10 Things Wrestling Fans Should Know About Stan Hansen

Pro wrestling could always use a cowboy character, and there’s a wealth of them in the history of the sport, including legends like Bob Orton and Terry Funk as well as modern guys like “Hangman” Adam Page. Among the best of all time — cowboy or otherwise — is Stan “The Lariat” Hansen, a violent cowboy who wrestled for a variety of promotions, including WCW, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and even WWE.

RELATED: 10 WCW Wrestlers Who Are Known For Working Stiff

During his in-ring career, which lasted from 1973 to 2001, Hansen proved to be an outstanding competitor and decorated champion. Fans might not know much about him these days, so let’s take a look at the career of Stan Hansen and what fans should know about the legend.


10 Trained By The Funks

Born in 1949, Stan Hansen attended college at West Texas State University, where he played football for the Buffaloes and met teammate and fellow future pro wrestling legend Terry Funk. Hansen ended up getting trained by the Funk family — Terry, Dory Jr., and Dory Sr. He debuted in the ring in 1973 in the West Texas territory owned by Dory Funk Sr, performing as a side gig while he played football professionally. However, when his team, the short-lived World Football League’s Detroit Wheels, shuttered, Hansen decided to make wrestling his main gig.

9 Broke Bruno Sammartino’s Neck

Stan Hansen was only a few years into his career when he debuted in WWE — back then known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation — and promptly got into a feud with the promotion’s top champion, Bruno Sammartino. While performing a powerslam, Hansen accidentally broke Sammartino’s neck, an incident that was attributed in kayfabe to Hansen’s signature Lariat maneuver. This incident would lead to a huge match between the two at the Shea Stadium show Showdown at Shea in 1976, with Sammartino getting the win.

8 A Top Heel In New Japan Pro-Wrestling

In the late 1970s, Stan Hansen debuted for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, with his breaking of Sammartino’s neck being crucial in presenting him as a formidable force in NJPW as he took on big names like Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami.

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During his time in New Japan — which lasted from 1977 to 1981 — Hansen took part in several tournaments including what would become the G1 Climax as well as teaming with Hulk Hogan for the World Tag League tournament.

7 One Of The Stiffest Wrestlers Of All Time

During his career, Stan Hansen earned a reputation for being one of the stiffest wrestlers in the game, but it wasn’t necessarily something he strived for. Instead, Hansen had notoriously bad eyesight, and a lack of corrective lenses in the ring — even contact lenses — resulted in him being stiffer with his attacks than he meant to just because he didn’t realize how close his opponent was. Stan Hansen had some legendarily stiff matches with opponents, including Big Van Vader in 1990 in a bout where Hansen broke Vader’s nose and popped his eye out of its socket.

6 Tag Team Partner With Bruiser Brody

The aforementioned West Texas State football team had a lot of pro wrestlers on it, including another future legend, Bruiser Brody, with whom Stan Hansen formed a tag team, capturing three NWA United States Tag Team Titles while working for Mid-South Wrestling. As the years went on, they continued to tag, most notably in All Japan Pro Wrestling. In AJPW, Hansen and Brody held the PWF World Tag Team Championship for 1,164 days and took part in several iterations of AJPW’s tag team tournament, World’s Strongest Tag Determination League, winning the 1983 edition.

5 All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Champion

Stan Hansen wasn’t just a successful tag team competitor in All Japan Pro Wrestling — he also ventured into the singles realm, taking on Jumbo Tsuruta, Genichiro Tenryu, and even AJPW owner Giant Baby himself, and eventually became a multi-time world champion. While he held each of the three titles that make up AJPW’s top title, the Triple Crown Championship, it was in the summer of 1990 that Stan Hansen captured the unified title when he defeated Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy. Over the course of his time with the company, Hansen would become a four-time Triple Crown Champion.

4 WCW United States Heavyweight Champion

While Stan Hansen definitely did more high-profile work in Japan than in the United States, he did have a brief run in WCW in the early 1990s, where he feuded with Lex Luger and ended up capturing the United States Championship from Luger at Halloween Havoc ‘90. Their rivalry would end with a Bullrope Match at Starrcade two months later, with Luger winning back the belt.

RELATED: The 5 Best WCW United States Title Matches In History (& The 5 Worst)

However, Hansen’s run with WCW would end halfway through 1991 when he objected to being aligned with a stable of comedic cowboy characters named The Desperadoes.

3 Held The AWA Title Belt Hostage

Halfway through the 1980s, Stan Hansen became a part of the American Wrestling Association, ending 1985 on a high note when he dethroned Rick Martel to capture the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. When he was booked to lose to Nick Bockwinkel, however, he no-showed the match because AJPW had booked challengers for the belt in Japan. Bockwinkel was awarded the World Title (represented by a tag team championship belt) while Hansen defended the real belt in All Japan. When AWA threatened to sue him to get back the belt, Hansen mailed it back to the promotion — after running it over with his truck.

2 Rivalry With Mitsuharu Misawa

As a singles star in All Japan Pro Wrestling, one of Stan Hansen’s biggest rivalries would be with one of the “Four Pillars” of the promotion, Mitsuharu Misawa. Their first encounter would be in July of 1990, with Hansen beating Misawa for the vacant Triple Crown Championship. From 1990 to 1998, Misawa and Hansen would clash in 14 singles matches, including in several Champion Carnival tournaments and bouts with the Triple Crown Title on the line, which the two men traded on several occasions.

1 Retired In 2001

Following the infamous mass exodus of talent from All Japan to form Pro Wrestling NOAH in the year 2000, Stan Hansen was one of the few wrestlers who stayed loyal and chose not to leave AJPW. However, issues with his lower back would ultimately force Hansen’s retirement, with his final singles match being a losing effort against Genichiro Tenryu in a tournament for the Triple Crown Title, followed by a six-man tag team match, both in October. Hansen announced his retirement in early 2001, but remained part of AJPW by functioning as an authority figure of sorts.

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