Evidently the most relentless and violent form of wrestling, hardcore wrestling is where you can see almost anything happen. With wrestlers being given the permission to use countless weapons in their matches, this extreme form of wrestling basically has no rules, and it's where you might turn to if you're looking for the most entertaining wrestling - depending on your tastes.
The hardcore wrestling style first became acknowledged in Japan approximately 30 years ago with promotions such as Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and W*ING. It eventually came and grew in the U.S. with the introduction of Extreme Championship Wrestling in the early 1990s. The most intriguing thing about these wrestlers is that the majority stayed true to their style and didn't change to be apart of a larger promotion. This truly shows how tough these competitors are and how much they are willing to put their bodies on the line for the purpose of entertaining their fans.
Here you will read about 15 of the most hardcore/extreme wrestlers that ever lived. You may or may not be shocked at the stunts that these guys pull off. The thick skin and dedication of these wrestlers is what has been able to keep this style of wrestling still going today.
It's now time to find out where these hardcore legends are today. The majority of them are semi-retired, fully retired or still going. A few of them have even pursued other career paths. Find out where the 15 most extreme wrestlers are today, below.
15 New Jack
New Jack was known as a dangerous and hardcore wrestler during his days in ECW. He is recognizable for having his theme song as Dr. Dre's "Natural Born Killaz." New Jack used to come to his wrestling matches prepared with multiple weapons, which he'd bring in a shopping cart or trash can.
New Jack would attack his opponents ruthlessly with objects like street signs, video game consoles, pizza cutters, and many others. His physicality dates back to his days as a bounty hunter, where he would chase down fugitives. New Jack would also dive off of balconies, putting his own body on the line, to finish off his helpless opponents.
Shortly after announcing an official retirement in 2013, the 54-year-old returned to professional wrestling in 2016, where he signed with Money Mark Productions.
14 Abdullah The Butcher
Abdullah The Butcher first showed everyone how vicious of a wrestler he was when he broke a chair over Brito's head, then beat him up with its leg. Abdullah would strike his foes repeatedly with hard blows and gruesome stabs with any sharp object he could find. He often hid a fork in his baggy pants and would take it out to dig into his opponent's skull.
There's no doubt that just by his looks that Abdullah The Butcher was one of the most violent wrestlers of all-time. His deep scars on the top of his head are rather frightening to look at, and are apparently so deep in his skull that he can stick quarters in them. Currently, The Butcher, known as Lawrence Shreve, is enjoying retirement as a 76-year-old.
In 2014, Shreve was accused of giving wrestler Devon Nicholson, a.k.a, Hannibal, Hepatitis C during their match in 2007. Nicholson contracted the disease after Shreve had taped a small razor blade to his finger and cut himself. Nicholson eventually won the case with a $2.3 million reward.
13 Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer is another guy known for his extreme wrestling style and appeared in various wrestling promotions during his career. Dreamer gained his respect from the ECW nation, shocking everyone after willingly taking ten shots from The Sandman's Singapore Cane, which he kept on shouting "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" after each swing.
This was just the beginning of Dreamer and his countless violent feuds with wrestlers such as Raven, The Dudleys, and many more. Along with other weapons, he often used the Singapore Cane in his brutal brawls against his opponents. Dreamer currently spends his time wrestling on his own wrestling promotion called House of Hardcore, which he started in 2012. The promotion currently tours the U.S. and Australia shortly.
12 Terry Funk
Terry Funk's wrestling career was legendary. He's notably known for his extensive career which lasted 50 years and included multiple short retirements. Funk wrestled for many promotions, some of them in Japan and various others in the U.S. including the ECW, WWF, NWA and USWA - each of which he's held championships in.
Funk was born into a wrestling family, where he learned his skills from his father Dory Sr., and older brother Dory Jr. While he was always known for his rough brawls, Terry Funk took his hardcore style to a new level starting in the 1980s when he reintroduced himself to the WCW and drove Ric Flair through a table. In the 1990s, Funk completely turned over to hardcore wrestling and took on Mick Foley in the hardcore massacre in Japan fearlessly. From then on, Funk was known as one of the most extreme competitors in wrestling.
In September of 2016, the 72-year-old Funk retired from Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore. He also underwent inguinal hernia surgery during that time and many were concerned for his health. However, as it stands right now, Funk is doing just fine.
Sabu is notably known for taking extreme wrestling to a whole new level. Fearing the lives of fans, other wrestlers, and Sabu himself, officials would force Sabu into a straitjacket and restraints before and after his matches. Once he would get out of there, he would cause havoc.
Sabu showed that he could not be stopped, even putting his own body on the line as long as it meant inflicting damage on his opponents. He is mostly known for competing in the ECW, where fans would flinch whenever the barbed-wire would tear through his biceps. He additionally shocked WCW fans when he would go through any object just to inflict damage on his foes. Constantly, Sabu would recklessly crash into his opponents with weapons in his hands.
Currently, the 52-year-old is still competing in matches. He is employed by Juggalo Championship Wrestling and is the X-Law International Champion.
10 Mick Foley
Hardcore wrestling simply cannot be discussed without mentioning Mick Foley's name. For nearly two decades, Mick Foley has been one of the most prominent extreme wrestling competitors. During his infamous Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker in 1998, wrestling fans were introduced to a one of a kind hardcore wrestler in Mick Foley.
Foley dished out punishment in various ways, like most hardcore wrestlers. Ranging from things such as barbed-wire and explosive Japanese hardcore matches to brutal brawls with Vader, Foley certainly showed his extreme style on many occasions. He was eventually crowned the first WWE Hardcore Champion, and from there he earned himself a WWE Championship. Foley capped off his legendary career with a WWE Hall of Fame induction.
He announced his retirement in 2012 and Mick Foley currently works as a writer, colour commentator, and actor signed to the WWE.
9 Nick Gage
Nick Gage was the first-ever CZW World Heavyweight Champion and by 2011 had already wrestled in more CZW matches than anyone. In addition, Gage has also won Tag Team, Iron Man, and Ultraviolent Underground championships during his career. He's one of the names that gave hardcore style wrestling a platform in the United States.
Gage had some stand-out brutal moments during his run for the Iron Man Title against the likes of LOBO, The Wifebeater, Nick Mondo, and Mad Man Pondo. Gage has been involved in other promotions, where he's most recently won the GCW Tournament of Survival 2 against Matt Tremont. To this day, the 36-year-old still competes and is signed to three promotions: Jersey Championship Wrestling, On Point Wrestling, and Combat Zone Wrestling.
8 The Sandman
The Sandman turned into a "Hardcore icon" when his career took place in the ECW. He's held the ECW World Heavyweight Championship for a record five times. The Sandman played a vital role in giving hardcore wrestling a name in the 1990s. He's also competed in the WCW, TNA, and WWE.
The Sandman was one of the most entertaining competitors of his time, starting with his unique ring entrance where he'd wield canes, drink out of beers and smoke cigarettes. He quickly became a fan favourite in the ECW and got many fans to get behind his unique, hard-hitting matches during the '90s.
Today, The Sandman finds himself semi-retired and still competes in matches under different promotions at 53-years-old.
Raven began his career in the WCW in 1992, and has wrestled for promotions such as the WWF/E, ECW and TNA. Raven built his hardcore image starting off as the leader of "The Flock" in WCW. He's also been apart of some of the most memorable battles in ECW history, like his feud with Tommy Dreamer. Raven has been involved in several bloody feuds as well, such as the "Raven's Rules" matches in TNA.
Raven's extreme battles are most impressive because of the amount of championships he's won. He is the most decorated wrestler in WWE history and became the first pro wrestler to hold titles in every major American promotion of the past decade. Although he seems to be less of a physical threat than most of the guys on this list, Raven's ability to win in such extreme matches proves he can withstand those types of opponents. The 52-year-old currently has his own podcast called "The Raven Effect" and has made recent acting appearances in films.
Abyss was discovered and created by Dutch Mantel who booked him for the IWA in 2002. He made his first appearance in IWA at Golpe de Estado in July 2002 in front of 13,000 fans. Abyss had attacked and disabled Shane The Glamour Boy, who was scheduled to fight again later that night against Savio Vega.
Abyss' hardcore style took a shift in 2004 and he became much more extreme starting with a Monster Ball's match against Raven in which he fell on tacks. He's also been involved in feuds with guys like Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, Sabu, and others which all included some type of weapons and blood. The 43-year-old wrestler still competes to this day, as he is signed with Impact Wrestling.
5 Ryuji Ito
Japanese pro wrestler Ryuji Ito is notably known for his Death match style wrestling. He's competed in various Death matches over the course of his career, including winning a Cage match against Kintaro Kanemura. Ito's most famous for his Lightube Lightsaber match, where he defeated Abdullah Kobayashi. This epic battle has since become extremely popular to the majority of hardcore wrestling fans.
Aside from competing in the BJW for close to 20 years, Ito has also seen some time with the IWA East Coast and Chikara in 2008. His gruesome battles have done a fair share to bring an audience to Japanese hardcore wrestling. Ito is still one of the best wrestlers in his niche and to this day, is still competing in the BJW.
4 Necro Butcher
Necro Butcher participated in a fair share of gruesome matches during his wrestling career. Between hardcore matches, Death matches and brawls, Butcher pretty much always found himself in some sort of extreme match against his opponents. He's wrestled for various promotions as well, most notably CZW and IWA Mid-South, however his popularity increased when he was engaging in brawls without the use of weapons like most other extreme wrestlers, during his time with Ring of Honour.
Butcher is easily considered to be one of the most successful hardcore wrestlers of the past two decades. The human body can only take so much pain and Butcher's early retirement proves how incredibly physical and extreme his matches were. He fought his final match in June of 2016.
3 John Zandig
John Zandig is the founder and former owner of the promotion Combat Zone Wrestling. Born in Sewell, New Jersey, Zandig began wrestling in the 1990s and was involved in many ultraviolent matches since the early stages of CZW. He won six Heavyweight Titles under his promotion. His matches involved various sorts of objects, such as thumb tacks, fluorescent lightbulbs, barbed wire and a weed whacker.
Zandig has additionally competed in the BJPW in the early 2000s, as the leader of CZW, where he also won four titles. By creating the CZW, Zandig gave hardcore fans a new place to tune into their favourite style of wrestling after ECW came to an end. This is one of the main reasons why he is such an important figure in hardcore wrestling to this day. Zandig has come out of retirement multiple times now, and is currently wrestling for his promotion.
2 Atsushi Onita
Atsushi Onita is the man who innovated Death match style wrestling and brought it over to Japan. Onita founded one of the first long-lasting hardcore Japanese promotions known as Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling in the 1980s. He has competed in a large number of Death matches for titles against wrestlers from different parts of the world. Onita's efforts to bring hardcore wrestling to his home country and manage to grow it into a popular genre easily has him considered as one of the most influential figures in hardcore Japanese wrestling history.
Onita announced his retirement tour on May of 2017, which will conclude in October of 2017. He was once a politician but was forced to leave politics due to a sex scandal in which he allegedly used government accommodations to host a threesome with a pornographic film actress and a female employee of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
1 Mad Man Pondo
Mad Man Pondo has wrestled for numerous promotions in various parts of the world. Pondo has won five Heavyweight championships and is the owner of IWA East Coast. Most of his success has come in IWA Mid-South, BJPW, and JCW. His numerous titles has made him a very recognizable wrestler today. He wrestled in countless Death matches almost everywhere he went during the 2000s, which eventually made a name for himself in the hardcore scene. Even though Pondo's workload has decreased in recent years, he has still made his mark in the hardcore scene and is deserving of a spot on this list. Currently, the 47-year-old is signed to JCW, a promotion he's wrestled under for nearly 20 years.