#3. Pro Wrestling -- The Shockmaster, 1993
The Shockmaster's debut on WCW Wrestling was a miracle of unintentional hilarity. Let's take a look at everything that happened to get us there.
The Circumstances A participant in an eight-man tag match had to pull out and WCW needed a replacement. Most everyone who would qualify for such a main event was either involved in their own matches or being hunted for their tusks, so they decided to create something new. Something ... amazing.
The Concept I honestly have no idea how anyone will know when a pro wrestling gimmick is going to work. The Undertaker has been a zombie controlled by a fat man and a magical urn for two decades. They've had sorcerers, chicken men, every version of the mentally handicapped and RoboCop.
So when you're a pro wrestling writer coming up with a last-minute replacement, an overweight space barbarian who can control electricity (maybe?) is an absolutely reasonable thing to suggest.
The Costume The Shockmaster looks like something you'd see on the floor of a college comedy to illustrate how outrageously everyone partied last night. His costume was jeans, cowboy boots, most of a sleeping bag, no shirt and a stormtrooper helmet. And the helmet wasn't kind of like a stormtrooper's. It was exactly a Star Wars hat covered in glitter that in no way helped disguise one of the most recognizable pop culture objects a person can put his or her head into. If you saw him at a Halloween party, you'd say, "Ugh, I hate these joke costumes. What are you, a dildo store-trooper? Darth Vader's blowjob coach? Powerbottom Bear Kenobi? Jedi Master Tellin Dadai M'Gay? Oh, wait. Oh no. What kind of sexual war crimes did those clone soldiers commit on Endor to cause a monstrosity like you to be born?"
The Entrance The Shockmaster was supposed to enter through a wall, like the Kool-Aid Man, but it didn't quite work out.
His helmet fell off to reveal that this was just the wrestler Tugboat on laundry day. Now, falling onto his head and humiliating himself in front of everyone could have been a simple, honest disaster. In fact, it's probably happened to every poor kid who has ever put on a Star Wars costume. However, Dusty Rhodes, the man who conceived the Shockmaster, suspects that David Crockett had a 2-by-4 nailed to the set to specifically sabotage what he felt to be a stupid idea. We may never know if it's true, but if it is, add it to the sequence of unlikely occurrences that had to take place in order to create this legendary moment.
The Reaction It's a pretty hard rule that pro wrestlers never break character during a show, but this was so ridiculous that everyone forgot where the hell they were. Two of them started uncontrollably giggling, and Booker T audibly asked, "Who is this motherfucker?" To add to it all, the Shockmaster had to be voiced by a man backstage, Ole Anderson, who was not prepared for any of this. Who could be? This was a situation where Batman would have looked down at his belt and shrugged. Ole growled absolute blithering nonsense into the microphone while trying not to laugh, and the Shockmaster gesticulated to each word two seconds after it was said. If the Shockmaster rode out on a spout of diarrhea screaming that everyone backstage were werewolves, it would have been easier to incorporate into the narrative. He shocked the world because he was none other than THE SHOCKMASTER:
#2. Music -- Milli Vanilli
Writing about music is needlessly contentious because you and I both know that the other's favorite bands are for poseurs and assholes. Still, I think we can all agree that at any given moment, most of pop music is made up of talentless hacks being presented to us by cabals of media analysts. The late '80s and early '90s era when Milli Vanilli was formed was the sweet spot for that kind of style over substance. Bands were assembled and costumes were designed before the group's manager had even purchased their first hit from a third-party songwriter.
Style isn't necessarily worse than substance -- it's only different. For instance, "Ice, Ice Baby" is fantastic, but probably would have been a disaster as a Bob Dylan song. Milli Vanilli was literally all style and no substance, and it went over really well. There was something appealing about nice music being silently screamed by two German men in spandex and suit jackets. Milli Vanilli gave us all a glimpse of what elderly gay people dream about when they go to bed filled with too much dairy. Still, aside from everything about them, there was something ... strange ... about Milli Vanilli. For one, they sang in perfect English, but they spoke like two racist Chinese dishwashers doing impersonations of how white people order moo goo gai pan.
Milli Vanilli was also put together by Frank Farian, the man who produced Boney M, a completely different group of silent but stylish black people who danced in front of someone else's music. If Milli Vanilli happened today, they would be caught by the third comment on their first YouTube video. However, two decades ago, it was the kind of scheme that seemed doable. They got away with it long enough to win a Grammy and somehow even kept it going after the real singer, Charles Shaw, told reporters the truth. To solve that, Farian gave Shaw $150,000 in hush money, and suddenly he had no idea what those reporters were talking about. In 1990, that was totally an option. In this age of recorded everything, you'd have to be a conservative politician to try something that retarded.
When the scandal was finally revealed, Girl You Know It's True was taken out of print and refunds were given to any betrayed fan who wanted one by order of the United States government. Yet through the entire spectacle, there was never a more incredible moment than in 1989, when Milli Vanilli performed in Bristol, Connecticut. This was a band desperate to hide the fact that they were lip synching, and in front of 80,000 people, the track skipped during the titular line of their album's titular song. "Girl you know it's! Girl you know it's! Girl you know it's!" It was such a perfect moment that it could only have happened right after God said, "Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham -- stop nunchuck fighting! Get over here and check out what I'm about to do!"
Milli Vanilli's reaction was an instant classic. Fab started doing the running man to the skip, pretending it was intentional. He'd probably still be there to this day if they hadn't fixed it. Rob went a different way. He looked wide-eyed in every direction, then casually panicked into a full sprint off the stage. How could two men who had been anticipating this exact moment for the entirety of their careers react to it in such completely different, yet equally terrible ways? If they had simply shrugged, people would have assumed that the music was prerecorded because it's hard to sing and ram dick baskets together at the same time. We expect pop stars to lip synch a little bit at their concerts. Hell, one of the New Kids on the Block's heads fell off earlier the same night and a stagehand just threw a blanket over it until their set finished.
#1. Film -- Traxx, 1989
You can probably name several movies that were either rushed out in order to capitalize on someone's flailing celebrity or flailing to turn someone into one. Traxx is the maniacal combination of both.
It was meant to propel deejay Shadoe Stevens, best known for announcing The Hollywood Squares in the '80s, into stardom. It absolutely didn't work. He played a zany mercenary who wasn't good at making cookies, but often tried to make cookies. I dare anyone to come up with something so wacky yet so devoid of comedy.
More notable than the lack of comedy, though, was the lack of regard for human life. It's as if space researchers thought that the appeal of Earth movies was watching humans say strange words after murder and Shadoe Stevens mistook their report for an action comedy. And on that subject, despite every single thing in the movie urgently trying to be funny, Traxx still has a comic relief character in the form of Deeter -- 200 pounds of racial stereotypes jammed into a 120-pound man. It's not clear at all why he hangs out with Traxx during his killing spree. Even stranger, he wears a giant amulet and a T-shirt of the actual film they are starring in, which leads me to believe that he may be some kind of time traveler sent from a dark future to stop Traxx. It honestly helps make sense out of this lunatic movie.
I'm not sure where the writer grew up, but every neighborhood in Traxx seems to be made entirely out of exploding rape. Traxx's solution to this crime problem is to go into seedy locations, kill everyone there and say something like "Better luck next time, rape!" As a viewer, the only clues we're given that he's not simply a mass murderer are the elderly couples cheering him on from the non-burning buildings. Nothing can get your mind prepared for Traxx -- unnamed characters are beaten to death during musical montages of cookie burning and line dancing. It's a clinically psychopathic film with fart jokes. I guess the rushed screenwriter didn't have time to create burned-cookie jokes and a context for all these slayings before the window on Shadoe Stevens' celebrity closed. But please, may that window never close on brave Chronomaster Jones.
Internet legend Seanbaby once told Traxx star Priscilla Barnes that she was great in Traxx and she truly seemed to have no idea what the hell that meant. Visit him at Gamegoon.com or follow him on Twitter.
For more of his explorations into pop culture's absurdity, see The 8 Strangest TV Show Ideas Ever Made or The 6 Craziest Villains Ever Defeated by Snack Cakes.