David Heath is an oddity in wrestling as despite being such a recognizable, influential and memorable character, he was never on the upper-card of any major promotion he was signed to. Undeterred by his persistent midcard status, Heath was able to become one of the most identifiable pieces of the WWE’s attitude era with an effective vampire gimmick that would become synonymous with his name.
Photo credit: WWE
Gangrel made his WWF TV debut in 1998 on one of the company’s c-shows, Sunday Night Heat, which would predominantly showcase the company’s enhancement, lower and midcard talent. As the arena dimmed to a dark red hue, some killer horror-synth music played and a man in a white robe holding a chalice of blood emerged through a ring of fire at the top of the stage. The cameras zoomed in to reveal the man’s teeth were sharpened into fangs that were dripping with blood all over his pale outfit. It was instantly clear that Gangrel wasn’t Dracula or Count Orlok. Gangrel was the Lost Boys. A badass, bloodthirsty and malicious vampiric individual.
Shortly after his WWF debut, he became the leader of the faction, “The Brood.” The Brood consisted of Gangrel as the leader, and two newer, younger wrestlers by the names of Edge and Christian as the lackeys.
The Brood would become distinguished for their “bloodbaths,” in which a wrestler they were feuding with would be covered in blood shortly after all the lights in the arena faded to black. Essentially anyone The Brood was feuding with would fall victim to a bloodbath. Whether it was The Acolytes, Public Enemy, Ken Shamrock or Val Venis, the crowd would always come unglued once those lights turned off, because they knew that once they were back on, somebody would be buried in juice.
The Brood would eventually align themselves with The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness, putting the Hot Topic icing on the already-gothic Ministry cake. This alliance would be short-lived however, and The Brood would be split up entirely after Gangrel betrayed Edge and Christian in favour of Matt and Jeff Hardy. The Hardy Boyz and Gangrel would soon become known as “The New Brood,” yet this second vampiric Gangrel-led stable would also be short-lived, and nearly a year later, Heath was released from the WWF.
Since his late-90s WWF run, Gangrel has made sporadic appearances on WWE programming, won a myriad of championships on the independents, and most recently, made a surprise AEW appearance during the “Elite Deletion” match between Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara at Full Gear 2020. There’s admittedly so much more to the storied career of Gangrel, yet my knowledge and authority on the man stops in the WWF. To me, Gangrel was the barbaric freak who lusted over the sight of blood. He was the first vampire I’d ever seen in any form of media. Had it not been for his legitimately amazing entrance music, I’d probably never take a genuine liking to Gangrel, as my childhood consisted of more fear and unease towards the character than any pleasure. That being said, in retrospect, it’s important to understand Gangrel’s influence on gothic, and in turn, scary characters in professional wrestling. Nowadays, The Brood is one of my favourite parts of WWE Network rabbit holes. If I was a young adult in 1999, I would be all over that shit. Today, I have a Brood shirt and a Gangrel poster beside my bed. It’s guys like Gangrel that make me wish I was older, so I could enjoy the attitude era as I enjoy professional wrestling today. Gangrel wasn’t just a product of the 90s, he is a product of the attitude era, and an important footnote in professional wrestling.