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.

In the horror genre, the characters which draw the big box office money are the ones who generate multiple sequels. The standard tropes like vampires, werewolves, and zombies are able to be continually interpolated in fresh scenarios. In addition to this, just as there are beloved movie characters who are eternal, so there are monsters who are unkillable and resonate across the years. It is in some of these specific characters that we witness a cross-over into the wrestling subculture. Michael Myers in Halloween is a prime example. Progenitor of a dozen copycat masked wrestlers. It is also very noticeable that the ‘no arms sit up and head turn’ routine utilised countless times by the Undertaker to great crowd reaction, is taken directly from Michael Myers in the original Halloween movie. Similarly, Bray Wyatt’s ‘spider walk’ routine is directly lifted from The Exorcist.

A more direct cross-over is the Leatherface character from the cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In the film, the character is a masked, mute, hulking chainsaw wielding brute who dispatches victims without mercy. The wrestler of the same name (originally portrayed by Michael Penzel, who also wrestled as Corporal Kirschner in the WWE) terrorised Japanese audiences for years. In fact, unlike the more sedate and closely recognised performer/audience divide in America, the Japanese companies allowed Leatherface to run into the audience wielding an active chainsaw, naturally causing genuine terror and making people flee across the scattered chairs.

Perhaps the most mainstream wrestler/horror film crossover occurred in the United States in the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the late nineties. 

For more than a decade, popular babyface wrestler Steve Borden had successfully portrayed the beloved face painted and brightly attired character known as Sting. However, after many years on or near the top of the roster, Sting’s act was getting a little stale. When the New World Order (NWO) storyline pushed WCW ratings into the stratosphere, led by the previously inconceivable transformation of lifelong hero Hulk Hogan into the nefarious black-garbed villain redubbed Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Sting found himself somewhat surplus to requirements.

However, in a rare example of brilliant long-term booking, Sting disappeared from the scene altogether for several weeks, until he began to be sighted standing up in the rafters of whichever arena the show was filmed in on a given week. Only this wasn’t the happy smiling, brightly face painted blonde tipped Sting. This was a Sting all clad in black, with white face paint, and his hair grown long and into his natural jet-black colour.

Sting had morphed into Brandon Lee’s Crow character from the horror film of the same name, and he really looked the part. Well, he was either The Crow or an escapee from The Warriors, depending on your perspective.

There followed several months of Sting sightings. When the faces were taking a pounding from the NWO, he would sometimes descend from the rafters on a harness to make the save. He carried a black baseball bat but rarely need to use it as a weapon, so supernatural were his new abilities to deflect attacks from multiple foes. The crowd bought into the narrative immediately and lapped it up.

The particular genius of this storyline was that unlike most wrestlers, who need to scream and yell to get their point across, for almost a year, Sting never uttered a word. He just let his actions speak for him. Until the moment he pointed the bat at Hollywood Hogan one night to indicate he wanted a world title match. Unfortunately, WCW totally blew the payoff to this angle, like they did with most things. However, this was perhaps the purest example of the wrestling horror crossover ever demonstrated.

The gist of the Sting/Crow narrative was the same as that of Eric Draven/Crow – the desire for vengeance. Draven for the murder of himself and his fiancee, Sting for the murder of his ‘career’. They both have a similar powerful nemesis, Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Top Dollar. Larger-than-life cartoonish villains who are finally despatched in the concluding battle.

There is one more character worthy of mention in terms of internalising the concept of good versus evil. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts was a wrestler whose career spanned the 1980s and 90s, and whose life has been the subject of several documentaries, not to mention the supposed inspiration for Darren Aronofsky’s hugely successful 2009 film, The Wrestler.

Jake was a man who spent a lifetime fighting his own demons, alcoholism, and drug addiction among them. It would be imprudent to dwell on these issues here, suffice to say that Jake today is in a good place, and still involved in the wrestling industry in a managerial spokesperson role. It is a role he is entirely suited to, for the man is a consummate speaker and pure gold on the microphone. In his pomp, Jake was able to briefly parlay his personal demons into a charismatic heel character. Long and lithe with a mane of wavy hair and a moustache that just dripped evil, Jake would carry a python (later a de-fanged cobra) in a sack to the ring, which he would drape over his vanquished foes after knocking them cold with his patented and nasty looking DDT finisher.

However, it was through his promos that Jake really got over as a seductive evil figure. Claiming that he ran with the Devil, Jake would set his cold, piercing gaze right down the lens and deliver his cutting words in a low hoarse whisper. The antithesis to his fellow grapplers who would yell to get their point across. Like a devil perched on your shoulder, Jake would whisper verbal atrocities into your ear, and you would be totally captivated. If only Jake could have controlled his personal demons, he would have had a much more title-laden career.

You may also like...