Monday, July 25, 2011

Wrestling with horror

No apologies and no shame. I enjoy professional wrestling. It's similar to the love I have for no-budget schlock horror movies. I know it's bad, but I don't care. Now hand me that can of Easy Cheese.

A quick internet search will provide any number of lists of the scariest wrestlers ever. One thing you'll notice is that most of them don't stay at the highest levels of sports entertainment for very long. Remember the Boogeyman? He ate worms and smashed a clock on his face. The gaps in his short-lived stint in the WWE are as big as the gap from his missing teeth.

What? You don't remember him? What about Vampiro or the Demon from the last few years of WCW? Spark any memories? No? Well, let me help.

Any wrestling fan from the last 25 years can tell you that when it comes to scary, no one ever topped The Undertaker. He's one of the longest tenured wrestlers in the WWE and every year, fans are reminded that he's never lost a match at Wrestlemania. As the clip that led off this post shows, the Undertaker always makes other wrestlers quake in their boots.

During one stint, the Deadman led The Ministry, a dark faction that burned, buried and even mock-crucified a couple people in the mid-1990s. He had another go as "the American Badass," a biker gimmick that came during the "wrestlers are real people, too" era. (Who knew that the Undertaker was a redhead? You try telling him he's a soulless ginger and see how far you get.)

The great thing about the Undertaker is that he's supposed to be "Big Evil" and all that, but other than his first feud with Hulk Hogan (and his role opposite Hogan in "Suburban Commando"), he's been a fan favorite. I won't go so far as to call him a babyface because the lines between good and bad in wrestling have been blurred during the last 15 years. People love the Undertaker.

His "brother" Kane, on the other hand, has definitely been a heel.

The whole "brother" thing gets cycled around every now and again. Sometimes they help each other, sometimes they are chokeslamming each other to Hell. There have been times when Kane was scarier than the Undertaker. Then there was the Katie Vick incident, probably the most depraved thing WWE has ever done. While it's nothing new to many horror fans, many people who already didn't like the WWE found necrophilia to be in bad taste.

You know what else is bad taste? Selling out so hard that WCW uses your image as a gimmick.

This is another twofer. The Demon, a gimmick based on Gene Simmons persona from KISS, battled Vampiro, who hung out with Jerry Only of the Misfits.

These two characters helped seal the fate of WCW, because they were lame. Vampiro was kind of a bad ass, feuding (and setting on fire) Sting. Neither lasted very long and I couldn't tell you what happened to either of the men behind the make-up after WCW folded (mostly because I don't actually care.)

One wrestler I do care about is Sting. When I first got cable, Sting was feuding with Ric Flair. This was before WCW Monday Nitro existed and Sting looked more like the surfer version of the Ultimate Warrior than The Crow. Sting was being tormented by the Black Scorpion (who turned out to be Flair). I ate it up. The Black Scorpion would drop from the ceiling into the ring to torment Sting. Sting eventually adopted many of the Black Scorpion's tricks, including coming into the ring from the ceiling.

As the in-ring persona of Sting took a dark turn, Steve Borden, the man behind this make-up, turned toward the light. Maybe knowing that Borden is a born-again Christian turns some of you off. It shouldn't. (I'm not getting preachy here. I'm just saying that it can't be easy to be a Christian in the wrestling business. I admire Borden for his convictions. When WCW folded, I'm sure he was offered a lot of money to sign with WWE. He didn't and that takes guts.)

I got a bit off track there, and I'm going to go just a bit more off track and talk about my favorite wrestler. He didn't have a horror gimmick, but he's beloved by horror fans everywhere. I'm talking about Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Piper the wrestler was a maniac. Piper the actor worked with John Carpenter, which gets him on this list.

Is there a better line in a movie ever? No, no there isn't.

There are other horror-related wrestlers and some horrific wrestling moments. We might talk about more of them later. For now, enjoy the clips. Relive some good memories. And remember to take your vitamins and say your prayers.

(The only thing that was ever scary about Hulk Hogan was watching his muscles turn flabby and sway in the wind of his punches. Frightening.)

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