Can it be year ago since I wrote on Wrestlemania 30 and the shock of seeing Brock Lesnar destroy The Undertaker. I guess it must be as after 12 straight days of guided tours, I am looking forward to nothing more than looking forward to the 31st annual instalment of Wrestlemania.
Obviously there has been a long period of conjecture over the reality of wrestling, especially American style professional wrestling. Wrestling isn’t fake but much of it can be scripted and just occasionally depending on the wrestling promotion or wrestler involved there are shoot matches or actual wrestling matches that are not in any way pre-planned.
Professional wrestlers are a tough bunch, they all fight year round as there is no off-season in wrestling and often they are in the ring for something like 13 nights out of 14 whilst crossing the globe.
Professional wrestlers have to train a great deal to firstly reach the stage where they can fight night after night but also so that they can avoid most injuries both to themselves and to their opponents. Injuries do occur and fights do continue generally no matter what and sadly just last week a Mexican wrestler died in the ring. There is a strict school of honour and tradition in wrestling, rather like old Roman gladiatorial schools. However some wrestlers are undeniably tougher than others even if in the current PG era of wrestling we don’t get to see as much blood and violence as in recent years.
Just a few months ago Daniel Bryan foiled a robbery on his house and incapacitated the suspect until police arrived. Here is my list of the legitimately toughest wrestlers of the modern time and it doesn’t include legends like Kurt Angle who won the Olympic Gold Medal in wrestling despite fighting with a broken neck or Sabu who continued a match after jumping into a post and sustaining a 10 inch cut which he patched up with sticky tape. Actually though not always visible, such things happen quite frequently in professional wrestling and its not surprising there are so many broken necks, dislocations and lacerations when you have people falling through tables or jumping off 40 feet (understandably the wrestler involved took a long break after this).
9. Former WWE Superstar Chris Masters is first on the list. When his neighbour took a lady in the house hostage and set it on fire, Chris Masters pulled up a tree with just brute strength and used it as a battering ram to break into the house…. all whilst police refused to enter the building on account of the raging fire.
8. Arn Anderson had a long wrestling career that peaked in the 80’s and 90’s. Whilst others relied on fancy costumes and entrances, Arn was just legitimately tough. During a 1993 UK tour with the WCW promotion, Arn got into a bar room brawl with fellow wrestler Sid Vicious. Sid stabbed Arn at least 20 times with a pair of scissors and lost a lot of blood which is just one of many instances that gave Arn the reputation of being a tough-guy.
7. People of a certain age will remember the Beast From The East, Bam Bam Bigelow. Ironically as his costume featured lots of fire, Bam Bam rushed into a burning house in the year 2000 and rescued 3 children and suffered 40% burns which after a prolonged hospitalisation left him unable to continue his career. Sadly this set him on a downward trend and he died aged just 45 a few years later of a drug overdose.
6. Big Van Vader was never a wrestler I enjoyed watching but he was obviously a badass. Back around 1990 whilst competing in Japan, he was struck by an opponent wielding a cow bell. The opponent had bad vision without corrective lenses and accidentally broke Vaders nose. Understandably, Vader was angered and laid on a few tough moves on his opponent who in turn attacked Vader with all his might. Vader’s eye actually popped out of its socket. Being the man he was, Vader simply pushed it back in place with his fingers and continued the match!
5. Mankind or Mick Foley as he is often called these days is legitimately one of the toughest athletes in sport. With an apparent total lack of disregard for his own personal safety and a great love of wrestling, for over a decade Mankind was jumping off cages, falling through tack infested tables, being slammed through roofs, . He took punishment beatings day in and day out and his own weapon of choice was a baseball bat covered in barbed wire.
On at least one occasion I remember him being struck by a falling chair from a 15 foot height that dislocated his jaw and knocked out teeth right through his skin with TV footage bizarrely showing his tongue through a hole in his face. The WWE owner thanked him profusely for the match but made him promise not to do anything like it again but so extreme were his matches that even less extreme fights were more hardcore than what anyone else did.
4. Current WWE Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett was once a champion bare knuckle fighter in his native England. In the city of Liverpool he won a tournament and took away a great deal of cash. Afterwards, Barrett was taking a short-cut through a dark alley whilst looking for a taxi when he was attacked by a man with an 8 inch knife. Barrett suffered from a deep 12 inch long cut (his scar is still visible) but despite losing a lot of blood, Barrett proceeded to beat up his attacker who was hospitalised with serious injuries before escaping with his bag of cash! Meeting him in or out of the ring is definitely bad news!
3. Not many people remember Perry Saturn during his relatively short stint in the WWE but he isn’t just a hard-man but a hero as well. Whilst driving his girlfriend to work he noticed two men attacking a woman in the street. Perry got out of his car, beat up the guys and saved the lady. When the police arrived they broke the news to Perry that he had been shot twice, apparently Perry thought he had just received two hard punches. What a man!
2. I’d really like to put Brock Lesnar in at the top spot of Wrestlings modern era tough guys. As I wrote last year, Brock has been a champion in a variety of wrestling and martial arts and is probably one of the toughest individuals in sporting history. A few years ago when fighting fellow tough guy Kurt Angle, Brock suffered from a ill-worked Shooting Star Press which saw him land from a great height squarely on to his head. Incredibly rather than die or at the very least suffer from a broken neck or paralysis, Brock just suffered from concussion and carried on the fight. The Beast Incarnate is one tough mother!
1. I must admit as a kid, I never quite realised just how tough Haku was but a few decades and much reading later I’ve joined the popular opinion that former wrestler Haku is the baddest dude in modern wrestling history, at least until his retirement and the appearance of Brock Lesnar.
The tales of Haku are legendary and include pulling eyes out of sockets, pushing a cowboy through two sets of doors with just one hand. Even Perry Saturn stated that he believed Haku could kill most other wrestlers. Legendary manager Bobby Heenan recalls how in one bar brawl Haku reached into a mans mouth with just two fingers (no thumb) and snapped out teeth from his jaw something ‘The Brain’ said he could never have believed if he hadn’t seen it. He is also reported to once having tried to break up a fight, been maced, arrested and then handcuffed by the police but still managed to snap and break the handcuffs!
He is said to be the only man of the modern era Andre The Giant was afraid of as were many wrestlers and promoters who were often scared to discipline him. One time he was on the receiving end of a racial insult and took a bite through the mans clothing into his back and pulled it out only to spit it on the floor. Wrestling legend Jake The Snake Roberts puts it best like this…
If I had a gun and was sitting inside a tank with one shell left and Meng is 300 yards away, he’s mine, right? Well the first thing I’m going to do is jump out of the tank and shoot myself because I don’t want to wound that son of a bitch and have him pissed off at me.
So enjoy your Wrestlemania but be aware of just how tough these men are and the training, injuries and deaths they suffer just doing their job. Whatever else you do, don’t tell Haku you think it is fake as did some joker at Baltimore Airport. Haku bit off his entire nose and spat it on the floor.