The 8-Ball 10.26.12: Top 8 Weirdest Monster Gimmicks
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8-Ball. As you know, my name is Ryan Byers, and I am here for a special Halloween-themed edition of your favorite list-based professional wrestling column.
When you get through with reading, don’t forget to head on down to the new Disqus comment section in order to join in on the conversation . . . which I might actually participate in (with varying levels of condescension, depending on who you are).
I have to admit, this week the author of the Contentious Ten, Gavin “Geronimo” Napier stole my thunder a little bit, as he did a Halloween countdown with the Ten Scariest Wrestling Gimmicks. I had planned to do my own countdown of wrestling monsters as a tribute to the upcoming Halloween holiday, and there was going to be quite a bit of overlap between Geronimo’s list and my own.
So, I decided to head in a different direction. Rather than counting down the eight scariest monster gimmicks or even the eight best monster gimmicks, I decided that I would bring to you the eight most outright bizarre, unusual monsters that professional wrestling has ever seen. They might succeed in scaring you . . . or you may just wind up laughing at them . . . but you’ll certainly never forget them.
Even though this column was inspired by Halloween, our countdown actually begins with a different holiday, namely Christmas. For reasons that are lost to the ages, our friends at the USWA in Memphis decided that, as part of their December 1992 shows, they would trot out a nearly seven foot beast of a man decked out in a green bodysuit with candy cane knee socks and tinsel . . . oh, the tinsel. Of course, it has been widely reported around the internet that the Creature was none other than the performer who would go on to become “The Big Red Machine” Kane of WWE fame. That, combined with the getup, is pretty bizarre. However, one odd thing about this character that almost never gets noted is how the mystery surrounding his debut was built up. If you watch the video above and stick around for the interview by Jerry Lawler after the Creature’s match, the King outright states that the masked man was most likely an invading superstar from the World Wrestling Federation. That’s right. The USWA angle was actually that Vince McMahon was going to send one of his superstars to Memphis to wreak havoc on Jerry Lawler, and phase one in his brilliant plan was to take this absolute monster of a man and dress him up in the single least intimidating holiday-themed outfit possible, short of repackaging him as the “Baby New Year Brawler.”
Zombies are all the rage these days. AMC’s television series The Walking Dead has Monday Night War levels of popularity on cable television, and everybody is trying to cash in. However, professional wrestling had zombies before zombies were cool. The Undertaker has long been compared to an undead corpse, and fans of my former column “Into the Indies” will remember Japan’s vengeful spirit of a wrestler Onryo. Of course, nobody will forget the Zombie from the debut episode of ECW on Sci Fi. The most unique undead wrestler in history, though, has to be Juggalo Championship Wrestling’s Evil Dead, who held the promotion’s top championship for quite some time. For those of you not familiar with JCW, it is a promotion booked by the Insane Clown Posse, and it features a healthy dose of their, um, “unique” senses of humor. Part of that humor focused on taking their friend, a rapper named Jumpsteady, and dressing him up as a corpse. More than any of wrestling’s other zombies, Evil Dead actually wrestled like a dead man, barely being able to walk and using moves that almost exclusively featured him falling on top of or with his opponents, such as a DDT finisher. ICP shows these days are a bit more like traditional wrestling cards, but there was all sorts of odd stuff several years ago, and Evil Dead may be the best example.
This was one of American wrestling’s early prominent forays into horror. In 1977 on the Arizona circuit, a wrestler by the name of Tony Hernandez adopted a gimmick in which he was a crazy man who began to think that he was Frankenstein’s monster, including putting on a rubber mask of the ghoul. Eventually, that ran its course, and Hernandez decided that he was going to move on to the Los Angeles territory in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the L.A. wrestling scene was dying out at the time, and what they did with “The Monster” that Hernandez played only made things worse. Rather than being an insane man who thought he was a monster, the promoters billed him as a legitimate monster who was built in a laboratory from parts of corpses. No, seriously. Hardcore wrestling fans absolutely hated this with a passion, so much so that the Monster gimmick won the award of “Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic” from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Also not impressed with the Monster was Andre the Giant who, in a somewhat infamous match in L.A., completely no-sold all of the Monster’s offense and squashed him against his will, even though the promotion was pushing the Monster as unstoppable at the time. In fact, Andre even attempted rip the mask off of Hernandez despite the fact that, in storyline, it wasn’t a mask. That’s one of the reasons you don’t do these gimmicks, folks.
Kaiju Big Battel (and that’s not a typo . . . it really is “Battel”) is a novel concept that, when I first heard of it, I thought would last for a couple of years and then fade silently into the night. However, here we are sixteen years after the group’s first show, and they are still going strong. For those not familiar, KBB is a hybrid of professional wrestling and Japanese giant monster (“kaiju”) movies. They are not a professional wrestling promotion per se and instead fancy themselves as more of a performance art troupe, but, if you watch the shows, it is pretty clear what they are emulating. Though the most iconic KBB character is lead heel Dr. Cube, perhaps the most bizarre and awe-inspiring from my perspective is long-time champion of the promotion Kung Fu Chicken Noodle, essentially a gigantic can of soup with arms and legs who sometimes wields a “butcher knife” with which he attacks opponents. From his feud with the late Club Sandwich (a giant sandwich who carried, you guessed it, a club) and his delightful catchphrase “Mmm, mmm, bad,” Kung Fu Chicken Noodle has had, dare I say it, a far more storied independent wrestling career than Davey Richards.
One of the most underrated professional wrestling promotions in the history of the world is Titanes en el Ring, an Argentinian group that drew remarkable television ratings in Buenos Aires from the 1960s through the 1980s and was also groundbreaking in its over-the-top gimmicks for wrestlers and how it heavily merchandised those gimmicks, which almost no other promotion in the world was doing at the time. Interestingly, the number one star in the promotion was La Momia, a wrestling mummy. I admit that wrestling mummies are not exactly a unique concept. There have been several throughout the years, including as recently as the 1990s with Prince Kharis in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling. However, Argentina’s El Momia makes this list as a weird professional wrestling gimmick not just because he was a mummy. He makes the list because he was a babyface mummy, a heroic monster of sorts. La Momia’s custom-written entrance music included lyrics that referred to him “caring about children with tenderness” and other such phrases that evoke a white knight on a steed far more than they do a reanimated, centuries-dead Egyptian prince. Equally odd is the death of the gimmick, which occurred when, after years of speculation about who the mummy could have been underneath his bandages, an intrepid reporter marked one of the suspects on the finger with a felt-tip pen during an interview. When the mark as still present during a Momia match later in the evening; the secret was out. Somehow, this lead to there being very little interest in the character going forward, effectively killing one of wrestling’s most popular monster gimmicks.
Once again, we find ourselves in the rings of Memphis wrestling for this unusual gimmick. Apparently some sort of fire demon, Ta-Gar the Lord of the Volcano popped up for a several week run during the summer of 1991, mostly feuding with Bill Dundee and even getting a match against Jerry Lawler in the King’s backyard. Not much is known about the man behind the mask, with the only real information as to his identity coming from message board threads speculating that he was a journeyman wrestler known as Jim Corbit. What we know about the gimmick is that he was obsessed with fire and Video Toaster-level special effects. The cheesy effects are on full display in the video above, and the fire was used both during Ta-Gar’s entrance and during his finishing maneuver, which saw him shoot a fireball up into the air from a gimmicked glove before dropping an elbow on his opponent and applying a claw hold with his presumably-still-scorching hands. Fortunately, he never wound up having a match against Iceman King Parsons, because I don’t know how the Iceman could have held up to Ta-Gar’s heated glove attack.
I’m not entirely sure where to begin with this one. HUSTLE is one of the more bizarre wrestling promotions in history, a self-described “fighting opera” with over-the-top theatrics ten times crazier than anything WWE could dream up. Case in point? Their top heel faction was a group of “monsters” that was, for reasons I cannot entirely figure out, headed up by former MMA star Nobuhiko Takada who again, for reasons I cannot entirely figure out, started dressing up like M. Bison from the Street Fighter series of video games. The Takada Monster Army, as it came to be known, quickly grew into the most ludicrous collection of oddball professional wrestlers ever assembled. Want proof? Check out the following summary of its roster: a living personification of the letter “C,” a so-called “erotic terrorist,” Lance Cade, a Japanese guy pretending to be a Mexican guy, an evil clown, Renee Dupree, a werewolf, a cyborg, Bob Sapp, Toshiaki Kawada dressed as a lounge singer, Akebono dressed as a baby, the Great Muta, and a bunch of colorful goat-like creatures called “Onigomu” who shot webbing and their opponents. If that crew isn’t weird, I don’t know what is.
Ken the Box made his debut in professional wrestling as a foil for a Japanese independent wrestler named Survival Tobita. For the uninitiated, Tobita became a cult hero in Japan by having a series of matches in his own promotion, the Saitama Pro Wrestling Company, against outlandish monsters. In the matches, which were mostly contested under hardcore rules and which mostly did not even do not even occur in rings, Tobita was usually victorious. Over the years, he outlasted monsters who cross-dressed as school girls, giant bears, sea monsters, sentient drills, library monsters, and many more. However, the one rival of Survival Tobita’s that was consistently able to defeat him was Ken the Box who was, well, a box. Take a look at the photograph of Ken above. What you see with him is what you get. He’s made out of wood, he’s rectangular, and he has all of the mobility and wrestling ability that you would expect out of somebody who is wooden and rectangular. Basically, he’s Kevin Nash. Despite his, he has repeatedly been able to unload on Tobita with big roundhouse punches (essentially the only maneuver that he can perform) in order to score big victories. Ken the Box became so popular, in fact, that he travelled to the United States for CHIKARA to face off against DDT’s Mecha Mummy, but, from Ken’s perspective, the less said about that match, the better.
That’s it for this week’s 8-Ball. If you can’t get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.