Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #35 – Stan Hansen

Top 100, Top Story

Fear the Lariat.


HometownBorger, Texas
Titles HeldAJPW Triple Crown; AJPW Unified World Tag Team (8x – 2 with Terry Gordy, 3 with Genichiro Tenryu, 1 with Dan Spivey, 1 with Ted DiBiase, 1 with Gary Albright); AWA World Heavyweight; NWA United States; NWA World Tag Team (with Ole Anderson); NWA International Heavyweight; NWA International Tag Team (with Ron Bass); NWA United National; PWF World Heavyweight (4x); PWF World Tag Team (4x, 1 with Bruiser Brody, 2 with Ted DiBiase, 1 with Austin Idol); CWA International Heavyweight; NWA Columbus Heavyweight; NWA Georgia Heavyweight (2x); NWA Georgia Tag Team (3x – 2 with Tommy Rich, 1 with Ole Anderson); NWF Heavyweight; NWA Texas Tag Team (with Killer Tim Brooks)
Other AccomplishmentsFirst PWF World Tag Team champions (with Bruiser Brody); Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Class
of 1996
; renowned for his stiff style; retired due to
lower back pain
; Winner of All Japan’s Champion’s Carnival in 1992 and 1993; Winner of All Japan’s World’s Strongest Tag Team League in 1983 (with Bruiser Brody), 1985 (with Ted DiBiase), 1988 (with Terry Gordy), and 1989 (with Genichiro Tenryu); Winner of PWI’s Match of the Year Award in 1976 (vs. Bruno Sammartino); Winner of PWI’s Most Hated Wrestler of the Year Award in 1976; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Tag Team of the Year Award in 1982 (with Ole Anderson); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Brawler of the Year Award in 1985 and 1990; Ranked as #16 of the Best 500 Wrestlers During the PWI Years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated; Ranked as #7 (with Bruiser Brody), #24 (with Ted DiBiase), #34 (with Terry Gordy) and #66 (with Ole Anderson) of the 100 Best Tag Teams During the PWI Years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated

Stan Hansen started wrestling in 1973 for the local promotion in Amarillo, Texas. However, it was only a side job as he also played professional football for the Detroit Wheels, which were part of the World Football League. The Wheels, however, were only in existence for part of the 1974 season. After fourteen games (and racking up a 1-13 record), the team folded and Hansen began wrestling full-time. The World Football League itself shut down operations during the 1975 season.

1974 saw Hansen also competing for Leroy McGuirk’s Tri-State company, which operated in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. This stint is notable because this is where Hansen first teamed with Bruiser Brody. This is also where Hansen won his first titles. In October of 1974 Hansen and Brody defeated Johnny Eagles and Terry Lathan to win the Tri-State versions of the NWA United States Tag Team titles. They held them until the following July, when Danny Hodge and Jay Clayton defeated them for the belts.

Early 1976 also saw Hansen and Killer Tim Brooks win the NWA Big Time Texas Tag Team titles (in 1982, Big Time Wrestling would have its name changed to World Class Championship Wrestling). March 3 saw Jose Lothario and Rocky Johnson taking the belts away.

Hansen also began competing in Vincent J. McMahon’s World Wide Wrestling Federation. It was here that Hansen gained a great deal of infamy. During a match with champion Bruno Sammartino on April 26, 1976, Hansen broke Sammartino’s neck. It was announced that it had been Hansen’s Lariat finisher that had done the deed, but in reality it was a botched bodyslam.

Fearing a disastrous gate for the Antonio Inoki/Muhammad Ali match they would be showing in June, McMahon got Sammartino back for a rematch on the same card. (The Inoki/Ali match would be shown on closed-circuit television, and in the WWWF territories, WWWF matches would make up the undercard.) Sammartino won by count out when Hansen fled the ring, and McMahon’s decision was backed up by the fact that the Inoki/Ali match drew poorly, but the Hansen/Sammartino match drew huge crowds.

Hansen’s next stop was Mid-South Wrestling. In May of 1977, Hansen defeated Dick Murdoch to win the Mid-South North American title. He held the belt for about a month before he lost it to Bill Watts.

From there Hansen headed to Georgia Championship Wrestling. He and Tommy Rich soon defeated the Minnesota Wrecking Crew of Ole and Gene Anderson to win the NWA Georgia Tag Team titles, but they closed 1977 by losing them to Ole Anderson and Jacques Goulet.

Hansen wasn’t too bothered. Also in December of 1977, he defeated Dick Slater to capture the NWA Georgia Heavyweight title. Although Mr. Wrestling defeated him to win it soon into the new year, February saw Hansen regain the belt and finally vacate it. At the same time he vacated that title, he also defeated Abdullah the Butcher to win the NWA Columbus Heavyweight title, which he lost later soon thereafter.

During this time, Hansen was also gaining fame in the Orient by competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1981, he jumped to All-Japan Pro Wrestling, the primary company he would remain with for the rest of his career.

1983 saw Hansen competing in Memphis for the CWA and feuding with Austin Idol. Hansen defeated Idol to capture the International Heavyweight title in September (only two days after Idol had won the belt himself) and lost it back to Idol in a bull rope match on October 3.

In December of 1985, Hansen won the AWA World Heavyweight title by defeating Rick Martel. The match was unusual in that Hansen won by using a backbreaker submission hold. Because Martel submitted, the loss greatly hurt Martel’s standing in the fans’ eyes.

Hansen proved to be a dominant champion going into 1986 by defeating challengers such as Nick Bockwinkel, Leon White (who would later become known as Vader), and Jerry Blackwell. However, there was one force that Hansen could not defeat – and that was wrestling politics.

On June 29, 1986, Hansen arrived for a title defense against Bockwinkel and Verne Gagne informed him that he’d be losing the belt. Hansen contacted All-Japan’s Giant Baba to get the okay to lose the belt, and Baba, who had already been scheduling championship matches of his own, refused. Hansen refused to lose the title, so he was not sent out and Bockwinkel won the match (and the title) after Hansen was announced as a no-show.

Hansen took the belt and headed back to Japan, where he was still promoted as the AWA champion. Bockwinkel was given a tag team title belt that was announced as the world title.

Gagne and the AWA soon contacted Hansen and threatened legal action if Hansen continued keeping the belt (which was AWA property) and promoting himself as the champion. Hansen replied by running over the title belt in his pickup truck and mailing it back to Gagne. (Years later, at an NWA Legends convention, Hansen did express regret for his actions.)

In 1990, Hansen returned to the United States and began feuding with Lex Luger over the NWA United States title. However, as the company began morphing into WCW, problems arose.

The issue was that WCW debuted a stable called the Desperadoes composed of Dutch Mantell, Black Bart, and Deadeye Dick (Moondog Rex). The three would wander around old western sets and get into “hilarious” hijinks as they searched for Hansen.

Hansen was mortified. He immediately left the company and returned to Japan. (Without Hansen, the Desperadoes fizzled out by the end of the year.) Hansen never again competed in the United States.

In 2000, after suffering from severe back pain, Hansen wrestled Genichiro Tenryu during a tournament to crown a new All-Japan Triple Crown champion. The company was suffering as several of All-Japan’s top stars had quit the company to form Pro Wrestling NOAH. Kenta Kobashi’s departure had vacated the title. Hansen lost the match and Tenryu would wind up winning the tournament and the title. That match was Hansen’s last.

In 2001, Hansen became the head of All-Japan’s Pacific Wrestling Federation, which is the governing body for the All-Japan titles. He resigned in 2007 and was replaced by Hiroshi Hase.

Stan Hansen was the perfect example of a monster heel. He was legitimately tough and almost impossible to defeat, as if he was the champion, he had no problems with taking a loss by DQ. Hansen’s Lariat also became a feared finisher following the incident with Sammartino in 1976.

Although Hansen had long periods of time when he didn’t compete in the United States, he still made an impact during the periods when he was present. Although Hansen has been retired for almost a decade now, his legend lives on.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.