2022 was a huge year for horror films, with the return of big name franchises like Scream, Halloween Ends, and Hellraiser, plus surprise hits that were on no one’s radar such as Barbarian and Smile. It was also a big year for wrestling. WWE took a creative upturn with the retirement of Vince McMahon, and their competition, AEW, continued to impress with their matches and storylines.
If you’re a fan of both horror and wrestling, it was a great year of entertainment. Chances are, if you do like one, you also like the other. The fandom between horror movies and professional wrestling has a very interesting crossover, one that on the surface might quite not be understood, but if you look a little deeper, the similarities are obvious.
Horror And Wrestling Fans Show Their Passionate Support In Similar Ways
You can see the parallels between wrestling and horror simply in the appearance of their fans. It may be a stereotype to label fans of both the same way, but there is some truth behind the label. Many fans of both wrestling and horror like to wear their fandom. You’ll often see their fans wearing T-shirts of their favorite slasher or wrestler, most of the time in black. (You’re unlikely to see many classic film buffs walking around in a Citizen Kane shirt.) Not only do they like to wear their fandom, literally on their sleeve, but they’ll buy anything to do with it. Action figures, masks, replica belts, and other collectible memorabilia are all huge sellers.
Fans of both flock to conventions. Horror and wrestling conventions, where stars of past and present show up to meet their fans, are big business. Wrestlers even show up at horror movie conventions. That has helped to solidify a deep sense of community. Those fans will dress up as their favorite wrestlers or horror characters, take pictures with each other, and talk with each other about their passion.
Fans of both wrestling and horror are also known to be very opinionated. Ask a wrestling fan if they prefer AEW or WWE, who should win The Royal Rumble, or who should carry a certain championship, and they are going to have a strong and passionate opinion. You’re not going to get many wrestling fans who say they are simply happy to watch the product and don’t really care what happens. The same goes for horror, especially when it comes to established franchises. You either loved Halloween Ends or hated it for being so different. You either loved or hated that a woman was cast as Pinhead in the latest Hellraiser. You’re either accepting or angry that Neve Campbell didn’t return for Scream 6.
Both Wrestling and Horror Are Looked Down On By the Mainstream
Where does that strong passion come from, one so deep that it causes a crossover between the two forms? Quite frankly, both are looked down upon by the mainstream. Horror might make big money, but the genre is not winning any Oscars, unfortunately. Wrestling might be able to sell out stadiums and draw in millions of viewers every week, but it still gets teased for being “fake.” Both horror and wrestling fans are made to feel like outsiders. That’s part of where that deep passion comes. It makes fans feel protective, but also more of a collective, with outsiders uniting to become one.
Wrestling great CM Punk spoke about this with Digital Spy last year while promoting his role in Jakob’s Wife, a horror film. “Horror movie fans and wrestling fans really are so passionate that they hold what they love near and dear to their heart and they almost want to protect it… I think the majority of people will view horror and wrestling as a lower brow entertainment, which, when it is done to the best of its ability, neither are. I think that keeps those fans on the defensive, you know they’re used to having to defend what they love because other people will constantly remind them of, ‘Oh, that’s fake,’ or ‘Oh, that’s just a bunch of blood and boobs’ or whatever.”
In many ways, wrestling and horror are one, not just in their fandom, but in their presentation. They are two very similar types of entertainment. Both move past the bounds of the norm into a hyper-reality. Characters can be over-the-top. There is violence which can seem gratuitous, but which is all staged to make appear as real. There are also various subgenres to both. Whatever you’re into, you’ll find it. Horror has slashers, paranormal films, monster movies, and ones like Terrifier 2 where the gore level becomes almost art. Wrestling has big men who look like monsters along with high-flyers. There are hardcore matches and bloody death matches. Both genres aim to make their fans gasp in awe and admiration while they lean forward on the edge of their seats.
Scary Characters Are Found In Wrestling and Wrestlers Act In Horror Movies
The fandom and the similarities between horror films and wrestling are so close that they have crossed over into each other. In wrestling, horror elements have been used to success many times over the decades. The Undertaker is one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time by portraying an undead mortician. He carried an urn to the ring and in his early days would put his defeated opponents in a body bag. A popular storyline in the 1990s introduced a character named Kane, a burned man in a mask who was the brother of The Undertaker. Most notable now is Bray Wyatt, a man with split personalities who for a few years would turn into The Fiend, a scary creation that wore a monstrous mask designed by horror special effects great Tom Savini.
These wrestlers leaned into the horror aspects of their character not just through their look, but through the use of light and shadows, and smoke and mirrors that fleshed them out in their entrance and backstage segments. It might seem ridiculous to some, and while wrestling fans know that the Undertaker is a father named Mark Calaway, Kane is a Tennessee mayor named Glenn Jacobs, and Bray Wyatt is a third generation wrestler named Mike Rotunda, it’s not looked on as a joke. We don’t laugh at the theatrics, because wrestling and horror blend together so well.
This is not just seen through horror’s presentation on wrestling shows. It goes the other way too, with wrestlers becoming actors in horror films. CM Punk is an example of this. Besides Jakob’s Wife, he was the lead in the underrated supernatural horror film, Girl on the Third Floor. In 2006, Kane starred in the WWE Studio film, See No Evil. Wrestling legend Chris Jericho recently had a cameo in Terrifier 2. And who could forget Roddy Piper’s star-making role in John Carpenter’s They Live?
The crossover between horror and wrestling fandoms isn’t going away. If anything, it’s becoming more ingrained. The only hope is that it will be accepted by the mainstream. We seem to be on that track. Horror films are not just box office hits, but critically acclaimed. Wrestlers aren’t reduced to being thought of as dumb meatheads, with John Cena and Dave Bautista showing how great they are at acting, and The Rock as the biggest star on the planet. Still, no matter if the world at large comes to respect them, horror and wrestling fans will still come together to laugh and scream and jump out of their seats. They have each other, that’s all that matters.