“If you get pro wrestling, no explanation is needed. If you don’t get it, no possible amount of explaining will do.”
That quote has been attributed to many different people over the years, and paraphrased in just as many different ways, but the main point of it is true. Professional wrestling is something that will either click with your sensibilities right away or it will never register with you on any level. Me, I’ve been a fan my entire life. And yes, I am fully aware that it is completely staged in the sense that storylines and the winners and losers of matches are pre determined (though the day that all the cards were turned over and I finally realized that it wasn’t all real was one of the harshest life lessons of my adolescence.)
It’s like any kind of storytelling or performance art, sometimes it can pay off and result in something amazing. Other times it’s a gloriously stupid theater of the absurd, somehow capable of facing its own inherent ridiculousness with a completely straight face. One of the many aspects of pro wrestling that I find fascinating is the sense of heightened reality it often exists on. Within the mythology of the sport there have been Undertakers, voodoo priests, vampires, Samoan savages, giants, all next to the likes of The Rock and Hulk Hogan. Wrestling has lifted from all different kinds of storytelling and entertainment over the years to assist in weaving its stories, including elements of Science Fiction. Don’t believe me? Read on.
5.) The Road Warriors/Demolition/The Powers of Pain
MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR, in addition to being one of the most kick ass films of the 1980’s, influenced the styles and gimmicks of some of the most legendary tag teams of the decade. The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal (later known as The Legion of Doom, a direct lift from Superman’s rogues gallery) took their visual influences from the film’s post apocalyptic Marauders, shaving their hair into mohawks, painting their faces, and outfitting their ring gear with spikes. With their marketable look and violent style, they ran rampant through the AWA (American Wrestling Association) and NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) in the mid 80’s. They ended up feuding with The Warlord and The Barbarian, collectively known as The Powers of Pain, who more or less copied their exact look. Unable to sign away the Road Warriors, the WWE just decided to create their own version. Thus, Ax and Smash of Demolition were born. Outfitted in the spike and leather gear and masks of Lord Humongous (and featuring one of the best arena entrance songs in wrestling history, courtesy of Rick Derringer) they dominated the WWE tag team scene in the late 1980’s. All three teams wound up feuding with each other at some point, somewhat exposing how far the influence from the film's style spread across multiple companies.
4.) The Zombie
ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) was the hardcore, punk rock alternative to the corporate giants of the WWE and WCW in the 1990’s. Though it closed its doors and was purchased by the WWE in 2001, it continues to have a loyal following to this day. The WWE decided to relaunch the promotion as a separate entity in the summer of 2006, finding it a home on the Syfy channel. The infamous debut episode was an uncomfortable clash of styles -- a neutered, network television friendly version of the ultra violent promotion’s baser instincts and other worldly elements seemingly required by the network. In addition to the vampire spotted outside the arena (yep) the episode featured the debut of The Zombie. In tattered clothes and Dawn of The Dead-esque makeup, The Zombie shuffled to the ring, arms forward. He took the microphone and moaned to the bemusement of the crowd. No explanation was given for The Zombie’s backstory. Was he on a quest for human flesh and just happened to wander into the middle of a live ECW taping? We may never know. His opponent that evening was the Sandman, an ECW stalwart who drank beer on the way to the ring and competed in t-shirts and Zubaz workout pants. After a series of strikes with his kendo stick, The Sandman pinned The Zombie, ending his in-ring career, as he was never seen again.
3.) William Shatner versus The Roadie
In a nice bit of corporate synergy, Captain Kirk himself, Bill Shatner appeared on a couple episodes of WWE’s flagship show on the USA Network, Monday Night Raw in January 1995 to plug his SciFi series TekWar (which aired right after Raw.) Shatner’s bombastic acting style meshed perfectly with the cartoony aesthetic of the mid 90’s WWE, as he exchanged words with Jerry “The King” Lawler and seconded Bret “The Hitman” Hart to the ring for his match with Jeff Jarrett. When Jarrett’s lackey, The Roadie, attempted to interfere on his behalf, Shatner got physical, rushing the ring and laying The Roadie out to the delight of the crowd. The only missed opportunity of this whole situation? Shatner never once utilized the patented Kirk flying dropkick against his adversaries.
2.) Max Moon
The WWE in the late 80’s and early 90’s was essentially a Saturday morning cartoon come to glorious life, filled with larger than life characters and ridiculous gimmicks. From this wonderful era of my childhood comes Max Moon, an honest-to-God future man who moonlighted as a professional wrestler. As portrayed by future nWo hypeman Konnan, Max Moon was alternatively billed as being from either outer space or some indistinct point in our future. He never stated why he had come to our time or what his goals were, so I can only assume/hope that he was essentially living out a wrestling version of Kyle Reese’s life. His ring gear was awesome enough, a kind of Technicolor Tron-Man outfit, but it’s what he wore to walk out for his matches that is the best part. Armed with a Mega-Man style cannon on each wrist, he launched streamers and fireworks into the air. For big matches/special occasions he came out with a jet pack (which I still hope becomes a requirement for all mankind at some point.) Unfortunately the jet pack was only for show, emitting brief blasts of smoke as he leapt from the arena floor to the ring apron, which spared us from the inevitable tragicomic outcome of him flying out of control into the crowd like Timothy Dalton at the end of THE ROCKETEER. Max Moon only lasted a few months in 1992/93, perhaps because the world often ignores or condemns geniuses in their own time.
1.) Robocop saves Sting
This really happened.
In May 1990, WCW presented their Capitol Combat pay per view event live from Washington D.C. As a promotional tie in, the show was sponsored by ROBOCOP 2, the better left forgotten sequel to the 1987 classic scheduled for release the following month. Aside from just showing the trailer during the event, the show was actually built around the idea that Robocop would actually appear. And they didn’t disappoint. During the show, Sting (the wrestler, not the rock star) was attacked by the villainous Four Horsemen and thrown into a steel cage at ringside. (It would take a whole other article to explain why there was a cage at ringside, so just go with me on it.) When it seemed all hope was lost, Robocop himself made his way out to the ring and pulled off the cage door, freeing Sting and sending the Horsemen fleeing. And just as soon as he appeared, Robocop turned and walked to the back. So yes, in wrestling canon, Robocop actually exists and has at least a working relationship with Sting. Legendary wrestling manager Jim Cornette claims that it was actually Peter Weller, the actor who portrayed Robocop in the first two films, playing him that night as well, although that has never actually been confirmed by Weller or anyone else. If it truly was Weller wearing the suit that night, it makes one wonder why they couldn’t get Tom Noonan (who played the villain Cain in Robocop 2) to show up and try to take Robocop out with a steel chair. Money left on the table, I say.