Tag Archives: WWE

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.

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“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 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!

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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

 

 

BLOG YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XI: Toad Be Or Not Toad Be

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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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Back in 1988, wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper did something amazing. Something ground breaking. Something that to this very day, a whole two decades on, has yet to be equalled. No, he did not win a Wrestling world title, but rather he acted in a film- and he was good. Really good. That movie was John Carpenter’s They Live.

I don’t remember him in Transformers…

 

Oh sure, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a charismatic actor of great success, whilst Andre The Giant is certainly lovable in The Princess Bride, and even Hulk Hogan is, um…. present in Mr Nanny. But Roddy Piper is the first wrestler-to-actor to really play a solid part convincingly. In They Live, Piper is understated and believable as a down and out- possibly due to his teenage years living that very life style. Yet he is also swaggering, tough and great at pun-slinging- possibly due to his wrestling career.

So there we are. It’s 1988. Piper has proven to the both world and to the critics alike that he has genuine acting chops. So why didn’t his career take off in movies? Well possibly because of another film released the very same year- Hell Comes To Frogtown.

 

FROM THIS……
….. TO THIS

 

It is a dystopian future (NB: well, aren’t they all? Even the Utopian ones a la Logan’s Run or Metropolis tend to fall apart under scrutiny. Sigh, are we really so doomed?!?!) Anyhoo, it’s a dystopian future. Mutated Amphibians have evolved to form their own society but they despise the remaining humans, the ‘flat lips’ of the world. Humanity’s days seem numbered, not just because of the militant Frogs but also because mankind has been left sterile.

Or has it?

He’s Scot the look

Well no. There remains one man tough enough that no amount of Nuclear radiation could slow him down. This man is Roddy Piper, aka Sam Hell. Now to be fair, Piper’s parents are Scottish, and if anyone is going to be tough enough to shrug off nature, it may well be a Scotsman. Bck to the plot- such as it is- Sam Hell is found to be the last remaining ‘potent’ male. He is captured by the remaining Government, strapped to a bomb and told to seek out kidnapped, fertile woman being held in the dreaded Frogtown. If he can free them, great. If not he is to impregnate them there. And so it begins….

Luckily his Porridge is still all-good, if you know what I mean.

Given that storyline, one has to wonder if this started out as porn version of Escape To NY for Frog-fetishists. But in fact I know the real answer to that and its actually almost as unbelievable. Having sat through the film with Writer and Director commentary I can reveal that Frogtown was written via a stream of consciousness in a few days.

You see the writer, Randall Frakes, was bet by the director, Donald G. Jackson, that Randall wouldn’t be able to write a film in less than a week. Well I guess Frakes sure showed him! Not only did Frakes win the bet, it meant Jackson was left committed to directing it. Sometimes the pen is mightier than the clapper board.

At this stage perhaps you, my dear readers, are expecting me to rag on Hell Comes To Frogtown. It would certainly be easy to do so.

The effects are shocking with the frogs looking about as convincing as someone with some paper machet glued to their head with ‘FROG’ written on it. The lips do sometimes flap but not in synch with the dialogue, so it looks awful.

This Toad looks better than some the extras in costumes

Meanwhile the acting is what you’ may expect from a cast hired to work on a film written for a bet. Piper gives it a fair go, and he’s not actually terrible in this movie. But comparing his ease and subtlety in They Live to his mugging in Frogtown you quickly realise that guiding hand of John Carpenter is very different to the lubed fisting of Donald Jackson.

The other actors actually fare far worse. The lead scientist/sidekick for Sam Hell is played by Sandahl Bergma- or as my mate put it, ”Conan’s bird!”. Sandahl is praised in the commentary for her performance which makes me think she may have slept with the writer and/or the director. In reality she can barely stand still and deliver lines. Oh, and inexplicably former leading man Rory Calhoun crops up as a grizzled prospector. He once worked with Marilyn Monroe, but judging by this flick, his career dies far slower than she did….

 

Lady Gaga makes a cameo

 

But now I’m getting mean, when in truth there is no need for it. My catty comments aside, how can I mock a film called Hell Comes To Frogtown for being a bit rubbish? It stars a wrestler who proclaims he has to “Fuck for America! Fuck for freedom!” and who slices up Frogs with a Samurai sword. Who can expect high art from that?!?

It’s true that this film could actually be a lot more fun if it was better made. Perhaps if a Sam Raimi or Joe Dante had made it, Frogtown could be a genuinely fun experience of anarchic joy. Sadly it’s just a high concept never realised. In fact for the concept alone, if not the execution, it succeeded far more than most completely forgotten action films. And hey, it even led to THREE sequels and a Family Guy episode, Hell Comes to Quahog. So what the (Sam) Hell, it’s got its place in pop culture so let’s leave it be.

 

Now normally I end with the trailer for the film of choice. Not today. Today we’re going for this little number;

 

 

Oh and in closing, for proof that Piper still has it check out his episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. It took a long time, but at least he proved not be a one-hit wonder. Go Roddy!

 

Next time I’ll be writing about something. I don’t know what yet as I have a lot of strange films to pick from. But something. Uh-huh.

 

Thanks for reading.

-MJ