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Whew, the You Total Cult Blog is back from the dead-or at least a semi-serious coma.
When I left off the previous You Total Cult blog in early July, I hinted that the next entry would feature a voodoo aspect. Well that sure has come to pass since the You Total Cult blog is effectively returning from the grave. Since You Total Cult empire has had to move to its own website, the time normally spent blogging has instead been spent learning how to build a website. If you’re reading this then it has worked. (Here’s hoping).
So back to basics of the YTC Blog, and back to the hinted-at topic at hand; the dead. Zombies. Voodoo. Who do? Do what? Vodoo. Voodoo? Why, Papa Shango does Voodoo!
In this next instalment whereby I look at the lesser known, but memorably unique, wrestlers it falls onto one man’s broad, tattooed shoulders.
So who is this Papa Shango fella? Well he’s visually akin to Baron Samedi from 007: Live And Let Die.
Baron Samedi himself is not just a James Bond villian. Rather this 007 henchmen was based on a real Voodoo icon.
Considered to be a Loa of the dead, the mythological Samedi is- in incredibly broad terms- a sort of middle-man between humanity and God when it comes to matters of death. Samedi has his own distinct powers and personality and can potentially be contacted, pleaded and bargained with by certain voodoo practitioners, but essentially we live to serve him and not the other way around.
According to some research books and Wikipedia, Baron Samedi favours rum and tobacco, and swears like a Sailor who has stubbed his toe. I’m not making this up by the way, feel free to double check here.
In some ways Samedi is an Independent Contractor of the Grim Reaper profession. Sure he has a job to do, but he he will grumble whilst going about it and occasionally delve off to do his own things.
So how does a potty-mouthed, emissary of death fit into the world of wrestling? Well it’s just dumb luck, apparently.
By all accounts, bar tender and biker Charles Wright was talked into becoming a professional wrestler by various patrons of a bar/strip club that he worked at in Las Vegas. As a large, muscular man covered in tattoos he was approached about giving the business a go by established professional wrestlers. Agreeing to give it a shot, Wright was named in the Indie-Wrestling scene as The Soultaker based on one of his pre-existing tattoos.
Unfortunately I cannot find an image of the actual tattoo that inspired the name Soultaker so I will just assume it was this;
By the time Wright made it to WWF (aka WWE), hew was tweaked into Papa Shango, a Witch Doctor who had quite the edge in matches. Shango would simply curse his opponents to make them vulnerable and then beat them to a pulp!
Carrying a skull that billowed smoke, uttering ancient phrases and sometimes stealing the hair of his targets, Shango had his voodoo techniques down, and they just so happened to be nicely cinematic.
Seriously, how cool are these images for kids to watch as Shango goes about his Voodoo-ways?
Perhaps the most infamous example of this was against the superhero-esque good guy, The Ultimate Warrior. Papa Shango cursed Warrior on live TV in 1992, making a mysterious black goo pour from Warriors scalp and drip down his face. (Luckily the special effects team didn’t go with a white liquid. That could have led wrestling being labelled with some sort of ridiculous homosexual tag).
Shango did other curses too, usually involving giving his opponents cramps or mysterious bleeding. Perhaps his true rival should have been a maxi-pad.
Not that it mattered particularly who Shango’s rival was as he never actually saw his feud come to any sort of conclusion. Instead The Ultimate Warrior just casually moved onto a different, higher placed feud. Poor old Shango was left to just hang around for a whole. He wrestled at a lot of PPV events but never really had any traction again. No big wins and no more big feuds meant Papa Shango was left to wither.
What makes this waste of Shango all the more odd is that during the start of their feud, Papa Shango had actually been featured in the WrestleMania VIII main event. He had teamed up with a character called Sid Justice to attack Hulk Hogan and, ultimately, The Ultimate Warrior at the end of this Pay Per View.
Now both Warrior and Hogan were huge wrestling names, Hogan arguably the biggest of all time. For Shango to share the spotlight with them only a few months after his WWF debut, during the biggest Wrestling moment of the year this implied that Shango would be a big time villain for years to come. In Hollywood terms it would be as if John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart were attacked during the closing of the Oscars. Wrestling exposure simply does not get much bigger than a WresteleMania Main Event.
Regrettably though, once the aforementioned Warrior-angle dried up with no conclusion, things only got worse for Shango. Sid Justice was released from WWE’s employ leaving Shango out of both an opponent and partner and a story. He managed to hang on until November of 1992 when he would finally face The Ultimate Warrior… only for Warrior to leave WWE too!
By this point Shango had started with a high-profile feud, been completely forgotten about in the midst of said feud, he spun his wheels for a while and then been vaguely remembered by his original rival only to once more lose his chance to get any at any character or narrative closure. Left to wander the wrestling world as a shell of his former self, Shango would occasionally appear, get beaten quickly and then shuffle off to wait for his next summoning to the ring. WWE Career-wise, Papa Shango had become a real zombie; one that was raised from the grave, attacked and then left for dead whenever a punching bag was needed.
It is not all bad news though. Mr Wright went through a few dicey gimmicks before finally hitting on a role that made him smile ear-to-ear. During Wrestling’s biggest economic boom, known to fans as The Attitude Era, Wright became a beloved Pimp known as The Godfather. Dressed in bright suits and surrounded by beautiful women, Wright was cheered en-masse and even went on to win both the Intercontinental Title and the Tag Team titles during this time period. He still appears on cameos as The Godfather on WWE Television appearing most recently during the 2013 Royal Rumble PPV. It was onwards and upwards for the wrestler, even if not the original character.
Still, the later success of Charles Wright aside, this YTC entry is dedicated to the persona of Papa Shango. A master of the dark arts who resembled a foul-mouthed, heavy drinking Voodoo Loa, Shango deserves to be remembered fondly for the sheer bizarreness of it all. Although Papa Shango crashed and burned into an early grave, he made one hell of an impact on this young viewers mind. Papa Shango’s was not a long run, but it was a memorable one.
Who knows how far the character could have gone with feuds against that Western zombie, The Undertaker or ‘The Devils Favourite Demon’ Kane or even the unstable Goldust.Unfortunately wrestling fans will never know.Bad luck certainly helped ruin Charles Wright’s run as Papa Shango.
In fact, you could say that he was cursed.
Next time will be time for a ghost, a sword and affordable rent. And out of those three topics, affordable rent is clearly the most fantastical concept.
Thanks for reading,