Pro wrestling is very weird. So weird, in fact, that for over 20 years, one of the most popular wrestlers in the world was an undead cowboy who once declared himself to be the Lord of Darkness, crucified his opponents on live television, and then got really into Limp Bizkit. And he’s not even the strangest member of his own immediate family.
But while you’d expect a certain level of bizarro from interview segments, backstage promos, and all the other opportunities for wrestlers to establish their character, the weirdness doesn’t stop once the bell rings and the opponents step between the ropes. From ancient ice mummies to dilapidated boats, these are the strangest things that ever happened during a wrestling match.
The Kennel From Hell
The Cell is one of the most fearsome structures in wrestling history, and it’s provided WWE with some of its most memorable moments. No one can forget the 1998 Hell in the Cell match where Mick Foley was thrown from the roof of what Jim Ross called “Satan’s Structure,” and the determination that he showed when he got up to finish the match — and was thrown through the roof in the process. Also unforgettable? The following year’s “Kennel From Hell” match between Al Snow and the Big Boss Man, although most people who saw it probably wished they could erase it from their memory.
The story going into this one was bananas, even by late ’90s wrestling standards. After a couple of otherwise normal encounters, the Boss Man kidnapped Snow’s pet dog, Pepper. After inviting Snow to a casual dinner to discuss the situation (and their upcoming match for the Hardcore Championship), Boss Man revealed that he could no longer return Pepper … as he’d been ground up into the chili that Snow had just eaten. This, for the record, stands as the worst thing Boss Man has ever done, and considering that he’d crash an opponent’s father’s funeral later that year and drag the coffin around behind his car, that’s saying something.
Clearly, this had gone beyond the confines of a regular match, and to settle the score, Snow and Boss Man met in the Kennel From Hell: a ring encased by both the cell and a regular cage, with vicious dogs circling the ring, ready to tear anyone who tried to escape the ring limb from limb. Or at least, that’s what it was supposed to be. In practice, the dogs’ trainers were also present, and the well-trained pups were a little more interested in immediately marking their territory and, in one case, mating with each other than getting vengeance for Pepper.
You may have noticed that we did not include a video for this one. You’re welcome.
The Chamber of Horrors ends with a fake electrocution
Before the Kennel From Hell cemented its place as the weirdest thing to ever happen in a cage match, the strongest contender for that title was 1991’s Chamber of Horrors match. As the opening contest of Halloween Havoc, it set the spooky tone by pitting Sting, the Steiner Brothers, and El Gigante against Abdullah the Butcher, Cactus Jack, the Diamond Studd, and Big Van Vader in a brawl that could only end when one person was strapped to a “Chair of Torture” (that would be lowered from the ceiling) and electrocuted by an enemy pulling a switch mounted on the cage.
To be fair, it was a hell of a spectacle, with wrestlers swinging around chainsaws, masked jobbers busting out of coffins, a gang of zombies emerging from backstage to carry off the victim, and Cactus Jack (better known today as Mick Foley) nearly being crushed when the Chair of Torture came down. Abdullah even does a pretty great job of selling the “electrocution.”
Sure, it’s got a few problems — like the lever clearly falling down with no effect about halfway through the match — but at least it went better than the “Electrified Thunderdome” match they tried with the same cage in 1989, which legitimately caught on fire and had to be put out by the Great Muta spitting “poison mist” at it.
WCW’s fixation on weird monsters wasn’t limited to its annual Halloween event, but it definitely provided them with the opportunity to get pretty goofy with it. Take, for instance, the wrestler who debuted at Halloween Havoc ’95 as the newest recruit of the Dungeon of Doom.
Led by “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan — a behind-the-scenes booker for WCW who made his name in the ring using a devil-worshipping gimmick — the Dungeon was essentially a gang of supervillains organized to take down Hulk Hogan, featuring the most ridiculous characters possible. There was the Giant (who was heavily implied to be Andre the Giant’s son out for revenge for Hogan’s victory at WrestleMania III), the Shark (a man who was also a shark), and Braun the Leprechaun (who, despite his name, stood about 5’10”). And then there was the Yeti.
In the complicated continuity of WCW circa 1995, the Yeti was discovered in the Himalayas by Sullivan’s boss, the Master, frozen in a block of ice that would sit at the top of the entrance ramp for weeks, until it finally melted during a match between Hogan and the Giant, who also fought via monster truck proxies that night. The result: the creature that commentator Tony Schiavone infamously referred to as the Ye-tay, who was actually more of a mummy than anything else. He’d later lose the wrappings (but never gain the fur you’d expect from an abominable snowman), but the Giant and a 7-foot mummy double-bear-hugging Hulk Hogan is still one of wrestling’s weirdest visuals.
David Arquette wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
During the height of the “Monday Night Wars” against WWF, WCW would do anything it could to boost ratings, including recruiting non-wrestling celebrities like Jay Leno, Karl Malone, Master P, and even Dennis Rodman to make special appearances in the ring. That was nothing new, of course, and usually, the celebs would be paired up with wrestlers who could actually work for tag-team matches. That’s how things started for David Arquette, but it’s definitely not how they ended.
In 2000, in order to promote his appearance in the WCW-affiliated slapstick wrestling comedy Ready to Rumble
, Arquette made a few appearances on WCW television, teaming up with Diamond Dallas Page and incurring the wrath of Eric Bischoff and a faction called the New Blood. After a few altercations, he wound up teaming with Page to take on Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett in a match with the truly insane stipulation that whoever got the pin would win the WCW title. And that’s how David Arquette (who was not a wrestler) pinned Eric Bischoff (who was also not a wrestler) in a tag-team match to win the World Heavyweight Championship (which had previously belonged to his own tag-team partner). And then successfully defended it against Tank Abbot (who was a wrestler, although not a very good one).
While it was a pretty terrible idea and wound up turning a lot of viewers off for good — WCW would fold within a year — it’s worth noting that Arquette was a lifelong wrestling fan who, as an on-screen character, spent his 12-day tenure as champion trying to give the belt back to WCW and claiming it was all a mistake. In recent years, he’s had another match in WWE and is frequently seen in the crowd when they swing through L.A. holding his old WCW title belt, a tangible reminder of one of pro wrestling’s most surreal title reigns.
Player Uno gets paused
You could probably fill an entire list of weird wrestling moments that originated in Chikara, the independent promotion that’s equally inspired by lucha libre, Japanese puroresu, and superhero comics. This is a company that’s based years of pro wrestling around time travel, magic mind-control gems, and matches that occasionally devolve into baseball games, so when things in Chikara get weird, they get really weird.
One of the most fun moments, though, came from Player Uno, a retro-gaming themed luchador who wore an NES controller on his tights and occasionally found himself at the mercy of the pause button. Every now and then, an opponent would manage to hit him in the right spot, and Uno would react accordingly, whether it was punching opponents when they hit A and B, or “pausing” in mid-match whenever anyone managed to hit Start.
The best part? While he was paused, Uno would remain completely still even while being attacked by his opponents. It was only once they hit start again to un-pause him that he’d suddenly take all the damage they’d been heaping on him while he was paused. It’s just like fighting the Yellow Devil in Mega Man!
Lance Steel and Darkness Crabtree wrestle the longest match in history
Another great one from Chikara: In 2004, Darkness Crabtree, a masked senior citizen who frequently fell asleep during matches, faced off against Lance Steel, a time-traveling knight who once formed a tag-team with his own future self, in a series of matches with increasingly intense stipulations. First, they met in a two out of three falls competition, then a Falls Count Anywhere match, and a no-disqualification “hardcore” match. Each time, Lance took the win in under a minute, but for their fourth competition, they took each other on in a match that was billed as having no count-outs and no time limit.
As the match began, they locked up and traded a few holds and reversals, staying in contact with each other as they (and the referee) went through the ropes and left the building, only for a shrugging cameraman to return a few minutes later, claiming to have lost track of them. With that, they decided to just go ahead and do the rest of the show.
The next night, however — one full day later — Crabtree and Steel wrestled their way back into the ring at Chikara’s next event, which was taking place 30 miles down the road from the previous night. With no count-outs and no time limit, the match from the previous show was still going on, until Steel finally locked on a Boston Crab and got the win, with an official time of 23 hours, 39 minutes.
The Osirian Portal uses the most illegal technique in the history of wrestling
Combat Zone Wrestling is mostly known for ultra-violent matches like its annual Tournament of Death, but in 2010, it played host to what one commentator called “the most illegal thing I’ve seen in the history of wrestling.”
When the Runaways (Joe Gacy and Ryan Slater) took on the Osirian Portal — a tag team consisting of Ophidian and Amasis best known for their work in, you guessed it, Chikara — in the semifinals of the CZW World Tag Team tournament, they found themselves on the receiving end of a secret technique. Using his snake-like movements, Ophidian hypnotized his opponents. Instead of wrestling, the match quickly devolved into a dance-off, complete with Amasis busting out the cardboard for some sick breakdancing moves.
Sadly, the Portal would lose the tournament in the finals, but the clip of the entire CZW roster being mesmerized into a dance-off quickly went viral, racking up over a million views on YouTube. Furious at being humiliated in front of the entire world, the Runaways would later ambush the Osirian Portal at another event, which ended about like you’d expect, or exactly the same way.
The Road Warriors gouge out Dusty Rhodes' eye
Not every weird moment in pro wrestling history is a goofy fun time for the performers and the audience. Occasionally, it’s brutally violent and genuinely shocking, to the point where someone winds up getting fired. Case in point: the infamous 1988 incident where Dusty Rhodes had his eye “gouged out” by Road Warrior Animal.
The Road Warriors, also known as the Legion of Doom, were a couple of gigantic, face-painted Chicagoans with what could charitably be called interesting ideas of what haircuts should look like, best known for entering the ring wearing football pads decked out with giant spikes. When it came time to turn them into bad guys, Dusty — a behind-the-scenes booker and the NWA’s resident working-class hero — figured the best way to do that would be to have them blind him, an angle that had worked for plenty of wrestlers before.
The only problem was that Turner Broadcasting had forbade blood on television. Despite his popularity and influence, Dusty took the fall for being the one who came up with the violent display and was fired from the company. Needless to say, he returned a few years later after a stint in WWF.
Antonio Inoki shoots on the Great Antonio
In a sport where the outcome is predetermined, one of the weirdest things that can happen is a match suddenly turning into what wrestlers call a shoot: a real fight. One of the most famous happened in Tokyo in 1977, when Antonio Inoki took on the Great Antonio.
Despite sharing a name, the two wrestlers had almost nothing in common. Inoki was an accomplished martial artist who once fought Muhammad Ali to a draw by kicking him repeatedly in the legs and was the progenitor of “Strong Style,” a form of pro wrestling that involves making very real contact within the bounds of a scripted fight. Great Antonio, on the other hand, was a French-Canadian strongman with what wrestling scholar David Shoemaker called “a questionable grasp on reality.”
Shoemaker’s analysis goes into deep detail on the match, but what happened is evident just from watching. After four minutes of Great Antonio no-selling his offense and hitting him with sloppy blows to the neck, Inoki finally snaps, executes a quick takedown, and starts kicking his 450-pound opponent in the head well after he’s visibly knocked out. It’s scary to see, especially knowing it was Antonio’s last match, even though he’d live for another 35 years.
Kenny Omega wrestles a 9-year-old girl to a time-limit draw
At the other end of the Japanese wrestling spectrum, we have Kenny Omega. With a cult following in America, he’s been a top star in Japan for years, leading the villainous Bullet Club faction in NJPW and frequently teaming up with junior heavyweight superstar Kota Ibushi for some truly incredible matches. His most famous feud, however, was with a 9-year-old girl named Haruka.
The two faced off in 2011, with Omega dropping some brutal backbreakers and even threatening to throw his tiny opponent out of the ring. Even though she got some offense, he eventually had her set up for his finishing move … just in time for the bell to ring and signal a time-limit draw.
Despite some reprehensible heel tactics, the match is a favorite even among casual wrestling fans, and Omega not being able to actually score the victory after five solid minutes of bully tactics is a great way to finish the match. It might not be the end of the story, though: In 2015, Omega tweeted that Haruka had been in touch about a rematch, leaving fans clamoring for the sequel.
The Fashion Police go undercover
While they usually try to play things a little more serious — with the exception of that whole zombie cowboy thing we talked about earlier — today’s WWE isn’t completely free of its share of weirdness. For proof, look no further than Backlash 2017. Only a month after an event that featured a “House of Horrors” match, where two wrestlers brawled through a residential home that featured severed doll heads and a ghost tractor, Backlash brought us Breezango vs. the Usos.
In order to get the advantage against their opponents, Tyler Breeze and Fandango — a wrestling model and a wrestling ballroom dancer also known as the Fashion Police — had gone “undercover” in an effort to discover the secrets of their opponents’ hoodies. No, really.
When they finally met in a match for the tag-team championships, Breeze spent the match “disguised” as all the characters he’d gone undercover as, including a janitor who attacked his enemies with a mop and a cane-wielding elderly woman. To make things even strange, Fandango remained in his usual outfit — which, since he normally dresses like a bachelorette party stripper cop, is still pretty weird. Sadly, they lost the match, but they remain the champions of our hearts.
The Final Deletion
If you haven’t seen the Final Deletion, watch it right now. It’s worth it.
It might seem confusing (because it is), but here are the high points. After years of being overshadowed by his brother and tag-team partner Jeff, Matt Hardy became #Broken and was inhabited by a spirit from the future that basically turned him into a supervillain. The brothers confronted each other in increasingly weird vignettes involving fake babies, but it all came to a head in “The Final Deletion,” which was literally a wrestling match in Matt Hardy’s backyard.
There are a lot of reasons that this is amazing, but it mostly comes down to the fact that it’s the most North Carolina brother-fight thing anyone has ever seen, and also a weird sci-fi horror movie at the same time. It’s literally two guys shooting Roman candles at each other and hiding behind a bass boat because one of them messed up the other’s lawn, but also there’s a lake that can literally resurrect the dead. And the best part? It’s an actual official wrestling match with a referee who counts the pinfall. Never, ever doubt that wrestling is an art form, and The Final Deletion is its Sistine Chapel.
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