As part of the process for creating a frightening wrestling character, inspiration can come from a variety of sources. It can be based upon characters in other parts of popular culture; the horror genre has been a staple of film, television, and prose for a long, long time. I can be based on monsters of legend and folklore: yetis, mummies, vampires, and zombies, among many others. Sometimes something wholly original can inspire fear by giving the character a disturbing, fiendish appearance. For this article in the Seven Nights of Frights series, we will look at a wrestling character that drew its name from one of the most commonplace. Though ill-defined, fear-inducing creatures of myth, a character that complemented his recognizable name with a truly disturbing appearance and even more disturbing behavior. Turn on the lights, lock the doors and windows because we are going to discuss The Boogeyman.
The Boogeyman is a name that has been around for a long time. Though there is no common consensus on what this oft-spoken of creature looks like, acts like, or where it comes from. Traditionally when it is spoken of, it is to inspire fear in the listener, particularly small children. When a child is misbehaving or committing an act, their parent or guardian does not approve of; they are warned that if the behavior continues, the Boogeyman will be ‘coming to get you!’ Children don’t even need to receive such warnings to be fearful of the creature. He is presumed to dwell in darkened closets or under beds, waiting to pounce upon the young at nighttime or the early morning (though rarely late afternoon). Fear of the Boogeyman even has a name, Bogyphobia.
Unsuppressed Childhood Fears
Because the Boogeyman is so immortal an object of unsuppressed childhood fears. The term is also commonly used today to describe a non-existent threat that is nonetheless feared by many. Much like various other monsters of folklore, or Antifa. Even the famous horror writer Stephen King, who has conceived of countless stories, places, scenarios, and creatures to be feared, used the Boogeyman in one of his short stories. So with the name being so commonplace and being universally referenced as an object of fear, it just makes sense that at some point, when someone wanted to create a ‘scary’ wrestler, they used this name.
The real name of the man who became The Boogeyman in the world of wrestling is Martin Wright. He was a participant in WWE’s reality series ‘Tough Enough’ during its fourth season. Wright was unsuccessful not for any failure in the ring but because he revealed he had lied about his age to get into the competition. The age cut off was 35, and Wright was 40. But because of his own persistence and desire, he was nonetheless invited to go to WWE’s developmental territory. At the time, he joined Ohio Valley Wrestling. As disclosed by Wright during an interview on ‘The Ryback Show’ podcast recently, he was subjected to racial slurs from an unidentified party or parties while there, but he still persisted.
Ohio Valley Wrestling
Wright debuted in OVW as The Boogeyman in June of 2005, during the time when Jim Cornette oversaw OVW. Cornette was also a commentator on OVW television broadcasts, and in his commentary. He presented Wright as a mentally ill person who thought he was The Boogeyman. Credit for who conceived The Boogeyman has never been definitively given. Though it is worth nothing that Cornette first became a fan by watching wrestling from the Memphis territory. He got his start working in the Continental Wrestling Association and Mid-South Wrestling in that area. Mid-South in the 80s and early 90s was known for having several bizarre characters. That would make The Boogeyman seem tame, including ones based upon Freddy Krueger (Nightmare Freddy), Lord Humongous from ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’, Spider-Man, and something called ‘The Christmas Monster.’ Clearly, odd gimmicks similar to The Boogeyman were common in that era.
The most famous moment of The Boogeyman’s tenure in OVW was when he appeared in the ring and one of the other performers, Anthony Carelli. Carelli later became famous in WWE as Santino Marella. Carelli could not contain his laughter, as he apparently had difficulty accepting an 80s style gimmick in 2005. The result was that an irate Cornette repeatedly slapped Carelli backstage. The consequence of that action was that Cornette was fired.
The Boogeyman made his WWE debut in the fall of 2005 after vignettes promoting him had aired over the summer. Prior to appearing in the ring, he made a habit of popping out of dark enclosed places such as closets, much like the Boogeyman of myth. These unexpected appearances caused uncontrolled fear in whoever was around, typically causing them to run away screaming. He certainly had a striking appearance: he wore intricate red and black face paint, he flashed a sinister, gap-toothed smile (as his front teeth were missing both top and bottom), and carried a large clock in one hand and in the other a gnarled wooden cane. The staff would emit smoke at times, particularly during his entrance. The objects he carried, and the smoke one of them would dispense, echoed another creepy WWE character from the early 90s, Papa Shango.
After a couple of months, The Boogeyman began performing in the ring. Like so many frightening characters in WWE history, he came to the ring bathed in red light accompanied by smoke. His matches were typically short, with the creepy character coming out on top. It was once he started having matches that he started to regularly demonstrate his most disturbing, disgusting behavior: he would put worms in his mouth and eat them, and either spit them in the face of others or, in the case of defeated opponents, dump the works on their face and into their open mouths.
The Boogeyman had several rivalries during his tenure in WWE, always opposing villainous adversaries. First, he feuded with JBL, culminating in his being victorious at the Royal Rumble in January 2006. Following that, he began feuding with Booker T and again was victorious over his rival, this time at Wrestlemania 22. After that, he was off for a while with an injury, following which he departed the company for a very short period before returning in October 2006.
He then engaged in a feud with The Miz and again was victorious. In all of these rivalries, it was typical that his opponents found him disturbing and usually retreated from him. But the key commonality was that in all three cases, the opponent had a female adviser. In the case of Booker T, his wife, and the women would always react to The Boogeyman’s presence like a scream queen in a horror movie. Women being more timid and fearful is a common sexist trope in the horror genre and in pro wrestling to a large extent.
The Boogeyman was finally defeated when he faced Finlay, who benefitted from the assistance of Hornswoggle. Even when he recruited a little person to be his companion and tag team partner, a wrestler named Chris Hollyfield, who was dubbed ‘Little Boogeyman,’ he was still defeated by the Irishman. After that, his matches were few and far between. As he typically only appeared in segments with visiting celebrities or other bizarre, sinister characters.
Extreme Championship Wrestling is now home to The Boogeyman
The Boogeyman eventually made his way to the revived ECW brand. ECW was populated by several other eerie characters such as Kevin Thorn and Big Daddy V. Again, he mostly appeared in backstage segments and in-ring interviews, frightening whomever was around, and his infrequent matches were generally unsuccessful as he lost in various tag team and four-way matches, as well as singles, matches to Big Daddy V and Kane. He was released from WWE in March of 2009.
Wright began appearing on the indies, usually as The Boogeyman, though sometimes as The Nightcrawler. He has made appearances in WWE since 2012, usually in promotional videos or programs on the WWE Network. Sometimes he pops up unexpectedly in backstage segments when he frightens an unwitting victim. In the 2015 Royal Rumble, he was also only briefly as another sinister character eliminated him, Bray Wyatt.
Today Martin Wright is retired from wrestling and working as a health and fitness advisor. Though The Boogeyman had only a short tenure in WWE. Unsurprisingly, the modern audience has little acceptance for wrestling concepts more fit for the 80s. He did make a mark as he was a distinctive character with a memorable, disgusting hook. The audience should keep a key an eye out as you never know when he will pop up on WWE programming. Or when The Boogeyman will be coming to get you!