Mad Max: 9 Unmistakable Influences on Pro Wrestling

It’s no secret that professional wrestling has taken cues from the Mad Max movies for years! From wrestling set pieces to The Road Warriors, Lord Humungous, and more, we break down the times wrestling borrowed ideas from the movie franchise (as well as that time the WWE inspired Mad Max)!

Mad Max | 9 Undeniable Times Its Movies Inspired Pro Wrestling
Photo Design: JP Zarka

Professional Wrestling’s Mad Max Fixation

Mad Max has been around for over 40 years, and during that time, the franchise has had a lot of influence on the world of professional wrestling.

The Australian action series, directed by George Miller, has an awful lot of content for sports entertainment to draw from. One fan who saw this potential was Virgil Riley Runnels Jr.

It’s easy to see the appeal because aside from unique characters, amazing car stunts, and non-stop action, the series does feature a lot of…

Wait for it…

Dusty roads.

Yes, awful puns aside, The American Dream enjoyed the Mel Gibson-led films, especially the third "Beyond Thunderdome," which inspired a majority of cage matches (of which you can read the history of here).

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1. Wrestling Set Pieces and Steel Structures

The Thunderdome, as seen in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

On the subject, Dusty said, "I was looking for some kind of creative. I had different partners and we were fighting this war [against The Four Horsemen]. I had just come from seeing Tina Turner and Mel Gibson in Thunderdome, and I had seen this cage, and I see this top of the cage, and I know through the years in my industry the cage match has always been a big part (especially down south) when you blew off matches.

"So I said to myself, has there ever been one cage covering two rings with a top on it and two doors covering each end and two teams of five?"

War Games At WCW Fall Brawl 1998

Beyond Thunderdome also birthed ideas for another match type called…well, the Thunderdome. At least that was its original title until the name change to Thunder Cage, presumably for legal reasons. Then to the Chamber (of horrors), presumably for more legal reasons.

The Chamber Of Horrors, WCW Halloween Havoc ’91

The dome-shaped, circular steel cage wasn’t as popular as War Games, but both match types went on to inspire other structures such as TNA’s Steel Asylum, The Elimination Chamber and Hell In A Cell.

Bust a Deal from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Another gimmick borrowed was WCW’s "Spin The Wheel, Make A Deal", inspired by Beyond Thunderdome’s "Bust A Deal And Face The Wheel."

“Spin the wheel, make the deal!” Stinger chooses his fate at WCW Halloween Havoc ’92.

It wasn’t just big, barbaric structures and set pieces that Mad Max inspired. It was big, barbaric men and women too! So let’s have a look at the long list of wrestlers who drew inspiration from the world of blood and fire.

2. The Road Warriors / The Legion of Doom

The Legion of Doom in 1992.

Speaking to The Wrestling Show podcast, Joe Laurinaitis (Animal) revealed the origin of the legendary tag team.

"We were sitting in a hotel room in Hapeville, Georgia outside the Atlanta airport with Ole Anderson and a guy by the name of Cowboy Bill Watts. Both great wrestlers, good minds for the wrestling business. They said, ‘We got this idea for you guys. We’re gonna call you guys The Road Warriors.'”

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Laurinaitis continued, "I’m sitting there and they’re like, ‘You know the Mad Max movie? We’ll paint a couple of lines on your face like the heel in the Road Warrior movie. He had the striped red mohawk and the feather earring and all that. That’s the kind of look we were going for!’"

Bearclaw Mohawk in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the influence behind the iconic look of The Road Warriors.

3. Lord Humongous

Jeff Van Camp as one of the original iterations of Lord Humongous

Based on the Mad Max 2 villain Lord Humungus (spot the slight spelling change) this is quite possibly the most obvious gimmick inspired by a movie of all time, just beating Crow Sting and Razor Ramon to the post.

The original Lord Humungus from the movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Not only was the name the same, but the costume was also too! In fact, the fact that the big, bald muscly baddie wore a hockey-like mask (beating Jason Voorhees of Friday The 13th fame by a year) was one of the main draws.

It meant the character could be played by multiple wrestlers, including Mike Stark, Jeff Van Camp, Sid Vicious, Barry Buchanan and Sid’s son, Gunnar Eudy. Humongous’s last appearance was in 2011, where he was portrayed by Clint Barlow.

4. Mad Maxine

Mad Maxine with the Fabulous Moolah

At a billed height of 6’2″, Jeannine Mjoseth was an imposing figure indeed and was brought into the WWF to feud with Wendy Richter, although the two never actually had a match thanks to one of the first "screw jobs" in wrestling.

As well as the name, the colored mohawk and leather gear Maxine would also adopt "Lady" in her title, probably a nod to "Lord" Humungus.

5. Mad Max Influence on Demolition

Ax and Smash of Demolition in their awesome entrance gear!

So many tag teams were inspired by The Road Warriors Animal and Hawk, such as The Blade Runners and The Powers Of Pain, however, Demolition clearly went directly to the source, with Lord Humungus-esque-studded fetish vests and black hockey-like masks.

6. The Master Blasters

The Master Blasters: Master Blaster Steel (Kevin Nash) and Master Blaster Iron (Al Green)

Yet another pair of Road Warrior clones, consisting of Al Green and Big Sexy himself, Kevin Nash. Mohawks and leather BDSM gear aside, this duo took their name from Beyond Thunderdome’s character "The Master Blaster"

The Masterblaster from Mad Max: Thunderdome

7. Fit Finlay

Fit Finlay in Belfast Brawler mode

Back in his WCW days, whilst wrestling under the "Belfast Bruiser" moniker, Fit Finlay’s image was kind of a mess. He had a greasy mullet and stache, and his famous Irish Clover-themed singlet.

The real confusing piece of attire was the Mad Max jacket he wore during his entrance. Why would he don the single armpad cut sleeve leather jacket that Mel made famous? Was he from a post-apocalyptic Ireland?

To be fair, the jacket did make more sense when he used it as a weapon (like in his fight with Steven Regal at WCW Uncensored ’96).

Mad Max with his iconic jacket

8. Broken Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy in broken form

It’s hard to say what the influences are for Matt Hardy’s Broken/Woken characters as they are so unique, but one cannot deny the similarities between himself and original Mad Max villain, Toecutter. It’s not just the skunk-like hair, but also the faux British accent.

YouTube video

9. Role Reversal: WWE’s Influence on Mad Max

Nathan Jones

We end with a nice piece of role reversal, where Mad Max actually took something from WWE, that being former Undertaker sidekick (and sadly, failed superstar) Nathan Jones! Jones portrayed Rictus Erectus in Mad Max: Fury Road, and did a very good job too!

Former wrestler Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus in Mad Max: Fury Road

Of course, there are many other inspirations drawn from the film series, like Super Maxx, Mad Dog Maxx, Madi Maxx, and the Chris Jericho nickname "The Ayatollah Of Rock N Rolla" (once again taken from Humungus), but these seem to be in name only.

Also, the WWE car destruction game "Crush Hour" seemed to have similar design concepts in its vehicles, although that was set in a different kind of apocalyptic future, one where Vince McMahon owned ALL of entertainment!

It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, influences continue in this new era of Wednesday Night Wars, especially if we need another hero (or villain).

Cue the Tina Turner…

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Tim Buckler, a senior writer here at Pro Wrestling Stories, has been an author for over a decade, penning articles for sites such as WhatCulture, Screen Rant, Inside The Ropes, and many more, but his heart will always belong to Pro Wrestling Stories. He also presents a pop culture radio show entitled "The Little Telly Upstairs," which airs every Thursday 8-10 pm on Radio Woking, featuring news, views, and music from film, television, comic books, video games and, of course, Pro Wrestling. Follow him @blockbusterman on Twitter for more of his ramblings!