10 shared wrestler nicknames
Steve Austin will always be “Stone Cold.” Bret Hart will always be the “Hit Man.” And it’s doubtful there will ever be another Y2J. Since the early days of territorial wrestling, grapplers have always adopted nicknames to match the characteristics of their personas.
But some of the ring’s most well-known nicknames are not associated with only one Superstar. And, sometimes, a brawler became so identifiable with a particular moniker that he felt it necessary to fight the imposter for the rights to the name.
WWEClassics.com looked to the hard-nosed style of Mid-South Wrestling, the class and elegance of the AWA, the excitement of WWE and beyond to find the most egregious instances of wrestlers who shared nicknames – politely or not.
Bam Bam Bigelow / Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy
One of the ring’s most gifted big men, Bam Bam Bigelow might be the most criminally underrated talent in the history of wrestling. A six-foot-four, 400-pounder, The Beast from the East dominated WWE, WCW and ECW by executing moonsaults and other dazzling maneuvers that no man of his size should have been able to accomplish. Nevertheless, Bigelow left the wrestling world without a major World Championship on his resume.
While his theme music may have claimed Bigelow as “Bam Bam,” the legendary Freebirds member Terry Gordy also adopted the nickname throughout his lauded in-ring career. The six-foot-six, near 300-pounder from “Badstreet, USA,” was nearly as imposing in the ring as Bigelow, and just as prolific, locking up in major wrestling organizations around the country — with or without Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin.
The two faced off in a “Battle of the Bam Bams” at the ECW Arena during Gordy’s brief stint in the Philadelphia-based organization. The bout — which was advertised relentlessly by announcer Joey Styles during ad breaks on ECW’s Hardcore TV — ended after outside interference from The Eliminators, leaving Bigelow as the victor but both he and Gordy will go down in history as “Bam Bam.”
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan / "Hacksaw" Butch Reed
Few Superstars are as closely associated with their nickname as all-American Jim Duggan. Known as “Hacksaw” for more than 30 years, Duggan wasn’t always the flag-toting fan favorite he’s remembered as today. In Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling organization, the Glens Falls, N.Y., native was a member of The Rat Pack — a villainous cadre led by a pre-Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.
When “Hacksaw” Butch Reed entered Mid-South in 1982, the two grapplers had a score to settle. Which competitor was the better “Hacksaw?” Their rivalry was one of the most heated during a period of intense brutality in the era just before Hulkamania ran wild. Duggan eventually emerged victorious, frustrating Reed, who turned on the fans proclaiming that, “Butch Reed is going to start looking out for Butch Reed.” He named himself “The Natural,” formed an imposing tag team with Ron Simmons and enjoyed success in WWE.
Duggan learned from his cruel ways, aligned himself with The Junkyard Dog in Mid-South and eventually became one of the most endearing heroes in the history of WWE. Still, it’s interesting to think what would have happened if it was Reed who became synonymous with a wooden 2x4.
"The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino / "The Living Legend" Larry Zbyszko
When most wrestling fans think of the “Living Legend,” the first name that comes to mind is the one and only Bruno Sammartino. And rightfully so. The longest-reigning WWE Champion earned that coveted nickname through tireless representation of himself both in and out of the ring. Bruno had a protégé under his wing by the name of Larry Zbyszko. The newcomer had an eagerness to become an in-ring performer, and, despite his busy schedule, the beloved Sammartino was more than willing to oblige with help.
In 1973, Zbyszko made his pro debut, and three years later was a more than capable competitor in WWE. But frustration eventually set in for Zbyszko, who so dearly wanted to be his own person, not forever known as Sammartino’s protégé. He challenged Sammartino to a match. When Bruno said no, Zbyszko contemplated retirement. The Italian Superman finally agreed and frustrated Zbyszko in the match, which led to Zbyszko brutalizing his mentor with a chair. The traitor then rubbed salt into Bruno’s wounds by proclaiming himself the new “Living Legend.” Six months after the attack at New York’s Shea Stadium, the two combatants settled their differences inside a steel cage. Sammartino got the best of his former protégé and exited the cage in triumph.
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair / "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers / "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel
A combination of flashiness, cockiness and bombastic behavior were prevalent in the three personalities that took on the nickname of “Nature Boy.” The first to adopt that moniker was WWE Hall of Famer Buddy Rogers, who was given the name by wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer in the 1950s.
The innovative Rogers was an NWA Champion and became the very first WWE Champion in 1963. Two decades later, Ric Flair adopted the “Nature Boy” persona in the mid-1970s and took it (and Buddy’s patented Figure-Four Leg Lock) to even greater heights than his predecessor. The two "Nature Boys" locked up in the late '70s, but Rogers was well past his prime at that time.
Completing the “Nature Boy” trifecta was Buddy Landel, who took on the name during the 1980s. Landel mostly competed within the southeastern United States, and he, too, had a rather pompous persona that the fans did not care for. With Landel infringing on Flair’s territory, the two had a series of matches in 1985, and again in 1990, to determine the one and only “Nature Boy.” Of course, it was the only two-time WWE Hall of Famer who emerged victorious.
The Crusher / Crusher Blackwell
Neither Crusher might be familiar to today’s WWE fans, but during the heyday of the American Wrestling Association, few competitors were as feared as The Crusher. Hard as nails, the beer-swilling Milwaukee native was blue collar tough long before “Stone Cold” Steve Austin or The Sandman doused the squared circle. A multi-time champion in the AWA, no one messed with The Crusher.
Then why did Jerry Blackwell attempt to steal the barrel-chested brawler’s nickname? Sure, he was a mountain of a man at 470-plus pounds, but did the Stone Mountain, Ga., native really want to upset the apple cart by going around calling himself Crusher Blackwell? To be expected, the original Crusher took exception and battled the behemoth on several occasions during the early 1980s for the rights to his long-held nickname. The rivalry resulted in a legitimate crushing when Blackwell once leapt off the top rope, landing on his opponent’s arm, causing The Crusher to miss a year of action.
The moniker is more closely associated with The Crusher today, but Blackwell definitely earned it on that night.
King Kong Bundy / King Kong Brody / King Kong Mosca
Each of the three individuals who took on the nickname of “King Kong” had decidedly different ring personas. King Kong Brody used the name during the early stages of his career, which took him to a number of territories, including WWE, where he gave Bruno Sammartino a run for his money. His unorthodox brawling style garnered him a name change to the more familiar Bruiser Brody, and he enjoyed continued success in World Class Championship Wrestling and beyond.
Angelo “King Kong” Mosca made a successful transition from the Canadian Football League into the wrestling arena, bringing his rough reputation along with him. Mosca’s no-nonsense, raw-boned, rugged style made him a feared competitor for more than a decade.
King Kong Bundy debuted in World Class during the early 1980s before venturing to WWE in 1985. An imposing presence in both size and stature, Bundy — who Gorilla Monsoon dubbed “the walking condominium” — made an immediate impact. Demanding that the referee administer a five-count to cement his victories, Bundy’s deliberate methods inside the squared circle sent fear into many an opponent, including Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania 2.
Bruiser Brody / Dick the Bruiser
Frank Goodish didn’t find success right away. Originally employing the monikers of “The Hammer” and King Kong Brody, the wild-eyed savage eventually settled on Bruiser Brody. Competing around the world and developing something of a mythic reputation, Brody has become one of the most endearing personalities to devout fans of the sports-entertainment genre.
One man who didn’t take too kindly to Brody’s adopted nickname was cigar-chomping tough guy Dick the Bruiser. A former lineman for the Green Bay Packers, Dick became the AWA Champion for one week in 1966, but is mostly remembered for his five reigns as AWA Tag Team Champion alongside The Crusher.
When Bruiser Brody entered Dick’s territory of Indianapolis, Chicago and neighboring cities, the barroom brawler took exception. The two Bruisers faced off on several occasions across the Midwest with neither settling their differences nor emerging as the one true Bruiser. One thing is settled now: Each competitor is among the most revered to have ever stepped into the squared circle.
"Superstar" Billy Graham / "Superstar" Bill Dundee
The word “Superstar” in today’s landscape is a well-known descriptor for individuals that practice their craft under the bright lights of WWE. But turning the clock back in time, “Superstar” was a nickname that came to prominence with number of individuals, two of which attained a level of success at their own respective levels.
There was only one “Superstar” Billy Graham, whom many feel was far ahead of his time. He had it all: looks, personality, flamboyance. When he spoke, people listened. As he said, “Superstar” was “the man man with the power” and “too sweet to be sour.” The revolutionary Graham went to the top of his game on April 30, 1977, when he dethroned the mighty Bruno Sammartino for the WWE Championship.
Another “Superstar” was Bill Dundee, an Australian talent who began wrestling in the United States in 1974. Like Graham, Dundee could also talk up a mean streak and his biggest success came in Memphis, Tenn., during a classic and tumultuous rivalry with hometown hero Jerry “The King” Lawler.
"Handsome" Harley Race / "Handsome" Jimmy Valiant
Two WWE Hall of Famers took on the “Handsome” nickname, and both did so during the early part of their careers. In 1965, Harley Race entered the AWA and joined forces with Larry Hennig. They took it up a notch by nicknaming themselves “Handsome” and “Pretty Boy,” respectively. The arrogant pair constantly broke the rules en route to winning the AWA Tag Team Championships on three occasions.
Prior to becoming the bearded and unpredictable “Boogie Woogie Man,” tag team specialist “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant enjoyed a great deal of success in the WWE. In 1972, Valiant turned on his tag team partner Chief Jay Strongbow and quickly became one of the most despised individuals by legions of fans. In 1974, “Handsome” Jimmy enlisted the services of his brother, “Luscious” Johnny. Together, The Valiant Brothers — who were later joined by a third brother, “Gentleman” Jerry — wreaked havoc on opposing teams nationwide throughout the remainder of that decade.
"Playboy" Gary Hart / "Playboy" Buddy Rose
In the wrestling industry, nicknames don’t always go with someone worthy of that distinction. In the case of “Playboy” Gary Hart, his wrestling lifestyle completely overshadowed whatever playboy activities he enjoyed. His expertise was managing, and he was darn good at it. Having guided close to four dozen performers in his career, the mustachioed Hart displayed shrewdness and savvy that complemented his talents’ penchant for success. His greatest triumph was during the 1980s in World Class Championship Wrestling, managing King Kong Bundy, “Gentleman” Chris Adams and The Great Kabuki, among others.
From an in-ring standpoint, “Playboy” Buddy Rose was one of the best. Rose made his mark in the northwestern United States before entering WWE rings in 1982 where he engaged in heated battles with WWE Champion Bob Backlund. As time went on, Rose’s weight ballooned to more than 300 pounds. When announced as such, the “Playboy” would immediately correct the ring announcer to announce him at a “slim, trim 217 pounds.” Despite his wrestling talents, Rose is mostly remembered for his salesmanship in promoting the “Blow Away Diet.”