Over the last few months, I’ve shared the legends of the squared circle’s Leatherfaces, an ersatz Freddy Krueger and more mummies than you can shake a snake covered stick at. Now, we’ve arrived at Mary Shelley’s creation — bet he uses a lot of Gold Bond Powder!
As always, when wondering, “Where has a monster wrestled?” you should look southward and specifically, you should look to El Santo. In his 34th movie, 1972’s Santo Contra la Hija de Frankestein, the man in the silver mask battled Dr. Frankenstein’s ageless daughter, who has created a youth serum and Ursus, who seems a lot like the Monster with a natty tucked in polo shirt. Two years later, Santo would bring along Blue Demon to battle Frankenstein’s cigar smoking grandson Irwin in Santo y Blue Demon contra el Doctor Frankenstein.
There were also other lucha monsters, like the actor known as Frankenstein, Nathanael Evaristo Leon Moreno, who first appeared alongside Wolf Ruvinskis in the 1957 film Tigers of the Ring. Or El Hijo de Cien Caras, who used the name early in his career.
There’s also a more direct lucha version of the monster. According to http://quienesquienluchalibre.blogspot.com, Francisco Saenz Guzman wrestled as a Frankenstein character in the 1980s, where his chief appeal was “…his attire as well as his ability to imitate the monstrous character’s walking. Frankenstein used shoes with heels that made him look taller, but they limited him a lot when it came to fighting. He formed a tag team with his brother Frankenstein II.” Eventually, he lost his mask in a bloody war with Brazo de Oro, but in the days before the power of athletic commissions, he also lost the same mask to Mano Negra, Centurion Negro and Rino Castro.
Now, let’s look to the US, where in the 1960s, The Munsters were a huge deal on television. Their patriarch, Herman, ended up becoming a wrestler to earn his son college money in the episode, Herman the Great. Wrestling folks like Count Billy Varga, Jimmy Lennon Sr. and Gene LeBelle (you may know him as the manager of former UFC star Ronda Rousey) appeared in this episode. And it’s the territory that was used — the LaBelle Los Angeles territory — that gave birth to the most well-known Frankenstein’s Monster of the ring.
Originally debuting in Arizona, The Monster was described as “a popular wrestler in Mexico who had been in a bad car wreck in Toluca. Besides physical scars, the story said he had lost his mind and believed himself to literally be the Frankenstein Monster.” But as the Los Angeles-based LaBelle promotion was dying, they went for broke and had him announced as an actual monster. He didn’t show any damage from any other wrestler, so unlike the Undertaker, he didn’t lie there and dramatically sit up. He just didn’t take any damage. At all.
Of course, this would lead to Andre the Giant (who figures into our Bigfoot as a wrestler research, to keep you excited for future chapters) coming in to destroy the Monster. They even did a countout win and announced that as a result, Andre was no longer undefeated. One can only imagine how Andre’s boss, Vince McMahon Sr. felt about that.
The next time they met, it’s said that Andre and the man under the mask, Tony Rodriguez, had a brutal fight ending with Andre ripping off the Frankenstein mask and gimmick. Shortly after that, they turned the Monster into a good guy just as the promotion lost their TV deal.
Best of all — Kurt Brown, who we relied on earlier for mummy information, was there for that very show! Here’s what he had to say in the March 8, 1992 issue of The Wrestling Observer:
“By the way, I did see Andre’s match with The Monster (Tony Rodriguez). It was a lumberjack match. I don’t know the complete story, but Andre didn’t look too happy to be wrestling Frankenstein that night. He was usually a jovial babyface, but not on this show. I don’t know what the finish was supposed to be, but Rodriguez took things home himself by ignoring the lumberjacks who were trying to toss him back into the ring and going to the dressing room. It was evident that Andre was tearing up his costume, because Rodriguez was barely holding his mask and other accessories in place by the time he got to the dressing room. Rodriguez got a few broken ribs apparently in the melee. Mind you, I doubt many visiting wrestlers to the LeBelle territory would have enjoyed wrestling The Monster since even the dimmest of marks in the arenas would often scream “this is retarded” and “take off that goddamn mask, Hot Stuff Rodriguez.””
There’s one other place you should look to when you’re searching for wrestling monsters — Memphis. Scott Bowden, former managerial enemy of Memphis hero Jerry “The King” Lawler (look for a full-length interview on Memphis’s monsters with Scott soon), remembers: “Dr. Frank is the earliest memory I have of movie monsters invading the territory. Lawler and manager Mickey Poole opened an episode of the Memphis show in January 1977 by bringing out a huge wooden box that contained the King’s new ally. Throughout the show, grunts and groans could be heard through the makeshift tomb. When Lawler unlocked the top portion of the box to reveal Dr. Frank—think Boris Karloff from the original— my 5-year-old self screamed before quickly changing the channel. And much like the Universal classic, the Monster eventually turned on Lawler, forcing the King to burn his creation with a ball of fire.”
Some other Frankenstein’s Monsters of note:
According to the amazing Frankensteinia blog (frankensteinia.blogspot.com), Primo Carnera, a major star of the 1950s and 60s Madison Square Garden-era WWWF, played the monster on NBC’s Matinee Theater TV show in 1957.
When WCW/NWO Revenge came out for the Nintendo 64, it was a localized update for the Japanese game Virtual Pro Wrestling. Japanese icon Jumbo Tsuruta, one of my personal heroes, was rechristened Dr. Frank and looks exactly like you’d dream he’d look.
Hellboy went to Mexico in the 1950s and battled alongside luchadores (look for more about this in a future vampire-related Mat Monsters). Later, he’d battle Frankenstein, who would become part of the Hellboy universe.
And course, there’s always the headscissors-like move invented by Scott Steiner known as the Frankensteiner.
Know any wrestling monsters I’ve missed? Comment below and let me know! Next time, we’ll cover some neglected monsters when it comes to ‘rassling…the beasts of the deep, from swamp monsters, creatures of the lagoon and sharks to octopai and even turtles! Stay scary!
This article was originally posted at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-modern-prometheus-wrestles/