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Shining a Spotlight 12.09.10: The Dungeon of Doom

December 9, 2010 | Posted by Michael Weyer

Like many, was caught by surprise at MVP being released by WWE. The fact that he chose to ask for it was a bigger surprise as the guy seemed pretty set in his ways there. It’s a shame as he was a good worker and great arrogant heel who might have risen higher. I do think WWE was reluctant to push him more due to his heart condition but you can understand his frustration. Sure TNA will make a try for him and he might be a good guy there to boost things up but I’d rather he just rested up for a bit before his next move.

The passing this past week of King Curtis Iaukea is what inspired this week’s column. In truth, it’s something I wanted to highlight for a long time but never got around to it so this is as good a chance as any. The veteran wrestler was a master of the mat wars, known for his brutal fighting style. He went from his home in Hawaii to long runs in Australia and then Florida, even holding the WWWF tag titles. He was a master in bloody brawls, doing so many blade jobs that by the ‘80’s, his forehead had scars deep as the Grand Canyon. This, combined with his booming voice, large build and bald head, gave him a sinister look perfect for managing. He had a brief run in WWF in the mid-80’s with Kamala but spent most of his time in Florida. There, he befriended Kevin Sullivan, who cited Iaukea as an influence for his own devil worshipper act. In 1995, established as a big player in WCW (both in the ring and behind the scenes), Sullivan decided to use Iaukea as part of what would become one of the most infamous gimmicks in wrestling history, arguably the worst heel stable ever: The Dungeon of Doom.

Origins

When one looks at the history of WCW in the ‘90’s, the question is not how this company went under, but rather how they managed to last as long as they did. Horrific booking was one thing but WCW added on to it with wasting so much money on horrible mini-movies and characters like PN News and Kevin Nash as Oz. Hulk Hogan’s arrival may have boosted their fame in the mainstream but didn’t do much when the Hogan-Flair ran its course as Hogan’s brilliant idea for a follow-up was having long-time best friend Ed Leslie turn on him and so the man once known as “the Barber” was in the main event for the WCW title at Starrcade. After that, Hogan managed to blow the seemingly perfect feud with Vader by no-selling Vader’s dreaded power-bomb before their Superbrawl matchup. Still, few could predict the depths WCW was about to reach with what they did next.

It all began with Kevin Sullivan defeating Leslie (now going as the amnesiac “Man With No Name”) at Slamboree. Sullivan was then seen on video running through some jungle, following the voice of Iakeau. It led him to a cave that looked like an unused set from an old Power Rangers episode. There on the “icy” throne, sat a man calling himself “the Master” (although he also answered to the Wizard) who Sullivan suddenly believed was his father. Kneeling down, Sullivan pledged himself to the Master’s service and was now named “the Taskmaster.” His goal was simple: To do whatever it took to destroy Hulkamania.

Kevin Sullivan heads to the Dungeon of DoomUploaded by Stinger1981. – Discover the latest sports and extreme videos.

For weeks on end, fans were subjected to more videos as the Master and Sullivan recruited more members to their little band, howling and cackling like maniacs all the while. First up was an old favorite, the Ugandan Headhunter, Kamala, who Sullivan treated like he was getting a new teddy bear:

Next up, John Tenta, the former Earthquake, had been working in WCW for a while as Avalanche but was now called the Shark. This involved new tights, a claim of him being from “200,000 leagues under the sea” and changing one of Tenta’s tattoos (at his own expense, of course) into a shark.

Then, Leslie was reworked yet again with a bizarre makeup job and the name “Zodiac,” his gimmick going around slapping himself as if suffering from a split personality:

Also added on was a legitimate bad-ass in Meng, a man renowned for his backstage toughness, including a famed incident where he ripped Jesse Barr’s eye out of the socket, then popped it back in. You can’t get more bad-ass than that. Oddly, WCW felt the best way to show off Meng’s toughness was to have him wear a thin paper-mache mask that looked like something a first-grader would come up with. Coming on was Loch Ness, aka Giant Haystacks, a nearly seven-foot tall 700-pound monster who seemed perfect until he got in the ring and it was clear he was barely mobile enough to be a real threat. There was also Braun, a bizarre leprechaun who was actually 5’8″. And Vader would join up as well in his attempt to take down Hogan.

Dungeon of Doom:MengUploaded by Stinger1981. – Basketball, baseball, pro wrestling and more sports videos.

Things went on, including a bizarre sequence where the Dungeon appeared to be walking around the sets of the latest Batman movie which tied in to the debut of Paul Wight as the Giant.
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Giant vs Hogan

Wight had been seen at a WCW event, instantly catching the eye of talent development due to his immense size. It’s funny to look back at how the future Big Show was pretty svelte in his first year and not too bad in the ring, even able to throw dropkicks which was impressive for someone his size. WCW made the rather questionable decision to book the Giant as being the son of Andre the Giant, who had died just two years earlier. That Hogan, one of Andre’s best friends, would agree to this was surprising as the Giant would threaten him and Hogan would fire back with stuff like “I’ll bury you like I did your father!” For once, WWF’s legal team made a good call threatening WCW until they dropped the whole Andre thing. But it was obvious it was building with Hogan and the Giant.

Hulk Hogan enters the Dungeon of DoomUploaded by Stinger1981. – Check out more sports and extreme sports videos.

The war between the Dungeon and Hogan included some incredibly dull bouts given the rough shape of the guys involved but the Giant pushed as a major heel. With Fall Brawl coming up, Hogan decided to recruit guys into his team for War Games, including Sting, Randy Savage and, surprisingly, Vader, who’d split from the Dungeon. This included a segment with them doing a “training mission” in fatigues at the Indiana Jones stunt show at the Disney-MGM Studios. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Vader would end up leaving WCW shortly after that bit and the newly returned Lex Luger was picked to replace him, despite Sting’s suspicions about him. The War Games itself had the four against Zodiac, Shark, Kamala and Meng. Hogan was the last entrant, pounding on all the heels and making Zodiac submit to a very weak-looking chinlock. As a result, Hogan got five minutes alone in the cage with Sullivan, only to have the Giant break in to choke him down and “break his neck.”

The next night, the Dungeon attacked again, knocking Hogan down and committing the ultimate atrocity of shaving off his mustache. This caused Hogan to take on a darker persona that would be a run-through for his full-fledged heel turn the next year. The Dungeon also debuted a massive block of ice they said carried a strange surprise.

So WCW had a major match to run with for Halloween Havoc, all well and good. Of course, the geniuses there couldn’t leave it at just a regular bout, oh no. They had to add onto it by having Hogan and the Giant challenge each other to a monster truck match. Yes, you read that right. WCW not only paid for each guy to have their own stylized monster truck but also had them placed on the roof of the Cobo Hall for their battle. Big shock: Even in a monster truck battle, Hogan refused to job and won. He and the Giant then brawled at the edge of the building with the Giant knocked off, supposedly suffering a five-story fall. Hogan and the commentators both appeared horrified, wondering if the Giant would survive.

Match time came and the Giant strolled out with no signs of injury and no explanation how he could handle the fall (a popular rumor is that they wanted him to come with a fish in his tights to indicate he’d fallen into the river below which would have been something at least). Hogan and the Giant had a rather slow match with Hogan’s manager, Jimmy Hart suddenly hitting the ref with his megaphone, causing Hogan to be disqualified. Hart then jumped in to help the Giant and Sullivan pound on Hogan. Luger and Savage raced in only to have Luger attack Savage and Hogan and reveal he’d joined the Dungeon. Then came what had been in the ice block, a huge guy dressed like a mummy and being called the Yeti who attacked Hogan in a manner that made him look like he was humping the Hulkster. Let me repeat that: a Mummy being called the Yeti. And WWF were the guys being investigated for drug use at this time?

The next night, Hart would reveal he’d put it into the contract that if Hogan was disqualified, he’d lose the title, making the Giant (in only his second full professional wrestling match) the new WCW champion. It didn’t last long as WCW officials decided the chicanery was too much and vacated the title. They created the World War III PPV with a 60-man battle royal to determine the new champ. Hogan eliminated the Giant, leaving him with Savage but the Giant dragged him under the ring. The refs, distracted by a brawl on the other side, turned to see Hogan and the floor and jumped to the conclusion he’d been eliminated, giving the title to Savage.

The battle between the Giant and Hogan culminated in a cage match won by Hogan at Superbrawl VI. The Dungeon by this point had added on members like Hugh Morous, Big Bubba Rogers and the One Man Gang and been joined by Ric Flair and Arn Anderson to form an Alliance to End Hulkamania. This all built up to a Tower of Doom cage match at Uncensored 1996 where Hogan and Savage faced the entire Alliance. Despite being outnumbered three to one and the arrivals of Jeep Swenson and Zeus from No Holds Barred, Hogan and Savage emerged triumphant, making the Dungeon look like losers.

Downfall

Shortly after that loss, the Dungeon started to go their separate ways. Zodiac was suddenly revealed to have been a spy placed by Hogan in the Dungeon and took up the idiotic Booty Man character. Yeah, makes no sense to me either. Tenta declared he was no long the Shark, going by his real name, feuding with former Dungeon members like Big Bubba.

The arrival of the New World Order pretty much did in the Dungeon. Sullivan was busy with his feud (on and off screen) with Chris Benoit as the Giant and Rogers would join the NWO and when Sullivan hung it up in 1996, the Dungeon died with him. All that was left was some of the most mind-boggling bad matches, characters and angles mainstream wrestling had ever seen on such a huge stage.

Summation

Take a good look at all those clips. The sets, the time to shoot scenes, the outfits, the monster trucks on a rooftop. Think of how much money was being spent on such a ridiculously convoluted set-up. One of WCW’s biggest problems was that they would always go overboard with stuff, complicating things that didn’t need to be complicated. They could have done some sort of anti-Hogan alliance without the need for all these theatrics and stupid setups. It is interesting to note how this was pretty much the last gasp of the ultra-cartoon WCW before the coming of the NWO to make things more serious. Still, the seeds were laid and seeing how much time and money was wasted on all this makes you reconsider how WCW eventually came apart.

For this week, the spotlight is off.

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Michael Weyer
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