Think of professional wrestling and you think of larger-than-life characters – personality-wise and literally large – performing mind-boggling athletic feats in the ring. It’s the sheer size of some of these guys that attracts viewers. Who wouldn’t want to see a 7-foot 347 pound giant fight a 7-foot 450 pound monster? It’s these fights that capture the audience's imagination, these mass monsters who are the most intimidating in the sport – true heavyweights that rely on their size and strength to get their business in the ring sorted. But neglect to take the small guys seriously at your peril.
The smallest guys in wrestling – generally cruiserweights or light heavyweights – may initially look out of place in the ring and seem as if they don’t belong, especially when pitted against a heavyweight – although these fights are unfair anyway and are thankfully taking place far less frequently. The smaller the wrestler, the less he’ll be able to use brute strength and the more he’ll have to rely on his tactical skills and athletic capabilities – making these small men intimidating in their own right. Check out this list and recollect as you think back to some of wrestling’s most intimidating small men.
Tajiri was sometimes used in comedic roles, but when he had to, he could be a very serious individual and his work in the ring did the talking for him. The Japanese Bussaw, unlike many of WWE's previous Japanese signings, had a lot of success in the WWE, winning multiple titles in his four-plus year tenure. Once ECW folded, Tajiri was brought into the WWE, originally playing William Regal's assistant.
Tajiri had an entertaining style in the ring, but his work also looked vicious, with moves such as the Bussaw Kick, the Tarantula, the handspring back elbow and of course, the green mist. Tajiri only stood at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but you could bet that nobody in the audience felt Tajiri wasn't a match for larger guys. His quick pace and tactical approach in the ring made up for what he lacked in size.
15 Mr. Fuji & Professor Tanaka
Forget about the cheesy Mr. Fuji you saw accompanying Yokozuna to the ring in his robe. The Mr. Fuji of the early days of the WWE was a vicious heel and teamed with his intimidating partner, Professor Tanaka, who packed a lot of size on his 5-foot-11 frame. Fuji himself was 5-foot-10 but was also billed as 270 pounds. His weight may have been exaggerated a little, but Fuji sure wasn't scrawny.
Fuji was known as "The Devious One" for his dirty tactics in the ring, while Tanaka was the powerhouse of the team. Fuji's tactics would include throwing salt in his opponents' eyes for the victory, as we saw him do when he was a manager later on in his career. The team would eventually win their first tag team championship by defeating Sonny King and Chief Jay Strongbow. Rest assured, nobody ever underestimated this duo.
14 Rey Mysterio
Possibly the most famous "small man" in WWE, Rey Mysterio was certainly the fans' favorite. Standing in at 5'6, Mysterio’s accomplishments in the sport show that size is no barrier to greatness. With nearly three decades in the ring, Mysterio has won everything from the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship to the Triple Crown Championship, but it’s his work in WWE that made Mysterio – meaning "king mystery" in Spanish – gain mass appeal. Mysterio brought something different to the company, something that couldn’t be taught in wrestling school, something that hadn’t really been seen before. His unique athletic capabilities and crazy levels of flexibility helped kick-start something of a cruiserweight revolution at the time in the 1990s.
That famous high flying style resulted in Mysterio becoming three-time world champion. In all, he won 21 titles between WWE and WCW, and became known as something of a giant killer along the way, no easy feat for a wrestler who’s one of the smallest in the business. "Intimidating" may be too big a word to describe someone like Mysterio, which is why he's only at 13, but one thing's for sure; he made his presence known.
13 Billy Kidman
Pretty boy Billy Kidman was only 5’10”, but was nevertheless a man that was feared in the ring. Being under 6-foot-tall and weighing in at bellow 200 pounds doesn’t make it easy when embarking on a professional wrestling career. But Kidman didn’t let this hold him back. He started out as a jobber with no gimmick, then he portrayed a heroin addict, but Kidman wasn’t content to sail through his career playing these pitiful characters, and rightly so. He soon made a name for himself as being one of the most innovative professionals around, and his finishing moves certainly got the crowd going and meant that he was never out of a fight, regardless of who he was facing. His Shooting Star Press was a sight to behold and as he developed a more brutal in-ring style. No one could hold him back on his way to becoming a seven-time Cruiserweight Champion, a three-time tag team champion and a one-time Cruiserweight Tag Team Champion.
12 Gregory Helms
The 5’10 Gregory/Shane "Hurricane" Helms has always been an exciting wrestler to watch. Helms knew he didn’t have any great attributes, but he persevered, stuck to his dreams and worked hard to turn himself into one of the greats. His energy, enthusiasm and in-ring persona has made Helms into a fan favorite and has meant that his storylines are super fun to watch. Helms is perhaps most well-known for his part in the Invasion storyline as a member of The Alliance but he has also made many other (what would otherwise seem as run-of-the-mill and dull) matches come alive.
Among his most noteworthy accomplishments are his three-time Cruiserweight Championship titles, a Hardcore Championship in both WCW and WWE, a European Championship and a two-time World Tag Team Championship title. But forget all that. Want to know if The Hurricane really is intimidating? Think back to his min-feud with The Rock – yes, The Rock, the one and only Dwayne Johnson – in 2003, where the Hurricane pinned The Rock. As the Hurricane, Helms wasn't intimidating, but he could turn it up when he lost the superhero act.
11 Perry Saturn
When looking at a close up picture of Perry Saturn, you wouldn't notice that he's only 5-foot-10. Saturn is a solid individual though and he had a lot of muscle packed on his small frame. Saturn was one half of a tag team, The Eliminators, who were brought in to ECW and once Heyman got a look at the compactly built Saturn, he decided against the group jobbing to the Steiner Brothers. After suffering an injury in 1997, Saturn quickly caught on with WCW, who were impressed by the toughness he had shown in ECW.
Saturn eventually went to the WWE with the rest of his friends in Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Saturn's time in WWE was derailed after he potatoed jobber Mike Bell in the ring, leading to his infamous "Moppy" gimmick. It's a shame because Saturn had the believable tough guy look. He proved to be tough in real life too, as he took multiple bullets to his back when stopping a group of men from assaulting a woman.
10 Chavo Guerrero
Chavo spent over a decade with WWE, a spell that saw many highs and many lows. He’s from the wrestling fraternity – a member of the Guerrero wrestling family. Along with his uncle Eddie and under the watchful eye of his father, Chavo Guerrero Sr., the junior Chavo dominated the cruiserweight division during his tenure with WWE. At 5'9", Chavo used his athleticism rather than brute strength, and used it well. He was the owner of some iconic moves – the frog splash was a sight to behold, as was the vertical suplex – that made him one of the most iconic Mexican wrestlers in history. As a single's wrestler, he is a one-time world champion, a six-time WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Champion and he became the Lucha Underground Gift of the Gods Champion in his first reign with the El Rey network's television series – not bad for a small guy.
Peter Senerchia, better known by the ring name Tazz, resembled something of a mini Big Show. He was small at 5'9, in comparison to his bigger lookalike, but he was heavy and packed a punch with 248 pounds behind him. His initial spell in the ring wasn’t anything to rave about. But when Tazz was contacted by WWE, his career really took off. Tazz debuted in 2000 at the Royal Rumble event and certainly made a big impact. He defeated the previously undefeated Kurt Angle in front of Madison Square Garden’s crowd – no small feat considering Kurt Angle had an air of invincibility about him and was considered untouchable. But it was his domination in ECW where he really made a name for himself. He was a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, a two-time World Television Champion, a three-time World Tag Team Champion, two-time FTW Heavyweight Champion and an ECW Triple Crown Champion – not a bad career for one of the small guys.
8 Owen Hart
The 5’10 Hart was certainly talented. He had many accomplishments during his time with WWE, including four tag team gold championships. He was also two-time Intercontinental Champion, a former European Champion, and was the 1994 King of the Ring, carrying on the Hart wrestling family tradition. If his family’s legacy in wrestling hadn’t already made him seem intimidating, his feats in the ring certainly did. He had a solid career that spanned over a decade and is regarded by his peers as being one of the greatest professional wrestlers to have stepped foot in the ring. Hart headlined a number of prime-time events, but his most notable fight was definitely against his older brother, Bret Hart – a good sibling rivalry story always captures the audience’s imagination.
This match was brutal in terms of the story line and the actual in-ring action, and was given a five-star rating by a number of pundits and wrestling aficionados.
7 Spike Dudley
If you’re a wrestling fan, it’s hard not to reminisce and think back to some of Spike Dudley’s performances. With periods fighting with Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Dudley was a much-loved figure. Dudley burst onto the scene in 1996 and became embroiled in a story line which led to him being called the little "runt" of his family – not one of the most flattering nicknames, but he soon shed this in-ring persona and grew into a well-respected character. He became known as a giant killer, someone that didn’t take any nonsense, and his feuds with his two older brothers, Ray and D-Von, will definitely live long in the memory.
The 5'7 Dudley certainly wasn’t the biggest dude, but won a Cruiserweight Championship, a Tag Team Championship with Tazz, a European Championship and eight Hardcore Championship titles. He proved himself an excellent fighter and certainly one that exuded confidence and had an intimidating persona.
6 Daniel Bryan
Look at Daniel Bryan and the first thought that comes to mind is warrior – a Scottish warrior with his large scraggly beard and long flowing locks. Daniel was born in Aberdeen -- in Washington, not Scotland -- but even so, he resembles something of a bloodthirsty warrior, a character out of medieval Scotland. Bryan had the menacing looks, but did he have the skills to back up his fierce presence? You bet. Bryan was an all-around intimidating guy. Just look at some of his most notable accomplishments. He’s won the WWE Heavyweight Championship multiple times – yes he still made the grade as a heavyweight at 5’10 and 210 pounds. He’s been Intercontinental Champion, one-time United States Champion, a Triple Crown champion, Grand Slam champion – the list is endless. You don’t boast a résumé like this without having something about you. He’s a little fella, but as tough a wrestler as they come.
5 Eddie Guerrero
The 5’8 Eddie Guerrero left the wrestling world shocked and in tears when he passed away in 2005. But I’m sure as all wrestling fans would agree, it’s best to look back at the moments that made him great, made him such a force with which to be reckoned. After starting out as a jobber, Eddie, a member of the Guerrero wrestling family, went on to fight in several major professional wrestling promotions around the globe, picking up titles for fun in the process. He won 23 titles during the course of his career and was certainly a fan favorite. Eddie was a great fighter, technically skilled and gifted, but he was also a hard man and wasn’t afraid to exert his dominance over others – through his words and in-ring actions. No one can forget that famous catchphrase, "I Lie! I Cheat! I Steal! But at least I'm honest about it!" It's his all-round antics that have made him one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and an inductee into the WWE, AAA, Wrestling Observer Newsletter and Hardcore halls of fame – deservedly so.
4 Dean Malenko
The now retired Malenko was technically gifted and can certainly be remembered as being one of the greats. He dominated the cruiserweight divisions – occasionally branching out as a Light Heavyweight – of various wrestling promotions, and won a stack load of titles in the process. The so-called "Iceman" was cold and calculating in the ring, driven to succeed and reach the top, and this drive and determination definitely contributed to Malenko becoming one of the most intimidating figures in the sport. Malenko won the Light Heavyweight Championship twice in WWE, four Cruiserweight Championships in WCW, and the United States and tag team championships in WCW. He won a total of 11 titles in the three major wrestling promotional companies at the time. At the peak of his powers, numerous pundits rated Malenko as being the best wrestler to have ever stepped foot in the ring, and the people who mattered agreed, inducting the 5'10" Malenko into the Hardcore Hall of Fame in 2015.
3 Chris Benoit
Obviously we are only including Chris Benoit on this list to talk about the performer we knew before the 2007 tragedy occurred.
During his career, Benoit stood at 5-foot-11 and was billed at 220 pounds, a very average size for a wrestler. That didn't mean any fan once thought they could take Benoit in a wrestling match. Benoit was believable in beating much larger men due to his sculpted physique and the ruthless aggression he displayed in the ring, or as fans also knew him, the one with "toothless aggression". Benoit would win just about every championship there was to win and his career was culminated with a World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania XX.
Benoit was one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time and he was tough as nails. Even standing at over 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, one could still be intimidated if they had to wrestle Benoit.
1 Dynamite Kid
Dynamite Kid certainly blew up the stage with his in-ring performances. He influenced much of the wrestling in the 1980s and '90s, during which he competed in WWF, Stampede Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. His wrestling prowess took him all over the wold, and it was his athleticism that really revolutionized the sport, paving the way for the more athletic, flexible athletes today. Dynamite Kid had several altercations with his fellow competitors during his career that gained him a bit of a reputation as a man not to be overlooked. Being 5’8, height and weight weren’t attributes he could count on, but his intimidating presence stemmed from his in-ring persona and fights with Bruce Hart – one of which Hart’s jaw was broken – and Jacques Rougeau Jr.
Dynamite Kid left his own legacy in the sport and has gained many followers due to his unique style. Chris Benoit is said to have idolized him, and it's not hard to see the resemblances in their two styles.
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