Stan Hansen: The King of Stiff Shots Gets A Piece of His Own Medicine

Stan Hansen hit hard, perhaps harder than anyone in pro wrestling history. His hard hits were both very real and the result of having rather poor eyesight. As the legend goes, Hansen worked stiff because if he didn’t, he’d miss badly on a punch or slam, and people would catch on to the act. When it came to choosing between going soft and betraying the business or going hard but injuring people, Hansen went with the latter.

Everyone knew that it would be a hard-hitting affair when they stepped into the ring with Stan Hansen. While plenty of workers got sick of getting hit with potatoes (a strike to the head which makes real contact), few stood up to it when in the ring with him. There was, however, this one time Big Stan got knocked down a few pegs!

A black and white photo of Stan Hansen laying in a stiff left-hand chop to Tom Zenk
"We have contact!" Big Stan Hansen lays in a stiff chop to Tom Zenk

"I never met a guy more miserable than Stan Hansen. He was clumsy, and all the guys were sick of getting hit stiff all the time!"

Tom Zenk, who sadly passed away on December 9th, 2017, at the age of 59, shared this memorable story in a fan Q&A on his website

"I learned early on that some guys can really work, if they want to," Zenk begins, "and if they don’t, there’s just no point in swimming upstream!"

"Stan Hansen is a case in point. Some nights he could work; other nights he ‘couldn’t see’ (he wore thick glasses), or that was always his excuse if he potatoed you."

Zenk went on to say, "I never met a more miserable guy than Stan. We watched movies on the bus, and if Stan didn’t like it, or it was too loud, he always got his way (like a big baby). All the guys knew his game, but he was ‘office,’ so you had to play ball with him.

"My favorite Hansen story is when he got stiff with my ex-partner Danny Kroffat.

"Stan was clumsy, and all the guys were sick of getting hit stiff all the time … it makes for a really long tour, and we all had to get along – in the Japanese style. So Danny put him in a shoot hold armbar, held him down, and added pressure on it. It was glorious to hear that Southwest Texas Redneck scream, ‘Damn … arm … it don’t bend that way!’

"The memory still goes good with a cold beer to this day! No matter how tough you think you are, there’s always someone a little bit tougher. Danny was that guy. He took the edge off Big Stan, and Stan seemed to work better for the rest of the tour."

A black and white photo of Tom Zenk with Danny Kroffat in Japan. Kroffat was one of the few who stood up to Stan Hansen and his stiff shots in the ring.
Tom Zenk with ex-partner Danny Kroffat in Japan. Kroffat was one of the few who stood up to Stan Hansen and his stiff shots in the ring.

Danny Kroffat delivered a bit of deserved rough justice to the hard-hitting Stan Hansen in the ring, making for a much more enjoyable tour for everyone else. Not everyone, though, got to walk out of the ring unscathed by Big Stan. In 1990 during a Tokyo Dome Super Fight for the IWGP Championship, Big Van Vader fell victim to a few hard left-handed strikes to the face by Hansen, and his eye fell out of the socket! You can read all about that grisly incident here.

Watch Stan Hansen and Johnny Smith vs. Against Dan Kroffat and Doug Furnas, All Japan Pro Wrestling, October 21st, 1995:

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Quote above contributed by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.

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Matt Pender is an old-school wrestling fan who currently lives in New Zealand. He is also a musical performer with his band OdESSA who can be investigated at the link above. He can be reached by e-mail at