48 of the Toughest Wrestlers of All Time

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIFebruary 8, 2012

48 of the Toughest Wrestlers of All Time

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    They aren't just wrestlers, they are tough wrestlers. Wrestlers who fought and brawled and did what they had to do to earn a victory. They beat the hell out of friends and foes and sometimes, even family to get their point across.

    You could make the case that any person jumping off a top rope and landing on someone's skull is tough. Or doing a Moonsault off the top rope and landing on another human takes some major stones (and a ton of Tylenol).

    But these guys just went about (or go about) their business of being tough and rugged. They get the job done, face or heel.

    These are 48 of the toughest wrestlers in the business, ever.

Cowboys Bill Watts

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    The former wrestler spent his time in the business challenging for the NWA and AWA World titles.

    He was rough and rugged and his attitude continued after his retirement and his run at promoting in the UWF, where he brought us the likes of Sting, Steve Williams, Ted DiBiase, Junkyard Dog and Jim Duggan.

Kevin Sullivan

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    An undersized main-eventer, Sullivan was a great heel in the 1980s while he feuded with the likes of Dusty Rhodes.

    He was thick and solid and did not back down from a challenge—in fact, he welcomed them. Because of his stocky build and low center of gravity, he was hard to hold down and was a terror when it came to dishing out punishment.

Chris Benoit

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    The Crippler was one of the toughest around. Trained in the famous Hart Dungeon, he was quick and sudden and used the German Supplex to perfection.

    Forget about the reasons for his demise, as a main event star in WCW and WWE, he was solid, and the headbutts off the top rope like Harley Race were the stuff of legends.

    Maybe the toughest small wrestler ever.

The Road Warriors

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    They were the epitome of the rugged bullies on the block.

    They beat everyone up and challenged authority. They were ahead of their time. Every tag team wanted to be like them. And every tag team feared them.

    A perfect combination for success.

Buh Buh Ray and Devon

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    They helped redefine the tag team division in wrestling.

    Although Buh Buh Ray and Devon are no longer a tag team, they were one of the best of all time.

    Strength and raw power aided them well in their quest to win the world title in multiple promotions 23 times.

    While Buh Buh Ray has moved on to a rising singles career, Devon is stuck in mid-level status.

Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen

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    No American wrestlers could tear up Japan like these two.

    Brody was the consummate independent wrestler. If he did not like an ending, he would not show up.

    Hansen was as good a brawler as there ever was and was also a AWA World Title holder.

    When the two of them were on the road in Japan, they tore down the house as partners or enemies. And no one wanted to get in their way.

Rick Steiner

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    Although his role in WCW was more of a lost cause and a misfit, there were not many wrestlers who were as rough and tough as Rick Steiner.

    He started out as a member of Kevin Sullivan's Varsity Club in WCW but was also part of a stable in the UWF run by Eddie Gilbert that included Sting.

    He was solid, strong and his amateur background aided him well in the business. He and his brother Scott were two of the best tag team wrestlers of all time.

Steve Austin

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    Give me a "Hell Yeah!"

    Everything he did was rough and rugged. He ushered in the Attitude Era.

    Austin walked with a swagger that made everyone stop and take notice.

    Maybe he was the John Wayne of the generation in the business. While the anti-hero was a fan favorite, it was something everyone could identify with.

    And he was damn good in the ring, too.

The Barbarian

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    Such an underrated wrestler. He was always linked to a stable and a wicked tag team.

    As a part of Paul Jones' stable, he enjoyed success as a tag team champion and wrestled the likes of the Road Warriors and other stars of the NWA.

    He never spoke and his scowl was fearful.

    One of the baddest men in wrestling. 

Bam Bam Bigelow

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    Any dude who has his skills tattooed is one bad ass!

    He was a former ECW World Heavyweight Champion was also successful in WCW.

    He was an ideal heel who just pummeled his opponents with raw power.


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    It's Vader Time!

    Vader was a star in WCW, WWE and the orient.

    He was remarkably agile for a man his size. And he was a former WCW Champion.

    With his manager, Harley Race, Vader was a mainstay in the ring and was one of the most feared men inside the squared circle.

Blackjack Mulligan

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    Is he more popular for his "outlaw" days in the 1970s, or from the fact his father, Barry Windham, was a member of the Four Horsemen?

    Maybe a little of both.

    "Bob Windham" was a football player before taking his act to the ring, and he did so in a brawling style that made him a regional star.

    As a member of the "Blackjacks" with Blackjack Lanza, he was equally adept at tag team wrestling.

    The duo went on to capture numerous tag team championships in various NWA affiliated promotions as well as the WWWF Tag Team Championship in August 1975.

Wahoo McDaniel

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    No one chopped harder than Wahoo.

    Another former NFL player who took his act to the wrestling ring. He was a regional champion and a fierce competitor.

    McDaniel was so proud of his Indian heritage. And when he was on the warpath, friends and foes alike needed to get out of his way.


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    She was mean and nasty and fought like a guy.

    And it was new and exciting and something we had never seen before. We all tore it up.

    To prove how tough she was, Chyna is the only woman to ever hold a men's wrestling title.


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    Three forms of punishment for the price of one.

    They were a bad knockoff of the Road Warriors but did their own type of destruction in the ring.

    Axe, Smash and Crush were a unique brand of punishment, and they could stand up to any tag team in their era.

Dick the Bruiser

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    One of the first real tough guys on television.

    Dick the Bruiser helped build the Midwest and Great Lakes and teamed with Vern Gagne to make wrestling in those areas fresh and new.

    Bruiser was a barrel-chested brute who would overpower you will strength and power. And when he and Crusher teamed together, there were few who could stop them.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan

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    Hey, tough guy!

    No one was as patriotic or bled red, white and blue like Duggan.

    And he was one who gave the punishment and took it as well. Duggan was the winner of the first WWF Royal Rumble.

Dusty Rhodes

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    Dusty Rhodes was as unathletic as any wrestler to ever get in the ring and still he was loved by everyone, as he was "every" man.

    Rhodes was also one tough SOB, as the scares on his body and skull will speak to his strength and his toughness.

    He was lit on fire and bled as often as he could in the 1970s.

    He gave it his all in all of his matches.

Dr. Death Steve Williams

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    Steve Williams was one of the toughest around. He was a friend of Jim Ross and a major player in the NWA in Bill Watts' outfit in the UWF and overseas.

    Williams was a regional and global star and never backed down from a fight.

    He was also part of Kevin Sullivan's Varsity Club with Mike Rotundo and Rick Steiner.

    He feuded and formed a tag team with both Terry Gordy and Ted DiBiase.


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    He is one compact and tough man.

    A road agent and wrestler in the WWE, Finlay has held over 20 titles in his career. He comes at you like a lion and attacks, taking on men much stronger than him.

    But his Northern Irish blood just keeps him determined to beat his opponents.

    He is not wrestling as of now, but when he was younger, he was a true brute, despite his lack of size.

Ric Flair

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    The "The Dirtiest Player in the Game" was also one of the toughest in his heyday.

    Ric Flair was a menace, a world champion and one who used whatever tactic he could to seal a victory.

    And for over 30 years, they all worked.

    Flair battled everyone and anyone. Big, small, insane. It did not matter. He took punishment and he dished it out to the delight of the fans.

Terry Funk

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    Another NWA original who was an amazing "wrestler" before he allowed himself to become something else.

    Maybe I am just pissed at the way wrestling has evolved, but Terry Funk was an NWA World Champion and a pillar of the brand and became some hardcore legend because he wanted to keep his career going.

    Funk was one bad dude and could probably still lace them up and give it a go if he was talked into it.


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    He just marched to the ring and did his thing. No words, just raw power. And for a time, there was nothing hotter than Goldberg.

    He helped WCW kick Vince McMahon's ass on a regular basis.

    He beat Hulk Hogan to win the WCW World Title and in doing so, created a culture that being "next" was really a good thing.


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    One of the most underrated wrestlers of all time. Meng/Haku was a terror, and he played the role of the heel so well.

    He was a tag team specialist who also was adept at singles wrestling when he needed to be. And Meng delivered some of the hardest headbutts in the history of the business.

    He carved out a great career as a known commodity who did not get as much credit as he deserved.

Harley Race

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    Pound for pound, Harley Race was the toughest wrestler in the business. Toughest there ever was and toughest there ever will be.

    Race helped to build the St. Louis and Kansas City areas of wrestling as one of the meccas of the business and took on the likes of Ric Flair, Jack Brisco, the Funks and upstarts like David, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich.

    Race was a brawler and a fighter who could just as easily knock you out with a punch as he could beat you with a toe hold.


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    I did not appreciate how good JBL was until I saw him wrestle on his own. Truly one of the better "true" heels in the business.

    Everyone hated him and there was no in between about it.

    This guy was big and tough and had a lariat that would flat out knock you off your feet. There has not been a heel like him in the business since, with Mark Henry coming close.

    Hopefully, this brawler will be the prototype of the heel wrestler we look for in the future.


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    If she were to wrestle men, it would interesting.

    Kharma could be the most intimidating woman in the business, EVER.

    Kia Stevens (her real name) is just as powerful and sinister as most smaller male wrestlers in the business. And they haven't gotten in the ring with her yet.

    After tearing up the Knockout's Division in TNA, Kharma signed with the WWE but had to take a leave of absence for maternity reasons. And when she returned at the Royal Rumble, you knew all hell was about to let loose.

Ivan Koloff

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    The short, compact, grizzly-looking Koloff was one of the best heels of all time.

    A former WWWF champion and a transition between Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales, Koloff deserved a better fate as a champion.

    He moved to the NWA and tore up the competition, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region. He feuded with Dusty Rhodes, Paul Jones and Jimmy Valiant.

    He was as tough as they came in the height of the NWA.

Big John Studd

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    For all his work with Andre the Giant and trying to be the "true giant in the business," John Studd was an accomplished singles and tag team performer.

    With Killer Kowalski, they formed the Executioners and claimed the WWWF Tag Team Titles in 1976.

    Studd also had regional success in the NWA and was a regional champion.

    His brute strength was too much for most of his opponents.

Larry "The Axe" Hennig

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    Known for his raw power and his 22-inch neck, Hennig carved out a nice career in the WWWF and AWA. He is the father of Kurt Hennig and the grandfather of Joe Hennig.

    He was a former tag team partner of Harley Race, and their feud in 1984 eventually led to Larry's son, Kurt, facing his former friend.

    Hennig used his size and massive strength to wear opponents down. And he could take punishment better than most in the ring.

Killer Kowalski

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    Now known as a great trainer who saw the likes of Triple H, Chyna and Kofi Kingston come through his facility, there is no denying what a great heel he was in his wrestling days.

    Kowalski became the main heel attraction against Bruno Sammartino in the WWWF in the 1960s and 1970s.

    He used a diving knee drop and claw hold to finish off his opponents.

Angelo Mosca

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    One of the great Canadian heels of all time.

    Big and nasty, King Kong Mosca was a regional champion. He once told Ric Flair that if Flair lived past his 30th birthday, he would be staying well past his time.

    Both are still alive and kicking today.


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    He had skills, but he was never really developed properly in the WWF.

    Still, Snitsky was a pretty good heel. He looked like Kane and the two had a pretty good feud going on revolving around Lita.

    He could have been used in other capacities, and he could have been great.

Dick Murdoch

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    He may not have always been the best at what he did, but few were tougher than the cowboy from Texas.

    Murdoch, a friend of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, was a brawler and regional title holder. He was never a true main event star, but he helped develop some of the better angles in the NWA and AWA.

    He and Dick Slater were part of the angle to hurt Ric Flair before Starrcade in 1983 and collect the $25,000 bounty by Harley Race, which will go down in history as one of the better angles by a heel in the business.

Scott Norton

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    Former power lifter and arm wrestler who was popular overseas.

    Norton was part of the NWO on a smaller scale. He and Buff Bagwell formed "Vicious and Delicious" and were tag team champions.

    Everything about him was solid.

Ron Simmons

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    Armed with a snarl and a punishing forearm, Ron Simmons traded in his football cleats for a pair of wrestling tights.

    It was the right move.

    Not only could Simmons beat the hell out of you with his massive size and strength, he could make you shake in your shoes by the tone in his voice.

Samoa Joe

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    He is as close to a true heel as there is in the business today.

    Samoa Joe is a brawler and an abuser of sorts, taking on opponents with brute force and submission moves.

    Joe has feuded with Abyss, Matt Morgan, Kurt Angle and practically every major player in TNA Impact Wrestling. Currently, he and Magnus have been chasing Morgan and Crimson for the TNA World Tag Team Championships.

Ole and Gene Anderson

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    The Minnesota Wrecking Crew beat the hell out of their opponents.

    Ole and Gene were rugged brawlers who worked on an opponent by wearing them down and making them submit from an arm bar or leg lock or just being brutalized.

    The Andersons feuded with such stars as Mr. Wrestling I and II, Wahoo McDaniel, Tommy Rich, Wahoo McDaniel, Jack Brisco and Dino Bravo.


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    Another wrestler who was aided by Paul Heyman and ECW.

    Terry Brunk has made a living out of extreme wrestling, putting his body on the line every night in some of the oddest matches ever conceived.

    He was a two-time ECW World Champion and a one-time NWA World Champion.

Ivan Putski

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    "Polish Power" Ivan Putski was a small, compact wrestler who looked more like an immovable object in the ring.

    He was cut to the core and was as strong as anyone in the business. He had an incredible physique and strength, which led to many pose-downs, arm wrestling bouts and long, physical matches between himself and Superstar Billy Graham.

    He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995.


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    Terry Gerin is one of the toughest around.

    The size and sheer power is intimidating enough, but add to his brute force and, of course, his dreaded "spear," and you have an animal in the ring.

    Gerin was a two-time World Champion having won the ECW Heavyweight title and the NWA World Title. He was also a three-time WWE Hardcore Champion.

Stu Hart

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    A promoter, wrestler and one of the best trainers ever in the business.

    He was the matriarch of the famed Hart Family and trained his boys, Bret and Owen, in the famed Canadian Dungeon.

    Hart believed in wearing his students down and building them back up. Some of his students included Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Edge, Christian and Mark Henry.