Class of 2016
The Bad Man from Borger TX; Biggest American Star in History of Japan
Hall of Fame Rating
7.5 out of 10
If there is a radar that significant wrestlers of yesteryear fly under, its captain is this man, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen. Hansen like fellow inductees The Fabulous Freebirds has been on the list of “pending” inductees for years. Each time WWE visited Texas for Wrestlemania or inducted a shallow “superstar”, die-hards (including myself) have asked: “Where the hell is Stan Hansen!?”
In terms of the 2016 class, the term mixed bag aptly describes it. On one hand, Hansen, Sting and the Freebirds are welcome and deserving inductions. On the other hand, the offensive stereotype the Godfather and 2016’s “who the fuck are you” inductee Jackie Moore are also going in. And although the average normal fan might know the Godfather more than Hansen, there is no comparison in the significance of these men to the industry as a whole.
It’s very simple. Stan Hansen is the man. He lived that. His career showcased that and his calm kind demeanor today encapsulates why we are today singing his praises.
For anyone too young to understand who Stan Hansen really was and what he accomplished, take a look at this.
Hansen seen here in the 1980s was not only a gritty realized “person” of a character, frightening children and impressing fans, he was doing it before it was cool. (lets say the mid 90s)
Hansen was a product of his home state. The bad man from Borger, Texas was trained by wild Texan patriarchs, the Funks and upon his debut in 1972, hit the ground running.
Within two years of his debut, he was headlining Madison Square Garden as a rival for then champions Pedro Morales and as the dastardly, dangerous and believable counter to Bruno Sammartino.
Hansen participated in the territory system we all hear about lovingly from old time wrestlers, and unlike even some of the greatest of the day, Stan the man, rocked wherever he went.
It is a obvious struggle to get over in different parts of the country, just ask Roman Reigns:
Hansen did it with grit, and determination. He and fellow Texan Bruiser Brody represented a generation of journeymen, whose strengths in speech, character and toughness outweighed any negatives in “theatrical” wrestling they may have missed.
In the US, Hansen had one of the WWWF biggest late 70s feuds where he actually broke Bruno Sammartino’s neck. (Kayfabe, this was due to his dread lariat, while in reality a botched bodyslam and Bruno’s age led to the injury) The cage match rematch at Shea Stadium between the two men solidified Stan Hansen as a man to watch.
This is where Hansen’s career gets unique. It was and still is common for wrestlers to do tours of Japan. Dynamite Kid’s book Pure Dynamite, (which you should read btw) showcases his constant tours of Japan and the love of both wrestling in general (Japanese fans watch respectfully instead of cheering like maniacs) and of a real fight.
Hansen’s career in Japan is one of note for its sheer longevity. He is considered to be the most successful gaijin (term meaning forienger) in the history of modern Japanese wrestling. And he feuded with all the big names, including victories over home country heroes like Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba.
Whether it was winning the NJPW tag belts with Bruiser Brody or harassing the competition, Hansen brought it eveery night, scaring the bejesus out of the normally quiet and demure Japanese crowd. Oh and here he is body-slamming Andre the Giant.
His inductor this year is one of his greatest rivals, fellow “pending” induction and all around hoss, Big Van Vader. Vader, in a tumultuous brawl with Hansen, literally had his eye pop out of the socket. Stan was always stiff (a word for hard punches) which he attributed to bad eye sight. Whoops!
Japan aside, Stan Hansen also had two memorable runs in the US during the mid to late 80s and early 90s.
During its death throws, AWA tried anything to make itself into competition for the dominating WWF. In 1986, they took their championship of the completely passable (and also “pending” inductee) Rick Martel to give Stan Hansen a try as their main bad guy champion, something which had worked for them for most of their term (see Nick Bockwinkel). Unfortunately for Verne Gagne, Stan Hansen was less then cooperative and still heavily involved in Japan when he won the AWA Belt.
After Giant Baba, Hansen’s then Japanese booker said no to Stan losing the AWA belt, (after advertising that it would be defended in Japan), Hansen did what he did best, and said to Verne Gagne. “No, Fuck you”.
Verne eventually did get back the AWA belt from Hansen in the mail, although it was a little worse for wear as Hansen had run over the championship with his truck before returning.
Hansen also had a memorable and short term in WCW, where he defeated long running US Champion Lex Luger in a surprise victory. After losing the belt back to Luger two months later, he left in another “No, Fuck You” moment when he told WCW officials under no circumstance would he be involved with a trio of bumbling cowboy characters named the Desperados. Hansen was tough, a tough Texan and not a joke.
While Stan Hansen retired in 2001, after a 25+ year career, he will always be remembered fondly in Japanese culture. This induction means he will hopefully also be remembered by the US fans as one of the original and best Texas Cowboys in wrestling history.
The Bad Man from Borger Texas. WWE does like to bring alive wrestlers from the locations they visit. Also, Hansen is on good terms with the WWE, inducting Antonio Inoki in 2010 and appearing in many interviews for WWE DVD releases.
Plus he kinda plays the part of international inductee as well as most of his career was in Japan. The biggest gaijin indeed.
Opens Door For?
Vader. I think Vader will go in by 2018.
Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.
Hansen might defend his ring in Japan and send back to WWE with tire tracks