Pro-Wrestling Produces Some Of The Best Horror Characters

pro-wrestling horror

Film and pro wrestling have crossed over at times, but few instances include the in-ring personas on screen. The best exception to this is Mexican films featuring luchador-turned-cultural icon El Santo. Other than El Santo and rare exceptions like Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2 or the WCW film Ready to Rumble, wrestlers typically portray characters like any other performer. 

Those over-the-top pro wrestling personas will always struggle to find roles in dramas, romcoms, and most other genres. But horror is the exception. 

Over the decades, pro wrestling has presented us with several horror villain-caliber characters. From the savage slashers and the supernatural to the beasts and the downright hysterical, pro wrestling has it all. While IP rights might trip up actual films getting made, these are some of the best ready-to-film pro wrestlers based on their in-ring personas. 

Psychological Horror: Mr. McMahon

Pro wrestling has produced its fair share of psychological villains, spanning a range of mentally torturous figures.

Stalking has been one of the most used tactics over the years. In recent decades, some of the best examples have included Mickie James‘ program against Trish Stratus, where the former progressed from passionate fan to bloodthirsty foe. The Diamond Dallas Page WWE angle where he stalked The Undertaker’s wife also comes to mind. However, it received mixed crowd responses during its run and did little to help elevate Page’s WWE career. 

Then there are the unhinged types. The late Brian Pillman was called The Loose Cannon for a reason. Pillman’s portrayal was so convincing that some to this day aren’t sure if he was genuinely going through mental health issues or if he was just that good at working everyone in the room. Between forcing his employer to release him as part of a storyline to pulling a gun on live TV, Pillman remains in the minds of wrestling fans.

Some of Pillman’s most classic feuds in his short WWF career include programs against other psychological monsters. Face-offs with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin involved the previously mentioned gun. But what stands out most is that this served as a psychological standoff. In terms of unhinged personas, Pillman and Austin were Godzilla and Mothra. In terms of source material, Austin may have gotten the edge after basing his character on real-life mob serial killer Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Pillman feuded with Goldust. The Goldust character is controversial due to how WWE used androgyny to drum up fan hate. But it is undeniable that Dustin Runnels, who played Goldust, knew how to get into his opponents’ minds, whether it be with sexual energy or cinema-based brain benders. Plus, his entrance song would kill as part of a mind-bending film score. 

Numerous other personas round out the list, ranging from face mask-era Cody Rhodes, Bayou cult leader-era Bray Wyatt, and Waylon Mercy, the heavily Cape Fear-inspired character that eventually helped shape Wyatt’s persona. There’s also the late New Jack, who tried to kill an opponent and was arrested for repeatedly stabbing another wrestler. 

I was ready to make an already tough call and give the category to Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The legendary wrestler remains a threat at cutting opponents down on the mic. Top-notch charisma and ring psychology helped Roberts excel in an era where his less-than-muscled physique and lack of titles never diminished his standing with fans or in WWF. Combined with his real-life struggles, Roberts would have made the ideal psychological horror lead. 

But that choice got thrown out the window as night two of WrestleMania 2023 rolled into the picture. That night it was announced that Vince McMahon would sell WWE to Endeavor as part of a $9 billion deal. While this may be the real-life Vince McMahon we’re talking about, it is hard to separate his actions from that of his on-screen character, Mr. McMahon. With serious crimes, often of a sexual nature, some find it difficult to support the man or the product he was temporarily forced out of six months ago. 

Good thing his on-screen persona has done various devilish deeds, including torturing his mentally incapacitated family members and serving as “The Higher Power” of a cult. That helps justify the character and the human as the top villain of the bunch. 

Now sporting a Vincent Price mustache, McMahon’s look and actions have all the makings of a psychological horror villain.

Supernatural Horror: The Undertaker

Supernatural horror casts a broad umbrella over various interesting topics and characters. Wrestling has done the same over the years. Wrestling fans of decades past will certainly remember vampires like Gangrel and The Brood dropping bloodbaths on innocent victims. A few years before that there was the voodoo witch doctor Papa Shango. And while inspired by Mortal Kombat, Mortis, played by Kris Kanyon, definitely scared the crap out of me and numerous other kids watching WCW back in the day.

Modern examples exist as well. Characters like Impact Wrestling’s Rosemary fall into the supernatural category. Impact Wrestling is also home to the Undead Bride, Su Yung, who has shown range as the uptight Susan and the childlike Susie split personas of Su Yung. There’s also “The Demon” side of Finn Balor. But after several recent losses, The Demon’s power seems to be waning a bit. 

Then, once again, there is Bray Wyatt, this time with his Fiend character. The dark side of The Wyatt Family Funhouse’s comedic vignettes, The Fiend destroyed all comers for a short time in WWE. That is, until he wrestled a 50-year-old Goldberg in Saudi Arabia, but that’s a whole different kind of horror saga. The Fiend’s possession of Alexa Bliss further polarized fans, eventually seeing Bray’s character leave WWE altogether. Regardless, With a twisted backstory and a mask made by Jason Baker and Tom Savini, The Fiend seems like the natural pick for this category. 

That is, if The Undertaker didn’t exist. 

The Dead Man from Death Valley is the iconic supernatural wrestler. While Wyatt and The Fiend certainly have more of a look and backstory to create a feature, the Undertaker kicked it all off and has continued doing so for decades. Other demonic forces came before him, but it was The Undertaker’s years leading sinister cults, burning his family alive, burying people in caskets, and even attempting to sacrifice the boss’ daughter all pushing him to take the category. The Icon gets the nod, no doubt.

Comedy Horror: Danhausen

Comedy characters help make wrestling what it is. If it was all serious and brutal, there’s a good chance the monotony of scripted violence would turn off many fans. Few acts have focused on comedy-horror in wrestling. Still, a handful of those who have could easily play a supporting role or even carry their own feature.

Say what you will about WWE, but the company has a knack for creating comedy horror acts. They include The Boogeyman, a worm-diet-focused wrestler known for smashing clocks over his head and eating the mole off Jillian Hall’s face.

One of the most iconic that came to mind during the early 90s and the WWF era was Doink the Clown. The conniving clown would often dupe wrestlers into pranks that eventually escalated into violence, most notably when the demonic clown bashed Crush with a prosthetic arm he had been carrying around in a sling.

Bray Wyatt and his many changing characters qualify once again. This time around, his segments from The Wyatt Family Fun House demonstrated how comedy blends seamlessly with supernatural, physical, and psychological horror elements.

Outside of WWE/F, Rosemary once again gets a mention for embracing comedy and the demon world over the years. Decay, her current faction featuring Crazzy Steve and Black Taurus, could also find their way into a horror film—their own The Devil’s Rejects perhaps? 

Then, there are the unintentionally funny characters, highlighted by WCW’s Dungeon of Doom of the early 90s. The bloated group featured hilarious acts, including a not-at-all Satanic cult leader in Kevin Sullivan, The Giant, Kamala “The Ugandan Giant”, The Shark, The Zodiac, “The Laughing Man” Hugh Morrus, and, worst, The Yeti, a seven-foot tall mummy. 

For another terrible comedy example, look for ECW’s one-off character, The Zombie, during its WWE-owned days.

While Wyatt stands out as the top pick once again, he doesn’t get the nod here either. Instead, I give the edge to Danhausen. The Very Nice, Very Evil demon takes heavy influence from Pazuzu and sometimes Homer Simpson. While not much of a threat in the ring, Danhausen has proven himself to be a formidable force by cursing anyone who hurts his friends, or pays him enough teeth. He may also hypnotize you with some “Tequila.” 

Body Horror and Slashers: Jun Kasai

The world of deathmatches could produce its own backlot of horror villains. Any early innovators in the hardcore/deathmatch scene could get the nod here. Terry Funk‘s bled more blood than most bodies seem to produce in a lifetime. Meanwhile, Atsushi Onita popularized the wrestling genre so much that he created his own promotion, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling-Explosion (FMW). One of the most notable matches in FMW was the Barbed Wire Electrified Dynamite Pool Double Hell Death Match, which also featured fire, because of course it did. 

With all due respect to The Funker and greats like the late Bruiser Brody, the fork-wielding Abdullah the Butcher, and many others, Mick Foley is typically considered America’s most hardcore wrestler of all time. His various personas could also help him on the big screen. 

Known as Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and other characters, Foley has spent years destroying his body and numerous opponents. Notable stunts include being thrown off and through a 20-foot Hell in a Cell. Earlier in his career, he had his ear ripped off during a match with a monster in his own right, Vader. But that isn’t gonna be enough to win the category. 

That horrific distinction belongs to Jun Kasai. Deathmatch wrestling has its fair share of major players. Some have cracked through to the mainstream like Jon Moxley and the pizza slicer-loving Nick Gage

Many others have created stellar resumes for themselves on the independent scene. Several could be argued as being more hardcore than Jun Kasai. But once you factor in the resume, the many gruesome scars covering his back and body, and his less-than-mainstream look, Jun Kasai is the obvious choice. Everything he does screams homicidal villain. If someone hasn’t cast him in a J-Horror film yet, please make this happen.

What About The Rest?

Admittedly, this list could run much longer than it already has. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the wrestling monsters, a class of physically imposing forces, like Vader, Bull Nakano, Brock Lesnar, Andre the Giant, Umaga and countless others. 

Then there are borderline characters that could easily slot somewhere into horror. Malakai Black and The House of Black are making the dark arts entertaining on AEW these days. Meanwhile, the late, great and wildly underrated Luna Vachon used real-life mental anguish to help fuel disturbed on-screen characters. 

And we’d be overlooking a massive sore thumb without mentioning the confirmed and alleged monsters who have murdered, assaulted and harmed others in and out of the ring. But those are real-life monsters. Learn more about them from shows like Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring. They don’t need to be romanticized here or anywhere else. 



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