We’ve covered plenty of monsters in wrestling, but it’s been awhile. Just in time for Halloween, we’re back to talk about the living dead in the squared circle.
Plenty of pro wrestling promotions have done zombie wrestling shows — I’m on one this Saturday night in Pittsburgh, cheap Foley plug — but right now, we’re talking about individual wrestlers that have become zombies and some zombie vs. wrestler themed films.
Probably the most famous zombie wrestler is The Undertaker. You could argue that he probably has the best gimmick — or the longest lasting — of the modern era of wrestling. He’s been an undead minion of Paul Bearer, the leader of a quasi-Satanic church, an unliving biker, an MMA fighting member of the walking dead, a semi-retired once a year fighter and now, inevitably, he’s back for “one more match.”
The Undertaker has been around since he made his official on-camera debut at the 1990 Survivor Series as Kane the Undertaker (he had done a previous TV taping three days earlier), making one of the best pushed first-night appearances ever, eliminating Koko B. Ware with his tombstone piledriver and Dusty Rhodes by double elimination. Soon, he’d be in the title mix and off to a career to has seen him be a face, a heel, somewhere in the middle and finally the kind of legend that no one wants to boo. Throw in his incredibly confusing connection with his brother Kane, that moment when Mabel crushed his face and he had to wear a mask, getting buried by all the heels and coming back to battle his twin brother after Leslie Nielsen (!) searched for him, that time he had the American flag inside his trenchcoat because undead dudes are jingoistic babyfaces, his association with managers Brother Love and Paul Bearer, his Ministry of Darkness, the Corporate Ministry and his epic 21-0 Wrestlemania streak and you have the kind of first ballot Hall of Fame career that few wrestlers will ever match.
Undertaker doesn’t do many full on zombie spots, instead of relying on a Michael Myers-like instant recovery and the power to a funeral urn that can heal him. He also used to use a body bag on his foes after he beat them, but we can only assume that parents got angry when little brothers got shoved into sleeping bags and put a stop to that.
ECW had one zombie. And only one. On June 13, 2006, the premiere of the SciFi version of ECW featured the late Tim Arson as The Zombie, who lasted all of a few moments before The Sandman mercifully Singapore caned him in the brain.
Finally, there’s Onryu, the Japanese wrestler Ryo Matsuri, who is just as much a ghost as he is a zombie. He won a cursed championship, died and must now forever walk the Earth. He has magic powers, such as being able to appear and disappear to his opponents, as well as disconnecting his hand so that he can make impossible rope breaks.
When I wrestled for Pittsburgh’s International Wrestling Cartel promotion, we were lucky to get to use Onryu for the Super Indy 3 tournament, which was won by Chris Sabin. In the first round, Onryu defeated fellow WMF wrestler Soldier before losing to Alex Shelley in the second round.
I first met Onryu in Tokyo after wrestling a six-person intergender match for the bonkers DDT promotion. Someone told me that Onryu wanted to meet with me before he came to America and I was honestly pretty excited, as I was a big fan of his work. I was kind of worried though — how does one talk to a zombie? The reply came: Onryu is a rock star. I’m not putting myself over — I’ve met plenty of pro wrestlers, big, small, famous and unknown. Only Onryu was legit a rock star, appearing before me like a miniature Japanese David Bowie in full zombie paint, wearing a long shirt and bell bottom pants with a dragon pattern all over them.
This is not my most insane Onryu tale. He stayed in my home for several days on his tour and we made sure to take him to plenty of places in the USA so that he got to see what our country is all about. His favorite? Target, where he stocked up on dishwands, those sponges that you fill up with liquid soap. He’d never seen one before and wanted to bring them back for all of his friends in Japan. Keep in mind, he was still dressed like a rock star in a small town Target, standing out as no one has ever stood out before.
Beyond wrestlers who have shuffled off this mortal coil, there have been plenty of wrestling vs. zombie movies, dating way back to Plan 9 From Outer Space. In this Ed Wood opus, or Johnson, formerly known as the wrestling Super Swedish Angel, rose from the grave to aid an alien invasion alongside Vampira. His part was played by pro wrestle George “The Animal” Steele in the Tim Burton biographical film.
Even better, there was a movie called Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies, where pro wrestlers like Roddy Piper, Kurt Angle, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Matt Hardy and Shane Douglas.
I had the chance to speak with Ashton Amherst, who is more than just a pro wrestler who has torn it up all over the country. He also played Angus in Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies!
B&S: So how did you get involved in Zombies vs. Pro Wrestlers?
ASHTON: Originally, I was asked to be cast as a pro wrestler extra in the film. But, with real work and real life, I couldn’t commit to the 2+ weeks of filming in WV for that amount of money. So, in a twist, Sylvester Turkay, who was originally going to be the lead villain, backed out. I auditioned for the role and they liked me and kind of tailored it more to me than a big monster like Sylvester. Funny side note, he did come for one day of filming and is the monster that rips Kurt Angle off of me in the one scene.
B&S: Had you had any acting experience before?
ASHTON: Other than the acting that is pro wrestling, I had no real movie set experience.
B&S: What was it like working with some of the bigger names?
ASHTON: It was awesome. I remember the first morning, we had gone late the night before. It’s 6 AM and I’m at the hotel Starbucks and it’s just me, Shane Douglas, Roddy Piper and Hacksaw Duggan in line. I’m like, “Oh shit, this is pretty damn cool.” Over the two weeks, I got to hang with them a lot and really got to know Shane, who was my idol as a teenage wrestling fan. Roddy really took a liking to Ryan Reign, who I had brought in as an extra a few days into filming and Roddy ended up helping Ryan a lot and taking him to Raw and some WWE stuff with him. So, it was very cool to meet those guys and get to hang with them.
B&S: Any stores (that you can legally share)?
ASHTON: Oh man. So many (laughs). Day two, we were filming and they needed some extras to work with Matt Hardy in a fight scene. I was done filming that day and offered to get into some zombie gear and work kind of under a hood, so no one would know that it was me. We did a scene where he knocked me off a prison cell and when I fell the crash pads moved and I separated my shoulder badly!
They had to put me under at the hospital to pop it back in and when I woke up it was just Shane sitting next to my hospital bed. Very surreal (laughs).
But yeah, so after that I was in a sling the next week or so and I took it off to film scenes. The scene I mentioned early with Kurt, I reminded him probably five times that my shoulder was recently separated. He either forgot or didn’t care, because he jacked me up against the wall for about nineteen takes straight (laughs).
But we were put up in a nice 5-star hotel and the room service guys always remembered my hurt shoulder and would deliver me ice packs every morning or night after filming. Since Parkersburg is such a small place, the filming of the movie was a much bigger deal than it would have been other places.
It was also probably 10 degrees or less most nights of filming. And the second week, the filming shifted to 6 PM to 6 AM. So we had some nice warm trailers to chill in, but the other like 1,000 extras that were just Parkersburg residents wanting to be in the movie stood in freezing temps just to be part of it, which was awesome. But yeah, all the fight scenes on the hill at the end? It was freeeezing.
Then after those filmings, most of us would go to this local pancake house place. So you’d have a bunch of pro wrestlers, a male porn star guy, a Penthouse Pet of the Year, and all the other oddities in our troop just posting up eating pancakes at 6 AM in zombie makeup and ripped up clothing.
SAM: Are you a horror movie fan?
ASHTON: Absolutely! My poor wife has to live thru watching all the Halloweens roughly 100 times each October!
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that WWE has made several series of zombie action figures and characters for their Supercard and WWE2K19 games, including a skull-faced “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, an even paler than normal Paige and even a brains craving Shinsuke Nakamura. Yeaoh! Brains!
I didn’t even get to the luchador named Zombie Clown! Man! But are there any pro wrestling zombies that I missed? Feel free to let me know in the comments. Do you have a wrestling monster that you’d like to tell you more about?
In case you’re wondering, past Mat Monsters have included: