Anatomy of a Faction – Dungeon of Doom

Anatomy of a Faction – Dungeon of Doom

As might be expected, the arrival of Hulk Hogan to World Championship Wrestling in the middle of 1994 created a bit of a stir. For years, ‘The Hulkster’ had been at the head of Vince McMahon’s national expansion throughout the 1980s; nobody could ever have envisioned him working for another American-based promotion.

However, in the early 1990s came the dreaded ‘steroid scandal,’ which rocked the WWF to its very core. The relationship between Vince and Hogan became strained, especially after Hogan’s infamous appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, where he attempted to explain that he had only ever used steroids three times, and that was to rehab injuries (this fooled nobody). For all intents and purposes, after Hulk defeated Sid Justice by disqualification at Wrestlemania 8, ‘The Hulkster’ was done with wrestling.

Hulk would return to the WWF in January 1993, ostensibly to ‘help’ his friend Brutus Beefcake, who had been assaulted by Money Inc. But the next thing, Hogan somehow wound up as WWF champion at Wrestlemania 9, defended the belt zero times until dropping it back to the man he beat at Mania (Yokozuna) at the next pay-per-view, and leaving again.

His appointment with Ted Turner’s wrasslin’ came about as he was filming his television series, Thunder in Paradise. It just happened to be at Disney MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida, where WCW were also taping television. A number of people have claimed credit for injecting the idea of signing Hogan into Eric Bischoff, but needless to say, the advance was made, and the contract was signed.

You may be wondering – why am I discussing Hogan’s arrival in WCW instead of getting to the meat and potatoes of this article – discussing the life and times of The Dungeon of Doom? That is because this faction of some of the oddest, zaniest, gimmick-heavy wrestlers ever pieced together, formed to end Hulkamania. It was their sole purpose in life for the first half of this stable’s lifetime, so some context needs to be added first.

Hulk Hogan didn’t arrive alone; he brought his former Mega-Maniacs tag team partner and life-long friend, Ed Leslie (best known as Brutus Beefcake), as well as manager Jimmy Hart. Hulk and Brutus – or now Brother Bruti – looked out for each other as Hulkamania charted these unknown waters, with Hart in their corner. In his first WCW match, Hogan defeated World champion Ric Flair, so a target was on his back from the start. At Clash of the Champions XXVIII, Hogan was assaulted by a masked man in a black bodysuit, who injured his knee with a pipe. Hogan had to leave for the hospital, but returned in time for the main event against Flair, but lost by count-out.

Finally, the perpetrator was discovered after Hulk beat Flair in a career match inside a steel cage at Halloween Havoc. The masked man attempted another blindside attack, but was thwarted and had his hood removed – it was none other then Brother Bruti, brother! In an earlier development, Dave Sullivan – the dimwitted and dyslexic brother of the more vicious Kevin Sullivan – became a Hulkamaniac. This enraged Kevin, and in possibly one of the biggest overreactions ever seen, decided then and there that Hulkamania had to die, and persuaded Bruti to turn on his friend of many years. On commentary, Bobby Heenan stated that Bruti had “butchered his friendship (with Hogan),” and thus, the name stuck – The Butcher (at least for now).

Sullivan acquired another ally in his bid to end Hulkamania in the form of Avalanche, the former Earthquake, one of Hogan’s most memorable rivals from the WWF days. Together, this trio was known as ‘The Three Faces of Fear.’

The Three Faces of Fear, and Ed Leslie

To ward off this terrible trio, Hulk enlisted some new buddies (apart from Dave Sullivan of course) – Sting and Randy Savage. With this increased firepower, the faces (not the babies) capitulated. At Starrcade in December 1994, Hogan defeated The Butcher in the main event. In the new year, Kevin turned on his stablemates, and Sullivan beat The Butcher – billed as The Man With No Name – at Slamboree 1995.

Right after the bout, a beastly-looking man appeared on the video screen, and beckoned Sullivan to him. This was ‘The Master,’ the legendary King Curtis Iaukea. Cast as the ‘father’ of Sullivan, he bestowed on Kevin the name of ‘The Taskmaster,’ and in a vignette – also shot among many others at MGM Studios – The Dungeon of Doom was born. Former Three Faces of Fear pals Avalanche was rebranded as ‘The Shark’ – most likely to avoid a lawsuit with the WWF – and Brother Bruti/Butcher/Man With No Name was repackaged as The Zodiac. ‘The Ugandan Giant,’ Kamala, and Meng – who had previously been Col Robert Parker’s bodyguard – were also foundation members of the group.

If battling Ric Flair and the Dungeon of Doom were not enough, Hulk also had to contend with the monstrous Big Van Vader. A former World champion himself, Vader wanted the title back around his waist. However, Hogan showed his power by getting up after taking a powerbomb from ‘The Mastodon,’ the very same powerbomb that had broken a man’s back!

Vader was courted by The Dungeon of Doom leading up to Bash at the Beach, where he would battle Hogan in a steel cage. In the aforementioned Halloween Havoc match, Flair had lost to Hogan and had to ‘retire.’ (At time of writing in early 2023, Flair is still pitching for a final, final match). ‘The Nature Boy’ became unhinged, so despite their past history, decided to ‘manage’ Vader. However, Hogan managed to beat Vader at the Bash and retain the championship.

If Vader couldn’t end Hogan, who could? The Master thought he knew, and had a prophesy that only a giant could get the job done. The man who would become The Giant made a brief appearance at Slamboree 1995, and then attacked “The Hulkster” in The Dungeon’s ‘lair.’ The story of The Giant – at least initially as it was soon dropped – was that he was the son of the late Andre the Giant, whom Hogan had famously squared off with at Wrestlemania 3.

Vader’s time as a card-carrying Dungeon member/associate was brief. Flair as well as Arn Anderson attacked Vader after he lost the cage match to Hogan at Bash at the Beach and then Hogan surprisingly sought his help against The Dungeon at the upcoming War Games. Even more surprisingly, Vader accepted.

Lex Luger made a shock return to WCW on the debut Monday Nitro on September 4. Despite Luger making an immediate challenge for Hogan’s World Title – which resulted in a match for the belt the following week – Luger joined The Hulkamaniacs (along with Sting and Savage) against The Dungeon at Fall Brawl (this was a result of Vader leaving the company after two backstage incidents with Paul Orndorff). The Dungeon lost War Games and as per the stipulation, The Taskmaster was locked in the cage alone with Hogan for five minutes. Right at the end of the time-limit, The Giant ripped off the cage door and then almost ripped off Hogan’s head.

Due to all the turmoil and now a near-broken neck – not to mention having his Fu Manchu shaved off by Kevin Sullivan in drag – the pressure finally got to ‘The Hulkster’ and he turned to the ‘dark side.’ He ditched the red and yellow for a black ensemble, which provided us with a bit of foreshadowing. It’s very jarring to see a pre-nWo Hogan in black, but it happened and we have photographic evidence. Hogan’s promos were also a little bit off, for lack of a better term, and showed his full acting range.

Pre-nWo Hulkster

The Giant challenged Hogan for the World Title at Halloween Havoc on October 29, 1995, and there is plenty to talk about. In the lead up, during a pre-taped segment, The Yeti – a seven foot tall mummy – stood with The Master, Taskmaster and The Giant. The Giant ran over Hogan’s car with a Dungeon of Doom monster truck on Nitro, so Hogan got his own truck made. Before they would wrestle at the Joe Louis Arena, they would have a Sumo Monster Truck match on the roof of Cobo Hall. And you thought The Sheik was hardcore! A fracas ensued at the end of the October 23 Nitro involving Hogan and Savage and the Dungeon of Doom, and as the episode went off the air, The Yeti burst out of a ‘block of ice.’

At Halloween Havoc, Hulk won the monster truck match and the two got into a brawl. They ended up near the edge and The Giant plunged off the roof to oblivion. A somber Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart came to the ring to discuss what happened earlier, only for The Giant and Kevin Sullivan to make their way down the aisle like nothing had happened! The end of the match saw Jimmy Hart shockingly knock out the referee and then tried to blindside Hulk.

Hogan went after Hart and was ambushed, in what was a bad night for ‘The Hulkster.’ Lex Luger – who had been causing dissension among Hogan and his pals Sting and Savage – officially turned on Hogan and put him in the torture rack. The Yeti also arrived on the scene and locked Hogan into a double bearhug with The Giant. After Halloween Havoc, The Yeti dropped out of the group, lost his wrapping and became a super giant ninja. Meanwhile, Kamala left the company, as he was only on a pay-per-appearance deal.

On the Nitro after Halloween Havoc, Jimmy Hart accompanied the new WCW World champion, The Giant, The Taskmaster and Lex Luger to the ring. Hart offered no real explanation why he turned on Hogan, and later revealed he had put a clause in the contract that a disqualification could cause the title to change hands, thus why The Giant was awarded the belt. However, the reign was short-lived, as after just one title defense, the title was vacated due to a stretchy loophole and would be decided in the sixty man battle royal at World War III. Luger took on Hart as his manager and was more of an ‘associate’ of the Dungeon of Doom, similar to Vader.

Hugh Morrus made his first television appearance on the November 18, 1995 edition of Saturday Night. Bill DeMott was signed specifically for the purpose of being in the Dungeon of Doom, and whom Tony Schiavone commonly just called ‘Humorous.’ The final three in the battle royal at WW3 was Hogan, The Giant and Savage. Hogan eliminated The Giant, who then dragged Hogan under the bottom rope. The referees didn’t see it, and with Savage still in the ring, awarded ‘The Macho Man’ the title.

One Man Gang joined right before Starrcade 1995, where he defeated Kensuke Sasaki in a dark match to become United States champion; The Barbarian left the employ of Col Robert Parker and formed a tag team with Meng; and Big Bubba Rogers also came on board. The former Big Bossman had gone through a couple of different names thus far in his WCW tenure, such as The Boss and The Guardian Angel, all of which caught the eye of the WWF’s legal department.

The Hogan and Giant rivalry wound up at Superbrawl VI on February 11, 1996, when Hogan defeated The Giant in a steel cage. Right after the match, he was confronted by Loch Ness, a mass of over six hundred pounds. This was legendary British wrestler Giant Haystacks, but his time in the company was brief due to health issues. By the following month at Uncensored, Lochy was pitted against The Giant after being fired by Jimmy Hart and lost in a short encounter and headed back home. Sadly, he passed away of cancer in November 1998. In an earlier bout at Superbrawl, One Man Gang dropped the US Title to Konnan and left the company.

The incredible triple-decker cage

Apart from The Giant and Loch Ness at Uncensored, came one of the most ridiculous cage matches in wrestling history. It was a triple-tiered cage, and the odds were enormously stacked against Hogan and his tag partner, Randy Savage. They were pitted against ‘The Alliance to End Hulkamania,’ which included members of The Dungeon, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Lex Luger.

Also included as one night Dungeon members were Z-Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution. Z-Gangsta was actor Tiny Lister, better known to wrestling fans as ‘The Human Wrecking Machine’ Zeus, who feuded with Hogan in the film ‘No Holds Barred’ and in the WWF. The Ultimate Solution (Jeep Swenson) was a swoley monster who would play Bane in the Batman & Robin film (and also had a fight scene with Zeus in No Holds Barred). Despite all this, Hogan and Savage found a way to emerge victorious, when Savage pinned Flair after an errant right hand from Luger.

The story of this match as told by Kevin Sullivan was an example of the way things were done behind-the-scenes at WCW. Sullivan was also the booker, and said his original idea was a regular cage match between himself and The Giant against Hogan and Savage. By the time everyone had their input, it became, well, what it became.

But after Uncensored, things got a little more realistic. In complete opposite of what they were doing kayfabe-wise, Sullivan the booker was trying to earn Hulk’s trust from the time he arrived. This meant they did a lot of cartoony stuff like Hogan was used to doing. But after the result at Uncensored, Sullivan said Hogan was so content he could start to now steer him towards some more serious stuff. It also freed Sullivan up to commence one of the most memorable feuds in the company’s history.

The Dungeon and The Four Horsemen had gotten close in their shared dislike for Hulk Hogan, thanks to an arrangement brokered between Sullivan and Arn Anderson. It had first started to fray at the edges when Sullivan developed a problem with Brian Pillman, who he felt had no respect unlike the rest of the Horsemen. This led to the ‘respect match,’ which fans still discuss to this day, when almost immediately, Pillman got on the mic after taking a right hand to the jaw and said, “I respect you, bookerman.” Clearly, this was pulling back the curtain, and Sullivan appeared legitimately stunned.

Before I go any further, the next few paragraphs will detail a scenario that some may find uncomfortable and disturbing. This is not for creative effect or BS’ing, but it involves mentioning a person and a storyline that some may find difficult to read about, but must be included in the article.

But when Pillman moved on from the company, a new issue was made between The Taskmaster and ‘The Crippler’ Chris Benoit. Far removed from the sanitised cartoonishness with Hogan and Co., booker Sullivan wanted to create a scenario that people would really believe. It was something Bischoff was a fan of, creating storylines or even moments where as a fan, you wonder if that was really meant to happen, or was there real heat between those involved, such was the case with the Savage/Flair/Elizabeth storyline.

In reality, Four Horsemen valet ‘Woman’ was Nancy Sullivan, Kevin’s wife. She was attached to Benoit, and didn’t just accompany him to the ring and in backstage promos. The marriage of Kevin and Woman was revealed on television, so when she went out with Benoit for the public to see, people believed that she had really left Sullivan for Benoit. In a classic case of art imitating life, they really did become a couple. This brought even more intensity to their matches, and they would have some of the hardest-hitting matches in WCW.

On the January 27, 1997 edition of Nitro, a woman from Kevin’s past came back into his life, in the form of Jacquelyn. She appeared out of the crowd and went after Woman as Benoit was wrestling Hugh Morrus. As the referee and security tried to deal with the situation, Sullivan blasted Benoit with a wooden chair. After the match, Mean Gene got a word with Sullivan, Jimmy Hart and the mystery woman (not named as yet). Sullivan and Hart were not expecting her, and scant details were given, but it seemed evident that she was an ex-girlfriend of The Taskmaster before he married Nancy (Woman) ten years ago. Jacquelyn would be a future Hall of Famer and one of the few women to be named in the men’s PWI 500, when she was listed in 1993 (Miss Texas).

Up to this point, Lex Luger had been a difficult subject for Sting, who often was the middleman sorting beefs that Hogan and Savage had with Luger, who didn’t feel he could be trusted. But after Sting was put through a table by The Giant, Luger decided to drop Jimmy Hart and his association with the Dungeon of Doom. There was still some doubt over his loyalty when he accidentally hit ‘The Stinger’ with Hart’s megaphone and cost him the World Title against The Giant, but fortunately, Lex came through in the end and would become one of the company’s top babyfaces.

As mentioned earlier, after Uncensored, things got a lot more serious. Hogan took a sabbatical after Uncensored, and while he was gone, the company was ‘invaded’ by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Everyone reading surely knows what happened next, with Hulk turning heel for the first time in many years to align with Hall and Nash and form the New World Order. With this new found attitude, Hogan and his new crew targeted other factions, including The Four Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom.

In the course of all this chaos, The Shark was kicked out of the Dungeon and used his real name, John Tenta. For much of his remaining time in the company, he feuded with Big Bubba. Despite some of the more realistic storytelling that had cropped up of late, that still didn’t mean it was the end of odd characters joining the Dungeon, as DeWayne Bruce became Braun the Leprachaun, but it was quickly dropped. (Bruce was Buddy Lee Parker, best known for being one of the head coaches at the Power Plant). A better addition was Konnan, who dropped the traditional Mexican costume for a more ‘street’ look. Also added briefly at the end of 1996 was Maxx (Muscle), who had formerly been an associate of Diamond Dallas Page, but he was outed quickly and left the company in mid-1997.

The infrastructure of the Dungeon crashed down on them thanks to the nWo. On the September 2, 1996 Nitro, The Giant turned and joined Hogan and Co., and Big Bubba followed suit in December. After several bruising encounters and working his way through the rest of the Dungeon, Benoit defeated The Taskmaster in a ‘career’ match at Bash at the Beach 1997 on July 13. Jacqueline turned on Sullivan after the bout and smashed a wooden chair over his head. When Jimmy Hart got in his face, Sullivan chased him from the ring. Without The Taskmaster, the group was wound up immediately.

Much of The Dungeon’s time as a faction was zany, WrestleCrap material, however it did have its bright spots. The aforementioned rivalry with Chris Benoit was a much more relatable storyline, with serious wrestling and real issues woven in. Benoit also had two stand out matches with Meng, which are worth a watch. And while a lot of it was silly, it did build a platform for The Giant to go onto becoming one of the biggest stars in the company who WASN’T an ex-WWF guy.