The Most Feared Professional Wrestlers of All Time
The deranged, macabre and vicious have entered wrestling rings through the years, leaving a wake of fear behind them.
This is a celebration of wrestling's beast-like men, horror movie-inspired psychopaths and bloodthirsty brutes.
Some earn their spot on this list through the frightening character they played, while some were genuinely terrifying people. Some are more feared by fans; some more feared by their opponents.
In no particular order, here are pro wrestling's most dread-inducing men and women from Japan, Canada and parts unknown.
A vicious barbarian with wild eyebrows and a thick, black beard, Ox Baker remains one of wrestling's most memorable characters.
He spent the '60s and '70s terrorizing opponents in Puerto Rico, Calgary and the AWA.
More frightening than his appearance or his animalistic demeanor was the legend of his finishing move, the heart punch. In 1971, Alberto Torres died after taking the move. In '72, Ray Gunkel died following a match with Baker.
Never mind that both men had pre-existing conditions and that Baker's punch didn’t actually kill them. That didn't stop the aura of the heart punch from growing. It became known as a lethal weapon that the frightening Ox Baker wielded.
The man who once played Corporal Kirchner in WWE went on to become one of Japan's scariest performers. Few movie characters have been as chilling as the man behind the evil of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
This wrestling character was a clear rip-off of that villain, but its unoriginality didn't stop it from being a disturbing part of pro wrestling.
Slam! Sports interviewed the man behind the leather mask and Michael Kirchner said, "I had people jump off balconies to get away from me, because I would come out through the crowd. My character could be that terrifying. Kids going into epileptic seizures."
Few wrestles can claim that kind of reaction in any era.
Wrestling has a long history of men playing monstrous villains. Few did so as convincingly as Skull Murphy.
A childhood disease kept his body completely hairless, adding to his mystique.
His oiled, bald head agleam with the lights of the arena, Murphy would yell into the crowd and frighten children. Slam! Sports quotes a magazine report as saying that Murphy would "drive fans to such states of frenzy that they would try and storm the ring."
Throughout the '60s, Murphy worked often with tag partner Brute Bernard, taking their traveling macabre circus across Canada and the U.S.
Stepping out of blue mist, fireballs erupting behind him, Undertaker's entrance alone puts him among wrestling's scariest performers.
Undertaker rolls his eyes in the back of his head, his tongue hanging out. He is a tower of a man, covered in tattoos.
He has hung a man from the top of a cage and tied others to crosses. Despite WWE moving away from over-the-top gimmicks, Undertaker has managed to stay at the top of the company. He has crushed 20 straight opponents at WrestleMania, intimidating and disturbing along the way.
The notoriously stiff brawler spent much of his career in Japan, where he clobbered foes with his lariat. When he hit people with that move, it sometimes looked like he was close to decapitating them.
Stan Hansen didn't play a scary character; he was a genuinely frightening human being.
His resume of real-life carnage is unsettling. He broke Bruno Sammartino's neck which Jim Ross says led to “legit death threats." In a match against Vader, he struck him so hard that his eye actually popped out of its socket.
Few men have been scarier without a mask or face paint, or even a gimmick. Hansen was plenty fearsome on his own.
Jun Kasai remains disfigured from years of working hardcore matches, Razor Death matches and the most barbaric match types ever created.
His forehead is mangled; his torso is heavily scarred.
An alumnus of the Big Japan Pro Wrestling, CZW and HUSTLE promotions, he earned the nickname "Crazy Monkey" from the insane bumps he was willing to take. Not only is he willing to be smashed with light tubes and thrown onto razor boards, but he seems to delight in the pain.
A man that fearless, that sadistic is terrifying, regardless of his stature.
Bulldog Brower was a rabid beast.
Brower bit his opponents. His viciousness was famous, his glare intense.
Slam! Sports called him, "one of the toughest and meanest professional wrestlers of his era."
He convincingly played a bloodthirsty psychotic who had no regard for his opponents. Bruno Sammartino, Johnny Powers and Mighty Igor all experienced Brower's barbarity first-hand.
Wrestling rings in Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia in the '60s and '70s would have been far less scary without Brower prowling around them.
Brock Lesnar was built to be a WWE wrecking ball. His size and power make him the the ideal devastating force.
WWE needs its monsters, and few men have been as convincingly monstrous as Brock Lesnar. He was a scary beast of a man from his debut onward.
His career highlights feature a number of monstrous moments. Lesnar has busted open John Cena's head, demolished a one-legged wrestler into a bloody mess and once smeared Hulk Hogan's blood across his own chest.
Before he was one of WWE's most beloved voices, Gorilla Monsoon was one of wrestling's most frightening monsters.
He played a man-beast from Manchuria, an unstoppable heel who challenged the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant.
The deranged villain held his opponents in the backbreaker rack or splashed his weight on their prone bodies. He later lost his hair and beard, trading them in for glasses and a place at the announce table, but Monsoon was for a long time among WWE's most disturbing characters.
A man capable of stabbing a man in the center with the ring with no remorse is scary enough, but Kevin Sullivan's Satanist angle puts him among wrestling's most fear-provoking performers.
His eyes covered in black makeup, a black X drawn on his forehead, Sullivan disturbed wrestling fans in Florida. He battled Dusty Rhodes most famously during this period.
Sullivan gathered several incarnations of his army of darkness. The controversial angle disturbed fans like few others have.
Sullivan later become known as The Taskmaster in WCW's Dungeon of Doom, but his earlier days, evoking images of the devil himself are his most memorable and most chilling.
Spikes jutting out from their shoulders, war paint on their faces, Animal and Hawk were pro wrestling's most frightening tag team.
Being built like trucks was part of it, but the intensity that they brought to the ring, the mercilessness they displayed made them feared by opponents and fans alike.
Deadspin described them as "forces of nature in the ring and two of the sport's true tough guys outside of it, muscled to their ears and notorious for working 'stiff' in matches."
In WCW, WWE or elsewhere, The Road Warriors caused many a stomach to flutter. Their power, their snarls and their Mad Max-esque outfits were all part of a fearsome package.
Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher took his traveling circus of sadism and destruction to just about every wrestling promotion in the U.S.
His "wild man from the Sudan" character was a man who took pleasure in inflicting pain. A man that size with such an affinity for sharp objects is sure to be feared.
His name alone is unsettling.
It's a name he lived up to by carving open his opponents' heads, chewing on ears and making a bloody mess of wrestling rings around the world.
Whether obscured by a mask or not, Undertaker's brother has long been one of WWE's most feared beasts.
Flames rising up around him, the giant of a man has made a disturbing impact on WWE. The sadistic pyromaniac set fire to Jim Ross, attacked a man in a wheelchair and tore through an altar to interrupt a wedding.
While carving out his destructive path, he's seemed to delight in the carnage. His madman's cackle is chilling.
He's recently been turned into more of a comedy character alongside Daniel Bryan, but Kane's fearsome past won't ever be forgotten.
The Godfather of Hardcore was a frightening force in wrestling as early as 1949. The Sheik dished out decades worth of pain and suffering throughout his career.
He bit into his opponents' flesh. He tossed fireballs into faces. He stabbed foes with pencils.
The Sheik was one of wrestling's first monsters, a horror movie villain working between the ropes. His scars, his viciousness, his array of macabre weapons disturbed the sleep of many a young fan.
A blood-drenched career earned him a Hall of Fame nod, but scared many a fan in the process.
There are few things scarier than a man as unstable as Mankind.
He seemed a man capable of snapping at any moment. When Jim Ross' questions went to a place Mankind didn't like, he attacked the announcer.
His Hannibal Lecter-type mask, his missing patches of hair, his willingness to cause and suffer pain made Mankind an unsettling force. Add to that his shifts into his various personalities and he quickly becomes one of wrestling's scariest characters.
Her look alone made Luna Vachon one of the more frightening women in wrestling history. Watching Vachon wrestle or talk was a visceral experience, like watching a crazed animal attack everything in sight.
Her shaved head, the veins painted on her face, the snarling dog expression she wore caused many a goose bump to rise. Her interviews, complete with shrieking and demonic guttural sounds, chilled as well.
As either Shawn Michaels' valet, Sherri Martel's rival or Bam Bam Bigelow's squeeze, Vachon remained a feared force in WWE during the '90s.
Lex Luger punched Bruiser Brody in the corner. Suddenly the big man stopped moving, stopped working. Luger stepped backwards as his eyes widened. He seemed genuinely afraid of the man in the ring with with.
Against friend or foe, Brody always felt on the verge of snapping. He wrestled throughout the '60s and '70s, where he fought against Abdullah the Butcher, Bruno Sammartino, Bobo Brazil and Gorilla Monsoon.
Brody was a wild man who wielded chains, pushed fans out of his way and rambled in his interviews.
Lance Russell in Bruiser Brody by Emerson Murray said that Brody was "feared by all the fans. And I'll tell you what. There were a lot of guys in the locker room who were scared of Bruiser Brody. He was a bad dude."
Meng, or Haku as he was known with WWE, didn’t play a scary character. He didn’t need a macabre mask. Meng was generally known as a guy other wrestlers fear.
In an interview published on F4WOnline.com, Meng talked about what he liked to do when people talked about wrestling being fake. He said, "When I walk in and you tell me it's fake, I'll show you how fake the business is. Whether I take your teeth out or take your eyeballs off or whatever it was in those days."
In the same interview, he talked about an incident where he bit someone's nose off.
There have been larger and more menacing figures to put on a pair of wrestling tights, but few make so fearful of losing body parts as Meng did.
Abyss' world is one of broken glass, thumbtacks, blood and pain. His disturbing mask looks like something a serial killer might wear.
The masked monster known as Abyss is an intimidating figure even disregarding his size. Scars line his arms. Dark hair falls over his leather mask, his wild eyes poking through.
The TNA star has delivered Black Hole Slams to his foes. He has dominated and destroyed.
He has recently morphed into a lawyer character named Joseph Park so his monstrous side remains dormant, awaiting a chance to awaken and begin his wrath again.
Even though we all knew the blood in his goblet was fake, it was scary to see Gangrel gulp down the red stuff and spit in the air.
Edge and Christian at his side, the leader of the Brood was a vampire before vampire became teeny-bopper material for books and movies.
In the chaos that was the Attitude Era, Gangrel stood out as one of its darker characters. A gimmick that could have come off as corny achieved true disturbing status.
Maurice Tillet, the French Angel
St. Louis Post Dispatch (via Slam! Sports) once wrote of Maurice Tillet, "His big hideous head scared the women around the ringside, and probably would alarm even Boris Karloff."
Tillet's acromegaly caused physical deformities that wrestling promoters took advantage of during his career in the '30s and '40s.
Dubbed 'The Freak Ogre of the Ring," Tillet squeezed his opponents in a bear hug on his way to the American Wrestling Association World Championship in 1944.
Watching Tillet in action, he comes off as a real-life monster, aggressive and unstoppable.
The Great Kabuki seemed to come from some hellish place. His disturbing face paint, the horns protruding from his mask and the blades he clutched in his fists made for a demonic image. The thick mat of hair hiding his face made him look like some creature out of a horror movie.
Throughout the '70s and '80s, he disturbed fans while battling the likes of Tommy Rich, Ric Flair, Tiger Mask II and Kenta Kobashi.
He is often credited with innovating spitting mist into his foes' faces. Great Kabuki was not as talented as other Japanese imports, but was a more chilling presence than any of his countrymen.
When you tear a man's ear off during a match, you earn a nickname like "Killer."
When David Letterman introduced Killer Kowalski on his show in 1982, he called Kowalski "one of the meanest men to ever step into a wrestling ring" and he was absolutely right. Though a perfectly civil man in real life, Kowalski was an intimidating, scowling monster in the wrestling ring.
His size intimidated. He crushed his foes' heads with his claw hold. Whether taking on Bruno Sammartino or Pat O'Connor, Kowalski came off as a genuinely fearsome monster.
There may not be a more volatile opponent in wrestling history than New Jack. Throughout his career, New Jack has proven that his sadism extends beyond his wrestling character.
Even more chilling then New Jack stabbing a man in the ring is the callousness he showed in an interview following the incident.
Heath Slater said of Vader on 4thandpain.com, "Growing up watching him, I was scared to death." Slater wasn't the only one.
The massive man threw punches and forearms like two wrecking balls at his opponents. He growled, snarled and barked.
It didn't help ones nerves that he wore a disturbing Mastodon-like mask to the ring. Vader seemed like a man who could destroy just about anyone, a merciless beast of a man.
Aja Kong is an unforgettable force. Her face covered in red and blue war paint, her gloved hands at the ready, Kong radiates fear.
She has dominated Japanese women's wrestling for years, racking up titles and engaging women like Bull Nakano, Manami Toyota and Dynamite Kansai in violent clashes. Kong is built like a rhino and has the demeanor to match.
Kong briefly joined the WWE in the mid-'90s where she infamously broke Chaparrita Asari's nose. She remains one of the most intimidating women in wrestling history.