The true stories of wrestling's most unique nicknames
Many legendary Superstars are remembered for their wrestling acumen, their captivating interviews or a signature maneuver that was their meal ticket to victory. But, for many competitors, a memorable nickname has helped make them a part of every sports-entertainment fan’s vernacular.
But where did familiar monikers like “The King” and “The Hammer” come from? WWEClassics.com was interested in the genesis of these nicknames, so we reached out to nine WWE Legends with immediately recognizable handles.
Here, in their own words, are the true stories behind sports-entertainment’s most unforgettable nicknames. ( PHOTOS)
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Jerry "The King" Lawler
"A lot of people thought that me being from Memphis, Tenn., and Elvis Presley being the King of rock ‘n’ roll, that I just came along and kind of copied that nickname and called myself the “King of Wrestling.” Not so. In 1974, I wound up in a big match against a guy who actually was my mentor and the biggest star in Memphis at that time, Fabulous Jackie Fargo.
On our weekly TV show to promote the match, I did an interview and said that Fargo had been the “King of Wrestling” around here for a long time, but he was looking at the kid that was going to knock him off his throne. I wound up winning the match and as I was going back to the locker room, a bunch of young fans slapped me on the back and were saying, “Hey, now you’re the ‘King’!” "
Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart
When I wrestled in Calgary [Alberta], back in 1980, one of the big annual events that took place there was the Calgary Stampede. It was certainly one of the biggest rodeos in the world. There were off-shoot events there as well, and my father-in-law, Stu Hart, decided that he was going to enter me in a celebrity anvil throwing contest at the Stampede that year. So here I was, pitted against hockey players, football players and rodeo guys. I threw this hundred-pound anvil, and just won the event by about an eighth of an inch.
So after all was said and done, Helen Hart remembered my success at the Stampede. When I went to wrestle for Bill Watts, he wanted to give me a nickname, like “The Animal.” But I didn’t feel like I was an animal. I spoke with Helen and she said to me, “Why don’t you call yourself ‘The Anvil’?” I had the flat top, the long beard and the sunglasses, and it sounded different, but good. So I used it, and it stuck.
"The Magnificent" Don Muraco
I was wrestling in the Florida territory back in 1972 as a fan favorite before leaving to compete in San Francisco. After I wrapped up there, I came back to Florida, but this time I returned as a not-so-fan favorite, based on my run in San Francisco. And to spice things up, I returned under a mask and was billed as “The Magnificent M.”
It was pretty obvious that it was me, and the fans knew it. After a few weeks, Steve Keirn went on TV to expose me as the man behind the mask. I came out livid, and we ended up in a pull-apart brawl. And as other wrestlers and officials were separating us, Steve had a hold of my mask and he pulled it off. The night before that, I had shaved my head, and what a reaction I got when “The Magnificent M” was exposed—a bald Don Muraco! I lost the mask, but kept “The Magnificent” moniker, and I was off and running.
"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff
"You’re not going to believe this, but the two individuals who were responsible for coming up with my nickname are none other than fellow WWE Hall of Famers Afa and Sika, The Wild Samoans. This happened back in 1978, in Pensacola, Fla., where I first met them. I hit it off with those two guys, even though they were relatively new to the business. When they arrived, they were uncertain on how they were going to get around in the territory, so they needed someone to help them.
Well, I drove them to all the towns that we were in, and they would tell me on more than one occasion how wonderful it was of me to take them under my wing. Bingo! The name “Mr. Wonderful” was born. However, at the urging of my wife, I changed “wonderful” to “1derful.” I loved it, because the number 1 signified all about being the best. And in my mind, I was. I felt that I had the body, the looks and everything else that went with it. I had it, and I believe that I exemplified it throughout my career."
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
"Well, I originally started off as “Big” Jim Duggan. I broke in with Fritz Von Erich in Dallas. Coming out of football, I was clean shaven, had short hair and wore a long gold robe. Arnold Skaaland came in and said, “Kid, you might have a future, but come up with something better than Big Jim and get rid of that gold robe!”
So I wore a mask for a while, wrestling as The Convict. I put little C’s on the mask, for Convict, which I thought was pretty clever, but all the fans would ask, “Why do you have ears on your mask?” I’d yell back, “They’re not ears, they’re C’s for Convict!” So that didn’t work.
Finally, I evolved into Wildman Duggan. I wore fur with chains on it and grew my beard bushy. Over this three-year period of time, I met Bruiser Brody and Buck Robley at Georgia Championship Wrestling. They asked me about football and what my deal was with that. My main deal was special teams, I’d sacrifice my body and cut through the wedge, hack through it. They said, “How about ‘Hacksaw’?” It really fit my personality, then the rest of my persona came together. So out of 34 years [in wrestling], I’ve been “Hacksaw” for 29."
"The Mouth of The South" Jimmy Hart
"In 1982, when I worked in the Memphis territory, we did our TV show at the studios of Channel 5. In the same building there was a radio station called FM 100, that had a DJ by the name of Ron Jordan. So after we did our TV show on a Saturday morning, Andy Kaufman and myself had to go upstairs to do live radio to promote a Handicap Match that was going to take place on Monday night at the Mid-South Coliseum. The match was Jerry “The King” Lawler taking on myself and Andy Kaufman.
When we went on the radio, Ron opened up the segment with me talking and then he got ready to throw it to Andy, but I kept on talking. Ron got ready to go to Andy again, and I still kept on talking, so Ron said, “My God! Jimmy, you should be called ‘The Mouth of the South,’ because you won’t let Andy Kaufman get a word in edgewise!”
So once Ron said that, I thought, “Wow, that’s not bad!” So I started calling myself “The Mouth of the South,” and it just caught on from there."
"The Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant
"In the early 1980s I went to the Mid-Atlantic territory. At the time, there were so many unique and talented performers that were there. Now, of course, I was Handsome Jimmy for part of my career, and I had a prior stint in Mid-Atlantic where I was King James Valiant, manager by Lord Alfred Hayes. But all of that was in my rearview mirror, because on this second go ’round in Mid-Atlantic, I wanted it to be a personal game changer. I had listened to a song by Manhattan Transfer called “The Boy From New York City,”where I was billed from. Man, to me that song was great, and I could boogie to it.
It was starting to come together. So I decided to give myself the nickname of the “Boogie Woogie Man.” Now my hair, of course, was long, so I grew a beard that was just as long, if not longer. And when I debuted my new persona, it all clicked. The look, the name and the music were immediately accepted by the Mid-Atlantic fans, and I was off to the races. And to this day, people call me Boogie more than they call me Jimmy; amazing!"
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
Shortly after my WWE debut in 1985, I was in a roundtable discussion with Mr. McMahon and Pat Patterson. We talked about possibly adding a little something to the name. They thought I resembled Bruce Lee, plus I was already doing some of the martial arts stuff in the ring, so we kicked around this and that.
Now, Bruce Lee had a movie called “Return of the Dragon,”and we liked the idea of “The Dragon.” It could be “The Dragon” Ricky Steamboat, or Ricky Steamboat, “The Dragon.” Wherever you wanted to put it, it had a good ring to it. From that point on, though, it was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
"When I competed in the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1980, I used to take my opponents and drape them over the top rope. Then, I would grab them, snatch them and give them a big swat across the chest. I believe that it was Tony Schiavone who would announce that move by saying, “Here comes the hammer!”
I also did an elbow drop, and when I delivered that, it looked like the elbow from the Arm and Hammer logo. So both of those combined, the way I swatted guys and hit them hard, then dropping my elbow across their throat, or wherever I could find a target, that’s how I became anointed with the nickname of “The Hammer.” "