Halloween is the time of year where many of us get dressed up in our scariest costumes in an attempt to invoke fear and terror among the masses. Well back in the 1980s, Halloween was 365 days a year in pro wrestling and here are ten scary pictures from that era to prove it.
Pro wrestling has changed a lot since the 1980s. Lost are the days of the character, the monster, ugly heels that used to spread terror to territories around the country. Today most of these old school monsters would probably be laughed off of WWE RAW but in the 1980s, kids believed and it was a big deal.
I was one of those kids and I remember spending many afternoons at newsstands thumbing through wrestling magazines in awe of these villains. Some scared me, some made me laugh, but all were fun to look at. Here are ten iconic images of wrestling’s great heels that are some of the scariest from the 1980s.
The Wild Samoans – These two guys struck so much terror into my life that I haven’t turned pro wrestling off in over thirty years. My first wrestling memory was turning on WWF television and seeing these guys cut a promo. I was petrified yet drawn to this circus known as pro wrestling. The Samoans would pose for these strange pictures and do wild things during promos as Captain Lou Albano promoted their madness. The sight of all three was enough to give any kid nightmares for weeks.
George the Animal Steele – It is almost crazy to think that this guy turned into a beloved babyface in the later 1980s. Yet throughout the 1970s and early 80s, George was one of the strangest characters in pro wrestling. His green tongue and appetite for turnbuckles sold out arenas all over the country against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Bruno Sammartino, and the Sheik. His vocabulary consisted of “YOU!” and nothing else. He’d get inside of the ring and maul his opponents in between green turnbuckle snacks. He was strange, creepy, and a bit terrifying at times.
Kevin Sullivan – I will be the first to admit that pictures of Sullivan scared the crap out of me as a kid. Sullivan had a gimmick in Florida Championship Wrestling as a devil-worshipper. I would see these stories and pictures of Sullivan in magazines with quotes that gave me nightmares. There are even some pro wrestlers that worked and knew Sullivan that claim to this day Sullivan really was a devil-worshipper. Think about that for a second. He worked his own colleagues! How great of a character is that? It is no surprise that this character remains one of the most memorable of the early 1980s. Do yourself a favor and search out some of his FCW promos on YouTube. They are as original as you’ll find in pro wrestling.
Bruiser Brody – The traveling wild man took his one-man wrecking crew around the country, brawling all over stadiums, arenas, high school gyms, and even convention centers…yes convention centers. Bruiser cut some of the best “crazy” promotional pictures and interviews in the business during the 80s. Bruiser wasn’t as wild in the ring as his legend would dictate but his promo pictures were downright terrorizing to a young boy like me thumbing through the magazines.
Kamala – Kamala is a funny character in that I found him a bit scary through magazines yet once I saw him on television that kind of subsided. That was until this infamous pro wrestling magazine cover, maybe one of the most creative of all-time. This pre-Photoshop picture has Kamala with Hulk Hogan’s head through a spear. For those that remember this image, it is one of the most iconic of our childhood. As crazy as those jungle promos were in the back of Jerry Jarrett’s yard, this took terror to a whole new level on magazine stands around the world.
Ox Baker – The late Ox Baker will always be remembered for his iconic look of the 70s and 80s. I first came to know Ox through wrestling magazine pictures and he stood out immediately. I think it is a bit of a compliment to call Ox one of the ugliest pro wrestlers of the 1980s. A unique look took Ox around the country for years. Unfortunately by the time I saw Ox in the ring his better days had passed him by and the performance didn’t live up to the hype. Regardless, the man sure knew how to scare a fan into a wrestling arena.
The Missing Link – Link is an interesting character. Link came along in the mid-1980s at a time when pro wrestling started shifting away from this kind of character. I think Link’s gimmick came about four-five years too late to really make an impact. By the time Link made it to the WWE, his gimmick was more comedy than anyone taking him as a serious terror. Regardless, Link scared many kids on his way to New York with terrorizing pictures like this one on magazine stands.
The Great Kabuki – I don’t care who you are, if you saw Kabuki in the early 1980s you were thinking about him long after his matches. The interesting part about Kabuki is that he was scariest on his way to the ring and during introductions. Kabuki would wear these masks that were so cryptic, they were terrifying. He’d take the mask off and he’d be painted up and spit mist but it was that pre-match introduction wear he made his mark…and plenty of magazines that couldn’t get enough of publishing his unique look.
Abdullah the Butcher – Finally, maybe the scariest pro wrestler of the 1980s was Abdullah the Butcher. His look, his style in the ring, his crazy promos (eating pencils and paper) and of course the infamous fork all sparked terror into fans around the world. How scary was Abdullah? I used to hang out in the green room of the Philadelphia Civic Center when the NWA would come to town. All of the guys were pretty cool but Abdullah would stay in character in the locker room whenever he saw fans. He’d walk through the curtain and start to go after fans in the green room. We were all terrified, yet we were all clued in on the deal when it came to pro wrestling. That’s one scary man!
The Original Sheik Ed Farhat – The original Sheik was one of pro wrestling’s original maniacs. The Sheik terrorized territories around the country including setting up his own territory in Detroit, Mi. The Sheik was a lunatic who became almost mythical due to the sadistic photos published monthly in pro wrestling magazines around the world. The Sheik was just as crazy in the ring as he was in pictures, known for using a pencil to bust open wrestlers while dining on their blood. Everyone from Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Dick the Bruiser, Abdullah the Butcher, to Bruno Sammartino felt his wrath at one time or another. Sure he was winding down in the ring during the 1980s but his photos caused many sleepless nights for children all around the world.