Searching For Papa Shango

(Originally published July 22, 2019)

He came out of nowhere. And no sooner had he arrived, putting a hex on one of the most popular professional wrestlers of his time, he vanished. I’m talking about Papa Shango.

But where did he come from? Who was this mysterious voodoo doctor, and maybe most perplexing of all the questions, where did he go?

In 1992, Papa Shango made his presence known, defeating Dale Wolfe in the then known, World Wrestling Federation. Even when he debuted, announcers had no idea who this man was. And even more disturbing, they had no idea of the kind of damage he would soon cause.

It was at WrestleMania VIII that Papa Shango truly made his presence felt, coming down to the ring to interrupt a match between the Immortal Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice. After entering the ring, the referee called for the bell, and both Sid and Shango would then turn their attention to the Hulkster and begin their attack. Through drums and cymbals clanging in the air, the Ultimate Warrior would then run down to the ring, assisting Hulk Hogan in fighting off Sid and Papa Shango.

What would result is one of the most genuinely horrifying moments in World Wrestling Federation history. In May of ’92, Papa Shango would put a hex over Ultimate Warrior.

The Warrior just finished a match against one of the Nasty Boys and began to celebrate with his fans cheering him on. Unbeknownst to the Warrior, Papa Shango made his way closer to the ring. In what can only be described as some sort of incantation, he began to chant and wave his skull-staff in the air.

The Ultimate Warrior doubled over in pain, grabbing his ribs and was assisted to the back, utterly horrifying fans in the audience. Later, Ultimate Warrior would seemingly be affected again, this time with a dark green sludge dripping from his head during an interview.

As time went on though, Papa Shango kept Warrior off to the side and faced Tito Santana at SummerSlam ’92. Shango would eventually face the Ultimate Warrior in November of 1992, where Warrior would somehow overcome all of Shango’s mystic arts, and come away with a victory.

After continuing to terrorize wrestlers through his voodoo spells, destroying wrestlers left and right, he’d eventually work his way up the ranks of WWF. Then he set his sights on one Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The two would verbally spar back and forth for months until finally coming to a head in November of 1992 when The Hitman was the World Wrestling Federation champion.

During the Saturday Night’s Main Event showdown, the two would battle against one another and trade blow for blow. It would not come to be for Papa Shango though, as Bret Hart would put Papa Shango away with the Sharpshooter.

In the 1993 Royal Rumble, Papa Shango appeared again, but this time was eliminated quickly from the event by Ric Flair. One of his last matches in the World Wrestling Federation would be against The Undertaker. In this match with two of the meanest and most mesmerizing wrestlers in the company, Undertaker would take Shango to his limits and finally put away the witch doctor with a tombstone pile-driver.

Maybe it was because wrestlers began to find ways to fight off Papa Shango’s spells, but he’d eventually leave the bright lights of World Wrestling Federation and travel to the USWA. There he would defeat Jerry “The King” Lawler and capture the USWA championship. His title reign would be short-lived, as he lost the championship to Owen Hart a month and a half later.

After the USWA, Papa Shango would be Spotted in Austria, where he would wrestle for Catch Wrestling Association. He would contend for the championship there, coming up short against Rambo. But in Austria is where the trail of Papa Shango seems to disappear.

There are missing wrestler cases that I’ve been intrigued with over the years. Recently I was finally approved to investigate the disappearance of one Jon Moxley. But something about the disappearance of Papa Shango has always felt spooky. Mystical, if you will.

I started my journey in Austria. It was the last known location of Shango, but any and all traces of the CWA were gone. All documents and championship lineage have disappeared. I traveled to Munich and Frankfurt in Germany, hoping to get into contact with anyone with knowledge of the mysterious voodoo doctor. But no one had any knowledge of the hex-wielding wrestler.

I then ventured into France. Known as the home of the 8th wonder of the world, Andre the Giant, there had to be someone that heard of Papa Shango. Contacting the family members of owners of the now-defunct International Wrestling Enterprise, they told me there were whispers of a voodoo doctor in Italy. So, I ventured to Venice.

The Italian Wrestling Conference allowed to me meet with their former president of operations, Marco Alfonsi. Marco was sworn to silence years ago. He’d had one brief encounter with Papa Shango, and the witch doctor told Alfonsi about his plans. Shango made Alfosni swear upon the skull of his mystical staff to keep his silence. He hadn’t heard from anyone about Shango in years and assumed the man of voodoo would never find out.

He informed me that Papa Shango decided to travel to the Congo. There’s a small village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo called Retisho.

Thanking Alfonsi for the information, I hurriedly traveled to Africa and the Congo. Taking a small carriage to the small isolated village, I grew more and more concerned with my surroundings. Individuals with their faces painted eerily similar to Papa Shango appeared through the brush along the rocky roadway.

After trying to speak with a few locals, no one claimed to know or even hear of Papa Shango. Unable to find any more leads, I decided to call Marco to see if he could provide me with further insight. When his assistant answered the phone, I could hear the terror in her voice. Marco Alfonsi and suddenly dropped dead forty-eight hours earlier. Preliminary autopsy reports said that Alfonsi’s body was covered in the dark green liquid that had plagued both Ultimate Warrior and Mean Gene Okerlund.

My worries were mounting. Alfonsi had died, and the deeper I traveled into the Congo, the darker my soul began to feel. I wasn’t sure what I should do. Do I keep seeking the witch doctor despite the warnings that seemed to be mounting? What would happen if I found him?

Against better judgment, I decided to travel deeper. I found myself in a small, deserted area, with a small wicker tent set up. The air was thick. I could see mosquitoes buzzing in the air and hear the hissing of snakes in the background. At first look, there was no one around.  The small tent was empty, except for a lone red feather. Reaching down to pick it up, a huge boa constrictor seemingly appeared out of nowhere. He rested in his place, watching me, and as my eyes turned back to the red feather, it burst into flames.

Jumping back a step, I had no idea what was happening. My eyes dropped back to the boa constrictor, which was now a puddle of dark green goo. The was no Papa Shango, and I ran out of the tent, to come face to face with a woman in the same type of painted face as Shango. Holding a similar-looking staff, she pointed it at me, and then toward the direction I originally came from.

Raising my hands in submission, I nodded and slowly made my way back to the dirt road, where a small ox-drawn carriage was waiting for me. Getting to the local airport as fast as I could, I came back to Los Angeles thoroughly confused and even more spooked.

Some people doubt the power of voodoo. Some say its sleight of hand or that the incantations lead only to coincidences. I’ve felt déjà vu, and I’ve seen coincidences. But the feelings that overcame me while searching for Papa Shango deep in the Congo were something I’ve never felt before. They scared me enough that I immediately backed away, and I’m not embarrassed to say I have no intentions of searching anymore.

Papa Shango burst onto the scene and caused havoc for the Ultimate Warrior and Bret “The Hitman” Hart. He struck fear in not only the heart of his opponents but almost every person that was around him. Wherever Papa Shango has gone to, he doesn’t want to be found. I would suggest anyone searching for him in the future to let sleeping dogs lie. Who knows the kind of havoc a voodoo doctor could cause today? Someone else who strikes fear in those around him is Bray Wyatt. Though his mysterious ways seem to come from another source, I’d much rather follow the buzzards than face the wrath of Papa Shango.

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