Craig Wilson, Brian Damage and Jamie Lithgow
This Sunday the WWE hosts Extreme Rules 2017. There seems no more fitting a time, then, to look at the Top Five most extreme wrestlers ever in the history of wrestling. Be prepared for blood, thumbtacks, barbed wire and weapons aplenty with this list of superstars.
5. Necro Butcher: This was a guy I only discovered due to his role in the excellent film ‘The Wrestler’. Although his hardcore act in that barely scratched the surface of what his in-ring work was like. The amount, and type, of bumps this man took, is perhaps the reason that he retired at the relatively young age of 43 – AJ Styles is 40. Necro Butcher’s work won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and certainly isn’t for the fainthearted, but there is no denying the impact he has had on hardcore wrestling, including a short stint with Ring of Honor where he demonstrated how good a brawler he was also.
4. Terry Funk: As strong a commitment to hardcore wrestling as he has to retirement matches, Funk has been there and done it all during a remarkable 50-year in-ring career, that officially came to an end in 2015 when Funk was 70 years old. A man in multiple Hall of Fames with multiple title triumphs, Funk was pivotal in adding legitimacy to the fledgeling Extreme Championship Wrestling in the mid-90s and taking hardcore wrestling to a new, and wider, audience. As Funk got older, he pioneered hardcore wrestling and would take that style to both WCW and WWE after his long spell with ECW.
3. Sabu: The Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal, Death–Defying Maniac Sabu had the best moments of his career also in Extreme Championship Wrestling with many of those moments coming against Terry Funk. The nephew of The Sheik, Sabu debuted as a madman in ECW, accompanied to the ring by his handler, 911. Sabu was an innovator in the ring and brought a high-flying aspect to hardcore wrestling. One of the many acts who it is very difficult to watch his early career without wincing at the level of violence, Sabu was nevertheless a very important part of ECW’s rise to prominence in the mid-90s, and is a former two-time world champion and three-time tag team champion as a result. Never repeated, like many others, that level of success outside of ECW, but there’s no denying his role in the history of extreme wrestling.
2. Mick Foley: Unlike many others on this list, Mick Foley is one of the few that can point to greater success outside of the indies and/or Extreme Championship Wrestling. The bumps and falls that Foley took in the WWE are legendary and helped make him the legend he has become. A multiple time WWE Champion and a firm fan favourite, it’s a big step on from his early days jumping off buildings. Foley was certainly an innovator of the hardcore wrestling style and brought that with him to the WWE, albeit it took a few years for it to come to the surface and for the company to take advantage of what they had. But few will ever forget the bumps he took during matches with The Undertaker, which helped make his opponent look like a million dollars.
1. Abdullah the Butcher: Before hardcore was an identifiable style, there was Abdullah The Butcher. With his trademark fork, and slicing up of opponents during the match, Abdullah wrestled all over the world wrestling for very short periods wherever he went in order to keep his gimmick fresh. To many hardcore wrestling fans, he was the originator. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and his entrance into the WWE Hall of Fame annoyed some, including Superstar Billy Graham who asked his name to be removed from it, stating: “It is a shameless organization to induct a bloodthirsty animal such as Abdullah the Butcher into their worthless and embarrassing Hall of Fame and I want the name of Superstar Billy Graham to be no part of it.” What isn’t in dispute is the fact that he was involved in some of the most violent matches in wrestling history, long before hardcore wrestling was really a thing.
5. The Original Sheik: The Sheik who is not to be confused with the Iron Sheik, was a pioneer in hardcore wrestling long before it was even called hardcore. For over 50 years, Ed ‘The Sheik’ Farhat used foreign objects like chairs, fireballs and spikes to injure and maim his opponents during matches.
4. Cactus Jack/Mick Foley: Don’t let this lovable personality who loves Christmas and pens children’s books fool you. Back in the day, Cactus Jack was one of the most violent, sadistic hardcore wrestlers in the world. It wasn’t uncommon for him to fall on thumbtacks, go through flaming tables, smash light bulbs over an opponent’s back, wrestle in exploding barb wire etc, etc. Cactus Jack, in my opinion, made that style of pro wrestling very chic in the early 1990’s.
3. Abdullah the Butcher: While Abby didn’t invent hardcore wrestling, he is certainly synonymous with it. The “Mad Man from the Sudan” was famous for his fork and bloodletting. There aren’t many matches where Abdullah didn’t bleed or make his opponent bleed or both. A truly scary individual that I first read about as a kid and even scarier watching him work on television.
2. Jun Kasai: Jun Kasai is dubbed ‘The Crazy Monkey’ and there is reason why he is a hardcore madman. if the grotesque scars all over his body don’t tell the tale of this man, just look up one of his matches. He is an all-out brawler who can be technical if need be. His bread and butter, however, is wrestling a brutal hardcore style involving things such as razor blades on a wooden board.
1. Atsushi Onita: To me, this Japanese hardcore wrestler/promoter was as crazy, dangerous and fearless as any other wrestler in that genre of pro wrestling. He is credited with bringing the death match style to Japan. He was also the founder of FMW in Japan. One of the most insane, death-defying hardcore wrestling promotions in the entire world.
5. Goldust: Goldust, extreme? You can look at this topic from a few angles, one being the traditional blood and cuts view of extreme. However, when Goldust debuted in the WWF in 1995 and firmly pushed the homophobic button it was nothing if not extreme, especially at the time in the mid-90s. To that point in wrestling we had seen flamboyant characters like Gorgeous George and Adrian Adonis, but nothing like Goldust. Let’s not beat around the bush, the original incarnation of The Bizarre One was a gay, sexual deviant who harassed his foes. Controversial? Extremely.
4. The Dudley Boyz: Purely based on their promos, specifically in ECW. These guys went to extremes never seen before or since to get heat. There was no innuendo from Buh Buh and D-Von when cutting promos on the audience, they were frank and to the point about their alleged sexual exploits with fans’ female family members.
3. Jeff Hardy: Before health and safety there was Jeff Hardy. It’s as if modern day WWE performers have watched every stunt Jeff performed and figured out how to do them safely, or more safely at least. Jeff was the guinea pig. This is the guy who performed a Swanton Bomb from the very top (not near the top) of a 20ft ladder, with nobody holding it for stability, in the aisle, onto Buh Buh Ray Dudley and just one table. There’s maybe been bigger, flashier looking stunts since, but Jeff Hardy was literally a man jumping off stuff because he could and nobody stopped him.
2. Cactus Jack: This guy terrified me as a kid. Every time I saw him in a magazine he was covered in blood. Dude lost half an ear in the ring, got blown up by explosives and was torn apart by barbed wire.Yes, there have been more extreme stunts and weapons used in wrestling since – believe it nor – but how many of those people translated their ability to bleed and get struck by household objects into a Hall of Fame career? Mick Foley; King of Hardcore.
Yes, there have been more extreme stunts and weapons used in wrestling since – believe it nor – but how many of those people translated their ability to bleed and get struck by household objects into a Hall of Fame career? Mick Foley; King of Hardcore.
1.New Jack: If Mick Foley is the king, then New Jack is the ace. New Jack was a hardcore, blood and cuts style wrestler with four justifiable homicides to his name. How much more credibility to be extreme do you need?!
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.