In less than a couple of weeks from now, it will be Halloween. Kids will be trick-or-treating, folks from all ages and walks of life will be attending Halloween parties in a wide variety of costumes, and as far as wrestling is concerned, a lot of us will likely be looking back at some of the most bizarre storylines, angles, and characters of all-time. Today, we shall be looking at the latter, as we remember those “bizarre” wrestlers, and the gimmicks they worked that were so unlike most of the others at that given point in time.
When talking about bizarre wrestlers, we’ll be focusing mainly on those that could be considered fantastical, supernatural, or just plain weird. Some of the wrestlers in this list may be long-forgotten names who failed to make an impact despite their bizarre qualities, while others may be active wrestlers even up to this day. And since this is an all-time list, we’ll also be featuring a few wrestlers who have since passed on. Additionally, due to all the potential candidates for a top-20 list such as this, we decided to exclude the likes of James Mitchell and Paul Bearer, who were truly bizarre characters, but were mainly known for non-wrestling roles as managers.
With that all said, let’s take a trip to wrestling’s figurative Twilight Zone (or Black Mirror, if you want a more contemporary reference) and remember 20 of the sport’s most bizarre characters, while taking a look at what they’re up to these days.
The Mankind we’re referring to is not the lovable, mask-wearing babyface who had a real name (Mick Foley). Rather, we’re talking about Mankind in his original incarnation – a peculiar individual who was friends with sewer rats, shrieked out his promos, and made vague references to being a childhood musical prodigy before he went mental. The original Mankind was a unique heel character alright, and he must have given a lot of young fans sleepless nights with his bizarre behavior.
Mankind was ultimately “humanized” in a memorable interview with Jim Ross, and the WWE Universe soon got to see the remaining two “Faces of Foley” in Dude Love and Cactus Jack. While Foley has done his part to remain involved in the WWE with his recent Raw GM stint and WWE Network reality show, his reckless in-ring style has also been catching up with him years after the fact, as evidenced by his recent hip and knee surgeries. Still, that doesn’t stop the mostly-cheerful-in-real-life Foley from trying his best to, as his Mankind character memorably says, “have a nice day.”
19. Papa Shango
His magic may have been responsible for making The Ultimate Warrior throw up and bleed black, but voodoo spells couldn’t help Charles Wright get his Papa Shango gimmick over with early-’90s WWE fans, who mostly reacted with bemusement to this stale attempt at presenting a character meant to scare young kids. Not helping matters was his infamous botch at WrestleMania VIII, when he ran in too late during the Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice match.
After failing to get over as kayfabe mixed martial artist Kama, then as Nation of Domination member Kama Mustafa, Wright settled into his most iconic role during the Attitude Era, becoming The Godfather and letting everyone know that pimpin’ ain’t easy. Wright was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016, and it’s no surprise that he made it as The Godfather, and not as the ultimately ineffective Papa Shango.
18. Waylon Mercy
Had there been no Waylon Mercy, there would be no Bray Wyatt telling the WWE Universe to “follow the buzzards” whenever he isn’t getting the short end of the stick in Monday Night Raw storylines. Waylon Mercy wrestled for the WWE in the ’80s under his real name, Dan Spivey, and would come back in the mid ’90s under the Mercy gimmick, which was heavily influenced by Robert De Niro’s sociopathic Max Cady character from the 1991 film Cape Fear. Outside the ring, he was a calm Southern gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt. In the ring, well, let’s just say he was merciless.
Alas, WWE fans got to see very little of Waylon Mercy, as Spivey was a gimpy, injury-prone 43-year-old in 1995. He retired mere months after his repackaging as Mercy, focusing on his construction business afterwards, but made a brief in-ring return in 2015, working for Dory Funk Jr.’s !BANG! promotion in his first match in 20 years.
17. Judas Mesias
Leave it to TNA to try to replicate WWE’s Undertaker/Kane/Paul Bearer family storyline with Abyss, Judas Mesias, and James Mitchell playing those respective roles. In the second half of 2007 up to February of 2008, Mesias was advertised as Mitchell’s so, and thus begun a confusing feud pitting Father Jim and his “son” (who’s only 10 years younger in real life) against Mitchell’s usual client, Abyss. Ultimately, it was revealed that Abyss was Mitchell’s kayfabe son all along (well, despite being 8 years younger), and Mesias was quickly released by TNA.
Following his brief TNA run, Mesias (real name Gilbert Cosme) worked under his usual ring name of Ricky Banderas, competing for the World Wrestling Council in his home country of Puerto Rico. He then moved on to Lucha Underground, where he took the ring name Mil Muertes and still provides a veteran presence for the company/television show up to this day.
16. The Boogeyman
He may have lied his way out of the “Million-Dollar” Tough Enough by saying he was 30 when he was actually much closer to 40, but WWE was still impressed with Marty Wright’s size and physique that they signed the late-blooming rookie to a contract in 2004. One year later, he debuted on SmackDown and unleashed his Boogeyman persona, which was essentially his own take on the mythical childhood monster, as he randomly jump-scared other wrestlers, recited nursery rhymes, and had a unique diet that included worms…and unsightly facial growths. (Isn’t that right, Jillian Hall?)
Despite his advanced age and the mid-card-y ceiling of his gimmick, The Boogeyman remained in WWE until 2009, and he’s still wrestling to this day, even at the age of 53. He made a surprise appearance at the 2015 Royal Rumble, and though we’ve yet to see him return to a WWE ring, he’s reportedly been on a WWE Legends deal since November 2015.
15. Bray Wyatt
Being an active wrestler does not exempt one from this list, and you can’t deny that crazy cult leader Bray Wyatt is one bizarre character. Originally booked as generic (albeit third-generation) brawler Husky Harris, Windham Rotunda began to kick off where the also-mentioned Waylon Mercy had left off when he was sent down to NXT, and when he returned to WWE, he was back as Bray Wyatt, leading a bearded “Family” of followers, and cutting what many thought were the creepiest promos and segments since The Undertaker’s heyday.
Alas, Wyatt’s main roster story has been one of frustration, ultimately inconsequential hope spots (including a brief WWE Championship reign), and more recently, scandal in the form of his marriage-ending affair with ring announcer JoJo Offerman. Rumors recently suggested that he and real-life brother Bo Dallas may be on their way out of the WWE, but it appears that the Rotunda brothers and JoJo have been dealing with a viral illness, hence their two-week absence from Raw as of this writing.
It’s such a short, snappy, and accurate description that it deserves repeating time and time again – half-man, half-bull, all s**t. Massive journeyman Mike Halac joined the WWE in 1995, and per New Generation custom, was given a ridiculous gimmick that unsurprisingly failed to get over. As Mantaur, Halac routinely destroyed jobbers, but was essentially fodder to the bigger names as a gimmicky pseudo-mythological figure. Mantaur was gone before the end of 1995, though he had a couple more WWE cameos, including one as the masked Tank of the forgettable Truth Commission faction.
As of 2015, Halac was still wrestling occasionally, and also trying his luck as an actor and producer, though it appears he’s lost at least a hundred pounds from his Mantaur days – he is, at least, in better physical shape. He was also one of several wrestlers who sued WWE in 2016 for withholding the risks of concussions and other brain injuries.
Jon Heidenreich is one of many examples through the years of why Vince McMahon loves big sweaty men, with talent being optional. While he would have easily qualified as bizarre had WWE stuck to the original plan (billing Heidenreich as a newly-unfrozen Nazi), the obvious tastelessness of those plans forced WWE creative to find other ways to fill that bizarre quota. Other ways such as having Heidenreich be controlled by an unseen character called “Little Johnny” (no relation to R-Truth’s Little Jimmy), having him spit out angry poetry that might as well have been written in Steinerese or Ahmed Johnson-ese, and airing a segment where he sexually assaulted Michael Cole in a restroom.
Heidenreich’s WWE run lasted ended in 2006, soon after his ill-fated Legion of Doom stint and a hiatus to care for his family amid the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. He retired from pro wrestling a few years later, though it’s sad to note that he claimed to suffer from severe depression and suicidal thoughts when he was one of many wrestlers in last year’s WWE concussion lawsuit.
12. Bastion Booger
Mike Shaw was no stranger to playing bizarre gimmicks, having played the mentally-unstable Norman the Lunatic in WCW in the early ’90s. While WWE originally planned to repackage Shaw as a kayfabe holy man called Friar Ferguson, legitimate heat from religious officials resulted in the gimmick getting canned after a few appearances, and replaced by a slovenly caricature fans of a certain age group still try to block out of their memories. Then again, who else but Vince McMahon (and his infamously infantile sense of humor) could create a character like Bastion Booger?
Putting it charitably, virtually everything stunk about Bastion Booger – his gimmick, his ring work, his pointless heel vs. heel feud with Bam Bam Bigelow. He left the WWE in August 1994, and would return for one night in 2007, as Triple H hilariously trolled father-in-law Vince McMahon on the 15th anniversary special of Monday Night Raw.
You’ve got to respect someone as loyal as Abyss, who’s been with the former TNA since its earliest days. Originally known as Justice, Chris Parks debuted his Abyss gimmick in June 2003, and while he’s mostly served as TNA/GFW/Impact’s answer to the Big Red Machine, Kane, he’s also had a memorable run without the mask, making appearances as “Joseph Park” (Joseph being his real middle name), Abyss’ rather normal-looking, if dorky kayfabe brother. Most recently, he had teamed with fellow bizarre ones Crazzy Steve and Rosemary as the leader of the Decay stable.
Although Abyss hasn’t technically been on television since April, the man behind the gimmick recently made a return to Impact programming as Joseph Park, introducing himself as Jeremy Borash’s attorney in JB’s feud against evil commentator Josh Mathews. He’s a talented performer whom WWE could have had good use for, but then again, those similarities to Kane might have worked against him in the end.
10. Mordecai/Kevin Thorn
As Kevin Fertig is equally known for not just one, but two bizarre WWE gimmicks, we’re listing both of them here, starting with Mordecai. Originally set to feud against The Undertaker as a white-clad religious zealot who chastised the fans for their sins, the young big man proved to be too raw, and was sent back down to OVW, then released by then-parent company WWE in 2005.
A year later, Fertig was back as Kevin Thorn, aka “The ECW Vampire,” and with Ariel (aka Shelly Martinez) as his tarot card-reading valet, he was mainly involved in mid-card feuds on WWE’s mid-card brand. By 2008, he was back at OVW, and later on moved to FCW, and his WWE run was done by 2009. He still competes in the indies these days, working as both Kevin Thorn and the slightly-tweaked ring name “Mordekai.”
9. Luna Vachon
If Sunny was WWE’s first-ever Diva, then Gertrude “Luna” Vachon makes a good case as WWE’s first “Anti-Diva” – sorry about that, Paige. And she happened to be working an even more sinister form of her WWE self well before she joined the company, having debuted in 1985 for (the original) Florida Championship Wrestling as part of Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness stable.
Her ill-advised run with The Oddities aside, Luna meant business when she worked for the WWE, and her snarling, raging promos and unique look made her totally unlike female contemporaries such as Sable, Sunny, and Debra, who were all about the sex appeal. After leaving WWE in 2000, she worked in the indies and got married to Gangrel, whom she remained friends with after their 2006 divorce. Vachon quietly fought battles with personal demons behind the scenes, and she died in 2010 from a fatal drug overdose at the young age of 48.
Up to now, his ring theme is one of the most memorable in WWE history. David Heath made his WWE debut in 1998 as the kayfabe vampire Gangrel, and if you remember his trademark entrance, he was spitting out fake blood before Triple H started doing something similar (if much less sinister) with his bottle of mineral water. Gangrel also led the faction known as The Brood, with Edge and Christian, and later on Matt and Jeff Hardy joining him as his lackeys.
Gangrel has had an interesting life since his original, most successful WWE run. As mentioned in the Luna Vachon entry, the two were married from 1994 to 2006, and the couple were still friends at the time of Luna’s death. He still wrestles in the indies despite being on the wrong side of 40, and while he might not look the part of an adult film star, he’s directed some films in “the other industry,” helming masterpieces such as Miami Rump Shakerz 2. With a guy like Gangrel, you can’t make that stuff up.
7. King Curtis Iaukea
Don’t let the infamously scarred forehead fool you – Curtis Iaukea III actually came from a prominent Hawaiian family. Iaukea debuted in Don Owen’s Portland territory in the early ‘60s, and soon developed a penchant for blading, may it be to himself or to his opponents. But it was only when he shifted his focus to management in the 1980s when Iaukea, now known as “King Curtis,” took on a truly crazed cult leader persona, managing the similarly bizarre likes of Kevin Sullivan in the indies. He also made brief appearances in the major promotions, working as The Wizard in WWE, and The Master in WCW as he joined protege Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom stable.
For several decades, Iaukea was booked as a fearsome madman, and he complemented that with a reckless lifestyle outside the ring that included a lot of drug use. After cleaning up, retiring, and running several businesses in his home state of Hawaii, Iaukea passed away in 2010 after a long illness, aged 73-years-old.
6. The ECW Zombie
Somehow, he still cut a better promo than the current Curtis Axel’s “Genesis of McGillicutty” and Roman Reigns’ “sufferin’ succotash” debacle. With WWE wanting to capitalize on the fact that the ECW brand was premiering on SyFy, the company brought indie journeyman Tim Calkins out to cut a promo as “The ECW Zombie.” After a few unintelligible growls and snarls, he was quickly put out of his brain-eating misery by The Sandman. Interestingly, he had worked a Raw dark match the night before as Tim Arson, losing to Matt Striker in a match that was eventually televised on C-show WWE Heat.
That brief, yet memorable (albeit often for the wrong reasons) stint was all she wrote for Calkins in the WWE, as he returned to the indies, mostly competing as The Zombie or Tim Arson. He is also one of the few wrestlers in this list who are no longer with us, as he died in January 2015 at the age of 38, with no cause of death given at the time.
Third time’s the charm, as the old saying goes. He failed as a dentist, then failed as a blatant Kevin Nash impostor. But months after he was last seen as Fake Diesel, Glenn Jacobs reemerged on WWE television in 1997, re-debuting as The Undertaker’s badly-scarred half-brother, Kane. Kane was one of the WWE’s most dominant big man wrestlers from the late ’90s to the mid-late 2000s, though he’s clearly been through a lot over the years – getting unmasked, gaining an actual voice, losing the burn scars on his body, telling John Cena to “embrace the hate,” going “Corporate,” you name it.
For the past several months, Kane was nowhere to be seen on SmackDown Live, as fans knew he was busy running for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. But now, it looks like he’s moved over to Monday Night Raw, where he will be teaming with The Miz, The Bar, and Braun Strowman in a 5-on-3 handicap match against The Shield at TLC. The man’s 50 and has seen much better days, but there’s obviously a little gas left in the Big Red Machine’s tank.
4. Kevin Sullivan
Basically, Kevin Sullivan is known for a few things in his long career in professional wrestling – his short, stocky build, his thick Boston accent, his controversial tenure as WCW booker, and his alleged real-life Satanism. We could also focus on that love triangle with then-wife Nancy and storyline-turned-real-life partner Chris Benoit, but we’d rather talk about the man’s long history of portraying dark, ornery characters. In the ’80s, he was all about pledging allegiance to the Prince of Darkness as he worked the territories, but as he gained greater exposure leading WCW’s Dungeon of Doom from 1994 to 1997, his brand of evil became more cartoonish, yet more than bizarre enough to warrant him a place on this list.
At 68-years-old, it’s amazing that Sullivan still wrestles on occasion, having most notably done some shows for Ring of Honor in 2016. He’s also heavily in the podcast game these days, as he hosts two shows on MLW Radio, including MSL & Sullivan with Mister Saint Laurent.
3. Abdullah The Butcher
Would you believe that WWE Hall of Famer Abdullah the Butcher wrestled his first match almost six decades ago, in 1958? As far as we know, Larry Shreve also spent some time working as a high school janitor in Canada before he took on his most iconic role, that of Abdullah the Butcher, or as he was often referred to, the Madman from Sudan. His gimmick was all about being as sadistic as humanly possible, and he’s probably most notorious for his penchant of using forks to make his opponents bleed. That’s not to say he wasn’t a bleeder himself – even a quick glimpse at his forehead will show you how much he literally bled for his “art” for so many decades.
Believe it or not, the man affectionately referred to as “Abby” still wrestled (and made people bleed) on occasion as he hit his 70s, even allegedly infecting a much younger opponent with hepatitis C. Now 76-years-old, Abdullah had also entered the restaurant business in the Atlanta area as his wrestling career slowed down, though it would seem that his restaurant shut down without fanfare in 2016.
What would a list of bizarre wrestlers be without the man whom WWE immediately branded as “The Bizarre One”? After mainly using his father Dusty Rhodes’ in-ring surname as a young up-and-comer in WWE and WCW, Dustin Runnels returned to WWE in 1995 as Goldust, an ostensibly androgynous movie buff who wore a long blonde wig and golden bodysuit, with his real-life wife Terri (aka Marlena) accompanying him to the ring. Originally booked to play off the homophobia of many wrestling fans (who’d often serenade him with jeers of “f****t”), Goldust would eventually tone down his sexually-charged act, while remaining peculiar enough to stand out as one of pro wrestling’s oddest characters of all-time.
With the exception of a few years in WCW as Dustin Rhodes (which came right after the ill-fated Seven gimmick), the American Dream’s oldest son has worked as Goldust for the past 22 years, retaining his penchant for quoting movies, as well as his trademark post-promo hissing. Amazingly, he’s still wrestling full-time for WWE’s Monday Night Raw brand, though clearly near the bottom of the card as a grizzled 48-year-old veteran.
1. The Undertaker
It may sound like a cop-out to include someone as famous and successful as The Undertaker in this list, but let’s call a spade a spade here – the man debuted in the WWE in 1990 as a wrestling zombie (no relation to the ECW variety who couldn’t even say the word “brains”), and worked some variation of the “Deadman” gimmick for most of the next 27 years, save for his divisive run as a biker who entered the ring to Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit songs. No, we don’t need to give you a refresher on what the Phenom has accomplished in almost three decades with the WWE.
At the moment, The Undertaker is, for all intents and purposes, retired, having been beaten by Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 in what many assumed was his last match ever. But the whispers of ‘Taker not being retired after all are getting louder and louder, and who knows? Maybe Kane’s unexpected heel turn/move to Raw on the show’s October 16, 2017 episode will lead to the return of the Deadman. One thing’s for sure, though – he’s headed to the WWE Hall of Fame on his very first year of eligibility, whenever that may be.
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