Pulp Wrestling – The Intimidators
Hello everyone and welcome to the return edition of Pulp Wrestling. As always I shall be your host for this column, Julius McPherson at your service. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done this, so I hope I remember where all the buttons on this newfangled typewriter are. With that said, let’s dive in to another palpitating pool of Pulp Wrestling. Our subject this time out is the top ten most intimidating men in pro wrestling history, or as titled the top ten most believable badasses. As said, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these columns, so I felt a good old fashioned fun and light hearted list like this would be a good way to ease myself back into the mix. So with that said, here we go.
Top Ten Most Believable Badasses in Wrestling
First off let’s take a second to talk about some of the things this list is not. It is not a list of the legit toughest men ever, or the wrestlers I think would do the best in a shoot fight against every other wrestler in history in some hypothetical shoot match tournament featuring all the great grapplers from every era combined. Now to be sure, legit physical toughness, and the demonstrable ability to beat other men’s asses in real life are definitely a boost to getting on this list but it is by no means the be all end all, as at the end of the day, pro wrestling is still first and foremost, scripted entertainment. So that being said, I’m sure there are many real life tough guys that have had much said about them who will not make the list. Take Bad News Brown (Or Allen) for example. Every wrestling book or interview you read has him listed as one of the meanest, toughest SOBs of all time. Definitely not someone you would ever want to cross paths with in a dark alley, but from a character stand point (and I admit to only having been exposed to his WWE work for the most part so perhaps he fared better elsewhere) he never really brought that out to bare in the scripted world of pro-wrestling, where he was pretty much an opening match guy for most of what I can recall of my childhood memories of him, and never set the world on fire match quality wise either. Now, with that said, this list is about the guys, who regardless of their actual toughness outside the ring, or their fighting prowess in real life, were able to best project an aura of toughness and invincibility through their wrestling characters, and also used that vital intimidation factor in their matches to the best effect. The fact that many of them on the list are also real life badasses is not coincidental though, as those guys who both look menacing, and in fact, are menacing in real life are thus given that rare double boost which, normally, makes for a can’t miss kind of character.
I have one prejudice right from the start to get out in the open with you all. I have, as you will notice, made it a purpose to disqualify ( or at least eye with great suspicion and dislike) all of those characters right off the bat whose gimmicks were supernatural or other worldly such as Kane, and certain incarnations of his brother the Undertaker. Not that I have anything against these kinds of characters or their use in wrestling, but to me, they occupy a different category of wrestlers entirely and including them in a list like this is tantamount to if we were arguing about which comic book superheroes were the toughest in their respective universes and how they should be ranked and did not make exceptions for those certain characters who were given ‘God like powers’ by their creators such as omniscience, omnipresence etc as compared to those who just have one particular super power or another. This may not be a perfect example, as Kane for example has become ‘more human’ in his more recent incarnations, but also as he has done so, I think it can be safely said he has also become far less menacing than the original Big Red Monster who disposed of all who opposed him in a matter of seconds back in the day. I also must omit several old time wrestlers who may warrant mentioning, such as Harley Race or Dick the Bruiser etc… This is not done as an intentional snub, it is just that I am not qualified to speak on their era of wrestling as I was not around to witness it first hand, and since this is my own personal list, they will not appear on it. If this bothers you to a great degree, by all means, feel free to go and make your own damn list. Anyway, enough about what this list is and isn’t, it is now time to get down to the business of ranking the top ten most intimidating wrestlers of all time.
Now, before we get to the actual top ten here, let’s take a look at some of the runners up in this list. At first I was going to make this a top five as most of my other list columns have been in the past, but I had to expand to a top ten list due to the number of people that started coming to mind. I was toying with the idea for a while of making it a top twenty (with the added title of it being the top twenty badasses of the last twenty years), but, for the sake of length in what is already turning into a mini novella of a column, I decided to stick with ten, as George Carlin famously said “ten just sounds more important”… Here though is what would have been the top twenty had I decided to go that route. Honorable mentions: Coming in at number twenty would have been Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn, with Kane at nineteen, followed by Mark Henry at eighteen, Scott ‘Flash Norton at seventeen, Fit Finlay at number sixteen, the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal Sabu at fifteen. The real life murdering bastard Chris Benoit at fourteen, Bam Bam Bigelow at thirteen, The Big Show at twelve (who would have made the top ten if not for all the silly comedy he has done in his career). Psycho Sid (who would have made the top ten if he had not happened to absolutely suck in the ring), and finally at number eleven, we had the wrestling machine Kurt Angle, who was neck and neck with the guy who wound up edging him out on the list, which is…
10. Ken Shamrock
We open this list with Ken Shamrock, a man who definitely proved himself to be one of the elite competitors in the early days of the UFC. During the first few UFC events, he was along with Royce Gracie one of the two most dominant men in the promotion. Looking back on his career now it is easy to forget just how over he was as a legit dangerous man, as his famous moniker ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man (a title given to him by ABC news nonetheless) implies. Since Ken Shamrock there have been several ex MMA competitors to try their hand at the pretend world of pro wrestling with both good and bad results, but when Ken Shamrock first debuted on the scene in 1997 WWE, he had a completely different feel to him than anyone else on the roster. In the first match I remember seeing him in he won against Bart Gunn by submission literally in a manner of seconds. The message was clear, this guy was the real deal, and a threat to ANYONE on the roster. He represented what amounted to a changing of the guard in the way wrestling promoters and fans think about physical toughness. For years and years before this, wrestling promoters turned to the sport of football (even as recently as Wrestlemania 11 which featured Lawrence Taylor in the main event) to recruit potential wrestlers and also to get usage off the drawing power of guys whose careers were on the wane. Football players were seen as the toughest guys of that era, and so, they were brought in by pro wrestling promotions to bring their legitimacy to the product. Nowadays though, the UFC has taken that spot, as far as wrestling is concerned, as the place where fans look to see who the legitimate toughest men in the world are. Vince McMahon was not unaware of this either, even back in the mid 90s, which of course lead to the signing of guys such as Shamrock and his early UFC protégée, Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn.
Perhaps if he had come along either a year sooner or a year later, or if he had had a good mouthpiece to help get him over better, his career would have gone differently. Still though, he did main event a couple of pay per views, including one against Shawn Michaels for the WWE championship, and he was also the first man to hold the TNA world championship (when it was still under the umbrella of the NWA and using their belt)…. But those accolades notwithstanding, the majority of Ken Shamrock’s WWE career was spent in the wallowing away in the mid card, when he could, and by all means should have been booked as an unstoppable beast, that only the best of the best such as Bret Hart, and Stone Cold Steve Austin could have a chance of competing with. One thing that helps Shamrock’s placement on this list is the fact that, before he competed in the MMA he actually did train to be a professional wrestler which made his later transition back into wrestler all the more natural. And considering that, it is even more unforgivable to think the amount of potential that was squandered here in his pro wrestling career. Now, as MMA evolved into its modern form and also as Ken aged, he became less of a premier athlete in that sport, suffering badly in losses against the likes of Tito Ortiz among others, so we have in Shamrock a man whose legacy is not what it should be in two different sports. But I am doing my small part to change that here by granting him the number ten spot on my list of pro-wrestling’s most intimidating competitor’s of all time.
My first memories of Tonga Fifita are from the late 80s and early 90s run he had with WWE, when was known simply as ‘Haku’. He was never really pushed all that much from what I recall, although he did have a decent tag team championship run where he was paired with Andre the Giant in a tag team known as ‘The Colossal Connection’ that forced him to pretty much do all of the work by himself, as Andre by that point, was almost completely immobile due to his size disorder and the collected years of abuse on his heavy frame. There was also a bit before this where he went by ‘King Haku’ after Harley Race, (another man who deserves mentioned as being on the legit toughest SOBs of all time, and who, had I seen more of his career, would surely have made this list.) left the WWE in the late 80s and abandoned the gimmick. The next place he popped up on my radar was in WCW where he was pushed fairly strongly at one point as the savage ‘Meng’. His finishing move, a death grip where he basically would apply pressure to the bottom of a guy’s throat with two of his fingers used to literally scare the living crap out of me every time I saw it. After his singles run petere’d he also had another tag team run, with fellow barbaric badass, The Barbarian, known collectively as ‘The Faces of Fear’. He would basically waste away for the most part at the bottom of the WCW roster for the remaining years of that company’s existence. He also had a short run in WWE in which he was paired up with Rikishi. The most vivid memory I have of this period of his career is the wild and crazy afro he used to sport around this time.
Now as said, with a few exceptions, Tonga, for most of his career was never given the push that a man of his considerable reputation might expect to enjoy. You can’t read a wrestling book or listen to a shoot interview without hearing at least one or more stories of the legendary toughness and badassedry of Mr.Fifita. No, seriously, I mean it. Go and try to find one. I think it’s unwritten law or something where people feel like they have to plug him or else he will show up at night and eat their soul or something. Even Bad News Allen defers to him as the unanimous toughest guy he ever met. He is alleged to have done everything from biting off noses, to gouging out eyeballs, to single handedly beating up an entire police force on his own. Hell, if even half the stuff written and said about Tonga is true this guy would make even Chuck Norris defecate himself in a real life scrap. Even though he was never booked consistently as a top guy anywhere, he still deserves a place on this list, if for no other reason than I don’t want word to get back to him that I snubbed him and thus ensure my own demise.
08. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner gets a lot of flack on the internet wrestling scene, some of it deserved, some not, but I’ve always been a fan of his for the most part, although for different reason at different times throughout his career. I have also long felt that he is quite overlooked for his latter day singles run. Perhaps it is because his singles peak occurred during the dying days of WCW, and then his next decent run occurred during the Vince Russo era of TNA. Neither of those two situations were at all conducive to making a good wrestling career for sure. He was also never truly a complete package at any time in his career. In the early days of his career when he teamed with his brother Rick Steiner in the classic tag team of ‘The Steiner Brothers’ he was among the best in ring workers around back then, but, as far as personality went, aside from his boyish good looks, he didn’t really have much to offer. Flash forward to his heel turn in late 90s WCW where he had a new bleach blonde haircut, completely insane (and I mean literally, insane) promos, and a freakish muscled up look that made him look like a complete monster. Sadly though, whether due to his added bulk or just the apathy of the atmosphere of WCW at the time, his in ring work was nowhere near the level it used to be, or even to the level of being watchable. To be blunt, he was flat out boring. After that Steiner went on to have a forgettable run in WWE where he quickly got lost in the shuffle. His next high point though was in TNA, which despite the problems and headaches of that promotion at the time (and today) it was here that Steiner would go on to have what I would consider to be his best ever singles run.
His program with Samoa Joe in my opinion was the best feud that TNA had ever done up until that point, and the first match between them was a perfect example of how to book a badass on the rise verses one on the wane. Steiner’s in ring work also improved during this time as he (on special occasions) busted out moves, such as his classic Frankensteiner, that he hadn’t been using since his tag team days. I contend right here and now, that if Scott Steiner had the look that he had (how he got it is another discussion entirely) in the late 80s NWA or mid 90s WCW he would be a much more well remembered figure than he currently is. Steiner is intimidating on a number of levels. He has a legit amateur background, and is notorious for being someone not to mess with backstage as many have found out first hand. In Bret Hart’s book there is a famous story of Scott being challenged to a shoot amateur wrestling match by none other than Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig. During the course of that match Scotty had Hennig trapped to where Curt could not escape, and he thus told him that if he did not get out that he would do things to Curt’s rectum that no heterosexual male wishes to have done to that region. Bret records in said book that he never saw anyone scramble so fast in his life, but alas, Curt still could not escape, but to the best of my knowledge, Scott was not good to his word about the former threat.
07. Samoa Joe
I’ve went back and forth on where to include Samoa Joe on this list. In my heart I wish for him to rank much higher than this, but in my head I just cannot allow it to be so. For starters the negatives against him are that his body is not exactly television friendly nor all that threatening looking and his once unbeatable aura has been ruined many times over in the psychotic blender that is TNA booking over the years. That’s all looking back from the vantage point of hindsight though. But to see Samoa Joe anywhere between 2002 and 2006 was to see something truly special and uniquely badass. The Samoan Submission Machine was absolutely my favorite wrestler from that period, beginning with his epic run with the ROH world title that lasted nearly two full years, and his series of five star matches with a young CM Punk, and continuing all the way to his unbeaten storyline in TNA, which is to date, the second best undefeated storyline I have ever seen done in professional wrestling, next only to Goldberg’s streak. That streak included many more four and five star matches including classic three way matches with Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles that stole the show at many a TNA pay per view back in the day. Then to top off you had Joe’s fantastic program with Kurt Angle which lead to his first TNA world title run, which in my mind represented the end of the golden era of Samoa Joe, the modern day badass.
Ever since then, well, let’s just say it’s been complicated. He’s been repackaged more times than I care to remember, turned heel and face so many times it’s impossible to follow (which was par for the course with TNA at the time) from week to week, joined the Main Event Mafia, took on a Tazz as a mentor, started crying and screaming a lot for no apparent reason, got an ugly tattoo on his face, and has pretty much proceeded to be a pudgy mid carder ever since, with a few flashes of his old self surfacing from time to time. Still though for the quality of his initial success and in the hopes that perhaps he can somehow find a way to recapture that, I include him on this list as an act of faith you could say. Joe is an absolutely stellar in ring competitor with a hard hitting style of offense and one of the coolest looking finishers you’ll ever see in the ‘Muscle Buster’, add to that the fact that he can also cut a very effective short and to the point style of promo when need be, and you have all the makings of the classic strong, silent killer. There’s still time for Joe to return to his roots of being an intimidating MMA styled monster that inspired chants of ‘Joe is gonna kill you’ at the beginning of all of his matches back in the day. Whether or not TNA can manage to salvage all the idiotic damage they’ve done to his career though, of course, remains to be seen.
06. Dr. Death: Steve Williams
When I think of the wrestling career of Dr. Death: Steve Williams, like so many others I could name, the first thing that comes to mind is this: lost potential. This guy may not have been the total package (I can’t recall him cutting any earth scorching promos or anything of that regard), but he was such a beast with a pure physical presence and a great in ring talent with a real amateur pedigree that it’s truly frustrating to see how hampered is career, at least in America, came to be by bad booking, and overall misuse. This was not the case in Japan where he was both a massive singles star and tag team star with his ‘Miracle Violence Connection’ with his partner Terry ‘Bam Bam’ Gordy. The series of matches he had with Kenta Kobashi are some of the most hard hitting and believable examples of ‘Strong Style’ pro wrestling out there, and the fact that both of those men where legit hosses in their own right, but could move with the same velocity, and ferocity, usually associated with light heavyweights made them twice as scary. I remember in one of the aforementioned matches with Kobashi seeing Williams execute a perfect handspring back elbow on the outside. Now, why a man who clocks in around 350 and who is built, literally, like a brick wall, would feel the need to do such a move when he could just as easily take your damn head off with a simple clothesline or shoulder tackle, I do not know, but it was very impressive nonetheless.
Sadly in America, as said, Dr. Death was never utilized to his full potential. My main memories of him in the latter half of the 1990s include his involvement in the awful and low brow angle that exploited Jim Ross’s real life battle with bells palsy, first with the real JR in WWE, and then with JR Impersonator ‘Oklahoma’ in WCW. His original fall in the 90s I think though can be traced back to his involvement in the disastrously stupid concept that WWE came up with called the Brawl for All, in which, in the middle of their fake wrestling show, someone thought it would be a good idea to stage an actual shoot tournament. Everyone thought that Dr. Death would breeze through this and the idea after was that he would then make an ideal challenger for then WWE champion Stone Cold Steve Austin, but all those plans came to not at the clubbersome fists of one Bart Gunn, who just as he said he would, knocked Steve Williams the hell out. Gunn himself was done no favors by winning this tournament either though, as he was fed to the human waterbed known as Butterbean at Wrestlemania 15, where he too, was promptly knocked unconscious. Williams, who sadly passed away from a battle with cancer in late 2009, will always be fondly remembered by me though as one of the true mobile giants of the ring. He just had the perfect build for the wrestling business. He was menacing, had a truly killer move-set, and on top of all those bells and whistles, the sum-bitch could actually work too. If his career had been handled better on this end of the Pacific, I have no doubt he would rank higher on this list, but as it is, he will have to settle for the number six spot on my list of favorite pro wrestling intimidators.
05. Big Evil Taker/MMA Taker
Despite placing in at the midway point on our list here, I almost opted not to include the Dead Man on this at all. He definitely has done a fair amount of stuff in his career that clashes with my above bit about not wanting to include any characters that have been given supernatural or otherworldly abilities, however, and I admit this may be a double standard, I am not inducting the Dead Man, or the Phenom here on this list at all. No, the character I am choosing to include here is Taker in what I consider to be his finest incarnation ever, that of Big Evil. This version of the Undertaker came close on the heels of the American Badass Undertaker that saw him rolling to the ring for every match on his custom built Harley Davidson and the invention of a new finisher, the Last Ride, a great variation of the power bomb that saw him lift his opponent’s about an extra foot off the ground before slamming them down to the mat. In this version of the Taker character we also saw a complete abandonment of all the spooky pyrotechnics and otherworldly gimmickry that had defined him up until that point, as well as the use of a new finisher with the Dragon Sleeper. This was not an undead Zombie coming to claim your soul, this was simply Mark Calloway, the 20 year in ring veteran who had earned the right to call that twenty by twenty foot squared circle his ‘yard’, and who could believably intimidate opponents with the simple exclamation that would “make you famous” if you dared tread in it…
Freed from the constraints of his undead character finally, Calloway cut some of the most effective promos of his career. There are still elements of Big Evil left in the current version of Taker that we see once or twice a year now when he rolls out for some big program, but, not surprisingly he has mostly reverted back to what brought him to the dance in the first place with the spooky undead Zombie guy who walks like Jason Voorhees and does the classic Michael Myers sit up to boot.. Also included here is what I like to call MMA Taker, who as JR and Cole like to point out, was one of the most gifted strikers in the history of the business. MMA Taker also brought with him a new submission finisher, with the Devil’s Triangle, which any MMA fan would immediately recognize as the Gogoplata. So again, while it is tempting to leave him out based on the supernatural stuff, I feel the strength of both the Big Evil Taker and the MMA Taker are sufficient enough to give him a good mid level ranking on this list of the most believable badasses in wrestling history. The Undertaker, while having a character that is definitely eons and light years away from anything that could be seen as being a plausible human being, has overcome this easily I feel, with great runs like his days as ‘Big Evil Taker’ where he had some of the best matches of his career with the Hardy Boys and Brock Lesnar, and ‘MMA Taker’ where he had equally classic matches with Kurt Angle, Edge, and Batista.
WCW did a lot of things wrong in the late 1990s, so much so that you could write an entire book on the subject. (Hell, Bryan Alvarez did just that in his great ‘Death of WCW’.) But one of the things they did right, almost in spite of themselves was booking Bill Goldberg into a mega star on par with Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or the Rock at the time. Eric Bischoff, who had formerly fired the aforementioned Steve Austin, telling him that a guy who wore black boots and black trunks to the ring would never draw a dime in this business anymore, perhaps realizing the error of his ways, set out to take a guy with black boots, black trunks, and a stripped down to the bare bones personality, and just get behind him and push him to the moon. They accomplished this by throwing him out on national television with no advertisement or fan fare. To most of the audience at home, Goldberg was just another ham and egger who was going to be destroyed by the trusty mid car hand, Hugh Morris. Except he didn’t lose. Not only did he not lose that match, but he also went on to win his next one hundred and seventy three matches in a row. But then, not being able to help their own stupidity, WCW had to finally louse up the only thing they had left at the time that might have actually saved their sorry company’s financial future in Bill Goldberg by jobbing him out to Kevin Nash, via an assist from both Scott Hall and the Disco Inferno at their biggest pay per view of the year in Starcade. Such an epic waste.
Speaking of epic wastes, Vince McMahon also acquired Goldberg’s services for a year in WWE, during which time he set out to prove that Goldberg was actually not a big star, by well, treating him like he was not a big star and making him wear goofy wigs, and giving him none of the protection booking wise he enjoyed in WCW. And, a bored Tycoon who would sabatoge a lucrative factory and kill hundreds of jobs just for his own personal amusement and a dollar bet, Vince McMahon thus “proved” that Bill Goldberg was just a fad. Way to go Vince. I will always remember the days of the streak fondly though. Along with the original N.W.O angle it was the best thing that WCW came up with at the time. Much credit must also be given to the many solid workers who busted their butts in all those countless squash matches making the rookie Goldberg look so incredibly menacing and unbeatable at the time. It’s just a shame that all that hard work was eventually squandered, but Goldberg still fairs better than most on this list, due to the simple fact that he was smart enough to get out of the business while the getting was good, and before the powers that be in WWE or TNA (which he has wisely avoided stepping foot in) further ruined his legacy, as one of the most legitimate intimidating badasses in pro wrestling history. Goldberg was also a throwback in that he came from the world of professional football as opposed to MMA, having played a few seasons in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, and one of his signature moves was a football like tackle that was coined ‘The Spear’, which was the perfect set up for his famous suplex into a body slam maneuver known as ‘The Jackhammer’.
Now we’re getting down to the good stuff. In the late 90s and early 2000s Taz was without a doubt my favorite discovery. He was, as Vince McMahon so aptly described in ‘The Rise and Fall of ECW’ DVD, a ‘sawed off monster’. For those who only know him now as Tazz (with two Z’s), the portly and generally easy going color commentator that hosted Smackdown for years with Michael Cole, and is now at the side of Mike Tenay in TNA, it may be hard to imagine placing him this high on a list of epic intimidators. However, if you’d been around to see the self proclaimed “Angriest man on the planet” in his run in the original ECW, no questions would need to be asked. Taz brought a ‘big fight feel’ as Paul Heyman once said, to every single match he took part in. His character also fundamentally changed the way wrestlers use submissions in their matches. After Taz, no one said uncle anymore, they ‘tapped out’ (which formerly was a babyface’s primary way to build up crowd sympathy with him while locked in a submission maneuver..). That of course, like Taz’s character himself, was ripped straight out of MMA, as was his signature submission, or Tazzmission I should say, which was basically just a rear naked choke. Alongside that he also knew about a hundred different variations of the suplex, and was thus known as ‘The Human Suplex Machine’. His squash matches were so much fun to watch, as they basically just consisted of him dropping some poor bastard on his head for three or four minutes, clotheslining the crap out of him, and then promptly choking him out.
During his initial run in ECW Taz held every title there was to hold there, including the Tag Team, TV, and World Title. Heck, he even invented a title for himself once called the ‘FTW’ world championship. FTW stands for… (Ah, hell, I’m not going to tell you what it stands for… you’re just gonna have to Google it.) Like so many others on our list though, Taz’s career petered out in WWE. He was initially given a great introduction, with awesome cryptic video packages leading up to his arrival which, killer theme music, and a victory over Kurt Angle in his debut match, but then, since in WWE it was, and is, all about the land of the giants, he was squandered away in useless programs with the likes of Bull Buchanan and other mid carders. This waste, above all others, may be the single most infuriating one that I can remember as a wrestling fan, and it went a long way to putting out the spark I had for watching WWE back in the day. That combined with a neck injury he had sustained back in the original ECW forced him to cut his career short, but, thankfully for him, as mentioned, he went on to have a very good run as an announcer. Still though, when I think of Taz, it is indeed the variation of him with only one Z, who could single handedly obliterate opponents three times his size, and do it believably too I might add. For that, and for the fact that he is one of my favorite wrestlers ever, he gets the coveted number three spot on this list.
As a child growing up and loving the sport of professional wrestling there was no one that scared, and I mean legitimately scared, and terrified the holy hell out of me like WCW’s Big Van Vader. To me he was ten times as frightening as the cartoonish Undertaker that competed in WWE, both because he was so physically imposing, and just plain mean looking. From his entrance and the great big headpiece he used to wear, to the leather mask on his face, everything about him just drove the point home further; this is a man not to be messed with. There had been plenty of big scary men in wrestling both before and after Vader, but very few of them combined the sheer size, and the amazing athleticism that he possessed. Here was a guy who was billed at over 400 pounds, stood six foot four inches tall, and was literally built like a freakin brick wall. One of his most famous moves saw him just basically run at his opponents and just topple them with nothing but the brute force impact of his chest. Other analogies besides a brick wall that come in handy when describing Vader would be a modern tank, that combines heavy duty firepower with startling speed, to basically annihilate anything unlucky enough to be in its path. It can’t be stressed enough how amazing the agility of Vader was. Aside from his hard hitting moves such as the powerbomb, Vader splash, and his incredibly stiff punches, he could also do an incredible top rope moonsault, that looked like the most devastating move in the history of earth. It’s basically like having that aforementioned tank thrown fifty feet in the air and then having it crashing down on top of you.
Vader had a great run in the original WCW, beating Sting for the world title, and having great programs with the likes of Ric Flair, Cactus Jack, Ron Simmons, and many others. His downfall, career wise though started at the hands of a man named Hulk Hogan, who, upon arriving in WCW made it his first order of business to no sell Vader’s signature offense, just as he no sold an entire decade’s worth of great performers moves in the WWE in the 80s and early 90s. After this Vader had a fairly decent run in WWE where they for a while anyway, pushed him as an unstoppable monster, and in one of the most frightening angles I can recall from my childhood, had him do the Vader splash to then WWF storyline president Gorilla Monsoon. Vader was scheduled to have a brief run with the WWE title in his great feud with Shawn Michaels, but HBK complained that the Mastadon was being overly stiff with him, and so we the fans were subjected instead to a title reign by Psycho Sid. Thanks a lot, Shawn. Aside from being dominant for most of his American career, Vader is also an established legend in Japan as well where he has held both the All Japan and New Japan heavyweight championships on several occasions. All in all, he is and was one of the most epic badasses of all time, and it is my pleasure to include him in the number two spot on this list.
01. Brock Lesnar
Even if this list was about who the legit toughest guy and best fighter in the history of the sport of wrestling was, the number one spot on it would remain unchanged. The gap between Brock Lesnar and everyone else on this list is a mile wide. What makes Brock Lesnar intimidating? The easier and shorter list would be, what doesn’t make him intimidating? Here’s a guy who lives way out in the woods, has a body like Zeus, (Not Tony Lister, but the actual greek god) and who seemingly does nothing but eat raw meat and exercise, presumably by tearing up big redwoods with his bare hands all day and swinging them like sledgehammers. In an earlier age a guy like Brock Lesnar would have been a great war chief, but in today’s world he is simply put, the most impressive looking and dominant athlete that professional wrestling has ever produced. You want amateur credentials? He is a two time NCAA division one champion, and had one of the more impressive college careers of all time. He parlayed this into an unbelievable rookie year in the WWE in which he destroyed the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and The Rock before becoming the youngest WWE champion in history. Tiring of the traveling schedule of the WWE meat grinder, Brock simply left the world of wrestling completely behind him. He went on to take up the challenge of MMA, where again, he completely dominated, and in only his third fight in the UFC defeated Randy Couture to become the UFC heavyweight champion. His MMA career was cut short due to a life threatening bout of diverticulitis, which left him unable to compete at a top level anymore, but even with that against him he still managed to get a submission victory over the MMA monster Shane Carwin. If he had retired after that fight, and not had to suffer the embarrassing losses at the hands of Cain Velasquez and Alistar Overeem, his legacy would have been perfect. As it is now, it’s still pretty damn impressive though.
Brock now, thanks to his success in MMA, is in the position to do just about whatever the hell he wants. He has a contract with WWE that lets him wrestle only the few selected dates a year that he wants to, and for an amount of money that would be rivaled only by the likes of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Like Vader before him on this list, Brock combines overwhelming size and dominance with a level of athleticism and agility that you would normally find only in the cruiserweight division of wrestling. What other guy his size can do such a perfect shooting star press? (A move he wisely has not pulled out of his hat in quite some time.) Right now Brock Lesnar, along with CM Punk, and the Shield is one of the best reasons to tune into Monday Night Raw. When you hear that unmistakable music ‘Here Comes the Pain’ you just know you’re about to see something that will be the equivalent in violence of a Mack Truck slamming into about twenty or thirty cars on the interstate. Brock doesn’t just bring legitimacy with him, he is the legitimacy. Compared to Brock Lesnar, Ryback looks like a harmless kitten with a weird speech impediment. From the first moment I saw him, I knew this was a guy who was going to be something special, but I had no idea just how special he was going to become, and so it is with great honor and respect that I proclaim ‘The Beast Incarnate’ Brock Lesnar, as the single most intimidating man in the history of pro wrestling.
Well, that’s going to do it for this edition of Pulp Wrestling. It felt good to get back to writing about the crazy world of professional wrestling again, and I hope that you enjoyed reading this at least half as much as I enjoyed writing it. If so, please leave some feedback here, good or bad, it’s all appreciated and greatly encouraged. Was there anyone you felt I ranked too high or too low on the list, or someone you felt got unduly snubbed? If so, let me know either by emailing me at Jules@Vortexeffect.net, or by leaving a comment here below. So now I simply say thank you to each and every person who is reading this right now, and I will see you again very soon, with a new edition of Pulp Wrestling. Be good to each other.