There really can be no denying the toughness of professional wrestlers. Just going through their normal routine of being punched, kicked and slammed can take its toll on the human body. This doesn’t include the chair shots, diving off ladders or the wicked injuries that come from the dangerous work environment. We’ve seen this toughness exemplified with Mankind continuing the match after being thrown off and through the Hell in a Cell, or with Triple H continuing a match after he tore is left quad completely off the bone. Professional wrestlers are some of the toughest men and women in all of sports. However, it is clear that some wrestlers are tougher than others.
The look plays a major factor in the marketability of a professional wrestler. If a wrestler doesn't look like they can legitimately win in a fight, then no fan will take that wrestler seriously. Even worse, would be to put the championship belt on a wrestler that doesn’t look credible. WWE and WCW, for better or worse, have always placed “The Look” high on the list of things that make or break a professional wrestler. They focus a lot of effort into making the audience think their guy is legitimately tough, either through promos or storylines. So, the question is, how tough are these superstars in real life? In this article we will take a look at 15 former WCW star and reveal to you 8 that were legitimately tough, and 7 that were only tough on screen.
15 Real Life: Tank Abbott
Before mixed martial arts really took off in popularity, Tank Abbott was largely considered an icon of the sport. With ten wins in his MMA career, Tank Abbott was brought to WCW as someone who could legitimately defeat anyone with one punch, which would become his finisher. Abbott was brought in to give Goldberg even more credibility, as if he needed it, but the feud would never materialize. Instead, Goldberg would defeat Abbott on a throwaway Nitro.
Tank Abbott probably could have legitimately knocked out or choked out anyone on the WCW roster, excluding Meng of course. As a result, Vince Russo's idea of having Abbott as the WCW World Champion at least had some merit. However, fans and WCW officials were having none of it thankfully, and Tank was released shortly after losing to Goldberg.
14 On-Screen: Hulk Hogan
With all the hype and championships Hulk Hogan has received, you'd think he'd be one of the toughest wrestlers of all time. He "hulked up," bodyslammed Andre The Giant and won just about every championship there is to win in professional wrestling, after all. While no one can dispute his strength, Hogan's toughness leaves a lot to be desired.
Hogan may arguably be the most popular wrestler ever, but he was also a notorious prima donna.
The Undertaker gently chokeslamming Hogan to the mat at Hogan's request, backing down from every real-life confrontation, namely from Macho Man and Harley Race, and using his creative control to avoid other wrestlers he didn't want to work with are just some examples of The Immortal One's "resiliency." Even worse is Hogan's affection for dealing legal threats instead of confronting issues man to man. Whatcha gonna do? Apparently, sue for defamation.
13 Real Life: Meng
If the question is, "Who would win in a fight Meng or..." just stop right there. The answer is always Meng. In fact, if Meng isn't the answer to almost any question, then it's best left unasked. When it comes to real life brawls, Meng was afraid of no one, and only Hulk Hogan, who was the only human Meng remotely respected, could talk him out of killing whomever he wanted.
The stories of Meng's fights are legendary.
Meng would occasionally bite off a nose, or gauge out the occasional eye out of fellow wrestlers or drunk fans that dared to mess with him. Not even the police were safe, as he laughed and broke their cuffs, while they pepper sprayed him. Meng has the endorsement of Steve Austin and Goldberg as the toughest wrestler in the business ever, with Austin challenging anyone to dispute it.
12 On-Screen: Hugh Morrus
Bill DeMott was known as Hugh Morrus in WCW and was involved in some brutal matches during his WCW career. DeMott went to WWE to wrestle for a short time but was better known for his work on Tough Enough and as a trainer in WWE’s developmental department. Being better known as a trainer isn’t a compliment, even more so because DeMott would resign after allegations of misconduct.
Despite being portrayed as the hard-nosed, hard-hitting coach of Tough Enough or the strict, no nonsense trainer of WWE’s developmental system, Bill DeMott was anything but. DeMott is accused of some disturbing allegations involving his trainees. One trainee was MVP, and he was having none of DeMott's badmouthing and insults. DeMott tried to pull his normal antics and pushed MVP too far. MVP said in front of DeMott that if he ever talked to him like that he’d beat DeMott down. Clearly, as this was no laughing matter, DeMott never said another bad word to MVP again.
11 Real Life: Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page was the epitome of cool back in WCW. As the “King of Bada Bing,” DDP had his slick anti-hero gimmick down to a T with his character mannerisms, storylines and feuds. Page was put through violent matches, was one of the first to turn down the New World Order and had awesome wars with Randy Savage. However, unlike some so-called tough guys in the business, Page really was down to earth, but also absolutely fearless.
Page may have been the People’s Champion on screen, but had the respect of the boys backstage as well.
When DDP confronted Scott Steiner after Steiner called his real life wife, Kimberly, some choice words, the fight was on. Page punched Steiner in the face backstage, and the brawl took the entire WCW locker room to keep Steiner from killing DDP. Diamond Dallas Page may have died had the locker room not been there to break up the fight. Still, punching Steiner still took some major guts, with Kevin Nash saying Page reached demigod status for standing up to Steiner.
10 On-Screen: Ed Leslie
If you look up 'phoney tough guys' in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Ed Leslie, who was known as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in WWE and The Disciple/The Booty Man in WCW. Beefcake used his friendship with Hulk Hogan to ride his coattails to top positions with both companies. While he always tried to make himself out to be tough, no one was buying it.
Rumor has it that Beefcake bragged about how many wrestlers in WWE and WCW only had a job because of relatives in the business, but that he was a big enough star not to need anyone. This was, of course, met with great laughter. Again the "big star" showed just how powerful he was when he complained to management that Meng slapped him too hard in a match. When Meng found out Beefcake tattled on him, Meng choked him with one hand. Luckily, Hogan was there to convince Meng not to kill him. However, Beefcake's toughness took yet another hit to say the least.
9 Real Life: Rick Rude
Despite being the “ravishing,” flamboyant, womanizing heel, Rick Rude had a reputation of being legitimately tough. In addition to professional wrestling, Rude was also an arm wrestling competitor, with his uncanny strength taking him to sixth place in the arm wrestling world championship. His arm wrestling background gave Rude a brutally strong grip, but no one dared to complain about it. Rude’s raw strength was so noteworthy that allegedly Hulk Hogan refused to work with him, which is classic Hogan.
Because of Rick Rude’s notoriety, Macho Man Randy Savage often times brought him along to bars for protection knowing no one would mess with him with Rude watching his back.
In addition to Rude being a bodyguard against drunk fans and other wrestlers in both WWE and WCW, Rude wasn’t afraid to throw down with his fellow colleagues. Allegedly, Rude confronted The Ultimate Warrior about working too stiff during one of their matches, but Warrior blew him, off thinking he could do whatever he wanted. He was wrong, and Rick Rude knocked Warrior down with one punch.
8 On-Screen: Goldberg
Goldberg may have been “Da Man” in WCW but that doesn’t mean he was feared behind the scenes. Goldberg was billed as this unstoppable monster that could destroy anyone, but the real Goldberg wasn’t the same guy on screen. While it’s true Goldberg played football and was incredibly intense, many wrestlers have said Goldberg was actually a completely nice guy backstage. However, he still managed to rub Chris Jericho the wrong way.
Back in WCW, Chris Jericho wanted to work a program with Goldberg which led to Jericho’s hilarious mocking of Goldberg’s entrance. According to Jericho, Goldberg didn’t think much of him and didn’t want to work with him. Well, Jericho never forgot this, and when Goldberg came to WWE an altercation between the two occurred, with Jericho actually taking down the much larger Goldberg before being separated.
7 Real Life: Chris Jericho
Y2J may often portray himself as a cowardly heel, but Chris Jericho certainly is anything but cowardly in real life. As stated before, Goldberg made the List of Jericho many years ago, though they have patched things up recently. However, the Ayatollah of Rock N Rolla’s real life brawl with Goldberg wasn’t the only time he went after someone that was bigger than him.
During a match that had nothing to do with Chris Jericho, Brock Lesnar elbowed Randy Orton to make him bleed the hard way. Though it was scripted for Lesnar to do that, Lesnar hit Orton too hard and legitimately knocked Orton out. Jericho, who was watching backstage, confronted Lesnar, thinking Lesnar was working too stiff. The two got nose to nose and started yelling at each other. Though the scuffle got diffused quickly before Lesnar could murder Jericho, it goes to show that Y2J won’t back down from anyone.
6 On-Screen: Sid Vicious
With a name like Sid Vicious, or Sycho Sid in WWE, you would think he’d be one tough S.O.B. He had the look, the height and the mental instability that made you think he could destroy anyone with his bare hands. The fact is Sid wasn’t exactly the ruler of the world he made himself out to be.
Sid was involved in some real life altercations with his fellow wrestlers, but despite his size and intimidating demeanor, he always needed an equalizer in his confrontations.
In one instance, Sid made fun of Brian Pillman over his size, Pillman didn’t take too kindly to it and got into Sid’s face. Sid would back down but pulled out a squeegee, of all the things, as a weapon. Pillman didn’t back down, but Sid did once again making him look extremely foolish. Then, a few years later, there was the scissors incident involving Arn Anderson, where Sid needed a chair leg and scissors to beat up Arn Anderson. The attack almost killed The Enforcer after losing a pint and a half of blood from Sid’s stabs. Sid a psycho? Definitely. But tough, I think not.
5 Real Life: Scott Steiner
A man who’s dangerous, mentally unstable, and has a blatant disregard for law and order. That pretty much sums up Scott Steiner. He has called out legends and superstars alike, ripping them to shreds in his promos, but no one dared question Big Poppa Pump. Whether Steiner is inside the ring, backstage in the locker room, or even running against the law, it's hard to tell if Steiner is just tough, crazy or both.
Steiner's run-ins with the law includes bumping a Department of Transportation employee with his truck twice, leaving many to question his mental stability. What makes him even more dangerous, beside his blatant disregard for the law and others, is that he is actually a tremendous real life wrestler. Steiner was an NCAA Division I All American, so if Steiner’s fearless demeanor and tremendous power wasn’t enough, he can tie just about anyone into knots as well. Holler if ya hear me when I say Steiner is one tough and legitimately scary freak.
4 On-Screen: Vader
Big Van Vader worked in WCW and WWE and is considered one of the best big men in the business’s history. Despite being a huge human and a former professional football player, Vader’s backstage demeanor wasn’t exactly as threatening as his character.
By many accounts, Vader was a big teddy bear and treated everyone respectfully even while putting up with a younger and belligerent Shawn Michaels.
Supposedly, Shawn Michaels didn’t want to drop his title to Vader and berated him in front of the WWE locker room. HBK accused Vader of hitting him too hard, missing spots and tried to get him fired. With Shawn Michaels constantly running him down, Vader legitimately cried backstage and would eventually see his main event push disappear. The sad thing is he could've easily killed Shawn Michaels. Certainly, crying was not the right response. Life wasn’t much better in WCW either, after an argument with a one armed Paul Orndorff. Mr. Wonderful destroyed Vader in a backstage fight, hurting Vader's rep even further.
3 Real Life: Perry Saturn
A former Army ranger, and put into some brutal matches in WCW, Perry Saturn is as tough as they come. Despite wearing a dress and falling in love with a mop, there are plenty of examples of Saturn’s legit toughness in the ring and extending beyond.
Saturn was involved in an incident with jobber Mike Bell when Bell botched a spot during their match. The botch caused Saturn to attack Bell for real in the ring. The attack almost killed or seriously injured Bell when Saturn worked stiff and threw him out of the ring, causing him to land on his head. WWE punished Saturn by giving him the Moppy gimmick.
Outside of the ring, Saturn was just as tough, when he saved a woman being sexually assaulted by two men. Saturn fought the men off but would be shot once in the shoulder and again in the back of the neck. Anyone that can take on two bad guys, two bullets and survive the ordeal is tough in my book.
2 On-Screen: Syxx
Sean "X-Pac" Waltman played the cool D-Generation X lieutenant of Triple H in WWE. Before that, the Kliq member was the cowardly and whiney little troll for his buddies in the nWo, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Syxx, as he was known in WCW, loved to run his mouth and would even shoot hard during his promos on legends, namely Ric Flair. On screen, X-Pac wasn’t afraid to talk smack and raise hell as long as his buddies were there, and in real life this was no different.
X-Pac sure did act tough on screen and being a member of the Kliq made him feel pretty cocky and invincible.
The fact is, without the Kliq, X-Pac probably would not have acted as tough on screen or behind the scenes as he did, but he knew he had protection.
He recently stated that he had no desire to fight anyone in real life and that he was afraid sometimes he took his promos too far. X-Pac feared guys like Roddy Piper or Ric Flair would want to fight him in real life after his promos. It's safe to say that his words don't exactly portray the characteristics of a tough outlaw.
1 Steven Regal (Tough)
If you haven’t noticed the trend, the heels that were some of the biggest cowards on screen were actually some of the toughest guys in the business. William Regal (aka Steven Regal in WCW), who literally kissed Vince McMahon’s posterior, is actually one of the tougher wrestlers in real life and one of the most respected among his peers.
Regal started wrestling in Blackpool, England at the age of 15, wrestling for the circus where patrons would challenge Regal to a legit wrestling match. Regal would shoot wrestle audience members and defend his prize money. Needless to say, if Regal could hold his own at 15, the man’s man, adult Steven/William Regal has to be legitimately even tougher. His peers have since backed the notion that Regal has always been one of the toughest men in the business.