XXXXL: from Kamala the Ugandan Giant to Yokozuma to Haystacks Calhoun, we present the 10 greatest super-heavyweights in wrestling history – Special section: the heavyweights
THE BIG MAN HAS ALL BUT grown extinct in the world of professional wrestling.
Certainly, grapplers like Kevin Nash and Paul “The Big Show” Wight are among the biggest humans ever to step over the top rope, but they follow more closely in the Giant foot-steps of Andre rather than the rein-forced britches of Haystacks Calhoun.
In this modern era of muscle-bound warriors and acrobatic aerialists, training and conditioning count for as much as style and personality in determining a wrestler’s success. There no longer seems to be enough room in the sport for those who cast an eclipse rather than a shadow or those who carry the weight of the world around their waistlines. Gone are the belly-busting behemoths, the spectacular super-heavyweights who once helped to define professional wrestling.
Perhaps the recent success of Rikishi will lead a resurgence of the rotund, but until that day comes, the following list of the 10 greatest super-heavyweights is a tribute to the bygone era of the big guy.
A man of mind-boggling strength and one of the sport’s original super-heavyweights, the 640-pound Haystacks Calhoun was a huge drawing card in every sense of the word. A star of the 1950s and ’60s, Calhoun was discovered by promoters while working on his family farm in Arkansas and soon after began his wrestling career in Texas. Though he eventually headed east where he found his greatest fame with the WWF (which changed its name to the WWE this May), Calhoun never lost his country-boy charm. Wearing overalls and a lucky horseshoe around his neck (which he hung on the ring post during matches), he would typically take on two wrestlers at once. He also became one-half (actually closer to three-fourths) of the WWF tag-team champions in 1973 with Tony Garea.
A master of the Battle Royal, Happy Humphrey (a.k.a. Bill Cobb) was an immovable object who left wrestling audiences of the 1950s awestruck every time he stepped into the ring. Weighing in at 750 pounds, Humphrey was an immense man, legendary for his big appetite, wrestling a bear, and being weighed-in at meat factories. A snazzy dresser, Humphrey usually entered the ring wearing knickers, a shirt, and an old-time cap. Though he was known primarily in the South, Humphrey appeared before a sold-out Big Apple crowd at Madison Square Garden at the invitation of Vince McMahon Sr. to take on WWF super-heavyweight Haystacks Calhoun in a reinforced ring–the match ended in a time-limit draw. After his wrestling days, Humphrey ballooned to an immobile 900 pounds before dropping to a comparatively tiny 230 pounds thanks to diet and medical procedures. Like a true super-heavyweight trooper, however Humphrey eventually ate himself back to a comfortable 600 pounds before his death in 1989.
KING KONG BUNDY
Standing 6’4″ and tipping the scales at nearly 500 pounds, King Kong Bundy was a mountain of a man with a mean streak wider than his ample backside. After crushing an opponent beneath his patented avalanche body splash, Bundy (a.k.a Chris Palies) would add insult to injury by demanding a five-count from the referee. Bundy reached his professional peak in 1986 when he battled Hulk Hogan in a steel cage as the main event of Wrestlemania II, but he remained one of the sport’s superstars for nearly a decade. His gruff, tough persona even inspired television producers to use the Bundy name for the dysfunctional family on the long-running sitcom “Married … With Children” (on which Bundy guest-starred twice).
Big and unpredictable, Kamala the Ugandan Giant (a.k.a James “Sugarbear” Harris from Mississippi) was a sight to see. Wearing war paint on his face, chest, and impressive belly, this 6’7″, 400-pound savage had to be led to the ring by his masked handler, Friday (later Kimchee). He would then wait anxiously in his corner stomping his feet and slapping his gut like a battle drum until it was time for the match to begin. Kamala also had a habit of continuing to abuse his opponent long after the match had ended. Outside of the ring, Kamala rarely broke character, walking the streets in robes and face paint, pretending not to speak or understand English. Purported to have been a bodyguard of the notorious former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the Kamala persona was actually a collaboration between Harris and Jerry Lawler that they debuted in the wrestling hotbed of Memphis in the 1970s. For 20 years, the character endured, horrifying audiences well into the 1990s with stunts like eating a live chicken on national television and taking part in classic matches against the biggest names in the game from Andre the Giant to the Undertaker.
ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER
Truly a legend of wrestling, Abdullah the Butcher never met a foreign object he didn’t like and left a trail of blood wherever he traveled. From the beginning of his career in the ’60s, this big man from the Sudan made a habit of bouncing from one promotion to the next before his act could grow stale. The strategy worked famously, making his unpredictable appearances a special event. Wearing genie pants and pointed boots, Abdullah seemed as wide as he was tall. He was a master at using that impressive girth to shield referees and smother his opponents while he went to work opening up their foreheads with whatever tool he thought to hide in his waistband.
Though he was beloved as a broadcaster in the ’80s and ’90s when he worked alongside Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon (a.k.a. Robert Marella) was a legendary heel for 20 years inside the ring. Lured away from his teaching career and into the squared circle by a promoter, the 6’6″, 400-pound Monsoon thrived in the sport immediately. Claiming to hail from outer Mongolia, he wore a heavy beard and was known to growl at opponents. He captured the WWF tag-team belts with both Killer Kowalski and Cowboy Bill Watts, but Monsoon’s greatest claim to fame came when he body-slammed a trash-talking Muhammad Ali in a boxing-wrestling crossover event. Monsoon also served as WWF president in 1996 before he passed away in 1999.
Spitting threats during interviews and crippling opponents in the ring, Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell was 450 pounds of pure venom A permanent scowl beneath his tangled beard and clad in black (except when he donned the colorful robes of Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie during a brief alliance), the only time this behemoth from Stone Mountain, Ga., seemed truly happy was when he was dishing out punishment. The popular chant of “Fat-well! Fat-well!” typically spelled rib-splitting doom for any jobber unlucky enough to share the ring with him during his ’70s and ’80s AWA heyday. Blackwell did manage to draw a few cheers during storylines when he was forced to wrestle for the deed to his mama’s country home, but for the most part, Blackwell was a super-heavyweight fans loved to hate.
THE MCGUIRE TWINS
This dominant duo never intended to become gargantuan grapplers, they were just the two biggest wrestling fans in the world–literally. Listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest twins on the planet, Benny and Billy McCrary were riding minibikes across the country as part of a publicity stunt when they were spotted in Texas at a wrestling match by the legendary Gory Guerrero and invited to train with him in Mexico. Before long, they were wrestling around the world. They changing their name to the McGuire Twins and won tag-team championships throughout the South. With a combined weight of 1,600 pounds, the brothers developed a cachet of big-man moves such as the Steamroller and Big Splash, using their combined girth to crush opponents in the corners.
“PLAYBOY” BUDDY ROSE
Possessing the style of Ric Flair and the body of Homer Simpson, “Playboy” Buddy Rose was a bleach blond rule-breaker with a seriously distorted image of his own physique. Whenever the ring announcer would introduce him as weighing in at 271 pounds (an already generous estimate), an outraged Rose would chastise the man with the microphone for “mispronouncing” his announced weight and demand to be reintroduced at the much more svelte 217 pounds. A magnificent heel who despised looking foolish, Rose came up with more lame excuses in the ring than wrestling moves, blaming anything from loose floorboards to illegally pulled tights whenever he got into trouble. Though Rose certainly wasn’t even close to being one of the biggest men to enter the squared circle, this comical AWA bad guy of the 1980s was far from the cruiserweight he thought himself to be.
Grapplers don’t come much bigger than two-time WWF champion Yokozuna. Perhaps the last of the old-school super-heavyweights, Yokozuna (a.k.a. Rodney Anoia) used his massive weight as a weapon when he’d jump off the ropes to deploy his devastating Banzai Drop to crush opponents. Eventually, however, Yokozuna’s weight grew out of control and, at 700 pounds, caused him to become too sluggish in the ring. Hauled from the ring by a forklift after “breaking his leg” during a match against Vader, he was given some time to drop weight. Returning in 1996 at 600 pounds, the ropes collapsed under his bulk and the big man never returned to championship form before his death in 2000.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group