Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: the Ministry of Darkness

The Ministry of Darkness, WWF – 1998-1999

Okay, actually this one veered way off course even before it got started. The Jackyl (better known as ECW’s Cyrus or Don Callis from TNA) had put together a massive tag team – Bradshaw (who’d been doing nothing since the NWA invasion flopped) and Faarooq (who’d been doing nothing since the Nation of Domination had disintegrated). He called them the Acolytes.

Everything was going well until the Jackyl wound up leaving the WWF. Uh-oh. The Acolytes kept competing as a tag team, but it looked like they would simply drift around for a while and hope something came up.

Then came the December 28th Raw. Dennis Knight was backstage, visiting with X-Pac. Knight had been better known as Phineas I. Godwinn. When X-Pac asked what he was doing there, Knight simply replied that “he” had told him to be there.

Unfortunately, Knight’s visit was short-lived, as later in the show we saw the Acolytes grab Knight, lock him in the trunk of his own car, and take off. Well, thanks for stopping by.

The next week, we saw Knight, who was apparently shackled and hanging from the ceiling in a dungeon somewhere. Finally the Acolytes came up and said that it was time and “he” was waiting. Knight was then dragged into a smoky room. As the door closed, he started screaming as the Acolytes took up their positions on either side of the door.

On January 11th, Knight showed up again. He wandered over to Michael Cole and began ranting about how beautiful “it” was going to be. The Acolytes quickly appeared and dragged him off.

Later in the night, we found out what was going on. The Undertaker appeared at the top of the ramp in a throne. Accompanied by Paul Bearer and the Acolytes, he walked down to where Knight lay on a sort of altar. He then went through a very long ceremony – “sacrificing” Knight and renaming him Mideon.

The next week, the fun continued. Mideon came out babbling, then Undertaker and the rest appeared. Taker promised that the next sacrifice would take place on the 24th – the night of the Royal Rumble.

The Royal Rumble was Sunday night – most notable for the infamous Rock-Mankind I Quit match, where the Rock did his best to take Mick’s head off with a chair. The Rumble match itself was off to a good start as the Undertaker’s next victim entered as #11 – good old King Mabel. #12 was Road Dogg who’d drawn a lucky number, as the Ministry came out and grabbed Mabel, taking him to the back.

The next night the Ministry was notably absent, until the very end of the show. Al Snow and Road Dogg were arguing over a Hardcore title shot when the Acolytes obliterated both of them. Undertaker then made another pronouncement of a holy war.

Something groundbreaking happened the next week as the Ministry finally wrestled. They took on the Brood (Gangrel, Christian, and Edge). The Ministry was represented by Undertaker (who sat back and watched the match), Mideon, and Viscera (the newly-renamed Mabel). Everything went well until the Brood briefly got the upper hand. That brought out the Acolytes, who cleaned house. To close out the night, Taker hung Gangrel.

We then got the Acolytes vs. Road Dogg and Al Snow in a hardcore match. Viscera suddenly appeared and put Al Snow through a ringside table. Bradshaw then put Dogg through a table to get the pin. The rest of the Ministry then came out. The Acolytes unmasked the Undertaker’s druids to reveal that they were the Brood.

That brings us to the February PPV – St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, notable for the Big Show’s debut by throwing Steve Austin through the wall of a steel cage. The Ministry’s first (and only) match was Mideon vs. the Big Boss Man. Boss Man hit the Boss Man Slam, then the lights went out and the beatdown commenced. The Ministry then abducted Boss Man.

We finally got a clue as to what was going on the next night on Raw. Undertaker explained that he planned to take over the WWF, and was beginning by dismantling McMahon’s Corporation. Boss Man then came out and challenged them to a six-man tag later on that night.

The match itself was Boss Man, Ken Shamrock, and Test taking on Mideon and the Acolytes. When the match started breaking down into a brawl, the lights went out. Undertaker and the rest of the Ministry appeared at the top of the ramp with another hostage – Shane. Undertaker threatened to carve Shane’s heart out and then gave him some sort of paperwork to give to Vince.

McMahon decided it was time to take charge the next Monday night. He took time out from the Mankind-Rock feud to announce that he’d made an inferno match for later that night – Undertaker vs. Kane.

Gangrel and Edge took on the debuting Public Enemy and lost by DQ when Christian interfered. Taker said they needed to be punished for losing, so the Ministry delivered a beatdown.

Kane and Taker fought in the main event in their inferno match as Vince McMahon came down to do guest commentary. When Michael Cole asked what Shane had been given the week before, McMahon evaded the question, saying only that “no one goes there.” Paul Bearer then came out and presented McMahon with a box. Vince opened it to reveal a teddy bear. McMahon jumped up and began demanding Bearer tell him what he was doing. Taker took advantage of the chaos to set Kane’s boot on fire, then grabbed the bear from McMahon and set it on fire as well. He left a crying McMahon crawling for the bear.

McMahon stormed out to the ring the next week and immediately fired Kane for losing the inferno match, then prepared to ship him back to the asylum he’d come from. Chyna helped Kane fight off the orderlies, then told McMahon that she could control him. Undertaker than came on the PA and said that he’d told McMahon what he was going to take, then started laughing.

As Mankind took on Undertaker in the main event, McMahon again joined Lawler and Cole for guest commentary. McMahon again dodged the question when Cole asked what the bear meant. McMahon also took advantage of the opportunity to announce that Undertaker would face Big Boss Man in a hell in the cell match at Wrestlemania. As Mankind won the match by count out, Undertaker positioned McMahon on the commentary table in preparation for a chokeslam. Boss Man came out, cracked Taker with his nightstick, then grabbed McMahon and escaped through the crowd as the Ministry started coming out to join in the fun.

To say Undertaker was furious would be an understatement. Upon their arrival for Raw the next week, Taker immediately sent the Ministry out to scour the arena with one mission – find the Boss Man. Boss Man finally arrived, and the next we saw of him, he was being brought out and strapped to a giant Undertaker symbol. Boss Man got free and was saved by the Corporation, but not before Undertaker dropped one interesting tidbit about his plans: that “she” would be his. The police then took Undertaker into custody for attacking them, and he left peacefully while Paul Bearer talked to someone on a cell phone. McMahon took advantage of the opportunity to rant about Undertaker threatening his family while Taker was being loaded into the police car.

Things got serious a week later. We saw footage of the Brood and Paul Bearer outside McMahon’s house, which sent McMahon (at the arena) into a panic. He was immediately on the phone with his security people, who assured him that they hadn’t seen anything unusual. You know, I have to wonder what would qualify as unusual for McMahon’s house. But I digress.

When we came back from commercial, Shane was on the phone to the Greenwich police, who refused to go check things out. After all, they’re watching the whole thing on TV, so it’s just a publicity stunt. Vince then got a call from Undertaker, who asked if he knew where his family was.

While this was going on, Mideon was taking on the Boss Man in a steel cage match. It didn’t stay one on one for long, as the rest of the Corporation came out and attacked. McMahon demanded that Undertaker leave his house or he’d have Mideon destroyed. Undertaker said that taking out Mideon was fine and started laughing, which sent Shane scrambling for his cell phone again.

Back at the Chateau McMahon, the police finally arrived. The policeman looked around and didn’t find anything. McMahon wasn’t convinced. His fears were justified as Undertaker announced that he knew what time “she’d” be home. Undertaker’s camera then pulled back to reveal a flaming Undertaker symbol on McMahon’s lawn.

McMahon panicked. He ran out to the ring where Kane was taking on Triple H and begged Kane’s help to talk to the Undertaker to knock this off. Kane responded by pulling his mask off to reveal the Undertaker. Undertaker grabbed McMahon, then the lights went out. When they came back on, McMahon was standing alone in the ring.

Vince was back in charge on the next Monday. He promised that his family was safe, and that Undertaker would be too busy with the Corporation to even think about them. The match that would keep him busy was a six-man tag with Taker and the Acolytes taking on Boss Man, Shamrock, and Test. It took less than two minutes for that one to break down into complete chaos.

That brought us to Wrestlemania XV, better known as having the worst cell match in history until the Kennel From Hell came along. Wait! Isn’t Undertaker taking on Boss Man in the cell tonight? Yep. The match ended with Boss Man being tombstoned and pinned. After the match, the Brood dropped from the ceiling and landed on top of the cell. They lowered a noose to Taker. He strung up Boss Man and then the cell rose toward the ceiling, hanging Boss Man. Don’t worry. He was better by the next night.

On Raw the next night Vince was sweating. Thanks to a loophole, new WWF champion Steve Austin had the opportunity to attack him. Austin had promised to pass on the beating if McMahon would simply produce the Smoking Skull title belt. McMahon called his home and demanded that his daughter Stephanie get to the arena with the belt ASAP. As soon as she arrived, McMahon ordered her to stay in a backstage room with Shane to guard her, then headed to the ring, where Taker had Sable in a death grip. Taker released her just as McMahon realized what he’d done. Screaming Stephanie’s name, McMahon ran backstage. Sure enough, Stephanie was gone before he could get backstage.

This caused Vince to fall apart. As Shamrock took Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson to search the arena for the Ministry, Shane was forced to take control of the show. Shane quickly set up a match between Shamrock and Gangrel. Finally Shamrock locked in the ankle lock and demanded to know where Stephanie was. The lights went out as Edge and Christian ran toward the ring. When they came back on, Shamrock was covered in a Brood Bloodbath (since this isn’t WCW, we don’t have to call it Red Viscous Liquid) and now had Christian in the ankle lock. Rather than let his ankle get snapped, Christian stooged out that she was in the basement. That’s original.

Anyway, Shamrock got Stephanie and the two of them made their way out of the basement. They reunited Stephanie with her father and Vince took her home.

She was back for Heat, where she did an interview. Stephanie revealed that the mysterious envelope had contained pictures of her and the bear had also been hers. She then went on to say that she only felt safe when she was with Vince.

We then saw Undertaker whipping Christian and forcing Edge and Gangrel to hold him. After this little bit of motivation, Edge and Gangrel went out to take on the New Age Outlaws. After losing (when Christian, who wasn’t even in the match, got pinned), Viscera took on Shamrock. The Ministry quickly assembled and abducted him. Then they stuffed him in the trunk of a car and drove off.

The lights in the dressing room containing Vince, Stephanie, and eight police officers then went out. During this pandemonium, the Ministry had made their way out to the ring along with a hooded figure. They strapped the figure to the symbol and removed the hood, revealing that it was Ryan Shamrock (Ken’s sister). Taker ordered for her to be raised after saying that he had promised a sacrifice that night. He then said that Stephanie was the Chosen One and she would join him. Vince and Stephanie responded by clearing out of the arena as fast as humanly possible.

The next week we saw a Four Corners match for the Women’s title, and then the lights went out and Undertaker came on the Titantron – promising another sacrifice. We found out what was going on when Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart were taking on the Acolytes in a tag match. The Ministry hit the ring and Undertaker made it clear that Debra had been chosen. Shamrock then ran down with a baseball bat, demanding the return of his sister. Undertaker told him where to find her and then warned Shamrock to be careful as Shamrock ran toward the back. Once Shamrock hit the boiler room, the Ministry beat both him and Mankind down, then Undertaker told Ryan it was her fault.

Needless to say, Shamrock was chosen as that night’s sacrifice. He was trussed to the symbol, then Undertaker grabbed Christian and told Edge to strap him down as well. The Brood decided enough was enough and rebelled. While both factions fought, Shamrock managed to get loose. Then Mankind ran down to the ring to join in the fun. Undertaker simply walked up to the stage and descended in a cloud of smoke.

Undertaker was furious. The next week the Acolytes had a tag match with Edge and Gangrel. Taker warned them not to fail. Everything was going according to plan until Shamrock (and his bat) showed up. The Acolytes returned to the back and tried to explain until Taker attacked Bradshaw and Viscera went after Faarooq.

While this was going on, Vince and Stephanie were at the WWF studio, doing an interview with Michael Cole about the problems Vince was having with Shane and the Corporation. Suddenly Mideon broke in, grabbed Stephanie, pitched her in a car, and took off.

That brought us to Backlash – best remembered for the Mankind-Big Show boiler room brawl. The show opened with the Acolytes and Mideon (and help from Viscera) defeating the Brood in a six-man tag. Undertaker then took on Ken Shamrock and won, resulting in another Ministry beatdown for Shamrock. As the show closed, Stephanie had climbed into her limo to leave. The chauffeur turned around – it was the Undertaker. As Stephanie screamed, Taker floored it.

On Raw, Vince had decided he was out of options. He had a briefcase with him and was prepared to hand the company over in exchange for Stephanie. Unfortunately, there was another twist coming. Undertaker gave his demands. He wanted the papers delivered to a certain spot at a certain time… by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Vince knew Austin wouldn’t do it, so he went himself and was ignored.

The end of Raw saw the Ministry heading out with Stephanie strapped to the symbol. Paul Bearer began performing a dark wedding to marry Stephanie and Undertaker. Shamrock ran out to try to stop it, but Viscera and the Acolytes dropped him. The Corporation wanted to go, but Shane was stopping them backstage. Big Show was the next to try and interfere, but Undertaker put an end to that. Finally Austin came out, saved Stephanie, and returned her to her father.

The angle came to an end that Thursday – which was the debut episode of Smackdown. During an interview by the Rock, Shane McMahon and the Undertaker came out and announced that their two factions were merging. The Corporate Ministry was born.

Analysis
It’s really odd. I should really hate this angle because there was no wrestling, and yet even reading back over the old results it reminds me how gripping it was once the on-screen “sacrifice” stuff came to an end.

One reason this worked was because it was new. We’d seen Vince McMahon as an announcer and as a heel, but never as a full-fledged face. We’d never seen Stephanie before. We’d never seen Undertaker go nuts like that. It was different and it worked. For a while. But we’ll cover the Corporate Ministry another day.

This also served to reintroduce and update a couple of faces from the past. Mabel was in desperate need of an update. Dennis Knight had nothing going after Mark Canterbury was injured by a botched Doomsday Device. The Ministry gave them both another chance.

Where are they now?
The Undertaker remains with the WWE. Today he is on the Smackdown side of the roster split.

Paul Bearer left the WWE in 2002 and briefly appeared in TNA. In 2004, Bearer returned to the Undertaker’s side, starting with Wrestlemania XX. In June, he was “severely injured” when he was buried alive in concrete. In April of 2005, Bearer was given his 90-day notice and was released from his contract. Bearer’s website is http://www.percypringle.com .

Bradshaw has also remained with the WWE and is also on Smackdown. After the Acolytes split up, Bradshaw reinvented himself as the controversial John Bradshaw Layfield. Despite committing many controversial actions (such as performing a Nazi salute and march in Germany), Bradshaw went on to become WWE champion and held that title for ten months.

Faarooq was released by the WWE in March of 2004. He appears to have retired.

Mideon went on to have a very different gimmick after the end of the Ministry – he became a streaker. He was released from the WWF shortly thereafter and now works independent dates, mostly in Florida.

Viscera was released from the WWF and went to TNA for a few appearances in 2003 as Nelson Knight. He returned to the WWE in 2004 when he and Gangrel joined forces with JBL and attacked the Undertaker. Most recently, Viscera has moved to Raw, where he became a love machine, recently wining, dining, and dumping Lillian Garcia.

The Brood’s whereabouts were covered in the March 31st column. The only change is the fact that Christian is now on Smackdown.

Next week
By request, a faction that no one could kill in WCW… except for Kevin Sullivan. Don’t forget to keep those requests coming!

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