One of the most successful wrestlers in the history of the sport is no doubt Mick Foley, who has become a New York Times bestselling author, several times over, in the wake of his celebrated career inside the ring. Though he made his wrestling debut in the 1980s, under the name Cactus Jack Manson, Foley became a bona fide superstar when he came to the WWE in 1996, repackaged as a deranged, mask-wearing character named Mankind. The idea behind the character is that he was basically a total nut-job, and he would often self-mutilate, ripping out chunks of his own hair and stabbing himself in the leg with a fork. He was said to live in boiler rooms with his pet rat, and he’d often scream out for his ‘Mommy.’ Mankind’s main mission upon entering the WWE was to destroy The Undertaker, and Paul Bearer ended up jumping ship during their brutal feud, becoming Mankind’s manager. Mankind eventually became a beloved character, like Foley himself, and in the later years of his run was a whole lot less terrifying than his original incarnation.
No stranger to horror-inspired gimmicks, Glen Jacobs made his WWE debut as Dr. Issac Yankem, the deranged dentist of Jerry “The King” Lawler. It was in 1997, however, that Jacobs brought to life a truly iconic in-ring monster, in the form of Kane, son to Paul Bearer and half-brother of The Undertaker. Story went that Undertaker had burnt down his family’s funeral home as a youth, and though he believed that his whole family was wiped out in the blaze, Bearer revealed that Kane was very much alive… and was coming for revenge. It wasn’t long before Kane indeed did arrive in the WWF, wearing a mask and full body suit, to cover his horribly scarred appearance. Kane was known for setting people on fire, and it was the character that led to the creation of the first ever Inferno Match, where the ring is literally surrounded by flames. Like most of WWE’s evil characters, Kane too has been toned down in reason years, and he now wrestles without the mask on, serving as a corporate lackey for Chief Operating Officer Triple H. And no, he’s not actually burnt.
One of the coolest characters of the WWE’s ‘Attitude Era,’ in the late 90s, was Gangrel, who was billed as a real-life vampire. Gangrel had the most memorable entrance in WWF at the time, which saw him rising up to the stage and surrounded by a ring of fire, carrying a goblet full of ‘blood.’ Prior to entering the ring, he would take a sip from his goblet and spew the blood into the air, which would often drip down his fangs and cover his white shirt. Gangrel rose to the epitome of his coolness when he formed a faction known as ‘The Brood,’ a trio of vampiric characters who would terrorize other wrestlers with ‘blood baths,’ which saw buckets of blood raining down from the heavens and covering their adversaries. At one point he joined Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness faction, which was comprised of a motley crew of fellow monsters and madmen.
WWE is known for recycling gimmicks, and The Boogeyman can in many ways be seen as a modern day upgrade on the Papa Shango character. Boogeyman debuted in 2005 and was introduced to audiences through a series of horror-inspired vignettes which saw him reciting nursery rhymes, smashing clocks over his head, and telling other superstars that he was the Boogeyman and that he was coming to get them. More memorable than his in-ring matches were the Boogeyman’s backstage and post-match antics, which generally saw him scooping up handfuls of live worms and stuffing them into his mouth. He was also known for making worms rain from the sky and stuffing them into the mouths of defeated opponents, solidifying his status as one of the most downright disgusting superstars in WWE history.
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