SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Stan Hansen's fight will continue
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"
-- Dylan Thomas, poet (1914 - 1953)
After 27 years, nearly 130 tours of Japan, four Triple Crown Heavyweight
title reigns, two Carnival Championships and one AWA World title, Stan
Hansen is calling it quits
Last Sunday, All Japan Pro Wrestling owner Motoko Baba made the announcement about Hansen's impending retirement to a throng of Japanese reporters at a Tokyo press
conference. Hansen's departure from the mat game doesn't come as surprise to those who follow Japanese wrestling. But it is nonetheless disheartening, because just like
the deaths of Giant Baba
and Jumbo Tsuruta
, Hansen's retirement means another link to the glory days of All Japan Pro Wrestling has been severed.
Hansen helped to change the scope of professional wrestling in Japan forever. He brought an intensity and level of believability into his matches that was unmatched by any
of his contemporaries. Hansen helped All Japan gain a reputation in the wrestling community as being the most physically taxing and athletically credible style in the world.
The quintessential 'Gaijin', (Japanese for foreigner), Hansen
played the role of monster-heel to perfection, paving the road for
American-heavyweights that would follow him to Japan: Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow,
Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Scott Norton, Gary Albright
It was Hansen that Giant Baba turned to in 1989 to help create the Triple Crown title
. After the monumental title unification match where he put Jumbo Tsuruta over in a five-star mat classic, the Triple Crown gained instant credibility and became the most legitimate version of a world title in all of wrestling.
Having thrilled fans with his brand of 'staged' violence and mayhem, the rigors of the
sport finally caught up with Hansen this year. Years of gruelling punishment
stemming from matches with Mitsuharu Misawa, Tsuruta, Kenta Kobashi and Steve Williams brought on a disease known as lumbago
(a chronic, lower-back disease). The ornery Texan, the storyline would
tell it, finally met up with the one opponent he could not beat into
The once fierce warrior had become a sad shell of his former-self the
past few years. The Hansen that fans had witnessed recently bore no
resemblance to the ravenous, bloodthirsty brawler who left a trail of
broken bones and bloodstained canvases behind him. He was an old,
battered warrior; His body was worn, his spirit tired.
Still, Hansen carried on. As the torch was passed to the younger
generation of talent, sadly, so the sport also seemed to pass him by.
And so the wrestling media cried out, begging him to retire so as not to
besmirch and ruin the legacy he had created. My voice was among the
loudest. Hansen didn't understand, we argued, what kind of damage he
was doing to his reputation.
But it was we who didn't understand. Or, to be more accurate, we simply
forgot. We forgot the kind of man Hansen was, what motivated him. In
our cruel shortsightedness, we forgot all about that one quality that
separated Hansen from his peers: his fighting spirit.
And so the stirring prose of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas has never meant
more to me than it does now. Although written as a tribute to his
father, it was as if Thomas had Hansen in mind when he wrote those
"Do not go gentle into that good night...
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"
Hansen may be leaving but he did not go gentle into that good night.
And I have come to understand why.
He had no choice. He didn't know anything else. Wrestling was in his
blood. It was his life.
He had battled the disease valiantly for the past few months until he
could bear the pain no more. And know he's decided to leave the sport
Wrestling will never be the same.
A product of the college football machine that was West Texas State,
Hansen was just one of the many from that institution that turned to pro
wrestling: Dusty Rhodes, Ted DiBiase
, the Funks, Tully Blanchard
. All of them endowed with a special trait that served
them well over their respective careers: toughness.
It's a trait that defines most wrestlers. Toughness would have to apply
to Stan Hansen if not for the fact it doesn't quite do him justice.
Stan Hansen was more than just 'tough'.
He was 'Texas-tough'.
Hansen was not some 'action-adventure series' hero. He was not a
sports-entertainer. He did not do Chef-Boyardee commercials or call out to all the wannabe-pimps in the crowd and tell them 'to a roll a big fatty for this
He was a throwback to wrestling's glory days... he was a wrestler. A
wrestler's wrestler. A man who took wrestling seriously. A man who
took great pride in his craft, his art.
And so it came as no surprise that it was in Japan that he made a name
for himself. He gave up on American wrestling long ago, preferring to
ply his trade in a country and a culture that prided itself in
presenting realistic wrestling. It was before the most astute
wrestling fans in the world, competing in the most physically demanding
style of pro wrestling that Hansen carved out his legend. No wonder
North American fans just couldn't understand.
Teaming with the late, great Bruiser Brody, Hansen made the
rings of All Japan Pro Wrestling into his personal war zone, spilling
the blood of his foes and wreaking havoc and pandemonium whenever he wrestled, always making sure to give the fans their money's worth.
And the fans appreciated it. The single, most popular and successful
foreign competitor ever to compete in Japan, Stan Hansen was much more
than a wrestler to Japanese fans.
He was a 'god'.
They looked upon the 'Badman from Borger, TX' with reverence and awe.
And yet, the 'god-like' admiration seemed to embarrass the man. In the
ring, Hansen was all business, going that extra mile to give a performance fans would not soon forget. He was a brash-talking, ass-kicking American who loved nothing more
than a good fight. He was all-man, 'all-Texas' in the ring.
The public perception betrayed the reality. Away from the ring, Hansen was a soft-spoken gentlemen, immensely introverted, always careful to protect the privacy he so
cherished. He carried himself with a quiet dignity.
His was a truly unique talent. The sophistication and elegance of the scripted
sadism and chaos he created in the ring was breathtaking. He moved
with such ferocity and fierceness, there was an understated grace to his
style. He captivated audiences and kept them spellbound with every single move he made. It was poetic.
He was an artist, able to shape and mould the texture and tone of a wrestling match
almost at will. He was able to elicit the full kaleidoscope of emotions and
feeling from fans: horror, terror, joy, bewilderment, anger, and sadness. His was a palette comprised of moves and holds that helped him put together brilliant, vibrant
canvases. Each move in the ring a unique brushstroke, each match a unique portrait.
And like every great artist, the time has come to stop and look back at the body of work he's put together with quiet reflection. The annals of wrestling history will look back
favourably on the career of Stan Hansen. He gave us so many fond memories, so many fond moments.
No more matches against Misawa or Kobashi. No more Budokan Hall main events. No trips on the famous All Japan tour bus. All that lies ahead for Stan Hansen is a battle
As the storylines have dictated through out his career, nobody ever got the better of Stan Hansen. It's unlikely the ravages of this disease will either.
Stan Hansen story archive
Nov. 23: Bald is beautiful
Hey you forgot about other bald greats: Tony "Saba Simba" Atlas, the
Baldies, Arn Anderson, Bad News Brown, Rey Misterio Jr; and of course
the greatest bald wrestler of all time- Virgil a.k.a Vincent a.k.a CurlyBill.
Was this serious piece or just a humorous one? Pretty funny if so.
Nick de Wyn
What a stupid article. I can't believe that they would put this article
on their website. Sensless drivel is what it is.