The larger-than-life performance art of professional wrestling covers a myriad of life's emotions. Heroic good guys, evil invaders, comic relief, sex appeal, and even fear. Fear is the toughest to pull off however, as it can quickly turn into a joke. The audience ranges from children to the elderly, so creating a believable monster is a delicate process. As a child I feared The Undertaker's unstoppable power and Papa Shango's voodoo, but as an adult I fear the prospect of fighting Brock Lesnar. Seeing the amount of punishment he can take and dish out I would have to go full Triple and bring a sledge hammer to a fist fight.
Wrestling has many facets to its entertainment. It shares many qualities with the traveling circus, carnivals, and even freak shows. Strongmen, giants, and midgets all have their place as the live crowd boos and cheers with great authority. It's a fascinating slice of old fashioned entertainment cleverly mixed with cutting edge technology and production. We may be streaming it to our mobile device watching pyrotechnics and multiple camera angles in prestigious arenas around the world, but it still comes down to the ancient art of live performance. Remove the glitz and glamour and there's not much separating it from watching Shakespeare at the famous Globe theater (poor people stand, rich get the seats).
So who is scary in wrestling? I've already mentioned a few different ways to define this fear. Any recorded wrestler is eligible no matter how far back so there will be a huge variety of the faces of fear. Some use a terrifying gimmick, others are seemingly 'normal' but you still wouldn't want to meet them in a dark alley.
Will anyone from the Dungeon of Doom make the cut? How about Vickie Guerrero. You'll have to read on to find out!
Jesus this guy was legitimately scary and is an actual threat to safety. He played the gimmick of an ex-con who had major beef with the Big Boss Man. While building up his character for their eventual showdown, he squashed many poor jobbers (and Virgil) in what could hardly be described as wrestling matches. The majority of his offense consisted of choking his opponent viciously as spittle flies from his crazed mouth.
In a surprise to no one he was just as crazy in real life. During a dispute with Vince McMahon over his SummerSlam '92 payout, he threw McMahon to the ground and gave him his patented choke. After other wrestlers intervened to save the boss, Nailz claimed McMahon had molested him.
We've already seen Hogan and Hart return to face McMahon at WrestleMania, could we see a no-holds-barred grudge match at WrestleMania 32?
14 The Boogeyman
His introduction vignettes were quite terrifying, but injuries caused a delay in his debut. Unfortunately, by the time he began performing the gimmick had become more of a comedy routine. But even if some people were laughing, the wildly painted, gyrating, WORM eating Boogey Man was still causing fear to many. I know worms are probably regularly eaten in some countries and may even be a nutritious delicacy, but to see the slimy writhing creatures in his mouth makes me wince just typing it.
A fan favorite and unique entry to the list, I daresay The Boogeyman is still missed.
Sure he looks goofy now with with no shirt and dress pants, but his debut was terrifying. After a brutal Hell in the Cell match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, to see him rip the cage door off, shove Earl Hebner aside and shoot fire from the posts was a fantastic debut. His costume nailed the horror theme with his dark eyes peering out like a demon. The WWE booked him super strong in his initial run and it was great for his character to beat down The Phenom.
Years of Corporate Kane and those damn dress pants make it easy to forget just how imposing the Big Red Machine once was.
The young Dustin Rhodes was sometimes accused of being 'boring'. While he had his father's looks (about 200 pounds less of them) and was a natural wrestler, he was never able to capture the hearts of fans on the mic like his father. But to be fair, who else could?
After Rhodes had his first infamous run as Goldust in the WWE, he returned to his WCW roots, but did so in a similar fashion, painted and weird.
Seven was TOO weird, and the vignettes got the promotion in trouble. these vignettes showed him main standing outside of little children's windows at night, calling to them as they slept. This obviously didn't go over well and Seven was soon gone.
Nothing scarier than waking up to get a drink of water and seeing Dustin Rhodes at your window.
11 Papa Shango
Charles Wright - who played Papa Shango and The Godfather - is what you would call a method actor. He delves deep into his gimmicks and immerses himself fully. He has said that the Papa Shango character was particularly difficult for him to play because of this. He studied the dark arts of Voodoo and felt it was a very dark influence on his life.
All of that hard work paid off as he scared me half to death as a child. Watching him work his dark magic over the Ultimate Warrior was a lot to take in a little tyke watching Saturday morning programming. I give credit to the Warrior as his unique intensity and own brand of method acting contributed greatly to the overall effect. Too bad the matches stank.
10 Jeff Hardy
In a generation that had already seen a wrestler die at a PPV and many retired superstars pass away far too young, Hardy's style seemed even more dangerous. He took so many risks leaping from up high that fans were on the edge of their seat, worrying they may see the next wrestling tragedy happen right before their eyes.
His non-performance against Sting in TNA and other candid videos popping up more than hinted at substance abuse. Like a worried parent over their troubled teen, Hardy's fans must have been in fear of losing their favorite son to the next high spot or high time.
At 36, the Enigma shows no signs of slowing down. He took a nasty tumble off a cage in January and injured his leg dirt biking in the Spring. That's not enough to keep Hardy down however as he was already planning a return for just a few months later.
9 Jake Roberts
Roberts stuck out in the late 80s WWE. The biggest stars like Hogan and Warrior took steroids, screamed their promos, and pandered to the crowd before dropping finishers that looked painless. Roberts on the other hand was slim, whispered into the camera, won the crowd over with his mystery and struck lightning quick with a brutal looking DDT. Fans were told he was the bad guy, but cheered him anyway. He was so over that Hogan refused to face him in fear of being booed.
He had a maniacal smile and clever genius, laced with evil but always in control. Oh yeah, and he carried a giant snake in a bag!
Coulrophobia: The fear of clowns.
Never understood it myself. I always thought of clowns as tall gingers who wanted me to eat hamburgers and fries. As I got older and into the entertainment industry I saw them as bitter performers playing kids birthday parties. But that's just me.
Many people hate clowns. I'm sure John Wayne Gacy and IT had quite a lot to do with that as well. So to see an evil clown physically attacking people in a wrestling ring might cause people to fear Matt Osborne's Doink character.
It's too bad the Doink character didn't continue into the Attitude Era as the evolution into a scarier Heath Ledger type clown would have been incredibly fun to watch....and terrifying. Sadly there was only one true Doink, as nobody was able to pull off the character quite like Matt Osborne who was fired in 1993 and from there the character became a mere comedy act/jobber.
7 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is the last wrestler I would want to fight. His cross-sport domination is the stuff of legends. He looks bred to fight and destroy. His gargantuan shoulders on top of a supremely athletic body is an awesome combination. You look at his face and realize you don't have a chance of hurting him. You watch his UFC fight with Carwin and see Lesnar get brutally pounded on for almost an entire round, only to shake it off and get the submission victory. He is an unstoppable monster than cannot be stopped and will choke you until you tap or die.
As a grown man, I no longer fear Papa Shango, I fear the beast incarnate.
6 Ox Baker
They need to reboot this character ASAP.
Not only did Baker have the incredible look of a real-life Wario, he could cut a mean promo as well.
He was known for his devastating heart punch that terrified fans after a recipient of the deadly maneuver literally died. The cause of death was ruled as a heart attack from pervious complications, but they still worked the death into his character. His infamy grew so wild that when he continually heart punched a beaten foe, the fans in attendance rioted!
Ox Baker, fear the Heart Punch.
Mick Foley dug deep and produced a character that produced horror and sympathy. The damaged human living in the basement of a wrestling arena seemed like an exaggeration of his own career. Foley bled and suffered for his extreme art yet was rarely rewarded with championships or main event status. He sacrificed arguably more than any other wrestler yet was shuffled from one promotion to the next.
Mankind turned that frustration into pain and terror. The disturbing mask and penchant to rip out his own hair while howling could send chills down your spine. Fans in the know had already seen the self-inflicted violence Foley would embrace in order to entertain, to see it as the prime focus of this new character was a scary prospect indeed.
It's a testament to how well he fleshed out Mankind that the character could evolve to evoke sympathy and even become a multiple World Champion.
4 The Undertaker
WCW had him as Mean Mark Callous, but didn't know what to do with a wrestler who 'never smiled'. Luckily for the wresting industry, Vince McMahon knew EXACTLY what to do with him.
The Undertaker took the WWE by storm, immediately winning fans over with his believable performances and incredible agility. He relentlessly stalked his victims like the monster in a horror movie, eyes rolling back in his head and hissing as he choked the life from his hapless opponents. McMahon built him beautifully, having him viciously sneak attack top superstars Hogan and Warrior while they were interviewed by Paul Bearer (how'd they fall for that?). The image of the crew frantically drilling holes into the casket for a trapped Warrior to breathe was a major step forward in WWE entertainment.
The Undertaker continued to evolve his character with the Ministry and its satanic rituals and even took a slight break from the supernatural. But even two decades later, there is still no other ring entrance more somber and awe-inspiring than turning out the lights and hitting the gong.
3 Andre the Giant
The Eighth Wonder of the World was a sight to behold everywhere he went. He dominated wrestling like no other, earning the respect and fear from whomever he demanded it. His incredible strength meant he could have his way with any wrestler in the ring. He took it as his responsibility to teach some of them 'lessons' in the ring, which is a very scary thought for those on the receiving end. There was literally nothing a regular sized man could do to stop him as well. Andre could toss anyone like a rag doll, and one false move or fall could result in being squashed to death.
He was the unquestionable ruler of any locker room or promotion he was a part of. During Hogan's first few years in the WWE Andre rode in the back of the bus (like the cool kids do) throwing empty beer cans at young Bollea's head. Andre could outdrink an elephant so there must have been thousands of silver bullets thrown the Hulkster's way.
The non-stop attention he drew was very tiresome for the big frenchman and he said he felt most at peace while filming The Princess Bride, as on the set of a Hollywood movie, everything is normal.
.....Or maybe they were too scared to stare.
2 Abdullah the Butcher
Many wrestlers from the past have battle scars across their forehead from all of their past blading. Abdullah had them too, but they were so deep, he could fit a poker chip in them. and he would do just that to to shock casino patrons.
The Butcher was a wild gypsy. Traveling from whatever promotion he felt like working with, bowing to no one. His work was extreme, using forks to cut an opponent's head open. His hardcore work in the 60s was revolutionary and shocked audiences all over the world.
Ex-WCW ring announcer Gary Capetta's book spoke of the elusive nature of the Butcher. He recalls Abdullah avoiding paying for a hotel by conning Capetta into driving him around town for hours into the night in a rental car. Capetta eventually got the nerve to drop him off at a strip club (church for wrestlers), and off he went into the night. This was a small peak into the lone wolf life of the Butcher.
1 Bruiser Brody
“He was feared by all the fans. And I’ll tell you what. There were a lot of guys in the locker room who were scared of Bruiser Brody. He was a bad dude.”
This quote from Memphis wrestling announcer Lance Russell says it all. Bruiser Brody was a hardcore legend and wrestling's ultimate outlaw. He did what he wanted and was bad enough to make it happen. Fans feared his character but those that knew his backstage persona feared him even more. Harley Race said that if you didn't have the guts to 'cut him off' in the ring, he would 'eat you alive'.
One incident caught on tape was the infamous cage match with Lex Luger. After a few minutes of worked wrestling, Brody stopped selling and started shooting. He took Luger's leg down and the match started to resemble something from the UFC. After a few minutes of this the ref called the match off and Luger immediately fled from the cage.
Brody was mysterious about his reasoning. He told Luger he did nothing wrong, and rumors suggest he did it just to spite the promotion.
Brody does what Brody wants.