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During his first run in the WWF in 1992, Las Vegas native Charles Wright (best known as the Godfather) 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.
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.
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 arguably 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.
Moxley's partner in the Switchblade Conspiracy, Sami Callihan, is arguably worse. When you make Jon Moxley look sane...
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.
Five more words, courtesy of 4.7.14 to Big E: BRAY IS GONNA KILL YOU, and this is said by the New Orleans crowd.
In early 2014, TNA had a feud between Mr. Anderson and Bully Ray. At the time, Bully Ray was being portrayed as completely unhinged with an arsonist vibe after Anderson caused the Aces & Eights to be disbanded. The two had a confrontation promo that took place in a funeral parlor. The camera work was a very strange (for wrestling) cinematic style with multiple cuts but was nonetheless effective. Bully threatened to burn down everything that Anderson cared about and directed his attention to an open coffin. Mr. Anderson reached inside and pulled out... a set of children's pajamas. Anderson turned around but Bully had vanished without a trace. It's one thing to beat up an opponent in the ring, or jump them in the back, or ram their car with a semi, but this is the first time a wrestler has threatened to burn down an opponent's home with his children still inside.
Ring of Honor had the debut of The Age Of The Fall: Jimmy Jacobs recruits Tyler Black, Lacey and Necro Butcher to his cause, and then after the Briscoe Brothers conclude a ladder match, the four of them proceed to beat the shit out of the Briscoe Brothers... and then they suspend Jay Briscoe by his legs from the rafters. And it got better: Jimmy proceeded to stand directly under Jay (who barely moved and actually did look like he was dead or unconscious) and started giving a speech about how he, Tyler and Necro were done with being shunned and had decided to start making their own way up the ranks instead of waiting for invitations that would never come... while Jay's blood was falling on him. ROH deemed it to be too disturbing to show, until the fans managed to convince them to show it. Hell, the crowd were even chanting 'You sick fuck!' at the beginning.
Kane Vs The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 20 had some pretty disturbing aspects. The build-up to the match began after Survivor Series 2003, when Kane stabbed the then mortal Undertaker in the back, and helped Mr McMahon bury him alive. Then, at the following Royal Rumble, one entrant goes missing, and all that is Heard is a solemn Church bell. This was the start of two months of headgames as Kane saw his brother taunt him with hints and supernatural threats of his resurrection. Finally, at Wrestlemania 20, the backdrop to the arena entrance had a video screen made to look like New York. When Kane comes out... it looks like the entire city is engulfed in fire. And when its Undertakers turn to come out, all is silent... until the disturbing high pitched voice of Paul Bearer echoes.
As if the Wyatt Family wasn't already disturbing enough, they pretty much outdid themselves during the 4/28/14 broadcast of RAW when Bray interrupted John Cena's promo by leading an entire choir of children dressed in black and singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" as Bray directs the choir to sing along with him and replacing "Whole World" with other phrases, most notably Cenation. The segment then ends with the choir putting on sheep masks as Bray mounts one child on his lap, laughing maniacally as the camera focuses on the child's masked face. The image alone is unsettling but it also puts Bray's words to Cena into perspective: The fans have abandoned him.
From the unscripted side of things: any time at all that someone suffers a horrible injury in an event not catered around it. Yes, you expect to see such things in matches with names like "Hell in a Cell" or "No ropes barb-wire match", but even plain-Jane bouts have gruesome consequences sometimes. Some of the more famous "highlights" through the years include Bob Holly getting suplexed through a table and ending up with a SIXTEEN INCH gash across his back, Sid Eudy being convinced to do a top-rope jump kick but landing wrong and snapping his lower leg at a 90-degree angle, any time Sabu pulls a botch more severe than a flat crash landing...
Triple H's not-so-veiled threats to The Shield on the 5/12/2014 episode of Raw. He starts by saying that they'll 'humble' Dean Ambrose, and then things get darker: he compares Seth Rollins to a hummingbird and says he'll rip Seth's wings off, and then he actually outright threatens to kill Roman Reigns at Payback.
And then at Payback, Evolution went out of their way to torture Reigns by working him over with kendo sticks. As the announcers pointed out, they could have eliminated him at any time, but they wanted to hurt him.
There's something very unnerving about how much control Lana has over Alexander Rusev. He barely does anything without her telling him to do it, to the point that he doesn't break his submission holds until she tells him to. The fact that she does most of the talking for him makes it worse, because then he's just standing there like a puppet, waiting for Lana to pull a string.
You've been trading wrestling tapes, were convinced this series revolving around some "Chick Fight" of Cheerleader Melissa was worth something you parted with despite your doubts of it being something silly in the vein of Glow. Sure enough there is some of that but not as much as feared, then the Cheerleader renders an opponent unable to continue by severing one of the ligaments in her leg with a pop can...ouch.
If this page hasn't illustrated the point already, Garbage Wrestling can be this for some people. And few varieties of garbage are more disturbing than the "Death Match". Fun fact, most falls over 30 imperial feet are lethal. Having already survived a 25+ foot fall off the back of a semi trailer at a prior CZW event, "Sick" Nick Mondo decided to top himself by going off the roof of a building with company owner John Zandig. Now a table was there to "break" their fall but Mondo overshot it and almost died by rupturing an artery in his back. Think that's the end of his career? Not quite, see this was only his second match at "tournament of death" that day and he won despite that injury, meaning he still had one more match of splinters and glass to go. Oh, and he would later state that fall which nearly killed him and the match coming afterward did not produce his most painful CZW injuries, they were just the warning signs that it was maybe time to take a break before he got broken.
This is the same Mondo who at the previous year's Tournament of Death got electric-weedwhacked.
Brock Lesnar's absolutely vicious beatdown of John Cena at Summerslam 2014 for the WWE World Heavyweight championship. To wit, Cena was essentially put into a fifteen minute Squash Match, taking an F5 from Lesnar barely a minute into the match before Lesnar took him to town, hitting sixteen German suplexes as he practically threw Cena around the ring like a rag doll. It got to the point that JBL, who normally acts as the pro-heel announcer, was begging Lesnar to stop. Even when Cena managed to hit the Attitude Adjustment midway through the match, Lesnar was barely even fazed as he kicked out. Cena then managed to knock Lesnar down and tried to regroup, only for Lesnar to sit straight up, emulating (and likely mocking) the Undertaker's famous sit-up taunt, laughing maniacally as he sported one of the most creepy Slasher Smiles in pro wrestling history◊. Finally, a desperate Cena tries to make Lesnar tap out to the STF only for Lesnar to throw him off like it was nothing, before mercifully bringing the match to an end with an F5. In short, Lesnar not only won, he absolutely destroyed the WWE's top babyface in one of the most one-sided main events in pro wrestling history.