The popularity of Hulk Hogan and the rise of Hulkamania in the 1980s brought forth countless super heavyweight challengers to his status as the undisputed top babyface in professional wrestling. King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, Big John Studd and Kamala are just a few of the big men who tried to put an end to the most powerful force in the sport.
They all failed.
Then, as the new decade arrived, a newcomer from the Great White North stepped up to the plate and did the unimaginable: He injured Hogan and left fans questioning whether their hero would ever step foot inside a squared circle again.
Though he had been on television for a little while, appearing at the sides of Dino Bravo and Jimmy Hart, it was not until the athletically gifted big man squash The Hulkster like a bug on the set of The Brother Love Show that he made a name for himself and instantly solidified his position in WWE as one of the most dangerous baddies in the industry.
His name was Earthquake, and over the next few years he would become one of the workhorses for Vince McMahon's promotion.
This is his story, told through his finest matches and greatest moments.
Born John Tenta, the man who would eventually become one of wrestling's most destructive forces was an incredibly gifted athlete before he ever stepped inside the squared circle. While attending Louisiana State University, he not only wrestled but also played some collegiate football and even competed on the rugby fields.
Before entering the wild and unpredictable world of professional wrestling, he traveled to the Japan and tried his hand at sumo wrestling. He was successful but that did not stop him from retiring from the sport prematurely, his body wracked with pain from the contact with the hard surfaces the sport employed.
Looking to remain active, he arrived at All-Japan Pro Wrestling, where he trained under one of the biggest and most influential stars of all time, Giant Baba. Already a great athlete, he picked up the sport in short order and repeatedly found himself teaming with, and learning from, some hugely influential stars.
So impressive was Tenta that he almost immediately caught the attention of promoters back in the states, all of whom were impressed with the size and athleticism he regularly displayed. He looked like a star, and Vince McMahon wasted little time getting him under contract.
The Canadian Earthquake
"John from West Virginia," Tenta called himself as he entered the squared circle on an episode of WWE Superstars, volunteering to assist in the strength competition between The Ultimate Warrior and hated villain Dino Bravo.
After shocking the audience and assisting Bravo in a beatdown of the Warrior, fans would never forget the massive newcomer who had just laid waste to one of the biggest stars in the sport. Known now as The Canadian Earthquake, the big man would pummel opponents, then decimate them with the Earthquake Splash, a running seated senton that left many Superstars in need of a stretcher.
Eventually, "The Canadian" was dropped from his name, and he became known simply as Earthquake. Though he competed at both the 1989 Survivor Series and WrestleMania VI, punishing poor Hercules on both occasions, it was not until that fateful night in May of 1990 when he viciously and violently attacked Hulk Hogan that he made it clear that no Superstar was safe from his wrath.
The Hogan Feud
After leaving Hogan in a heap, his ribs almost certainly decimated as a result of the repetitive use of the Earthquake Splash, the big man became the most hated man in sports entertainment. Fans wrote letters and sent cards to Hulk, wishing him a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, Earthquake continued to bully and beat anyone put in front of him.
Along with manager Jimmy Hart and Dino Bravo, he took credit for putting an end to Hulkamania in a storyline that was incredibly simple yet incredibly effective.
The feud built to a huge match at SummerSlam that August, where Hogan returned to the ring and defeated his rival via countout. The two heavyweights would continue to compete in arenas across the country, with the Hulkster often winning every way but clean in order to maintain Earthquake's aura.
Earthquake's other notable singles program saw him squash Jake Roberts' snake Damien in a disgusting display that would have infuriated PETA, even though the snake was not actually inside the bag.
Shortly after the incident, the villain appeared on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling and greeted hosts Vince McMahon, Lord Alfred Hayes and Bobby Heenan with a tray of hamburgers. It was not until after they had eaten at least one (several in Heenan's case) that he revealed the meat was from the remains of Damien.
It was a classic heel move, one that continued Earthquake's brilliant run as one of the premiere baddies in professional wrestling.
He and Roberts would wage war at live events across the country but never really had that one definitive, televised match that would blow off their rivalry once and for all.
The Natural Disasters
An unexpected heel turn from Tugboat, and a name change to Typhoon, saw the formation of The Natural Disasters, which saw Earthquake and his super heavyweight friend dominate the world tag team competition en route to capturing gold and establishing themselves as the greatest force in the sport.
At SummerSlam 1991, the duo defeated The Bushwhackers and confronted industry icon Andre the Giant. Shortly thereafter, they focused their attention almost primarily on the legendary Legion of Doom. They would fail to capture the tag team championships, but with manager Jimmy Hart by their side, the team figured to remain part of the title chase for the foreseeable future.
Then it happened.
In a shocking betrayal, Hart dumped his charges to align himself with Ted DiBiase and IRS, probably for the money. It was a moment that changed everything. After two years spent crushing babyfaces, Earthquake himself became one.
Along with Typhoon, he feuded with DiBiase and IRS, eventually capturing the tag titles. They would successfully retain against The Beverly Brothers at the critically acclaimed SummerSlam 1992 pay-per-view, but their title reign was short-lived. They dropped the titles back to Money Inc. by the end of the year.
The Dungeon of Doom
Earthquake spent the remaining two years of his WWE career bouncing around from program to program, working the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna, putting over the younger talent as Vince McMahon began transitioning into the so-called New Generation.
Sensing that his time in the company may be coming to an end, he seized the opportunity to take a big-money offer from World Championship Wrestling and in 1994 jumped ship to the Ted Turner-owned, Eric Bischoff-operated promotion.
Instantly, he became one-third of Kevin Sullivan's Three Faces of Fear, a trio obsessed with putting an end to Hulkamania. First, though, he found himself sharing the ring with the likes of Randy Savage and Sting, the perfect foil for WCW's top babyfaces.
Then in 1995, he switched names from Avalanche (which he had been using upon his arrival at the company) to Shark and debuted as a member of The Dungeon of Doom, one of the most notoriously cheesy factions of all time.
Just as he had done in WWE, he became a driving force behind the destruction of Hulk Hogan and everything the bleached-blond hero stood for. When he failed, he exited The Dungeon and became a babyface, competing under his real name.
He would feud with Big Bubba Rogers in a rivalry that produced some less-than stellar matches before exiting stage left and returning to WWE, just in time for the arrival of the Attitude Era.
In 1998, John Tenta returned to WWE and was thrown under a mask, the idea being that fans would be more willing to accept him if they did not know it was the same guy they had just watched beaten and decimated by other over-the-hill competitors in WCW.
As Golga, he was part of The Oddities, a collection of freaks and oddballs that made its way to the squared circle as Insane Clown Posse rapped over the PA. What originally started as a heel-based gimmick quickly turned babyface, as the fans enjoyed the fun-loving nature of the big man and his associates.
It was a harmless opening-match gimmick that had great energy.
Typically clad in a T-shirt with the characters of TV's South Park plastered all over it, carrying a stuffed Cartman to the squared circle with him, Golga showed the most personality of all The Oddities, even though his face was covered by a mask.
Though nowhere near the prestige of fighting Hulk Hogan in the main event, Tenta's work as Golga, at a time when fans were completely different and more attitudinal than they had ever been before, may be his best.
After leaving WWE, Tenta would disappear from the business. Sadly, he would fight a losing battle with bladder cancer, dying far too early in 2006 at 42 years old.