BattleMania is Running Wild, Brother!
Dozens of years before the dark, gritty, Mick Foley-written WWE Comics were on bookshelves, the top World Wrestling Federation characters were given a different comic book outlet to tell their stories.
The comic was known as BattleMania and it was produced by Valiant comics, enjoying some brief success in the early 1990's.
The issue we're looking at this time around (and trust me, there will be other instalments in the months ahead) focuses on The Undertaker, at the time the most intriguing heel in the WWF.
The first of two stories in this particular issue begins with The Big Boss Man, who is working an undercover sting to find out about the illegal outside-the-ring activities of his nemesis The Undertaker and manager Paul Bearer.
Now, I hate to be "that guy", but a few thoughts:
The Boss Man was a prison guard, not a cop... so how did he have jurisdiction to do anything remotely like this? I imagine the mayor of Cobb County, GA would have his badge over this.
Were Boss Man and Undertaker ever actually rivals? Sure, there was the Hell In A Cell match at WrestleMania 15, but even then, Boss Man was more an avatar for Vince McMahon's Corporation than a true blood enemy.
Boss Man ordered pizza to a stakeout?! Gee, I hope it doesn't BLOW HIS COVER! What a stupid move! No wonder he never became a cop.
Turns out Boss Man isn't the only WWF superstar to go beyond the limits of his gimmick. Undertaker and Paul Bearer own a funeral home, where they appear to be hatching a plot to murder the neighborhood Welcome Wagon Lady. I'm not sure why a mortician would want to kill someone. Does this eliminate the middleman, e.g. the coroner? Does it increase profit margins? Is it what's Best For Business? And wouldn't the owner of another local funeral home get suspicious when people started dying as soon as the new funeral director moved into town? I'm just saying is all.
Meanwhile, the crack vice squad of Big Boss Man and his Pizza Delivery Kid are listening to the whole thing via hidden microphones in the funeral home (I'd love to see Boss Man run to a judge to get permission for THAT). Growing suspicious, they soon ponder having to interrupt this party before Welcome Wagon Lady is bludgeoned to death and (presumably) raped.
While hilarity ensues inside the house, Boss Man has to listen to the little shit Pizza Delivery Guy shaming him for not busting into the house and arresting everyone.
What Domino's doesn't understand is that there has to be proper procedure in place before you can make an arrest. Especially if you're a prison guard/wrestler and not a cop.
Speaking of good choices... Why does Boss Man lets Pizza Hut bring a semi-automatic weapon in the house?? Don't get me wrong; I'm sure the kid is an experts marksman, what with his penchant for holding the gun high above his head while he's running and everything, but.... common sense much?
Finally, Boss Man and Taker have a much-awaited clash and the battle of good and evil begins. More importantly.... there is finally some wrestling in this comic book about professional wrestlers!
Side note: How phenomenally cool is it that whenever Undertaker speaks, it's in a drippy, black word bubble? A little touch that makes all the difference is describing the character and something you wouldn't likely see today.
Just when Cobb County's finest gets his hands on The Dead Man and is preparing to arrest him despite not legally having the ability to do so... the writers of BattleMania set us up for a Vince Russo-esque OMG SHOCKING SWERVE~!!!
It turns out that Welcome Wagon Lady was NOT bludgeoned to death as was previously believed. She just fainted because she saw a mouse, or an embalmed corpse or some shit. But the tall zombie freak and his creepy fat friend have done nothing wrong!
So with Boss Man and Little Caesar's shamed into leaving (this is why you always get a warrant first, people), we are given another OMG SHOCKING SWERVE~!
Bearer and Taker cook the corpses in their house and repackage them as burgers and ribs.
And no, I'm not kidding. That's how it actually ends. WWF - the "F" is for "Family Friendly Fun"!
Next up, The Ultimate Warrior (and I swear to you stupid marks, this story was initially slated to run the day Warrior passed away, so apologies in advance) is depressed and in his hotel room, when Rowdy Roddy Piper stops in to check on him.
This somehow reminds me of a real-life story (from around the exact same era) where Piper and Kerry Von Erich are smoking a joint in their hotel room and decide to sit on the window ledge, when they realize that the window is locked from the inside and they're trapped on a hotel ledge! Thankfully, Big Boss Man and Mr. Perfect stop by (Piper left the hotel door unlocked) and rescue the two.
Three of those four people - childhood heroes all - are dead now. Add in Warrior just because he's in the comic. How depressing is that? What does that say about the wrestling industry that so many top-shelf performers have passed away before the age of....
Wait, what the hell was I talking about again?
Turns out, The Ultimate One is depressed because he can't defeat The Undertaker. Join the freaking club. I was pencilled in to end his streak back in '94 before Vince decided to go with (ugh) King Kong Bundy.
Piper promises to help Warrior work through his rage by visualizing how he might defeat The Undertaker. We cut to the ring and Warrior defeats his foe by slamming him through the ring. Which probably isn't a legal means of victory outside of ECW, but... meh. Close enough.
Still, a mere wrestling match isn't enough for this comic book about wrestlers and wrestling.
Warrior and Taker battle all over the backstage area throwing all variety of plunder at each other. Kind of like the Hacksaw Jim Duggan-King Harley Race battle during the 1988 Slammys, only funnier.
When the backstage brawl doesn't get the job done, the competitors take to the parking lot. A puncture in the gas leak of Bearer's hearse comes back to haunt the trecherous duo when the mortician prepares to vanquish Warrior with his gun-shaped blowtorch.
I need to point out once again that this all happened years BEFORE the Attitude Era and the product was still being marketed towards children.
Anyhoo.... one thing leads to another, the fire mixes with the gas leak, causing the hearse to explode and (presumably) kill The Undertaker and Paul Bearer.
Yeah, they're dead. Nice knowing ya. Ta-ta, Taker. Buh bye Bearer.
Warrior reacts to the death of his wrestling rivals the way any sane being would - by standing on top of a destroyed hearse and celebrating. The fans get into the action, too, expressing their condolences with remarks like "Yeah, Ultimate Warrior!" and "We're with you!"
Back in reality, Warrior reflects on how two competitors died for their craft by smiling. Crisis averted. He feels much better now and can have a peaceful sleep knowing his rivals are, um, dead (and again.... I wrote this BEFORE Warrior died, so no hate mail, please!)
Hot Rod bids his buddy adieu for the night as Warrior reflects in his now-trashed hotel room (hopefully he didn't put down a credit card on this bad boy). And then as he's all set to catch forty winks, Warrior gets a knock at the door. No, not an arrest warrant, but a package has arrived for him. What's inside?
And here all of you were worried that this children's comic book was going to have an unhappy ending....
Do you have a favorite story from BattleMania? Let me know in the Comments section below. There's a pretty good chance I will go back to this well in the not-too-distant future...