What can we say about Pro wrestling in the '70s? The era tends to be overshadowed by the Golden Age of the '80s and the Monday Night Wars of the '90s. We know wrestling gods such as Bruno Sammertino, Andre the Giant, and Superstar Billy Graham graced us, the fans, with their presence. We also know it was when legends like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes exploded onto the scene.
It was a time when territorial organizations were thriving and the industry wasn’t dominated by one organization. White hot stars would move from one organization to the next, putting butts in the seats and making the promoters see dollar signs. Kayfabe, which has long been dead, was a powerful tool used to book the night’s card. Everyone wanted to see the baby face beat up the heel which we all know isn’t the case today.
It might be hard for the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) to understand, but many fans bought into the match, even if the wrestler(s) was terrible beyond belief. This brings me to my list of the 15 worst wrestlers in the '70s. Now we have to put into perspective that wrestling in the '70s would look very dull by today’s standards. A lot of holds, hip tosses, over-hand punches, and body slams made up most of the match.
The qualifications for this list are simple. For one, I only listed wrestlers that I was able to watch for myself. So a jobber like Terry Arcidi is not on the list because I couldn’t find enough footage of him. Secondly, a lot of wrestlers from that era are downright awful and I can’t go through all the no-names that never stuck around. Thirdly, all “freak” wrestlers who aired on television or for a prime event are fair game.
Lastly, this list is about wrestling and not about how entertaining a wrestler was. I understand there’s a psychological aspect to the game but I’m critiquing the technique of the wrestler and their work rate, not their larger than life character.
15 Ox Baker
Billed as a villain, his look was great. From the bald head, to the crazy eyebrows and mustache, Baker could certainly act the part of a heel. He became famous for the Heart Punch but if you look past his gimmick, Ox wasn’t all that special in the ring. He was like other villains, constantly choking his opponent, pushing the baby face to a corner, delivering a headlock followed by a punch, and over hand rights. By today’s standards, Baker’s in-ring ability wouldn’t fly and I don’t think it was a stretch to say that his persona and gimmick kept him relevant for so long.
14 George Gulas
George Gulas got over, more over than he should have, but hey it’s the '70s. You can’t talk about wrestling in the '70s if you don’t mention the name Gulas. George was the son of National Wrestling Alliance Mid America region promoter Nick Gulas. The baby face worked with the biggest names in the business and was pushed like he had his own Gulas-mania going on for him. Many in the business didn’t like the push due to nepotism. Harley Race stated in his book “King of the Ring,” that he had to “carry the bum,” in their bout. Gulas wasn’t athletic, didn’t look like he a good work rate, and threw some weak punches in his matches, making him one of the most boring wrestlers of all-time.
13 Ivan Putski
Before The Ultimate Warrior, you had Ivan Putski. The WWE Hall of Famer could have easily been the strongest man to compete in the ring in the '70s. Transitioning from body building to wrestling, The Polish Hammer quickly rose up the ranks in the WWWF to challenge the likes of Superstar Billy Graham, Stan Hansen, and Bruiser Brody. Like many other bodybuilders that made the leap to professional wrestling, Putski’s in-ring ability was limited—Putski used a bear hug for most of his championship match with Superstar Billy Graham in 1977.
12 Tex McKenzie
One of the tallest Cowboy Gimmicks I’ve ever seen, Tex liked to joke around in the ring. He brought a comedy element to the show and had convincing promos. Yet, his finisher was a running bulldog. For someone who was 6'9", Tex didn’t use his size very well. It seemed all too often he would hide his in-ring ability and clumsiness with comedic relief. Here’s a Tex match for you, an elbow smash, then two high knee lifts, followed by a bulldog. A match can become very stale, especially when you can predict every move being made by a wrestler.
11 Haystacks Calhoun
Haystacks Calhoun is a gem among the super-heavy weight wrestlers. Billed at over 600 pounds, he sported his trademark overalls and wrestled barefoot many times. Arguably one of the first wrestlers to transcend the sport into pop culture, Calhoun appeared on different television programs during his career. He helped pave the wave for others like King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, and Bastion Booger. So why is he on the list? If you actually watched the matches, you’ll know why. Regardless if his career was coming to an end in the '70s, he couldn’t sell very well, had a slow work rate, and would “blow up” in the shortest amount of time during the match.
10 Eric the Red
Maybe best known for carrying a bone to the ring to use as a foreign object, the Danish wrestler always portrayed the heel. He was the type of talent that you bring in to make the baby face look good. No one can deny that he faced top competition when bouncing from one organization to the next. Yet, you can’t deny that his ability to create offense was stale. I rarely saw him move quickly, always walking, and he never used any grappling techniques. Most of the time, he would hold a wrestler and punch or kick him. You know it’s that bad when you can’t even figure out what his trademark finisher was.
9 Giant Haystacks
I may get some flak from the British fans for this next wrestler. Yes, Giant Haystacks, all 6'11" and 600 hundred pounds of him helped put British wrestling on the map. Yes, he was also named after Haystacks Calhoun. His most notably achievement was his feud with one-time tag team partner Big Daddy. Younger fans might know of him for popping up on lists as WCW’s Lochness. Giant Haystacks was slow, very slow. He would constantly hold the rope as he walked to his opponent and couldn’t sell water to fish. His most threatening moves were a sloppy elbow drop and a standing splash. He could yell and look intimidating all he wanted to but his kicks and punches weren’t believable.
8 Magnificent Zulu "Ron Pope"
Pope was built like a terminator. He had muscles on top of muscles. Yet, we all know, muscles on top of muscle don’t make you the ultimate wrestler, no pun intended. He got his pushes and became a champion in different territories but never was that one guy that was the backbone of an organization. As I watched video, I noticed a punch, then another punch, and after that, one more punch, followed by a scoop slam. He seemed to rinse and repeat in different spots around the ring. There was nothing unique about his in-ring ability. You know someone isn’t that good at wrestling, especially when Vince McMahon (who loves big guys) didn’t get around to asking you to work for him.
7 Crusher Verdu
A jobber for the WWWF in the early '70s, Crusher Verdu was mostly regulated to the under card even though he tangled with Sammartino at Madison Square Garden during his time in the organization. Verdu, billed from Spain, relied on his burly chest to look like a pro wrestler. I don’t know whether he was trying to punch his opponents with an open hand or give them a high five. In a match with Ernie Ladd, Verdu threw a punch or two, and drove Ladd’s head into the turnbuckle unconvincingly. It looked like he used all the tools in his arsenal and had nothing left. Verdu may have had an opportunity to shine when he faced Sammartino but he quickly fell into the abyss and never recovered.
6 The Wolfman
I liked the gimmick, he reminded me of the WWE New Generation Era when most wrestlers had some kind of job occupation or comic book style character. He lived in Canada, making him the closes thing to the X-Men’s Wolverine in professional wrestling. His first stint in WWWF showed promise as he was paired with Lou Albano and feuded with champions Sammartino and Pedro Morales. He returned to the organization with Freddie Blassie as his manager in '75 but it was short lived. The Wolfman looked very sloppy in the ring (I’m not talking about his grooming either) and his best move was biting his opponent. No doubt in my mind that Willie Farkas worked in the wrong era.
5 Mountain Man Mike
If you watched enough matches of Haystacks Calhoun, you would know he had a feud and teamed up with a wrestler that went by the name of Man Mountain Mike. Footage has surfaced of a match between the two at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium. You can take it for what it is, a spectacle of two huge mammoths colliding into each other. Just like Calhoun, Fletcher wore overalls and didn’t move around the ring too much. That didn’t stop anyone from booking Man Mountain Mike as he wrestled for multiple organizations during his career. My question is what’s up with big guys and their overalls?
4 Lee Wong
Lee Wong was an enhancement worker for the WWWF and rarely went over in a match. I’ll reach for my tin foil hat and say that the only reason he was hired was to lose and lose badly. You can say he was a jobber, but even Johnny Rodz, Wong’s colleague as an enhancer, could put on a decent to great match. You just take one look at the way he moves around in the ring and you think to yourself you can do a better job. He had no offense unless you count a weak chop to the chest. According to Stu Staks, publisher of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Wong was the worst wrestler ever.
3 The McGuire Twins
A two-for-one deal on this list, The McGuire Twins are most notable for their achievement in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the heaviest set of twins. Many have seen the famous photo of the twins riding motorcycles side by side. What many don’t know is that they were professional wrestlers. They even went up against legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki in a handicap match. Not much can be said except that both would waddle around the ring if they weren’t resting in a corner. To be fair, they looked like they took the job seriously and did hit their spots when they could reach them.
2 Andy Kaufman
The “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World” had more heat than the sun during his career as a professional wrestler. Now remember, Kayfabe is still at an all-time high and Kaufman loved the whole idea of it. Starting his pro career in 1979, Kaufman sneaks into the '70s era list. Even though he had been on tour offering a $1,000 prize for any woman who could beat him, Kaufman’s first time to wrestle in front of a television audience came on Oct 20, 1979 during Saturday Night Live. Kaufman had a terrible physique, couldn’t pull off any technical moves and I’m sure many thought he was making a joke out of the industry. I on the other hand thought his feud with Jerry Lawler is one of the greatest ever to unfold on television.
1 The Great Antonio
Many have seen the notorious video of Inoki vs the Great Antonio. He made a mockery of the event by no selling everything Inoki did. This pissed off the legend so much that the match became a shoot and he began to actually beat up The Great Antonio into a bloody mess. A participant in strongman competitions and also making it into the “Guinness Book of World Records” several times, The Great Antonio thought he could easily do what he wanted in the ring because of his past. His ignorance had helped him become one of the worst wrestlers of all-time.