George Wagner, a.k.a. Gorgeous George, was truly the original showman of professional wrestling, perhaps the first-ever “sports entertainer” and his flamboyant theatrics unquestionably forever changed professional wrestling. During his mid-20th century heyday, a more famous or controversial entertainment figure could not be found. It has been said that during his prime, George was even more well known than the President of the United States and in a very real sense, Gorgeous George nearly single-handedly established the unproven new technology of television as a viable, entertaining new medium that could reach literally millions homes across the country. Professional wrestling was TV’s first legitimate “hit” with the public, the first program that ever drew any real numbers for the new technology, and Gorgeous George was directly responsible for all of the commotion. It was a turning point for Wagner, wrestling, and the country itself. Entertainment historians have noted that the controversial Gorgeous George was probably responsible for selling more tv sets in the early days of television than any other factor.
Mark William Calaway (born March 24, 1965), better known by the ring name The Undertaker, is an American retired professional wrestler currently under contract with WWE. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, The Undertaker is a seven-time world heavyweight champion in WWF/E, having held the WWF/E Championship four times and the World Heavyweight Championship three times.
Calaway began his career in 1987, working as various gimmicks for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and other affiliate promotions, and he became USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion and WCWA Texas Heavyweight Champion during this time. After signing with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1989, he had a brief stint in the mid-card as “Mean” Mark Callous, before joining the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 1990.
Roy Wayne Farris (born January 25, 1953), better known by the ring name The Honky Tonk Man, is an American retired professional wrestler. He previously wrestled for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE). He is best known for his first run with WWF, where he held the WWF Intercontinental Championship for a record 64 weeks before losing it to The Ultimate Warrior at the 1988 SummerSlam. He is the cousin of fellow professional wrestler and color commentator Jerry Lawler.
On the June 13, 1987 episode of Superstars, Honky defeated Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship; Honky reversed Steamboat’s inside cradle and grabbed onto the bottom ropes for extra leverage to get the pinfall win. Honky was originally meant to be a transitional champion to only hold on to the title for a short period of time. However, Roberts failed several drug tests following WrestleMania  and Honky became booked to remain champion for what would be a record-setting run. In a later interview, Honky remarked that Hulk Hogan, whom he then had a friendly, collaborative relationship with outside of the ring, had helped give Honky a chance at the title after a coincidental meeting between Hogan, Honky, and Vince McMahon took place. Hogan stuck up for Honky, even though McMahon had someone else in mind.
Curtis Michael Hennig (March 28, 1958 – February 10, 2003) was an American professional wrestler, manager and color commentator. He performed under his real name for promotions including the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF; now WWE), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA; now Impact Wrestling), also using the ring name Mr. Perfect in the WWF/E. Hennig is the son of wrestler Larry “The Axe” Hennig, and father of wrestler Curtis Axel.
Hennig debuted in 1980 and won multiple championships in both Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) and the AWA during the decade. He gained particular attention when he defeated Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1987, with his 373-day reign being the seventh-longest in history. Hennig moved to the WWF thereafter, where he feuded with Hulk Hogan over the WWF Championship, and won the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship twice, becoming the longest-reigning titleholder of the 1990s. In addition to winning multiple titles in WCW during the late 1990s, Hennig challenged for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on pay-per-view (PPV), and led stable and country music group the West Texas Rednecks, who recorded the popular tongue-in-cheek song, “Rap is Crap”. During a stint with the World Wrestling Council (WWC) in 2000, he won the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship. Hennig returned to the WWF/E for a brief period in 2002, being one of the last three men remaining at that year’s Royal Rumble. He later headlined multiple PPV events for TNA, in contention for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, prior to his death on February 10, 2003.
WWE credited Hennig for raising the standard of technical wrestling in that company, while professional wrestling journalists Bob Ryder and Dave Scherer, in a 2000 publication, recognized him as “one of the best all-round competitors this business has ever produced”. Hennig was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 by former Major League Baseball player and longtime friend Wade Boggs. Hulk Hogan remarked, “Everybody would check their egos at the door when they came to a building that Curt Hennig was in, because you couldn’t out-work him, you couldn’t outshine him and you couldn’t out-perform him. He was the best of the best.”
Wright was asked to return in 1997, with the original plans being for him to revive the Papa Shango character.Instead he returned as Kama, now billed under his full name, Kama Mustafa. He was announced as the first member of Faarooq’s faction the Nation of Domination. On the June 16 episode of Raw, Mustafa and Faarooq defeated Ahmed Johnson and The Undertaker. Mustafa became increasingly known as “The Godfather” of the Nation, a moniker which would eventually become his official ring name in mid-1998. He stood with the Nation when Rocky Maivia became the leader shortly after Wrestlemania XIV, standing with Maivia, Mark Henry, D’Lo Brown, and later Owen Hart after he joined the stable in early May 1998.
In 1998, The Godfather (known to wrestlers as a genuine tough guy) competed in the WWF Brawl for All; which was a strictly voluntary boxing / shoot fighting competition, eventually won by Bart Gunn. On a July 27 episode of Raw is War, Wright debuted his “Hoes”, during a tag-match, with Nation member Mark Henry against the Legion of Doom.
The Nation lasted until around September 1998 and officially disbanded in October 1998 when Henry attacked the Nation’s leader The Rock.
Intercontinental Champion (1998–2000)
The Godfather alongside his “hoes” at a SmackDown! live show in 1999
After The Nation split up, Wright had his most successful run with the company under the hugely popular persona of The Godfather. The Godfather character would be constantly surrounded by “ho’s” – in kayfabe girls from local strip clubs but were legit aspiring wrestlers (Lisa Moretti, aka Ivory, Lisa Marie Varon, aka Victoria, and Amy Dumas, aka Lita, were the best-known wrestlers playing the role). He would offer his opponents the right to use these girls for “any purpose” if they would forfeit the match to him. The gimmick was highly popular with audiences, and he defeated Goldust for the WWF Intercontinental Championship on the April 12, 1999 episode of Raw Is War. He was Owen Hart’s scheduled opponent for the title at Over the Edge; Hart was fatally injured during a live stunt prior to the match’s time. The Godfather was scheduled to lose the title to Hart’s character, “The Blue Blazer,” that night. The Godfather would instead lose the title to Hart’s tag team partner Jeff Jarrett a week later. On the March 16, 2000 episode of SmackDown!, he picked up the biggest win of his career, when he defeated the WWF Champion Triple H, due to interference from Shane McMahon and Big Show.
Morley was signed to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1998 and given the gimmick of an adult movie star named Val Venis. The character was introduced with a series of vignettes that showcased Venis’ lifestyle on and off the set, the most notable of these featuring Venis with prominent real-life porn star Jenna Jameson.
He debuted on the May 18, 1998 episode of Raw, defeating Scorpio. Almost immediately, he was involved in an angle with the Kaientai stable, involving him having an affair with Yamaguchi-San’s kayfabe wife, Shian-Li Tsang. As a result, the members of Kaientai had a series of unsuccessful matches against him. Venis made his pay-per-view debut at Fully Loaded: In Your House, defeating Jeff Jarrett. On the August 3 episode of Raw, his tag team partner Taka Michinoku would eventually betray him, which led to him and Kaientai tying Venis up backstage where Yamaguchi-San attempted to castrate him with a sword.
The next week, however, he reported that he was saved by “a little shrinkage” and help from his friend, John Wayne Bobbitt. He then challenged the four Japanese wrestlers to a match, which they accepted under the conditions that it must be a gauntlet match, meaning that Venis would have to fight all four of them individually in one match. The match ended with Michinoku executing the Michinoku Driver on Venis and getting the three-count, ending his undefeated streak. The feud ended a week later, after Venis fought Michinoku to a no contest.
Morley at King of the Ring with Trish Stratus
After feuding with Kaientai, Venis got his first title shot in the WWF at SummerSlam 1998 against European Champion D’Lo Brown for his championship. Venis was disqualified and as a result, Brown retained the title. Venis got involved in a storyline where he slept with other people’s wives. He started a feud with Dustin Runnels, on the September 14 episode of Raw when Venis showed Runnels his new porn movie, featuring Venis in bed with Dustin’s wife, Terri Runnels. She then became his on-screen girlfriend. This culminated in a match at Breakdown: In Your House, which Venis won. On the October 12 episode of Raw, Venis participated in a tournament for the Intercontinental Championship, defeating Marc Mero in the first round before losing in the semifinals to Ken Shamrock. On the same night, Runnels returned to his Goldust gimmick. Venis continued his feud with Goldust, with Goldust gaining a victory at Judgment Day: In Your House. The two faced each other again at Capital Carnage, and Val went on to win the match, to end the feud. When Terri said she was pregnant, Val dumped her.
At the end of the year, he formed a short lived tag team with The Godfather, unofficially dubbed “Supply and Demand”. They began teaming on the December 7 episode of Raw against The Acolytes. Their team only lasted a week, including a match against Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown at Rock Bottom: In Your House, and a match against the Brood. at Royal Rumble, Venis competed in the Royal Rumble match where he was eliminated by Triple H, On the February 1, 1999 episode of Raw, he started a feud with Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock after Venis made a film starring him and Shamrock’s kayfabe sister Ryan called Saving Ryan’s Privates. At St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: In Your House, Venis defeated Shamrock with the help of special guest referee Billy Gunn to win the Intercontinental Championship. The next night on Raw, Venis defended the title against Gunn and retained the title.
Initially performing under the name “Country Boy Calhoun”, he performed in various regional territories, including Houston, Kansas City, and Canada. However, he first appeared nationally on Art Linkletter’s House Party, a televised variety show where Calhoun tossed full bales of hay into a high loft. As a result of this feat, he adopted the name “Haystacks Calhoun”. Recognizing the show business potential of such a gimmick, Calhoun decided to exaggerate his hillbilly persona by adopting the fictional birthplace of Morgan’s Corner, Arkansas, while sporting a bushy beard, white t-shirt, blue overalls, and a genuine horseshoe around his neck on a chain. Moreover, while promoters typically did not book him for championships, he seldom lost a match. He was often booked in handicap matches and battle royals.
Calhoun with Mario Milano and Tex McKenzie in 1971
He was matched up against fellow wrestling giant Happy Humphrey in a series of highly promoted altercations at Madison Square Garden during the early 1960s. At over 750 lbs (340 kg), Humphrey outweighed Calhoun by over 150 lb (68 kg) and was considerably slower than Calhoun. Calhoun took the majority of the decisions over Humphrey, many by count out as Humphrey often could not get himself back into the ring by the count of 20 when thrown out.
On April 14, 1961, in the Chicago International Amphitheater, he challenged Capitol Wrestling NWA United States heavyweight champion “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in a second attempt to take the U.S. title. This bout ended in failure when Rogers dropkicked Calhoun to the ropes and the middle rope broke and Calhoun tumbled to the concrete floor and was counted out. Calhoun had also lost his first championship bout with Rogers in New York’s Sunnyside Garden Arena on January 28, 1961. Although mainly active in the eastern half of the United States, he also wrestled in Australia, on tour with other American wrestlers in bouts promoted by U.S. promoter Sam Menacker. He also wrestled for NWA: All-Star Wrestling in Vancouver, where he twice won the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship with Don Leo Jonathan. He formed a tag team with the over 600 lb (270 kg) Mountain Man Mike on the West Coast. After engaging in a feud against Dick the Bruiser, Calhoun then generally traveled from territory to territory, never staying in one region for too long.
In 1966 he won both the NWA Tri-State Tag Team Championship and the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship while teaming with Jack Brisco and Don Leo Jonathan, respectively. Moreover, he then helped attract fans to the fledgling Northeast promotion World Wide Wrestling Federation. On May 30, 1973, Calhoun paired with Tony Garea to defeat the Japanese duo of Mr. Fuji and Prof. Toru Tanaka for the WWF Tag Team Title. However, his weight and declining health eventually forced him into retirement, and he was ultimately confined to a double-wide trailer after losing his left leg to diabetes in 1986. He died at age 55 on December 7, 1989. He is buried in Scott Cemetery in Collin County, Texas. His daughter donated mementos of his wrestling career to the Collin County museum.
In June 1988, Traylor joined the WWF as “Big Boss Man”, a character inspired by his previous career as a corrections officer. Wrestling as a heel and managed by Slick, Boss Man’s post-match routine often included handcuffing his defeated opponents to the ring ropes and beating them with a nightstick or ball and chain.
After defeating Koko B. Ware at the inaugural SummerSlam, Boss Man began his first major WWF angle by attacking Hulk Hogan on “The Brother Love Show”. During this feud, he also challenged Randy Savage for the WWF Championship, and formed a team with Akeem (formerly billed as One Man Gang, his UWF opponent) to form The Twin Towers. They feuded with Hogan and Savage (who had formed The Mega Powers), and were a key part in the top storyline of Savage turning on Hogan, leading to the WrestleMania V main event; in the later part of a tag match between the four on The Main Event II, Hogan abandoned Savage to attend to the hurt Miss Elizabeth and went backstage. After being double-teamed for a while, Savage eventually rallied until Hogan returned to the match. After Savage tagged Hogan in, he slapped Hogan and left him to defeat The Twin Towers on his own. This led to The Mega Powers’ demise as Savage beat Hulk in the backstage medical room where fellow wrestlers, managers and staff had to break them up.
At WrestleMania V, The Twin Towers defeated The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) and then, for most of spring and early summer 1989, feuded with Demolition (Ax and Smash) over the Tag Team Championship. Meanwhile, Boss Man concluded his feud with Hogan in a series of Steel Cage matches; one of the most memorable aired on the May 27 Saturday Night’s Main Event XXI, with Hogan’s WWF Championship on the line. During the match, Hogan superplexed Boss Man off the top of the cage.
Boss Man became a fan favorite after he refused to do the bidding of his villainous manager Slick (left)
The Big Boss Man turned face on the February 24, 1990 episode of Superstars, when Ted DiBiase had paid Slick to have Boss Man retrieve the Million Dollar Championship belt from Jake Roberts, who had stolen it. Boss Man retrieved a bag containing both the belt and Roberts’ pet python, Damien. On The Brother Love Show, he refused to accept DiBiase’s money for the bag, and returned it to Roberts.
As a face, Boss Man adopted a new entrance theme called “Hard Times” that was performed by the lead singer of Survivor, Jimi Jamison. Boss Man then feuded with former partner Akeem, defeating him in less than two minutes at WrestleMania VI. As part of his face turn, he later stopped handcuffing and beating jobbers after matches. He made peace with Hogan, appearing in his corner in his match against Earthquake at Summerslam 1990, and teaming with him at the 1990 Survivor Series, along with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Tugboat, to defeat Earthquake’s team.
The Sheik’s wrestling was centered on his character of a rich wild man from Syria. Before each match, he would use stalling tactics as he would kneel on a prayer rug to pray to Allah (in real life Farhat was a Maronite Christian). He would lock on choke holds and refuse to break them, and use a camel clutch hold leading to submission. The hold would have him sit over his opponent’s back as he applied a chinlock. He used hidden pencils and other “foreign objects” to cut open his opponent’s faces. Often, the tactic backfired and the opponent got The Sheik’s pencil, leading to the extensive scarring on Farhat’s forehead. The other illegal move was his fireball that he threw into his opponents’ faces, sometimes burning their face severely (he had pieces of paper soaked in lighter fluid which he quick lit with a cigarette lighter hidden in his trunks). He didn’t speak on camera, apart from incomprehensible mutterings. At the start of his career his wife Joyce played the part of his valet Princess Saleema who would burn incense in the ring. He had three different managers during his career to cut promos on his behalf. His first manager was Abdullah Farouk but when Farouk managed full-time in the WWF, Eddy Creatchman became his manager. When Creatchman was unable to work with him later in his career, Sheik had Supermouth Dave Drason.
World Wide Wrestling Federation (1965-1969, 1972)
In 1965 the Sheik made his return for the World Wide Wrestling Federation. On September 25, 1967, he had a 20-minute draw with Édouard Carpentier.
In 1968, he was brought into the WWWF for title matches with then-champion Bruno Sammartino. They met three times in Madison Square Garden—Sheik won the first via count out on October 28, he was disqualified in the second November 18, and he lost to Bruno in a Texas Death Match via submission when Bruno grabbed a foreign object (pen) and hammered Sheik’s arm to a bloody pulp on December 9. Sammartino and Sheik also had a series of matches in Boston in January and February 1969, including one sell out the day after a crippling snow storm, and public transportation not yet restored. They fought in three steel cage matches one in Philadelphia and two in Boston.
On November 18, 1972 he lost to WWWF Champion Pedro Morales by count out at Boston Garden.
Theodore Marvin DiBiase Sr. (born January 18, 1954) is an American retired professional wrestler, manager, ordained minister and color commentator. He is signed with WWE working in their Legends program. DiBiase achieved championship success in a number of wrestling promotions, holding thirty titles during his professional wrestling career. He is best recalled by mainstream audiences for his time in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where he wrestled as “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. He has been named as one of the best technical wrestlers, and greatest villains, in pro wrestling history.
Among other accolades in the WWF/E, DiBiase was the first WWF North American Heavyweight Champion, a three-time WWF Tag Team Champion (with Irwin R. Schyster), a one-time WWE 24/7 Champion, and winner of the 1988 King of the Ring tournament. He held the WWF World Heavyweight Championship once, although recognition of this reign was withdrawn by the company. DiBiase also awarded himself the Million Dollar Championship, which was held by various associated wrestlers. He appeared in the main event of multiple WWF cards, including WrestleMania IV and the first-ever SummerSlam in 1988. DiBiase is a member of several professional wrestling halls of fame: he was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame upon its inception in 1996, and headlined the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
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