Like the criminal justice system, our writing staff here at Paste is divided into two separate, yet equally important groups. The smarks (or smart marks), who know all about pro wrestling, and the marks, who know next to nothing. I, for instance, am a mark. Here’s my knowledge of pro-wrestling: I got my doctorate in jack, and my second doctorate in squat. That is why the smarks of Paste have decided to send me, Jason Rhode, pictures of wrestlers and have me make guesses about them: their backstory, their moves, their names.
This entire game is part of a long, cruel franchise which the smarks first inflicted on Paste editor Shane Ryan. They sent him a series of intimidating images, and Shane was forced to comment on them. You can read the deconstruction here, and the sequel here.
Now it is my turn to endure the gauntlet. Asking me about obscure wrestlers is like asking a Stone-Age child what GamerGate is about: what’s a Gate? I can only plead righteous ignorance. While the rest of you were living Gatsby-esque lives of utter pop-culture debauchedness, I was up in fancy-lad tower getting frenched by the greatest hits of medieval history. Although I can now recite to you all 12,000 lines of Chaucer, I cannot, in any sense, talk about Becky with the Good Hair or even what direction the suns of this planet rise in. However, I have a lot of practice at the crying game, and its closely related cousin, the guessing game. Truly, I have been guessing about the intentions of large men for most of my mortal life. It has kept me alive in airports. It has kept me alive in bars. It will keep me alive in whatever future nuked-out wasteland I inhabit, when the Civilization of Normies falls. And now I bring these talents to you.
Jim Vorel, one of our resident wrestling experts, visited me in a dream the other night. As usual, he was riding a pale Illinois stallion with mirth in its neigh and the stars in its eyes.
With a craft beer in one hand, he looked me in the face and said “WILL YE NAME THE WRESTLERS TRUE?”
“Huhahhh?” I said, wittily.
Jim took that as an affirmative, and responded: “I SHALL SEND YOU WRESTLING PICTURES. IF YOU NAME THEM ARIGHT, THE AFFECTIONS OF MEN SHALL BE YOURS. FOR WHAT MAN LOVES NOT RIDDLES?”
“Whuhhh?” I responded.
“BUT IF GUESS WRONG YE DO, A CURSE SHALL FALL UPON YOUR HOUSE. I AM VOREL!” And he rode off into the sky. I found these pics on my “electronic mail” and have struggled mightily to label them correctly. I think if you read carefully, you’ll see that I’ve probably guessed every single one right.
Backstory: This is the person who murdered my family. Man has given him a thousand names, but a terrified “No” shouted to the sky is the only coinage of language which is universal to this creature. A doctor of weeping, this unspeakable blasphemy parades around as the devil’s aping of our greatest hero, The Spider-Man. Those aren’t fanciful costume markings. That’s his actual skin. This is a being who has thin, black veins running in cubic formations up and around his face. All the bloods in his skin have settled on the surface as purple splotches; there are so many now clustered together it looks like the violet cloak. It’s his badge of royalty. As if scaring children into white-haired stupor made you an Emperor. Which I guess it kind of does, in a funny way. Look at the referee, who was either A) already dead by the time the light hit the camera, or B) cannot bear to look this creature in the face. His childhood friends know him by his nickname, “Soul of the Owl and the Wasteland.” Pro-tip: His friends were carnivorous eels he keeps in a jar. Wherever he wrestles, sour milk is given, cats scream in the night with forbidden knowledge. The holy host is broken in suburban churches under King God’s heaven, and all men forswear their mothers and give sour oaths while the sun dies a little more in a sky that seems all the more distant and cold.
Wrestler Name: Known in the Aztec tongue as “Kurzbit,” or in the fallen Ossian tongue as “Hydrospider.”
Finishing Move: “Misery Lust,” where the wrestler in question hugs you close, crushing ribs, and whisper-sings the name of the drifter who will murder you tomorrow. He speaks his hideous words into your eyehole, which is now an ear-channel, somehow.
Actual Identity: I’m afraid the reality is nothing so dire as you’ve imagined, Jason: Don’t you know your friendly neighborhood Arachnaman when you see him? Yes, that’s this fellow’s name: ARACHNAMAN, billed from “Web City, Florida”! He was introduced in 1992 by World Championship Wrestling (WCW), who apparently approached the whole copyright infringement scenario with a “Well, whatever the fuck happens, happens” kind of attitude. Unsurprisingly, after his debut, he quickly disappeared from TV following Marvel Comics threatening legal action. The wrestler who portrayed him, Brad Armstrong, went on to have a fairly long, successful career as a journeyman in the industry.
But speaking of Arachnaman’s debut—you really ought to view it in motion below, because it is a thing of beauty. Take note of WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross on commentary, praising Arachnaman’s “cat-like quickness,” the phrase “arachnoid quickness” apparently being deemed too disconcerting. Also worth watching: This second match, wherein the on-screen graphics manage to misspell his name as “Arachniman.” Amazing. — Jim Vorel
Backstory: I have tried for years, without much success, to float above the Earth. Even at my most sober, I have barely achieved one or two millimeters over the ground. And here’s this guy, who has NO TROUBLE hovering above his follow man, like some kind of super-king. Look at this proud cock-of-the-walk! The idol of trillions! Showing off his ability to command the air. This guy is clearly a flying genius. He apparently didn’t get the memo suggesting that reverse-palette Zardoz costumes were out. But that’s okay, because this man is flying above the Earth and we love him for it, don’t we folks?
This wrestler, who has never lost a match, had tremendous anxiety before departing the barracks: are these straps me? Eventually he thought “No. No. This is me. My years of tying ropes in sailing ships will come in handy, by God.” My guess is, this is a health-conscious gentleman, judging by all the safety belts. I guarantee you that dozens of his fans have tried to master his aerial maneuvers and have failed, with broken bones and divorces to show for it. Additionally, he’s clearly Marvel’s Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, in disguise. To show his power, he seized Steven Seagal’s beard and pasted it on his own face. Which is okay, but to be honest, dude, if I could fly, I would do so much worse.
Wrestler Name: Zardon’t
Finishing Move: Truehorse. You don’t want to know. The Human Rights Commission can only bend so far, and Zardon’t has gotten on their last f_____ nerve.
Actual Identity: Here I am Jason, expecting you to make fun of this hideous-looking man, and instead you launch into a paean about his flying abilities, and references to the 1974 Sean Connery feature Zardoz, whose red mankini is the kind of thing our readers would probably prefer not to see (but click here if it is). In reality, this performer’s name is none other than Bastion Booger. He appeared in the WWF in 1993 with a gimmick that was described as “an unkempt, slovenly and gluttonous man who wrestled in dingy, too-small, gray/beige singlets tailored to give him the appearance of a hunchback.” His actual finisher was called “A Trip to the Batcave” (this is not a joke), and it’s considerably more disturbing than your cop-out joke answer: He just sat on your face until you relented. No, seriously.
Also, his entrance music and walk-out hype video consisted of a voice saying “I’m the booger man!”, accompanied by the sounds of Bastion Booger clearing his sinuses and struggling to breathe. Once again—really. Not a joke. All too real. — Jim Vorel
Backstory: It’s odd of pro wrestling to rub the repo man in the face of their fans, given that so many of us have had to fend off agents of repo in the night with only shotguns and hymns for comfort. This man, the famous Jersey anti-hero “Repo StepDad,” is guaranteed to show up to your Quinceañera or christening with a patented “Nyehh hehh hehh.” Look at this guy. I guaran-goddamn-tee you that whenever he speaks, it’s the kind of trash talk that the Hamburglar would use during an arson jag. I’m talking about real, anime-villain-ass dialogue: “Nyehhhh-hehhh-hhhehhh, they call me a bad seed! Listen to that sweet music! Another dismal ditty to add to my collection. Soon you’ll be screaming a lullaby — to go to sleep — forever! Mwah-heheheh!”
Look, do I come across as jealous? Yes, this wrestler stole my look. I admit it. The Eminem hoodie, the car-mat shoulder pads, all of it. Repo StepDad gets away with so much because he’s hot, whereas I’m reduced to blogging about Flo from Progressive, America’s only clean brand. What is that hook for? Better question: what isn’t that hook for? Look, if this guy lasted one night in the wrestling arena, it’s a vicious miracle. I can’t get over the Beagle Boy mask and the hook. It’s as if he couldn’t choose an accessory so he decided to go for the whole megillah—hoping against hope that America’s Avenged Sevenfold fans would really be into a silent film villain.
If this guy isn’t an ironic-reboot, then he’s probably some Canadian hoping to score fame with the filthy Americans. Good luck.
Wrestler Name: Repo StepDad
Finishing Move: Fiddle rub. It’s the massage his enemies don’t want, but it’s honestly a massage they can’t do without. The TV execs will howl about this on-screen horseplay, but the fans love it.
Actual Identity: Once again, Jason, you’ve managed to get it completely wro … actually, wait. You’re pretty much 100% right on this one. You even got most of the name right! This guy is called The Repo Man. He appeared in 1991 WWF (you will notice a recurring theme that a lot of weird gimmicks and costumes come out of the ‘90s) as a villainous character who would attempt to repossess items from wrestlers, such as cars or even championship belts. Why that required him to sneak around like Snidely Whiplash, wearing a Robin-style domino mask, I have no idea.
Today, Repo Man is remembered largely for being one of the more abrupt changes in a wrestler’s gimmick. Barry Darsow, the guy who portrayed him, had been hugely successful in the WWF from 1987-1991 as “Smash,” one half of the highly decorated tag team Demolition, whose members were portrayed as face-painted, intimidating psychos. Thus, the switch to “Repo Man” was quite the jarring departure for Darsow. He left the WWF a few years later, wrestling in a variety of feds and playing an equally zany character in WCW at one point: “Mr. Hole in One” Barry Darsow, a villainous golfer. — Jim Vorel
Backstory: Oh … Christ. Jack Black finally crossed over with a poisonous tree frog, and this was the result. In nature, you’ll remember, evocative coloring is a warning not to consume a creature. I can only assume this principle works through the medium of broadcasting, since I have never seen this … person before, and I can assume he was never heard from again. I’d wager the stick he’s holding—the one with the clenched fist—is some kind of trophy for upsetting everyone. I honestly don’t know what in the good hell to make of this, and you’re talking to someone who writes for a living. Imagine if every art school grad project was burned in the same ditch outside of Cleveland and Vince McMahon found the ashes and shaped it into a large, smooth son. That’s the only conclusion warranted by the facts. Am I supposed to be intimidated? Sleepy? You could put this image over any soundtrack and it would somehow fit. Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love? Perfect. Paul’s Boutique? Done. Audio of a slaughterhouse? Sounds good! Hitler’s Speeches: 1925-1993? Definitely works. A Celebration of Me, Grover works. Yep, what a concept.
Wrestler Name: Pagan Mom Van
Finishing Move: Chocula’s Purge. When you’re ready, watch this patented pile driver—which takes eighteen hours to perform, naked—and know agony that you just can’t accessorize away.
Actual Identity: You’re right to be afraid, Jason, because god only knows what was going through the mind of Dustin Runnels during the period in 2007 when he portrayed this character, Black Reign. Runnels is considerably better known to wrestling fans as Goldust, a character whose strange appearance, ambiguous sexuality and “mind game” strategies worked much, much better in the WWE. However, after leaving the company and signing with competitor TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling in 2007, he instead revealed this monstrosity, a so-called “split personality” that Runnels claimed had been lurking in him since he was young.
Unfortunately, this was a low point in Runnels life, in addition to his career. Badly out of shape, overweight (compared to his time as Goldust) and hooked on cocaine, booze and prescription medication, he was a shell of his former self. Thankfully, this story actually does have a happier conclusion, as Runnels (the son of Dusty Rhodes, if you know who that is) was able to get clean, return to the WWE and get himself in great shape for a career renaissance that is still ongoing. Today, at age 48, he’s still a remarkably skilled in-ring performer and character. Just don’t mention Black Reign to him, as he apparently doesn’t care for that one bit. Hard to blame him. — Jim Vorel
Backstory: Y’know what? Forget everything I said before. This guy seems like he’d be cool to hang out with. I dig his entire Kraven-the-Hunter meets Darth Maul meets Middle Manager. He’s trying to be helpful. At first, I thought he was holding up a tambourine, but I see now that it’s a helpful alarm clock. Guys, this is what the White Rabbit looks like once you grow up. You see him in his seasonable, grown-up incarnation: bare-chested, furry, with a metal claw and a sensible belt below. Like PCP in a Hummer, there’s something that just fits this guy. I have nothing but warm feelings towards this wrestler.
I know this character never hit it big—otherwise, why would I be sent this picture—but I fully believe this dude is having a fulfilling career under a different name. I have to believe it. He’s so gimmicky that he makes me smile. Say what you will about Furry Darth Maul and his Clock, but he’s flexible. He could be the bad guy in the next Air Bud movie, or professor of pharmacology at Trump University. In Disney TV shows, sometimes the lead character has nightmares about a test or whatever. During these nightmares, which always have terrible production values, the adult characters in the show appear in fantastical, villainous outfits: the character’s parents are robots, the teacher is dressed up like a pirate, etc. This guy looks like your Scoutmaster if he was down to party and set fire to some couches. Be honest: how many of you, after seeing this guy’s picture, automatically heard the voice of Doctor Rockso, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Clown who does cocaine? I sure as hell did.
Wrestler Name: TeachMee
Finishing Move: Rigged Loins. A tremendous spinning punch where the other wrestler wakes up with a country-fair hangover. TeachMee once used a hook, but stopped doing so after a polite request from Repo StepDad.
Actual Identity: It’s interesting that Arachnaman struck mortal fear into your loins, Jason, when this guy, who was meant to do exactly that, instead gives you the warm-n-fuzzies. This is why anonymous wrestler focus testing is so important, clearly.
This guy is called The Boogeyman. He had a moderately distinguished career in the WWE from 2005-2009, playing a character who was just sort of “weird and scary” in a general, amorphous way. I’m not sure that any true backstory was ever given for his whole deal, except that he was fond of saying: “I’m The Boogeyman and I’m comin’ to get’cha!” Also, he ate worms. And made other people eat worms. Why he carried and alarm clock, I have no idea—it seems like a boogeyman would want you to be asleep, rather than awake. Regardless, he’s continued working matches on the independent circuit to this day, because a kooky WWE gimmick is the gift that keeps on giving until your knees or back STOP giving. — Jim Vorel