How you feel about James Ellsworth may actually say more about how you feel about a seminally popular, early 90's, Saturday morning TV show than it does about James Ellsworth. Because James Ellsworth is the Screech Powers of the WWE.
Saved by the Bell ran from 1989-1993, and the College Years from 93-94, and then The New Class that we'll pretend never happened. Even if you weren't old enough to catch it live, chances are you've seen every episode at some point in syndication or gotten a gist of the show on Netflix. I'm fairly certain that it was on 24 hours a day when I was in college.
The show focused on the exploits of 6 students, with handsome, California "preppy" Zack Morris as the show's lead character. Among Zack's friends were Slater, Jesse, Kelly, Lisa and his best friend, Samuel "Screech" Powers.
Of the entire group, Screech was the one that didn't quite fit in. The other kids were attractive, athletic, and well-dressed (for the time), while Screech was awkward, small and well, nerdy. This wasn't just an observation. The show made a point of pointing it out by continually having the rest of the cast call Screech a nerd. Lisa, Screech's main love interest, was constantly repulsed by him. Jessie, Kelly, and Slater wouldn't think twice about putting him in his place. And Zack (again, Screech's "best friend") would often call Screech a dork right to his face.
Does this sound like any other Smackdown LIVE relationship you know of? In the past 4 weeks of their friendship, Dean Ambrose has continually berated his buddy, Ellsworth, with chin jokes and last week even called him a mutant on national televsion.
When Zack wasn't making fun of Screech's appearance, he was using him to advance his own agenda. When chemicals blew up in Screech's face, Zack tried to turn it into an underground zit cream business. Once, Zack dressed Screech up as a girl so he could sneak into the locker room and subliminally brainwash Kelly into falling in love with him. Like Zack Morris, Dean Ambrose has used Jame Ellsworth as a pawn in his game. Did Ambrose really care if James becames a WWE superstar or did he just want to piss off AJ Styles?
The audience was supposed to assume that Screech was fine with this treatment. Sure, he was a nerd, but he got to spend his weekends trying to spy on attractive girls and sneak into over-18 clubs instead of playing chess with Melvin Nerdly. James Ellsworth may be the but of every joke, but hey, at least he's not wrestling in front of 15 people at a flea market.
Looking back, though, I have to wonder how Screech really felt about the way he was treated. Did it sting a little worse every time he heard the word dorkus? Did he grow weary of seeing Zack always be the one to get the girl or the car or the perfect SAT score?
James Ellsworth must have grown tired of the jokes. He must have yearned for a kind of respect he knew deep down that ultra-cool guy, Dean Ambrose –the Zack Morris of Smackdown LIVE –would never give him.
This past Sunday at WWE TLC, when James Ellworth pushed over a 16 foot tall ladder that sent Dean Ambrose and his championship dreams crashing through two ringside tables, I couldn't help but imagine that somewhere, Screech Powers was smiling.