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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Tuesday Top 10: Scariest Pro Wrestlers

As part of the extended surreality that is my life, I've spent a number of years working in the wrestling business. And even before that, I was a lifelong die-hard fan (working in the business cured me of that). So I know a thing or two about the ol' grunt 'n groan game--and I figured, why not marry that knowledge to another great passion of mine, horror?

And so, this week's Tuesday Top 10 was born. If you're a fan of both wrestling and horror, maybe you'll get a kick out of this list of the most frightening professional wrestlers of all time. And if not, maybe you'll at least get a morbid thrill at gawking at this gaggle of oiled-up freaks...

10. Waylon Mercy
I've got to hand it to the boys in WWF creative--creating a wrestling gimmick built around DeNiro's Max Cady character in Cape Fear was a touch of brilliance. Veteran wrestler Dangerous Danny Spivey donned this persona during his mid 1990s run at the big W.

9. Big Van Vader
This Rocky Mountain behemoth wreaked havoc in Japan (appropriately) in the early '90s, then WCW, where he once broke a guy's back (legit), and finally the WWF, where his name was shortened to Vader (hello, Lucasfilm lawsuit). His early demonic headgear was particularly terrifying.

8. Gangrel
Known as the Vampire Warrior early in his career, David Heath was christened with this name--inspired by (read: stolen from) the popular horror role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. He was known to douse his opponents with a "blood bath" from the rafters from time to time...

7. Papa Shango
Inspired by voodoo mysticism, the Shango character injected an element of the supernatural not really seen in rasslin up to that point. Who can forget the time he made the Ultimate Warrior puke, or made black goo poor from Mean Gene's shirtsleeves? Ironically, Charles Wright would later transform into, of all things, a pimp character called The Godfather.

6. The Boogeyman
A decade later, WWE took the Shango concept to the next level, giving us this worm-eating, walking nightmare, whose pre-match gyrations always reminded me of something out of The Serpent and the Rainbow. And take it from someone who witnessed the backstage "worm-wranglers" first-hand--those critters were real.

5. Kane
The psychotic "half-brother" of the Undertaker, the Big Red Machine is one of WWE's longest running "monster heel" characters. Supposedly burned as a child, but later revealed to simply be real ugly (sorry, Glenn!) He loses some points for his flirtations with the good-guyness, as well as the "Katie Vick incident" (you die-hards know what I'm talking about).

4. The Swedish Angel
An oddity of the 1940s, this poor wretch was one of several so-called "Angels", acromegaly victims marketed as monsters by notorious schiester promoter Jack Pfefer. The Swedish one is probably the most famous, due in part to his appearance in the original Mighty Joe Young.

3. Killer Kowalski
One of the most feared and despised brawlers of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Walter Kowalski once tore off a man's ear in a match--then visited him in the hospital and laughed in his face. True story. I guess he just had a sick sense of humor, because most have told me that the real man behind the legend was actually a total teddy bear.

2. The Undertaker
One of the true triumphs of character creation in the world of wrestling, WCW also-ran Mark Callous was taken by the WWF and turned into a character that has been going strong in the business for the past 19 years. Inspired by the stereotype of the gruesome Old West mortician, Undertaker's character has nevertheless morphed considerably over the years, and is much more "human" these days (hence, no #1).

1. Abdullah the Butcher
The Madman from the Sudan. For nearly half a century, this rampaging lunatic terrorized fans and opponents alike, all over the world--never breaking character once, never being "humanized". His ungodly shrieking was known to send crowds into hysteria, and his trademark maneuver was jabbing a fork into his adversary's face. When Abdullah was in the house, the blood was sure to flow--and for you uninitated out there, when you see that crimson pouring out, it ain't no blood capsule. Trust me.

Honorable Mention:

  • Goldust (Ah, exploiting wrestling fans' sexual insecurities. Good times.)
  • Kharis the Mummy (yes, he wrestled in bandages)
  • Leatherface (a Memphis wrestler of the '80s who adopted the TCM gimmick)
  • Mankind (lost points for becoming the adorable Mick Foley later on)
  • The Original Sheik (no one ever figured out how he threw those fireballs...)

22 comments:

The Vicar of VHS said...

Good list! I would add The One Man Gang, who in my youth was about the scariest thing I'd ever seen, though like many he became pretty laughable later. Also King Kong Bundy, The Missing Link, and going rather obscure (perhaps), Bruiser Brody and Ox Baker.

I also remember The Exotic Adrian Street scaring the crap out of folks in Mid-South Wrestling back in the 80s, but for different reasons. :)

It's hard to argue with your #1, though. Abdullah the Butcher was downright horrifying. I read somewhere he had (has?) a barbecue restaurant in Georgia in his semi-retirement. That's a road trip I wish I'd made!

MarilynMerlot said...

LOl - You know I got a kick out of this list :)

B-Sol said...

Vicar, you're so right, so many possible choices. God, how could I forget Brody and Ox Baker!! I've met Ox at a couple of conventions, maybe it's seeing him as an old man that lessened the impact! lol

Yes, Abdullah is the proud owner of Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food in Atlanta. And I am the proud owner of a restaurant T-shirt :-)

And dear Marilyn, I know you must've enjoyed the hell out it ;-)

Planet of Terror said...

The Road Warriors creeped me out when I was younger. And I was also afraid of Jake the Snake but mainly for the snake (along w/ spiders, they freak me out).

Excellent list!

Rhonny Reaper said...

awesome list! I haven't heard of your #1 though (Im probably too young to know lol, no offense)
It reminded me of seventh grade hero day at my middle school...I dressed up as the frickin HURRICANE! (i had the cape and all man!) Now THAT was horrifying!

Geoff J said...

Two Words: Aja. Kong.

Doruk said...

Don't you mean Vampire: The Masquerade?

Rev. Phantom said...

Excellent list, but I'd agree with the Vicar about Bruiser Brody. He was a truly terrifying individual.

Chuck Conry said...

I always was pretty freaked out by Kamala when I was kid before they dumbed him down in the 90's. He once ate a live chicken on TV ya know? lol

Off the top of my head other wrestlers that at one time kinda freaked me out are..Sid, The Missing Link, The Great Muta when he first came into the NWA, Stan Hansen was a scary man as well.

B-Sol said...

Rhonny, yes it is an age thing, and to further illustrate the point: I was WORKING at WWE when the Hurricane was introduced. WASSUPWITDAT??

Geoff, if any female wrestler had made the list, it would've been Aja Kong! Brrrrrrr.....

Doruk, nice catch, thank you!

Planet & Phantom, I think I totally need to do a second top 10 list!!

Chuck: So funny, I was just talking about the Kamala chicken incident earlier today on a wrestling podcast I participate in. A few tricks of TV editing, and an entire generation of fans believes they saw Kamala eat a live chicken on TNT! Amazing.

Chris Hallock said...

What a great post!

Superb list! You only left out Kamala, who would have definitely been in my top ten.

I was always a little scared of George "The Animal" Steel.

Pax Romano said...

RE: Goldust. If memory serves, wasn't he "played" by Dustin Rhodes (son of Dusty Rhodes)? I seem to recall reading somewhere that the persona was done to humiliate his father - also, a few years prior when Dusty was in the WWF didn't they dress him up in polka dots and have his "manager" played by an African American woman? I seem to recall hearing that this was done because Rhodes was a rabid racist and pairing him up with a black woman was supposed to be an insult to him, but since he was contractually bound to WWF there was nothing he could do about it - any truth to any of this?

The Mike said...

Nice list! I'd have had Vader higher, he was always the one guy I was terrified of from a "real life" perspective. But Abdullah is soooo Number 1.

Deep honorable mention for me would be Dustin Rhodes' short-lived "Seven" gimmick in late WCW....the vignettes of him and his entrance before dumping the gimmick had confusing and creepy all over it.

~P! said...

Great list, B-Sol. I'd nominate some the following for a second list:

Harley Race: Often said to be one of the toughest guys in the business. I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley, especially after hearing stories about his eye-gouging self-defense technique.

The Great Muta: Chuck Conry already mentioned Muta and his NWA run, but check out some of the stuff he did in 90's New Japan Pro Wrestling, when he went full on Demon-Muta.

Bruiser Brody: Hell yes, Vicar of VHS! I especially enjoy the story of Brody facing off against Lex Luger in a cage match after Luger just started in Florida. Brody, not thinking much of Lex and his super push, waited until the cage door was closed and locked before revealing that he had taped razor blades to every one of his fingers. Luger hauled his ass out of that cage as fast as he could.

Jake "The Snake" Roberts: Soft-spoken, intelligent, manipulative, and cold-blooded. To a lesser extent, you could throw Raven in too.

"Macho Man" Randy Savage: Dude, you know he was crazy beyond playing a character.

DLR said...

Anyone else remember a wrestler known as "The Vampire" in the late 60's? I remember seeing him on TV; he bit an opponent on the forehead and it was a bloody mess.

Dod March said...

Great list! I'm a huge Abdullah the Butcher mark. But my all-time favorite scary wrestler? The Sheik. That man scared the daylights out of me as a kid.

When I did commentary for a group in Michigan, we brought in Gangrel when he & Luna were a package deal. Really nice guy, amazing gimmick that the fans couldn't get enough of that night.

Again, great list!

B-Sol said...

Pax, I have also heard that the Goldust character was given to Dustin Runnels to humiliate his dad. Also, the polka dot gimmick was indeed meant to humiliate him, since Vince supposedly had it in for him for being Crockett's NWA booker for many years, and wanted to "put him in his place". I had never heard about the Sapphire thing (the African American manager) being a jab--however, I do know that Ted Dibiase's black male valet Virgil from the late 1980s was named for Dusty (whose real name is Virgil), so it's entirely possible.

DLR- I have heard of the '60s wrestler known as The Vampire.

oducerproducer said...

Not much to reflect on, but back in the day Mortis & Glacier were always pretty cool & reminded me of horror characters. As i said, neither has aged well in nostalgia.

Gangrel was the shit though, he was supposed to join wwECW to team with Kevin Thorn but plans fell through.

Can't forget Vampiro.

Mike Snoonian said...

Great list. A bunch of people already beat me to the punch, but I'll add that I'm stunned Bruiser Brody isn't on here. That dude was scary as hell.

The only argumment I'll make about Mankind not being on the list is it's tough to punish him for being himself when Glen "Kane" Jacobs had a gimmick where he once played an evil dentist. Dr Issac Yankem.

At least Foley could still bring the crazy, as opposed to the flouride.

Rabid Fox said...

Fantastic list. Takes me right back to those Saturday afternoons, watching rasslin'. I forgot all about Abdullah the Butcher--his scarred scalp, alone, should be #1 on the list.

Jergy said...

The Great Kabuki used the scare me as a kid. He would stop in the middle of a match and start spinning around in a circle. It's hilarious to watch now because he was out of shape and wrestled like we was underwater. But none of that mattered 30 years ago.

B-Movie Becky said...

F'in A! Cool post!

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