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5 Wrestlers who fought wild animals

Wrestlers have faced tigers and alligators in the ring
Wrestlers have faced tigers and alligators in the ring

Pro-wrestling has a rich and storied history. Wrestlers have been major attractions among their fan base over the course of this period, and the staged sport is still alive and well. WWE, AEW, NJPW, and several other promotions currently provide fans with their weekly dose of pro-wrestling.

The fact that it's a scripted sport makes way for several possibilities. Wrestlers engage in feuds, form friendships, turn on each other, and compete in matches on big stages with millions of fans watching the shows. Back in the 20th century, wrestlers taking on wild animals wasn't something out of the ordinary.

This particular time period is filled with examples of wrestlers having matches with wild animals such as bears, tigers, and alligators. In the following list, we will be taking a look at five wrestlers, who took on wild animals in the ring.


#5 Terrible Ted goes toe to toe with a wrestler named The Beast

Terrible Ted
Terrible Ted

Terrible Ted is possibly the most famous 'wrestler' in history, as he was a Canadian American black bear. He appeared in Stampede Wrestling and had reportedly won more than 500 matches by 1959.

In 1971, Terrible Ted made his debut in World Wide Wrestling Federation, now famously known as World Wrestling Entertainment. Ted wrestled his very first WWWF match on October 15, 1971, against wrestler Yvon Cormier, famously known as The Beast. The contest was held at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. Around a year later, Terrible Ted competed in a Tag Team match with future WWE Hall of Famer, the late, great Rocky Johnson.

The match in question saw Johnson and Ted team up to wrestle Luke Graham and Fritz von Goering. Terrible Ted also took on female wrestlers, with his first female opponent being Tanya West.

#4 American wrestler Tuffy Truesdale wrestles an alligator

Pro-wrestler Tuffy Truesdale vs Rodney
Pro-wrestler Tuffy Truesdale vs Rodney

Pro-wrestler Tuffy Truesdale claimed to be the final Middleweight Wrestling Champion of the United States of America, and also the first person to dare to wrestle alligators in order to earn a living. This article from February 23, 1970, goes into detail on the popular wrestler's battles with alligators, as well as other wild animals.

Tuffy wrestled an alligator named Rodney on various occasions, with many of his outings being advertised in news outlets at the time. Here's what Tuffy had to say about his wrestling experience with Rodney:

"The one thing going for you is gators are all the same. They got no personality. The only gator I ever had was any different was Rodney. He was a crazy gator. He had eyes that popped out of his head, and he was durable. During the time I had Rodney I must have gone through 50 backup gators. They won't eat; they don't care. But Rodney was mean. He would stalk me sometimes. It was great. If alligators was teachable you would teach them that. In Milwaukee, Rodney caught my head underwater and that was 40 stitches. And I still got these two stiff fingers from another bite he gives me," said Tuffy.

Alligators are one of the most dangerous carnivores on the planet, and the mere idea of having to wrestle one is enough to send shivers down one's spine. For Tuffy though, it was a gig that helped him earn a living for years on end.

#3 Wrestler and WWE legend Bruno Sammartino takes on an orangutan

Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino is regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step foot in the squared circle. He was dubbed as being "bigger than wrestling itself" by fellow wrestler Terry Funk.

Sammartino fought for years on end, and beat the very best. Interestingly, Sammartino wrestled an orangutan when he was yet to make a name for himself inside the squared circle. Bruno spoke about it in detail, and it's clear that he didn't have a great time wrestling the animal.

"Well yeah, that was here in Pittsburgh before I became a wrestler. I was doing amateur wrestling then but I was a construction worker. I was an apprentice carpenter making $2 an hour. You have to understand that this is going back to like 1956, or something like that. I was a real young guy, the carnival was in town and they had a wrestling monkey and they said if you could last five minutes with the monkey, they would give you $25. Well you know when you’re working for $2 an hour, $25 for five minutes sounded like a lot of money to me. So I took on the challenge and I fought that orangutan for fifteen minutes and I have to be real honest with you. I got the worst of that fight in that cage. The monkey won I think, because when I came out I was marked up a heck of a lot more than that monkey was," said Sammartino.

Bruno went on to become a respected wrestler in the industry. He won the WWE title twice (then WWWF title), with the combined reigns lasting for more than 11 years. Bruno Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 for his contributions to the world of pro-wrestling.

#2 Legendary WWE wrestler Billy Graham wrestled Terrible Ted

Billy Graham
Billy Graham

Billy Graham was an incredibly popular wrestler in the 1970s, and his character inspired the likes of Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura years later. He is a former WWE Champion, and defeated fellow wrestler Bruno Sammartino for the coveted belt, which he held for just over nine months.

While he was in the San Fransisco territory, Billy Graham was asked to wrestle a bear. As per his autobiography, Graham found the idea of wrestling a bear ridiculous and stated that it killed his heat as a villain. The pro-wrestling legend didn't mince his words while opening up about his experience wrestling a bear.

"I can still feel the beast's coarse, wiry fur, smell its foul breath, and hear it snorting through its muzzle as it looked me dead in the eyes. Ted wasn't a happy bear, and I wasn't a happy wrestler," said Graham.

Billy Graham was recognized for his contributions to pro-wrestling in 2004, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that year. Graham has been openly critical of WWE's product since then.

#1 Canadian wrestler Stu Hart takes on a Bengal Tiger

Stu Hart and a tiger
Stu Hart and a tiger

Stu Hart was one of the greatest pro-wrestlers to come out of Canada. He was the founder of Stampede Wrestling where future WWE stars like Owen Hart and Bret Hart kicked off their careers.

Stu Hart used to famously wrestle tigers in Stampede Wrestling. The most famous match between Stu Hart and a tiger was his outing with Sasha "Chi-Chi". The entire presentation was a publicity stunt on behalf of the Calgary Fish and Wildlife Association and bagged the attention of a large number of fans at the time.

Diana Hart, Stu's daughter, stated that he had borrowed a Cheetah as well, and possibly had plans in mind to wrestle the animal.

Stu Hart was seen on several occasions on WWE TV back in the 90s, when Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Owens Hart were top wrestlers in the company. WWE inducted him into the Hall Of Fame in 2010, with Bret doing the honors.

Stu Hart was dubbed by many of his peers as being a tough guy, but no one had imagined in their wildest dreams that he would wrestle an actual Bengal Tiger.

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Edited by Alan John
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