Imagine a world in which professional wrestling dynasties carry the same weight as royal families. Such is the standard operating procedure of Metalocalypse co-creator Tommy Blacha's new Adult Swim cartoon Mongo Wrestling Alliance.
Mongo follows Rusty Kleberkuh, an all-American wrestler on the manic quest to become the world's finest grappler. But Rusty has his work cut out for him — luchadores, secret CIA projects, and lawsuits from evil wrestling attorneys threaten to waylay Rusty from his mission.
Blacha's best known for his work on Metalocalypse (he voices Dethklok members Murderface and Toki Wartooth), but many years ago he wrote for the WWF. According to his Wikipedia page, he "participated in what was voted Monday Night Raw's worst moment, which was the delivery of Mae Young's hand baby." Blacha spoke with io9 about writing a cartoon in which theatricality is tantamount to being.
Both Metalocalypse and Mongo Wrestling Alliance feature groups of large, not entirely intelligent men bumbling through fascinating situations. Why is that?
Maybe I find myself a large, not too intelligent guy who's always finding myself in those situations — that's what I aspire to. Part of it is that I find an appeal in metal and wrestling. It's that grandiose, self-indulgent, larger-than-life, almost-bordering-on-corny-at-times entertainment that I like, that entertainment that's looked down up. There's something in my personality that gravitates towards things people are poo-pooing.
What I like about both shows is that they give their respective arts a form of grand dignity. In Metalocalypse, heavy metal is the biggest cultural force on the planet. In Mongo, insane wrestling dynasties are a casually accepted facet of the world.
I worked for wrestling, and then I came to Los Angeles and worked on a sitcom. I'd be in constant battles over people being like, "Oh, you worked in wrestling." And I'd be like, "Oh yeah, you work on this third-rate sitcom! That's fucking light years above it." I wear it as a badge of honor.
What I also like about these characters is that they're stupid like a fox, if that makes any sense. There are cats I've known from wrestling and metal who are really like — God, how do I put this, I don't want to say something stupid — like humble, fucking bring-your-lunch-pail kind of guys, and at the end of the day, they'll see the entire world on their own terms. They're these larger-than-life characters who have made no concessions and through sheer force of will have — in my mind — made themselves heroic. These guys have seen the world like only world leaders have [...] When I worked at WWF, our shows were syndicated in 120 countries. That's fucking ridiculous! Anyway, it's really natural for me to gravitate towards this.
Did you put any of your experiences working for WWF in Mongo?
Oh yeah. In Mongo, sometimes we'll talk about the depravity of the pro wrestler — they're not exactly regular human beings. There was an episode where Rusty tries to quit wrestling and realizes this. You're wired up differently. Rusty — a decent all-American guy — is on a quest to be the greatest wrestler in the world. He's trying to get to the top in such a vicious business.
When you get to know some of these legendary wrestlers behind-the-scenes, you'd be surprised to find that it can be even crazier. Think of all the decadent, self-indulgent stories you hear about rock-and-roll stars, and then apply that to wrestling. It's the same, but with 70 pounds of muscle added on. Which it makes it even more insane.
Do you remember the show Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling?
I certainly do!
I loved that show's conceit that WWF wrestlers spend every waking hour together like some deranged superhero team. Mongo's the same way. Is pro wrestling really like this? Would you say wrestlers eventually just become their ring personas?
It's a case-by-case basis. Some guys are no different, some guys become the guy. Some guys maintain a huge difference to stay sane. But then again, Ric Flair is Ric Flair. When you create a wrestling persona, one of the things they say is it should be you at ten volumes.
Would you consider yourself a wrestling historian?
I aspire to be. I love the inception of wrestling, how it has over a hundred-year history, it's very specifically American. It deserves a bigger place in history. There's a book out recently about Gorgeous George, and it makes the claim that he invented pop culture. It's a pretty good argument — when you think about television in this country, wrestling was one of the first things to capture a TV audience. It was easily televised, cheap to air, and the characters were huge. Gorgeous George was one of the biggest stars in the world — he was a huge TV star with this sense of ironic humor. I don't know if he's gotten his iconic due.
And how's work on Metalocalypse going?
We're halfway through Season 4. There's no airdate yet. Who knows, the world just might end. Death and brutality!
A new episode of Mongo Wrestling Alliance airs tonight at 12:15 AM on Adult Swim. Image credits: Adult Swim.