Induction: The Toxic Turtles – Hell in a Shell

27 Submitted by on Thu, 14 September 2017, 20:00

WWF, 1993

It’s not often that everyone in the wrestling world suddenly starts talking about a nearly 25 year-old match, especially one with no recognizable stars (both in the “WWE Superstar” sense and in the Dave Meltzer sense)…

…but with the arrival of WWE’s new Unreleased 1986-1995 DVD, it seems that everyone from Charly Caruso to Sean Mooney wants to know about the Toxic Turtles and their one and only match inside a WWF ring.

As a boy, I put Ninja Turtles in the ring against toy wrestlers all the time. I fondly recall classic tag team title confrontations between The Smoking Bums (Donatello the Undercover Turtle & Make My Day Leo) and The No-Names (Casey Jones & Virgil, Wrestling Superstar), so named for their lack of a nickname.

I was five.

Any kid with an imagination could pit turtles against wrestlers inside a miniature ring, but in March 1993, Vince McMahon decided to do it for real.

And while today, the idea of an epic struggle between man and reptilian humanoids lives on only in my memory and on certain internet talk radio shows…

…Vince’s version of interspecies catch-as-can was preserved for posterity on film. And just this month, the WWE Universe was finally able to see the infamous match for themselves.

One thing to clear up, though, is the misconception that the wrestling turtles were Vince’s idea. Actually, unlike most awful gimmicks documented on this site, the idea for these characters sprang from the minds of wrestlers themselves.

Well, sort of.

Obvious plagiarism aside, perennial jobbers Duane Gill and Barry Hardy took it upon themselves to have the suits made and bring them to a number of WWF tapings in hopes of working multiple matches per night.

Now, they weren’t the first Ninja Turtle-themed wrestlers; that honor goes to Brian Hildebrand, who moonlighted in USWA as Cowabunga, the wrestling turtle.

But at one TV taping in 1993, Vince McMahon was so impressed with Gill break-dancing backstage in the turtle suit that he booked the Toxic Turtles into a match on the spot. Ten minutes later, they were wrestling Tommy Stevenson and Ron Preston.

Upon the Toxic Turtles’ introduction by the ring announcer, the fans in attendance might not have realized that they were complete rip-offs of the Ninja Turtles; after all, the TMNT hailed from the sewers of Manhattan, while the Toxic Turtles hailed from the alliterative Tarrytown, Texas

(And no, neither Gill nor Hardy were born within a thousand miles of that place).

And instead of being named after Italian Renaissance artists like Leonardo or Michelangelo, these turtles took the relatively pedestrian names of “Tommy” and “Terry” – and one of their opponents was already named Tommy!

Why not call the two turtles, “Botticelli” and… and…

…Huh, I can’t think of any more. Alright, Tommy and Terry it is.

But as soon as the Turtles flailed their way through the curtain, the audience knew these guys were not only an intellectual property lawsuit waiting to happen, but also some of the goofiest characters to ever use Max Moon’s entrance theme.

(Why Max Moon’s theme? I guess Vince figured that, with the spaceman newly gone from the WWF, he could still squeeze some use out of his old music. Plus, the decision to put Gill and Hardy out there in turtle suits was made only 10 minutes before match time, so not every decision was going to make sense.

Now if only I could figure out why Tatanka war-danced his way to the ring to the tune of Jimmy Hart’s “Crank It Up” before his tryout match. That’s also on the DVD.)

Duane Gill, AKA the turtle in orange (either Tommy or Terry, I have no idea which) started out the match…

…first strutting around like some pizza-eatin’, Shredder-beatin’, sewer-dwelling, Cowabunga-yelling son of a gun…

…then attempting to dazzle the largely silent crowd by rolling head-over-shell with a somersault and doing a Hitman imitation for some reason.

A headlock and a tag brought the magenta turtle in…

…for a double dropkick.

Barry Hardy attempted a pin, but his opponent powered out at two, leaving the turtle helpless.

Yes, Hardy got stuck on his back and had to have Gill flip him off his shell. The crowd was less than amused.

Even something as surreal as a man in a cartoon costume executing an arm-wringer couldn’t rally the fans behind Tommy and Terry.

Duane Gill, who himself probably had no idea whether he was Tommy or Terry, tagged back in for a double back elbow. It took the crowd nearly two entire minutes from the time Turtles came through the curtain to turn completely against Tommy and Terry.

Gill’s spinning heel kick just seconds later did nothing to win fans over, as the crowd’s unrest had reached critical mass.

The jobber in white kicked out of another pin attempt, but Gill, unlike his partner, landed on his feet – all four of them – and began to crawl around like a turtle.

Not a Ninja Turtle, though, as they always walked upright.

The unfortunate enhancement talent (the guy in the white trunks, not the one in the turtle costume) then had to endure some punishing turtle chops to the head…

…and another back elbow.

Hardy tagged in to execute a body slam…

…and made an illegal tag back to Gill, who was not holding the tag rope (as if anyone cared), allowing the future Light Heavyweight champion to flip over the ropes with a senton to win the match.

Stevenson & Preston didn’t get in a lick of offense (in fact, one of them never even left the apron). The match was thus the most dominant performance of Duane Gill’s career and a far cry from he and Barry Hardy getting hurled every which way by the Steiner Brothers (which they did on numerous occasions, including the first episode of Raw).

And so the Toxic Turtles walked off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

Gill & Hardy had hoped their debut match would lead Vince to give the Toxic Turtles a permanent home in the Federation, but it never happened because the two wrestlers in the suits were not under contract to the WWF…

…and the Ninja Turtles’ popularity was fading fast…

…and the gimmick was blatant copyright infringement…

…and the match sucked…

…and the fans hated them.

But if it weren’t for that, who knows!

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at:
27 Responses to "Induction: The Toxic Turtles – Hell in a Shell"
  1. Sean Bateman says:

    New England indie wrestler Steve “the Turtle” Weiner is better than these two shellheads.

  2. Nasir says:

    Could you imagine seeing this on WWF Superstars back in the day? I mean it’s possible but I bet they would’ve only had like 1 match just like this. Though I can’t say that Turtles’s popularity was fading (well due to the show lasting until November ’96, the 3rd movie being out at the time and the videos games etc etc) but I get it. It was a bad idea from inception.

    • E-Squared says:

      In some ways, the popularity was SORT OF fading, as Power Rangers was rising in popularity during that time. Though yes, the show was still going on during that time.

      By the way, wouldn’t it have made sense to have the Toxic Turtles billed from New York?

  3. Andrew Elder says:

    Is Charlie hitting Sean in the crotch?

  4. mfm420 says:

    why tatanka has crank it up as his theme? story goes, that for years, when wwe would give guys tryout matches, they decided guys needed theme music, and that seem to always be the go to theme (allegedly, rock’s tryout match in 1996, he requested theme music and got the song as a result.)

  5. #OPC says:

    I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Shredder gimmick.

  6. RCS1988 says:

    Judging by the camera angles and the WWF USA banner, that had this match aired on TV, it most likely would have aired on All American Wrestling, WWF Mania, or the obscure, but still showed the occasional exclusive match that didn’t air on AAW or Mania and that was Wrestling Spotlight.

  7. Si says:

    Lest we forget, not only are there still copyright-baiting Turtle factions working in Mexico – at least three sets of them, in fact – but a faux-Raphael was in the news last year after Alberto Del Rio assaulted him backstage.

  8. Gerard says:

    proof that wrestlers will try just about anything in a wrestling ring saw on youtube at a comicon event they had some dude in an elmo costume fighting goku from dragonball and i wish i was kidding!!

  9. AK says:

    How about Botticelli and Fonzarelli?

    Sure the latter isn’t a famous renaissance artist but by 1993 I imagine Vince probably just caught wind of that happening new sitcom “Happy Days” and figured nobody would know the difference.

    Also kind of surprised they didn’t just call them the break dancing turtles. If Duane Gill could bust a move or two in the costume, I still think that would have been more marketable than the blatant copyright infringement he and Barry Hardy tried to push.

  10. Stone Cold Warlord says:

    I thought I was the only one! The TMNT the Movie versions of Raphael and Michelangelo had a lengthy run as tag team champions in my Hasbro wrestling fed. So this is what it feels like when doves cry.

  11. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    I just love that they went to the trouble of having the suits made specifically for taking the chance that they might get to do this. That takes some kind of determination.

  12. Frank A. Botch says:

    Has the year of 1993 have been inducted yet?

  13. CF says:

    Now realize: There’s two wrestlers out there who have to spend their entire lives knowing “we lost to a TMNT *knockoff*”…. >:)

  14. Brad says:

    The WWE Network needs a sitcom where Sean and his twin brother Ian Mooney share an apartment

  15. doc75 says:

    what the shell were they thinking?

  16. MistaMaddog says:

    “Hey Vince, we should hire Jerry Lawler. I bet he has some great ideas we can use from Memphis…”

  17. Caveman says:

    Imagine if they had brought their brothers Tony and Timmy in for Survivor Series and teamed with The Goon…

    • John C says:

      Or if they could have stayed as a team for a couple more years and joined forces with Tekno Team 2000. Travis, Troy, Tony, Timmy, that would be quite a tease.

  18. Crimie says:

    Holy shit Jed I had undercover Donatello and he was drafted into my wrestling toy federation! I used him as Koko B Ware for some reason!

  19. Ewa Beach Boy says:

    Too bad the human turtle James Ellsworth wasn’t around back then to manage the turtles. That would’ve been a license to print money but I’m not sure he was even born yet.

  20. Gabe Benson says:

    The next year Shane “The Franchise” Douglas throws the NWA belt down to the ring floor and ECW was born. Thank you Vince for the Cartoon Era! EC Dub EC Dub!

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