With more mutually exclusive Batman properties in the pop culture zeitgeist than ever - from live-action films to animated projects to comic book series - there are seemingly no limits to where the DC vigilante can go in the future. As Matt Reeves’ The Batman set to take over the box office, there's arguably no better time to whip up a cocktail of Joker and Scarecrow toxins and let one's imagination wander. In this case, we're climbing through the ropes of a wrestling ring to spend some quality time thinking about classic WWE and WCW icons that would have been perfectly fitting Batman villains.
Considering just how wide and far-flung the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery is after 80 years, something Matt Reeves is fully aware of, I think everyone will agree there are quite a few pro wrestling superstars who would make superb criminal masterminds within Gotham City, even if they weren’t necessarily villainous during their runs in the WWE and WCW (and beyond). Let’s start off with someone whose darkness could very well rival that of the Caped Crusader.
To be clear, I’m definitely talking about the Deadman character’s earliest years here, when the whole “urn gives him his powers” gimmick was going strong, and Paul Bearer was at his Paul Bearer-est. I always enjoy when Batman faces off against supernatural beings, especially ones whose backstories are also haunted by their parents’ deaths. (Which may have been The Undertaker’s fault in his case, but still.) And while it’s not my main reason for including the Phenom on here, I’d be interested to see what happens if that urn was placed into one of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits.
Al Snow and Head
With his oddball persona and mannequin head gimmick, Al Snow is basically one Gotham City bank heist away from becoming a B-tier Batman villain. Whenever the Ventriloquist and Scarface are out of town on business (clearly a metaphor for “serving time in Arkham”), that’s when Al Snow and Head get called up from the bullpen. Of course, they’d definitely make more sense and be more at home in the 1960s TV series or in Fox’s Gotham than Matthew Reeves’ film universe.
Dustin Rhodes tapped into one of the all-time strangest pro wrestling personas with...[inhales breath through pursed lips]...Goldusssst. His color-forward costuming and sexual sadism, mixed with everything else crawling inside his bag of tricks, would make Goldust a great baddie whose crimes might be a bit too adult for Bruce Wayne’s youngest wards to help tackle. Plus, there’s already some loose connective canon in this case, since the athlete’s half-brother Cody Rhodes (as Stardust) had a short-term feud going with Arrow star Stephen Amell regarding the latter’s CW superhero. The path has been laid out, people!
The Great Muta
A wrestling legend across the entire planet, Keiji Muto is arguably best known (especially here in the U.S.) for his Great Muta character. The wrestler pulled off moves in his early career that no one had seen before — though many have since copied — and he utilized unsettling facepaint, abstract mysticism and his dreaded Green and Red Mists to strike fear and confusion in his opponents (and fans). Plus, his matches were bloody enough to inspire an unofficial scale of measurement to quantify such splatterdom. I feel like anyone jotting those qualities down onto an application to be the Dark Knight’s next nemesis would get hired on the spot.
Bam Bam Bigelow (With Luna Vachon)
To say nothing of their stellar talents and athleticism in the ring, Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon made it onto this list largely because their looks and attitudes exude pure badassery, and they would look outstanding in comic book form with the right artist. Who needs mystical powers or an imaginative arsenal of weaponry when you have a flame tattoo across your big bald head, and shit-talking skills that are just as fiery? Bam Bam and Luna would beat the shit out of Sal Maroni and take his piece of the underworld kingdom, easy-peasy Robin-squeezy.
Inarguably one of the greatest managers and hypemen within any industry, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart always boasted a scene-stealing personality, and the verbal skills to justify using something as innocuous as a megaphone as his personal prop. Hart probably wouldn’t be a major crime figure in Gotham City, to be sure, so much as a loud-mouthed nuisance with his fingers in all kinds of activities legal and otherwise, and one that would take pride and glee in getting under Batman’s kevlar-protected skin.
As interesting as it would be to have Cactus Jack or Dude Love mixing it up with the Dynamic Duo, Mankind is the the Mick Foley persona most apropos for Batman’s world. For one, he looks like the kind of lunatic that they would have built Arkham Asylum around, and for another, Mankind comes equipped with his own sidekick: Socko! I think the best part of picturing Mankind in Gotham City is knowing that his brawls with Bruce would be the most epic fights in DC history, and would probably involve the biggest cages anyone has ever conceived.
Curt Henning’s know-it-all wrestler was best known for two things: his game-changing technical work in the ring, and his endless braggadociousness on the mic. Who better to try and thwart the Caped Crusader’s efforts than someone whose entire persona was built around thinking a few steps ahead? I also think that the Batman in this reality would be unwittingly bothered by all Mr. Perfect’s head of curls unconsciously reminding him of Superman’s trademark forehead curl, and that Henning would have known that would happen.
George The Animal Steele
As possibly the oldest wrestler on the list, George “The Animal” Steele has one of the simplest gimmicks here, in that he’s pretty much just a wild and crazy guy on a slightly different scale from Steve Martin. Yet that approach was no less effective than others’, and the Animal’s reign of terror in Gotham City would probably be likened to that of Solomon Grundy, where there’s the potential for something non-villainous to happen amidst all the chaos, but definitely lots of chaos.
Upon their pro wrestling formation in the late 1980s, Demolition’s members Ax and Smash were a freaky amalgam of KISS makeup, Hellraiser-friendly leather attire, and violence-embracing personalities akin to those of slasher movie baddies. All those inspirations added up in a most menacing way, and Demolition often brutalized their opponents with ease. I have a feeling they would give the Joker a run for his funny money, even if they’re not quite as good with groan-worthy puns.
Koko B. Ware
Okay, I’ll be honest with everyone here… The reason Koko B. Ware is on this list is because it would be the smoothest shit possible for a Batman villain to always have a colorful macaw on his arm. He could be an absolute embarrassment as an actual criminal, but that macaw would convince everyone otherwise. I bet even Bruce Wayne would be jealous of someone thinking to use the word “beware” within their alter ego’s name.
James Tynion IV, Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt’s comic DC vs. Vampires is currently pitting the Dark Knight in a plot involving actual bloodsuckers, so there can’t possibly be a more fitting time to envision a storyline in which Batman stumbles across a vampy character originally inspired by a role-playing game. I don’t feel like Gangrel would be a very heavy challenge for the vigilante, don’t get me wrong, even if the rest of the Brood was around to pitch in their efforts. But it always fun to see Bruce Wayne deal with such dilemmas as “does eliminating the undead go against my no-kill code?”
Andre The Giant
Arguably the most physically imposing pro wrestler in history, Andre the Giant is quite possibly too much of a sweetheart to truly consider as a Batman villain. But because he’s that big, it’s hard not to think about him furiously attempting to break the Dark Knight’s bones, a la Bane. This would probably be one of those situations where Andre the Giant thinks Batman is responsible for something that some other criminal did, and after everything is explained in full, the wrestler and vigilante are cool with each other and, like, hang out on the weekends and stuff while Alfred brings them ice-cold brewskies.
Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake
Consider this scenario: Bruce Wayne finds that a nice and approachable new barber has moved to Gotham City, and quickly befriends the man, only to later discover he’s going out after dark and stealing the hair of Gotham City’s citizens in order to clone them or some shit! Fine, I really just want to see a giant pair of scissors on display in the Batcave, similar to the Penny Plunderer’s oversized coin. This is not a shameful admission.
The Dungeon Of Doom
For a spell, Edward Leslie dropped his Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake persona to join the WCW, where he was known for a short span as The Zodiac, one such bizarrely conceived member of the Dungeon of Doom. Of any pro wrestling stable, the sprawling number of weirdos that made up the Dungeon of Doom felt the most like a comic book clan. And yes, one big reason is having a shark-themed member blatantly named The Shark. With the Cobblepot-esque Kevin Sullivan as its Taskmaster, the group featured such baffling alum as the moon-bellied Kamala, the Bane-adjacent Big Van Vader, the Riddler-lite Hugh Morrus, the Giant (before he became Big Show), the schizophrenic One Man Gang, and a mummy-like behemoth dubbed The Yeti. Not to mention a few others already mentioned on this list, including Gangrel, Jimmy Hart, and Luna Vachon. Sounds like prime crossover potential to me!
Randy "Macho Man" Savage
In the annals of entertainers known for punishing vocal work, Christian Bale is certainly present for his Dark Knight trilogy Batman’s much-parodied gruffness. Somewhere in that same area is the “Macho Man,” Randy Savage, a performer whose legacy extends far beyond his gifted athleticism and work in the wrestling ring. The name Macho Man doesn’t bring to mind perfect suplexes and aerial agility. It brings to mind those mega-sunglasses, his day-glo jackets and frills, the hats, his grating voice, and his incomparable peak-amphetamine energy. And as amazing as it would be to watch Macho Man and Batman duking it out, I think we all know the best thing about this idea would be the WWE superstar delivering big comic book villain speeches, presumably after taking over all the TV signals in Gotham City from his secret lair inside the abandoned Slim Jim factory.
While my imagined version of Gotham City’s Mr. Perfect is the kind of brainiac always looking to pull off a spotless crime, my idea of DC’s Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is more like a Lex Luthor figure who is always looking to pull off at least a dozen perfect crimes, all at once, across various dimensions and timelines. But also someone whose pride comes before everything else, with an ongoing mission to truly stump and stamp out the World’s Greatest Detective. Like, you’d be 15 issues into a comic series thinking that The Joker was responsible for pulling off the crime of the century, and then boom, #16 comes out and of course it was Bobby Heenan pulling the strings all along. And he deserves at least half of the issue to flawlessly talk his plans out while expertly trolling Batman in the process.
We all know Kevin Nash rules, both for his wrestling career and for playing Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. But for a short while in 1991, he was granted what has since been widely considered to be one of the worst gimmicks of all time, and one whose existence is based on Turner Broadcasting purchasing the rights to MGM’s film library, including The Wizard of Oz. We don’t really need to lay out all the issues with Nash’s heavily hyped Oz, who was inexplicably named after the location and not an actual character, but I think the capitalistic origin story, the theatrical makeup and costuming, and the fairy tale nature of it all would feel far, far more at home within a Batman tale than it did within WCW lore.
This list has obviously featured a number of wrestlers serving as analogous surrogates for Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, and I think the most apt parallel for Sting would be Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. If things go one way, he’s just a spiky-haired surfer badass who loves rocking colorful makeup and scorpion-adorned pants. But if things go the other way, he’s a brooding, bat-wielding, Crow-esque spectre waiting for just the right moment to spring from the shadows and attack. And in case it wasn’t clear, I’m fully into the idea of half his body being Surfer Sting and the other half being a trenchcoat-wearing goth. And it’s perfectly in line with Batman’s foes for the nWo’s Sting decoys to be part of the fun as well.
Ric Flair (With Charlotte Flair)
As if there could be any form of discussion about wrestling and villains without Ric Flair’s name taking over. I’ve always felt like Flair is essentially a version of The Joker whose body metabolized everything as if it was cocaine, in that he enjoys making other people look lesser than just as much as he enjoys actually hurting them. And if the Nature Boy Prince of Crime wasn’t enough, he would also be accompanied by his daughter Charlotte Flair, who would be like a straight-laced Harley Quinn (and without any weird sexual energy), with his son David also out there. And when the shit really needs to hit the fan, Flair can bring out his own villain supergroup in the Four Horsemen and its rotating list of members.
Perhaps one day, when licensing rights aren’t held so preciously, we’ll be able to see Batman and Mankind squaring off in Arkham’s common room on the big screen. Okay, that will never actually happen, and it probably wouldn’t be that great if it did, but at least no one in Hollywood can limit our imaginations, right?
Non-WWE veteran Robert Pattinson will push the envelope of heroism when The Batman hits theaters on March 4, 2022. While waiting to watch the three-hour quasi-epic, check out how we’ve ranked all the previous live-action films, and peep out our 2022 movie premiere schedule to see what else will be soaring to screens big and small in the coming months.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.