Meet the fearless trailblazers who defined hardcore wrestling (before it was a thing)! These insane wrestling heel pioneers inspired the anger of millions of fans, put their lives and the lives of their families in danger, but also motivated fans to stand in line to buy tickets for the show!
Without further ado and in no particular order, we bring you eighteen legendary wrestling heels: the pioneers of hardcore wrestling!
1 – Ed Farhat, “The Sheik”
He was a top draw everywhere The Sheik went in the ‘50s and ‘60s. With a maniacal gaze and face drenched in blood, his almost mythical covers on the wrestling magazines of the ‘70s are still controversial today.
According to Bill Apter, Stanley Weston, former publisher and owner of Pro Wrestling Illustrated and many other magazines of the time, with a straight face, proclaimed, “There are two things that sell on the cover: broads and blood."
The Sheik was "hardcore" before the term was "a thing" in wrestling. While this list of eighteen wrestlers is not necessarily in order of wildness or greatness because this is not an opinion piece, at least permit us to place The Sheik as the undisputed hardcore pioneer and champion of violence.
His wild-eyed antics, his trusty No. 2 pencil he used to mercilessly jab his opponent’s foreheads, and the gift of being able to get the crowd in a frenzy had no peers.
Everyone wanted to see The Sheik beaten or at least beat up as he went up against the likes of Bobo Brazil, Antonino Rocca, Freddie Blassie, and Buddy Rogers, to name a few he faced during his almost 50-year career.
Sadism, violence, and the threat of maybe even unleashing a fireball from his fingertips sold out arenas nationwide. He never talked directly to the people and so maintained his mysterious aura. In different instances, he had managers like Eddie “The Brain” Creatchman and Abdullah Farouk (who later became The Grand Wizard of Wrestling in the WWWF), that served as effective mouthpieces and further incited the crowd even more.
The Fearsome Legacy of The Sheik: Wrestling’s Hardcore Icon
Working in Toronto under promoter Frank Tunney from 1964-77, he had a 127-match unbeaten streak, regularly drawing bi-weekly crowds of 10,000 people. The mighty Andre The Giant is the one who finally smothered the impressive streak, and only because The Shiek was disqualified. Even during the ‘90s, when The Sheik was in his sixties, he could generate major white-hot radiating heat like nobody else.
Dave Burzynski, AKA “Supermouth” Dave Drason, his manager at the time, explains his experience with the dreaded Sheik in the book The Heels by Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson. Unless otherwise noted, quotes from this article are selected from this highly recommended book.
"I was always scared to death because of the heat the guy could generate. I never knew what was going to happen to me. Going to the arena was fine, but the walk back to the dressing room was the scariest moment I’ve ever had in the business… It was justified because of the times we got attacked."
He was the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Most Hated of 1972. From 1964-1980, he owned and operated the famed Detroit promotion called Big Time Wrestling.
Cobo Arena became a fabled venue that witnessed much of his carnage. He faced Bruno Sammartino 3 times in Madison Square Garden. He was a 12-time NWA U.S. champion (Detroit). His legacy continued after his retirement by training Rob Van Dam and his nephew Sabu, who had very successful careers in ECW and beyond.
The Shiek’s place in hardcore history is secure. Let us continue moving forward.
2 – Mad Dog Vachon
"He was a horrible worker, and you never knew what the hell he was going to do, but he drew money because of the intensity of who he was. His interviews were so dominant because he believed that he was the toughest SOB that walked. And he may have been!" – Bill Watts.
Mad Dog Vachon had a growling, snarling voice unlike anyone in the business. He demanded your attention and was rarely ignored. Vachon grew up in a family of thirteen kids in Ville-Émard, a working-class section of Montreal, Quebec, and learned to be tough right away.
He dropped out of school at age thirteen, and as a youngster, when he could afford it, he, along with his brothers, enjoyed the wrestling matches held at the Montreal Forum. He then broke into wrestling in the early ‘50s but as a handsome youngster, not the unsightly Mad Dog.
Mad Dog Vachon: The Wrestling Icon Who Embraced the Chaos Inside and Outside the Ring
"When I started wrestling professionally, I have to admit I was a good-looking young man, had a lot of hair and beautiful teeth. But it didn’t take me long to realize that good guys finish last."
Outside the ring, stories of "Mad Dog" getting into bar fights are common, as told by his contemporary Dutch Savage.
"You’d have to hit him with a hammer or shoot him, or he’d kill you."
Killer Kowalski has a colorful bar story, too.
"Someone gave him a little flak, and he beat the **** out of the guy. Took a jar, or something like that, and hit the guy over the head with it."
Mad Dog’s brother Paul “Butcher” Vachon adds, "The guy would rather fight than eat."
He was hated in the ring, but once he retired, he became a folk hero in his native Quebec, where he had a farewell tour and became a spokesperson for different products. Love him or hate him, Mad Dog Vachon was unique.
3 – Bulldog Brower
Wrestling manager “Father” James Mitchell once recalled, "Bulldog Brower was one of the great old-time wrestling heels that made me want to get into the wrestling business.”
He remembers an angle for the IWA in the Carolinas where Brower attacked Mighty Igor on his birthday, smashing Igor into the birthday cake and strangling the puppy dog he’d received as a present.
“It’s a shame they don’t make them like that anymore. ‘Brower Power’ indeed!”
Brower didn’t start as a wrestling heel, but it fit him a little too perfectly when he turned. In London, Ontario, in 1961, a cameraman filming in a studio for CEPL-TV laughed so hard at Brower’s manic behavior that the Bulldog punched him and tore up the studio. The station went off the air for thirty minutes, and that was the end of the interview.
Bulldog Brower: The Outrageous Wrestling Heel Who Thrived in Chaos and Carnage
His eyes would bulge out when choking his opponents, and some say this gave him the visage of a bulldog. Famous for fighting spectators and swinging shovels, he even pulled a pistol on fans to protect Blackjack Mulligan, who had already been stabbed after fans were upset he had defeated Pedro Morales.
The "One Man Riot Squad" was indeed a handful! Brower had shades of Dick The Bruiser in his body type, and his constantly advancing offensive brawling style was entertaining.
He seemed to fear no one. Opponents always had to be aware of that cocked right hand that seemed to land square on their jaw every time. When it did land, it was the beginning of the end! The outrageous Bulldog Brower was a memorable wrestling heel who reveled in his role as a bad guy and is a worthy addition to this list.
4 – Pampero Firpo
He and his caveman look, loud, gravelly, animalistic voice, and Chimu’s shrunken head were a major draw throughout his career wherever he went.
His unpredictable and unorthodox brawling style made him a must-see attraction. His feud with The Sheik in the Detroit territory kept the fans on the edge of their seats.
In an enjoyable conversation in 2012 with Bill Apter via Skype, Firpo said that Antonino Rocca was his hero when he started and enjoyed working with Angelo Savoldi.
In 1972, he wrestled Pedro Morales in the WWWF in a losing effort. He was a true wildman in the ring but also a wildman behind the wheel, according to Dory Funk Jr.! Dory once said, "I made the most harrowing trip from the HIC Arena in Hawaii after wrestling there to the airport with Pampero Firpo driving. I feared for my life. Man, the way he drove, I could not believe it!"
Whether working as a wrestling heel or face, he was a gifted performer in the 6,882 matches that he had. His most famous run as a face was against the hated Shiek after being fireballed by him in the face.
He captured the U.S. Title from him in 1976 and many other NWA titles. His signature move was a crushing bearhug or his infamous claw hold (el garfio), which went over a hapless opponent’s face and forced him to submit, but not before writhing in anguish!
Pampero Firpo: From the Ring to the Post Office
Larry "The Axe" Hennig once mentioned, "Pampero Firpo had a look about him that was believable."
He was a terror in the ring but a dedicated family man outside. A side of Pampero the fans rarely saw.
Fun fact: Firpo’s iconic “OOOOH YEAAAAAHHH!!!!” was the inspiration behind Macho Man Randy Savage’s iconic catchphrase.
When Pampero Firpo retired from wrestling, he worked for the post office in the San José, California, area for many years. He soon cut his bedraggled hair and became an unrecognizable, clean-shaven, soft-spoken gentleman in the workforce. For years, we were unsure he had an indoor voice!
He, fortunately, obtained a pension, something his storied wrestling career never afforded him. Relaxing and spending time with his family and grandchildren became his favorite pastimes. Wrestling is still desperately looking for another Pampero Firpo, but there can be only one.
He has been a Cauliflower Alley Club Honoree since 2001 and is in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame class of 2018. His lovely daughter Mary Fries runs a Twitter account dedicated to her father’s wrestling career and legacy, where you can follow her on Twitter at @PFirpo1.
Learn more: "Oooh Yeah!" The Untold Story of Pampero Firpo.
5 – Tiger Jeet Singh
"Tiger" Jeet Singh might be the greatest wrestling heel you may not be familiar with. After watching wrestling on television, he emigrated to Canada, convinced he could wrestle too. Once trained by Australian wrestler Fred Atkins, he debuted in 1965.
He competed in the U.S. all over the different territories against the likes of Sweet Daddy Siki, André The Giant, and Whipper Billy Watson. Soon afterward, he was convinced wrestling was for him after earning $6,000 for a single match when previously he was used to only getting $100 a month in a normal job. But in "The Land of the Rising Sun," he became well-known and wreaked havoc for 22 years.
It all started in 1972 after he got into a brawl with Antonio Inoki in a shopping center that sparked a media frenzy. The bitter feud was set, and Inoki took revenge and "broke" Singh’s arm in a ‘74 NJPW match, but Singh returned in ‘75 to win the NWF belt (brought over from the U.S. after defeating Johnny Powers) from Inoki in a match that drew 60,000 spectators.
At his peak in Japan, Singh was a wrestling heel that fans loved to hate.
“Mesmerized” is one word you could use to describe the people’s reaction, and “afraid” would be another. They wanted to take pictures with the unmanageable heel, but they feared Tiger might hit them with either the sword or stick he carried in public.
Tiger Jeet Singh: The Wrestling Enigma Who Commanded Fear
He’d often strike people indiscriminately, so crowds that converged out of curiosity quickly scattered and fled when Singh threatened violence. They almost seemed to enjoy it!
Making his entrance to the ring, he opened a path for himself much the same way. He became a person who simply could not walk outside his hotel room without being mobbed by curious onlookers. In Japan, just like with Inoki, many fans wanted him to slap them in the face. To them, it was an honor. And yet, in Canada, where he first arrived from Punjab, India, Singh is just another normal person who goes mostly unperceived.
In the late ‘70s, he teamed with Abdullah the Butcher frequently. In the early years of FMW (Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling), he even had a gory feud with the controversial owner and founder of the promotion, Atsushi Onita.
In 2004, he had memorable matches against Naya Ogawa of The Hustle faction in Japan, where he said to the press, "I want to satisfy myself, I am thirsty for Ogawa’s blood. This will be the first time in his life where he feels real pain."
The documentary entitled Tiger! chronicles his fascinating life story, from his life in India to his work as a wrestler.
6 – King Curtis Iaukea
King Curtis Iaukea. You may not always remember how to pronounce his last name, but after seeing his forehead for the first time, you’ll surely tell people afterward what you saw! Trained by Lord James Blears and Joe Blanchard, the bloodthirsty heel from Hawaii was part of Australia’s incredible wrestling boom during the mid-‘60s under influential promoter Jim Barnett.
King Curtis joined the "People’s Army" along with Mark Lewin and Spiros Arion. Rumor has it that this concept influenced Kevin Sullivan’s "Army of Darkness" in the ‘80s, where he became "Chairman of The Board" along with a motley crew of slimy miscreants.
This faction raised red flags in family households tuning into Championship Wrestling From Florida (CWF) and other territories.
“Satanic Panic” was making headlines, and the evil Army of Darkness loved it. King Curtis later reappeared with Sullivan’s other bizarre faction called "The Dungeon of Doom" in ‘95 for WCW as the enigmatic "Master." Their one and only goal was to end Hulkamania forever.
Famous for being a bleeder, a madman inside the ring, and a gift for storytelling when handed a mic, he was well-liked by his contemporaries. His last great run was against famed babyface Dusty Rhodes in ‘76, where they had several brutal battles where "The Dream" and "Da Bull" may or may not have carved their initials in each other’s foreheads during them!
Unfortunately, in ‘79, his in-ring career came to a screeching halt when he contracted a virus through his cuts from the ring mats. Rumors of Kevin Sullivan and others doing lines of cocaine on his forehead are unconfirmed but always mentioned!
Dusty Rhodes once said, "He had a magnetism about him. You always hear the word charismatic. He was infectious, his laugh. I loved being around him as much or more than probably anybody in our industry for years. He loved his pot, and that’s what it was all about!"
7 – Wild Bull Curry
Whether working as a heel or a face, Wild Bull Curry always stole the show and gave you something to discuss!
"What he had going for him was his million-dollar face- he looked like the devil himself," said Emile Duprée, who battled Curry in the Canadian Maritimes.
"He had eyebrows right across that were almost two inches thick. He had that tough-looking body."
Wild Bull Curry was no stranger to altercations on the street or confrontations with the authorities.
Of Lebanese descent, he looked like a hairy criminal straight out of a Dick Tracy comic strip. With a blood-strewn visage, he fearlessly defied his tormentors at the matches. This became quite the routine for Wild Bull, who knew well that many people sported knives, clubs, and other dangerous effects.
Detroit veteran Jim Lancaster adds, "He was the first guy who scared me. The way he came to the ring- he would just hit guys in the head and make them bleed. That’s all he did. He never had a finish. He’d just pull out some brass knuckles, knock them out and cover them."
In 1940, the beloved ex-champion boxer Jack Dempsey made a brief comeback from retirement and faced several wrestlers.
One was the unorthodox Wild Bull Curry, who fought dirty the whole bout and was knocked out in the second round. The cautious police later escorted a kicking and protesting Wild Bull, who refuted his defeat at the hands of “The Manassa Mauler.”
In the ‘50s, he became popular in Texas for his fierce brawls against Danny McShain, Duke Keomuka, and Pepper Gomez. He was as unpredictable as they came. Once, while Curry was running up and down and slamming against the ropes, Dallas TV announcer Bill Mercer who was at the edge of the ring, suddenly looked up, and then after Curry looked down on him, Mercer got kicked with a boot to the face courtesy of Wild Bull Curry.
Apeman Curry: The Wild and Unpredictable Wrestling Legend
In another instance, while working with Dick Brown, Curry noticed a beer vendor selling to customers in the front row, not paying attention to the match. He asked Brown to launch him toward the vendor, and Curry landed on the guy’s back, causing beer bottles to fly everywhere.
He quickly obtained the nickname “Apeman Curry” because of his wild mischief in and out of the squared circle.
One of Curry’s trademarks was that he’d clutch his right ear wherever you hit him. You could kick him in the leg; he’d grab his ear. Stomp his foot; he’d grab his ear.
Opponents had to be careful with a famous left hook he’d catch you in the gut with, where he’d do a side step and then hit you with a sweeping open hand. The slap to his opponent’s gut made the crowd pop. Even when Curry was approaching seventy, Bobby Fulton of The Fantastics said Curry was still magic as the grandfather of hardcore.
Jim Lancaster, a 20-year veteran of the ring, says that Curry believed that nobody was hotter than him and later admitted to him that he was disappointed he never got a run with The Sheik’s U.S. title in Detroit.
Bill Apter remembers Curry throwing ashtrays at him while backstage! His son “Flying” Fred Curry also became a wrestler but adapted a style much different than his unruly father’s.
8 – Killer Kowalski
Certain unintentional but fortunate events cemented Killer Kowalski’s image as a "Killer."
In 1952, a couple of years after his debut, Killer Kowalski ripped a part off Yukon Eric’s already cauliflowered ear after performing a brusque knee drop.
When he visited Eric in the hospital, who Kowalski said resembled Humpty Dumpty with bandages around his head, the two began laughing because the incident had been an accident. But the press picked it up and wrote that Kowalski was there nefariously laughing at his opponent’s misfortune!
In 1958, wrestling against Pat O’Connor, guest referee and ex-champion pugilist Jack Dempsey got kicked hard in the diaphragm by him and was later hospitalized.
The press also twisted the facts and helped further solidify Kowalski’s ruthless wrestling heel persona. Kowalski had a unique physique for the time, at 6’6" and 280 lbs. Early in his career, he was handsome to many women, and this was where men started to hate him even before he became "Killer."
Killer Kowalski: The In-Ring Magician
His height, trademark claw hold, and unceasing in-ring style, where he rarely allowed his opponents a breather -ala Fred Blassie in his prime- are what many people recall.
"I had tremendous imagination,” Kowalski once explained, "I was like a magician when I walked to that ring. I performed things people had never seen before."
He helped put a young André The Giant over when the two faced off. Even though André lost, he looked good in the process because the more established veteran Kowalski looked short in stature beside André. Jacques Rougeau Sr. believes Kowalski was successful because he had a vicious way of wrestling, and people thought he was a maniac. But he was always a hard worker in the ring and felt that Kowalski never had a bad match.
"He was the nicest guy in the world, but in the ring, he looked like a real killer." Once retired, Kowalski continued training many wrestlers and never stopped giving back to the sport he loved. His pupils are a who’s who in the wrestling business and will always be indebted to the “Killer.
Further reading: Killer Kowalski – A Tribute to My Friend.
9 – George “The Animal” Steele
Known to many as “The Animal,” George Steele first went into wrestling to supplement his income as a school teacher and coach. To hide his identity, he used a mask and named himself "The Student." Bruno Sammartino liked what he saw and brought him to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1967 for the WWWF.
A trademark hold he retained throughout his career was a Flying Hammerlock, where he’d lift a very unlucky opponent by the arm while holding it in a hammerlock position and letting them drop while not letting go. “That became what I think the most convincing vicious hold in the history in wrestling,” says Steele, who was known as an unpredictable brawler throughout his career.
“I’m not talking taking bumps like a Moonsault off the top rope; I’m talking wrestling hold.” While in Pittsburgh, he also began tearing up turnbuckles with his teeth, which many colleagues say were razor-sharp, and using green Clorets to color his tongue to match the color of his alma mater, Michigan State.
He worked against Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, and Pedro Morales, drawing large crowds.
Unlike most wrestlers of the time, Steele usually didn’t travel to different territories. He remained in the northeast and was brought in on special occasions to keep his character fresh when he wasn’t teaching.
Before the WWF decided to soften Steele’s image in the mid-‘80s and turn him into almost a cartoon character by giving him a “Mine” doll, Steele was a menacing wrestling heel that people genuinely feared.
George “The Animal” Steele: The Wrestling Villain
Veteran journeyman “Irish” Davey O’Hannon, who knew him for years, recalls, "There were wrestling heels that fans would go to and get close to. On the other hand, George had the fans really wary of him because he was that scary a heel.
O’Hannon continues, "People didn’t want to approach him because they didn’t know what they would get. They weren’t positive about him; he had a look like a Hannibal Lecter kind of personality."
Former referee Dick Woehrle remembers a match he presided over when George Steele started throwing turnbuckle stuffing on top of the head athletic commissioner wearing his expensive suit while at ringside. The commissioner asked the referee to stop the match, and Woehrle told Steele that the commish didn’t like him doing that.
"The Animal" didn’t care and ripped open another turnbuckle and threw a handful of stuffing on top of The Commissioner again. That’s when the referee was left with no choice but to disqualify him. Steele went ahead and punched the ref with his daughter and friends in attendance. If only we could solve our problems just like that, huh?
Further reading: George Steele on His Secret Outside of the Ring.
10 – Jos LeDuc
With piercing, wild-looking eyes, fearsome-looking Jos LeDuc, nicknamed "The Canadian Freight Train," was a powerhouse and all business in the ring.
He will always be remembered for mutilating his bare arm with an ax on live television. He was supposedly taking a blood “oat” (oath) promising to dispose of Jerry Lawler forever. He had first tried doing this in a taped interview and was thankfully impeded by Memphis co-promoter Jerry Jarrett.
He objected to what Leduc was doing and told him the station would not air it anyway. Nonetheless, the persistent LeDuc tried it again, and to the sheer horror of long-time announcer Lance Russell and everyone else watching in the studio and at home, LeDuc was caught on live television.
In Memphis, Jimmy Hart tried to position LeDuc as a lumberjack strongman and pulled stunts like Leduc pulling a car around the Mid-South Coliseum with manager Jimmy Hart on the hood. He also braced himself against a wall and stopped a car from going forward just with his legs.
His greatest success came in the southern territories under the Fullers in the Gulf Coast and the intense wars he had with Jerry Lawler in Tennessee. In one incident, he launched Lawler over the top rope onto the announcer’s table nine feet away, wherein "The King" legitimately injured his leg and was out several weeks.
Dusty Rhodes said in his autobiography "Reflections of Wrestling’s American Dream," "Leduc drew so much ******* money in the south and in Florida, it is unbelievable."
“Man, oh man, the guy loses touch with reality, that’s all there is to it!” – Announcer Lance Russell after witnessing LeDuc’s famous blood oath.
Further reading: Who Is Wrestling’s Greatest Monster Wrestling Heel of All Time?
11 – Killer Tim Brooks
"It’s in your blood. It’s called the wrestling disease. There is life after wrestling. It’s not the same, but there’s life."– Killer Tim Brooks.
With his leather jacket, rugged looks, long beard, and disheveled hair on a balding head, Killer Tim Brooks looked more like a barroom brawler than a wrestler.
"I was not a technician; I was a fighter. I think what people liked about me when they knew I was going to have a match, it was going to be a fight. It was going to be chaos. It was going to be wild. It wasn’t going to be your average wrestling match. Also, I think they knew I was going to take it to that babyface’s ***!"
Tim Brooks is Dick Murdoch’s cousin, but unlike Murdoch, who started refereeing at age fourteen and wrestling soon afterward, Tim began after a three-year stint in the Army from ‘63-’66.
He was a military police member and recounted, "We went into a lot of bars and such and broke up fights. I don’t know if it prepared me for wrestling, but it got me being active in a rough kind of way. The real craziness came in wrestling, not in the army."
Brooks was considered one of The Sheik’s better tag partners and had memorable feuds with Shawn Michaels’ future mentor José Lothario and Tex McKenzie.
Bruiser Brody was his biggest friend in wrestling, but Roddy was a real good friend, he says. Unfortunately, the outlaw, partying lifestyle, and drugs caught up to him. He began having problems with promoters like Dutch Savage.
"They (Brooks and Piper) did a lot of toot together. Their temperament changed when high. It’s like a dynamite keg all the time. You had to walk around them with kid’s gloves."
In 2014, he was still involved in wrestling as a promoter and instructor. Sadly, Tim Brooks died on June 30, 2020, at 72, following a battle with cancer. He will always be remembered as one of the pioneers of hardcore wrestling and will be missed.
12 – Abdullah The Butcher
“I really believe Abdullah The Butcher was the best wrestling heel for his time. He took The Sheik’s gimmick and took it to the next stage. If you are asking about villains, I think Butcher is number one,” friend and rival Johnny Powers once said.
With a forehead that rivals the late King Curtis Iaukea, Abdullah bit, gouged, and bled his way into being considered one of the wildest, craziest, most violent wrestlers (performers?) ever to step into the squared circle. Yes, The Sheik will always have his place, but Abdullah’s antics always come up when hardcore wrestling is mentioned.
With Abdullah, you never had a wrestling match. You had punches, karate thrusts, kicks, choking, biting, and buckets of blood guaranteed. Abby always had a weapon hidden like a fork or a pencil somewhere on his body, probably in one of his folds or in his ample Taekwondo pants.
Razors taped on his fingertips were nothing surprising, and often found themselves inhumanely slicing a forsaken opponent’s forehead.
He frequented Puerto Rico, and his innumerable face-offs with Carlos Colon helped nickname the territory “The Blood Circuit.”
Veteran announcer Jack Reynolds remembers on a tour of India in ‘95, where he was taking care of Abdullah. In the hotel lobby, 2-300 people were waiting to perhaps catch a glimpse of the scheduled wrestlers.
When he arrived with Abby and saw The Butcher, everyone in the lobby cleared out! To the dismay of referee Tommy Young, who thought most of Abby’s matches were a nightmare, the deranged wrestling heel often wouldn’t work with the ref and didn’t even try to hide his gimmick (weapon).
Young once said, "It was miserable because he’d come into the ring with a gimmick the size of a yardstick, and you couldn’t miss it if you tried, and he’d just do stuff right in front of me and make me look like an idiot."
Jacques Rougeau Sr., who estimates that he fought (not wrestled) Abdullah around 50 times, remembers that.
"You’d just touch him, and he’d cut open right away. He’d ask you to do it. He’d ask you to give him a good punch, and he’d start bleeding and go like a wildman.”
He has traveled the world and faced countless opponents, and what he left in his wake is not pretty. Outrageous? Yes. Controversial? You bet. Sick? YOU ask him. Abby was and always will be a hardcore pioneer.
Did you know that Abby had a surprising career in film? You can read about it here.
13 – Bruiser Brody
The ultimate antihero, he was a legend in his own time. A game-changer still talked about and revered to this day. Several stories of the wildman Brody are available for your enjoyment on our site here.
His deep love for his family is a concept that belied the crazy, remorseless brute most remember him by. Bruiser Brody was and will forever be known as a wrestling legend gone too soon.
Brody is survived by his second wife, Barbara Smith from New Zealand, who has recently made several podcast and convention appearances, and their son, Geoffrey Dean Goodish.
14 – John Tolos
How do you spell wrestling? T-O-L-O-S! Of course! In the words of Dave Meltzer, “John Tolos [along with his brother Chris] played the role of an arrogant, good-looking, well-conditioned guy. He talked big. He inflamed the crowd so much; he came off as a real superstar in L.A."
Many remember him for his intense rivalry with Fred Blassie in Los Angeles. The early ‘70s were his peak years in the sport, a notorious wrestling heel most of his career; a whole generation recalls the atrocities committed against other wrestlers and fans alike.
No list of hardcore wrestling heels is complete without the vile Tolos.
Recommended read: John Tolos: Secret History on the Golden Greek.
15 – Mongolian Stomper
The Mongolian Stomper (Archie Gouldie) enraged fans night after night in Stampede Wrestling and later territories across the U.S. and Canada. But in the Great White North, he was not the Mongolian Stomper but a rugged cowboy from Alberta simply named The Stomper.
Highly regarded by fellow Canadian Bret Hart, Stomper was most successful in Southeastern Championship Wrestling based out of Knoxville, Tennessee.
To Jerry Lawler, he was one of his all-time greatest opponents. Stomper wrestled seven world champions during his career. Gouldie made a face turn late in 1983 after Bad News Allen turned against him and his kayfabe “son” Jeff during a six-man tag team match and brutalized and injured him.
It felt so real that Stampede TV host Ed Whalen quit the company in protest! The attack led to a brutal feud that climaxed with Gouldie defeating Allen for the Stampede North American title. Stomper is a noteworthy addition to the annals of hardcore pro wrestling heels, and some would regard him as one of the most feared of all!
16 – Kamala
Kamala, a savage headhunter wrestling heel from Uganda, was a sight to behold. The African savage came into the ring with a huge African mask, war paint on his face, and a spear in hand, ready to skewer and maybe even devour his opponent! He made a huge splash in southern territories like Continental, Mid-South, and later WCCW before going to bigger promotions like WWE.
Feuds with Jerry Lawler sold-out venues and brawling outside of the ring with everything used as a weapon, but the kitchen sink was the norm.
Kamala was a terror everywhere he worked but a genuinely nice guy outside the ring who many say was underpaid and underappreciated. He is missed by many!
17 – Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne
Lonnie Mayne, the glass-eating, raw meat-chewing original Moondog! One of the most charismatic and craziest performers wrestling has had.
Very popular in the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He had stints in Madison Square Garden as the unhinged wrestling heel “Moondog” Mayne, where magazines demanded he be banned from the sport. He unsuccessfully challenged for Pedro Morales’ WWWF title and also faced the likes of Bruno Sammartino and other top babyfaces while in the northeast.
Like Jos LeDuc, he wanted you to know he wasn’t crazy! He gave his all to entertain the fans he loved and was unique in wrestling’s sea of recycled gimmicks. Another career cut too short; you can read about it here.
18 – "Apache" Bull Ramos
Frequent opponent Pacific Northwest icon Dutch Savage once said, "Apache" Bull Ramos was the best he ever saw.
“Ramos had this thing about him. It was like all you had to do was show up, and he’d get the heat for you. It was such a refreshing thing in the ring where you didn’t have to do anything; he did it for you. It was just instantaneous; he had that charisma.”
We hope you enjoyed this list! While the eighteen featured wrestlers are not meant to represent the only wildmen or the wildest men in wrestling, we believe this to be quite the formidable lineup! We tried to mix it up by combining obvious and maybe some lesser obvious choices for your enjoyment.
These stories may also interest you:
- Freddie Blassie – The Truth (and Somewhere In-Between)
- The Crippler Ray Stevens – The Story of One of Wrestling’s Greatest Heels
- Ox Baker – The Endearing Heel Who Loved To Hurt People
- ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase: The Art of Being a Heel
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