RINGSIDE REMEMBRANCES: HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Posted October 31st, 2014 by jshannon

Ringside Remembrances: Happy Halloween

Guest Columnist Mort Tishon steps in for Jay Shannon to look at some of his favorite Halloween-centric wrestling characters.

Greetings, my friends. That special time of year has arrived. All the little ghosties and goblins are out playing their tricks and treats on their unsuspecting victims. Professional wrestling has had its share of creepy and unusual characters. Let us lower the lights and turn up the mysterious organ music as we look at a few of my favorite wrestling characters…

Tor Johnson (Super Swedish Angel)

While I realize this strange fellow came on the scene before many of us were born, he has a special link with Halloween. After spending several years working as a professional wrestler, Tor was spotted by eccentric film director, Edward D. Wood, Jr.. Tor was cast in numerous film projects for Mr. Wood, including the legendary (for how bad it was) “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Tor, who spoke very broken English, was given a major speaking part in the film. This was just one reason that “Plan 9” was voted one of the worst movies of all time. Tor, however, would get one special award for his portrayal. The Halloween mask of his post-mortum character has been the biggest seller Halloween mask for the past 75 years (The film was released in the summer of 1959). Tor has long since departed but his legacy lives on through late night showings of this classic film work, as well as footage that has surfaced, recently, on Youtube.com.

Boogeyman

What do you do when you are approximately 40 years old and want to start a wrestling career? You paint your chiseled body up and eat worms. That is what Charles Wright did to make an impact in the WWF/WWE. He became a very popular character, especially with children. A few parents were offended by Boogeyman’s diet of Annelida, but he had outstanding feuds with Booker T and JBL. Boogeyman still crawls from the depths, from time to time, always to a huge response from the fans.

Lord Humongous:

A couple of years before the birth of Sid Vicious (the wrestler, not the rock star), Sid Eudy worked in Bill Watts’ Mid-South area as the behemoth Lord Humongous. It was another take on the Road Warrior film series. Hawk and Animal had been the first to utilize the name. Watts took one of the main antagonists from the film and brought him to life. The character never spoke, other than a few grunts. All the promos were handled by his manager, Sir Oliver Humperdink. Humongous had a good run as a singles competitor, as well as tagging with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Eventually, WCW would scoop up Sid and recreate him into the brutal mastodon that most fans know.

KISS Demon

Eric Bischoff had what he thought was a fantastic idea. He wanted to recreate the four characters of the rock group KISS as professional wrestlers. The trial subject was the most popular of all the KISS personas, the Demon (portrayed in rock arenas by Gene Simmons). Star Child, Celestial and Beast King (names taken from KISS’s Psycho Circus game) were supposed to follow. That never happened. Two different wrestlers did their best to bring The Demon to life but the fans were not impressed. When the KISS project was shelved, the KISS Demon was renamed just The Demon. A short time later, The Demon retreated to whence he came.

The Mummy

Memphis has always been home to odd characters. Possibly the strangest was a huge lumbering mass wrapped from head to foot in bandages. The huge wrestler was extremely limited in his in-ring movements (and out of ring movements, as well). The character was only around for a short time but he is still remembered for being so unique.

The Undertaker

Mark Callaway received fantastic training from Don “The Spoiler” Jardine, as well as Skandor Akbar and others in the Texas area. He was Steve Austin’s very first opponent (Mark was working under a mask). Mark had a short stay in WCW as “Mean” Mark Callous. At Survivor Series 1990, Undertaker debuted as the mystery member of Ted DiBiase Sr.’s Million Dollar Team. For most of the past two and a half decades, Undertaker has been a central figure in the WWF/WWE. He has undergone numerous character adjustments. He went from an undead spirit to a demon personified to a motorcycle riding ruffian and back to a semi-undead brutal warrior. He may be nearing the end of his active career but he will forever be known as one of the most entertaining characters of all time.

The Zombie

When the WWE decided to re-launch the ECW brand, they worked out a deal with SYFY aka Sci-Fi Channel. The idea was to have odd characters that would fit in with the Science Fiction/Horror genre. They started off by pitting The Sandman against a character that looked like an extra from a Geroge A. Romero film. The Zombie kept trying to feast on the poor referee. The match against Sandman lasted only a few minutes and then Zombie went back to the morgue, as the character died upon arrival to the Barbed Wire Brand. To paraphrase SYFY’s hit series, Z Nation, they “Gave us Mercy”.

Mantaur

This was a perfect example of packaging gone wrong. Mantaur had been an outstanding pro wrestler in Germany, as Bruiser Mastino. He was trained by former AWA World Champion, Otto Wanz. In the mid-90s, Mantaur was brought into the WWF. The concept, as I understand it, was Mantaur was supposed to mimic the character of Vader. It failed miserably. Instead of being a feared villain, Mantaur became just another comedy act during the Age of Attitude. Later, he was repackaged as Tank but that character never caught on. Eventually, the wrestler returned to Germany to finish out his career. He retired in 2005. A unique side note to Mantaur’s story is that he was a cousin to WCW wrestler, P.N. News.

Kevin Thorn/Ariel

Another creation of the SYFY ECW Brand, the duo of Thorn and Ariel were just odd. Thorn was a pseudo-Vampire and Ariel was an Oracle/Mystic/Witch. Thorn had an excellent run before disappearing back into the mist. Ariel moved on to TNA, where she became a member of LAX. Another strange Halloween connection, Ariel aka Shelley Martinez was a finalist in the search for the new Elvira, a few years back. She didn’t win but she fit in well with the gothic girls collection.

Glacier

Another not-so-great concept to come out of WCW, Glacier was a cheap rip-off of Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero. Glacier has a decent martial arts background and had above average wrestling skills. The main problem was the character was so silly that most fans just could not take him seriously. He would later be somewhat repackaged but he damage was done. He passed into myth and legend…and not in a good way.

Kane

Undertaker’s “little brother” had to go through several horrible identities before become Kane. He evn workedas the 2nd Bruiser Mastino, as well as Fake Diesel, Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS and others. After the ridiculous Wrestling Dentist character, Jacobs disappeared. Paul Bearer began to discuss Undertaker’s family and his long-thought-dead baby brother. Shortly after the 1997 edition of Wrestlemania, Paul began talking about “His” coming. At In Your House 14, A masked man in red and black came out during Undertaker’s WWE Title Match. Paul was at this new man’s side. The two “Brothers” would both team and feud over the next 17 years. Kane was the first man to face Undertaker twice at Wrestlemania (he lost both times, 14 and 20). Kane lost his mask, got it back and has gone with and without, several times. He has held just about every title possible, including the ECW title. He also has the most career wins of any performer in WWWF/WWF/WWE history. He also held the record, for many years, for the most eliminations during a Royal Rumble. That record was recently broken by Roman Reigns. Kane has branched out to film work in recent years. WWE Films recently released See No Evil 2, a sequel to his successful horror film. Jacobs seems poised to move from in-ring action to a behind-the-scenes position with the company. It is highly unlikely that the Big Red Monster will ever fully retire and will return, when needed.

Mankind

Often a wrestler will do their best to abandon former identities when given a successful new one. Not so for Mick Foley. Foley spent the first few years o first few years of his life molding and improving on his Cactus Jack character. When Foley finally got his shot to move up to the WWF, he was informed that he would be given an all-new, much more twisted persona to work with. Foley embraced the strange psychotic persona with open arms. He began as a tortured soul that often inflicted as much punishment on himself as he did on his opponents. As Foley’s body began to give out on him, after years of punishment, Foley decided to take a serious risk and turn Mankind into a more comedic character. He also brought back Cactus Jack and re-invented a childhood persona, Dude Love. He was the only person to appear as three different characters in the same Royal Rumble. No, he didn’t win under any of the three. Foley has pretty much retired from in-ring action. He has become an accomplished writer. He’s also crafted a popular comedy stand-up act. He deserved and received his place in the Hall of Fame but should he have one place…or four?

Vampiro

He is one of the greatest wrestlers that has basically been ignored or misused by most of the larger wrestling organizations. He did spend time in WCW but Creative had no clue how to utilize his unique look and talent. His best performances in the US were in the short-lived Wrestling Society X (MTV). Fortunately, that collection has a place of honor in my Parlor. Vampiro did also help to build the Juggalo group into the equivalent of ECW for this generation. Jay might not agree with that thought but he did give me an “Open Mic” to share my feelings. Vampiro has also become an accomplished trainer of the next generation of wrestling stars from all three North American countries.

Doink, the Clown

Matt Borne started in the Pacific Northwest, a tremendous second generation star. He then moved to Dallas and elevated himself to Superstar. He stumbled in WCW as the goofy Lumberjack, Big Josh. Thankfully, WWF came calling and turned him into a bizarre clown. He spent only a couple years as the strange clown before handing the character to someone else. The original Doink even showed up in the WWF’s first video game for the PC (yes, I have played the game but it doesn’t work on updated computers). Matt both adopted and rejected the weird character, over the years. Sadly, Matt has left us. A tough loss for those who grew up watching him.

Professor Anton Rudovich

This Mad Scientist from Leningrad was never seen. In Reno’s PWD, there was a monster character known as Experiment 774. Jay, who had been working for some time as J.C. Scott, was called upon to utilize his fun skill of doing accents to create this manager/creator. The original plan was for Rudovich to due promos for the weekly television show, always from the shadows. Unfortunately, the weekly television show came to an end before Rudovich’s debut. He did make one appearance on PWD’s weekly Internet Radio Show. Jay and Chaz, the hosts of the show, planned out Rudovich’s appearance but Chaz allowed Jay to ad lib his answers and reactions. Not the best of ideas, as Rudovich’s pro-Soviet Union/anti-American comments set Chaz off to the point of letting a few “forbidden words” slip out that drew a 2-episode suspension for Chaz from the show. Jay always smiles when he thinks about how he was able to make the character so real that someone who knew what was going to happen was still pushed to losing it. Since Jay was very well-known for his tenure as the official ring announcer for Pro Wrestling Destination, the managerial position for Experiment 774 was eventually turned over to his good friend, Adam, who portrayed Rudovich’s lab assistant who was able to sneak out of Leningrad to come to the States. Such is the fun of small town indy wrestling.

The Menagerie

For Knux, Rebel, Crazy Steve and The Freak, every day is a carnival. So far, the quartet hasn’t really done much in TNA. It is unsure if The Freak is even still with the group. There is hope that Steve will eventually capture the X-Title and Rebel takes the Knockout Title. That may take a year or more but these professionals are solid. The only thing that may keep them down is that their individual characters are so odd that the fans won’t be able to see past the crust to get to the filling.

Paul Bearer

Just in case the above photo was NOT a dead giveaway (sorry, pun unintentional), Paul Bearer has been my inspiration for many years. In fact, before I became Mort, I did a one-shot appearance on PWD Primetime as “Uncle Paul” (ok, let’s just say Paul is my middle name). William Moody was a decorated military veteran that loved wrestling from the time he was a child. After his military service, Bill got involved in wrestling. He also got his license as a mortician in Alabama. He took the persona as Percival Pringle III (two other men had used the name Percival Pringle before Moody). That bleached blond, rotund manager worked all across the South (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, etc…). When Mark Callaway got called up to WWF, Mark pushed for Bill to be brought in to be his manager. Mark and Bill had worked together in the Dallas area. Paul would turn on Undertaker and the reconcile. He was buried alive in a glass casket filled with cement, only to return from the dead. To broken hearts all around the world, Paul departed this world of ours just before Wrestlemania in 2013. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

The time has come to hand the reins of this vehicle back over to its rightful owner, Jay Shannon. My thanks to my old friend for allowing me to return, slightly modified from my original incarnation to spend this special holiday with all of you. Hopefully, the fates will allow us to cross paths, 365 from today.

May the Angels keep you safe

Mortimer P. Tishon
Mount Terror, WA

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