They say only the good die young, but then, they're forgetting about wrestlers whose hard lifestyles lead to early cardiac arrests. But, speaking of arrests, the late prison guard/wrestler Big Boss Man took his heelish tactics so far across the line into over-the-top cartoonish supervillainy in his feud with the Big Show that he will live forever in the hearts of wrestling fans.
When it became known that the Big Show's father was terminally ill, the Boss Man turned it to his advantage by having a fake cop inform his opponent that his father had died, thus winning a match by forfeit.
Soon after, Big Show's father really did die... and that's when the Big Show/Boss Man feud became equal mixtures of completely awesome and totally insane. The Boss Man upped the ante by crashing the funeral, running down Big Show with a police car, then tearing all over the cemetery with the grieving giant clinging to his father's casket chained to his trailer hitch.
If ever a scene deserved to be sped up and set to the Benny Hill theme, this is probably it.
And, though the feud would never get as spectacularly crazy as dragging the casket of a man's father's corpse around a cemetary in the Bluesmobile with the bereaved clinging onto it for dear life, we swear to God, it still managed to get worse. Boss Man followed up his funeral crashing with an impromptu performance on live television holding the Big Show's father's golden watch, which he'd bequeathed to his son as a family legacy. The Boss Man smashed it to powder on an anvil:
Then, during a frank interview with Big Show's mother on live television via a satellite feed (apparently she hadn't been paying attention at the funeral, as she never questioned the Big Boss Man's press credentials), he grilled the poor woman until she tearfully admitted Big Show's illegitimacy.
Having gotten the dirty truth from the teary-eyed widow, Boss Man spun around triumphantly to the camera and stated for the record: "The Big Show is a dirty bastard, and his Momma said so."
The Big Show/Boss Man feud has rightfully entered wrestling lore for the fact that not once, from the start of the feud to its conclusion weeks later, did it fail to be ravenously, dog-barkingly insane. Seriously, even when Big Show finally beat the Boss Man in a wrestling ring weeks later, did he really come out of this ahead? After a dude's desecrated your father's corpse, destroyed every possession he bequeathed you in his will, then proved your bastardry on live TV, it's a little hard to consider it just punishment to give the guy a chokeslam and get a fake gold belt for your trouble.
Long before he played Detective John Munch on Law and Order: SVU, Richard Belzer learned the hard way that Hogan knows best.
In 1985, the Belz hosted a cable talk show on which Hulk Hogan and Mr. T appeared to promote the inaugural Wrestlemania. After making several cracks about the scripted nature of professional wrestling, the hipper-than-thou comic insisted Hogan demonstrate a hold on him.
Hogan gently applied a front facelock to the spindly host, who thrashed around briefly, went limp, and then fell heavily and struck his head when released. The show cut to commercial. When it returned, Belzer wasn't there.
Instead, a producer joined a shaken Hogan (and an increasingly testy Mr. T) to explain what had happened. Though contrite, Hogan nevertheless literally added insult to injury by explaining that he'd applied the simplest hold he could think of, one that should have been harmless to a normal, healthy adult, but he'd failed to account for the fact that Belzer had obviously never exercised in his life.
Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff suffered a crisis of confidence during his WCW run in 1995. "What is this?" cried a teary, despondent Orndorff, tearing apart his dressing room following a crushing defeat. "I don't even know if I'm Mr. Wonderful anymore!"
Suddenly the door opened. In came a mustachioed little man in a feathered jacket and a white afro wig resembling a cross between a crash helmet and a Chia Pet. "Gary Spivey?" bellowed Orndorff, his eyes bugging out as he stumbled over his words. "Of the Psychic Companions Network?"
"I've got a vision," said Spivey, launching into an uninterrupted stream of solid madness. "There's something I need to tell you. You've got to listen to me. You're not okay, but you're Mr. Wonderful. And you're not feeling so wonderful, but these things are going to pass. I see great things for you. You have to be Mr. Wonderful. That's you! Listen to me: You are Mr. Wonderful. They call you Mr. Wonderful."
He then implored Orndorff to look in a mirror. "Who do you see?"
"I see... Mr. Wonderful!" Orndorff said, renewed confidence dawning in his eyes. "I am Mr. Wonderful!"
"And you know you're wonderful too," said Spivey. "See my vision? Bigger cars! Bigger houses! More money!"
"I am Mr. Wonderful!" Orndorff repeated while staring into the mirror. He kissed himself a few times on the forearm, then kissed his reflection on the lips.
"Now you see what I see," said Spivey, smiling.
By the mid-90s, most people were aware that wrestling was fake. But they expected wrestlers to keep up the ruse. That's why they were amazed by the I Respect You strap match SuperBrawl VI in 1996, which pitted Brian Pillman against Kevin Sullivan, who doubled behind the scenes as the booker in charge of scripting storylines, and which had the stipulation that the winner had to force the loser to utter those words into a microphone.
Less than a minute after the match began, though, Pillman grabbed the mike, shouted, "I respect you, bookerman," and walked off, laughing. This left the audience and most of the locker room to believe Pillman had melted down and exposed the business on live TV. However, the now-notorious incident was actually scripted and designed to further Pillman's loose cannon character.
However, a similar but comparatively overlooked moment came the next year during an in-ring interview by "Marvelous" Marc Mero, who was frustrated with the quality of his competition, perennial curtain-jerker Sal Sincere. "I can't believe Vince McMahon sent 'Marvelous's Marc Mero out to wrestle a jobber," said Mero.
This was mind-blowing stuff. Sure, internet-savvy fans knew that enhancement talent had the job of losing all their matches, and that these wrestlers were called "jobbers," but no one had ever actually used the phrase. Mero then clarified, for the audience's benefit, that jobbers were enhancement talent who had the job of losing all their matches.
"Your name isn't even Sal Sincere at all!" accused Mero. "Your name is Tom Brandi."
Oh my god! thought internet-savvy fans everywhere. He... he just told him what his name was!
WCW blew its credibility badly in 2000 by hotshotting its world championship title around the waist of actor David Arquette as a cross-promotional stunt tied to the release of his wrestling-themed movie, Ready to Rumble.
But for all the legitimate criticisms one can make about Arquette-one being that he doesn't even make a credible champion of the David Arquette/Courtney Cox household-at least he's an actual human being.
At Capital Combat 1990, as was his habit, Sting was attacked and beaten by the Four Horsemen, who shoved him into a cage. Fortunately, Robocop appeared in the nick of time to save the day and promote his upcoming sequel. The cyborg cop lumbered through the curtain and down to the ring, chasing off the terrified Horsemen and bending the bars of the cage to free the Stinger, while the announcers treated the situation as genuine.
It could have been worse, though. And eventually it was. To promote his upcoming sequel in 1998, killer doll Chucky appeared on the arena's giant viewscreen and verbally bitch-slapped wrestler Rick Steiner. Again, all parties concerned treated the confrontation as real, except the crowd, who booed lustily.
If Vince McMahon signed you to a 10-year, $10 million deal and asked you to pretend to date a 77-year-old woman, you'd probably be a good sport about it too. That's how former Olympic powerlifter Mark "Sexual Chocolate" Henry ended up in bed with geriatric female grappler Mae Young in 2000.
There's nothing wrong with an interracial May-December romance-but the storyline took a turn for the incredible when Henry impregnated Young, and then swung wildly toward the unsavory when she went into premature labor after only a month, at which point she give birth to a hand on television.
Yes, a hand. A healthy, adult, slime-covered human hand, or at least a latex replica thereof. A white one too, which prompted an appalled Henry to question its parentage.
It's the sort of moment the tasteful choose to forget and never mention again. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until Vince McMahon unearthed Mae Young's other hand, which he personally extricated from a prosthetic posterior in a spoof of announcer Jim Ross's real-life colon cancer surgery in 2005.
As the only tag team to win titles in the AWA, NWA, and WWF, The Legion of Doom cut a swath of destruction everywhere it went and was unquestionably one of the most dominant pairings of all time. These guys worked stiff. They hurt people for real. They were hardcore monsters during an era of cartoon gimmicks. They used Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" as their entrance music. They once made a bloody attempt to gouge out Dusty Rhodes's eye with a spike. There are two words for what these guys were: "bad" and "ass". But "road" and "warriors" would also be an acceptable answer, as the alternative name of the Legion of Doom was in fact the Road Warriors, which was taken from the Mad Max sequel of that name, as was their post-apocalypic S&M gear look.
But by 1992, Hawk and Animal had lost their edge, so they enlisted their former manager Paul Ellering to rejoin them in the WWF. Ellering took them back to their old stomping grounds on the mean streets of Chicago, and, rooting through the rubble of their former apartment block, they found just what they needed to regain their killer instinct:
Rocco, their old black-leather-jacketed, sunglasses-wearing ventriloquist's dummy, which Ellering brought to ringside for advice and moral support until their WWF stint ended mercifully shortly thereafter. To put this shameful neutering of a legit bad-ass gimmick into perspective, imagine if the producers of 24 saddled Jack Bauer with cartoon pup Scrappy-Doo as his new partner.
In 1996, the hottest angle in wrestling was the invasion of WCW by the New World Order, a faction led by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who had recently jumped from the WWF, where they had been respectively known as Razor Ramon and Diesel.
Then, WWF announcer-turned-heel manager Jim Ross dropped a bombshell: Razor Ramon and Diesel were coming back. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon contradicted him, insisting that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were not returning.
It turned out they were both right: At the pay-per-view In Your House: Mind Games, Jim Ross presented Razor Ramon and Diesel, now played by superficial look-alikes Rick Bogner and Glen Jacobs, respectively. The rationale: As the WWF owned both trademarks, the old roles could be filled with new actors.
The crowd reaction: a chorus of boos. These doppelgängers were welcomed about as warmly as Coy and Vance, the scabs who filled in while Bo and Luke held up The Dukes of Hazzard for more money. The problem is that fans are willing to suspend disbelief only so far. Fans want wrestlers to be real guys, even if they're kicking fake ass, not just actors playing a role. Sure, promoters had recast new wrestlers in old gimmicks before without anyone really being able to tell the difference, but it only works with masked wrestlers or if you slap clown makeup on some random guy, push him through a curtain, and call him Doink. It was glaringly obvious right away that the new guys weren't the same Razor and Diesel, not least because they were both noticeably fatter.
Needless to say, the sham didn't last long. Glen Jacobs, previously known under the awful gimmick of wrestling dentist Isaac Yankem, went on to achieve lasting fame as the Undertaker's brother, Kane. Rick Bogner, previously known for pretty much nothing, went on to do pretty much nothing.
Peter Lynn is a Contributing Editor to CRACKED Magazine, and owner of the hilarious blog Man vs. Clown.
A special thanks to WrestleCrap.com, the Very Worst in Pro Wrestling, for the assist on this article. You rule, guys.