Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope. Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.
Nightmare Fuel: Professional Wrestling
We should probably note that he has bled even more than this at times!
Yes, even the so-called "soap opera for men" is capable of scaring the living daylights out of fans, as evidenced by these examples:
During his first run in the WWF in 1992, Las Vegas native Charles Wright was packaged as voodoo practitioner Papa Shango. Although considered laughable today for Wright's exaggerated portrayal of the character, the gimmick had fans — particularly younger ones — shivvering and screaming in bed the times they saw this scary-looking monster hold up a flaming skull and, just by raising his hand, could make his opponents (almost always, jobbers, but sometimes the Ultimate Warrior and at least once "Mean" Gene Okerlund) writhe in extreme pain, hemorrhage blood without explanation and vomit violently ... and Papa Shango didn't even have to be anywhere near the ring to make his hapless victims suffer. (Wright, already heavily tattooed, had a large skull painted on his face and spoke with a scary growl to make the Papa Shango character realistic, which did not help matters.)
Jake Roberts was involved in at least two different nightmare-inducing moments, one as a face and the other a heel moment that remains legendary, just months apart in 1991:
The earlier moment came toward the end of his face run, when he began a feud with Earthquake (former Canadian sumo star John Tenta), with the trope kicking into effect when Earthquake tied Roberts in the ropes, placed Roberts' bag in the ring with Damien still inside, and squashed the snake repeatedly with his "Earthquake splash." Clips of several children — and at least one college-aged girl — are shown on camera, seen clearly upset by the events in the ring.
This one at least became Nightmare Retardant after the fact when Tenta revealed years later in an interview with RD Reynolds of WrestleCrap just what was in the bag that he squashed: Panty Hose stuffed with hamburger meat, plus a little electric motor to create the illusion of the snake moving (Roberts put the bag containing his snake underneath the ring at the beginning of the match so they were able to switch out the two bags). Tenta was a very sweet, shy, and self-effacing man outside of the ring, and the sheepishness in his voice when he explained how they did it was hilarious.
After turning heel and beginning his famous feud with Randy Savage, he once lured him into the ring, after which he beat him down, tied him into the ropes and allowed another snake — a live viper(!) — to bite Savage's arm. (The snake, which had been devenomed, really did bite Savage's arm, and Roberts — who was actually having trouble getting the snake to release its grip — had to quickly improvise to make the scene appear that he was trying to get the snake to increase its bite.) Like before, when Damien was "killed," several children were visibly shaken by what had just taken place. Ironically, the snake died soon afterward, possibly from a toxic reaction to Savage's blood - which led Savage to joke that he had poisoned the snake!
In this example (which occurred on WWF Superstars, at the time the WWF's flagship program), the initial airing was heavily censored, as at the time WWF programming was very kid friendly and there were genuine concerns about the appropriateness of the content. The segment ran in full, but nearly the entire screen (which showed an extreme closeup of the snake latched on to Savage's arm) was blocked by a giant red "X" censor graphic. A rerun of the show later that same night showed the segment without the censor graphic; without knowing that the snake was devenomed beforehand, it was a genuinely disturbing video. And even knowing about it after the fact, it still looks damn painful, as you can clearly see smears of blood from where the snake has latched on. Even more disturbing was how close the snake came to biting Miss Elizabeth (who ran to ringside to try to protect Randy).
Eddie Guerrero vs. JBL, Judgment Day 2004, a match that many wrestlers and critics alike say redefined the "Muta Scale." During the match, Bradshaw waylays Eddie with a stiff chair shot. This, and Eddie's deep blade job, caused rivulets of blood to run down Eddie's face and body and made for one of the most surreal, horrifying spectacles in WWE history. Watch at your own risk.
JBL: "The chair shot was very stiff... Eddie went deep. Very deep. I had no idea until I watched that tape back how much blood there was, I have seen some bloodbaths in Japan, Europe, Mexico and Texas-I had been in several-I have never seen anything like that."
WWE's Hell in a Cell. Imagine being trapped inside a 16 ft. high, 2 ton cage with your opponent and the referee. Since you can only win through pinfall or submission, you or your opponent are bound to get legitimate and severe injuries that could potentially end your career and ruin your life. That's assuming it doesn't ruin your career and end your life.
Mankind and Undertaker's infamous match. Mankind took two hideous bumps; one (intentional) from the roof to the announcer table, and another (accidental) through the roof to the ring below. Undertaker later admitted he thought he'd killed him.
Any match involving the proficient use of barbed wire. Want an example? Sabu vs. Terry Funk in a No-Rope Barbed Wire match at ECW's Born to Be Wired show. Sabu misses a splash on Funk and goes crashing into a barbed-wire board, tearing a 10-inch gash in his freakin' biceps and had someone go get duct tape to wrap it up so he could finish the match Paul Heyman and company felt that one "was too extreme, even for ECW."
A non-wrestling fan's first thought on seeing a hardcore match is something like "Oh my God, that guy's got tacks in his arm, how the hell are they faking this?". Then you realise they aren't.
Se7en, the gimmick that never was. When Dustin Rhodes came back to WCW after his run as Goldust, he was presented as a mysterious white-faced figure who lurked outside a child's window, watching him. The suits at Turner immediately nixed the gimmick, finding him too scary, and finding him uncomfortably similar to a child abductor. Can't say anyone blames 'em.
Layla vs Beth Phoenix at Over The Limit 2012, the moment where Beth locks Layla in the half-crab and Layla is crying "please stop!" is a little frightening considering Layla is selling it realistically as opposed to the theatrical way most wrestling injuries get sold. Plus Beth was working Layla's surgically repaired leg (it's Layla's right leg that is damaged and in wrestling it's always the left limbs that get worked).
Some of Dean Ambrose's promos, in particular the stuff he did in the indies as Jon Moxley, is nightmareish... his style is often compared to Heath Ledger's Joker, but in this Troper's opinion Ambrose/Moxley is even scarier, if only because the Moxley persona displays a vulnerability that the Joker never had. The bipolar, twitchy, unpredictablely violent Moxley is all the more frightening because you can clearly see the traumatized, neglected child beneath the persona.
In this regard, Ambrose/Moxley is scary precisely because he isn't like Kane, or other over the top wrestling monsters, he instead comes off as a very realistic strung out psychopath, the kind of aimless madman you'd find wandering the alleys of some slum ranting and raving at the air, who you'd fear might attack you on sight.
Bray Wyatt, from WWE's NXT, is a megalomaniacal, pseudo-religious cult preacher from the swamps of Florida, delivering mad sermons as promos, and flanked by his "sons", two massive Deliverance-esque rednecks that obey his commands and seem to worship him. His introductory vignettes feature unsettling shots of decrepit and decaying places in a swamp, with his mad ranting as a voiceover, with Wyatt preaching his insane message to his followers in the woods. The man believes he is a god, and has a cult of people believing it.
Barry Windham's very, very short stint in the WWF as The Stalker. Prior to his debut, he would appear in vignettes hiding camoflauged in the woods as eerie music played. The specifics on the gimmick are unclear, but based on the promos it seems as if he was to be a deranged, psychotic ex-soldier. The gimmick would have gotten MUCH worse, as Word of God states he was allegedly planned to feud with Marc Mero in an angle that would see him stalking Mero's real life wife and onscreen manager Sable, eventually kidnapping her and slitting her throat. As you'd expect, Mero was absolutely 100% against this, so the angle was dropped and the gimmick was reduced to a nickname as Windham otherwise appeared as his traditional self in a babyface role as opposed to the psychotic heel he was planned to be. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as committing onscreen murder would have possibly ruined his reputation forever.
Payback 2013: Dolph Ziggler vs Alberto Del Rio. The match mostly consists of Del Rio kicking Ziggler in the head. What makes it so terrifying was that Ziggler suffered from a serious concussion a month prior.
Jeff Hardy appearing backstage in corpse paint on an episode of Friday Night SmackDown, which was the beginning of his "painted" gimmick that he would eventually carry into TNA. The very dim lighting, and our complete inability to see Hardy's eyes underneath the black swaths of paint across them, make it even worse.