Author: Anthony Ferguson

Being part of a Writing Group
Being part of a Writing Group

The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

Conclusion

Horror and wrestling are comfortable bedfellows because they are both outsider narratives. Both genres have always dwelt on the fringes of polite society. Tolerated, but never welcomed into the fold of mainstream acceptance. It is rare that the major awards in the literature and cinematic fields acknowledge a horror story. Horror is politely ushered off into a corner and encouraged to organise its own set of awards. Most horror writers whose name isn’t Stephen King struggle to make a full-time living from the profession.

Pro wrestling when it first started to appear on television in the post-second world war era enjoyed the same level of infamy as the horror movies and comics which gained notoriety around the same time. Tolerated, but shuffled off into the margins of acceptability. Horror fans and wrestling fans risked being considered social pariahs. Many were proud of this outsider status.

Horror as a genre is posited to shock, thrill, and scare its audience. It can be presented in many ways, but there is usually a central figure, a monster or villain, around which the narrative is built. This is where wrestling finds fertile field in the horror genre. The central horror villain is often a reflection of contemporaneous social fears. Some examples being invasion, disease, nuclear war, and so on.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

The Covid era and cinematic wrestling

From chaos comes opportunity, and adaptation and creativity can overcome adversity. The early months of 2020 witnessed the now all too familiar arrival of Covid 19 across the globe, bringing with it devastation to communities and economies almost everywhere. In the pro wrestling world, however, the major player, WWE, was able to successfully adapt. Owner Vince McMahon’s personal and financial links to the Republican Party helped him obtain government backing to provide wrestling content as an essential public service. WWE was still able to create and provide its weekly programs and its major pay-per-view events, to a global audience, albeit set in empty arenas.

This latter restriction however led to a number of creative innovations, not least of which were the introduction of cinematic style matches in the big pay per views. To explain, rather than presenting a live match between two or more combatants in a wrestling ring in an empty arena with a linear narrative, a beginning, middle, and end, the cinematic match allowed the WWE to pre-film a significant match in the same manner as producing a film or a video clip. Hence, the match could be stopped at any given point, and the performers made to go over their parts again and again until the producer felt they had achieved the perfect take on the performance, like real actors.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

A word on the Devil

A discussion of horror would not be complete without mentioning the Prince of Darkness. His presence is woven throughout the genre, from Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus way back in 1592, all the way through to his modern iterations in literature and film, from Ray Bradbury’s, Something Wicked this Way Comes (1962), to Stephen King’s Needful Things (1991), from William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (1978) and its cinematic interpretation, Angel Heart, (1987), to Constantine (2005), the Devil’s place in the horror genre is well trod.

Naturally, Satan dips his toes into the carnival world of wrestling too. How could he resist? While there has never been a wrestler directly portraying the role of Satan as far as I am aware, his presence can be seen influencing the work of wrestlers like Kevin Sullivan, Jake the Snake Roberts, the Undertaker in his Ministry of Darkness period, and Bray Wyatt’s Fiend character, among others.

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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

The unkillable monster

In the horror genre there are a series of characters who are considered franchise players, big box office draws who have therefore become unkillable. Their demise would see the end of the franchise. As a result, no matter how hard the hero(s) fight back and overcome their nefarious intentions, these evildoers always pop right back up at the story’s conclusion to kill another day.

There are many such monsters in horror – Michael Myers, Chucky, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek, the Alien xenomorphs, the Predators, to name a few. No matter how many times these killers appear to meet their demise, they invariably rise from death’s door to terrorise us again.

It is no surprise to discover that there are similar unkillable monsters in pro wrestling. Two in particular have stood out. One for proving an immovable force over a thirty-year time span. The other is a creative genius who has yet to find a niche in the squared circle, but nevertheless appears to have the gift of repeatedly reinventing himself to gather widespread support from the wrestling audience.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

Monstrous bodies and body horror

The body is everything in professional wrestling. Like the sport itself, the bodies of its practitioners can be seen to represent excess. More so in the past than the present era, the actual size and freakish look of a wrestler was enough to get them noticed, and hopefully, to draw mainstream attention and fans to the arena. This list of mammoth wrestlers rolls off the tongue – Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, The Undertaker, Giant Gonzales, the Big Show, Kane (the Devil’s favourite demon), Abdullah the Butcher, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Umaga, The Great Khali, Omos. These human monsters are replicated in traditional horror by outsized freaks like werewolves, mummies, zombies and other flesh rending ghouls.

An addendum to the outsized monstrous figure in wrestling is that of the truly grotesque, the villain whose body is designed to repulse the viewer. Wrestlers fitting this paradigm include Bastion Booger, the Adorable Adrian Adonis, and Playboy Buddy Rose. The excess in these bloated wrestling bodies is mirrored by the misshapen monsters of horror, like the Blob or the Toxic Avenger.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film

At the risk of going out on a limb and providing a satirical allusion, a link can also be drawn between the slasher sub-genre of horror cinema and what is colloquially known as hardcore, garbage wrestling, or death matches. The latter is a sub-genre of wrestling which exists on the periphery of the sport, being considered too violent for mainstream television, and with good reason. 

Hardcore wrestling is a particularly violent form of the grap game, in which the match itself is accentuated by a number of dangerous props, usually in the guise of exploding rings, barbed wire laden baseball bats, ring ropes or tables, glass plates, steel chairs, thumb tacks, staple-guns, light tubes, fireballs, knives, scissors, kendo sticks, baking dishes, chairs, or a combination of some or all of the above. Fire is sometimes presented in the guise of flaming torches used as weapons, or the ring ropes or ring surrounds being set on fire. Proffering bouts like the infamous no rope exploding barbwire timebomb deathmatch, true hardcore wrestling leaves little to the imagination.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

Good versus evil

“Since evil is the natural climate of wrestling, a fair fight has chiefly the value of being an exception.” So said French semiotician Roland Barthes in his assessment of pro wrestling (The World of Wrestling, in Mythologies, Paris, 1957). What Barthes was alluding to was that the villains always cheat, and in wrestling, much like in horror, they nearly always win.

The most obvious link between wrestling and the horror genre is that at their core, both mediums fall back on the archetypal clash between good and evil, the eternal struggle. Indeed, most wrestlers through their ring careers internalise this struggle, switching from face to heel, good to evil, and back again, depending on the flow of the narrative. In literal terms, this is done to keep their characters fresh and interesting, and therefore able to draw money from the fans, in the form of ticket and merchandise sales.
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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion

Carnivals and the counter culture

Professional wrestling had its genesis as a travelling carnival attraction around the turn of the twentieth century. Visitors to the carnival would pay a small fee to watch two grapplers go at it as part of a larger show. These earliest pro wrestling matches were not scripted, they were genuine athletic contests where two men would try to outwrestle and out-manoeuvre one another until they had put the opponent in a hold from which they could not escape, and thus would have to submit.

The only problem with this, as the protagonists soon discovered, was that they tended to pick up a lot of injuries, which in effect were costing them money on account of not being able to perform. It was not long before one wrestler hit upon a brilliant solution. They should stage or fix the bouts, so they protagonists worked together in sync and nobody got hurt. Ergo, nobody missed a payday. Thus, the pseudo-sport of pro-wrestling was born.
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