Wrestler of the Day – October 4: Gangrel

Today we’re looking at the forgotten member of a trio: Gangrel.

Gangrel got his start back in 1988 and we’ll pick things up on April 22, 1989 on WCW Pro under his real name of David Heath.

David Heath vs. Iron Sheik

Sheik nails him from behind with the Iranian flag and drops Heath with a clothesline. A backdrop sets up chops and choking as we’re in full squash territory here. Sheik suplexes him down and the camel clutch is good for the submission.

From the same day on another syndicated program called World Wide.

David Heath vs. Great Muta

Muta poses a lot and blows mist into the air to start. Some chops put Heath down and some power drive elbows have him reeling early. We hit the chinlock for about two seconds before it’s time to crank on the arm. Muta works on a wristlock and shoulder claw for a long time (well, long for a squash match at least)…..and it actually gets a submission. That’s a surprise but a good way to make Muta look even more dangerous.

He would head to the WWF as the Black Phantom to job a bit. From Superstars in February 1993.

Razor Ramon vs. Black Phantom

Razor is Intercontinental Champion and this is non-title. A wristlock takes Phantom to the mat but he comes back with a middle rope DDT for two. The Phantom gets dropped by a chokeslam and the belly to back superplex followed by the Razor’s Edge for the easy win.

Off to Raw on January 23, 1993.

British Bulldog vs. Black Phantom

Shawn is on commentary so Bulldog has to yell a bit before we get going. Phantom uses the distraction to snap Davey’s throat across the top rope and a jumping DDT gets two. Bulldog comes back with a suplex and chinlock. The masked man slams Davey down but misses a middle rope splash, setting up the powerslam for the pin.

He would have a few stops in ECW, including this match on July 28, 1995.

Steiner Brothers vs. Vampire Warrior/Dudley Dudley

Vampire Warrior is more famous as Gangrel. Scott and Dudley get things going with the guy you’ve probably heard of throwing Dudley around with ease twice in a row. A butterfly powerbomb sends Dudley running for the corner and it’s off to the Warrior and Rick. The Steiners are WAY over here. The Warrior gets in some chops to start but walks into a BIG powerslam to stop him cold.

Some double teaming slows Rick down for a bit and it’s back to Dudley for some lame shots to the back and a neckbreaker for two. More double teaming ensues but Dudley jumps into Rick’s boot. Hot tag brings in Scott and house is immediately cleaned as Scott busts out a bunch of suplexes. The Steiner bulldog ends the Warrior with ease.

Rating: D+. We’ll file this one under “what else were you expecting?” The Steiners were still an awesome team at this point and two of the guys that could hang with anyone in the ring. Back when he was on his game, there wasn’t much more fun to watch than Scott Steiner throwing people around like they were nothing.

Heath would get a few shots in WCW in their big run, including this match on World Wide on June 14, 1997.

Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Vampire Warrior

Rey hammers away to start but gets dropped by a hard shoulder block. Mysterio flips to the apron but his springboard cross body is caught in midair. Warrior throws him out to the floor before a spinning vertical suplex gets two. A catapult into the bottom rope gets the same and we hit the chinlock. Rey is sent into the corner but crotches Warrior on the top to turn things around. A top rope hurricanrana is enough to give Mysterio the pin.

Rating: C-. Mysterio was sharp at this point and got to sell like only he can here. Warrior got in some offense of his own, even though it wasn’t going to get him anywhere. I was surprised by how much he got to show off though and it made the match a bit better. Mysterio isn’t the kind of guy that can dominate a match and then win with ease so there wasn’t much else they could do here.

It was off to the WWF after this under the Gangrel name. We’ll start things off on Raw, August 17, 1998.

Brian Christopher vs. Gangrel

This is Gangrel’s Raw debut after he won last night on Heat with an Impaler. Edge is chilling in the crowd watching Gangrel. Brian jumps him to start and hits a middle rope bulldog to take over. Gangrel hits a tiger driver and the Impaler to end this quick.

From Raw, November 2, 1998.

D-Generation X vs. The Brood

This would be the Outlaws and X-Pac. This is being written the day after Raw 1000 so they’re pretty fresh in my mind. The Brood is Edge, Christian and the leader Gangrel. They may have picked the wrong guy to be in charge. Pac and Edge get us going and you know how fast that’s going to go. Pac kicks Edge’s head off for two but Edge comes back with a spinebuster.

Off to Christian who is in a long sleeve shirt for some reason which is really loose on him. It’s a pretty odd look but he hits a gutbuster to take over. Hot tag brings in Road Dogg for some shaking punches and it’s back to Edge. He DDTs Road Dogg and everything breaks down. The lights go out and it’s Kane time. He clears the ring and we’ll say it’s thrown out too soon to rate. There was nothing to see here.

Gangrel would be on one of the European PPVs called Capital Carnage.

Gangrel vs. Al Snow

Well this is an interesting place to start. This is during the time the Brood was relatively new and no one knew what in the world to make of them. That music is still awesome. The announcers say nothing at all during his entrance which is odd to me. Snow has Head with him and is therefore ridiculously popular.

He does the dance which is always amusing for some reason. Ross and King are back all of a sudden. Well ok then. This is the JOB Squad era which really is a good idea in theory. I think it’s just the tape but the audio is REALLY bad here. Oh look it’s a British fan with an airhorn. You know I was waiting on that.

Snow starts by hitting all of his standard stuff, meaning that the in ring stuff is overshadowed by the insanity of his character which is a shame. The fans always do the We Want Head thing which gets a bit annoying but is always funny. Edge and Christian hit the ring after about 4 minutes or so which was of course expected. With Christian distracting the referee, Snow gets a shot with Head but Edge hits a missile dropkick from the top for the pin.

Rating: C. Eh it was to get the Brood over so that’s fine. Snow was by far the more talented guy and since he made the match coherent, that means it’s good. You can’t expect much out of Gangrel due to a high level of suck. Oh that was funny. Anyway, this was fine for an opener I guess as Snow got the fans awake, which is exactly what he was supposed to do, and since he’s in the JOB Squad, no one expected him to win anyway.

Time for another six man at In Your House XXVI.

Brood vs. J.O.B. Squad

The brood is Gangrel, Edge and Christian while the J.O.B. Squash is Bob Holly, Scorpio and Al Snow, who have united together after getting sick of constantly losing to bigger stars. Edge pounds on Holly to start but walks into a powerslam and a falcon’s arrow for two. A clothesline puts Holly down and it’s off to Christian, who lost the Light Heavyweight Title to J.O.B. Squad member Duane Gill with help from Snow.

Scorpio comes in to kick Christian in the face and get a two count off a middle rope flipping legdrop. Off to the Squad’s leader Al Snow for some headbutts to the chest but getting caught in a reverse DDT. Gangrel gets the tag and pounds away in the corner before clotheslining Snow down. They’re not exactly getting out of first gear here. Snow comes back with a wheelbarrow suplex but Gangrel DDTs him down and brings in Edge. Off to a chinlock on Snow but he quickly fights up and a double clothesline drops both guys.

Scorpio and Christian come in to speed things up but everything quickly breaks down. Holly and Christian are left in the ring with Christian being dropped long enough to allow Snow to blast him with Head. Scorpio hits a moonsault legdrop for two as Edge makes the save. Edge follows that up by diving over the top to take out Holly and Snow before Christian hits what would become the Unprettier and then the Killswitch for the pin on Scorpio.

Rating: D. This really didn’t do much for me as it was a very dull match with a wild ending. Also, this makes the heels 0-4 on the show tonight which isn’t the right way to get the crowd into things. The Brood would get better in the future while the J.O.B. Squad would never amount to anything, meaning they’re living up to their name.

Gangrel actually got a title match at Royal Rumble 1999.

European Title: Gangrel vs. X-Pac

The vampire is challenging. This is another of those matches that is there so they can have another title match on the card, meaning there’s no story that I can think of. Road Dogg might have gotten a blood bath recently but that’s about it. They hit the ropes very quickly to start with Pac grabbing an armdrag to take over. Gangrel grabs a headlock but they speed things up almost immediately again.

Pac hits a quick legdrop but misses a kick in the corner to shift momentum again. We hit the chinlock to give the guys an earned breather. The champ fights up and gets thrown into the air for two. Gangrel misses a top rope elbow and Pac gets two off his jumping clothesline. A big spinwheel kick takes Gangrel down again and X-Pac hits the Bronco Buster.

The third spinwheel kick in about four minutes takes Gangrel down, but Pac gets crotched on the top, continuing a theme tonight. Pac tries a cross body but Gangrel rolls him through for a botched near fall by referee Teddy Long (he countered three but Pac’s shoulder was up). Not that it matters as the X Factor retains the title a few seconds later.

Rating: C+. Referee’s botch aside, this was a nice surprise. Gangrel is hardly known for his in ring abilities but he looked pretty good out there tonight. Pac was better here against a smaller guy as usual, and we got a good match out of it. After the two longer and not great matches earlier, this was a nice pick up.

Gangrel would be in a Survivor Series match in 1999.

Team Val Venis vs. Team British Bulldog

Val Venis, Mark Henry, Gangrel, Steve Blackman

British Bulldog, Mean Street Posse

Even JR says that Val’s team has nothing in common at all. The Posse is a group of three guys from Greenwich, Connecticut who wear sweater vests and never won a match that wasn’t a hardcore match that they won by mistake. I have no idea why this match exists but my guess is “we have no idea what else to do with these fifteen minutes.” Bulldog is European Champion here which is likely a title Val wants.

The captains start things off and after some quick offense from both, it’s off to Pete Gas (the Posse was Rodney, Pete Gas and Joey Abs). Pete is scared to death of having to actually wrestle so it’s back to Bulldog. Once Venis is down it’s off to Pete who hits a slingshot to send Val chest first into the buckle. A belly to back suplex gets two for Pete as Jerry asks where JR would get nice clothes in Oklahoma. JR: “Arkansas.” Off to Blackman for the only thing he could do: martial arts. A bicycle kick gets the quick elimination for Blackman.

Off to Rodney who has even less luck against Blackman, immediately getting taken down. Gangrel comes in who gets caught in a crucifix for two before Gangrel realizes he’s fighting Rodney. He pounds on the Posse dude, shrugs off a cheap shot from Joey, and plants Rodney with the implant DDT (Edgecution) for the elimination. Joey, by far the best of the three Posse members, comes in and gets to face Mark Henry. Joey actually hits a hot shot on Henry but crotches himself on the middle rope. Mark does about what you would expect him to and splashes him for the pin.

So it’s 4-1 now and Bulldog comes in to fight Henry. Mark runs Bulldog over with ease and it’s off to Gangrel. Gangrel goes up top and is immediately crotched and superplexed down to make it 3-1. Blackman is in next but he misses a middle rope headbutt. He argues with the referee and gets caught in a fisherman’s suplex to make it Henry/Val vs. Bulldog. Val gets to start but it’s quickly a double team. Jerry: “Hey what’s this?” JR: “Well it looks like Mark Henry and Val Venis double teaming the Bulldog King.” Val gets sent to the floor but Henry splashes Bulldog, allowing Val to come in off the top with the Money Shot for the pin.

Rating: D-. This was as worthless as it was advertised. The Posse is one of those groups that is funny in retrospect but at the time they were wasting PPV time when there had to have been better options for this spot. Venis would have been a bigger deal a year ago so I’m not quite sure why he was in this spot either. Little trivia note: this is the shortest four on four Survivor Series match ever, breaking the record set about 20 minutes ago.

Gangrel actually made it all the way to 2000, including this match on Smackdown, February 3, 2000.

Intercontinental Title: Chris Jericho vs. Gangrel

Chris is defending. Jericho hammers away in the corner to start and drops Gangrel with a spinwheel kick. Gangrel sends him out to the floor where the seconds, Chyna and Luna Vachon respectfully, stare at each other. Back in and an elbow drop gets two on Chris but he sends Gangrel out to the floor. Gangrel scores with a Russian legsweep but tries a top rope sunset flip, only to get rolled through into the Walls to retain Chris’ title.

Gangrel would head to the WWA promotion for their Inception PPV.

Luna Vachon vs. Vampire Warrior

This is a Black Wedding Match, which I think means hardcore but I have no idea for sure. Luna slaps him and Gangrel won’t fight back because it’s his wife. Gangrel finally kind of slams her down and we head outside. There’s wedding themed stuff on the floor and Gangrel takes a cake to the face. Luna gets tongs and grabs Gangrel’s balls with them. We get a pumpkin shot in and you can connect the dots on this one yourself I think. Luna throws down her wedding ring and spits at him, earning her an inverted DDT for the pin. Nothing here at all but ANOTHER comedy match.

Time for the required TNA appearance, from Weekly PPV #57 on August 13, 2014.

3 Live Kru vs. Devon Storm/Sinn/Vampire Warrior

That would be Konnan/BG James/Ron Killings vs. Crowbar/Kizarny/Gangrel. Konnan and Storm get things going as Don West hypes up the Kru’s growing popularity. Feeling out process to start with Storm being sent over the top but skinning the cat back in. Konnan goes to the old school idea of grabbing the arm before bringing in James to work it over even more.

Storm gets two off a northern lights suplex before suplexing Sinn into a moonsault. Warrior comes in for some elbow drops for two but James gets up for a double collision. Cue the Harris Brothers to watch the match as Killings comes in off the tag. An ax kick puts Warrior on the floor as everything breaks down. Konnan dropkicks Sinn for two and Killings hits a kind of Poetry in Motion. James pumphandle slams him for the pin.

Rating: D. This was a messy tag match and a bit much for just five minutes. The Kru actually would become a pretty big deal in TNA over the next few years and one of the few acts they had that mattered in the early days. Sinn was nothing at this point other than a guy in furry red pants.

We’ll jump ahead about eleven years for one more match at Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore on June 14, 2014.

Gangrel/Matt Striker vs. X-Pac/Rikishi

Striker and Rikishi get things going with Matt stopping for some pushups. Rikishi does the I say US you say O deal and they finally lock up. Striker fires off some right hands and hurts his hand on Rikishi’s hand in a funny bit. Instead he steps on Rikishi’s foot but the sight of Rikishi bent over scares him away. Seriously. A slam attempt goes as well as you would think and the threat of a Stinkface sends Striker over for a tag.

X-Pac comes in to chants of 1-2-3 and Syxx. A big spinwheel kick sends Gangrel outside and Pac follows him out with a plancha. Striker tries to get in a cheap shot but eats a Bronco Buster for his efforts. Back to Matt legally for a hard back elbow to the jaw. Pac fights back against Gangrel but he walks into a belly to belly for two.

Gangrel charges into a boot and the real hot tag brings in Rikishi. House (of Hardcore) is cleaned but Gangrel low blows his way out of a Stinkface. It earns him an X-Factor but Striker makes the save and takes the real Stinkface. Gangrel shoves him for some reason and it’s a chokeslam and fat Samoan sitdown splash for the pin.

Rating: D+. For four guys that wrestle on the indies or special events only, I’ve seen far worse. This was about 80% comedy and that’s all you can really expect from someone like Rikishi anymore. Gangrel was just kind of there as a name you might remember and nothing more, which is a fine way to get a paycheck.

Gangrel is a guy who basically got by on his gimmick alone. To his credit though, it was quite the awesome gimmick. Vampires are always going to get people’s attention and that cocky smile made him even better. The big problem for Gangrel is associating with two future World Champions as it gives you some almost impossible expectations to overcome.

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