THE WWE AND HORROR-PART 2
Another potential figure to take over as the figurehead of fright in the WWE could come from the Women’s Division in the rising star of Ember Moon. One of the most popular and talented female superstars within WWE’s NXT brand, Moon’s gimmick and character accessories- most notably, her colorful contact lenses and unique physicality- has teased a supernatural origin since her arrival with the company. Teasing a werewolf-esque transformation in her body language and personality upon entering the ring, Moon has posited herself as a stand-out among the many self-branding female superstars in the WWE, so much so that many are supposing Moon is set to dethrone the legendary Asuka, the record-breaking top woman pro wrestler in NXT. While her time in NXT may be far from over, especially if she takes Asuka’s place as NXT Women’s Champion, the prospect of Moon being able to become a horror-centric leader in the women’s division is extremely exciting and potentially groundbreaking, if utilized correctly.
However, the most likely figure to herald horror into the “New Era” on WWE is a superstar that has already made an incredible impression upon the profession in 2017: Aleister Black (a/k/a Thomas Budgen). Having made a name for himself in independent promotions as Tommy End, Black debuted earlier this year at NXT Takeover: Orlando, and in his first match, cemented himself as not only an astounding in-ring technician- whose devastating kicks hit almost as hard to the audience as they do to their opponents- but also as a legitimately unsettling and horror-inspired presence. Adorned with incredibly detailed and creepy tattoos, the most notable of which is a giant demon woman’s face on his back, Black’s black metal-inspired entrance (kicking off with a Nosferatu-esque platform rise) and “left-hand path” links to paganism (and, to an extent, satanism, although WWE’s PG standards may never truly point towards that) left fans impressed from the get-go. Brimming with charisma and theatrics while still offering incredible athleticism as a believable threat, there has yet to be a figure within professional wrestling that has harkened so strongly to the early days of The Undertaker as effectively as Black, who looks to have a long, accolade-heavy career ahead of him.
Admittedly, this analysis may be a bit presumptuous; after all, The Undertaker’s retirement has yet to be officially confirmed by the company, and even if he puts a stop to his in-ring competition, The Undertaker could certainly live on in the WWE. After all, one of the character’s most beloved- and horror-heavy- storylines was as the leader of the “Ministry of Darkness” during the Attitude era, during which time The Undertaker had a rogue’s gallery of supporting stable members to throw at his rivals while partaking in some seriously unnerving promos, including human sacrifices, crucifixions, home invasions, and ruthless assaults. Even outside of the ring, Calaway’s presence and dedication to character would be appreciated by the audience at large, and would help herald the crowning of his eventual in-ring replacement.
However, with the WWE largely souring on factions as of late, as well as gimmicks in general for their performers, there’s always the chance that the company may distanced themselves even further from the horror genre. Of course, the company’s efforts to centralize a PG audience as their target demographic has certainly hobbled how far a “horror” character can go in the company, even if they’re routinely some of the more popular gimmicks around.
But at the end of the day, WWE’s commitment to telling in-ring stories can often be boiled down to “Good vs. Evil,” and while the company will always have their “Good,” building a decent “Evil” that doesn’t feel outdated and offensive can be difficult. When the cards are on the table, there’s no better utility for evil than horror, and even though The Undertaker may be finally “resting in peace,” there’s no denying that the company is not yet ready to bury their monsters for good.