Article: The 25 Greatest Wrestlers From the 1980s: HowStuffWorks
The 25 Greatest Wrestlers From the 1980s
Image: Kristin Fitzsimmons via WikiCommons
About This Article
Before you could smell what The Rock was cookin', you experienced the first-ever Royal Rumble. There is no doubt that the Golden Age of wrestling was the 1980s. Now, we aren't talking about that real wrestling stuff, where dudes wear unitards and headgear. We are talking about the one, the only, World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment ... thanks to the World Wildlife Fund). The wrestlers were loud and their costumes were even louder. They oiled their bodies to look like they were sweating, and they grew their hair out for the sake of getting it pulled. This was pure entertainment, and it was glorious. It was basically a bunch of stuntmen doing stunts for an hour straight (some of which were incredibly dangerous) and led to injury). However, each week, we had these stuntmen in our homes. We bought dolls that were made in their image. We wore their shirts religiously. They were the greatest wrestlers of all time (if you don't consider the actual rules of real wrestling).
If you have fond memories of the WWF, watching Hulk Hogan body slam Andre the Giant, or even seeing The Undertaker debut in 1984, your childhood was rich in the culture that became showmanship wrestling. It's time to take a stroll down memory lane. Check out these 25 greatest wrestlers of the '80s.
The Ultimate Warrior was only in the WWF from 1987 to 1991 (and then a few appearances in later years), but during his time, he was a two-time WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and even claimed a victory in the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The WWE hall-of-famer died at the age of 54.
Let's get rowdy.
Rowdy Roddy Piper was considered the biggest villain in WWF history (when he first began). Fans didn't like it when he broke Cyndi Lauper's gold record. However, all of the negative attention gave the WWF attention, and there is no such thing as bad press. In later years, he became the king of B movies, with such classics as "They Live" and "Hell Comes to Frogtown."
How magnificent was he?
Don Muraco held the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship from 1981 to 1984. He was considered one of the best wrestlers of the '80s, and even held the first title of King of the Ring in 1985. Though he went by the name Magnificent Muraco most of his career, he did change it briefly to The Rock ... good thing that didn't stick (for Dwayne, anyway).
The biggest back
Everyone knows that Hulk Hogan is going to be on any wrestling list that pertains to the '80s. The man was the ultimate showman, and his wrestling career was no joke. He is the guy who body-slammed Andre the Giant. Of course, he was way into putting his face in front of the camera and showing off the size of his back, but we all loved watching him anyway.
The best intro for any '80s wrestler definitely goes to The Undertaker. When you heard the sound of The Undertaker coming, you either broke out in a cold sweat or screamed in delight (depending on whose side you were on). Nothing could get your eyes off the screen. The man entered the arena in a coffin surrounded by smoke. It was glorious.
He was not junk.
Junkyard Dog (given name, Sylvester Ritter) actually got his nickname from a previous job that he had. He was just as tough as a junkyard dog, too. He defeated Randy Savage to win "The Wrestling Classic" (one of the first Pay-Per-View specials by the WWF). He died in a tragic car accident in 1998 but never stopped working (for the WCW at the time).
Mr. Perfect had the hair, the neck and the voice of a wrestler. We suppose you could say he was perfect for the job. However, it wasn't just his image and tone that made him a great wrestler. Wrestling was in his blood. His father was Larry "The Axe" Hennig and his son is current wrestler Curtis Axel. Not a bad bloodline, if you ask us.
Money buys everything.
The Million Dollar Man is best known as one of the first true villains of national wrestling and the WWF. He basically had Virgil do all of his dirty work. He also loved showing off his million dollars as well as the Million Dollar Belt. However, he was actually a pretty great wrestler, winning multiple championships (even if he did so in some shady ways).
Jake "The Snake" Roberts was a clear villain in the WWF. He always carried around a bag that had a snake in it. Though he claimed they were poisonous, the majority of the snakes he unleashed didn't have any kind of ill will toward humans (except maybe the one who carried it around in a bag). Roberts is pictured here with his boa named Damien.
Giants among us
You knew he was going to be here. He was easily the most famous wrestler of his time, dwarfing Hulk Hogan by nearly a foot. Everyone loved seeing Andre the Giant in the ring, because he was just so much larger than life (pun intended). Though his condition led to a lot of self-medicating, he still did quite a bit over his career (that ended way too soon).
In the Army now
Robert Rudolph Remus, better known as Sgt. Slaughter, was the type of guy everyone wanted to see in the ring. Even after he lost all of his hair, he was still fun to watch. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. If you were lucky enough to see him recite The Pledge of Allegiance before a match, you know you grew up in the '80s.
Size isn't everything
Pedro Morales was both the Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and Tag Team Champion in the 1980s, but his career started in 1959 (if you can believe it). He was also the first Latino man to have the title of World Heavyweight Champion. He retired in 1987.
When you think of professional wrestlers, you probably don't think of Iranian men. That is because The Iron Sheik was the only Iranian wrestler in the WWF, WWWF, WCW and any other wrestling division ... and he was good, too, (for a bad guy). He won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship in 1983, and his career spanned over three decades (you can actually see him in a few appearances here and there in the 2010s).
How can you even look at a picture of Macho Man Randy Savage and not hear him say that. Perhaps, you may even hear him say "Snap into a Slim Jim!" as well. We wouldn't hold it against you. Randy Savage was a showman first and a wrestler second. He even released a couple of rap albums (we recommend giving those a listen).
Definitely NOT a hack
Hacksaw Jim Duggan had the persona of an American patriot and good ole boy, and his weapon of choice was a 2x4. If you thought wrestling was real before seeing him swing this thing around, you probably figured it out rather quickly after he first hit a dude in the face with it and no blood came out.
Not to be trifled with
Over his 14-year career, Masashi Ozawa (also known as Killer Khan) wrestled for both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and the WWF. Though he retired in 1987, he did win a series of regional heavyweight championships. Ultimately, we just loved watching him on screen with Mr. Fuji.
Where the neck begins
King Kong Bundy was the very definition of brute strength in the ring. He was the kind of guy you saw in an '80s movie and said a little prayer for the hero. Of course, Bundy did prove to us that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and he fell a few times over his career that lasted over 25 years.
Politics later, for now ... feather hats
Jesse "The Body" Ventura had quite the career (and we aren't just talking about wrestling). He was in the U.S. Navy, spent nine years as a professional wrestler, had quite a few acting gigs and was the governor of Minnesota. That's quite a journey, if you ask us.
After "The Flintstones"
Bam Bam Bigelow had a career that lasted nearly 21 years. He held 13 titles throughout his career with the ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and the WCW. Though he began his career with the WWF, he never held any titles under them. However, he was often involved in main events.
Bret "The Hitman" Hart held 32 wrestling titles over the span of five decades. He was a five-time World Heavyweight Champion, and he loved showing off that belt. His wrestling career led to multiple book deals and a bit of an acting career, and we loved watching him.
Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake was excellent to watch in tag team matches. As a matter of fact, he held the WWF World Tag Team Champion title with Greg Valentine. It was fun to watch him with a large pair of rusty shears, holding them above his head, threatening to cut off mullets every time he walked into the ring.
One man's bodyguard
Virgil started off as the Million Dollar Man's personal bodyguard, but soon became a star on his own ... after all, the Million Dollar Man had Virgil in the ring whenever he was too scared of an opponent. However, Virgil eventually turned on the Million Dollar Man and took him on in the ring. The rest is history.
He's so bossy
A former corrections officer turned professional wrestler, Big Boss Man didn't mind entering the ring with a billy club. He even had his own theme song ... that just screamed the '80s. Sing it with us: "You know the Big Boss Man'll make you walk the line ... You better watch out boy, or you'll be serving hard time."
He was a terrible dancer
Akeem wasn't the world's greatest dancer, but he wasn't nearly as worried about his moves walking down the aisle as he was about his moves in the ring. Known as the One Man Gang for most of his career, he was first known as Akeem the African Dream for the first two years. He held several regional titles as well as winning the Slammy Award in 1987.
Carved in marble
Adrian Adonis won the WWF World Tag Team Championship with Dick Murdoch as well as several regional championships throughout the 1980s. He began his WWF career in a partnership with Jesse Ventura, and the two muscle men were nearly unstoppable throughout their careers.
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