Mick Foley, Roddy Piper and WWE's History of Insane Characters
Along with the heroes and villains that populate WWE's history, there have been a plethora of insane characters in the vein of Mick Foley and Roddy Piper.
Madness has long been one of Hollywood and literature's greatest tools of intrigue. The same is true of pro wrestling and WWE.
The way that Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs or Anne Wilkes from Misery have enthralled us, WWE's conveyor belt of crazy characters have been an entertaining part of the product for years.
Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt may soon join them, carrying along the tradition of lunacy.
While men like Sycho Sid and Nailz would not be welcome in most normal working environments, they are not included here as they were more enraged than insane. The same goes for Daniel Bryan, who was evaluated by an on-screen shrink, but his mental issues simply don't compare to WWE's most nutty.
Let us begin in the 60s and make our way toward the present, stopping to gawk at the most mentally unstable men and women in WWE history.
Crazy Luke Graham
It didn't take long to notice that something was wrong with Crazy Luke Graham. His wild bleached-blond hair jutted out from his head. He suffered from nervous tics.
No wonder the fans chanted, "Crazy Luke, Crazy Luke!"
This made Graham cover his ears in horror. The insane do not wish to hear that they are insane.
Graham began his WWE career in 1964 as the teammate of his storyline brother, Jerry Graham. The two quickly became U.S. tag champs. During his run he laid the groundwork for future crazy wrestlers.
He was involved in several vicious, bloody bouts. Slam! Sports quotes Graham as saying, "You go to a bullfight to see the blood. I think that's why people came to see the Grahams."
The Original Sheik may have suffered from sadomasochism. He seemed to delight in digging pencils or other sharp implements into his opponents' heads.
If his foe turned his own weapon against him, The Sheik didn't seem to mind all that much.
From 1949 to the late 90s, The Sheik dished out decades worth of pain and suffering.
His tongue hung out. He bit into his opponents' flesh. He tossed fireballs into faces.
His behavior would mean automatic institutionalization anywhere else. In WWE, it earned him induction into the Hall of Fame.
Imagine running into a man who grunted instead of spoke, who chewed apart just about anything within reach. That's who George "The Animal" Steele's opponents had to face.
His WWE career began in the 60s, but he is most famous for his run in the 80s where he became one of the company's most popular characters.
The beast-like man could be tamed somewhat by someone as strong-willed as Capt. Lou Albano. Still, Steele was unpredictable. He was either a snarling animal or child-like.
At times, he carried a stuffed animal to the ring which he called "Mine." Perhaps that use of a prop inspired Al Snow and Perry Saturn in the future.
It's not hard to imagine Bruiser Brody as the central character of a horror movie, a wild man with piercing eyes and chains swinging above his head.
He was a disturbed loner who pushed fans. Whether as his partner or his enemy, no one could feel safe. It felt throughout his career that at any moment, Brody could explode.
Throughout his career in the 60s and 70s, Brody worked for a litany of wrestling companies, including WWE, where he fought against Bruno Sammartino, Bobo Brazil and Gorilla Monsoon.
Scars lined his forehead and his eyes twisted as he rambled on like a drunk. Few men have been as genuinely intimidating as Brody—a mad giant, a damaged monster.
Some wrestlers look like Greek gods, some look like warriors. The Moondogs looked like a tag team comprised of homeless guys wandering into the arena.
Beginning in the early 80s, Moondog Rex and Moondog King brought their antics to the WWE.
They wore raggedy jeans and unkempt facial hair as they chewed on animal bones. These wild-eyed competitors carried on Luke Graham's tradition of disturbed behavior.
The Moondogs spent the majority of their career with USWA, but WWE fans saw the team's animalistic ways in action for a few years.
Jim Harris so convincingly played a Ugandan savage that it's hard to believe that man slapping his painted belly in the ring was actually from Mississippi.
Like George Steele, Kamala's character was one of low intelligence who had to be controlled by others.
He didn't speak. He didn't understand the rules of the sport and sometimes tried to pin his opponents while they were on their stomachs.
One might diagnose Kamala as having feral child syndrome or as a man simply overwhelmed by the transition from his rural origins to the world of WWE. It was clear right away though that Kamala wasn't right in the head.
Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher took his traveling circus of sadism and destruction to just about every wrestling promotion in the U.S.
His character was that of a wild man from Sudan, a man who took pleasure in inflicting pain. He shoved sharp implements into his opponents' heads and was wide-eyed and gleeful the whole time.
The Butcher's WWE tenure was not long, as he didn't stay in one place for long. The intensity of his crazy character is unforgettable whether a fan saw him just once or a hundred times.
He and Bruiser Brody spent much of the 80s spilling each other's blood in rings around the world. Those sick dudes seemed to love every minute of it.
One of WWE's best villains was a crazy guy in a kilt. Rowdy Roddy Piper was manic, delusional and irrationally angry.
Smashing a coconut over a man's head is surely a sign of mental issues.
Piper's mental instability also led him to fight Greg Valentine in a dog collar match and to kick Cyndi Lauper in the head. The best evidence to hand over to mental-health professionals, though, were his promos.
Piper rambled on, his ideas meandering, his voice shifting. He consistently gave some of WWE's best performances on the mic. His interviews were wild rides, downward slides into the dark pit of his wacky mind.
His face painted green, his hair jutting out from his head, Missing Link looked certifiably insane upon the first glance.
The bulk of his career was spent in WCCW and various territories. WWE fans only saw the Missing Link for a brief time in 1985.
In the ring, Missing Link would pull his own hair, glance around the arena confused and was generally uncontrollable even under the tutelage of Bobby Heenan. Missing Link's WWE stay was brief but unforgettable.
The Berzerker brought a wild, hysterical energy to WWE in 1991.
Whether he was tossing a jobber over the top rope or battling Davey Boy Smith, The Berzerker used his 6'6'' frame to overpower his opponents. He came off as a man raised by wolves, a man living in his own world.
Much like Bruiser Brody did before him, The Berzerker shouted "Huss!" in the ring.
While Brody's character was more of that of a psychotic, The Berzerker seemed to suffer from borderline intellectual function. Mr. Fuji did his best to control the man, but it was often like trying to tame a wild boar.
Ultimate Warrior's gimmick wasn't meant to be insane, but the full-throttle way that he played his energetic warrior character turned it in that direction.
His interviews are infamously incoherent.
Warrior would snarl in between lines about crashing planes, swirling planes or alternative dimensions. Just listening to him likely made fans a touch crazier.
His anger overpowering him, his drive non-stop, the Ultimate Warrior barreled through his WWE run like the Tasmanian Devil. Madness escaped his mouth just about every time he spoke.
Luna Vachon's shrieking, guttural interviews sounded like she was the singer for a Death Metal band.
She shaved the side of her head, painted veins on her face and wore the expression of an angry dog wherever she went. Few have played the insane character as well as her, and it turns out there's a good reason for that.
As reported by Slam! Sports, Vachon actually suffered from mental-health issues in real life. Fred Johns wrote that Vachon was "bipolar and medically diagnosed as being manic depressive."
Vachon began her WWE career as Shawn Michaels' valet. This would lead to a feud between her and Michaels' former manager, Sherri Martel. The rest of her WWE career was highlighted by her on-screen relationship with Bam Bam Bigelow as well as battles for the WWE Women's Championship.
Watching Vachon wrestle or talk was a visceral experience, like watching a crazed animal attack everything in sight.
In the 70s and early 80s, Bob Backlund was a model citizen, a clean-cut wrestling hero. It wasn't until 1994 that he completely snapped.
The former WWE champion and member of the 2013 Hall of Fame class seemed to have a moment much like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. In a match vs. Bret Hart, he felt cheated out of the win and attacked Bret, clamping the crossface chicken wing on him.
He did this several times during this period, horrified and confused by his own actions.
Perhaps Backlund suffered from intermittent explosive disorder, some kind of split personality, or maybe his feelings of being unappreciated and ignored just boiled over.
Backlund going from goody-two shoes technical master to vicious nut-job was an entertaining transformation and a brilliant way to extend his career.
Ric Flair at some point evolved from a flashy playboy to a madman.
He elbow-dropped his jacket in a ring. He screamed incoherently. He flopped around like a Muppet as he continually lost his temper.
Like Ultimate Warrior, Flair's character wasn't supposed to be crazy—that's just the way he played it. It felt like a man with Tourette syndrome had snuck into Flair's body, like he'd been taken over by Daffy Duck.
His insanity level has only seemed to rise as he's aged. At this point, Flair seems to permanently reside past his own boiling point.
Whether he was Cactus Jack, Mankind, Dude Love or Mick Foley, Mrs. Foley's baby boy was one of the most compellingly crazy men in WWE history.
A medical professional would be overwhelmed with Foley's plethora of mental issues. Foley's characters may have had dissociative identity disorder, sadomasochism and impulse control disorder, among other maladies.
Foley shifted back and forth between personalities. He pulled his own hair out in frustration. He subjected himself to the most painful of matches and seemed to enjoy it.
Watching Foley talk about his childhood or about the darkness inside him felt as if we were privy to the ramblings of a mental patient.
Kane's storyline origins begin as a child caught in a house fire that killed his parents and left him traumatized, a pyromaniac with a taste for inflicting pain.
His cackle is that of a madman and so are his actions.
Kane has shown the incapacity to experience guilt and a disregard of social norms. He's WWE's resident sociopath, a man intent on destruction and delighting in the carnage he causes.
Even in the latest, more comedic deviation of his character, Kane is presented as having anger issues. He had to attend anger management classes with his future tag team partner, Daniel Bryan.
It looks as if the two will split soon, leaving Kane to wander back into his own personal darkness.
Dressing up in women's clothes doesn't qualify someone for crazy status. Goldust, though, was not just a cross-dresser. Wearing a wig and feminine robes doesn't compare to his most insane outfit where he wore a ball gag and walked with a decorated walker.
His uncontrollable outbursts suggested he might have Tourette syndrome. He also seemed detached from reality, speaking to himself, staring off into space.
Goldust made being disturbed compelling entertainment.
After wrestling as Dustin Rhodes for so many years, it was his bizarre role as the painted, hyper-sexual heavy-breather that gave him the most recognition of his career.
Compared to some of his WWE brethren, Brian Pillman's madness was subtle.
If fans were to watch his eyes as he spoke, they could see a deranged man, an unstable man capable of exploding at any moment.
Pillman's best work was when his character was a loose cannon, when it seemed like he could say or do anything. That attribute went too far in some minds when his feud with Steve Austin included a segment where Pillman threatened Austin with a gun.
He had a wild energy about him. It was this lunacy bubbling under the surface that made him so interesting.
A man with the words "Help me" written backwards on his forehead immediately raises eyebrows. Add the fact that he carries around a mannequin head and talks to it and you have a candidate for the nuthouse.
Al Snow suffered at the bottom of WWE's hierarchy for years before he turned around his career with his entertainingly insane character.
Snow became a significant part of the Attitude Era, another batty inmate in the asylum.
Terry Funk was pretty damned unstable as himself, but when WWE brought him back during the Attitude Era to feud and team with Mick Foley, they added several layers of nutty.
Borrowing heavily from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Chainsaw Charlie wore a stocking over his face and chased his opponents around with a chainsaw. Put those items on any psychiatric evaluation and you can guarantee you'll be getting some medication or a stay in an institution.
Charlie spent 1998 involved in dumpster matches and brawls in various arenas. Funk's brief run as Charlie was him at his weirdest and his craziest.
When someone as unstable as Edge can be considered one of the most under control on this list, it's not a downgrading of his insanity, it's a testament to just how much crazy WWE has seen over the years.
Edge consistently had deranged eyes a la Brian Pillman and feverishly pulled his hair when he was agitated.
When he was Christian's tag team partner, he was far more fun-loving, but once he departed on his own journey toward singles titles, his demented side came out.
Like Pillman, Edge's crazy bubbled just under the surface, making it seem like he may snap with just the slightest provocation.
Hearing voices is certainly a hallmark of insanity.
Who knows what disorder Randy Orton has, but when he is overcome with rage, he reaches a disturbed state, drawing out his inner madman.
Announcers refer to "that place" that Orton goes to when he is angry and focused. It's easy to imagine that it's a dark place.
Orton is most compelling when he can't control himself, when he shakes and twitches. He's certainly calmed recently, but there's always a chance something will trigger a return to his more agitated, untamable ways.
Fandom turned to obsession in Mickie James' famous angle with Trish Stratus.
James started out with WWE as Stratus' biggest fan in 2005. That adoration morphed into something much darker.
James began to steal Stratus' moves, to follow her everywhere, to sneak into her dressing room and put on her clothes.
It was clear that James was trying to become her as much as she was trying to possess her. Their storyline was reminiscent of Single White Female, blending aggression with an undercurrent of sexual desire.
Victoria became one of WWE's most interesting female characters with a healthy helping of crazy.
She went from being of one of Godfather's ladies to a prominent singles competitor in 2002 who was constantly on edge.
She pulled at her hair and always seemed to be having some internal struggle. Perhaps she was hearing voices or having sides of her compete.
When she attacked Stacy Keibler backstage, she evoked images of Max Cady from Cape Fear or other similarly psychotic villains. It's a shame she didn't stick around WWE longer. Fans could have seen her dive even deeper into her dark character.
Perry Saturn's WWE stint saw him fall in love with a mop.
The Moppy and Saturn love story was the tale of a man departing far, far from reality. Saturn carried the object of his affection to the ring with him. He talked to it, stroked it, clung to it.
The psychiatric evaluation can end there. Folks that make cleaning products their girlfriends are not sane.
Raven eventually destroyed Saturn's beloved Moppy, igniting a feud between the two men.
It wasn't until after his WWE career that Saturn got his Mike Tyson-like face tattoo, showing a little real-life crazy as well.
It's hard to define Boogeyman as crazy because it's hard to define his character as human.
Assuming that the red-faced, crazy-laughing worm eater was indeed a person and not a supernatural being, he’d likely be the centerpiece of psychiatric studies.
A blend of Beetlejuice and Candyman, Boogeyman frightened the WWE roster beginning in 2005. He stalked JBL, Booker T and Finlay in his two short stays with the company.
In what was seemingly a homage to George Steele, Heidenreich briefly came out to the ring with a little doll that he called, "Little Johnny."
Though he soon abandoned that element, he stuck with various other crazy characteristics.
Heidenreich attacked fans, wore a straitjacket and was extremely forceful about making people listen to his poetry.
He didn't stick around all that long with WWE, leaving in 2006 after a three-year stint. His psychotic gimmick is overshadowed by fans' distaste that he replaced Road Warrior Hawk on the Legion of Doom.
Snitsky introduced himself to the WWE fans by attacking a pregnant Lita. The uncomfortable storyline that followed included Snitsky showing little remorse for causing her to miscarry.
He went on to show signs of suffering from impulse control disorder and signs that he was either a sadomasochist or sociopath. At the very least, he had an overpowering foot fetish.
Much of his four years with WWE (2004-2008) was spent being a frightening presence in the company. When he wrestled for the ECW brand, the company had him stain his teeth and shave off his eyebrows.
It seemed the company was trying to demonstrate Snitsky's disturbed nature through his appearance.
R-Truth's most dependable ally has been an invisible child named "Little Jimmy."
Having an imaginary friend as a child is a normal part of development. It's a sign of an active imagination and a sense of exploration. Having one as an adult is a sign of deep-seated psychological issues.
Little Jimmy has accompanied R-Truth to the ring, where the two are known to dance and high-five after a victory. WWE superstars, fans and announcers have often been enablers, refusing to tell R-Truth the truth.
AJ Lee has made the WWE a mighty interesting place in the last year-plus with her assortment of mental issues.
Her symptoms are longer than CM Punk's recent WWE title reign. AJ is impulsive, has instability in all her relationships, holds onto her emotions deeper and longer than normal and is prone to fits of rage.
Say the wrong thing and AJ will turn into a wild animal, tearing up the furniture and breaking everything she can get her hands on. It's not healthy that she has hopped from man to man, ready to marry them all, regardless of how they actually feel about her.
AJ could have borderline personality disorder or intermittent explosive disorder. Simply put, she's a whackjob, but certainly a pretty and entertaining one.