Professional wrestling is an art form predicated on a lot of trial and error, especially in regards to the gimmicks presented. This is especially true of horror themed gimmicks which depending on the execution can either be big draws or sizable flops. Sometimes you’ll get something truly creepy and awe inspiring like The Undertaker or Malakai Black — each a solid mix of talent and theatrical presentation. However, sometimes you’ll get things on the level of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fodder like Mordecai or the Boogeyman.
WWE has been the reigning champion in regards to gimmicks in the realm of the spooky or the supernatural — imbuing many gimmicks with lavish costumes and special effects. These are just a few examples of WWE reaching into its trick or treat bag and coming up with some full-size candy bars. From snake attacks to sinister curses to demonic debuts. these are the 10 spookiest moments in WWE history.
10. Papa Shango curses the Ultimate Warrior
In the early ’90s, mainstream pro wrestling was heavily entrenched in branding itself mostly for younger demographics, which meant some zanier antics. During this period, Charles Wright — who would later bring life to The Godfather — was repackaged as Papa Shango, a voodoo-themed heel complete with skull makeup patterned after the Baron Samedi character from the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die." Shango would often be covered in various voodoo adornments such as skulls, beads and a staff that billowed sinister smoke. Following WrestleMania VIII, Shango was slotted into a television feud with one of WWF’s bigger babyfaces, the colorful and manic Ultimate Warrior. This saw the character reach his peak level of saturday morning cartoon villany by using his voodoo powers against the Warrior.
Shango’s magical chicanery resulted in the warrior violently puking on WWF medics and oozing a bizarre blood-like liquid. For any kids watching at the time, this could’ve been very unsettling — a definite far cry from WWF’s usual programming. While undoubtedly cheesy, especially with the benefit of hindsight, Shango’s supernatural antics still bring with them some nostalgic memories for many wrestling fans.
9. Where to Stephanie?
In late ’98, The Undertaker began a transformation that would define him until the new millennium — that being as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness. In 1999, ‘Taker revamped himself with a darker appearance, complete with a mustache-free goatee, and priest-like attire — fully embracing his demonic tendencies. Eventually, ‘Taker’s occult-themed super villainy reached even the all-powerful McMahon family — specifically Vince’s real-life daughter Stephanie. As bizarre as this may be for many modern fans, there was a time when Steph was presented much differently.
Long before she was WWE’s billion dollar princess, Stephanie was simply presented as Vince’s bright-eyed, innocent daughter. This innocence made her a perfect target for Undertaker who saw fit to kidnap Steph on the night of Backlash 1999. Stephanie entered what she thought was a limo ride with her dad, but it was a ruse. The driver’s window then dropped and revealed a crazed Undertaker, who asked "Where to Stephanie?!" much to her horror. A creepy, definitely meme-worthy moment for sure and one that still echoes in the minds of fans.
8. The Undertaker gets buried alive (the first time)
If you’re Mark Calaway, it must’ve been weird having the act of being buried alive as a consistent part of your job. The Undertaker was no stranger to spooky moments over the course of his career. One such moment came about during his 1996 feud with Mick Foley, who’d recently debuted in the WWF under the name Mankind. A twisted and tormented soul with a penchant for sadomasochism, Mankind turned his in-ring encounters with the Undertaker into brutal affairs. Things escalated when ‘Taker’s longtime manager, Paul Bearer, turned on him, aligning himself with Mankind. The two collided in a truly memorable outing at In Your House: Buried Alive, in a buried alive match.
After a brutal slugfest, ‘Taker got the win by throwing Mankind in the open grave — showering him with a sufficient amount of dirt. However, Bearer and a small army of heels whom ‘Taker had previously vanquished — including Goldust, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and The Executioner — ran out to turn the tables. In mere moments Mankind was fished out of the dirt, leaving ‘Taker to be thrown in and buried alive. Things looked bleak until a thunderclap scared the heels away just before ‘Taker’s purple gloved hand arose from the soil — signaling his monster movie-style survival.
7. The Wyatt Family debut
The early 2010s saw WWE go through a definite shift in terms of presentation and its crop of talent. A big part of this change was "NXT," WWE’s in-house developmental system that was upgraded into a weekly television show. From this crop of young upstarts, plenty of fresh new faces emerged — many of whom going on to become fan favorites. This included the likes of The Shield, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Bray Wyatt. The self proclaimed Eater of Worlds, formally known as the Nexus’ Husky Harris, had been sent back down to developmental for some fine tuning.
Harris would re-emerge as the sinister Bray Wyatt, a mentally warped preacher ripped straight out of the bayou. Following a series of haunting "Blair Witch Project" and Manson family-like vignettes, Wyatt made his main roster debut in 2013. A final vignette saw a hapless WWE correspondent go to the Wyatt family’s backwoods compound where he was greeted by Brodie Lee, AKA Luke Harper. He was ushered to Bray, who then delivered a haunting sermon regarding humanity and morality alongside the sounds of rain and thunder. Following this, Wyatt made his debut with Erick Rowan and Luke Harper at his side — decimating Kane in the process. Many things could’ve been handled differently in regards to Bray’s main roster run, but this debut was an objectively great start.
6. Mankind’s fall through the cell
In 1998, the Undertaker and Mankind were still very much at each other’s throats — often going to absurd lengths to demolish one another. The height of this mutual punishment arrived at that year’s King of the Ring pay-per-view event, with both men stepping inside Hell in a Cell. To summarize this match is almost pointless, as so many historians and analysts have spoken at length about what makes it such a gem. At its core, the match is an unbridled car wreck from which it’s nearly impossible to look away — a true endurance test.
The match started quickly, with Mankind and ‘Taker immediately scaling the chain link cage to the unstable roof above. This resulted in Mankind being dumped off the top of the cage, crashing through the commentary table with a sickening smash. Like a complete madman, Mankind opted to continue the match and chased Undertaker up the cage once again. ‘Taker saw fit to hit Mankind with a chokeslam but, due to the cage’s unstable roof, it sent him falling to the ring canvas below. The next few moments were truly terrifying, with medics rushing the ring as ‘Taker stood unflinchingly still, fully convinced he’d just killed Mick Foley.
Not only is it haunting to see Foley wrestling while he’s knocked silly, the image of a tooth in his nose will forever live in infamy. Many moments in wrestling can get scary or spooky but this one was terrifying for just how real it got.
5. The Fiend’s debut
Bray Wyatt has made a habit out of reinventing himself over the last few years, his most drastic shift arriving in 2019. Following a lengthy break from television, some cryptic hype videos began airing using some of Wyatt’s iconography — smoke, dolls and eerie music. However, what eventually came of it was far from what anyone had expected, that being the Firefly Fun House. In what resembled a Pee Wee’s Playhouse-style setup, Bray — with a cheery new disposition — was now a Mr. Rogers-style children’s television host. This was coupled with an ensemble of lore tinted puppets — including Abby the Witch — a clear Sister Abigail reference — and Mercy the Buzzard, an ode to Wyatt influence Waylon Mercy.
However, all this saccharin and neon-colored madness seemed to be a ploy, with something darker lurking underneath — this was still Bray Wyatt after all. That darker edge came in the form of The Fiend, a Mr. Hyde-style personality that would claw its way out of Wyatt’s fragile mind. Sporting a hideous white mask with sharp teeth, sunken, yellow eyes, and long wispy blonde locks, The Fiend was a sight to see. When Wyatt’s monstrous new form finally arrived on "Raw," attacking Finn Balor in the process, it had everyone talking. The Firefly Fun House segments and the Fiend persona became frequent staples of WWE programming until Wyatt’s release in 2021.
4. Macho Man is attacked by a snake
Certain moments in wrestling leave a mark on people so great that it sticks with them even decades down the line. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were few heels that left quite the impression that Jake the Snake Roberts did. From his hypnotic promo style to his use of the devastating DDT, the man was the definition of silent-but-deadly. This made him the perfect opponent for the bright and boisterous Macho Man Randy Savage, frequently accompanied by the lovely Miss Elizabeth. Their now-legendary feud reached a fever pitch when Roberts upped the ante on a 1991 taping of "WWF Superstars of Wrestling."
This particular episode saw Savage tied up in the ropes, leaving him at the mercy of a sadistic Roberts. Roberts then pulled out a sizable bag and released his very angry pet snake Damien on Macho Man’s meaty shoulder. For several agonizing minutes, made shorter on television, Jake’s trademarked pet sunk its fangs into Savage. This escalated to the point where, per Dark Side of the Ring, Elizabeth was sent out to the ring from backstage to aid Roberts in removing the tenacious reptile. Given the horrified faces of many children in the crowd, this was a touch more intense than WWF’s usual content.
3. The Undertaker sacrifices Stone Cold
The Undertaker saw many different versions and reincarnations during his decades-long run in professional wrestling, especially in the WWE. The Undertaker made one of many forays into horror movie-style shenanigans in the Attitude Era as the leader of the Ministry.
This change began during the build up to Rock Bottom: In Your House, when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was firmly in ‘Taker’s crosshairs. Not only did ‘Taker send Kane to an insane asylum, but he also tried to live up to his namesake and embalm Stone Cold while he was still alive. But the crescendo of these elevated acts of evil arrived on December 7, 1998, when ‘Taker targeted Stone Cold once again. This time however, ‘Taker opted to make an example out of Austin in the most visually macabre way possible. That meant strapping an incapacitated Stone Cold to a life sized version of ‘Taker’s occult symbol and raising him up for all to see.
The late 90s truly saw ‘Taker embrace his persona’s occult edge and this was one of the first major signs of the shift. Shortly thereafter, ‘Taker cemented his darker turn with a new look and a growing legion of followers for his sinister cause.
2. The Firefly Funhouse match
When COVID-19 rocked the world of wrestling in 2020, many wondered just how that year’s WrestleMania would be affected. WrestleMania 36, originally slated for Raymond James Stadium, was subsequently relocated to WWE’s own performance center — the first ‘Mania without a crowd. One side effect of this re-formatting was the addition of two cinematically filmed matchups, one being Undertaker and AJ Styles’ Boneyard match. The second cinematic match, and the one that had everyone talking, was Bray Wyatt and John Cena’s Firefly Fun House match. The "match" saw Wyatt warp Cena inside his fun house for an utterly twisted version of "This Is Your Life."
Using mind games and different bits of his mythology, Wyatt broke down Cena’s mind bit by bit — even going after his real life shortcomings. He’d up the ante by going after Cena’s unflinching place at the top of the card and all the people it’s come at the expense of. All of this was done with loving homages to Cena’s old gimmicks and old school WWF & WCW, all complete with a healthy dose of puppets. The match concluded with a hectic montage of Cena’s greatest failures laid bare before him— losing to Punk, Lesnar, Reigns and Undertaker. Fully broken by this, Cena was subsequently choked out, pinned and erased from existence by The Fiend. It’s WWE doing "A Nightmare on Elm Street" by way of "The Banana Splits" and it was a spectacularly disturbing ride.
1. Kane’s debut
En route to Badd Blood 1997, The Undertaker’s murderous gaze was planted squarely on the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels. However, ‘Taker’s former manager, Paul Bearer, was in the middle of sinister machinations around the same time. Bearer began cutting strange promos, talking at length about the Undertaker’s childhood and revealing some choice secrets. The biggest being a young Undertaker burning down his parents’ funeral home, claiming the life of his younger brother Kane. However, Bearer soon revealed that he’d learned these things from Kane himself, who was very much not dead!
Flash forward to the closing moments of Michaels and ‘Taker in the first Hell in a Cell match — a stellar match in its own right. All of a sudden the lights went out, the arena was bathed in red and a new sinister entrance track heralded the arrival of Kane. Not only did Kane rip the cell’s door off its hinges, he psyched out his horrified brother with what seemed to be pyrokinetic abilities. Kane dropped ‘Taker with his own variation of the tombstone piledriver, leaving a bloodied Michaels to claim the victory. Twenty-five years later and Kane’s debut at Badd Blood is still one of the finest debuts in all of pro wrestling and ranks as the spookiest moment in WWE history.