Throughout the decades, there have been many nods to Batman from inside the squared circle. Some are subtle, some are not so subtle, and some are just straight-up rip-offs. In fact, we begin with the latter.
7 Undeniable Times Batman Inspired Professional Wrestling
There are an awful lot of comparisons to be made between superheroes and wrestling. Both feature larger than life heroes and villains, normally in lycra, battling in an all-out war of good versus evil. Even Superman’s trunks over the leggings look were inspired by the old-timey circus strong man, inspiration from the carnivals and fairs where wrestling also shares its "secret origins."
One comic book icon may have inspired sports entertainment more than the rest, and that hero is Batman.
"Hmmm. A masterpiece of duplication, except for one tiny slip up…"
1. The Battman
Tony Marino started wrestling for the WWWF in 1963. At only 5’9″, he pretty much spent his first three years doing jobs (losing) for bigger grapplers, but that all changed in 1966 with the release of the Adam West starring Batman TV show. It was a television hit, and Marino knew exactly what to do next.
Like a young Bruce Wayne being startled by the winged creature that flew through his library window, Tony decided he shall become a bat. Or, more specifically, a batt.
Marino dedicated the next ten years of his life to traveling worldwide, honing his crime-fighting abilities, learning from the greatest martial artists and detectives. If you believe a single word of this sentence, you are the best kind of mark.
What he actually did was get himself a costume designed by famous wrestle wear tailors Karl & Hildegarde. He added an extra T to the name to avoid any pesky legal issues, and voila! The Battman was born, and by gawd was he over!
Wrestling exclusively in the Pittsburgh area, run by the legendary Bruno Sammartino, Battman even found himself tagging a few times with the then-current world champ!
Every Battman needs a Robin (or a Robinn), and John Foti portrayed Marino’s. However, this may have only been for photo opportunities as there is no evidence of the two actually tagging together.
Sadly, the real Batman show was canceled after three seasons, and by 1970, the Gotham gimmick also ran its course. Marino was back to playing the role of enhancement talent (losing to bigger names on the card) and left the WWWF in 1972.
But as we all know, Battman is forever, and Marino would continue appearing as the character throughout the years at various events, his last being the KSWA Fanfest in 2011. As of this writing, he resides in Florida at the grand old age of 89.
"Your entrance was good. His was better!"
– The Riddler
2. Undertaker Entrance at Survivor Series 1996
Whether it’s stealthily emerging from the shadows or menacingly smashing through a skylight, The Dark Knight sure knows how to make his presence known, which makes him a perfect source for wrestlers to draw entrance inspiration from.
After returning to face Mankind at the 1996 Survivor Series, Undertaker descended from the heavens adorned with Batman wings.
Now, one could make the argument that these were just bat wings, or demon wings, or malnourished pigeon wings, but the parallels between that and Batman’s entrance in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie are probably too similar to be a coincidence.
A spectacular image for sure, but one The Undertaker didn’t remember too fondly.
"There are a few things I did that I wish I hadn’t done," Undertaker admits during an interview on After the Bell with Corey Graves. "I don’t remember what year it was. It was in the Garden. I was working with Mankind. I came in from the ceiling with the bat wings. I regretted that one after the fact."
Taker continued, "It was a little too hokey for where I wanted that character to be. It was my idea. I have to take full responsibility for that. It didn’t work. For the most part, there is not a whole lot. Everything seemed to have a pretty good idea of where that character should be most of the time, minus the giant bat."
3. Rey Mysterio Pays Homage to Batman
Unsurprisingly, the king of cosplay himself, Rey Mysterio, has also donned entrance mantles inspired by the funny books multiple times, which you can read about here!
He donned the famous Batman cowl and cape at least once for his SummerSlam entrance in 2012, and possibly again in 2015, although this may be a tribute to Michael Keaton’s other masked mad man, Birdman, which was released the year before.
However, it’s the Caped Crusader’s arch-nemesis, The Joker, that Rey prefers mimicking.
He spoke about his WrestleMania 25 Heath Ledger tribute to Noelle Foley for Ringside Collectables.
"I would have to say, throughout the several that I’ve busted out at WrestleMania, the Joker outfit was probably one of my faves. Most definitely. I think it was because it was the first heel character I busted out, so I think fans really loved it, and I kind of got attached to it."
It was a look he liked so much he did it again for Survivor Series 2019, albeit this time it was centered around Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the laughing man.
"I believe what doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger."
– The Joker
Seeing as we’re on the subject of ascending from the rafters and The Joker, it may be time to segue into….
4. Joker Sting
Of course, the man called Sting isn’t a stranger to comic book inspiration, owing to The Crow for his highly successful reinvention in the second half of the ’90s.
It was time for another shakeup in 2011, where Stinger debuted his ode to the Clown Prince Of Crime.
Whilst sharing old TNA stories with Jeff Jarrett and AJ Styles over dinner on the WWE Network’s Table For Three, Sting commented on how that period was probably his favorite with the company.
"To me, the most fun, incredible part of TNA was changing my character yet again and doing The Joker. Every time I changed, my character was a risk, and this one was a huge risk. Here in the United States, people either liked it or hated it. But boy, in England, in London, they loved it. I’ll never forget at Wembley, all these people dressed up as The Joker; that’s all they wanted. To this day, when I go there, I hear, ‘Awww, we thought you were gonna be Joker!’"
Sting continued, "I had a lot of fun doing that. I wish we had a better budget and more cameras because a lot of the good stuff I did during that period, we didn’t catch it. You know you had one camera on everybody and all these characters, and you just couldn’t get everybody’s reactions. Some of the best stuff was not even seen, in my opinion."
"No one cared who I was until I put on the mask."
5. Dean Ambrose
Before we crack on with the current product, we must give an honorable mention to gas mask Dean Ambrose.
Pre-emptive of his final run with the WWE, Ambrose turned heel on Seth Rollins. He was doing a germaphobe gimmick during this time, something he would later refer to as “bad comedy” — something that eventually led to his departure from WWE.
In December 2018, Ambrose gave us the most noteworthy promo of this character arc during an episode of Raw, wearing a gas mask over his face and a brown sheepskin jacket. WWE fans actually got quite invested, taking to social media to discuss what was clearly homage to the Dark Knight Rises’ big bad Bane, but sadly nothing really came out of it. Ambrose would leave a few months later, and Jon Moxley was reborn in AEW.
6. Alexa Bliss
Another superstar who got incredibly over borrowing a guise from Gotham’s Rogue Gallery is Alexa Bliss.
Like Rey Mysterio, Bliss was no stranger to dressing up, but it was her Harley Quinn look that debuted back in 2016 that really had a connection with the fans and became her default attire.
Alexa spoke with Yahoo Sports about her love of wrestle gear dress-up.
"I’m such a villain fan. I love comics. I love anything Disney – everyone knows that about me. I’m a big Disney fan – anything that’s fictional, I’m a huge fan of. It all started with Iron Man in NXT. [Buddy] Murphy had the idea of us all three [Bliss, Murphy, and Wesley Blake] dressing up as Iron Man, and I thought it was such a cool concept, such a cool idea, that I just kept going with it."
Bliss continued, "I just like portraying characters but making it my own. The Harley Quinn thing I was really excited about. I was so bummed because when I left NXT, I thought I couldn’t do the cosplay thing anymore.
"My last gear in NXT was Freddy Krueger because I’m such a horror movie fan. It’s ridiculous, but I thought it would be a whole different ball game when I went to the main roster. I kind of ran with the Harley Quinn thing. I said I was going to try it anyway and say sorry after [if it didn’t work], but it got a great response, and that gave me the freedom to do more."
Harley Quinn isn’t the only Batman baddie that has inspired the ring gear of Alexa Bliss. Another example is her "Riddle Me Bliss" costume from 2017.
Of course, at the time of writing, Alexa has returned to the pigtails with a twisted new character, and it looks like she’s finally found her Mr. J…
"Madness is the emergency exit."
– The Joker
7. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt – An Homage to The Joker from Batman?
One of the reasons why Joker is the perfect villain for Batman is because he is the complete opposite of our hero: a twisted reflection of everything Batman stands for.
Batman took the guise of a Bat because he was afraid of them. Rather than run from that fear, he embraced it and used it against his enemies to instill terror into the hearts of the criminals of Gotham.
On the other hand, Joker took something that was designed to entertain the families and children and perverted it into a figure to install terror into the innocent. This is precisely what Bray Wyatt has done with his "Firefly Funhouse" character — a frightening take on a kid’s TV presenter, someone children would normally rely on providing fun and entertainment, not nightmares and scares. It goes to shows the Batman inspirations don’t necessarily have to be physical.
Although Bray’s is totally physical as well!
Bray’s look for his Fiend alter ego is clearly heavily influenced by DC Comics’ "New 52" incarnation of The Joker.
In the comics, Joker had his own face cut off his body by another baddie called Dollmaker, only to reattach it as a mask.
This horrendous, white-stretched skin look certainly seems like what Wyatt and his team of designers were going for with The Fiend, and the fact Bray’s "old" face has been fashioned into his new lamp may add more evidence to the source of inspiration.
There’s also a chance that the surreal Firefly Funhouse match against WWE’s own superhero John Cena was based on one of the most famous Joker tales, "The Killing Joke," in which Joker tries to break the psyche of both Commissioner Gordon and Batman with his own psycho funhouse, not unlike Bray‘s attempts to destroy Cena mentally.
Alexa Bliss and Bray Wyatt have been amongst the most entertaining aspects of the "Lockdown Era" WWE.
These strange times rely on character work and pre-taped segments more than ever. With a universe as vast as Batman’s, a character that has lasted eight decades across multiple genres, retellings, and restyles, wrestling still has plenty of ideas it can pull out of the streets of Gotham and into the ring.
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