**If you like this post, check out my article on wrestling stables and my sabremetrics approach to picking the best one**
When I was a kid, I used to LOVE wrestling. Wrestling in the 90s and the early 2000s was my favorite sport (I use that term loosely because even though the match results are pre-determined, you still have to be a good athlete to be a pro wrestler. Don’t believe me? Watch the main event of Wrestlemania XI, Bam Bam Bigelow vs Lawrence Taylor, a pro wrestler vs an NFL football player. Taylor was so tired at the end of the match he had to be carried out of the ring. And he’s a freaking football player!!!!!!).
The WWF in the late 80s and early 90s had a who’s who of cartoonish, unrealistic, and implausible array of wrestlers: The Mountie, The Repo Man, Dr. Isaac Yankem D.D.S., IRS, etc. These were the “worker” promos, men who had day jobs but somehow became a wrestler at night, in their free time. I mean, if you’re repossessing cars and drilling teeth all day, it would make sense to jump in the ring and try to fight the Ultimate Warrior, right? WRONG!!!!!
Which takes us to the night of November 22, 1990 in Hartford, Connecticut where the WWF would debut an unstoppable force: The Undertaker. His Survivor Series debut showed his superb skill and agility in the ring and it introduced the wrestling world to a new type of promo, the horror promo.
Since the Undertaker’s debut, both WCW and WWF tried to introduce new wrestlers with some type of horror theme. Some were good, some were bad, and some were down right ugly. As a horror and wrestling fan in my youth, I was excited for what I was seeing: an amalgam of two of my favorite past times unfolding before my eyes. Even though these wrestlers could not match the intensity and bravado of the Undertaker character, it was nice to see horror represented in the wrestling ring.
As a fan of horror, I present my top ten list of the best horror themed wrestlers:
Viscera was the enforcer for the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness back in the WWF’s attitude era of the 90s. He was a former good guy, or face, as Mabel and even won the King of the Ring at one time, earning him the title King Mabel. The Undertaker and his other minions kidnapped him and transformed him into Viscera, a really, really, really, REALLY fat goth. The Viscera character would be stuck as a jobber for the rest of the Ministry storyline and never did much after that.
9) Doink the Clown
I’m not scared of clowns, but I know a lot of people who are, so this image must be terrifying for them to look at. Doink was a mid level jobber who never really did much during his tenure at the WWF, except for scaring the holy crap out of all the coulrophobians out there. But that didn’t stop Vince McMahon from placing Doink on as much WWF licensed merchandise as he could: t-shirts, video games, toys, and magazines. For someone who never won a belt, Doink was one of the most popular wrestlers in the early 90s. Why? We’ll never know.
8. Giant Gonzalez
Oh how Vince McMahon loves his big men. Andre the Giant, the Big Show, the Undertaker, and…………… Giant Gonzalez? Let’s play a game: which of these names don’t belong in this group of legendary big men? If you answered Giant Gonzalez, you’re correct!!! This giant was supposed to be the next Andre the Giant and serve as the Undertaker’s main nemesis, but it never panned out. And having a suit with abs painted on doesn’t help out much either. (Hmmm, I’m seeing a pattern forming. I guess if you’re a horror themed wrestler, you’re destined for jobber status). Giant Gonzalez reached his peak when he fought and lost to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania IX in Vegas, and he shortly fizzled out after that.
Aaaahhhhhh Nailz. This jobber was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. He reminded me of the Vigo from Ghostbusters II, the ghost in the painting. See what I mean? When I was a kid, I actually thought these were the same two men. Nailz was a former convict who was supposedly assaulted in jail by the Big Boss Man and he entered the WWF to seek revenge on his former abuser. He was truly scary because when he was first introduced to the WWF, he handcuffed the Boss Man to the ropes and beat him with his own nightstick. That’s some pretty heavy stuff to watch when you’re a kid. He’s the only entry on the list who does not have some sort of supernatural or ghostly theme going on. He’s just a crazy guy who’s messed up in the head who is seeking revenge, which is scarier than a giant or a shaman or a boogeyman.
6) The Boogeyman
The Boogeyman is the only entry in the list who debuted during the post Attitude era of the WWF. I stopped watching wrestling around 2002 and according to google he made his debut in 2005, so I have no idea who he is or what his story lines were. All I know is that he ate worms. Worms. Worms? What kind of pay was he making to eat worms? Were fans receptive to this promo? But despite his unusual diet, he gets tons of extra brownie points for the makeup and overall costumer. How sweet is that makeup? If he debuted around the same time as Papa Shango back in the early 90s, they probably would’ve made on helluva tag team. Boogeyman, you came around 10 years too late.
5) Papa Shango
Speak of the devil, coming in at number 5 on the list is Papa Shango. Shango was supposed to be a Haitian voodoo priest who tried to start a feud with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, but to no avail. This voodoo priest had an amazing look to him and he carried with him a skull that emitted smoke. He had decent moves and he cut really interesting promos, but he, along with the earlier entries on the list, were stuck in the jobber level of the WWF. The Papa Shango character left the WWF in 1993 and the actual wrestler, Charles Wright, would return a few years later and become the Godfather, a pimp who had a group of girls, dubbed the HOE train, follow him everywhere he went. Quite a career change huh, going from a voodoo priest to a pimp?
Gangrel and his Brood had the best entrance of any wrestler during the Attitude era, hands down. He arose from the depths of Hell with a goblet full of blood. BADASS!!!!!! This is what a vampire should be, not some sparkly emo kid who is trying to hook up with a depressed, emotionless girl. Vince Russo created Gangrel, much to the chagrin of Vince McMahon, but he worked, at least in my opinion. Gangrel was vastly underrated during his tenure in the WWF and was stuck in the mid level status, while his Brood members, Edge and Christian, would go on and have successful careers, even becoming Heavyweight champions down the road. What a shame. I salute you Gangrel with a goblet full of blood.
The first entry on the list who reached elite, superstar status. Long before the Mankind character evolved into a goofy, fan favorite, he debuted as a deranged freak who had a major feud with the Undertaker. The WWF had never seen someone like Mankind before: a true hardcore fighter who put his body on the line to beat his opponents. Mankind was a freak of nature who took chair shots to the head, pulled his own hair out, got thrown onto tacks, and even survived a 20 foot drop from the top of a cage. Mankind has been involved in two of my favorite matches in the history of the WWF: the infamous Hell in the Cell match vs the Undertaker and a championship match that I remember watching as a kid that no one EVER talks about, between him and Shawn Michaels at In Your House: Mind Games. Mankind, Mick Foley, Cactus Jack, or Dude Love, no matter what you called him, he was a legend who took one hell of a beating to please the crowd. We will never see another Mankind again, especially during this PG Era of the WWE.
2) Kane (Masked Version)
Kane made his debut at the very first Hell in the Cell match between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, and he made one hell of an entrance. We would learn that Kane is the brother of the Undertaker, who was left for dead when their house supposedly burned down when they were kids, thus him seeking revenge on his bigger brother, the ‘Taker (and the name Kane is an homage to Cain and Abel from the Bible. Very nice). Kane had the same technical abilities as the Undertaker: fast, strong, uses the chokeslam and finishes his brother off using a Tombstone piledriver. Kane also had an amazing entrance as well, incorporating pyrotechnics when he entered the arena and the ring. Kane would go on and win multiple championships and go down as one of the best big men of the Attitude Era. (He also gets bonus points for starring in a horror movie, See No Evil).
1) The Undertaker
Who else would it be? The Prince of Darkness, the American Bad Ass, the Deadman, the Phenom, whatever you want to call him, he is the best horror themed wrestler of all time. Several horror gimmick matches were created specifically for him: the Casket Match, the Buried Alive match, the Boiler Room Brawl, and the Hell in the Cell match. He is 19-0 lifetime at the biggest stage in the land, Wrestlemania. He has had epic rivals with legends: Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Mankind, Kane, the Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple H. He won 7 heavyweight championships during his 21 year tenure with the WWF. The list of accomplishments can go on and on, but you could argue the Deadman is the greatest wrestler in the history of the WWF.
There you have it horror freaks. Hope you were as nostalgic as I was when reading this list. Until next time,
-Matt De Luna, the De Lunatic.