It may only be September, but, I’m already in the Halloween spirit. As Halloween approaches, I begin to think of Elvira more often than usual and for my wife and I, Elvira’s movies, “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” and “Haunted Hills,” are considered ‘must-watch’ during October. I’m also reminded of her many product promotions and appearances on television around the Halloweens of my childhood during the 80s and 90s.
Cassandra Peterson created the Elvira character in 1981 when a Los Angeles based weekend cable show, “Fright Nights,” auditioned for new hosts to introduce B-rated horror movies. She quickly caught on as Elvira, using a “Valley-Girl” accent and sarcastic and often risque commentary. Her campy sense of humor was filled with double entendres and quickly made the Elvira character a household name.
However, before her hit film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark made it big in 1988, did you know she joined the world of professional wrestling? In an appearance that longtime wrestling fans will remember, Elvira left her mark on Wrestlemania 2 in 1986. She appeared alongside Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Lord Alfred Hayes to provide commentary for the Los Angeles portion of the event on April 7, 1986. That year, you may remember, the main event was a steel cage match between Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy.
Elvira remembers the experience fondly. In an interview to promote her appearance a few years back at the Shock Pop Comic Con, Elvira said, “I had a great time doing it. I met Jesse Ventura, who I really got along with great. I had a lot of fun with him. He was a cool guy. It was strangely right up Elvira’s alley. At first, I was like, ‘Wow, what am I doing here?’ Then I found we have a lot more in common than you think…They kind of threw me in there. I didn’t know what the hell was going on… but it was kind of one of those gigs, you know? I have met some really great wrestlers who I like a lot, but some of them were not that friendly. Jesse Ventura was super down-to-earth, friendly, and charming.” I guess if you read between the lines, that means Lord Alfred Hayes was the “not that friendly” one.
Elvira claims to have always been a fan of professional wrestling from a young age. She said, “I grew up watching wrestling with my dad. It was our thing we used to do, like how some people grew up watching Elvira. We always watched wrestling together…” She went on to say that she hadn’t watched the WWF in quite some time, but when they asked her to join the commentary team in Los Angeles, she jumped at the opportunity. She went on to explain that in making her own appearances as Elvira at car shows, autograph signings, and conventions, she would always appear with wrestlers and befriended many of them. She understood the dedication to character work and the art of live performances. With the soaring popularity of the first Wrestlemania and the “Rock ‘n Wrestling” days of MTV and the WWF, she was very eager to get involved.
A pop culture icon herself, what better place for her to make her debut than the biggest pop culture event in wrestling? Many articles have been written about how groundbreaking Wrestlemania was and the risks Vince McMahon took launching the largest event in pro wrestling, so I won’t rehash those. Over the past 36 years, the event has grown to rival The Superbowl in terms of pop culture relevance, but in 1986, Wrestlemania 2 was still part of the “experimentation” stage for the WWF.
Wrestlemania 2 was unique compared to other ‘Manias. The event took place on a Monday, making it the only WrestleMania not held on the traditional Sunday (that is, until the COVID pandemic created the two-night Wrestlemania 36 in 2020.) Wrestlemania 2 was also the only one that took place from three separate venues: the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, New York; the Rosemont Horizon near Chicago, Illinois; and the Los Angeles Arena in Los Angeles, California.
Each venue had its own main attraction. The main event on the East Coast was a boxing match between Mr. T and Roddy Piper. In Chicago, there was a battle royal involving WWF wrestlers and NFL football players, while on the West Coast was the Main Event that saw Hulk Hogan defend his World Heavyweight title against King Kong Bundy. Elvira was there to provide commentary with Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Lord Alfred Hayes during the Los Angeles portion of WrestleMania 2.
Elvira’s announcing gig was not her only encounter in and around the pro wrestling ring. After her WWF appearance, Elvira could be seen in advertisements for rival promotion NWA/WCW and their Halloween Havoc Pay-Per-View events from 1989-1991. Not appearing at the event itself, Elvira would hype the program to get viewers to buy the event on pay-per-view. She even has the honor of being a part of the advertising for the infamous “Chamber of Horrors” match where they electrocuted Abdullah the Butcher.
Since then, she has made several appearances for autograph signings and photos at wrestling conventions but never stepped back in front of the camera on a wrestling promotion.
Interestingly enough, she’s not the only Elvira to grace the pro wrestling ring. Fans of classic wrestling history may know Elvira Snodgrass, who has a place in history as one of the roughest and toughest women to ever lace a pair of boots. Making her debut in 1941, the self-described “hillbilly ‘rassler” was one of Mildred Burke and Mae Young’s most formidable opponents. Lore claims that Mildred, the Women’s World Champion, and Elvira once drew a crowd of over 18,000 in Louisville, Kentucky. Unfortunately for them, no such record exists of an event taking place. Nevertheless, Mildren Burke may have been the queen of wrestling for over 20 years, but, for half of them, Elvira Snodgrass would be a routine challenger for her title.
Elvira Snodgrass, real name Gutherine Fuller, was billed as living in Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, or Ohio… whichever was convenient for the promoter. However, linking the two Elvira’s together, Elvira Snodgrass was billed as hailing from Hollywood, California, for a short time after a role in a film. At the height of her fame, Elvira was making $8,000 a year (equal to $115,000 in 2020). She worked in the ring 5 to 6 nights a week for over a decade and only took time off when her father died and when she legitimately suffered a broken jaw.
Elvira eventually would (as the story goes) cut her own left arm off at the elbow to save herself from being pinned in a car at the bottom of a ravine following an accident driving home alone after one of her matches in Florence, Kentucky.
Much like the film star Elvira of today, Elvira Snodgrass was a free spirit who followed her dreams and did things her way. Both are proud of defying stereotypes, and both enjoy being heroes for women. Elvira, the wrestler, had once said that she loved being someone women could look up to. “In the ring, I can do anything,” Snodgrass once said.
Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) once stated that many people are surprised to find she has as many female fans as she did male fans. Obviously, the male fans enjoy the humor and sex appeal, but “Female audiences like it just as much or more because she doesn’t take any guff from guys. She stands up for her opinion… She believes in herself, tries hard, and ultimately conquers all.”
The Mistress of the Dark’s campy persona would have mixed well in the pro wrestling world, had Elvira ever desired to get into the ring. In a land of bombastic larger than life characters and personas, she would have fit right in. I’d like to think that the two Elvira’s would have made an incredible tag team in today’s professional wrestling world.