Just a day away from Halloween, there is no telling what kind of ghouls and goblins will be lurking in the shadows. But fear not, because many of the world’s evil-doers are already preoccupied with their day jobs as pro wrestlers, where they can haunt us year round. James Mitchell can personally attest to this, as he’s managed several of them. After all, it takes evil to know evil.
“I was always the go-to guy for monsters and freaks,” Mitchell told SLAM! Wrestling. “With a traditional wrestler I talk more about his athletic prowess, but with a monster I talk about the impending carnage.”
But how exactly does someone qualify as being “evil?” Mitchell has one theory that much like that popular kid in high school, who’s popular enough to know that he/she doesn’t have to spread the word, evil is simply a label that is placed on someone without that person even being aware of it.
“At times I was directed to do or say things that I didn’t agree with or felt were out of character,” Mitchell said. “For example, I was once told to refer to myself as being evil in an interview, which was pretty stupid. Truly evil people don’t see themselves as being evil. That’s a label used by the victims of their misdeeds. As far as portraying a villain overall, it was the funnest job in the world.”
Much like the “monster” characters that he grew up watching such as Dracula, The Wolfman and his personal favourite Frankenstein, Mitchell is not as evil as he appears on television. If anything, he’s the complete opposite. But he just played the character so well over the years that a myth started to grow about his off-camera persona.
“I’m not really the cackling, mad scientist that everyone seems to think that I am but there were even some wrestlers who were legitimately scared of me. Not in a physical sense, but they were coming up to me and asking if I’m for real,” Mitchell said. “I would try my best to be as entertaining as I possibly could and no matter what kind of bizarre situation I was given, I would always think, ‘How would my character react under these circumstances?'”
Speaking of bizarre situations, when Mitchell started out as a manager in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, his first assignment was to pair up with a wrestler named Prince Kharis, whose gimmick was that of a 4,000-year-old mummy. It only lasted a few months, but Mitchell tried his best to get Kharis over, while also trying to make sense of the situation to the viewing audience, which, needless to say, was no easy task.
“I couldn’t put it across as if he (Kharis) was actually a mummy, because nobody would buy that,” Mitchell said. “What I did was convince everyone that I was crazy enough to believe that he was a mummy.”
Mitchell has been in touch with his dark side since childhood, and even then he understood the difference between fiction and reality. But it didn’t stop him from being entertained by any of the monsters in his favourite classic horror films. However, Mitchell makes the argument that unless one is the devil himself, evil is never inborn.
“People don’t seem to comprehend that characters like Frankenstein were never really evil, just misunderstood because they were different. It’s not like they dropped out of their mother’s womb and they were evil,” he said. “Certain specific things I’ve said or the way I gesticulated or made a facial expression have been inspired by various characters, but it’s an ever changing thing. I never tried to completely pattern myself lock, stock, and barrel on any one person. As Jim Cornette once told me, ‘If you steal everything from one person it’s plagiarism. If you steal a little bit from everybody it’s research.'”
Perhaps the most evil character that Mitchell ever played was a character by the name of Sinister Minister. Ironically, he was the good guy.
“When I did the Sinister Minister character in ECW, I was starting to get over as a babyface,” Mitchell said. “And ECW was the inverse to everything else that was happening in the business, so it’s only natural that the devil would be the babyface. Sinister Minister was sort of a humorous trickster and that eventually evolved into the more serious, unrepentant, sociopath that I became in TNA.”
Mitchell was also a fan of comic books and remembers when his uncle handed him grocery bags full of Tales from the Crypt comics, which Mitchell says could have probably bought him a second house today if he kept them. But even when reading the comics, he was always hopeful that one day, evil would triumph over good.
“I was more a fan of the super villains, rather than the heroes,” Mitchell said. “The villains from the old Batman TV series made a pretty lasting impression on me. I used to watch a lot of the classic horror movies growing up such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman. The old horror show hosts inspired me. I loved James Bond villains, too. Dennis Hopper’s character from the movie Blue Velvet figures in there somewhere. I took a little bit from countless movie and comic book heels and amalgamated them into my alter-ego.”
Indeed, evil comes in many forms. But written backwards, it’s spells “live,” which is what Mitchell does everyday as normal as he could possibly be. So it appears as though all of the evil characters portrayed by Mitchell throughout his career were merely Halloween costumes that are now resting on the shelf.
MORE JAMES MITCHELL STORIES
- August 29, 2007: James Mitchell: Still in the picture
- October 26, 2005: James Mitchell not so sinister