Labor Day is a day where America gives tribute to the hardest working people in our country. So today I honor the working class of pro wrestling, the top blue collar wrestlers. While some wrestlers prefer the glitz, the glamor, and the celebrity, here are several pro wrestlers that would rather wear a flannel and a beer in exchange for a martini and a ring robe.
Most pro wrestlers embrace the show of sparkling robes, hot women, and a flashy lifestyle in and out of the ring. Yet some of the most popular wrestlers are ones who have embraced the working man. Wrestlers who prefer to punch and kick their way to the top rather than dazzle with drop kicks and high flying moves. So in honor of Labor Day I take my hat off to these tough, blue collar wrestlers.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Is there any other pro wrestler in the last two decades that represents blue collar more than Steve Austin? The epitome of the conflict between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon was the fact that Vince wanted Steve to corporate, where all Steve wanted to do was drink beer and raise hell. Austin spoke for most of blue collar America when he punched his boss in the face and popped him the finger. Steve Austin is just as blue collar outside of the ring even with his millions of dollars. You won’t be reading about Austin spending the summer at Malibu, but you may hear of his many hunting trips. Steve Austin is truly the biggest blue collar wrestling superstar of all time.
Dusty Rhodes – If Steve Austin was the blue collar wrestling champion of the last generation, Dusty Rhodes was the blue collar wrestling champion of the previous generation. The “son of a plumber,” Dusty Rhodes played to the blue collar/working class more so than almost any other pro wrestler. Dusty would often compare his struggles against the NWA world champion to the struggles of middle America. Dusty was more comfortable in a bunkhouse match wearing jeans and cowboy boots than trunks and elbow pads. Yes Dusty had his glamorous robes, but he never forgot his working roots.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan – Old Hacksaw may not have the respect today by wrestling fans after being portrayed as a goof in both the WWE and WCW, but that wasn’t the Hacksaw Jim Duggan that I grew up watching. Hacksaw never wore a wrestling robe and unlike most wrestlers in the WWF or the 1980s, Duggan wrestled in a plain pair of boots and trunks. Duggan like most tough blue collar workers never backed down from a challenge whether it was Andre the Giants, the Russians in Mid-South, One Man Gang, or “Macho King” Randy Savage. Duggan always wore his American colors proud and often waived a big American flag as he came to the ring. Duggan was sandwiched in between Dusty’s heyday and a bit before Austin, but never forgot where he came from. For those that remember him in his prime, Hacksaw Duggan was truly a blue collar wrestler.
Mick Foley – I can’t recall many former wrestling world champions that defended their titles in ripped flannels, t-shirts, and sweat pants. Mick Foley rose to fame in the late 1990s due to his identifying with the working man. Mick carried a barbed wire bat or a steel chair and fought his heart out in famous battles against The Rock and the Undertaker. Foley was the working man’s wrestler and even to this day continues to parade around in flannels and sweat pants in the ring.
“Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant – Like Steve Austin, Jimmy Valiant went through several different phases in his career. He was a more glamorous blonde during his run in the WWWF. Yet years later he morphed into a blue collar biker, which is more his true persona outside of the ring. While he never was overly patriotic there was something about his battles against the foreign assassins hired by Paul Jones, Jimmy Hart, and Gary Hart that had him fighting for the red, white, and blue. Often forgotten, yet one of a kind, Jimmy Valiant is truly a blue collar wrestling champion.
Tommy Dreamer – With a last name like Dreamer, he had to work extra hard to be embraced by the working class, and he did. If ECW was the blue collar wrestling promotion of our time, is there anyone else in ECW that epitomized working class, blue collar than Tommy Dreamer? I don’t think so. Dreamer entered ECW with shiny suspenders, but later traded them in for a trademark t-shirt and plain black karate pants. Dreamer arguably fought harder in the fan’s eyes than anyone else in ECW. Fans cried when Dreamer won the ECW world title because they could relate to being the guy that worked hard every time he clocked in and finally got the promotion (or title in this case) that he deserved. Yes, Tommy did have the hot girl with Beulah, but Jimmy Valiant had Big Mama and I’m not holding that against him. Still wrestling in t-shirts and black baggy pants, Tommy Dreamer will always be known as one of the toughest blue collar wrestlers of all time.
Dean Ambrose – The current WWE world heavyweight champion embodies blue collar. From his plain black tank top to his plain blue jeans, the only thing missing from this superstar’s attire is an old-school metal lunch box.
Terry Funk – Terry Funk isn’t a guy you normally think of right away when you think working class/blue collar wrestler. But once you look at the criteria of a blue collar wrestler, Terry Funk becomes an obvious choice. He wasn’t the son of a plumber, but he was a rancher at heart. Funk never wore the glitzy tights and preferred to go plain trunks, plain knee pads, and plain boots. All Terry Funk did was work hard and there wasn’t a doubt from any wrestling fan that has been blessed to watch the Funker live that he wasn’t working his tail off. What is more blue collar than pouring a can of oil all over yourself to make a point about Dusty Rhodes? Chainsaw Charlie anyone? He is more working class, than blue collar but there was something about Terry Funk through five decades that has touched the hearts of blue collar wrestling fans around the world.
Did I leave anyone out? Let me know with a comment.
Happy Labor Day!