WWE has always been about punch and pizazz. Since turning into a national product, the World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Entertainment have focused on larger-than-life characters and attitudes that command audience attention.
Sometimes a character is born out of a strong personality or sound technical skills. Other times, it takes a major makeover to create a superstar; and such a makeover could create the most terrifying persona in wrestling.
Whether it be zombies, vampires, or evil clowns, WWE has always had a sick obsession with the macabre.
Here now, submitted for your approval, is a list of the 13 most horrifying gimmicks in WWE history. Some are scary good, and some are just scary atrocious.
When he debuted, Jake Roberts had all the credentials of a top tier superstar in the WWF. Roberts was a manipulative, vocal mastermind who cut scathing promos on his opponents and life in general.
But the psychology of the Snake wouldn’t fully be realized until he turned on fan favorites like the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage, showing not only his true colors, but his fangs as well.
Roberts put Warrior through hellacious tests of strength and will, ending with a live burial of the Ultimate one. Then, he would attack a defenseless Macho Man with a King Cobra in a heinous, vicious assault.
Roberts adopted an increasingly cynical, devil-may-care attitude as the days went by, eventually adopting the catchphrase “Trust Me” on his way to the dark side. Roberts had become one of the WWF’s best predators and was the original cerebral assassin.
The WWE’s debut on Sci-Fi (now SyFy) came with a lot of new and innovative things. In an attempt to create a new ECW brand for the network, WWE brought on several established mid-carders, a few impressive newcomers, a vampire, and a Tarot reader. Wait, what?
From the first episode of ECW on Sci-Fi, WWE teased that it had a vampire lurking around the arena while his valet would give Tarot card readings at random intervals. The two would not officially unite until nearly a month into the program, at which point they appeared to be even weirder than predicted.
Kevin Thorn, who had previously wrestled as Mordecai (another bad gimmick) for the company, would be escorted by Ariel and the two would exchange seductive looks.
Then, they would participate in aggressive, dry humping during post-match celebrations. So if the idea of vampires doesn’t freak you out, this certainly did it.
Thorn would be repackaged at least twice before being shown the door at least twice. Ariel, meanwhile, would fall into obscurity (read: TNA) before the end of her wrestling run.
If you want something else scary about her, just Google image search her by her real name (Shelly Martinez) and turn safe search off. You’re welcome.
Some vampire gimmicks don’t work. This one did, if only for about 18 months. David Heath had wrestled as the Vampire Warrior nearly his entire career. His teeth were even permanently fixed to give the illusion that he was, in fact, a sucker of the blood.
So when WWE finally got their hands on the hardworking Heath they kept him in his same digs, but this time, took it one step further.
Gangrel came to the ring to a macabre, pseudo-funk theme song, rising from the ground through a ring of fire. He would victimize several WWF stars with bloodbaths, dropping buckets from the ceiling at will.
Even his ring entrance, in which Gangrel sipped from a goblet before spitting it over the steps in a ritualistic nature, was something to behold. But after numerous attempts to forge a comeback, the Gangrel character would disappear from television altogether.
Not to fear, dear readers! David Heath can now be seen under his Vampire Warrior name in the film Miami Rump Shakerz 2. That’s right, he’s an adult film actor now.
Some people are just scary, regardless of whether or not they are playing a character. Kevin Wacholz is one of those people.
When he was brought into the WWF in 1992, Wacholz was given the persona of Nailz, an ex-convict who was biding his time to get revenge on Cobb County’s own Big Boss Man.
Nailz cut disturbing, gravely promos that detailed how he had been abused by the Boss Man for years in the pen. He was a big man who looked liked a hulking murderer and wrestled about the same way.
By the 1992 Survivor Series, Boss Man and Nailz would finally meet up and settle the score.
Then, one month later, Wacholz went off the deep end, and in a verbal confrontation with Vince McMahon, he picked up the owner of the company and viciously strangled him.
While lawsuits between the two followed, few could forget the images of Nailz in his orange jumpsuit during the Fall of 92.
Some gimmicks are so ridiculous they work. In 2005, the WWE felt the time was right to do such a gimmick for the aging Marty Wright.
A former Tough Enough contestant, Wright would paint his face in red and black and masquerade as a gyrating, hypnotic competitor called the Boogeyman.
He had an oversized alarm clock in one hand and a smoking staff in the other. His mantra consisted of bizarre nursery rhymes before promising that he would be “coming to getcha!”
Then, Boogey would smash himself in the head with the clock. Of course, it didn’t end there.
The Boogeyman’s antics included biting the mole off Jillian Hall’s face and making his opponents eat live worms. It is creepy, disgusting, and incredibly stupid, but it worked and the Boogeyman would become a fan favorite for the next few years.
This one takes a bit of history to understand. Yes, DDP had an amazing career in WCW. He was a WCW World Heavyweight Champion and at the peak of popularity while there. He was even known for having the scorching hot valet/wife, Kimberly Page.
But when DDP made his way to the WWF in 2001, things were much different for the once self-proclaimed “People’s Champ.”
Page was introduced mysteriously through a series of closed-circuit vignettes in which he filmed the Undertaker’s then-wife, Sara.
He would film her at her home or at play, constantly inferring that she was his and his alone.
The idea of a stalker, particularly one with a video camera strapped to his hand, is just terrifying.
Page had gone from being a face of WCW to being a sheepish, privacy-invading troll out for lust and out to destroy the Undertaker. Though he failed, this entry in Page’s career is easily his scariest.
Just look at this picture and tell me it doesn’t make you want to wet your pants, albeit out of laughter. The late Jorge Gonzalez may not have been much of a wrestler, but he was an infamous one that will last for many years to come.
He had wrestled in WCW as El Gigante after a potential NBA career fell through the cracks. In WCW, he was nothing short of atrocious.
The fact of the matter was that given his incredible size and dexterity, Gonzalez struggled to do even the simplest of moves while wearing bland basketball shorts.
Once jumping to the WWF, the creative team decided to mask his deficiencies with an airbrushed muscle suit and tufts of hair covering his unmentionables. Read that again and tell me that you honestly believe THIS was going to get over.
As Giant Gonzalez, he made an immediate impact by taking out the Undertaker. But as he has with all his foes, Taker would get revenge and Gonzalez would be little more than a footnote on the road through wrestling history. A really big, hairy, airbrushed footnote.
Mick Foley is well known for his hardcore persona Cactus Jack. He’s also known for his fun-loving rocker Dude Love. He’s even a New York Times Best-Selling Author with a great passion for literature and the arts. But to make this list, Foley had to channel all of his inner demons into one masked crusader.
Mankind would debut through, like most WWF superstars of the time, promos and vignettes divulging details about his character.
Foley warbled and whimpered through his words about a tortured past and constant longing for appreciation. He would scream and shriek at just the right moment, keeping his edge the entire way.
Once he wrestled, Mankind appeared to be the sort of foe who just wanted a little attention, until he blew a fuse and completely ravaged his opponent.
Everything about this sick and demented character was just that, sick and demented. After all, what kind of straight-shooter spends all his time in a Boiler Room?
It is fact: People hate clowns. I mean really hate clowns. So it should come as no surprise that the WWF tried valiantly to capitalize on people’s fears in the early 90’s with a wrestling clown.
When Doink emerged on the scene, he wasn’t the fun-loving, slap-happy clown people associate him with being nowadays. In fact, the original Doink was a terrifying blend of pranks and sadism. He would setup fans in the audience with balloons only to pop them, or squirt folks with his water flower.
These pranks were minuscule when compared to his in-ring antics, where he would use prosthetic arms to injure opponents and he could also multiply on the spot. That, and his theme music was some of the scariest ever made.
Oh yeah, that’ll sell some tickets.
Wrestling is full of wacky characters, but few men have played the roles half a dozen times in their careers. Charles Wright is one of those rare performers who never seemed to catch a break with his gimmicks.
Though he would go on to greater fame as The Godfather, a pimping hustler with an escort service, he got his biggest start as Papa Shango.
Standing over six feet tall with tattoos strewn across his torso, Papa Shango was a voodoo witch doctor with a skull painted on his face and a bad attitude.
He wore a black singlet with red ritual symbols and a tall, black hat. Shango had all the looks of the witch doctor and would go on to feud with the Ultimate Warrior in 1992.
In fact, his feud with Warrior was notable for showing the humanity and mortality of the Ultimate one, forcing his face paint to melt and creating Warrior vomit out of thin air.
What could possibly be scarier than an opponent who can force you to puke? How about the legend that the Papa Shango character was the brainchild of the Ultimate Warrior himself?
Sadly, a countdown like this comes with an all-too-predictable top three, which we start off with the Brother of the Undertaker.
Kane was introduced as a long lost brother to our tortured Big Evil in an effort by Paul Bearer to throw the Taker off his game. It worked, as soon Kane would become a reality seeking revenge for all the bad deeds Taker had done to him in their childhood.
See, Kane and Undertaker are brothers whose parents died in a terrible house fire that the Undertaker started. Kane was believed dead as well, yet he was actually just badly burned, tormented demon this entire time.
Also, we found out that his father was Paul Bearer and that over time, he would learn to talk (abandoning his original voice box) and his scars would heal.
Since this is pro wrestling, I could go on about the convoluted back story of the Big Red Machine, but I don’t have all day. Instead, here’s a list of Kane’s various indiscretions since he debuted:
-Murder (both implied and attempted, numerous counts)
-Arson (numerous counts)
-Drunk Driving (implied)
-And generally being deemed a Monster may also be a crime.
Bill Moody already had a decade of experience as a professional wrestling manager and entertainer before he came to the World Wrestling Federation.
As Percy Pringle, he was linked to some of the biggest stars in the business during a more territorial time for organizations. But when he wasn’t out there under the bright lights, he was pursuing his second passion: Mortuary Science.
Yes, the man who would go on to play Paul Bearer, the Undertaker’s signature manager, actually had a gigantic background in the funeral industry after earning a degree in Mortuary Science.
Moody became a certified embalmer and funeral director before embellishing his experiences to become the squealing voice of the Creatures of the Night.
As Paul Bearer, he was the second in command for the Undertaker’s undead army. He protected a sacred urn containing mystical powers and would often be a focal point in the Undertaker’s biggest feud. But it would be his blood-curdling voice that left the longest impression on the fans.
He’s the longest running staple of the WWE’s traveling circus, and yet the gimmick of the Undertaker was probably born out of one of the dumbest ideas ever.
In their infinite brilliance, WWE decided that they needed to take a big, tough biker named Mark Calloway and turn him into a wrestling zombie. Yes, a wrestling zombie.
He would be an indestructible force that felt no pain and could roll his eyes back in his head. His entrance music was a menacing graveyard symphony, inspiring fear in his opponents.
He would threaten to bury each and every one of his foes, and often times, would succeed. Later on, Taker would become the face of WWE-branded matches like the casket match, buried alive match, Hell in a Cell, and Inferno match.
Simply put, the guy was everywhere and constantly terrorizing opponents. He would grow to invoke the supernatural and even had a satanic edge to his persona at one point. But in the long run, the idea that this gimmick could last as long as it has may be the most horrifying thing of all.
The Undertaker is a wrestling zombie. Think about that. If WWE even attempted to create such a character for today, he would fall flat on his face and would be panned as a laughable adversary.
Mean Mark, on the other hand, became one of the largest stars the industry has ever seen. Scary, indeed. Happy Halloween everyone!