1980s: The Golden Age of Wrestling


andrethegiant006 239x300Anyone who grew up in the 1980s remembers watching WWF on Saturday mornings, and begging their parents to buy the occasional pay-per-view event. Though Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling was around, it was a mere pretender to Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (later renamed World Wrestling Entertainment). Here are the most popular wrestlers in the 80s:

hulkhogan 75x75Hulk Hogan. His name is synonymous with wrestling, and there’s a possibility WWF wouldn’t have been as popular if it weren’t for his high-energy theatrics. Hogan is Heavyweight Champion for life. By escaping the Iron Sheik’s camel clutch and pinning him to win the title in 1984, Hogan kick-started the Golden Age of wrestling. Anyone remember the words to the Hulk Hogan theme song? Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Real name: Terry Bollea
Signature move: Atomic leg drop
From: Tampa, Florida

Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan pins Sheik

andrethegiant 75x75Andre the Giant. Weighing between 460 and 540 pounds throughout his career, and standing 7’4 tall, Andre was known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” More than any other character, he was the main attraction in this theater of freakishly big, strong and athletic people. First wrestler in the Hall of Fame.
Real name: André René Roussimoff
Signature move: Piledriver
From: Grenoble, France
Died: 1993

Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan slams Andre

randysavage 75x75“Macho Man” Randy Savage. His distinctive husky voice was even more fun to mock than Hogan’s, and he always wore a bandanna and sunglasses. He was managed by his real life wife, Miss Elizabeth (who, after the marriage ended, was found dead of a drug overdose in the home of pro wrestler Lex Luger). Savage is the Mario Lemieux to Hogan’s Wayne Gretzky.
Real name: Randall Poffo
Signature move: Diving elbow drop
From: Columbus, Ohio

Memorable moment in WWF history: Savage marries Elizabeth

roddypiper 75x75“Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Note: Roddy Piper was a Canadian, not a Scot! Known for his signature kilt and bagpipe entrance, Piper was one of the most hated wrestlers, but also BY FAR the funniest. His quick wit and unpredictability made him my favorite. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Real name: Roderick George Toombs
Signature move: Sleeper hold
From: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Memorable moment in WWF history: Snuka on Piper’s Pit

steele george3 75x75George “The Animal” Steele. This guy used to eat the turnbuckle during his match. Do you believe he was once a teacher? Also acted alongside Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
Real name: William James Myers
Signature move: Full nelson
From: Detroit, Michigan

Memorable moment in WWF history: Steele vs. Savage

ultimatewarrior 75x75The Ultimate Warrior. The complete package for a wrestler. He pinned Hulk Hogan in WrestleMania VI.
Real name: James Brian Hellwig
Signature move: Gorilla press drop
From: Indiana

Memorable moment in WWF history: Warrior vs. Honkey Tonk Man

ironsheik 75x75The Iron Sheik. With the Iranian hostage crisis still fresh on everyone’s minds in the mid 80s, the Iron Sheik, who was actually from Iran, was perhaps the most hated wrestler ever, alongside tag team partner Nikolai Volkoff. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Khosrow Ali Vaziri
Signature move: Camel clutch
From: Tehran, Iran

nikolaivolkoff 75x75Nikolai Volkoff. The big Ruskie used to sing the Soviet national anthem before matches to a chorus of boos. Note: He wasn’t even from the Soviet Union, but still very much hated during Reagan’s Cold War era. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Josip Nikolai Peruzović
Signature move: Bear hug
From: Yugoslavia

Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan vs. Volkoff

jakeroberts 75x75Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Often a bad guy, at least once a good guy, this one-time crack addict was interesting because of the python named Damien that he carried around.
Real name: Aurelian Smith, Jr.
Signature move: DDT
From: Stone Mountain, Georgia

Memorable moment in WWF history: Jake Roberts vs. Andre, John Studd refs

dog 75x75Junkyard Dog. A fan favorite with a chain around his neck who entered the ring to the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Sylvester Ritter
Signature move: Powerslam
From: Wadesboro, North Carolina
Died: 1998

hillbillyjim 75x75Hillbilly Jim. This redneck, complete with a straw hat and overalls, was most fun when he wrestled alongside Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior.
Real name: Jim Morris
Signature move: Bearhug
From: Mud Lick, Kentucky

kingkongbundy 75x75King Kong Bundy. A classic bad guy, Bundy was fun to watch when he wrestled the big names, like Hogan and Andre the Giant.
Real name: Christopher Pallies
Signature move: Atlantic City Avalanche
From:Atlantic City, New Jersey

Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan vs. Bundy in cage

bigjohnstudd 75x75Big John Studd. If you’re from Maryland or Virginia, you’ll remember Big John Stud for his Wild World commercials. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: John William Minton
Signature move: Backbreaker
From: Butler, Pennsylvania
Died: 1995

Memorable moment for Marylanders:

titosantana 75x75Tito Santana. Another good guy, appeared in the first nine WrestleManias, but only had a 2-7 record. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Merced Solis
Signature move: Flying forearm
From: Tocula, Mexico

jimmysnuka 75x75Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Loved jumping off that turnbuckle. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: James Reiher
Signature move: The Superfly Splash
From: Fiji

Memorable moment in WWF history: Muraco vs Snuka, cage match

rickysteamboat 75x75Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Beat Macho Man in WrestleMania III in one of the greatest matches ever.
Real name: Richard Henry Blood
Signature move: Diving crossbody
From: West Point, New York

Memorable moment in WWF history: Steamboat vs. Savage

Extended version part I of Savage vs. Steamboat.
Extended version part II of Savage vs. Steamboat.

rickrude1 75x75“Ravishing” Rick Rude. His male stripper-like motions were downright disturbing.
Real name: Richard E. Rood
Signature move: Rude Awakening
From: Robbinsdale, Minnesota
Died: 1999

hartfoundation 75x75The Hart Foundation
Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Part of the huge Hart family, wrestled alongside his brother-in-law, Jim Neidhart. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Bret Sergeant Hart
Signature move: The Sharpshooter
From: Calgary, Alberta
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. The father of current WWE diva Natalya.
Real name: Jim Neidhart
Signature move: Anvil Flattener
From: Tampa, Florida

Memorable moment in WWF history: Hart Foundation and Danny Davis vs. Bulldogs and Tito Santana, WrestleMania III

gregvalentine 75x75Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Sometimes a good guy, sometimes a bad guy, The Hammer often fought in the “Dream Team” alongside Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: John Anthony Wisniski Jr.
Signature move: Figure four leglock
From: Seattle, Washington

brutusbeefcake 75x75Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. A wrestler who used to cut the hair of his opponents as they lay there unconscious. The gag got old, and his interview show, the Barbershop, sucked.
Real name: Edward Harrison “Ed” Leslie
Signature move: Apacalypse
From: Tampa, Florida

Memorable moment in WWF history: Dream Team vs. Bulldogs

jimmyhart 75x75“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. Best known as the scrawny guy yelling through a megaphone, he managed at times Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Ted DiBiase, and The Honky Tonk Man. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Jimmy Ray Hart
From: Jackson, Mississippi

bobbyheenan 75x75Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. The bad guy’s manager of managers. Was in charge of such characters as Big John Studd, Ken Patera, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, The Brain Busters (former Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Harley Race, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr. Perfect, Terry Taylor, and The Brooklyn Brawler. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Raymond Louis Heenan
From: Chicago, Illinois

Memorable moment in WWF history: Royal Rumble, 1988

rockers 75x75The Rockers
Shawn Michaels. The more well-known half of the tag-team duo The Rockers. Michaels went on to have success as a solo wrestler.
Real name: Michael Shawn Hickenbottom
Signature move: Double flying headbutt (tag-team move)
From: Chandler, Arizona
Marty Jannetty. The other guy in the Rockers.
Real name: Frederick Marty Jannetty
Signature move: Double flying headbutt (tag-team move)
From: Columbus, Georgia

ricflair 75x75“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Didn’t wrestle in WWF during the 80s but everyone knew he was Turner’s answer to Hulk Hogan. Still a star. Wooo! In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Richard Morgan Fliehr
Signature move: Figure four leglock
From: Memphis, Tennessee

jimduggan 75x75“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. “Hoooo!!!” This all-American wrestler made me want to march around the playground with a 2-by-4.
Real name: James Duggan
Signature move: Tackled the guy, football style
From: Glen Falls, New York

teddibiase 75x75“The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. Bribed his way to victory and always followed by his bodyguard Virgil.
Real name: Theodore Marvin “Ted” DiBiase, Sr.
Signature move: Figure four leglock
From: Omaha, Nebraska

britishbulldogs 75x75British Bulldogs. Everyone loved their mascot, Matilda.
Davey Boy Smith. Later wrestled under the name “The British Bulldog.”
Real name: David Boy Smith
Signature move: The powerslam
From: United Kingdom
Died: 2002
Dynamite Kid. The other half of the British Bulldogs, currently confined to a wheelchair.
Real name: Thomas Billington
Signature move: Swan dive headbutt
From: Golborne, Lancashire

nastyboys 75x75Nasty Boys. Didn’t join WWF until the 90s but these guys kept me watching as the 80s ended.
Brian Knobbs. Hilarious on the show Hogan Knows Best.
Real name: Brian Yandrisovitz
Signature move: Running powerslam
From: Tampa, Florida
Jerry Sags. The other half of the Nasty Boys.
Real name: Jerome Saganovich
Signature move: Diving elbow drop
From: Allentown, Pennsylvania

loualbano 75x75Captain Lou Albano. In the 80s, one of the most popular good guy managers. Often seen with singer Cyndi Lauper. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Real name: Louis Vincent Albano
From: Mount Vernon, New York

bambambigelow1 75x75Bam Bam Bigelow. The big guy with the tatooo on his head.
Real name: Scott Charles Bigelow
Signature move: Diving headbutt
From: Ashbury Park, New Jersey
Died: 2007

kokobware 75x75“The Bird Man” Koko B. Ware. Always flapping his arms as he rode the back of his opponent.
Real name: James Ware
Signature move: Birdbuster
From: Union City, Tennessee

bushwhackers 75x75Bushwhackers. Remember these crazy Aussies (ok, New Zealanders), jerking their arms up and down? Great for kids.
Real names: Luke Williams and Butch Miller
Signature move: Battering ram
From: Aukland, New Zealand

paulorndorff 75x75“Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Bad guy who was often alongside “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Paul Orndorff
Signature move: Spike piledriver
From: Brandon, Florida

mrperfect 75x75Mr. Perfect. Used to show film clips of him bowling a 300 game, running the table in pool, and hitting a shot in basketball. Wow, amazing. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Curt Hennig
Signature move: Perfect-plex
From: Robbinsdale, Minnesota
Died: 2003

kamala 75x75Kamala the Ugandan Giant. At the time, taught kids that Uganda is a country.
Real name: James Harris
Signature move: Air Africa
From: Senatobia, Mississippi

harleyrace 74x75“King” Harley Race. Made opponents bow and kneel before him. Yawn. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Harley Leland Race
Signature move: Bridging cradle suplex
From: Quitman, Missouri

sgtslaughter 75x75Sgt. Slaughter. His popularity in the early 80s rivaled Hogan’s, and his feud with the Iron Sheik was memorable, but he was gone from 1985-1990, critical years in the WWF. Still in the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Robert Remus
Signature move: Cobra clutch
From: Detroit, Michigan
bigbossman 75x75Big Bossman. The bad cop who beat opponents with his nightstick.
Real name: Raymond W. Traylor, Jr
Signature move: Bossman slam
From: Marietta, Georgia
Died: 2004

killerbees 75x75The Killers Bees. Good guys, yes, but hardly memorable other than their yellow and black-striped tights.
B. Brian Blair.
Real name: Brian Leslie Blair
Signature move: Sleeper hold
From: Gary, Indiana
“Jumpin” Jim Brunzell.
Real name: James Brunzell
Signature move: Dropkick

islanders 75x75The Islanders. Once kidnapped the British Bulldogs’ mascot Matilda.
Real name: Tonga ‘Uli’uli Fifita
Signature move: Savate kick
From: Nukuʻalofa, Tonga
Real name: Sam Fatu
Signature move: Diving splash
From: California

jesseventura 75x75Jesse “The Body” Ventura. In the ring in the early 80s, Ventura was the color commentator alongside Gorilla Monsoon for much of the rest of the decade. Used to always say, “Look out, Gorilla!” as a good move was happening in the ring. Love the boa, gov. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Jesse Ventura
Signature move: Body breaker
From: Minneapolis, Minnesota

gorillamonsoon 75x75Gorilla Monsoon. Often the play-by-play voice in the 80s. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
Real name: Robert James “Gino” Marella
Signature move: Airplane spin
From: New York, New York
Died: 1999

brotherlove 75x75Brother Love. Red-faced manager that preached the word of ‘love’ while managing hated characters. Once came out in a kilt and argued with Roddy “Rowdy” Piper while Morton Downey Jr. was on stage.
Real name: Bruce Prichard
From: Pasadena, Texas

redrooster 75x75The Red Rooster. This guy was a joke from the start. I mean, he cockadodledooed before his matches.
Real name: Terry Taylor
Signature move: Sharpshooter
From: Atlanta, Georgia

honkeytonkman 75x75Honkey Tonk Man. This Elvis impersonator started out as a good guy, but no one liked him, so bad he became.
Real name: Roy Wayne Farris
Signature move: Guitar shot
From: Memphis, Tennessee

adrianadonis 75x75“Adorable” Adrian Adonis. A bad guy most remembered for cross-dressing.
Real name: Keith Franke
Signature move: Sleeper hold
From: New York, New York
Died: 1988

onemangang 75x75The One Man Gang/Akeem the African Dream. Managed by Slick, always a bad guy. Fought alongside Big Bossman.
Real name: George Gray
Signature move: 747 splash
From: Spartanburg, South Carolina

owen hart 75x75Owen Hart. Hart made a brief appearance in the 80s WWF, but the Blue Blazer, with those awesome aerial moves, didn’t get popular til the 90s.
Real name: Owen James Hart
From: Calgary, Canada
Died: 1999

Owen Hart Tribute:

Real name: Raymond Fernandez
Signature move: Backbreaker
From: Tampa, Florida

Terry Funk. Managed by Jimmy Hart with tag team partner Jimmy Jack Funk.
Real name: Terrence Funk
Signature move: Piledriver
From: Hammond, Indiana
Jimmy Jack Funk. Tag team partner of Terry Funk.
Real name: Ferrin Barr Jr.
Signature move: Bulldog
From: Oregon

Don Muraco. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Don Morrow
Signature move: Reverese piledriver
From: Sunset Beach, Hawaii

Slick. Bad, skinny pimp-like character, took over management of “Classy” Freddie Blassie’s characters.
Real name: Kenneth Johnson
From: Fort Worth, Texas

Others around in the 80s:
Powers of Pain (Barbarian and Warlord)
Demolition (Ax, Crush and Smash)
Bob Orton (In the Hall of Fame)
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
U.S. Express (Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham)
Dan Spivey
Butch Reed
Dino Bravo
David Samartino
Jerry “The King” Lawler (In the Hall of Fame)
Danny Davis
Iron Mike Sharpe
Billy Jack Haynes
Wendi Richter
Sensational Sheri Martell (In the Hall of Fame)
The Fabulous Moolah (In the Hall of Fame)
The Brooklyn Brawler
Rick Martel
The Genius (Lenny Poffo)
Mr. Fuji (In the Hall of Fame)
Bad News Brown
Dusty Rhodes (In the Hall of Fame)
“Special Delivery” Jones
The little guys: Little Beaver, Little Tokyo, Lord Littlebrook, Haiti Kid
And let’s not forget, THE MAN, Eugene “Mean Gene” Okerlund (In the Hall of Fame)