Hansen in 2015
|Birth name||John Stanley Hansen II|
|Born||August 29, 1949|
Knox City, Texas,
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Arlington|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Billed height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Billed weight||321 lb (146 kg; 22.9 st)|
|Billed from||Borger, Texas|
|Trained by||Dory Funk|
Dory Funk Jr.
|Debut||January 1, 1973|
|Retired||January 28, 2001|
Hansen is known for his stiff wrestling style, which he attributes to his poor eyesight. He is also known for his gimmick as a loud, violent cowboy who wanted to fight everybody, which he further emphasized by appearing in interviews with a cowboy hat, leather vest and bullrope while often chewing on tobacco. Considered the most successful and popular gaijin in professional wrestling history, he became more well-known and revered in Japan than in his native United States, where he also won championships.
In 1989, he played a small role in the movie No Holds Barred. In 2011, he released his co-written biography, The Last Outlaw.
Hansen made his professional wrestling debut in 1973. Initially a part-time job while playing football for the Detroit Wheels, he began wrestling full-time when the team folded. In 1975, Hansen first teamed with future partner Frank Goodish, who later adopted the ring name Bruiser Brody, while competing in Leroy McGuirk's Tri-State territory.
In 1976, Hansen made his debut for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and only two months after he began competing for the company, he began feuding with the WWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino over the title. During a title match, Hansen broke Sammartino's neck while they were wrestling and it was from this incident that both Hansen and promoters claimed that Sammartino's injury came about from the enormous power of his lariat. However, a botched powerslam is what actually caused Sammartino's injury. After Sammartino recovered, Hansen faced him for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship once again, but was unsuccessful. He left the promotion soon after. He returned in 1980, rekindling his feud with Sammartino and facing Pedro Morales and Andre the Giant on several occasions. He also developed a heated feud with then-WWF Champion Bob Backlund which culminated in a steel cage match at Madison Square Garden.
Hansen first came to New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) in January 1977 through the booking of Vince McMahon Sr. With his "reputation" as the man who broke Bruno Sammartino's neck, Hansen quickly became a top heel, facing Antonio Inoki and other top New Japan stars like Seiji Sakaguchi and Tatsumi Fujinami. In addition, while touring Japan regularly, he faced top American wrestlers including Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, Bob Backlund, and Hulk Hogan. Hansen established himself as a dominant force in Japan by competing in New Japan's MSG (Madison Square Garden) tournament between 1978 and 1981. Hansen would win the NWF World Title from Antonio Inoki on February 8, 1980, one of the only two wrestlers to dethrone Inoki during his seven-year reign. From November 21 to December 13, 1980, Hansen did a tour for NJPW, where he competed in the first MSG Tag League tournament (later renamed the G1 Tag League). He teamed with Hulk Hogan, but they failed to win. He returned that April to wrestle Antonio Inoki in an unsuccessful match. However, he defeated Hansen via countout in a MSG League match in May 20, 1981 after hitting a lariat on Inoki, knocking him off the apron. He returned for several more one off shows until leaving the promotion in December 1981.
Hansen returned at NJPW's Super Fight in Tokyo Dome event in 1990, where he had an infamous interpromotional match against Vader. The match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship saw Big Van Vader (representing New Japan, while Hansen represented All Japan) get struck in the eye during the entrances by Hansen's Bullrope. Both men were known to use a stiff style of wrestling, resulting in a nasty exchange where each man threw legitimate punches. The match ended in a draw. He returned in June for a few more matches, teaming twice with Riki Choshu and once with The Pegasus Kid.
In 1981, Hansen abruptly left NJPW to join All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). While in AJPW, Hansen became the only man to pin Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba in championship singles matches. He continued wrestling from 1982 to 1999 in World's Strongest Tag Determination League. He wrestled primarily in tag matches, where he formed many teams with the likes of Bruiser Brody, Terry Gordy, Ted DiBiase, Genichiro Tenryu, Dan Spivey, Bobby Duncum Jr., and Big Van Vader. Hansen also engaged in a renowned brawl with André the Giant in Japan.
In addition to championship matches, Hansen also competed in other high-profile matches. At the NJPW Super Fight in Tokyo Dome show on February 2, 1990, Hansen competed in another notable match as he represented AJPW against NJPW representative Big Van Vader. This particular match became renowned for its stiffness, as Hansen and Vader repeatedly exchanged blows until Hansen unintentionally poked Vader's right eye with his thumb, which caused the eye to pop out of its socket. After removing his mask, pushing the eye back into its socket and holding it in place with his eyelid, Vader continued wrestling Hansen until the match was rendered a no contest. As a result of the injury, Vader required a metal plate to be surgically placed under his eye. On April 13, 1990, the World Wrestling Federation and AJPW held a supershow called Wrestling Summit at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, in which Hansen lost to Hulk Hogan in the main event. Hansen won his first Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship by defeating Terry Gordy on June 8, 1990, and wrestled a rematch in NJPW against Vader on June 12.
Hansen competed in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) from 1985 to 1986. He won the World Heavyweight Championship on December 29, 1985, from Rick Martel. On June 29, 1986, he no-showed a title defense against the number one contender Nick Bockwinkel due to disagreements with management, forcing the AWA to default the title to Bockwinkel. Rumors suggest that Hansen was actually in the building that evening and had been informed by AWA promoter Verne Gagne of the pending loss to Bockwinkel. Hansen allegedly called All Japan Pro Wrestling president Giant Baba to ask if losing the championship was acceptable, but Baba had already lined up challengers for Hansen and did not permit Hansen to drop the championship. In the end, Hansen refused to drop the title to Bockwinkel and was stripped of the championship; Bockwinkel was given one of the tag team belts, which was then billed as the AWA World Heavyweight Championship due to Hansen still possessing the true title belt. Hansen immediately returned to Japan and defended the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, despite being stripped of it. The AWA threatened legal action if Hansen continued to carry the belt and refer to himself as the organization's champion, so Hansen responded by running over the belt with his truck and mailing it back with the mud tracks still on it. This chain of events was reviewed in an interview with Hansen at an NWA Legends convention, in which he expressed regret over the way he handled the situation and ultimately complimented Gagne.
In late 1990, Hansen began appearing in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), feuding with Lex Luger over the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. On October 27 at Halloween Havoc, Hansen defeated Luger to win the title, ending Luger's record-setting reign at 523 days. On December 16 at Starrcade, Hansen re-lost the title to Luger in a bullrope match. During this period, Hansen continued working tours for All Japan, teaming with Dan Spivey to finish second in the World's Strongest Tag Determination League in November and December. Hansen wrestled another rematch with Vader at the WrestleWar pay-per-view in February 1991. On April 18, Hansen and Spivey won the AJPW World Tag Team Championship from Terry Gordy and Steve Williams, and teamed occasionally upon their return to WCW. In June, Hansen left WCW and returned full-time to All Japan after a disagreement over an idea to group him with The Desperados, a trio of bumbling cowboys looking for Hansen through a series of vignettes. His last WCW match occurred on June 23 in Atlanta. As a result of his departure, The Desperados' angle was dropped and the trio was quickly dissolved.
Upon his return to AJPW, Hansen began a major feud with Mitsuharu Misawa, during which time they traded the Triple Crown Championship between one another. Following Giant Baba's death, Misawa became the new booker and quickly began de-emphasizing Hansen and other foreign talent, in favor of new native recruits such as Takao Omori and Yoshihiro Takayama.
In 2000, Misawa and all but two natives defected from the promotion and formed Pro Wrestling Noah (NOAH), although Hansen chose to remain loyal to AJPW instead of joining the talent exodus. Despite remaining with AJPW, Hansen's ongoing lumbago at the time began to worsen, which ultimately lead him to wrestle his final singles match on October 21, 2000 as part of a tournament for the vacant Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Hansen lost the semi-final match to old partner Genichiro Tenryu, who went on to win the tournament and the title. His last match altogether was a six-man bout on the 28th, in which he, Steve Williams and Wolf Hawkfield lost to Johnny Smith, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Masanobu Fuchi.
Soon after retiring, Hansen successfully underwent surgery on his back and knees, the latter of which were both replaced. After recovering, he became the commissioner of AJPW's Pacific Wrestling Federation championship governing body, which saw him appear during Triple Crown and World Tag Team Championship matches to issue proclamations of the matches. In July 2007, Hansen voluntarily resigned from the position, with Hiroshi Hase replacing him.
Hansen has four children. He has an eldest son, John Stanley Hansen III and daughter, Elizabeth Paige Hardee, née Hansen, from his first marriage. He had two more children with his current wife Yumi, Shaver (born December 19, 1987), played baseball at Baylor University before being drafted by the Seattle Mariners as the second pick in the sixth round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. His younger son, Samuel (born February 21, 1991), is also a baseball player and played for the University of Texas at Arlington.
1 Hansen won the championship after Ted Turner purchased Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling from Jim Crockett Jr. and renamed the promotion World Championship Wrestling. Hansen's reign was also prior to the championship being renamed the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship.