Mat Monsters: Mummies part 1

Across the world, monsters have made their eerie presence known in nearly every promotion, from Mexico’s La Gronda and Monsther to Japan’s Survival Tobita’s battles against creatures such as Ape Virgon, Automatic Warrior and Mokujin Ken (“Ken the Box”). For the first of two entries, we’ll concentrate on the bandage and dust covered mummies of the mat.

Who knows what makes a mummy so intrinsically tied to pro wrestling — but there have been literally scores of them. Enough, one could argue, to create your own exclusively mummy promotion. What a wonderful slice of Egyptian heaven that would be! Here are just a few of the mummies that have shambled their way into our hearts.

The Mummy – USA, 1950s-60s

Benji Ramirez was a mummy for a variety of American promotions, including Houston, Los Angeles and Los Cruces, New Mexico, where newspaper reports claimed that he came to the ring in a coffin and would be unwrapped before the match began. He’d drag one leg as he wrestled and was claimed to be amongst the strongest men in wrestling.

Seeing as how some promotions wanted to keep one foot in the world of real sports, some promoters would claim that Ramirez wasn’t a real mummy, but a man who had been in a horrific accident and driven insane (look for a similar cover story when we cover the wrestling Frankenstein’s Monsters).

The Mummy could certainly draw the ire of a crowd. Want proof? In 1965, while wrestling in Pasadena, CA, he was stabbed in the abdomen by a 79-year old fan. The four inch blade put Ramirez into the hospital, but he lived to tell the tale.

There’s a potentially apocryphal tale of Ramirez travelling from town to town in his bandaged gimmick and getting out of the car to go to the bathroom. When he returned to the automobile, the rest of the travelling crew had left, leaving him wandering a highway in full mummy regalia, hitchhiking and the police being called.

This mummy wrestled Lou Thesz of all folks and may have been the creature that Bruno Sammartino has disdainfully discussed, claiming that he would appear on no shows that such a gimmick was on.

The Mummy – Tennessee, various eras

This mummified masked man was Memphis legend Eddie Marlin, teaming up with the masked Dr. Frank, who was played by Nick Adams (who would train wrestling bears later in his career). This occurred around 1967-68, with a new Mummy appearing in 1974 managed by Sam Bass. This new Mummy would eventually be unmasked by Jerry “The King” Lawler as Ron Wright. South East Wrestling also had mummy that was played by Bobby Duncum Sr. in the early 80s.

La Mumia, Argentina, 1960s-70s

La Mumia is part of Martin Karadagian’s absolutely insane Titantes en el Ring TV show, which also had two movies based on it. There’s no real way to describe Titantes other than to say that it’s an insane kids’ show that is also a wrestling show. The man who introduced me to this weirdness, Kurt Brown (one hell of a wrestler himself and the guy who took me to LA’s Mondo Video on my first wrestling tour of Los Angeles) had to be the source to help explain the wonder of La Mumia to you, dear reader.

KURT: I discovered Titanes En El Ring the first year I discovered pro wrestling when I was 10 years old in 1972, since it aired on a Spanish UHF station here. As much as I initially thought Titanes was a joke, when “La Momia” came out to his creepy theme music, I genuinely thought he looked scary, despite the fact he was not a heel! The two things that made this effective were that La Momia’s bandaged gear looked both ragged and eerie, and that Juan DosSantos, who played that second incarnation of La Momia, worked the gimmick with precision! I never saw the first version of La Momia, played by a wrestler named Ivan Kowalsky, but later incarnations of The Mummy were really lame (but still very popular with the fans).”

SAM: So where did the idea for the gimmick come from?

KURT: Karadagian said he got the idea for The Mummy from an Argentine wrestler who worked in the states and told him about somebody who was doing a mummy gimmick. Presumably the wrestler he was talking about was Benji Ramirez, who was said to be a great worker out of Guatemala.

SAM: What made La Mumia so memorable for you?

KURT: (La Mumia) looked scary like a heel, but was very much a face. Even when he wrestled versus a face, the fans cheered La Momia. The whole persona was a stroke of genius, in my opinion, even though his theme song sounded evil and chilling, the lyrics went something like “He protects the good, punishes the bad, and cares for the children with tenderness!” It don’t get stranger than that, and it don’t get more bitchin’ than that!!

SAM: Did Titantes have other mummies on their roster?

KURT: The Mummy gimmick has been imitated dozens and dozens of times in South America, no doubt because of the huge mainstream success of Argentina’s Mummy. No promotion portrayed La Momia in the same light Karadagian did, but there were a few creative takes on it. My particular favorite of these was “La Momia de Elvis” in Uruguay about ten years ago, he was a slim mummy who moved swiftly, with charisma, and did those awesome Elvis gyrating moves!

Karadagian also had a Frankenstein wrestler at one point. Guatemala had a great “Day of The Dead” character called Madame Xandu, who actually lasted quite a few years and was a very respected wrestler on the scene there.

SAM: I didn’t get to Frankenstein’s Monster yet, but did La Mumia ever battle that monster?

KURT: La Momia wrestled Frankenstein. To show how much Martin Karadagian loved to make an already unorthodox setting gear into another depth of surrealism, the tv battle climaxed with both wrestlers getting tangled in the ropes, and dangling upside down alongside each other on the outer part if the wing. Franky and Mummy poised like vampire bats, swinging and swatting at each other!

SAM: Don’t you wish there were more wrestling mummies?

KURT: Well — I think the amazing mainstream success of the second Argentina version of La Momia really imprinted that particular character in the minds of the general public, and just sort of spring-boarded the persona into an all-encompassing affection for bandaged heroes! My hunch is that if Karadagian’s unique vision of a scary looking babyface had not gone over, that there would not be generations of mummies throughout South America since, similar to North America’s “Masked Marvels” and “Dr. Xs.”

SAM: Even if Bruno Sammartino wouldn’t have been on the same show as a mummy?

KURT:  I heard that interview with Bruno. I think he said that not only would he never wrestle a mummy, but that he refused to wrestle on a show that features a mummy! That’s a huge difference between me and Bruno; if I had his clout, I would refuse to wrestle in Madison Square Garden unless there was a mummy on the show, and he better be in the main event!

Thanks Kurt! Just to show how crazy Titantes could be, here’s a match pitting La Mumia against a pharaoh, complete with singing women that bring him to the ring.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next installment of Mat Monsters will feature more mummies, including Japan’s Mecha Mummy, Mexico’s El Santo and wrestling women battling mummies. WCW’s The Yeti and Smoky Mountain Wrestling’s infamous Prince Kharis! Stay scary!

Article originally appeared here http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-mummies/

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