There was a WWWF and a WWF before there was a WWE. Believe it or not, there was a time when Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and John Cena were not the focal point of the wrestling universe.
Back in the 1970s, there were three main wrestling promotions; the WWWF, the AWA and the NWA. Each had its own world champion and their own superstars.
The WWWF/WWF was the brain child of Vince McMahon Sr., who used regional stars to create his own circus of stars in the northeastern part of the United States. He took a cast of characters that represented the common, hard-working people that made up the melting pot of America.
And fans ate it up.
Hulk Hogan did work in the WWF before he became the mega star in wrestling. McMahon Sr. wanted him to dye his hair red at first and pretend he was Irish.
It never came to fruition, but it set the table for what would become Hulkamania.
But before fans could get to Hulkamania, there was a group of tough, rugged and loved and hated wrestlers that made up this organization’s main roster.
Here is a look at 25 of the toughest wrestlers of the 1970s.
His interviews were comical because he did not know great English.
As a competitor, Fuji was a great tag team wrestler who was famous for throwing salt in the eyes of his opponents.
He was a five-time world tag team champion. Later, he became a great manager in the 1980s, wielding a cane as a weapon when he stood outside the ring.
Former wrestler who main-evented with Bruno Sammartino as a tag team wrestler and captured WWWF gold.
Also claimed tag team success with other teams, capturing the tag titles with other stars.
A favorite amongst WWWF fans, he was also a highly competitive singles star, but never held a singles title.
Is also famous for training Mick Foley after he retired from the ring.
Another great tag team specialist of the 1970s, not just the WWWF.
Garea held the WWWF world tag title on five occasions with the likes of Haystacks Calhoun, Dean Ho, Larry Zybysko and Rick Martel.
Before he got his break up north, he was a journeyman on the East Coast.
He was taken in by his "mentor" Bruno Sammartino, who trained him and later feuded with him.
Zbyszko was one of the all-time greats in WWWF and AWA and even spent time in WCW.
A true scientist of the sport for his mat wrestling, he was also known for his interview skills and his mean demeanor.
He was the last wrestler to hold the AWA World Title before the company went under in 1990.
Jerry, Johnny and Jimmy all starred in the WWWF. While Jimmy went on to fame in the Carolinas with Jim Crockett Promotions in the NWA, the brothers Valiant were a successful tag team combination.
Johnny and Jimmy won the WWWF tag titles from Tony Garea and Dean Ho in 1974. Jerry was once managed by Lou Albano.
Their in-ring style and persona made them one of the more colorful tag teams of the decade.
A crowd favorite in the WWWF and WWF.
While he was not the best wrestler in the company, he was known for his hard work and his in-ring style.
Worked as a mid-carder in the 1970s and early 1980s.
His famed moment came in the first Wrestlemania where he helped show the pure brutality of King Kong Bundy.
He lost in nine seconds.
He was a popular wrestler in the Montreal wrestling circuit and made his way to the WWWF, where he held the world tag titles on two occasions with Luke Graham. Both were known for their unusual personas.
He left the WWWF to go back to Canada to return to wrestling, and eventually died in a car accident with fellow wrestler Pierre 'Mad Dog' Lefebvre and referee Adrien Desbois.
Killer Kowalski was a Canadian wrestler mainly known for his feuds with Bruno Sammartino and his tag team wrestling under Capt. Lou Albano.
He was best known for his heel persona and held the WWWF world tag titles with Big John Studd.
He was also one half of the tag team combination called the Executioners.
He stated a wrestling school after he retired and trained the likes of Triple H and Perry Saturn.
They just looked mean!
Afa and Sika were these big bruising wrestlers from the island of Samoa that did not talk and let Capt. Lou Albano be their mouthpiece.
In the ring, they were menacing. They debuted at the beginning of 1980. I am adding them since they were 21-time tag team title holders in the different promotions they appeared in.
Both men even challenged Bob Backlund for the WWF title.
"Crazy" Luke Graham was a tag team specialist with his "brother" Jerry in the WWWF. His persona and his shtick was a nice change of pace.
He was a tag team champion with Tarzan Tyler in the WWWF in 1971, the first team to hold such an honor.
He feuded with Gorilla Monsoon, Jay Strongbow and Pedro Morales.
A mountain of a man, he held the WWWF tag team title with Tony Garea.
He set the bar for wrestlers like King Kong Bundy and other larger men in the business. He was said to weigh in at 600 pounds.
His size and personality made him an instant favorite with the fans. Calhoun was often booked in special attraction bouts, competing in handicap matches and battle royals. This is the same way that Andre the Giant was booked later in his career.
The big man from Texas with a big lariat finish to the match.
He wrestled in the WWWF, challenging Bruno Sammartino. Hansen's lariat broke Sammartino's neck. The "power" of the move was made a big deal, but in reality, Hensen botched the move, which led to the injury.
Although he is as rough as they come in the ring and was one of the toughest SOBs in the business when he was in the WWWF, his fame came in the AWA, where he held the world title.
One of the biggest and baddest men in WWF history.
He and Killer Kowalski were the masked Executioners and claimed the WWF tag team titles.
He left the WWF to go to Florida and challenge Dusty Rhodes and Barry Windham.
When he returned to the WWF in the early 1980s, he challenged Bob Backlund for the WWF title and feuded with Andre the Giant.
There were wrestlers who were bigger than Dino Bravo, but not many were as strong as him.
Coming to the WWF in the late 1970s, he was a tag team wrestler who captured the WWF world tag titles with Dominic DeNucci.
He also wrestled as a singles competitor. He was a heel in the 80s and died from being shot in his hometown in Quebec.
Bravo was alleged to be involved in illegal cigarette smuggling which led to his death.
She was and still to this day is the most dominant women's wrestler of all time.
Moolah wrestled in seven decades and held the women's title from 1956 to 1984.
She lost the title to Wendi Richter to help usher in the "Rock and Wrestling" Era.
From 1970 to 1977, Chief Jay Strongbow was a fixture in the WWWF as a popular face in wrestling.
Strongbow was an excellent tag team wrestler, having captured the WWWF tag titles first with Sonny King in 1972 and then in 1976 with Billy White Wolf.
He feuded with Spiro Arion and Jimmy Valiant. He also had a series of matches with "Superstar" Billy Graham where he almost claimed the WWWF world title.
Merced Solis is believed to be one of the all-time best mat wrestlers the WWF ever had.
Santana won his first title in 1979 when he and Ivan Putski defeated Johnny and Jerry Valiant to claim the WWF world tag titles. They were champions for over six months.
They eventually lost the straps to the Samoans in 1980.
Santana also gained fame for winning the first-ever match in Wrestlemania history and held the federation's Intercontinental Title in 1984 after feuding with Don Muraco.
Before he got his start in the NWA and was a tag team champion, Koloff caused havoc in the WWWF in a feud with Bruno Sammartino.
He beat Sammartino to become the WWWF world title holder and bridge the gap so Pedro Morales could claim the world title.
Koloff wrestled WWWF title matches against Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Superstar Billy Graham and Bob Backlund during his reign.
His knee drop from the top rope was shocking to watch and a great finishing maneuver.
Another Canadian-born wrestler who found success in the WWWF.
In 1979, Patterson debuted working as a heel, under manager The Grand Wizard. His primary feud was with world champion Bob Backlund.
He was also the first-ever Intercontinental Champion in the federation.
He was Hulk Hogan before Hulk came on the scene.
Graham was an imposing bodybuilder and wrestler.
In 1977, when he won the WWWF world title, he set a precedent since he did not give the title back as quickly as others. He held onto the strap for 296 days.
He faced all challengers in the WWWF and even had matches against the NWA faces Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes and Mil Mascaras.
No one was more loved than Andre.
The "Eighth Wonder of the World" from 1973-1987 was a fixture in the WWF machine.
The buildup was Andre had a 15-year winning streak.
His fame all over the world was as big as Hulk Hogan or name your champion in another federation.
At the end of his career, Andre turned heel and met Hogan in Wrestlemania III, cementing Hogan's place in immortality when he slammed the Giant and got the pinfall.
At 6-foot-5 and 400 pounds, he was a beast in the ring.
He started in the WWWF in 1965 and was a fixture for three decades and then as an announcer. It is said he helped Vince McMahon Sr. get the WWWF on its feet.
He started out as a heel but in 1965 became a babyface when Bruno Sammartino came to his rescue when Luke Graham attacked him.
He passed away in 1999 from complications from diabetes.
Morales was the first man in wrestling history to win all three major men's titles in the federation.
A face for all his career in the federation, Morales beat Ivan Koloff after Koloff shocked the wrestling world to beat Bruno Sammartino.
He won the WWWF U.S. Title as his first strap by beating Classie Freddie Blassie.
During his career, had many memorable feuds including with Ken Patera, Stan Stasiak and Larry Hennig.
It was so hard not to like Backlund while he was the world champion in the WWF.
A great amateur background to go with All-American looks. Backlund was the last face champion before the change was made and Hulkamania ran wild. Backlund lost his title to the Iron Sheik before Hogan's win.
Backlund was a two-time world champion from 1977-1984.
He won the world title by beating Superstar Billy Graham for his first title reign and chased the world tag titles with Peter Maivia. Maivia turned heel, and the two had a classic feud.
The longest reigning world champion in the federation's history from 1963-1971.
A tough Italian guy who fans loved and honored as their hero.
He won his first title by beating Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds.
There weren't many like him and at the time, the promotions were looking for title contenders to hold the belt for years on end.
Sammartino is still one of the most famous and popular faces ever to wrestle for the McMahon machine.