The most badass wrestler stories ever told
Hang around long enough in a wrestling locker room and you’re bound to hear a few unbelievable tales about sports-entertainment’s most storied competitors. Some claim to have seen Haku bite a poor sap’s nose clean off for looking at him the wrong way. Others might have bared witness to Andre the Giant flipping over a car full of drunk guys who thought they could take on “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
As these accounts have been passed down through the years, certain details may have been embellished a little bit to make a good legend even better. To get the most badass stories involving pro wrestlers, we got in touch with WWE Legends and Hall of Famers, who were more than happy to pass these tales on to you, the WWE Universe.
Dr. Death and Rick Steiner save people from a burning car
Cowboy Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling had the reputation of being a tough guy’s territory, touring through hardened towns in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Bar fights were not uncommon, as drunkards sought to prove they were tougher than the wrestlers. But the story former Mid-South announcer Jim Ross recalled most easily didn’t take place in a dank saloon in the backwoods of Mississippi. It was on the side of a highway outside Alexandria, La.
The vehicle had caught fire, with the driver and passengers still inside. A crowd of people were struggling to get them out before the car exploded, but were unable to get the door open.
“The people were signaling that they were going to burn alive,” Ross recalled.
“Doc and Rick physically ripped the door off and dragged the victims out of the car,” Ross said. “They got them far enough away from it, so when it finally exploded, no one was injured from the blast.”
While this tale is quite different from the ones of wrestlers clearing out bars, Ross’ reverence made it clear that it deserved recognition.
“To put your own life on the line, to show extraordinary courage and strength to save lives is a sign of the ultimate tough guy,” the WWE Hall of Famer said.
Haku takes a bite out of crime
Haku has the reputation of being, perhaps, the toughest man to step in the ring. Just the mention of his name would send a chill up the spine of his foes, and some of his friends, too. Stories have been told about the poor saps who dared to cross the dangerous Tongan. Some seem too barbaric to be true. But a tale told to WWEClassics.com by Kevin Sullivan, who traveled with Meng during their WCW days, made us think twice about questioning anything we’ve heard.
It all started out innocently, with Sullivan and Haku searching for a place to grab a six-pack to take back to their hotel. With all of the area liquor stores closed, they headed to the nearest tavern to buy some brewskis.
“There was a guy in there that was playing pool,” Sullivan said. “We weren’t locals, so he saw us and called Meng a real derogatory word that you shouldn’t use.”
That’s when things took a turn for the unbelievable.
“The next thing I know is that Meng goozles the guy like Mr. Spock,” Sullivan said. “It was fast and furious. He then grabbed another guy who tried to get involved and knocked him unconscious.”
Sullivan still can’t believe what he saw next.
“Meng bit through the guy’s shirt like a wolf, bit a chunk out of the guy’s back, then spit it on the floor,” he said. “I said, ‘It’s time to go.’ ”
Sullivan and Meng raced out of the bar. As they drove away, they could see the flashing lights of cop cars pulling into the tavern in the rearview mirror. Sullivan had an idea of what the officers might be thinking when they surveyed the scene.
“I’m sure that when they saw what happened, they thought, ‘Well, we can go and chase whatever’s in that car,’ ” he said. “ ‘Or maybe we don’t want to catch what’s in that car.’ ”
Danny Hodge walks away from a car wreck
Fans of wrestling history have probably heard all the stories about wrestling legend Danny Hodge. He went undefeated as a college wrestler, winning 46 matches (36 by pin) and losing none, not even giving up a takedown to his foes.
Before going pro in wrestling, he went into amateur boxing, with no experience in the sweet science, and won the national Golden Gloves competition. Clearly, Hodge could have chosen any sport and excelled at it, no matter what.
“He was a freak of nature,” Jim Ross said of his fellow Oklahoman.
But Hodge’s toughness and determination wasn’t just limited to athletics. He’s stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale. Hodge fell asleep at the wheel in early 1976 and drove his car off a bridge and into a lake. The crash broke the Oklahoman’s neck and shattered his teeth, but he still managed to punch his way through a window and swim to shore. Unbelievably, he made it to the side of the road, holding his neck in place with his bare hands, and flagged down help.
It probably helped that Hodge was born with double tendons, possessing unbelievable strength in his hands and forearms. Even today, at 80 years old, Hodge can crush an apple with his bare hands.
Vader wrestles with his eye popped out of his head
Vader certainly earned his reputation as one of the most intimidating men ever to step into a wrestling ring. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 450 pounds made that fairly easy, but Vader made sure everyone in the locker room knew that they were in for the fight of their life against him.
Unfortunately for him, on one occasion, that led to one of the most gruesome injuries in wrestling history. During his time in Japan, Vader found himself facing Stan “The Lariat” Hansen at the Tokyo Dome in front of 70,000 fans excited to see the two bruisers slug it out. Before the bout, Vader was going through his usual pre-match theatrics, letting his massive helmet shoot out smoke, hoping to put a little fear into Hansen. “The Lariat,” however, wasn’t having any of it.
“He came over the top rope with that bell,” Vader said, recalling the foreign object on the end of Hansen’s bull rope coming at his head. “It literally knocked me out cold.”
Gushing from his mouth and nose, Vader knew he was in for the kind of fight he liked. He rushed Hansen, slapping the former AWA World Champion in the ear several times. Hansen, notorious for his poor eyesight, did what he could to back Vader off.
“I was kind of manhandling him in the corner,” Vader explained. “I think out of desperation, he thumbed me in the eye, then did it again and he popped it out.”
What happened next shocked the fans in attendance and anyone with the stomach to watch the video tape. Vader removed his mask, showing that his right eye was protruding from his skull. Unwilling to stop the match, the 450-pounder did the unthinkable, pushing the eye back in and continuing the fight.
“It was just instinct,” he said. “I popped it back in, then nature took over and it swelled up real quick and held it in.” Although the battle would end in a draw, Vader felt the effects for a long time.
“That cost me about 30 percent of my vision, depth perception, broke all the bones in my orbital, every bone in my nose,” Vader said. “I had to have reconstructive surgery.”
Most men would take it easy after a gruesome injury. Not Vader, though. The Mastodon made his way back to America and terrorized WCW and WWE, striking fear into the hearts of another continent of competitors.
Andre the Giant shatters a windshield
There’s plenty of over-the-top stories that have been told about Andre the Giant. Plenty of his friends have said he could down 100 beers in a single sitting, while some swear he flipped over a car full of guys who tried to fight him. Many of those tales are impossible to confirm, but there is one we could verify.
JBL, a close friend of Andre’s longtime driver and WWE official Tim White, shared one story the former ref loved to tell.
“Andre had a few beers one night, and Tim was driving,” JBL explained. “A lady cop stopped them.”
In the middle of a good night out, “The Eighth Wonder of the World” didn’t take too kindly to the officer’s interruption.
“He told [the cop] where she needed to go,” JBL said with a chuckle. “Then he got mad, and hit the windshield.”
Once Andre’s massive fists connected with the glass, it shouldn’t have been a surprise what happened next. But anyone who was a witness to the giant’s unparalleled strength was continually amazed.
“The entire thing exploded,” JBL said.
Bill Watts gives a guy an eyeful
Before he took over the operation of the Mid-South territory, WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bill Watts was a devious wrestler, feared from coast to coast.
“He had a real nasty attitude,” Jim Ross said of his mentor and friend.
According to J.R., Watts was involved in a lot of street fights from his high school days through his time as a wrestling champion. Anyone who dared to brawl with Watts often left with a reminder of their poor decision making. Good Ol’ J.R. remembered one particular instance where that reminder was quite permanent.
“Watts was in a bar in San Diego,” Ross explained. “A Marine and some of his buddies recognized him from the local wrestling program, which was based out of Los Angeles.”
The leatherneck thought he could take Watts, a scene Ross had seen play out many times.
“The typical conversation ensued, alcohol was a factor and he instigated a fight with Watts,” J.R. said. “That was a mistake, not knowing that he was an amateur wrestler and played football, not to mention his reputation as someone who enjoyed those types of confrontations.”
The WWE Hall of Famer knew he had to act to end the scrap quickly, so he used his power to his advantage early on.
“Bill reached up and pulled the guy’s eyeball out,” Ross recalled with a shudder. “Right out of his head, and put it in a cocktail glass on the table, so everybody could see it.”
With the bar stunned in silence, Watts knew it was time to make his exit. He didn’t just leave the saloon, though.
“I remember him being very worried that he was going to face charges over the whole deal,” Ross said. “He left the territory immediately. A wrestler by the name of Don Leo Jonathan, a huge star back in the day, had a place in Vancouver [British Columbia], so he got Bill out of the country until the issue blew over.”
While that issue may have blown over, the tale only served to build up the legend of “Cowboy” Bill Watts as a man to be feared, both inside and out of the squared circle.