Mat Monsters: Vampires part 1

Now, we’re gathering up all our garlic and wood stakes as we search for the vampires of the wrestling world! As always, let’s start our journey south of the border in Mexico. You may wonder, did the venerable El Santo ever battle vampires? Of course — many, many times! From 1962’s Santo Contra Las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women) and 1965’s El Barón Brákola to 1968’s Santo en El Tesoro de Dracula (Santo in the Treasure of Dracula), 1969’s Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon versus the Monsters), 1970’s La Venganza de Las Mujeres Vampiro (The Vengeance of the Vampire Women, a return match with female vampires), 1972’s Santo y Blue Demon vs. Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man) and finally, 1981’s Chanoc y el Hijo del Santo contra Los Vampiros (Chanoc and The Son of Santo vs. the Killer Vampires), Santo pretty much makes himself the Van Helsing of Mexico. I’m probably missing a few encounters that the man in the silver mask had with nosferantic beasties — this lucha hero made 54 movies, which is plenty of monster and Nazi fighting. In Operation 67, Santo even joined a James Bond-inspired organization!

Get this — 68’s Santo en El Tesoro de Dracula had a version made for foreign markets with nude female vamps that was thought lost for decades. Guillermo del Toro found a print and was going to play it at 2011’s Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, but was blocked by El Hijo del Santo, who asked the organizers to not show the film and sully his father’s (who would never agree to the nudity as he had a clean image) legacy. Unfortunately, El Hijo del Santo couldn’t stop 2001’s Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter from being made, a movie that features a gringo version of El Santo helping the Son of Man battle all manner of ghouls.

So what made Santo such an awesome adversary for those who love the taste of human blood? Perhaps it’s his strong Catholic faith or there’s actual silver in his mask. Maybe we’ve just never considered how effective lucha libre is against a monster. We’d do well to consider it in the future.

Santo’s biggest contemporary — and often, rival — Blue Demon would also battle the hordes of the unliving in 1968’s Blue Demon en la Sombra del Murciélago (Blue Demon in Shadow of The Bat). And upstart lucha hero Mil Mascaras would battle “Skinny Dracula” John Carradine himself, playing Count Branos, in 1968’s Las Vampiras (If you’re interested in an in-depth essay on that film — and how Carradine found himself making 5 Mexican horror films in one week — check out my article in TNC contributor Bill Van Ryn’s zine Drive-In Asylum). Mil would go on to team with Superzan and battle more of the Transylvanian undead, specifically Baron Bradok, in 1974’s Los Vampiros de Coyoacán.

Mexican flavored monster fighters have influenced so many productions up north, such as the Angel character on The Strain (who has had a spin-off comic and a special episode directed by the aforementioned del Toro that pays perfect homage to enmascardo films) and in an episode of the Buffy spin-off Angel entitled “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco,” a family of luchadores battle supernatural evil. Oh yes — as previously mentioned in the Frankenstein’s Monster chapter, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy battles vampires while wrestling in Mexico.

That said, vampire vs. masked man battles didn’t just happen in the movies. Lucha libre is full of grapplers afraid to appear in the sunlight!

Foremost amongst Mexico’s bloodsuckers is Vampiro, who ironically isn’t even from the country! Hailing from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, Vamp started his career in Mexico’s venerable CMLL promotion and was a near-overnight success, thanks to his charisma and unique look for the time (today, it seems like everyone has blue hair and tons of tattoos, but this was the early 90s when these things weren’t commonplace). Since then, he’s wrestled all over the world, including stints in AAA, WAR, WCW, All Japan Pro Wrestling and has had a long association with the Insane Clown Posse (even appearing with them on WCW television and at their wrestling events).

Vampiro also brought The Misfits – yep, the Lodi, NJ “I want your skull” Misfits — to WCW TV, where they backed him up. And while in WCW he had an infamous feud with Sting, setting him on fire and even meeting him in a graveyard match. Plus, in another feud with the Kiss Demon — yes, WCW was strange enough at this point that KISS had an officially licensed grappler — he stole Asya, the Demon’s girlfriend, in a skit that took its cues from The Vanishing.

What didn’t happen in WCW is probably even more interesting — a planned PPV from Las Vegas on the last day of 1999 that would end with the KISS Demon winning the world title and his soul from Vampiro. Again — WCW was getting into some strange territory at this point.

In 2007, Vampiro helped book the MTV project Wrestle Society X, which is best described as Lucha Underground V1.0. After seeing Vamp take a fireball to the face from El Mesias, MTV got cold feet and sooncanceledd the project after the first season.

Speaking of Lucha Underground, Vampiro is a major player in the promotion, as he isn’t just a commentator and manager, but also will occasionally wrestle. He had a brutal, bloody death match with Pentagon Jr., who he would later guide.

Vampiro’s career isn’t all just in the ring. He’s performed with ICP, the Misfits and several other bands and at the height of his 90s lucha fame, he starred in the movie Guerrero De La Noche (Warrior of the Night). And when interviewed recently, he claims that two spirits from Guadalajara follow him around as the result of an unfinished ritual, so he has that going for him. Today, he’s also a major part of the AAA lucha libre organization.

There have been other vampiric-named or related luchadores, such as Los Draculas ,Ultimo Vampiro and Nosferantu, but none of them have embodied the look and feel of being a blood loving beast more than Vampiro. There was even a clone named American Vampire (Vampiro was originally known as Vampiro Canadiense, or Canadian Vampire), played by future WWE commentator and bully John Bradshaw Layfield.

Next time, we’ll travel beyond Mexico to other countries where vampirism has taken root inside the wrestling ring. I’d advise you to stock up on holy water!

This article originally was written for That’s Not Current and viewable here http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-never-drink-wine/

Mat Monsters: Undersea Monsters

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 combatants. 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!

Mat Monsters: Frankenstein’s Monster

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!

UPDATE: Since we wrote this, PCO has literally become a living, breathing and totally awesome Frankenstein’s Monster!

This article was originally posted at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-modern-prometheus-wrestles/

Mat Monsters: Mummies part 3

Over two installments, we’ve covered the world of wrestling mummies. But now, we’re heading to Knoxville, TN for what I believe is the greatest of them all — Prince Kharis!

In the mid 90s, Jim Cornette ran a group called Smoky Mountain Wrestling, which presented “professional wrestling the way it used to be and the way you like it.” If that wrestling is southern style brawling heavy wrestling with bleeding baby faces and dastardly heels, than SMW would have been your cup of tea,

Rick Rubin — yet, Def Jam Rick Rubin — was the money backer of the promotion and rarely gave ideas, but according to Cornette, loved “southern territory wrestling, wild stuff, big heat, that type of thing.” Seeing as how he rarely gave ideas, when he asked for a mummy, he got one.

Prince Kharis, a 4,000 year old mummy, would be risen from the dead by his manager, Daryl Van Horne. Played by the man who would become the Sinister Minister in ECW and James Vandenberg in WCW (trust me, there will be an entire WCW Blood Runs Cold episode of Mat Monsters), his SMW name comes from Jack Nicholson’s The Witches of Eastwickcharacter.

There were numerous technical difficulties with the gimmick — it was hard to put on, the wrestler played Prince Kharis was said to be claustrophobic (more on that in a little), the bandages were so white that it screwed up the white balance on the cameras — but the most memorable moment of the short life of Prince Kharis is when a promo was cut to set up his feud with the Dirty White Boy.

If you see any of Van Horne’s interviews of this era, note that he’s often saying incredibly perverted things in carny, a pig latin language used by old time wrestlers. In this installment, he discusses all the nubian virgins that he has set up for Kharis as he gets ready to defeat the Dirty White Boy for his SMW title. In fact, when he finishes with him, “he’ll be turning tricks for some chickenhawk on the streets of San Francisco and Dirty White Girl will return to her old job as the primary test subject for the Monistat Corporation.” Note — Bob Caudle, the ring announcer here, only did wrestling on the weekends. During the week, he was ultra conservative Senator Jesse Helms’ assistant. One wonders what he was thinking as this wildness was going on.

Things get even more surreal as Van Horne claims that Prince Kharis can’t be hurt, so to prove it, he cuts off one of his fingers and sand pours out! Of course, Dirty White Boy believes none of this until he gets the “sand of the Nile” in his eyes.

Kharis’ ring style is best described as lumbering, like a good mummy should be. And he even comes out to Universal monster movie music, which is a plus!

Good news, though, dear reader. I’m pleased to report that as a TNC exclusive, I’ve conducted an interview with the man under the bandages, Rob Mazzie!

SAM: How did you get into wrestling?

ROB: I was a mark growing up and had a family friend, a priest, who went to the matches all the time. I was a big Ric Flair fan, he knew Flair, so it was pretty cool. Once I got done with college, around 1990, I found out there was a ring in Verona, PA (around ten miles from Pittsburgh). I’d go up every Sunday and I don’t think the guys teaching had more than a six month head start on me — but they knew how to scream, holler and take bumps. I learned there and started working shows. I met Brian Hildebrand (the late and great WCW referee and literally the entire Smoky Mountain Wrestling office) and he was a tremendous influence on me.

I didn’t start as a mummy, but as “The Heartthrob” Rob Monroe. I had a gimmick, pictures, an outfit but I didn’t give it much thought other than I had long hair and a beard, you know? But I met a guy who had been around, Gino Rocco, who had already been around and had contacts. We started teaming as the Iron City Iron Men.

SAM: So you started traveling?

ROB: Yeah, I was getting 3-4 shows a month and knew a guy named Scott Wilcox, who was the American Patriot in USWA (NOTE: When you hear Memphis wrestling, that’s the name of the company). I saw a video of him with Jerry Lawler and Jeff Jarrett talking about how they were going to “turkify” Tony Falk. I gave him a call and I ended up in USWA a month later. They were looking for a big guy — hey I’m a big guy — so I get called up.

This is to show you how green I was: I get there on a Friday and go to Jerry Jarrett’s house (NOTE: Jeff’s dad and owner of the company). He tells me, “Monday, we’re going to do a tournament and the winner gets to go to Japan. You’re in it.” And that’s how green I was and how little I knew…I thought to myself, “If I can beat 15 other guys, I go to Japan and make money? Already?”

SAM: And this is where you get smartened up?

ROB: (laughs) They booked me as the Gravedigger. I’m up in a cemetery doing promos, with a hearse, dressed like their version of the Undertaker. First night, I’m at Mid-South Coliseum in this tournament with Billy Joe Travis, who got me through my match. But I had no idea how to really wrestle yet, you know? Before this match, they showed me how I’m going the whole way through this thing, beating everyone. After this match, I see the same paperwork, I’m scratched out and losing (laughs louder). I think they ended up letting Kamala win — and he didn’t get to go to Japan either!

I learned a lot, though. 180 miles each way to make these towns, working six nights a week, twice on Saturday with guys like Bill Dundee, Eric Embry, Robert Fuller…it was crazy. I mean, those guys used to measure how far a town was by how many beers it took to get there. “How far is it to Evansville?” “Oh, about a 12-pack, I figure.”

Plus. I had a manager called Nate the Rat and I’m freaked out by rats. So…no luck. And every hotel we stay in, it’s filled with bugs, mice, rats…cheap motels to save money. But that’s how you get started.

SAM: How did you get to Smoky Mountain Wrestling?

ROB: Well, after awhile, my name wasn’t on the booking sheets. That’s how you found out you were fired. But I always had a job or my own business and didn’t depend on wrestling. I had flexibility — something a lot of guys didn’t. I started wrestling fair shows in between work and learned a lot from guys like Junkyard Dog, Abdullah the Butcher, Buddy Landell, Ronnie Garvin…man, that guy hated inexperienced wrestlers like me and let me know it in the ring! I met Jim Cornette and hit it off. Once Brian Hildebrand got there, he called me and asked if I could start for Smoky Mountain. I told Cornette, “I’ll do anything!” I should have watched my words!

SAM: What was your reaction when they told you that you’d be playing a mummy?

ROB: They didn’t tell me right away! They just told me to buy white boots. So I’m already out $150. Grab white sweats to wrestle in. And then I get down there and they said, you need to buy more athletic tape. Why? Well, you’re going to be a mummy. My first time was in a high school gym as a test in front of 250 people and they just kept taping me up and taping me up.

SAM: Was the outfit hard to wear and get dressed for?

ROB: I’m claustrophobic. And they would make me wear a latex mask, I’m already panicked. And then they kept taping me in, so once my head is taped up, I can’t get the mask off. So I’m nervous and the match hasn’t even started. Wrestling in it was tough, man. I couldn’t do shit!

Every week, I’d head back home to Pittsburgh and Cornette was super nice. He’d be like, well, maybe watch some mummy movies, see how slow he moves, be more menacing…but he realized that the gimmick sucked (laughs).

SAM: And why did he use it then?

ROB: Well, this is before the internet, there was the Pro Wrestling Torch, and I didn’t even know what a dirtsheet was (NOTE: An insider wrestling newsletter). So I didn’t know Rick Rubin…I still don’t! I don’t know the difference between the Counting Crows and Black Crowes, but he owned the company and he wanted a mummy. He was a good guy, they said, so if he wanted a mummy…you give the money guy a mummy!

SAM: What was SMW like?

ROB: I was there for a trial period before the Prince Kharis gimmick, working as Malaki with Brian Clark the Nightstalker. I remember bumping into him in the hotel, and I’m 6’6”, 285 lbs and this guy is bigger than me. (Laughs) I’m wrestling in the big time now! But you had guys like Brian Lee — what a talent. Tracy Smothers — taught me so much. Just so many good guys, so much talent and it was fun. It was a lot of small towns, but we had good crowds. I mostly wrestled Dirty White Boy and he treated me well.

SAM: And you were with Daryl Van Horne, right?

ROB: He was such a smart guy. I mean, he realized right away that the mummy gimmick sucked, so he was like an octopus. He found other angles and guys so when this died, he got his shit in and found another way to be used. I don’t blame him!

SAM: Did you think — hey, this has a chance of making it to WWE and a feud with Undertaker?

ROB: I mean, when Jim Cornette — I’ve been watching him on TV forever and he’s a genius — gives you a gimmick, you’re like, “Yes sir!” Then I find out it wasn’t even his! So between having a rat crawl on me in USWA and my claustrophobia and being a mummy…plus, you know, I wish I had like 200 more matches before I went down, so I was more seasoned and knew what I was doing!

But yeah! Cornette was on WWE TV then and I was like, “Well, I could match up size wise OK with Taker. And the gimmick is a horror movie, so…(laughs) You have to understand…I don’t know anything about horror movies! I never even watched The Mummy before I was one!

I was just lucky that no one took advantage of me. I’d be freaking out after a match, bandages all over trying to get cut out of this suit and everyone was actually cool to me. It could have been much worse. But man, I didn’t learn much being a monster.

SAM: What did you think of the Yeti and that people thought that was you?

ROB: (Laughs) Really? I didn’t even know about that.

SAM: Prince Kharis has achieved some internet notoriety. Are you aware of that?

ROB: My kid! My son looks me up all the time on the internet and laughs. He’s always finding these videos of me and I can’t believe that people still remember all that. I mean, you remember a lot, I can’t even remember some of the people I was with! Like, the Thrillseekers came in and I met them, then years later I see Chris Jericho on TV and I wonder, “I know that guy, right?”

Well, it’s been three installments of the Egyptian undead. And we’ve had great help from Kurt Brown and Rob Mazzie to tell the story. Stay tuned — next time we’ll answer the question, “What if Frankenstein’s Monster wrestled?” Stay scary!

Thanks to Rob Mazzie for the interview. The original version of this was at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-final-battle-wrestling-mummy/

Mat Monsters: Mummies part 2

In our first mummy-centric installment, we covered the Mummies of the American South and West, as well as Argentina’s famous La Mumia. We’re not done yet! There are literally miles and miles of bandages covering tons and tons of the shambling and fighting Egyptian undead!

Lucha mummies, Mexico, various

If you aren’t familiar with Mexican luchador movies, you should just stop reading this and get hip. They’re some of the most amazing journeys into weirdness possible, where John Carradine can just randomly show up and battle Mil Mascaras or Santo goes mano y fang with a werewolf.

Mummies show up — of course — as they show up in one of the most famous of these films, Las Momias de Guanajuato (“The Mummies of Guanajuato”), El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras team up to fight these reborn creatures. The real Mummies of Guanajuato are naturally mummified bodies that were interred during a cholera outbreak. Conjecture and legend claim that these mummies were buried alive, leading to their frightening expressions. They’re just another part of Mexico’s obsession with death, as they are a noted tourist attraction.

Lucha mummies also appear in the magnificently titled The Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy.

While we’re staying in Mexico for a bit, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention AAA. A promotion much like Titantes en El Ring, they’ve featured a ton of late creator Antonio Pena’s most fever dream creations, several of which we’ll get to. One of them — Karis la Momia — is of interest here. The fourth wrestler to use this name, he teamed with various horror themed rudos — bad guys — before being repacked as the second La Parka.

Faraon Zaruxx, Puerto Rico, 2000s

The former gimmick of Miguel Perez Jr., we’re not sure who is under the bandages. That said — if you like your mummies fast and able to throw dropkicks, then Faraon just might be the mummy for you.

Mecha Mummy, Japan, 2000s

This robotic Japanese form of the undead has appeared on plenty of high profile events, including the Fukumen World League tournament. Imagine, if you will, a Mazinger style mecha version of a mummy complete with a giant drill arm and a launching fist, and you have an idea of what this guy looks like. A veteran of feuds with Jushin Liger and Minoru Suzuki, he even travelled to America’s Chikara promotion to battle Ken the Box as part of The Osirian Portal, a team of Egyptian-themed wrestlers.

Speaking of his matches with Suzuki, their second encounter must truly be seen to be believed. It’s less a match than an epic journey through life’s mysteries. I won’t ruin it for you, but simply point you in the direction for you to see it for yourself.

The aforementioned Fukumen Masked League also featured mummy-styled grapplers such as The Walking Mummy and Tutankhamen VIII, who nearly lost his bandages in the finals as he battled Summer Santa Claus:

Finally — whew — there are wrestlers in Japan doing the gimmicks of Tutankhamun, Cleopatra and Egyptian Baka (which means Stupid Egyptian). And we haven’t even got to wrestling mummies in manga like Tiger Mask’s Egypt Mirra and Kinnikuman’s Toilet Paper Mummy.

The Yeti, WCW USA, 1990s

Perhaps the most infamous of all mummy gimmicks, The Yeti holds a special place in the black hearts of mat monster fans everywhere. Part of the Dungeon of Doom, a cartoony army of heels who wanted to kill of Hulkamania — brother — The Yeti appeared in a block of ice.

Honestly, I should just devote an entire one of these columns to this weird era of WCW, where Hulk Hogan tapped into the Dark Side to battle the evils of Kevin Sullivan. There was even a Baywatch crossover.

Luckily for all of us, The Yeti would defrost just in time to join The Giant in an attack hug. Yep. His primary weapon was…a hug.

For years, wrestling fans wondered why the Ron Reis-played Yeti (or as Tony Schiavone would say, Yet-Ay) was either a mummy or, when finally defrosted, a giant ninja. Supposedly, WCW had resigned Giant Gonzales, who was to bring in his WWF bigfoot-style gimmick. Trust me — we’ll be getting to that and other Bigfoot gimmicks soon enough.

In the nascent days of internet wrestling fandom, the rumor was that The Yeti was played by a man named Rob Mayzie, who was also Prince Kharis of Smoky Mountain Wrestling fame. Instead of rushing through the history of one of the greatest wrestling mummies, instead, our next — and final — mummy installment will focus on Kharis and feature an exclusive interview with Rob on just how he ended up under all the bandages! Until then, stay scary!

Thanks to Kurt Brown for his help in this story. Article originally appeared at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-son-wrestling-mummy/

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/

Mat Monsters: Nightmare Freddy

From Argentina’s La Mumia to the real Chucky showing up in WCW to feud with Rick Steiner (oh man, wait until we get to that one), monsters and pro wrestling often go claw in hand. This episode, we’ll delve into the Bastard Son of 1,000 Copyright Infringement Lawsuits, Nightmare Freddy.

Portrayed by Doug Gilbert, son of noted Memphis referee Tommy Gilbert (who originally used this gimmick and gave it to Doug) and brother of booker/wrestler/crazy legend Eddie Gilbert, Nightmare Freddy first showed up in Memphis. A babyface, if you can believe that, he feuded with the Master of Pain (who you may better know today as The Undertaker). He even set him on fire once.

Yes, a child molesting monster can be a good guy, but I should caveat this statement by saying that Memphis is the strangest wrestling territory this side of DDT, with Kane starting as the Christmas Creature, Ta-Gar Lord of the Volcano (pretty much a wrestling version of Skeletor that shot fire) and Adam West showing up to battle Jerry “The King” Lawler. It’s where Andy Kaufman wrestled, after all.

Gilbert kept the gimmick going, all the way to W*ING in Japan. He won the tag belts there with our last entry, Leatherface. Later, in a match teaming with The Boogeyman (his brother Eddie under a Michael Myers mask), they proceeded to rip their masks off and proclaim their loyalty to All Japan Pro Wrestling and Giant Baba (which made no sense, as they weren’t getting jobs there after this). According to shoot interviews (and let’s add allegedly and other lawsuit avoiding terms here), Eddie believed that the Jason the Terrible in this match (yes, we’ll get to wrestling Jason soon) had stolen the Leatherface gear from his house while he was in jail. Plus, the Moondogs got booked on this tour by the Gilberts and they didn’t want them to lose to a Jason who was also a thief. Whew.

That said — Doug took the gimmick to IWA Japan and had some success with it, feuding with The Cryptkeeper, who for some reason wore a baseball jersey. He then started using his Dark Patriot gimmick and put away the bladed glove (which he used to do an awesome iron claw) before retiring in the mid 2000s for a job working on Tennessee road construction.

No one’s really done the Freddy gimmick since, but Alexa Bliss has worn his clothes in NXT, Finn Balor has wrestled a match dressed as the Springwood Slasher and indy wrestler Jason Gory often wrestles matches in costumes that pay tribute to Kruger.

The biggest secret I’ve learned since writing this article is that Rey Mysterio Jr. was Freddy’s stunt double for the boiler room fight in Freddy vs. Jason!

Stay tuned, wrestling and fright fans. We have articles coming up featuring plenty of rasslin’ mummies, Frankensteins, vampires and oh-so-much more!

This article originally appeared here: http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-nightmare-freddy/

Mat Monsters: Leatherface/Super Leather

Welcome to what I hope is the first in a series of mat monster articles here at That’s Not Current. From Vampiro and the Frankenstein Monster of the early ’80s Los Angeles LaBelle territory to a veritable litany of wrestling mummies (seriously, enough to start your own mummy-only promotion), you may or may not be shocked to know that professional wrestling has had plenty of movie monsters step between the ropes. Here’s but one of them.

Leatherface wasn’t always Leatherface. If you were a fan of the early 1980s rock ‘n wrestling boom, you’d probably know him by another name: Corporal Kirschner. The man from the 82nd Airborne took over the patriotic army role from Sgt. Slaughter when the Sarge left over a contract dispute and went off to join GI Joe. Seriously. I’ve heard tales that he tried to unionize the locker room, which is something that wrestling has still sadly refused to do. After a feud with the Iron Sheik and a big win over Nikolai Volkoff at WrestleMania 2, the Corp left town due to personal problems. After a rough divorce, he still wanted to wrestle, so he looked to the wrestling mecca that is Japan.

There’s a subset of Japanese wrestling called hardcore or garbage wrestling. Basically, Atsushi Onita was a junior heavyweight star who retired due to knee damage. He came back in the late ’80s to become the first independent star — working for neither of the big two, All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling. His Frontier Martial Arts promotion combined the Memphis style brawling that he experienced early in his career with barbed wire, blood and explosions. Throw in Onita’s palpable “charisma of tears” — literally the dude cried at the end of every match and the fans loved him for it — and you have one moneymaking cocktail. Imitators followed in FMW’s wake, such as W*ING, IWA Japan and Big Japan Pro Wrestling (which remains in business to this day).

I’ve always wondered, “Why did W*ING have so many monsters, like the Cryptkeeper, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface?” Whenever I have a pro wrestling question, I go to Masa Horie, who is perhaps the most intelligent (and definitely the most passionate) fan of the sport I’ve ever met.

“It was Victor Quiñones’ idea for helping wrestlers to get booked. The Puerto Rican wrestlers he brought in  were good workers, but had no name value in Japan,” said Masa. One supposes a horror film icon has some cachet. Therefore, the former Corporal Kirchner may have had no name in Japan, but Leatherface sure did and he went about proving that he was the toughest of a very tough crew of wrestlers.

So tough that the action spilled outside the ring, too. In an interview with CANOE – SLAM! Sports, Kirchner said, “We were in Roppongi, which is a section of Tokyo with a lot of night clubs and stuff. I was with some of the wrestlers. One of the guys said something to a guy with a girl. He came up behind us and said, ‘You guys go back to America, leave back to America.’ We pushed him out of the way, just ‘get out of here,’ because we were walking around. He kept persisting. I turned around and, bad judgment, I just hit him one time in the jaw. I knocked him out. I just set him against the building and we just kept walking. I thought nothing of it. That’s what happened there. So I did four months in a Japanese prison for bad judgment, a $10,000 fine, and I got banned for a year.” Kirchner was being modest. His punch decimated the man’s face, leading to the prison sentence.

A year later, Kirchner returned to IWA Japan where Rick Patterson had replaced him as Leatherface. Now calling himself Super Leather, he teamed with Patterson as The Leatherfaces. Or at least, that was the plan. In their one and only match as a team, Kirchner became enraged post-match and legdropped Hiroshi Ono onto a bed of nails and then powerbombed him onto it.

This resulted in killing off all of Ono’s built up tough guy reputation and got him fired. He returned for WMF as Super Leather where he wrestled until the closure of the company in 2002. Other than a few one-off returns for Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo Championship Wrestling promotion (on their legendary StrangleMania video, they refer to him as Leather Balls), Kirchner retired in 2004.

He was in the news again in 2007 when WWE wrongly believed he died. Today, he works as a truck driver.

They say monsters are all around us. If you watch enough wrestling — and enough hardcore wrestling — you just may come to believe that. Leatherface is but one of the monsters of the mat. Come back soon for more.

This article originally appeared at That’s Not Current. You may read it here http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-leatherfacesuper-leather/