Wrestlers need to count on each other in the ring. They have to know how to work together, to handle a major match and know they’re in good hands. Wrestlers have to know they can count on each other to rise up and be able to work a good match. Sure, some are more daring than others but for the most part, wrestlers are on the same page when it comes to their matches and handle it well. But in other cases, they can find themselves on opposite sides in more than one way. Guys can be rough as hell in the ring, often to the detriment of their opponents as they can be very dangerous to work with.
Often, it’s the “stiff” guys, the ones who take it far more seriously and aren’t above hitting guys for real. While WWE does a “main event style” today that’s far safer, far too many wrestlers are known for being quite harsh in the ring to work with. They could be rough as hell, often sloppy with their work and often cause far too many accidents to happen. It’s worth noting that through wrestling history, guys have been so brutal and nasty that it’s hard to imagine they lasted so long in the ring. Here are 15 of the most dangerous guys to get into a ring with and proved how a match with them was truly rough as hell.
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15 Andre the Giant
When you’re over seven feet tall and 500 pounds, you can pretty much do whatever you damn well please and no one can stop you. Andre was huge business as a fantastic attraction but he was also damn hard to work with in the ring due to his attitude and few could stop him. Stories abound of Andre showing up drunk in matches and being stiff as hell, just shoving guys around without realizing how strong he was hitting them. He famously defecated right in the middle of a match and his no-selling of guys could be annoying.
He wasn’t above crushing the hand of someone like The Ultimate Warrior with his boot and not realizing the serious damage he could do with his blows. It got worse as Andre aged and lost what ring skills he once had. He was a great guy but his rather rough style in the ring is a key reason some were wary about the Giant living up to his name.
Goldberg had it all when he got his push in WCW. However, he was still amazingly raw in the ring, not fully trained and thus was used to short matches. While he improved in the ring as he went, Goldberg was still prone to some bad moves that could injure guys. The biggest is, of course, Bret Hart, as one kick from Goldberg at Starrcade ’99 basically ended The Hitman’s career. That’s the most severe but there are other cases of guys complaining about Goldberg going too far in the ring and causing damage. Indeed, he nearly ended his own career (and almost life) when he sliced his arm smashing in a limo window and nearly lost it. He was encouraged to go all out a lot while in WCW and later WWE and that enabled a lot of his bad moves. While he has gotten some respect for his recent comeback, Goldberg’s sloppy ring work was a key reason he fell fast after his initial rush of fame.
13 Jack Swagger
Swagger is a clear example of a guy who was elevated far beyond what he should have been. He was a decent mid-card talent but trying to turn him into a main eventer never worked out. A reason is his attitude but also how he can be damn sloppy in the ring. He separated Bad News Barrett’s shoulder tossing him into a ring barrier when it was known Barrett was having shoulder issues. This led to Barrett being forced out for a time and having to vacate the Intercontinental title, a blow to his career that Barrett never recovered from.
Dolph Ziggler got a vicious kick to the head from Swagger that put him out for a time. He even injured Jim Ross’ leg with a badly done ankle lock. Throw in Swagger’s issues with DUIs and marijuana and no wonder fans hate how WWE failed to come down on him as this guy is one “All-American American” everyone despises.
12 Stan Hansen
The genius with Hansen was that he was exactly who he appeared to be on TV; a wild uncouth Texan with a short fuse who was stiff as hell in the ring. Hansen was a monster hit in Japan, the country loving his stiff style and brutal battles that often led to bloodbaths. Hansen never had a major run at a time in the U.S. as he was just too wild and as such it made it hard for promoters to trust him. His run as AWA World Champion had him hurting Rick Martel’s back for real and wild in his ring work so guys were worried about having to face him.
Likewise, a run with WCW as U.S. champion was short-lived as he could smash guys up for real. Perhaps the most famous story is a 1990 match with Vader where Hansen actually ripped Vader’s eye out of the socket and Vader had to pop it back in.
Most feuds with Hansen guaranteed blood and he wasn’t above spilling it without a guy’s permission to make it look better. As great as he was in the ring, Hansen’s reputation as a maniac was well-earned to make him one of the deadliest guys to get into a ring with.
Even before his big main event turn, John Bradshaw Layfield was known for a rough style in the ring, exceptionally stiff and often going a bit too far hitting guys. It got worse when he transformed into JBL, the main event guy and his run as champion leading to hard hitting battle with Big Show and Undertaker. JBL was also known for his rough “hazing” of rookies and not above using a match to teach a guy a lesson by going off script for a real beatdown. The biggest example was in 2005 where, during a big brawl at One Night Stand, JBL hit The Blue Meanie for real, busting the Meanie open and leading to some shoot matches.
A top performer who was a great heel, JBL didn’t have many friends in wrestling due to his attitude as he took beating guys down to a new and very real degree. He was a good worker but JBL’s attitude of “hurting guys is fine by the business” made him a lot of enemies.
Nelson Frazier was a decent guy behind the scenes but sadly known better for very bad characters and for being pushed way too much because of his size. After doing little of note as half of rappers Men on a Mission, Mabel was elevated in 1995 as Vince McMahon thought he was a great choice as a main event level heel. The fact was, the guy barely had any moveset and understanding of how to move for someone pushing 500 pounds. Kevin Nash (a guy hardly known for good ring work himself) complained of being really worried of getting hurt facing Nelson who didn’t know how to work a decent match. His big splash finish injured guys for real, most notably breaking The Undertaker’s orbital bone, leading to 'Taker’s famous “masked” period.
It was because of this bad ring style that Mabel’s main event run is loathed by fans and led to WWE having a terrible business year in 1995. While his death has fans seeing him in a bit of a better light, it doesn’t hide how pushing an untrained behemoth put so many guys at risk.
9 New Jack
The man is quite possibly a complete lunatic. A member of the Gangstas, New Jack helped put ECW on the map with his wild style, bringing a cart of weapons to the ring for matches. He also was known for brutalizing his opponents for real. That would include the infamous Mass Transit incident where he sliced a 17-year-old worker’s head in a bloodbath that nearly destroyed ECW. The litany of wild antics has been notable: stabbing a Florida wrestler 14 times; smashing Gypsy Joe with a baseball bat to give him a skull fracture; claiming he intended to kill Grimes by throwing him off a scaffold; and most of this was BEFORE he gave himself brain damage falling onto concrete.
More than one guy has said getting into the ring with New Jack is to take your life into your own hands as the man could go nuts without even realizing how insane he was and that's a key reason his reputation as a hardcore icon is well earned.
8 The British Bulldogs
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Everyone cites Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid as fantastic and brilliant workers. However, they were also two of the absolute biggest jerks to ever get into a ring. Their “pranks” would involve drugging the drinks of wrestlers before they were set to drive on icy Canadian roads. In the ring, they were brutal and not above dishing out serious beatings on guys. Mick Foley talks in his book of taking a savage Smith clothesline that busted his lip and then a nasty suplex from Dynamite. Both men had nasty tempers, leading to clashes, such as an epic feud with the Rougeau Brothers where, according to reports, the Rougeaus actually tried to get a hit put on Dynamite from the Canadian mob.
It got worse with Dynamite after his injury, going far too all out on guys and Davey Boy’s steroid use made him sloppier in the ring as well. While they were great to watch in the ring, neither Bulldog was a guy you wanted to be friends with as they took their issues out majorly in the ring.
7 Brock Lesnar
Brock’s entire persona is being “The Beast” and it’s pretty easy to see that with his amazing power and skill. However, Lesnar has backed it up by legitimately hurting guys as his rookie year had him still learning the tricks of the trade. Bob Holly found that out the hard way when he and Lesnar clashed in 2002 and Lesnar dropped Holly hard with a powerbomb, breaking his neck for real. Holly was out nearly a year although his return did push his “Hardcore” image more. Meanwhile, Lesnar broke Jamie Noble’s ribs dropping him too harshly as well. It’s continued with word Brock left The Undertaker with a concussion after their WrestleMania XXX battle and a reason some are wary of getting in with a former MMA guy. It’s led to Brock’s fantastic reputation as a monster but it's also not too far off from the truth.
6 Seth Rollins
When Seth Rollins tore his MCL recently, most were less upset and more thinking this was karma calling. Rollins has been popular for his fantastic work in ROH and then WWE, riding high as a fantastic heel and champion. However, his ring work has also led to several injuries. WWE eventually had to ban the Curb Stomp simply because it was way too risky but Rollins has continued his brutal style that's led to guys getting injured. Many believe that he is the reason Sting had to hang it up after suffering two turnbuckle power bombs from Rollins, leading to major heat on Seth.
Cena had his nose busted open in a match and had to take a bit of time off. The biggest was when Finn Balor finally rose up high by beating Rollins for the inaugural WWE Universal title. However, thanks to another turnbuckle bomb, Balor ended up busting his shoulder and has been out ever since, forced to vacate the title. It’s led to bad blood against Rollins.
5 The Steiners
Rick and Scott Steiner were fantastic athletes and when they broke out in 1989 as a tag team, they were stunning fans. The duo were putting on moves no one else could dream of and were soon hailed as one of the best teams around. But that belied their danger as the two could often do moves without their opponents ready for it and that led to injuries. The Frankensteiner was something truly dangerous before hurricanranas became commonplace and many of the duo’s moves could be rough if you weren’t prepared. Buff Bagwell found that out the hard way, breaking his neck off a Rick flying bulldog. It got worse when Scott transformed into “Big Poppa Pump”. He was much stronger but without the same care in the ring so he really did injure guys during matches.
His ring skills deteriorated at the same time so he could be sloppy with suplexes and a key reason his WWE run was short was because guys were refusing to work with someone who was ready to snap at any moment and hurt them for real. They may be revered for elevating tag team wrestling but the Steiners were also among the more dangerous guys to get in the ring with.
4 The Road Warriors
The DVD WWE put out about them mentions how much Hawk and Animal changed wrestling when they debuted. Fans adored them coming out in the leather and makeup and smashing anyone in their path. The key was they really were that brutal and vicious inside the ring and didn’t care if they hurt guys for real. Jim Cornette says that the jobbers lived in fear of having to be up against the Warriors as they really could crush guys down. They were smash mouth and often sloppy in their rookie years so guys really were hurt going against them (including a young Arn Anderson).
Given how the Warriors were fed some smaller guys to enhance their power, the chances of getting a bad toss and slam and the Doomsday Device finisher were quite high. To top it off, The Road Warriors were often wrestling while high or drunk to make matters more of a risk. They changed wrestling a lot but they were legitimately feared by opponents for how nasty they could get in the ring.
Sid had the perfect look of a wrestler, tall, good build and a fantastic persona. He was truly convincing as a guy ready to kick your tail and snap at a moment’s notice. What few realized was that wasn’t too far off from how Sid really was. While he had a good build, the guy really had little training and was not able to handle himself well in the ring. That came out in the ring with Sid being quite sloppy in matches. He nearly broke Brian Pillman’s neck with a powerbomb and stories abound of him causing harm and not caring about the safety factor. The man had a brutal temper and a very short fuse, as evidenced by such infamous bits as stabbing Arn Anderson during an argument in London. It carried throughout his career, his “psycho” label” totally true as he could be too unstable to depend on. It ended up biting him with his brutal leg break in 2001 that showed how his often sloppy attitude made folks afraid of facing Sid .
Meng (known as Haku in WWE) was actually a good worker and not known for really injuring guys. A former high-flying type, he shifted to a tough heel with martial arts moves. As time went on, he became a more muscular strong man to be an enforcer in WCW. What makes Meng notable is that many cite him as possibly the toughest guy wrestling has ever known. Stories are legendary such as when he started a bar brawl, laughed at being maced and broke the handcuffs a dozen cops were using to subdue him. Or when some fans mocked wrestling as fake and Meng bit off a guy’s nose. He once ripped Jesse Barr’s eye out of the socket and then popped it back in and wrestlers talked of being in fear of having to face him as you never knew if he would overreact to a hit and suddenly smash you apart for real.
While his litany of in-ring injuries isn’t as large as others on this list, his reputation as an incredibly dangerous man is a key reason Meng is still respected and feared as a guy who could really kill you in the ring without trying.
Big Van Vader was a fantastic sight when he debuted in the early 1990s. Big and imposing, he was tough as hell but managed to back it up with a great style, even able to come off the top rope for splashes. He was sold wonderfully as a monster, helping make the powerbomb an effective finisher and getting over well as WCW Champion. But Vader was also known as stiff as hell in many of his battles. That powerbomb broke the back of a jobber for real, making Vader a hated man. Much bigger was the famous match with Mick Foley where Foley got his ear torn off trying to escape the ring ropes and a follow-up getting a powerbomb on the concrete. He and Bret Hart were supposed to lock up in WWE but Bret refused as he knew how harsh a single match with Vader could be. Throw in his incredibly harsh attitude and it’s no wonder Vader had a bad rep as a terrible guy to work with in the ring.
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