I love pro wrestling. Save your “it’s fake” chants because it doesn’t matter. The Walking Dead is fake, but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying it. If anything, wrestling is more real than anything involving the Kardashians, sex tapes included. While it’s not as popular as it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, pro wrestling is still going strong. While WWE may still be the number one company, there are also companies such as TNA, ROH, Chikara, CZW, Lucha Underground, PWG, and that’s just in the United States. Wrestling is still huge in Mexico with AAA and CMLL, and Japan is currently in a wrestling golden age with New Japan and All Japan. The point is that yes, pro wrestling is still a thing, and thousands of people will be watching this Sunday for Wrestlemania 31.
Metal and wrestling have a lot in common. By outsiders, many consider both to be low brow and uncouth. A bunch of loud mouth-breathers with moves like “Burning Hammer”, “Brainbuster”, “Neckbreaker” and “Chokeslam” that can double as metal song titles, it should come as no surprise that the two could come together. This list is a combination of the genre of music being used in professional wrestling and wrestling moments that would be worthy of being called “metal”.
10. “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer
In the early 90’s, World Championship Wrestling was in a transitional period. WCW/NWA was always the “Southern Wrasslin’” company, focusing on in-ring work over flashy characters and soap opera storylines. That mentality changed following the success of rival WWF as well as managerial changes in the company. Taking a “throw shit against the wall and hope something sticks” approach, WCW head Jim Herd pumped out ridiculous character after ridiculous character. There was Oz, as in the Wizard of Oz, a lumberjack named Big Josh who came to the ring with dancing freaking bears, and a rockstar named Van Hammer.
Van Hammer was a lower-card wrestler whose gimmick was that he was a heavy metal guitarist. Kind of strange to think of a rock star wanting to give up the stage to get slammed around, but there you go. I suppose Herd and WCW were hoping to attract heavy metal fans to watch wrestling. Or maybe just bring in young girls who thought hair metal band members were cut. The problem, though, was that Van Hammer obviously couldn’t play guitar. He was really good at holding a guitar and spinning around with a guitar, but not so much playing it. That’s like coming to the ring holding skateboards, but never riding them. And yes, that happened too.
9. The Headbangers
WWE learned from WCW’s mistake and had the sense not to have the Headbangers walk out to the ring with instruments. Instead, Mosh and Thrasher simply wore band shirts like Type O Negative and Marilyn Manson, ball chain necklaces, and skirts for some reason. “It was the 90’s” is as good an explanation as anything else.
The Headbangers went on to win the tag team championship a few times before injuries and terrible writing derailed them. When Thrasher was out with a legitimate injury, Mosh’s character was changed to, and I am not making this up, Beaver Cleavage. It was a bizarre mashup of Leave It To Beaver and sophmoric perversion. Remember that thing about it being the 90’s as a good explanation. Even that doesn’t work for this. The Headbangers eventually reformed and still compete on the independent circuit today.
8. Megadeth Plays A Song On WCW
Much has been said about the “Monday Night Wars” rivalry between WCW and WWF/E. The companies were in a weekly fight for ratings and pay-per-view buys. Despite winning the war for an incredible string of weeks, WCW managed to screw up at just about every step. In late 1999, the tide had turned and WWE became the number one wrestling company in the world. How would WCW respond? Well, one idea was to have Megadeth perform a song live on their flagship show Nitro. When you think of wrestling, do you think of Dave Mustaine? If the answer is yes, you’re Dave Mustaine.
Rather than putting on quality matches, WCW had Megadeth play the song “Crush ‘Em” which appeared on the Universal Soldier: The Return soundtrack, which starred WCW wrestler Goldberg. How did that song go over? To quote the excellent Death of WCW book, “The segment garnered a 2.13, Nitro’s lowest number in years.” I don’t think playing Symphony of Destruction would have helped. I don’t know what was a worse idea: Having Megadeth play on a wrestling show or Dave Mustaine wearing a sleeveless shirt on a show that had Scott Steiner.
7. KISS Plays A Song On WCW, Debuts The KISS Demon
So how did WCW follow up with that Megadeth debacle? They had KISS play a song on Nitro. For $500,000. I’ve never been a fan of KISS, and while people sometimes throw them into the metal category, I don’t see it. Neither did wrestling fans apparently, as Nitro received a similarly bad rating to the Megadeth appearance. Half a million dollars down the drain to see KISS in 1999. Don’t even try to adjust that for inflation, it will just make you cry. Don’t worry, I’m sure you can use some official KISS tissues to dry your eyes.
So why is this one higher than Megadeth? Part of the deal KISS had with WCW was that there would be a wrestler modeled after KISS. The KISS Demon, portrayed by wrestler Dale Torborg, went absolutely nowhere, buried on the card before ever getting a chance. Amazingly, that wasn’t the end of WCW’s ineptness (or KISS’s negotiating ability) as they had a deal in place for the KISS Demon to wrestle in a certain amount of main events. WCW got around this problem by having the Demon wrestle lower-card matches and bill them as “special main events”. The world weeps at the missed opportunity of the KISS Demon winning the title from Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
6. The Misfits Step Inside The Squared Circle
While the previous bands simply played songs, The Misfits actually got in the ring. Teaming up with the wrestler Vampiro, Jerry Only and crew were involved in a handful of matches. While The Misfits had a great look for wrestling, they weren’t exactly trained. Having celebrities involved with wrestling can sometimes work out, but most of the time it’s a train wreck of epic proportions.
The Misfits appeared a few times and reportedly received a good chunk of money per appearance despite not being wrestlers. Are you picking up on a pattern of WCW pissing away money like it’s an Olympic sport? Jerry Only even defeated “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, a legit tough guy, in a cage match while the rest of his band attacked someone with BBQ sauce. It’s not even worth trying to explain.
5. Ozzy Osbourne Rides The WWE Crazy Train
WCW weren’t the only ones to get in on the metal celebrity game. At Wrestlemania 2, someone had the bright idea to team The British Bulldogs with Ozzy Osbourne. In all his coked-out glory, a wild-eyed Ozzy jumped up and down, yelled, gave a 1 sentence post-match interview, and disappeared. If you ask him any memories about this appearance, Ozzy pees himself in response.
While that probably should have been the last we ever saw of Ozzy in the WWE, the popularity of The Osbournes reality show said otherwise. In 2007, we had Ozzy and company perform their meh song “I Don’t Wanna Stop“. Two years later Ozzy, along with wife Sharon, returned to guest host an episode of Monday Night Raw. When they weren’t screwing up wrestlers’ names they were uncontrollably laughing at everything. That bat that had its head bitten off by Ozzy didn’t suffer as much pain as those in attendance and watching at home.
4. Eat The Turnbuckle vs. Necrobutcher
Some bands write songs about crazy wrestling moments. Eat The Turnbuckle lives them. Eat The Turnbuckle is a wrestling-obsessed metal/hardcore band with a penchant for ultra violence. What is ultra violence, you ask? No, it’s not the Lana Del Ray song. It takes the extreme from ECW and cranks it up to eleven with all sorts of highly dangerous gimmicks like using light tubes, fire, and yes, even, power tools. Don’t worry, that guy getting sawed is now in WWE as Dean Ambose.
Eat The Turnbuckle bring the ultra violence insanity to their live shows as seen in their brutal video for “Fans Bring Weapons”. When you’re connected with Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza, violence is to be expected. I’d like to see them live, decked out in my Plata lucha mask, but I fear that it would make me a target for a vicious chokeslam onto a table covered in tacks and light tubes.
So how do you top a band that is already entrenched in hurting themselves and others? You throw in one of the kings of ultra violence, Necrobutcher. Some of you may recognize Necro from the Daren Aronofsky movie, The Wrestler. He was the pleasant fellow getting his head bashed by Mickey Rourke. Necro is one tough SOB and Eat The Turnbuckle took him on at this past year’s GwarBQ. I’d like to see the brutal rematch…from a safe distance, of course.
3. Cactus Jack vs. Terry Funk Deathmatches
You probably know Cactus Jack as Mick Foley aka Mankind. His nickname is The Hardcore Legend and for good reason. While I could have went with the famous fall from the top of the Hell In The Cell (and through the cell), I feel these brutal deathmatches with Terry Funk are far more extreme. That’s not to diminish the Cell match as that is an example of just how dedicated Foley is to his craft, putting his body on the line in one of if not the most dangerous spots in wrestling history. It will never be repeated. Take a look in the title of this entry. Deathmatches. Plural. There has been more than one of these vicious events.
A deathmatch is a particularly violent wrestling match with lots of weapons and blood. It’s a brawling match known to spill out onto the floor and sometimes out into the crowds. Though it initially started in the United States, it became very popular in Japan in the 80’s and 90’s. If you’re feeling particularly bloodthirsty, might I recommend some highlights of Japanese deathmatch master Jun Kazai (NSFW).
Mick Foley is a sweet guy. He does tons of charity work and loves Santa Claus. Terry Funk is part of the famous Funk wrestling family and has a long and storied career. Both are friends and have worked together for years. You’d never know watching these matches. There’s barbed wire, chairs, ladders, fire, and explosions. Yes, explosions. These matches are the equivalent of every Napalm Death record playing at the same time. Much like the wrestlers, by the end, viewers are confused, exhausted, and oddly thrilled.
2. Ring of Fire Match
For this entry, take everything about the Cactus Jack/Terry Funk deathmatches and light the ring on fire. ECW favorite Sabu and his uncle The Sheik (the wrestler from Detroit famous for throwing fire balls, not the Iron Sheik from the WWF) went to Japan to take on Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Goto. A regular old deathmatch with barbwire ropes just wouldn’t suffice. Oh no, they needed something more extreme. How about lighting the ring on fire?
Fire has been a big part of metal stage shows over the year. Whether it was KISS or Dillinger Escape Plan blowing fire or pyrotechnics almost killing James Hetfield, fire is used to entertain. It’s probably a primal entertainment, found somewhere deep within out genes from our caveman days. Someone, somewhere thought it would be a great addition to wrestling.
As you can see, things break down almost immediately. The rags used to hold the fire burn far too quickly, engulfing the wrestlers in flames. Someone had the bright idea to wet down the canvas to prevent it from catching on fire. They didn’t take into account that the high heat from the flames would cause the wet canvas to steam. You can see the wrestlers convene in the middle of the ring trying to figure out what to do. They are literally being steam cooked like a bunch of broccoli. Luckily, they all made it out.
If you put in some pounding double bass and a blistering solo over the footage, you have the world’s best heavy metal video.
1. New Jack
The number one most metal moment in wrestling is actually several moments and they all belong to one man: New Jack. New Jack gained popularity (and notoriety) in Smokey Mountain Wrestling as a part of a tag team called The Gangstas. He would cut these incredible promos to rile up the racist fans from Kentucky and Tennessee. It wasn’t until he started in ECW that the “metal” moments came out.
After you’re done with this article, check out some of his shoot interviews online. He’s incredibly funny and has had an interesting life. Before I go into these moments, I should probably mention that while he is a professional wrestler, New Jack is also a bounty hunter. Just thought you should know.
We can start with the New Jack vs. Vic Grimes Scaffold Fall (see above)
In a previous match, a botched spot caused Vic Grimes to land on New Jack’s head while hitting concrete, causing New Jack blindness in one eye and head trauma. In XPW, the two met up again in a scaffold match where tables were stacked high in the ring. In an interview, New Jack admits aiming for the ring post while tossing Grimes off the scaffold. That could be bluster, that could be fact. I leave it up to you.
And how about beating the ever-loving piss out of an old wrestler named Gypsy Joe?
There is also something called The Mass Transit Incident in which an untrained 17 year old lied about his age and experience in order to wrestle on an ECW show. Inexperienced, he asked New Jack to cut his forehead for him in order to bleed aka “get color”. New Jack cut him very deeply, causing massive blood loss. It seems like the entire incident is no longer easily found online, but for the truly curious, you can Google around and find it.
Suffice to say, New Jack is a scary, scary man. When someone tells you a band is scary, ask them “Are they New Jack scary?”. How there hasn’t been entire metal bands dedicated to him is beyond me. Bands can retread over Vlad the Impaler or Bathory all they want, but at least this has video evidence.
Wrestling can be fun. Wrestling can be silly. Wrestling can be extreme. Wrestling can be scary.
Wrestling can also be metal.
Wrestlemania is this Sunday and is available on the WWE Network for $9.99.