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Awesome Men Throughout History: Manly Wrestlers

As we all know, I’m something of a pro wrestling fan despite the numerous reveals that it’s an exploitative business run by carnival scumbags. But what many people don’t know is that, behind the bright lights, spandex, and baby oil, wrestling was a man’s business.

Harley Race

Back in the day, wrestling’s regional popularity depended on fans thinking it was real enough to suspend their disbelief and buy tickets, which means that wrestlers had to be even manlier than other sports figures to counteract the rumors that what they did was phony. Dan Hodge, who I covered earlier, stands as proof of this.

But he wasn’t the only one. So today’s Awesome Men Throughout History will list the five manliest men in pro wrestling history, in ascending order.

Tito Santana

Born Merced Solis in 1953, Tito was a college football star at West Texas A&M before getting into pro wrestling. His man points were earned during his feud with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who was so intense in the ring that Tito got himself injured badly enough to require knee surgery. But going under the knife didn’t stop Tito from cutting an epic promo (wrestler-speak for being interviewed) about Greg in post-op, of all places, with a head full of painkillers and wearing really nice sunglasses. Talk about dedication.

David “Fit” Finlay

Fit Finlay is an Irish-born professional wrestler who was well-known backstage for being tough, but he proved himself in 1999 during a weapons-filled brawl with “Nasty Boy” Bryan Knobbs – Finlay was slammed through a Formica table, which broke into shards and nearly severed Finlay’s leg. Finlay, ever the stoic, held his leg together in a pool of blood until medical help arrived. Despite permanent nerve damage in that leg, he wrestles to this day.

Haku

A Tongan wrestler who almost everyone else in wrestling is scared of. Haku is frighteningly tough, and once bit off part of someone’s nose in a bar fight. Cops who came to break up said fight allegedly told the newspapers that they’d never been manhandled that easily in their lives. It’s telling when a business full of self-aggrandizing ex-jocks falls all over itself to warn against ever picking a fight with Haku.

Andre the Giant

This article from Modern Drunkard explains Andre’s inclusion better than I ever could, but one thing it doesn’t include is the description of Andre having sex: “like a lion raping a rabbit.”

Harley Race

An eight-time NWA world heavyweight champion, Harley Race broke into wrestling the old-fashioned way: taking on all comers in legitimate fights in carnivals at 15 years old. To paraphrase wrestling announcer Jim Ross, Harley was fighting grown men with beards and whiskey breath when everyone else his age was still popping zits. Harley never drove a car less than 90 mph (and has the auto accident record to prove it), and was the guy promoters called when they were having trouble controlling other wrestlers, or even certain fans. It’s still assumed that anyone who picks a fight with Harley – even though he’s in his 60s and has at least one artificial hip – would lose, and the other members of this list would tell you that he’s the toughest there ever was.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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