Sunday Sermon: The Best Big Men in Wrestling

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Craig Wilson, Brian Damage & Jamie Lithgow

With The Big Boss Man this week announced for this year’s WWE Hall of Fame, it seems like a good time for the team to discuss their favourite big men and big men matches in this latest Sunday Sermon.

big boss manCraig: It’s often remarked that tag team wrestling is a lost art form but the same can be said for the use of big men.

The 80s saw wwe fans treated to high profile WrestleMania appearances from King Kong Bundy, Big John Stuff and Andre the Giant while in the 90s Yokozuna had a few runs with the WWE title and Vader blasted onto the WWE scene.

Now, though, you just don’t get that to the same degree with Kane and the Big Show all that’s left – superstars more likely to be faced with ‘please retire’ posters than a main event match.

So why has the landscape changed so dramatically and who are your favourite big men and moments from their careers.

Brian: The landscape has changed dramatically and dare I say…will never be what it once was ever again. The reasons are simple, fans attention spans are shorter. They want fast paced action…not a couple of 400 pound men lumbering around a ring. While it may be easy to blame the smaller wrestlers for the change in fans perceptions of what pro wrestling should be…look no further to the emergence of big guys like Bam Bam Bigelow and Big Van Vader.

These were two big guys that could do amazing things inside the ring. They could do all the power moves yes…but they also did moonsaults and aerial manoeuvres that changed they way we perceived a big man to be.

Jamie: I don’t know about everybody else, but the era of the big man ended for me at the dawn of the Monday Night Wars. In a short space of time Raw and Nitro became these fast paced shows featuring all the big guns every Monday. This kind of made the attraction of seeing a really big guy wrestle a bit less special because you knew he’d be back next week. As I’ve been following Nitro from 1996 I recently witnessed the debut of the near 700lb Loch Ness (Giant Haystacks), but nobody cared or was particularly impressed. This kind of made me sad because I recall attending a british wrestling event as a child and seeing Giant Haystacks in the flesh… and I most certainly was impressed by the size of the man.

Haystacks was the first big guy that captured my imagination as a kid, but The Big Boss Man was a game changer for me. His matches with Hulk Hogan – particularly the cage match from Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1989 – made me realise that big men in wrestling can do more than clubbing forearms, bearhugs and big splashes.

Andre_the_Giant_et_Heenan_011-e1359675820376Brian: As a kid, the spectacle of seeing Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant was an awesome experience. In all honesty though, nowadays a match like that would get booed out of the building.

Craig: if done well, I don’t think it would. A Vader vs. Bam Bam match played out now with them at their peak would wow the crowd. Even Yoko, early WWE run, had good movement. Yeah a Andre vs. Studd battle of punches played out in a dreadfully slow fashion would kill any audience, done well I think big men could have a place. Am with Jamie, Bossman for me too. A really good worker and, yeah, his run with Hogan was ace.

What about then, the most underrated big man in wrestling history? I don’t feel Bam Bam really gets the plaudits he deserved although we have talked about him a fair bit in this thread. I imagine the Kamala shtick was quite scary at one point, am not talking about the WWF version in the early 90s there.

Also, is The Undertaker the best ever big man?

Brian: Pound for pound, the Undertaker is probably the best big man I ever saw simply for his ring psychology and athleticism. Kamala was okay for his era. Bam Bam never quite became the huge star he was meant to become. His time in ECW was the closest Bam Bam came to realizing his full potential. I was never a big fan of the Big Bossman….but that’s not to say he wasn’t good in the ring because he was. I just didn’t relate to him well as a youngster.

I loved the One Man Gang before he became Akeem the African Dream. He was nasty and had that killer streak in him.

one man gangCraig: Ah, One Man Gang should have been given more of a run with the WWE rather than them destroying the gimmick and his credibility by turning him into the frankly awful Akeem.

I also thought Earthquake was very good, his programme with Hogan did some good business in the late 80s but soon he was turned into a tag team with Typhoon then slowly faded out.

Brian: I actually loved Earthquake and I really enjoyed the run of the Natural Disasters as a tag team. They might have been WWF tag team champions….but highly underrated as a team if you ask me.

Craig: I think we can certainly agree on the fact that whatever talent Earthquake had, and I think he had a lot, it was wasted first by the WCW and on his return to the WWE as one of the oddities.

Ultimately, though, and as we bring this to a conclusion, perhaps the the business has moved on. There would, rightly, be huge amounts of complaints if a character of the ilk of Akeem or Kamala appeared on our screens and I think the Earthquake gimmick wouldn’t fit nowadays.

A Vader, Bam Bam or even a Yokozuna could still be a big deal now as would someone with the athleticism of the Big Boss Man. I guess though that the focus is on leaner and fitter guys. Another thing we can agree on, I would think, is that the late Ray Traylor is more than deserving of his spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Who are some of your favourite big men in wrestling? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.

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6 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: The Best Big Men in Wrestling

  1. I remember back years ago when Andre faced off with Don Leo Jonathan…now that was impressive as Andre was able to move around the ring and Jonathan at 6’7″ could deliver dropkicks.

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  2. My favorite big men were also Vader and Bam Bam. They were menacing and at the same time athletic so matches with them involved seemed never boring. Both of them will hopefully inducted in the HOF eventually.
    Besides Big Show did dropkicks,too,in his early WCW days.

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  3. I’ve always been of the belief that too many big men in a particular organization wasn’t a good thing, simply because it knocks the aura off of a guy who is a legit 6’11”. When you see three or four guys in a federation who are that size, sure, they stand out, but not like they would if there were only one or two. But with the AWA, ECW, and WCW kaput, the NWA not as prominent, and TNA an absolute joke, it’s hard to find a nitch anymore in a big time organization.

    I think Undertaker, Sid Vicious (in his younger days), Bam Bam Bigelow, and Vader were the best big guys I saw. These guys had presence, and you certainly were compelled to watch them instead of trying to use the commode or get a snack from the fridge. I still remember seeing John Tenta (R.I.P.) aka Earthquake, perform an absolutely beautiful dropkick one night that was just as good as Tito Santana’s or Ricky Morton’s.

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  4. Im a little more old school, if you want to see a few guys tear a ring apart check out the Tokyo Dome match between Vader and Stan Hansen. Bruiser Brody had a great build for a large man, he was always coming off the top rope. I saw Blackjack Mulligan as kid, we (all the kids) were tying to jump and touch his hat brim.

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    • Hansen was great, but ask anybody who was in the ring with him: he was legally blind without his glasses. That’s why some of his moves were all the more devistating: because he sometimes missed the mark a bit and could legitimately hurt someone without actually trying to. Just ask Bruno Sammartino.

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  5. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 12 | Ring the Damn Bell

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