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BLOG: YTC Episode 44: Curses!

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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.

papa-shango

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.

007_-_Profile
“Mr.Bond, I presume?”

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.

c/o Luca Oleastri pintrest.com

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;

shut-up-and-take-my-money

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!

soultaker
From the Soultaker in 1989 to…
shango in action
1991’s Papa Shango in WWF

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?

papa_shango curse2 papa_shango curse1

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.

warrior goo
“Oil! We’re gonna be rich!”

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.

WM8
KISS had seen bewtter days

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!

BYE
(seriously, R.I.P. Warrior!)

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.

Gravestone

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.

smiley godfather
“Pimpin’ IS easy!”

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,

-MJ

 

BLOG: YTC Episode 43: A Saw Point

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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I went to Texas once. Amongst many expected holiday sights, I also observed a Funeral Home Museum, a car decorated in plastic fruit and Black Flag’s Gregg Ginn playing a therein. However one thing I didn’t see was a mentally challenged cannibal wearing lipstick. I’m pretty sure that I’d remember that.

I mention this trip to the Lone Star State because as the weather grows warmer here in Blighty, I sometimes wear the cowboy hat I bought in Texas. In addition, I’ve also been meaning to write about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 for some time. So my summer-based reaches for that wide-brimmed fella have promoted me that now is finally the time to revisit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, or ‘Part 2 as I may glibly refer to it.

 

 

As an introduction for readers, let me first give a basic overview for both films plots.
‘Part 1 is based around some hitchiking teens Then end up in rural Texas in a seemingly-abandoned house, filled with furniture made from bones.

One-by-one they are slaughtered by a man wearing a mask made from assorted human-skin, Leatherface. Ultimately it is revealed that Leatherface still lives with his brothers and Grandfather, all of whom are the Sawyer family. The Sawyers have become introverted since their abattoir was closed and now exist as cannibals.
The film ends with a single surviving teenager, Sally Anne, escaping from the Sawyer family but clearly mentally broken by the everything that she has experienced.

This is Sally Ann, not to be confused with Carrie

‘Part 2 follows two separate strands. One is that the Sawyers are now a mobile unit, travelling around the state of Texas and winning awards for their Chili-Con-(human)-Carne from their food truck.

Meanwhile, the uncle of the first films survivor, Sally Ann, is a a Texan Sheriff called Lieutenant Lefty Enright. Lefty is none too happy about what happened to his kin and is out for blood. Whilst on his mission of vengeance Lefty teams up with a Radio DJ called Stretch who Leatherface happens to have a crush on.

Eventually things escalate into an epic showdown inside a crumbling amusement park where all parties battle to the death.

Yeah that’s right- Dennis Freakin’ Hopper IS Lefty Enrigth!

With that recap done, let me state that in my estimation, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is a brilliant sequel for one simple reason; It makes almost no attempt to be like the first film.

In fact the simplest difference between both of these films are their titles.

Hold on, hold on. I know, I know. Obviously the sequel has ‘Part 2’ as a big difference, and that is not what I mean. There is also one further, subtler alteration too.

Even without the addendum of ‘Part 2’, the first movie is not called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Not ‘Chainsaw’ but ‘Chain Saw’. For the first time,and for every subsequent movie in the franchise, the ‘Chainsaw’ became a single word.


Obviously this is a very small change, and is admittedly hardly noticeable. Yet right from the get-go it does indicate that changes are afoot. The keen observer will know straight away that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 will not be a simple retread of the first film.

The tile is not the only change clear without even watching the film. Take a look at the 1986 poster for ‘Part 2 and note its resemblance to a previous hit from 1985, The Breakfast Club.

 

 

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an undeniably tense movie. The horrific scenarios occur across creepy sets to give an unsettling feel throughout. Sure, there is certainly some black humour present, but it is buried under the murk of the content. Any comedy present in ‘Part 1 comes over akin to a nervous laugh at a funeral.

‘Part 2 however is wearing its comedy badge on its sleeve. Through parodying another movies poster, the return of the Sawyer family is promoted as being a more celebratory, knowing affair that sequels audience are invited to enjoy rather than to endure.

In fact the original movies tag line of ‘Who will survive and what will be left of them?’ could not seem much further from the sequel tag line, ‘After a decade of silence… The buzzz is back!’. Gone is the eerie question, instead now present is the exclamatory promise of good times for fans of Leatherface & Co.

So far just the title and posters have set different expectations between the sequel and its forefather. But is is the actual movie that unfolds on screen where these contrasts become completely apparent.

This blog is not intended to be an essay, so I will avoid going into too much detail from here. These brief sections alone show that opposing nature of the two movies.

GORE- It is easy to remember The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as blood splatered, gore-fest. But it ain’t. The violence that is present is sickening, be it a hiker cutting his own thumb in glee or Leatherface culling his victims with a sledgehammer. But in sheer viscera stakes, there really is not much present.

“S’up?”

In fact that really says something for Tobe Hooper’s talent to be so unsettling and striking with his minimal scare. However by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, faces are cut off and worn, spluttering skulls are slit into two and one character sits on a grenade.

 

SOUNDTRACK- ‘Part 1 actually has almost no soundtrack. It has a strong soundscape via its sound design, but that is pretty much all. ‘Part 2 though is a rocking 80’s jam featuring The Cramps, Concrete Blonde, Stewart Copeland and Roky Erickson! As with the earlier mentioned taglines, this soundscape has changed from a creeping feeling to a party atmosphere.

 

LEATHERFACE- The most recognisable character from the franchise is Leatherface. In the first film Leatherface is a silent, mentally handicapped monster. Coming across more beast than man, virtually none of his real face is visible. Even more freakish than ‘just’ being an animalistic cannibal, Leatherface also combines transvestism with his Ed-Gein inspired wardrobe through wearing lipstick.

The result is downright disturbing since there is nothing recognisably human about him except for a false exterior he consciously piles on top of whatever is the real, hidden him.

From this…
… To this

 

Yet by ‘Part 2, Mr. L.F. is no longer an unknowable monster. He is now more like a sexually frustrated teen. He gets aroused by Slim whilst aiming his saw between her legs. Furthermore, the new make-up design in the sequel also allows for Mr. Sawyer’s eyes to visibly emote, and his tongue to lick his lips. Leatherface is far more humanised by the second Chainsaw flick, sadly reduced from boogey man to wacky sidekick.

 

AESTHETICS- The original is largely filmed in daylight and set in a highly rural area. The nothingness that surrounds the victims makes them seem lost in a sea of chaos, far away from the rest of the world. By the follow-up though, most of the scenes take place inside buildings, at night and lit by neon. Visually the movies look totally different, going from almost documentary quality visuals to a saturated pop-art style.

It’s Miler time

I could go on regarding the casting, the pacing and the humour on display by the second movie, but I think I have already made my point.

Both films are a world apart in both form and content. Watching the films in order is almost like studying combat photography from World War II and then following it up with a Sgt. Rock comic.

 

 

This complete alteration of the franchise may seem a slap in the face if it weren’t by the same Co-Writer and Director, Tobe Hooper.

Hooper set out to satirise his own creation in a decade of many, many Slasher-Sequels all without lessening the impact of the original film.It is almost a exclamation point to the franchising of horror characters in the time of never-ending Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers films. Hooper pushes his own creation in such a different direction, the idea of continuing it, at least creatively, becomes a challenge of ‘top this’.

The very fact that Hooper managed to do something different yet striking deserves a little acknowledgement and respect.Consequently this blog goes out to you, Tobe. Feel free to come back and give us another sequel in a different direction any damn time you like, Sir.

I doff my hat at you, Pardner.

 

 

 

 

 

Next time, you do. Who do? You do. Who do? Voodoo.

Thanks for reading,
-MJ

 

BLOG: YTC Episode 42: A Mat Finish

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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When I was a wee child, I wandered into a toy shop and walked out with a small, slim shiny pack. Clearly I was too young for condoms, so what could it be? Why I believe it was a 1989 set of Classic WWF cards.

Sure, I had a vague notion of Professional Wrestling from the fat blokes on ITV in the 1980’s. I had also heard about the slicker, American version that the kids at school who could afford Sky TV were watching. But I hadn’t seen any of the American stuff myself, and this little card pack was a gateway into knowing a bit more about what the better-off kids at school were discussing.

Having bought the pack and opened it, the images of these ‘Professional Wrestlers’ fed my mind with the possibility that Superheroes were just a tiny bit closer to existing in real life.

Admittedly they also, they wore a lot less clothes and were all more baby-oiled-up, but in the days before Hollywood cared about Superheroes, us nerds took any approximation that we could on TV.

These cards were like football stickers, only less sticky and with no footballers.

Immediately I could see the vibrant colours of the Ultimate Warrior. I bore witness to the cool villainy of Bret Hart in his reflective shades. I puzzled how a chubby, balding Sgt. Slaughter with a chin the size of a ski slope could be a threat to these other athletes. But amongst all of these cards was that one special one. This was the one character who was on the top of the opened pack. In fact, this one character was my first glimpse of the alien world of WWF Wrestling as a child. This one character was never destined for greatness in wrestling terms, but he was one who left an impact on me.

If American professional wrestlers really were closer to real-life superheroes, then this guy looked like a cheap vigilante. Well, actually more of a grimy bad guy. A low life thug. Gritty, even He seemed to almost be slumming it. This guy seemed to be someone flirting with the big time, but with no class. But that was a-OK with me. I was from a Working Class home by Watford- we had no class either!

Ladies and gentlemen, this WWF card was of… the one… the only… The Brooklyn Brawler!

 

A new feature of the You Total Cult will be to look at the more unusual pro-Wrestlers. People, or their gimmicks, that somehow stand out like a neon sign of cult-oddness in the otherwise perfectly bizarre ‘sport‘ of hairless men in Lycra grunting a lot as they slap one another.

 

Since The Brooklyn Brawler is linked to my first experiences of professional Wrestling, his seems the apt wrestler to kick off this new feature.

 

The character of The Brooklyn Brawler is that of a slob. The Brawler is a guy in dirty, ripped clothing who has all the finesse of a drunk fighting off muggers and all the charisma of some saliva in a urinal.

In reality- if such a thing can ever be worked out by wrestling fans- The Brooklyn Brawler is long-serving WWF (now WWE) employee and respected wrestler, Steve Lombardi. Despite having a long and varied career (more on that later) this You Total Cult entry is focusing primarily on Lombardi’s best known alter ego, The Brooklyn Brawler.

“I want YOU… to buy me a beer”

It was in 1983 that The Brooklyn Brawler character first really took form. That from is, put simply, half-thug and a half-bum. This was clear from his very entrance and outfit. Where as many superstars wore larger than life outfits filled with colour, The Brawler would wrestle in a ripped Yankees shirt and damaged jeans. This gear led to a chorus of boos anywhere but in New York- or sometimes even in New York too if there were Mets fans present.

Whilst walking to the ring, Brawler would always have a big stogie in his mouth, though clearly it was never lit. Maybe this was because a lit cigar could encourage smoking. Or maybe it was because this guy is a professional athlete. Or maybe it was made of chocolate. At any rate, accompanying his cigar, Brawler tended to don a Leather Cap.

Presumably this was a ‘blue-collar tough’ look in the late 1980’s, although to my mind it equally screams cruising bars lie Police Academy’s Blue Oyster club.

This could be from pretty much any Police Academy

Here is a look at one of Brawler’s early entrance videos. This would play to fans in the Arena to give an idea to the vibe of nay character about to wrestle.


Brawler begin this first stage of his career in great hands. His manger was the legendary WWF Manager, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.

Heenan was a major player in several decades of Wrestling so being associated on air with Heenan implied that The Brooklyn Brawler could have been in for one heck of a career. Sadly for us BB fans, this was not really the case.

 

 

According to the plot that led to ol ‘BB being managed by Heenan, the Brawler was something of a patsy. He was only brought in to battle a previous client of Heenan’s, the Red Rooster.

Yes, by the way Red Rooster was essentially a giant man-chicken. I do not mean a coward, I mean an actual man-chicken. I would write ‘chicken-man’ but that implies some level of super heroics, no matter how lame. The reality was far, far worse.

 

Giant Red Cock alert

Brawler was clearly brought in as a low-level player in the World Wrestling Federation. Not just because his character was based on a chump being given a shot, but also because he actually was bested in this feud but the Rooster. Consequently Brawler’s character was doomed from the get go.

It is important to note that Steve Lombardi was not doomed. Far from it. His character was indeed a loser, but the man was not. In the world of wrestling every successful winner only exists because someone else has been hired to lose. Lombardi, like many professionals, was a man doing a job and doing it perfectly well.

The Brooklyn Brawler’s losses actually made Lombardi’s career. Fromthe 1980’s to the present day, WWF has had Brawlerface- and lose- to almost every other WWF/E star ever employed by the company.

It is the equivalent of being a good stunt man in Hollywood. OK, you never get the lead role or the big bucks but you do get to stay employed, make regular appearances on screen and are clearly trusted by your employers.

“Never mind Steve, you’ll win next time”

Despite never having had much of a featured feud on Television again, the character of The Brooklyn Brawler did still have several stand-out moments over the next three decades. One of these was a shocking 14years after the Brawler’s début when the perennial loser actually got a World heavyweight Championships match!

In 1997 the Brawler took part in a Battle Royal to determine who would face then-champion, Shawn Michaels in a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Spurred on by the home field advantage, the Brawler won the battle Royal match and earned his shot for later that night.

A rare shot of the Shawn Michaels title match against The Brawler

Naturally, the Brawler lost but the very fact that BB got there showed the character, even as a loser, still had a place in the hearts of the local fans.

“Brawler! Brawler! Brawler!”

Of course The Brooklyn Brawler character being scuzzy bad guy, this place in the hearts of the fans could never last. By 2004 the New York Yankees lost the 2004 World Series baseball championship to their, the Boston Red Sox. Ever the scumbag, the Brooklyn Brawler gave up his customary Yankees top and re-dubbed himself the Boston Brawler. That vile turncoat!

photo1_large.jpg
Boo this man- unless you like the Red Sox

 

Down but never out, the Brooklyn Brawler had yet another return in him, this time as a piece of plastic. In 2006, the WWE Toy Company responsible for the WWE Classic Superstars chose to make a Brooklyn Brawler action figure!

Plastic Fury!

Based on how many of these unopened figures can be bought on ebay cheaply, The Brooklyn Brawler figure was probably not a best seller. But the fact that Lmbardi’s character got immortalised for essentially being one of the most memorable losers in WWE history is actually a testament to his characters durability.

 

The 2012 TLC PPV took place in Brooklyn came out as a mystery partner to join former World Champion headline Superstars Alberto Del Rio and the Miz take on three low-level joke characters, 3MB. Brawler ended up winning the match for his team via submission with a move called ‘The Boston Crab’, or more accurately on this occasion ‘The Brooklyn Crab’.

BB wins!

 

How’s that for an unexpected twist in The Brooklyn Brawler saga?!?
Interestingly, Steve Lombardi has also appeared as all manner of additional C-List style roles in WWF/E . These have been far less successful the his Brooklyn Brawler persona but are equally memorable to fans of the sillier-side of wrestling. Amongst them are Kim Chee who acted as a Safari-guide for a cannibal, Abe ‘Knuckelball’ Shwartz a dangerous Baseball player and one of many, many Doink The Clowns.

“May the Schwartz be with you”

Lomabardi may never have set the wrestling world alight in any single wrestling persona, but he has always remained present as The Brooklyn Brawler in some capacity since 1984. In addition to longevity, the Brawler has had his share of memorable wrestling moments, become a toy figure and even managed a PPV win 28 years after is début.

Even if the below video shows that The Brawler character hates the English, he’ll always have a place in this Briton’s heart. Hell, I even dressed like him for a Wresting show with my lovely lady.

BB is proof that every dog can indeed have his day- even the mangiest of mutts.

 

Like looking into a mirror- a circus mirror that adds some weight!

 

 

For the next time I have absolutely no idea what I will be writing about. Fortunately that has never stood in my way before.

Thanks for reading,

-MJ