Anyone who grew up in the 1980s remembers watching WWF on Saturday mornings, and begging their parents to buy the occasional pay-per-view event. Though Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling was around, it was a mere pretender to Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (later renamed World Wrestling Entertainment). Here are the most popular wrestlers in the 80s:
Hulk Hogan. His name is synonymous with wrestling, and there’s a possibility WWF wouldn’t have been as popular if it weren’t for his high-energy theatrics. Hogan is Heavyweight Champion for life. By escaping the Iron Sheik’s camel clutch and pinning him to win the title in 1984, Hogan kick-started the Golden Age of wrestling. Anyone remember the words to the Hulk Hogan theme song? Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Real name: Terry Bollea
Signature move: Atomic leg drop
From: Tampa, Florida
Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan pins Sheik
Andre the Giant. Weighing between 460 and 540 pounds throughout his career, and standing 7′4 tall, Andre was known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” More than any other character, he was the main attraction in this theater of freakishly big, strong and athletic people. First wrestler in the Hall of Fame.
Real name: André René Roussimoff
Signature move: Piledriver
From: Grenoble, France
Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan slams Andre
“Macho Man” Randy Savage. His distinctive husky voice was even more fun to mock than Hogan’s, and he always wore a bandanna and sunglasses. He was managed by his real life wife, Miss Elizabeth (who, after the marriage ended, was found dead of a drug overdose in the home of pro wrestler Lex Luger). Savage is the Mario Lemieux to Hogan’s Wayne Gretzky.
Real name: Randall Poffo
Signature move: Diving elbow drop
From: Columbus, Ohio
Memorable moment in WWF history: Savage marries Elizabeth
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Note: Roddy Piper was a Canadian, not a Scot! Known for his signature kilt and bagpipe entrance, Piper was one of the most hated wrestlers, but also BY FAR the funniest. His quick wit and unpredictability made him my favorite. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Real name: Roderick George Toombs
Signature move: Sleeper hold
From: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Memorable moment in WWF history: Snuka on Piper’s Pit
George “The Animal” Steele. This guy used to eat the turnbuckle during his match. Do you believe he was once a teacher? Also acted alongside Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
Real name: William James Myers
Signature move: Full nelson
From: Detroit, Michigan
Memorable moment in WWF history: Steele vs. Savage
The Ultimate Warrior. The complete package for a wrestler. He pinned Hulk Hogan in WrestleMania VI.
Real name: James Brian Hellwig
Signature move: Gorilla press drop
Memorable moment in WWF history: Warrior vs. Honkey Tonk Man
The Iron Sheik. With the Iranian hostage crisis still fresh on everyone’s minds in the mid 80s, the Iron Sheik, who was actually from Iran, was perhaps the most hated wrestler ever, alongside tag team partner Nikolai Volkoff. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Khosrow Ali Vaziri
Signature move: Camel clutch
From: Tehran, Iran
Nikolai Volkoff. The big Ruskie used to sing the Soviet national anthem before matches to a chorus of boos. Note: He wasn’t even from the Soviet Union, but still very much hated during Reagan’s Cold War era. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Josip Nikolai Peruzović
Signature move: Bear hug
Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan vs. Volkoff
Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Often a bad guy, at least once a good guy, this one-time crack addict was interesting because of the python named Damien that he carried around.
Real name: Aurelian Smith, Jr.
Signature move: DDT
From: Stone Mountain, Georgia
Memorable moment in WWF history: Jake Roberts vs. Andre, John Studd refs
Junkyard Dog. A fan favorite with a chain around his neck who entered the ring to the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Sylvester Ritter
Signature move: Powerslam
From: Wadesboro, North Carolina
Hillbilly Jim. This redneck, complete with a straw hat and overalls, was most fun when he wrestled alongside Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior.
Real name: Jim Morris
Signature move: Bearhug
From: Mud Lick, Kentucky
King Kong Bundy. A classic bad guy, Bundy was fun to watch when he wrestled the big names, like Hogan and Andre the Giant.
Real name: Christopher Pallies
Signature move: Atlantic City Avalanche
From:Atlantic City, New Jersey
Memorable moment in WWF history: Hogan vs. Bundy in cage
Big John Studd. If you’re from Maryland or Virginia, you’ll remember Big John Stud for his Wild World commercials. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: John William Minton
Signature move: Backbreaker
From: Butler, Pennsylvania
Memorable moment for Marylanders:
Tito Santana. Another good guy, appeared in the first nine WrestleManias, but only had a 2-7 record. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: Merced Solis
Signature move: Flying forearm
From: Tocula, Mexico
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Loved jumping off that turnbuckle. In the Hall of Fame.
Real name: James Reiher
Signature move: The Superfly Splash
Memorable moment in WWF history: Muraco vs Snuka, cage match
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Beat Macho Man in WrestleMania III in one of the greatest matches ever.
Real name: Richard Henry Blood
Signature move: Diving crossbody
From: West Point, New York
Memorable moment in WWF history: Steamboat vs. Savage