The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling
- The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion
It’s the night of a big show, the lights shine down on a packed arena, centred on the place affectionately known in wrestling parlance as the squared circle – the ring. In the middle of the ring, stands a hero, sweat dripping down his overblown muscled body. Hand raised in victory. The fans packed to the rafters are cheering themselves hoarse.
Then it happens. A blast of noise. The lights dim, flicker out into total darkness, a howl of discordant music fills the arena. The eerie tune engages in a battle with the hooting, whistling crowd, many of whom are smarks, wrestling fans who follow the pseudo sport’s dirt sheets and have an inkling of what is afoot. If the bookers (the people who create or develop characters and write the storylines) are clever, they will have spent the past few weeks enticing the hordes with teases and hints of what is about to ensue.
The lights blaze, and there behind the victorious sweat drenched wrestler stands his unexpected nemesis, the latest monster dredged from the depths of Hell. Darkness personified. Huge, leering, maniacal, monstrous in appearance. Quite often ponderous in motion but always possessing one killer finishing move, by which the unsuspecting foe here is rapidly dispatched as the roof blows off the arena. Once the monster has introduced itself in this manner, the lights immediately revert to darkness again, seconds later flicker back on again, to find the monster gone, vanished into thin air in a supernatural manner (in all likelihood, hidden under the ring itself).
A slight alternative to the sudden supernatural appearance of the horror character inside the wrestling ring is the slow approach down the ramp from the dressing rooms (gorilla position) toward the ring. A walk accompanied by the gasps of terror of the fans and the persistent cries of the ringside commentators (who in truth know full well who the performer is and what he is about to do). However, the suspension of disbelief is a key factor in wrestling, and this part of kayfabe is maintained even for a knowing audience. “Who…what… what the Hell is that?” “Who is this monster?” “Look at the size of that man.” “That’s no man!” At this point the commentators (always two or even three) start to contradict and debate one another, while agreeing that this being is something beyond a mere mortal approaching the ring. “Through Hell fire and brimstone…” hence catchphrases are formed and the myth making process begins anew.
One further variation of the debut appearance of the monster is through the ring itself. The wrestler positioned there via a tunnel under the arena where he awaits his cue to burst through the mat at a pre-determined weak spot in the canvas. This is usually done to the accompaniment of smoke and pyrotechnics, to signify that the being is ascending from Hell itself.
The marriage between pro-wrestling and horror is an interesting but obvious and perhaps inevitable one. Both genres lead themselves to the suspension of disbelief, a love of the theatrical, an obsession with violence and blood, the visual presentation of obscene bodies, and the emotional catharsis of the journey toward the eventual triumph of good over evil.
Further, the profession of pro wrestling itself attracts to its ranks individuals who were always destined to exist on the fringes of society. Outsiders. In today’s world, where wrestling autobiographies are prolific, it is well documented how physically and mentally draining the journey to make it big in wrestling is. The character types who are drawn to this sort of lifestyle are often inclined toward other lowbrow interests; horror movies, heavy metal music, body building, strip clubs, booze and pills, as opposed to gentler pursuits like accounting or house renovation, for example.
The number of wrestlers who have drawn on horror and horror cinema in particular to enrich their characters is legion. I could reel off a list of names in no particular order, discounting the many short-lived zombies, yetis, vampires and mummies who never really got over with the fans to form a lasting bond. Some enjoyed a short run of popularity, and a select few enjoyed great longevity. One in particular portrayed a beloved evil character for some thirty years.
Some I never got to see perform at all, despite my interest in the pseudo-sport. These characters are spread across the multitude of wrestling companies all across the globe, but usually perform or performed in the three epicentres of the pro-wrestling culture – Japan, Mexico and the United States.
A roll call with apologies to the many horror inspired characters I never encountered – Kevin Sullivan, Doink the Clown, Vampiro, Undertaker, Kane, Bray Wyatt/the Fiend, The Brood, Gangrel, Kevin Thorn/Mordecai, Papa Shango, Alexa Bliss, Seven, Bestia 666, Evil, The Boogeyman, Demon Finn Balor, Crow Sting, Daffney, Bludgeon Brothers, Jake the Snake Roberts, Abadon the Monster, Leatherface, Chainsaw Charlie, Waylon Mercy, Damian Priest, Willow, Aleister Black, Shotzi Blackheart, Danhausen.
The rise in popularity of televised wrestling ran concurrent to the rise of post-war cinema in the 1950s. It is not hard to imagine that wrestling, with its emphasis on visual storytelling and narrative, would come to borrow many of the topes evinced in Hollywood movies. Moreover, as wrestling formed part of the forbidden counter culture, and it engaged physical specimens with freakish body sizes, it came to draw upon the characters and specifically the monsters portrayed in horror cinema.
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Anthony Ferguson is an author and editor living in Perth, Australia. He has published over seventy short stories and non-fiction articles in Australia, Britain and the United States. He wrote the novel Protégé, the non-fiction books, The Sex Doll: A History, and Murder Down Under, edited the short-story collection Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror and coedited the award-nominated Midnight Echo #12. He is a committee member of the Australasian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), and a submissions editor for Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (ASM). He won the Australian Shadows Award for Short Fiction in 2020.