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    Thursday, October 29, 2015

    Thursday Night Tanders (10/29/15): Halloween Have-Nots: Wrestling's Supernatural Stinkers

    It’s almost Halloween once again, and while costume parties and trick-or-treating have become much more mainstream these days, I remember the time when Halloween was only celebrated in exclusive villages like Ayala Alabang and Forbes Park. I remember Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and of course I remember those evenings watching Noli De Castro’s Magandang Gabi, Bayan Halloween specials, where he’d disappear into thin air after bidding farewell by saying the name of his show.

    And I also remember when, in grade school and high school, I developed a strong stomach for the gruesome by watching Slugs, Dr. Giggles, Night of the Demons, Night of the Creeps, and other B-movies where the acting was so bad, the films were so good.

    That actually ties in with one of my interests as an old-school wrestling fan. I’ve been a fan of WrestleCrap for a couple of years now, and I’ve had a few contributions on there, mostly under an alias, but once, by accident, under my real name. That site celebrates the worst of professional wrestling, and since you can simply rattle off a list of Undertaker and Kane storylines if you want a best-of-supernatural-wrestling-storylines list, I’m going to go the opposite, WrestleCrap-py route and celebrate Halloween with some of the worst supernatural storylines and characters in WWF/E and WCW. Except Kane’s Katie Vick storyline, that is, because that was in a league of its own.


    The Not-So-Great Pretenders

    The Undertaker has taken part in tons of great feuds in his storied 25-year WWF/E career. But over two-and-a-half decades, there were a few that aren’t worth remembering, especially for those who were aware of pro wrestling at the time he was involved in them. We’re talking feuds like the one up next, which all started when Taker was put out of action in a match against Yokozuna early in 1994.

    We may make a lot of jabs about Yokozuna and how his weight problems compromised his potential as a wrestler, but back in 1993 and 1994, Yoko was the monster heel in the WWF. So dominating was Yoko in that two-year prime period of his that the WWF saw it right to put the World title on him at the 1993 King of the Ring PPV. And with The Undertaker needing a break due to a back injury, it was just fitting that he lose to Yoko in his specialty match—the casket match—at Royal Rumble 1994. So devastating was the beating Taker took at the hands of the kayfabe sumo champion that he was only able to return a couple months later after WrestleMania X, with Ted DiBiase Sr. as his manager.

    But wait a minute, Throwback Tito. Wasn’t the Million Dollar Man a bad guy? Why does Undertaker seem a bit shorter than he usually is? Was Yokozuna so dominating at the 1994 Rumble that Taker became shorter by a few inches? And why had his workrate suddenly gone down big-time? To answer your questions, kiddies, you are correct on the first point. Ted DiBiase Sr. was a heel during his glory days as the Million Dollar Man. And the reason Taker seemed a bit shorter was because he was, in fact, not the man born Mark William Calaway. This was a fake Undertaker played by Brian Lee, who would later wrestle as Chainz of the biker stable Disciples of Apocalypse in the Attitude Era. And the fans saw through it all, chanting “HE’S A FAKE!” whenever the Underfaker had a match.

    The WWF tried everything to make this storyline worth watching. They had the announcers make it look like Taker had really sold out to DiBiase. And after that didn’t work, Undertaker “sightings” were reported in the summer of ’94, and WWF even got Leslie Nielsen to appear in vignettes, not-so-subtly referencing his Frank Drebin character from The Naked Gun as he sought to get to the bottom of these mysterious sightings and find out why there were two Undertakers. Sure enough, the real Undertaker was back at SummerSlam 1994, and we won’t give you any prizes if you guessed that the real Taker, with Paul Bearer at his corner, made quick work of his impostor, who still had DiBiase backing him up.

    Looks like a showdown from Street Fighter II: Champion Edition
    Sadly, the WWE didn’t exactly learn from the Taker vs Faker fiasco, as history sort-of repeated itself with Taker’s storyline brother Kane. Twelve years later, in 2006, Drew Hankinson (best-known as Luke Gallows of WWE’s Straight-Edge Society and NJPW’s Bullet Club) debuted as an impostor Kane, interfering in the real Kane’s matches and eventually taking him on in a match at the Vengeance PPV that year.

    Impostor Kane won that match, but he had little time to celebrate, as he was attacked by the original Kane, never to be seen again on WWE TV until the spring of 2007, when he returned as Festus, dim-witted sidekick and tag team partner to Jesse.


    Not the Wright Stuff

    Our next scary tale is that of two men with the same surname and similar gimmicks that were just too supernatural to be taken seriously. Let’s start with the first of these men, a promising young big guy named Charles Wright who debuted in the spring of 1991 as Sir Charles. But with that gimmick going nowhere, and currently being so obscure that no footage of it exists on YouTube, Wright was repackaged in early 1992 as the voodoo priest Papa Shango. Strange things would happen in the ring whenever he’d be around. Opponents, and even interviewer Mean Gene Okerlund, would bleed black. Wrestlers would throw up or spontaneously catch on fire. Arenas would be plunged into darkness. Papa Shango was meant to be a scary motherfucker, and the announcers did their best to sell him accordingly.

    Because nothing says scary like dry ice and faceprint.
    Did the fans buy it, though? Looking back, I had more nightmares about flunking high school Algebra than I did about falling victim to a Papa Shango curse. Any fan over the age of eight, even then, could tell that it’s impossible for wrestlers to bleed black, randomly vomit, or catch fire just because they were “cursed” by a voodoo priest. Fans such as the guy you see at the end of this video would try to, and we repeat, try to predate Ellis Mbeh by over two decades by making it seem like Shango was the scariest wrestler ever to set foot in a WWF ring. But the look on Mr. Mustache’s face seems to say “this angle sucks” more so than it says “I want my mommy.” Sure enough, Shango’s feud versus The Ultimate Warrior was so poorly-received by fans that Warrior instead challenged Randy “Macho Man” Savage for the WWF Championship at SummerSlam 1992.

    Due to the sheer atrocity of the Warrior feud, Papa Shango’s run under that gimmick never recovered, and he eventually went on to have much more success several years later as The Godfather, proving that pimpin’ may not be easy, but it pays better than being a voodoo priest. Yes, we told you about him briefly in last week’s Thursday Night Tanders, but in the spirit of Halloween, you all deserve to read about why the Papa Shango gimmick was one of the lowlights of early ‘90s WWF.

    Almost 15 years to the day Papa Shango made his WWF debut, another supernatural gimmick began haunting what was now known as the WWE. Marty Wright (no relation to Charles) was first introduced to wrestling fans in 2004 under his real name, as that guy who lied about his age to get into Tough Enough. (Yes, that same Tough Enough season featuring The Miz and Ryback, and the infamous eventual winner, Daniel Puder.) Despite getting cut due to the age snafu, WWE was impressed enough with Wright to invite him to their then-developmental territory OVW, and a year later, on July 11, 2005, he appeared in his first promotional vignette, four days shy of his 41st birthday. Yes, this tanders of a rookie was going to debut in the WWE as THE BOOGEYMAN!

    For four years, The Boogeyman became known for randomly scaring wrestlers, stuffing live worms into his mouth, and taking part in a number of head-scratching angles. For example, his feud with JBL and Jillian Hall saw him chomping off the “growth” on the horrible singer’s face. And even if he did go over main eventers like JBL and Booker T, the novelty of his gimmick wore off faster than you can say “I’M THE BOOGEYMAN, AND I’M COMIN’ TO GET’CHA!” By 2006, he was fully entrenched as a comedy wrestler, complete with a little person sidekick predictably called Little Boogeyman. Amazingly, he lasted in the WWE until early 2009, despite being as late a late-bloomer as you can get, not being too talented in the ring, and having a gimmick that was, at the end of the day, probably never meant to be taken seriously.


    WCW Ruins Everything, Even The Supernatural

    Next, let’s take a look at the other side of the ‘90s wrestling fence, meaning WCW. What do you think about when talking supernatural characters and feuds in WCW? Well, the company had a yearly Halloween Havoc pay-per-view, but these atrocities have nothing to do with that PPV, and everything to do with bad gimmicks.

    In the pre-New World Order WCW, Kevin Sullivan had his Dungeon of Doom, and that stable included Ed (Brutus Beefcake) Leslie in one of his many awful gimmicks, The Zodiac.

    YES! NO! YES! NO! It's the Zodiac, and we just want to say NO!
    It also included Ron Reis, a former center for the U.S. NCAA’s Santa Clara Broncos, where he missed teaming with future NBA legend Steve Nash by just one year. Undrafted by the NBA, pro wrestling fan Reis trained under former WWF big man Big John Studd, and soon the 7’2” giant was in the Dungeon of Doom as The Yeti. Like fellow basketball star-turned wrestler Giant Gonzalez, Reis wasn’t much of a wrestler. But more importantly, he wasn’t even a real Yeti—the guy looked more like a gigantic mummy wrapped in toilet paper rather than the Abominable Snowman.

    At the time the Dungeon of Doom was raising hell in WCW, I was much more of a WWF fan, so I wasn’t too aware of them growing up. But after watching their angles and matches, I can definitely say they had some clunkers in the rather large lineup; most of the members’ gimmicks were not supernatural, but those who were intended to be such were more chuckle- and cringe-inducing than anything else. The Yeti comes to mind, and so does The Zodiac, who could only shout the words “YES! NO! YES! NO!” and nothing else. WWE Creative may have gotten a lot of flak for making Daniel Bryan join The Wyatt Family in late 2013, but let’s look on the bright side—at least they didn’t turn him into the second coming of The Zodiac.

    As far as post-nWo WCW goes, the biggest Halloween Have-Not of the bunch has got to be The KISS Demon. Quick fact—Dale Torborg, who played The KISS Demon, was originally packaged as a wrestler named The MVP, which played off on the fact that he was the son of a former Major League Baseball player and manager. As reception to that gimmick was closer to that received by Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz than that received later by purported all-around athlete Montel Vontavious Porter, Torborg was quickly repackaged as The Demon, a gimmick inspired by KISS bassist, vocalist, band leader, and all-around corporate shill Gene Simmons.

    We hear his wrestling is worse than his music.
    Yes, it’s important that we mention that for those unfamiliar with rock music. Gene Simmons is THE ultimate corporate shill of the music business. Since his band KISS rose to rock stardom in the 1970s, he’s merchandised everything under the KISS brand name—t-shirts, lunchboxes, bobblehead dolls, board games, heck, even KISS Kondoms and KISS Kaskets. So why not merchandise wrestlers too? With Eric Bischoff in need of something to give WCW a shot in the arm as WWF began gaining leverage in the Monday Night Wars, he came to terms with the then-comebacking KISS to create a stable of wrestlers based on the band’s onstage personas. Simmons, seeing dollar signs like he always does, was more than happy to oblige, though as it turned out, it was only the wrestler based on his persona that made it.

    Unfortunately for Torborg, he didn’t make it as far as getting a good push was concerned. KISS was to perform a concert on WCW Monday Nitro hyping up The Demon’s debut, but that segment only proved that booking musical performances for wrestling shows is often a bad idea. The concert segment tanked in the ratings, though I would certainly watch that rather than Machine Gun Kelly’s recent RAW performance. The KISS Demon lost his debut match against Terry Funk, was generally subpar in the ring, and his matches with Vampiro in the dying days of WCW are an eyesore, to say the very least. And with the exception of a few appearances on TNA, Torborg has mostly stayed away from pro wrestling since the death of WCW, instead focusing on his job as a strength coach in MLB.


    Got any bad or questionable supernatural-themed gimmicks and storylines to share? We’d like to hear from you in the comments section. Don’t worry—The Boogeyman’s NOT comin’ to get’cha if you’ve got something to share!


    The Throwback Tito is Enzo Tanos, a freelance writer and the drummer/manager for garage rock band The Myopics, where he hopes to debut his masked lucha drummer persona “Sin Verguenza” in future gigs. A wrestling fan since childhood, he’s old enough to remember watching Outback Jack’s pointless vignettes, and One Man Gang’s transformation to Akeem.

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    Item Reviewed: Thursday Night Tanders (10/29/15): Halloween Have-Nots: Wrestling's Supernatural Stinkers Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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