The father of WWE Legend Dean Malenko, Boris - known by many as The King of the Russian Chain Match - was notorious among North American crowds as an in-ring villain during the 1960s, battling the likes of Johnny Valentine, Jose Lothario, Eddie Graham, Wahoo McDaniel and Joe Scarpa with his feared finishing maneuver, the Russian Sickle lariat. Some of the highlights of his career included winning the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship, the AWA World Tag Team Championship and the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship.
Lord Alfred Hayes
While most members of the WWE Universe remember Lord Alfred Hayes as a jovial commentator during WWE’s boom in the 1980s, the Brit was a feared competitor inside the ring before he stepped behind the microphone.A black belt in judo, he traded on his martial arts expertise in his early years as a competitor in his homeland of England, competing as “Judo” Al Hayes and using chops and throws to neutralize his opposition. He made the journey across the pond to America in the 1970s and greatly changed his style between the ropes. Adopting the persona of a British aristocrat, Lord Alfred Hayes was born. Looking down upon America’s people (and its tea), Hayes eventually became a manager in several territories, including the AWA and Championship Wrestling from Florida, where the posh aristocrat managed the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Jimmy Valiant and Nikolai Volkoff and The Masked Superstar, among others.
But it was in the 1980s after joining WWE’s broadcast team that Hayes endeared himself to a generation of wrestling fans. He was Mr. McMahon’s sidekick on the hysterical talk show Tuesday Night Titans, interviewed some of the era’s biggest Superstars and was a mainstay on the WWE home videos that entertained fans around the world. His booming British voice, however, may be best remembered by viewers of WWE television for the inimitable delivery of the program’s sponsors. The line “promotional consideration paid for by the following” was as much a mainstay of WWE TV as bodyslams and elbow drops.
Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones
A staple of the National Wrestling Alliance’s Central and Mid-Atlantic regional promotions in the 1970s and 1980s, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones believed he was the toughest man to ever step foot in a ring, and he wasn’t shy about touting that notion to fans and opponents alike. During his time as a top Superstar with the NWA, Jones twice captured the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship, won the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, and enjoyed 10 tenures as a tag team champion (with nine different partners).
“Golden Greek” Jim Londos
One of the most popular stars on the professional wrestling circuit in the 1930s and 1940s, Jim Londos is recognized as a national hero in his native Greece. The multiple-time titleholder and bona fide box office draw competed in 32 countries and was renowned for his willingness to wrestle as often as possible.
Cora Combs, a women’s wrestling legend who also competed under a mask as Lady Satan, famously wrestled her own daughter, Debbie Combs. Combs would also be no stranger to championships in her career, winning the Florida-recognized NWA Women’s Southern Championship and the NWA United States Women’s Championship a staggering four times.
Aptly nicknamed “Crusher” early in his career, Stan Stasiak remorselessly squeezed the life out of his opponents with one of the most feared Bear Hugs in sports-entertainment history. Throughout his career in WWE and NWA, the snarling Stasiak won countless championships and infuriated sports-entertainment fans far and wide. In addition to winning the WWE Title, Stasiak was also a three-time NWA Canadian Heavyweight Champion and a six-time NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Champion.
Whether thrashing opponents in his native Japan, Mexico, Peru or stateside, Hiro Matsuda never took long to establish a reputation as a no-nonsense technician, and the deadly serious grappler was globally renowned for his wars against Dusty Rhodes, Danny Hodge and Johnny Weaver, as well as his partnership with his close friend and WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki. The mat maven went on to become a four-time NWA Southern Heavyweight Champion, enjoyed two reigns with the Junior Heavyweight Title and became an 11-time holder of various NWA Tag Team Championships.
Long before the famed Monday Night Wars, Sputnik Monroe was shattering attendance records in Memphis, Tenn., in perhaps the most unique way imaginable. With his incredible drawing power that often attracted 15,000 or so fans to shows, Monroe helped bring professional wrestling to new heights during an incredible career that spanned more than four decades from 1945-88. A strong advocate for inclusion, the popular grappler tirelessly fought to end segregation in Memphis, running shows that were non-segregated while actively working with the black community outside of the ring as well.
Dara Singh was an icon. The mid-century Indian wrestler boasted a 53-inch-wide chest, which made him a favorite in many tournaments. He battled all over the eastern hemisphere, capturing the Commonwealth Championship and titles in India and Singapore. Singh’s reach stretched beyond the squared circle, as he became a popular Indian movie star and politician.
In the early 1940s, El Santo first entered the squared circle donning the silver mask and cape that turned him into a real-life superhero and became his trademark across a four-decade career. The grappler known as “El Enmascarado de Plata” (The Man in The Silver Mask) engaged in legendary rivalries with luchadors like Blue Demon, thrilling fans around Mexico with his larger than life presence. Santo was no stranger to the tag team ranks, either. He joined forces with Gory Guerrero, Eddie’s father, to form La Pareja Atomica, a team that never lost a match.
Santo’s popularity could not be contained inside the squared circle. At the height of his superstardom, El Santo was featured in his own comic books and starred in more than 50 movies.
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