Pro wrestling is an interesting pastime. It somehow manages to combine choreography, live action storytelling and dangerous violence. 99.9% of its fans know it’s scripted, yet it’s still treated as a legitimate sport by some people. WWE in particular loves to tout its numbers, facts, and statistics in order to make its product look more ‘professional’ (You know, treating it like an actual sport instead of over-the-top live theatre with poorly-scripted lines). That said, wrestling is nevertheless a tough career, with injuries, politics and immense stress all weighing down on wrestlers on a daily basis. Few wrestlers manage to last more than ten years in the industry. Fewer still manage to make a big enough of a name for themselves to be immortalized as one of the best wrestlers of all time. But then there are some that have done just that and are a part of the elite few that managed to become truly immortal in the world of pro wrestling. These men and women accomplished so much and broke so many boundaries with their physical attributes and in-ring accomplishments that they’ve earned the right to be recognized here today. Here’s a look at the fifteen most impressive records and achievements in wrestling history. Some of them are so incredible, they are hard to believe.
15. Oldest Wrestler
Mae Young is revered in WWE as one of the toughest women in wrestling history. A true pioneer, Young is the only wrestler to have performed in nine different decades. She claimed that her first match took place on August 20th, 1939 (literally twelve days before the start of World War II), and her final match before passing away was on November 10th, 2010. When she wrestled in the latter match, she was 87 years old. This makes her not only the oldest person to ever participate in a wrestling match, but it also makes her the wrestler with the longest career; an astonishing 71 years before retiring.
14. Youngest Wrestler
Despite the shocking details of the previous entry, most wrestlers don’t keep going that late into their lives. In fact, wrestling is a career that you’re meant to start early and retire early, so that you don’t have too many problems in your later years. As such, many wrestlers actually debut at a young age so that their bodies can adapt to the damaging work they’re are put through. Still, there are some people that start wrestling from an incredibly young age. Ted Annis, a.k.a. Teddy Hart, was the youngest person to ever be signed to a WWE contract, at age 18. Many wrestlers, especially in Japan, make their professional debuts when they’re 16 years old. But the youngest wrestler to ever sign to a promotion full-time was none other than WWE’s Tyson Kidd, who debuted on July 23rd, 1994, two weeks after his 14th birthday.
13. Heaviest Wrestler
You have to be big to succeed in wrestling, but some people take that statement too far. Cruiserweight wrestlers (i.e. the agile high-flyers) tend to weigh between 150 lbs. and 210 lbs., so not much more than the average man. The stronger heavyweight wrestlers normally weigh anywhere between 235 lbs. and 270 lbs., and are usually less agile and more muscular. The so-called ‘super heavyweights’ are the big men of wrestling, weighing anywhere from 280 lbs. to upwards of 350 lbs. Rarely do bigger wrestlers ever show up, but there have been a few. The heaviest wrestler of all time was a mammoth named Happy Humphrey (on the right in this picture), who was believed to have weighed a scale-crushing 802 lbs. at one point. In comparison, André the Giant was a svelte 540 lbs. when he retired.
12. Tallest Wrestler
Height is one of the most frequently exaggerated stat in wrestling, especially in WWE. They like to boost a wrestler’s height to make them seem taller than they really are, just like with weights which are more often than not, grossly inflated. However, the award for tallest wrestler goes to a man that was so tall that his billing didn’t need any embellishment whatsoever. Giant Gonzales, a.k.a. El Gigante, was a former basketball player that tried his hand at the grappling game. At his peak, he stood a whopping 7’7 ¼”, or 2.31 meters tall. The tallest active wrestler in WWE today, the Big Show, is an even 7 feet tall by comparison. He literally towered over everyone around him, including his greatest opponent ever, the Undertaker, who stood at only 6’10.
11. Longest Single Championship Reign
If a wrestler has a long reign as champion, it’s a sign that they’re the best wrestler in their division. Nowadays, however, championship reigns rarely go very long because the industry has become more fast-paced and demand for more frequent changes and surprises has increased. But in decades past, individual reigns were incredibly long. The Fabulous Moolah holds the record for longest reign of any kind as WWF/E Women’s Champion, with her record lasting 10,170 days. However, some have disputed this record , arguing that she actually lost the championship on several occasions during that period. Still, the first stretch of this reign is still the longest of any title reign. That first leg of her entire run was 3,651 days, which is around ten years. This is more than any other championship run, including WWE legend Bruno Sammartino’s 2.803-day run as WWE Champion.
10. Wealthiest Current Pro Wrestler
Wrestling is often considered a thankless job; you get thrown around and put your body through punishment on a nightly basis, all for a small reward. But sometimes wrestlers can actually make a lot of money, especially through merchandise royalties, sponsorships, investments, and non-wrestling roles. Because of these options, some wrestlers (both current and former) are surprisingly wealthy. The richest person to ever wrestle is none other than WWE owner Vince McMahon, with an estimated net worth of anywhere between $750 million and $1.2 billion. Several other former wrestlers are also very wealthy, such as Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson ($190 million), Hulk Hogan ($60 million), and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin ($45 million). But the wealthiest active wrestler today is none other than John Cena, whose net worth is believed to be around $35 million.
9. Bloodiest Match
Blood has long been a staple of pro wrestling, with the grapplers using concealed blades to cut themselves at the right time to make the matches more dramatic. Unfortunately, there are times when this can go wrong, leading to more blood being shown than necessary. The bloodiest match to date took place at WWE Judgment Day 2004, when Eddie Guerrero took on JBL. JBL hit Eddie with a steel chair, and Eddie cut his forehead to sell the damage. But Eddie cut himself too deeply, and severed an artery in the process. The result was a match that was so bloody that it was believed that Eddie went into shock from blood loss after the match ended.
8. Most injuries sustained in a single match
Injuries are part and parcel of wrestling, but you’re not supposed to suffer multiple injuries during a single match. Apparently, nobody told Mick Foley this. Foley, then wrestling under the name ‘Mankind’ took part in the most famous wrestling match ever, a Hell in a Cell match against the legendary Undertaker. That match is famous for two moments: when the Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the cell (which was planned), and when he Chokeslammed Mankind into the roof of the cell and it gave way, causing Mankind to fall through it (which was not). Add to this a convoluted segment involving thumbtacks, and you have the most extensive collection of injuries sustained by a wrestler in a single match: a concussion, a dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs, internal bleeding, multiple puncture wounds from said thumbtacks, a dislocated jaw, and up to three lost teeth.
7. Most Dangerous Wrestling Move
Many wrestling moves are considered ultra-dangerous because of the high possibility of causing injury. Most variations of the piledriver are banned in several promotions due to the risk of paralysis or worse for the recipient. In Japan, many ‘head-spike’ moves exist but are used on rare occasion due to those same risks. Yet with most moves, the poor soul taking the move can protect themselves in some way or absorb the impact. But there’s one move that’s far more dangerous than all of the others: the Ganso Bomb, created by Toshiaki Kawada (pictured above). This is essentially a hybrid Powerbomb/Piledriver, where the person taking it is dropped on their head in free-fall. Unless they put their hands/arms over their head before falling, it’s impossible to take this move safely at all. Small wonder, then, that this move has barely been seen anywhere since being created in 1999.
6. Longest Singles Match
Wrestling fans these days are sometimes considered an impatient bunch, wanting things to change at an ever-quickening pace. Because of this, you aren’t likely to see many extremely long matches. Your average match tends to go between 10 and twenty minutes, with one-sided squash matches going no more than five minutes. The most important WWE matches usually last anywhere from 15-30 minutes, but these too are rare. Yet the longest recorded wrestling matches (excluding battle royals, gauntlet matches and Royal Rumbles) have gone much longer. The longest-ever singles match took place in 1987, and was an ‘Island Deathmatch’ between Antonio Inoki and Masa Saito. This marathon of a match went an incredible 125:42, so just over two hours in length. It makes sense that such a long match would happen in Japan, as the audience there has always been noted for its patience and respect.
5. Most Matches On A Single Show
Most major shows have anywhere from 5-10 matches. It’s incredibly rare for any show to have more matches than that, unless the company in question wants to break some kind of record. WWE tried this with WrestleMania 33, which had 13 matches and was over 7 hours long from start to finish. But even still, that isn’t the longest show ever. That record belongs to an event called Big Egg Wrestling Universe, which was a sort of wrestling summit between several promotions in Japan, and also included WWE (such as crossover star Bull Nakano, pictured here). It featured a staggering 23 matches, and was ten hours long, by far the longest and heaviest wrestling show in history. How the estimated 32,000 fans in attendance managed to stay there for so long is a mystery.
4. Biggest Wrestling Draw
When it comes to determining the biggest draw in wrestling history, one must take into account many details: price of tickets, merchandise sold, crowd attendance, inflation, etc. Yet in spite of all this, there’s one undeniable fact: ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is the most profitable wrestler ever. His time at the top of WWE led to that company’s most financially-lucrative boom period, even more so than Hulkamania. It was Stone Cold’s war with Vince McMahon and his gimmick as a surly, no-nonsense antihero that made audiences tune into WWE programming in droves. As proof, Austin was involved in the single-most watched wrestling segment in WWE history. His match against the Undertaker on the June 28th, 1999 episode of RAW got a 9.5 Nielsen rating, which translated into 10.72 million viewers. This was truly wrestling’s peak in popularity.
3. Most Decorated Wrestler
Just as having a long title reign is important, having multiple reigns is likewise the sign of a popular wrestler. If someone has many championship reigns, it can signify this person is an excellent wrestler involved in dramatic rivalries over titles they want to keep desperately. While most lists consider Ric Flair the most decorated World Champion in history, records show that there’s someone that has won more titles than even Flair: Jerry Lawler. The legendary Memphis icon is a legend of the Midwestern wrestling scene, especially in the Memphis area where he won championships several times. He has won world championships in numerous promotions, including a staggering 52 reigns as AWA Southern Heavyweight Champion. Lawler’s total number of recorded championship victories is believed to be 168, though he has never won any in WWE, his current employer.
2. Highest Rated Match(es) Of All Time
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter is the closest thing pro wrestling has to an unbiased journalist and historian. Wrestling promoters try to rewrite history and make exaggerated claims all the time; so few people look at all the information out there and make an unbiased judgement. The Observer rates matches on a scale of 1-5, with five stars being considered a perfect match. However, there are two matches that have gone beyond that 5-star rating and were so good that they were both rated six stars out of five. The first was a legendary clash in Japan between AJPW rivals Toshiaki Kawada and Mitsuharu Misawa on June 3rd, 1994. The second, and more recent bout, was on January 4th, 2017, at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 11 event, between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada.
1. Most 5-Star Matches For A Living Wrestler
A 5-star match rating (which is essentially a perfect match) is incredibly rare. So rare, in fact, that there hasn’t been a 5-star match in WWE since 2011. And despite there being so many excellent wrestlers in WWE right now (A.J. Styles, John Cena, Finn Balor, among others), these three men only have two 5-star matches between them. The record for most 5-star matches for any living wrestler belongs to a Japanese legend named Kenta Kobashi, who wrestled from 1988 to 2013. He had twenty-three 5-star matches during his career, which is the second-most of any wrestler. The only person with more was Kobashi’s rival Misawa with 25, but Misawa passed away in 2009.