Stan “The Lariat” Hansen has been announced as the sixth inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016. The announcement was made on March 21, 2016, live on WWE Monday Night RAW.
The wild man from Texas (born John Stanley Hansen II) came out of the famous West Texas State that produced a lot of pro wrestlers over the years. Like many in his era, he took up wrestling in the football off-season before transitioning to the pro ranks full time. It was early in his career where he met Frank Goodish, more famously known as Bruiser Brody. The two men would team up off/on throughout their careers and became one of the most feared teams ever in Japan.
Hansen was fairly young in his career when he became notorious. He debuted in the WWWF in 1976 and quickly rose up the ranks to challenge Bruno Sammartino for the World Title. In April 1976 during a match Hansen broke Sammartino’s neck during a botched bodyslam. While out convalescing, the company wisely promoted the injury as coming from Hansen’s Lariat clothesline, effectively making Hansen a bigger star and a more dangerous threat. He returned to rekindle that feud with Sammartino in 1980 and then battle with other top stars like Pedro Morales, Andre the Giant and Bob Backlund.
In 1985 he surfaced in the American Wrestling Association and quickly won the AWA World Title from Rick Martel. Six months later he refused to drop the AWA Title to Nick Bockwinkle at the urging of Giant Baba, the promoter of All-Japan Pro Wrestling. AJPW was where Hansen wrestled when he traveled to Japan, and he was loyal to Baba over any promoter in America. The AWA stripped Hansen of the World Title while he continued to defend it in Japan. In response Hansen ran the physical belt over with his truck and mailed it back to the AWA.
He found himself in World Championship Wrestling in 1990. He beat Lex Luger in short order to win the United States Championship. The reign was fairly short but it showed Hansen to an entirely new audience. He was incredibly unorthodox, with outlandish interviews, tobacco hanging out of his mouth and unpredictable pace to his matches and speaking style. He left WCW in the summer of 1991 after refusing to be paired with a group of bumbling cowboys The Desperados in a comedy storyline.
But throughout his tours of various territories in America during the ‘80s and ‘90s, Hansen really was home in Japan. He was one of the most popular and feared American wrestlers in Japan pro wrestling history and was incredibly decorated for his efforts. While in All-Japan Pro Wrestling, he won numerous heavyweight championships, various singles and tag team tournaments, over a dozen tag team titles and the prestigious Triple Crown four times.
The last decade of his career was spent almost exclusively in Japan, where he was revered as a legend. He wrestled his last singles match in October 2000 as part of a tournament to crown a new Triple Crown Champion. He retired officially in Japan in January 2001.
Hansen was a true independent contractor in the world of professional wrestling. Throughout his twenty-five plus years in pro wrestling, he worked where he pleased and when he pleased. He was loyal only to Giant Baba and All-Japan, and his tours of America were only gravy on the steak. He looked different, he talked different and he wrestled different than many others in America at the time. His admitted near-sightedness caused him to wrestle awfully stiff with opponents, despite being known as a gentleman outside of the ring. While he was nicknamed “The Lariat” he was a true outlaw in a time where the WWF and WCW were locking wrestlers up into long-term deals. It is a shame he never did a tour of Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling in the mid to late ‘90s, as his spirit and style would have fit right in with the Tribe of Extreme and their faithful fan base.
The Texas native will be inducted into the Hall by Vader, one of his most notorious rivals. The two men first met during Hansen’s reign as AWA World Champion, when Vader was just a rookie cutting his teeth in the business. They met again in February 1990 in New Japan Pro Wrestling in what is considered one of the most gruesome matches in history. During the bout, Vader took a nasty shot to the eye, which caused his eye to pop out of his socket. Vader put the eye back in place and continued with the match, which resulted in a draw, and gave Vader an instant dose of credibility. They rematched again in February ’91 at WCW WrestleWar in another wild, but much tamer, brawl that again resulted in a draw.
He is joined by Sting, The Godfather, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Big Boss Man and Jacqueline in this year’s class. This year’s Hall of Fame ceremony will be held on April 2, 2016, inside the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. This is the night before WrestleMania XXXII.