33 popular 80s wrestlers who will remind you of the good old days

Dec 7, 2023 | Entertainment, News


The 1980s stands as a pivotal era in the world of professional wrestling. This decade saw the emergence of iconic wrestlers who became household names. Revisit the golden age of professional wrestling with a list of ’80s wrestlers who defined the industry’s landscape.

80s wrestlers
L-R Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Dusty Rhodes. Photo: Jerod Harris, KMazur/WireImage, Bob Levey/WireImage (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Interestingly, this sport is one of the most widely viewed forms of entertainment globally. WWE programming is broadcast in over 180 countries and translated into 28 languages. It features “kayfabe” – portraying staged events within the industry as real.

80s wrestlers

Take a walk down memory lane with a list of the most celebrated wrestlers from the 1980s. This list includes babyfaces – heroic, “good guys” promoted as fan favourites, and villains.

In coming up with this list, many factors have been considered, such as fan reviews and data from the WWE Hall of Fame. It is also not based on any particular order.

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80s wrestlers still alive

Sadly, many entertainers from this field died young from health complications. Luckily, several are still alive as of 2023, continuing to inspire upcoming athletes.

Ric Flair

wrestlers from the 80s
Ric Flair during WWE Superstar Ric Flair Signs Copies of his New Autobiography “To Be The Man” at Planet Hollywood in New York City, New York, United States. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage
Source: Getty Images

Richard Morgan “Ric Flair” Fliehr was in a plane crash at 26. Having broken his back in three places, doctors said he would never wrestle again. However, Flair ignored the doctors and became a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion.

Ted DiBiase

80s wwf wrestlers
Ted DiBiase aka ‘The Million Dollar Man’ attends the 2018 Wizard World Comic Con at Pennsylvania Convention Center on May 18, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo
Source: Getty Images

Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase is among the most popular wrestlers from the 80s. He was born to a wrestler mother. Following his retirement, Ted is now an ordained Christian minister.

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

1980s wrestlers
Wrestler Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat attends the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con 2013 held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 11, 2013 in Rosemont, Illinois. Photo: Albert L. Ortega
Source: Getty Images

Ricky was born Richard Henry Blood Sr. in New York. He debuted his career as a babyface in 1976. He became Ricky Steamboat when he joined the CWF later that year.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts

old-school wrestlers
Wrestler Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts attends Stella Artois At The Village At The Lift 2015 – Day 1 on January 23, 2015 in Park City, Utah. Photo: Rick Kern
Source: Getty Images

Aurelian Smith Jr. started as a referee and fighter in Louisiana in 1974. Roberts’ WWF career was marred by feuds, including with Ricky Steamboat and “Ravishing” Rick Rude.

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Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake

famous wrestlers from the 80s
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake attends day 1 of the 25th annual Motor City Comic Con at Suburban Collection Showplace on May 16, 2014 in Novi, Michigan. Photo: Paul Warner
Source: Getty Images

Edward Harrison Leslie adopted the moniker Brutus Beefcake when he joined the WWF in 1984. He had a long rivalry with Hulk Hogan. Beefcake officially retired in November 2015.

Sgt. Slaughter

80s wwe wrestlers
Professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter attends 2019 Wizard World Comic Con at Pennsylvania Convention Center on June 13, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo
Source: Getty Images

Robert Rudolph Remus began his career as Sgt. Slaughter– a fictional former US Marine in the Vietnam War–in 1972. Remus was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

Hulk Hogan

1980s pro wrestlers
Hulk Hogan arrives to HBO World Premiere of “Andre The Giant” held at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on March 29, 2018 in Hollywood, California. Photo: Michael Tran
Source: Getty Images

Terry Gene Bollea, known as Hulk Hogan, is among the richest athletes in the wrestling industry. He maintained a heroic, all-American persona during his WWE stint (1983 to 1993).

“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

80s wrestlers still alive
Professional wrestler ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan attends the 2019 Wizard World Comic Con at Pennsylvania Convention Center on June 15, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo
Source: Getty Images

“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan played the role of a patriot swinging a piece of lumber. Duggan hasn’t fought since 2017, battling different health challenges.

Jerry “The King” Lawler

Jerry “The King” Lawler made his pro debut in 1970. Before retiring, he won nearly 170 championships. Many remember him as among the biggest stars of the ’80s, and he is one of few ’80s wrestlers who are still wrestling on a regular basis

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“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels

80s wrestlers
WWE personality Shawn Michaels appears at a news conference at the 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Ethan Miller
Source: Getty Images

Shawn Michaels was one of the renowned 1980s wrestlers. Michaels is now the Senior Vice President of Talent Development Creative at WWE. In 2023, he celebrated the 35th anniversary of his WWE debut.

Tito Santana

Born Merced Solis, Tito Santana was a babyface throughout his career. He debuted in the late ’70s. Interestingly, Santana was also a schoolteacher until his retirement in June 2023.

80s WWF wrestlers

1980s wrestlers contributed to the World Wrestling Federation’s (WWF) success. Although the company has since rebranded to the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the decade’s iconic fighters remain legends.

“Macho Man” Randy Savage

wrestlers from the 80s
Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth get together in Charlotte, North Carolina circa 1998. Photo: George Napolitano
Source: Getty Images

Randy Mario Poffo debuted as “The Spider” in 1973. He later took on “Savage” to reflect his fighting style. Unfortunately, he died on 20 May 2011 from a heart attack.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper

80s wwf wrestlers
Wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper attends the WrestleMania 25th anniversary press conference at the Hard Rock Caf� on March 31, 2009 in New York City. Photo: Jason Kempin
Source: Getty Images

Roderick George Toombs adopted a Scottish persona with a kilt and a bagpipe entrance. Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 before passing on in 2015.

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The Ultimate Warrior

The star, James Brian Hellwig, legally changed his name to “Warrior” in 1993. Warrior was a bodybuilder and aspiring chiropractor before becoming a professional wrestler.

Andre the Giant

80s wrestlers
Andre the Giant as Fezzik in “The Princess Bride” (1987), and with Wallace Shawn, who portrayed Vizzini (L). Photo: @andrethegiantfanpage on Instagram, @AndretheGiant on Facebook (modified by author)
Source: UGC

André René Roussimoff, nicknamed Andre the Giant, was dubbed the eighth wonder of the world, weighing 520 lb (236 kg). Andre the Giant was also an actor. Sadly, he passed away on 28 January 1993 in Paris, France.

Dusty Rhodes

old-school wrestlers
WWE Hall of Fame member Dusty Rhodes attends the 2011 WWE Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Philips Arena on April 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Moses Robinson
Source: Getty Images

Dusty Rhodes was one of the top old-school wrestlers. He adopted the nickname “the American Dream”. After his retirement, he became a booker and trainer.

“Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff

famous wrestlers from the 80s
Paul Orndorff attends the Chiller Theater Expo Fall 2018 at Hilton Parsippany on October 27, 2018 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Photo: Bobby Bank
Source: Getty Images

Orndorff played college football before launching his fighting career. He retired in 2000 after a colourful 24-year career. Orndorff trained aspiring fighters after retiring until his passing in 2021.

The Iron Sheik

80s wwe wrestlers
The Iron Sheik at Big Apple Con: Comic Book, Art, Toy and SciFi Expo on September 16, 2006. Photo: Bobby Bank/WireImage
Source: Getty Images

The Iron Sheik, born Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, was an Iranian-American fighter. He had a notoriously villainous character. Vaziri died on 7 June 2023.

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Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka

1980s pro wrestlers
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka visits “The Opie & Anthony Show” at SiriusXM studios on January 9, 2013 in New York City. Photo: Astrid Stawiarz
Source: Getty Images

Snuka spent the last two years of his life battling third-degree murder charges for the 1983 death of his girlfriend. The charges were dropped twelve days before he died in 2017.

Junkyard Dog

Sylvester Ritter worked in a wrecking yard before his wrestling start, earning his nickname. Ritter died in a car crash in 1998, making history as one of the most notable black wrestlers.

Big Boss Man

Big Boss Man, born Ray Washington Traylor Jr., was known for his law enforcement officer persona. The WWE star was part of successful tag teams.

“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff

80s wrestlers
Ivan Koloff at the Live To Win event In Winston-Salem (L), and posing in a grey branded T-shirt (R). Photo: @MarksWrestling1 on X (Twitter), @ivan_koloff_777 on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

“The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff, born Oreal Donald Perras, was known for his villainous persona during the Cold War era. Koloff’s 1971 Heavyweight victory ended Bruno Sammartino’s reign.

Famous wrestlers from the 80s

The top fighters from the 1980s left fans with unforgettable stories and fights. These trailblazers left behind a legacy of true sportsmanship.

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“Ravishing” Rick Rude

Rick Rude was among the best 80s WWE wrestlers. He was known for his provocative entrance. Even after he died in 1999, he is remembered as one of the best villains.

King Kong Bundy

80s wrestlers
King Kong Bundy (Christopher Alan Pallies) attends Chiller Theater Expo Winter 2017 at Parsippany Hilton on October 28, 2017 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Photo: Bobby Bank
Source: Getty Images

Christopher Alan Pallies had a dominating ring presence. Interestingly, Bundy has yet to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Fans have speculated that his omission may be because of his strained relationship with WWE founder Vince McMahon.

Nikolai Volkoff

wrestlers from the 80s
Nikolai Volkoff attends Chiller Theater Expo Winter 2017 at Parsippany Hilton on October 27, 2017 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Photo: Bobby Bank
Source: Getty Images

Nikolai Volkoff, whose real name was Josip Nikolai Peruzović, played a villainous Soviet character during the Cold War era. He succeeded in the tag team division.

“Dr. Death” Steve Williams

80s wwf wrestlers
Pro wrestler Steve Williams, aka Dr. Death, at Bally’s Fitness in Lakewood Friday afternoon. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post
Source: Getty Images

Born Steven Williams, Dr. Death debuted in 1982. In his later years, Williams worked as a colour commentator. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2009 after battling throat cancer.

Harley Race

Harley Race is a seven-time NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) World Heavyweight Champion. After retiring from active competition, Race managed several wrestlers until he died in 2019.

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“The Rocket” Owen Hart

80s wrestlers
“The Rocket” Owen Hart holding the championship belt (L), and standing next to a red bus (R). Photo: @wrestlingchampionshipbelts, @squaredcircle_nostalgia on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Hart was known for his acrobatic style in the ring. The former professional wrestler‘s life was tragically cut short on 23 May 1999 during a stunt entrance at a WWE pay-per-view event.

“Nature Boy” Buddy Landel

80s wrestlers
“Nature Boy” Buddy Landel celebrates in the ring in a red and black robe. Photo: @SawhJohn, @MaskedRyder on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Buddy Landel was one of the 1980s pro wrestlers. Born William Ansor, he adopted the moniker Nature Boy to pay homage to Ric Flair.

Chris Benoit

old-school wrestlers
Chris Benoit and Nancy Benoit circa 1996. Photo: George Napolitano/FilmMagic
Source: Getty Images

Benoit had an impressive career as The (Canadian) Crippler. However, following his tragic and controversial death, WWE distanced itself from Benoit. The (Canadian) Crippler

Terry Funk

famous wrestlers from the 80s
Pro wrestler and movie star Terry Funk in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe
Source: Getty Images

Funk was pivotal in popularising hardcore and “no holds barred” wrestling. He is known for repeatedly announcing his retirement, only to return to the ring.

Davey Boy Smith

Davey Boy Smith achieved fame as one-half of the tag team known as The British Bulldogs. Smith passed away in 2002 at the age of 39 due to a heart attack.

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Dynamite Kid

80s wrestlers
Dynamite Kid with a fan (L), and holding a photo and a cup (R). Photo: @bob.piv.pics, @squared_circle_classics on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Thomas “Dynamite Kid” Billington was the second half of the British Bulldogs alongside his cousin. Dynamite Kid’s fighting style caused various health issues until he died in 2018.

Above are some of the 80s wrestlers who revolutionised the field of professional wrestling. Their fascinating personas and complicated rivalries earned the sport billions of fans globally.

Legit.ng recently published an article about whether wrestling is real or acting. Professional wrestling blurs the lines between reality and entertainment. The industry has thrived on the art of illusion and the suspension of disbelief.

Is wrestling real or simply a choreographed performance? This article takes a deep dive into the nitty-gritty’s of the beloved sport. Have a look at the world of professional wrestling and explore the question of the reality behind the entertainment.

Source: Legit.ng





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