just so and using his strength and agility to make good matches great.
In one of my favorite feuds of the year so far, Lumis found himself in the sights of the Undisputed Era. From stalking the group, slithering around the ring, appearing out of thin air only to disappear once again, he rattled Roderick Strong so severely that the superstar couldn’t bear to be near him. In the nearly 3-month long angle, he would battle Adam Cole and Strong multiple times, proving to be a thorn in the side of the Undisputed Era, that they just could not overcome.
In a match with Adam Cole, Cole would yell, “You’re not in my world, Dexter!” Meant as an insult, I found Cole’s words to be ironic and quite perfect in that moment. Lumis isn’t in Cole’s world. He’s not in the world of any us. He’s in one all his own.
Lumis haunted Strong until he had no other choice than to join him in the ring, and it was to be a brutally brilliant strap match at NXT: Great American Bash. During a match he was practically made for, a methodical and violent Lumis toyed with Strong from bell to bell until he joyfully submitted him with his version of the Kata Gatame triangle choke hold he calls “The Silence.”
On July 29, Lumis faced his greatest challenge and opportunity in an NXT ring. He stood toe to toe with the menacing Timothy Thatcher and the former WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor, with the winner going on to participate in a match at Takeover for the NXT North American Championship. Noticeably nursing an ankle injury after launching himself to the outside of the ring early in the match, he worked through the pain. Limping and straining, but pushing through, he never relented against such strong competition. A title shot was on the line after all. In a beautiful moment of life imitating art, when Lumis fought through, he almost seemed as though he was enjoying doing just that. While we have been conditioned through his actions prior to expect him to be impervious to pain, his actual drive when presented with that exact situation was something to behold.
Though Lumis won, he was soon pulled from the match at Takeover due to his injury, but the impact he left prior to this setback is one we won’t soon forget. I don’t know how severe the injury or the length of time he may miss due to it. I do know I’ll be waiting patiently to see what the tortured artist has in store when he returns.
The NXT roster is on borrowed time as long as Dexter Lumis is creeping around in the shadows. The silence is coming…