From mummies and Frankenstein’s monsters to Leatherface and Freddy, monsters show up all over the world and in nearly every ring. But how about sea monsters? Is that even possible — for a beast from under the waves to make it into a wrestling ring?
Of course it is! We’ll start in the USA, where Chikara Pro was once the home of The Swamp Monster. This beast called the Everglades home and even used Born on a Bayou as his entrance music. A member of the Gentlemen’s Club, this bundle of moss and muck was agile enough to use a double foot stomp as his/her/its finishing hold. Chikara also boats water-based grapplers like Cajun Crawdad, Hermit Crab, Rock Lobster, ThunderFrog and the “murky, murderous menace of the deep” Murlok.
Now, let’s swim all the way across the world to Tokyo, where we’ll meet The Calamari Wrestler. Star of a 2004 movie, this tentacled beast was once a man who contracted a terminal illness that transformed him into a big, bad squid. Now, he battles to reclaim his personal and professional life. Noted real wrestlers like Osamu Nishimura, Akira Nogami and Yoshihiro Takayama all make appearances.
While we’re in Japan, beware kappa — a river demon who lures kids to the water and tries to drown them. There’s even one that wrestles occasionally, called Shibaten, played by freelance wrestler Hercules Senga. Herc’s also been a few other gimmicks, including Walking the Mummy. Here’s some footage of him battling CHIKARA owner Mike Quackenbush:
Buckle up — our trip to find all the best amphibian and underwater beast brawlers isn’t done yet. In Mexico, where copyrights mean nothing, there are no fewer than three ninja turtle tag teams — the AULL Ninja Turtle team of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatella and Miguel Angel are known as Tortuguillos Karatekas. IWRG has a group called Tortugas Ninja, made up of Leo, Mike, Raft and Teelo (and they even have a mini Splinter walk them to the ring). Finally, there are the evil rudo versions, Las Tortugas Mutantes!
Lucha versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been happening for years, all the way back to the Universal promotion that often toured Japan (and gave Ultimo Dragon his first maskless fame). Tons of ninja turtles have appeared all over the US indy scene, including Memphis’ Cowabunga (Chris Champion, who wrestled in WCW as Yoshi Kwan) and Mark Hildebrand, who did the gimmick in Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
Let us pull back the curtain slightly. I’ve been a pro wrestler for over twenty years and the first opponent that I wrestled, outside of my trainer, was Hildebrand in his ninja turtle gimmick. At first, I thought he looked cute and it was going to be a fun match for kids. A smashed, bloody nose later and I realized that ninja turtles are tenacious and — at times — brutal combattants. I kid — it was an honor to wrestle one of the rare wrestlers who has almost universal acclaim and fond memories associated with him.
WCW gave birth to a few underwater themed gimmicks, like John Tenta’s Dungeon of Doom role as the Shark and the gigantic, near-immobile Loch Ness. And WWE’s series of parody videos, Southpaw Regional Wrestling, has an underwater grappler named Sea Creature.
Finally, when it comes to fictional wrestlers, there are plenty of awesome amphibians. Like Tiger Mask villain Piranha, who challenged Naoto Date to a deathmatch inside a swimming pool filled actual piranha! An Olympic-level swimmer with iron teeth and a lotion that repels the little biters, he loses to Tiger Mask when his lotion is removed and he’s thrown to the vicious teeth of the piranha. Original Tiger Mask is pretty much not to be fucked with.
Finally, Nintendo’s seminal Pro Wrestling (“A winner is you!”) features what is perhaps the greatest water-loving wrestlers of them all — The Amazon! The master of the Piranha Bite and the Outlaw Choke, he’s the first true heel of pro wrestling video games. In fact, nearly every time I’ve done something rough in the ring and get caught by a referee, I react exactly like The Amazon. Seriously — this 8 bit pixelated dude is a bigger influence on me than Hulk Hogan!
Whew! Thanks for joining me on this swim around the oceans, swamps, lakes and rivers of the wrestling world. Next time, we’re going to concentrate on the vampires of the ring! Boo! Stay scary!