Professional wrestling is not for the faint-hearted. It is a dangerous sport that requires great athleticism. A dedication to throwing yourself around a ring or even off very large objects that most people will never understand. You have to have a certain mindset to do it for a living. The belief in your own abilities without question is a must. You have to be willing to do what the other guy or girl won’t. But most of all, you have to be a hard bastard.
This series will take a look at those who fall into this category of a hard bastard. Those wrestlers who have a reputation for being as badass outside of the squared circle as they are within it. If you’re going to do something like this then you better start out how you mean to go on. That’s why our inaugural member of the Hard Bastard Hall of Fame is none other than the hardest bastard to ever lace up a set of boots, The Master of the Tongan Death grip, Haku.
The late, great Bobby “The Brain” Heenan once said that Andre The Giant was only afraid of two wrestlers. Harley Race and Haku. Really, that’s probably all I need to write here to prove that he deserves his reputation as the toughest son-of-a-bitch to ever grace wrestling. However, I have a certain amount of words I have to write or my editor will wail on me with a kendo stick. I suppose I better elaborate.
Like a lot of wrestlers from his era, Haku could work snugly. From all accounts, unlike others who would take pleasure in inflicting pain on their opponents just because they could. He would only lay a beating on you if he felt you deserved it. This would mean you’d have to do something to piss him off, such as taking liberties in the ring or pushing your luck with the match layout. Or whining to management that he was a little too rough for your liking. Just ask Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Hulk Hogan’s buddy didn’t like how Haku was treating him during their matches and went to Vince McMahon. He complained that the Tongan’s chops were fair to heavy-handed and that he didn’t want to work with him anymore. As is usually the case in these situations, this news found its way back to the accused. To say he didn’t take it well would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Haku marched up to The Barber who was in the shower at the time. He picked Beefcake off the floor by his throat before proceeding to choke the ever-loving s**t out of him. By all accounts, Brutus actually turned blue. There was a very good possibility that Haku was intent on killing his a** until he was talked down from a murder charge.
Some claim that it was Hulk Hogan that saved “The Barber” from certain doom. Others say it was Pat Patterson, but whoever it was should be on Brutus’ Christmas card list until the end of time.
Eric Bischoff might have been the biggest threat to WWE‘s dominance over the world of Pro-Wrestling. However, even Bischoff wasn’t immune to facing the wrath of Haku, or Meng as he was known in WCW.
Chris Candido tells the story of hanging out with Haku, Tammy Lynn Sytch, and Chris Jericho when Bischoff and Greg Gagne barged their way in front of the trio. They treated them as if they weren’t there, so they could talk to the man himself. This did not go over at all.
He looks at them and goes ‘Hey!’ And the entire locker room just froze. I was like ‘Man, these weren’t just funny stories, this guy must really be tough.’ And then Meng says, ‘Apologize to my friends, I’m talking’ and everyone shuts up while Bischoff and Gagne apologize to me, Tammy, and Chris.”
Bischoff himself said that the reason that he stayed employed for so long was that:
We never fired him in WCW because no one had the balls to do so.”
Even Kevin Sullivan was known to use the Legend of Haku to his advantage. Before Bischoff took over the product and turned it into the 83 weeks winning juggernaut that came close to putting Vince McMahon and Co. out of business. Kevin “The Taskmaster” Sullivan was the one who held the book. Being the guy who picks and chooses the outcome of matches isn’t always the most glamorous of positions. To help himself get around the fact of telling the losing guy they weren’t going to win whenever anyone would complain, Sullivan would tell them that he was just going to go and get Meng. They could talk it over with him if they wanted to.
No-one ever took him up on the offer.
F*ck The Police
The Steiner Brothers have a reputation for being tough as nails themselves within the industry. They will, no doubt, be making their own appearance in the Hard Bastards Hall Of Fame in the future. But even they knew that Haku was on another level than they were. This may have had something to do with the fact that the Tongan would take on all-comers. Especially if they annoyed him enough, or if he was drunk enough. Haku didn’t care if they were fans (more on that in a bit) or the local police.
Talking to Highspots, Rick Steiner recounted a run-in with the police that left both him and his brother stunned by what they saw:
One time, Meng fought off eight police officers. They shot him with mace, and he closed his eyes and sucked it in. He just opened his mouth and took a deep breath. I mean, some of the stuff he did was like, ‘What the hell?’ Scotty and I always thought we were tough guys, but that was before we met Meng.”
Yup, he breathed the stuff in like a vacuum cleaner sucks up dust if that vacuum cleaner just happened to be an incredibly annoyed Godzilla of a man.
Ted DiBiase’s Police Story
Ted DiBiase remembered another time when Haku wasn’t the instigator and was, in fact, in the process of breaking up a fight when the police came:
…we were in a rough part of St. Louis for a show. Everyone had been drinking, and a large fight broke out, which resulted in the police showing up. Meng had a few drinks but saw the fight break out, so he started trying to break it up. In the process, police thought he was part of the fight and maced him then handcuffed him. Meng was cuffed behind his back, looked at the police, and snapped the handcuffs.”
He snapped the handcuffs. Snapped the f*cking handcuffs. I don’t know how many of you have been on the receiving end of police after a night on the town goes off the rails. But when you’ve got handcuffs on and enough beer inside to slay a Betty Ford clinic, it’s difficult enough to stand up straight. Let alone break your chains as if they were paper-mache.
There’s one thing that every wrestling fan knows. You never, ever walk up to a wrestler and tell them what they do is fake. First off, it’s just rude and mind your damn manners. Secondly, there’s a very good chance you might get the crap kicked out of you for your troubles. The problem is that none of us seem to have informed non-wrestling fans this. More than a few have decided over the years to say this to the one man on the planet who will bite the nose off your face, quite literally.
According to Haku himself:
Yeah. It was in Baltimore Airport. Me and Siva Afi went over and there were lots of babyfaces there at the bar. So we went and sat in the other corner away from them. When they were ready to close, we had a few drinks, and on our way out there were five guys just sitting there. Of course, the same thing came out. The ‘fake’ stuff. ‘Hey, are you guys with those guys – wrestlers? The fake wrestlers on TV?’ You know. I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll show you.’ And I reached over without thinking – there are four other guys there– grabbed his face, and bit his nose off. Then the fight started. Me and Siva kind of cleaned house there and left. I’ll never forget it.”
And God help you, if you were racist anywhere near him as Kevin Sullivan recalled, when a slur was thrown in Haku’s direction in a bar:
The next thing I know is that Meng goozles (chokeslams) the guy like Mr. Spock. It was fast and furious. He then grabbed another guy who tried to get involved and knocked him unconscious. Meng bit through the guy’s shirt like a wolf, bit a chunk out of the guy’s back, then spit it on the floor.”
But it wasn’t just idiots in everyday life that would face Haku’s bad side, as Jesse Barr discovered during their time in Puerto Rico. While out one day, Barr thought it’d be funny to kick dirt onto a local who was just doing his job. He was digging a ditch. Haku went apocalyptic. Grabbing Barr and beating the tar out of him, according to legend, Haku then ripped Barr’s eye out of its socket. It forced him to wrestle with a glass eye for the rest of his career.
To be fair, Haku himself has denied this. He admits to kicking the snot out of Jesse but said that he stopped short of maiming him for life. He realized that Barr needed to make a living and blinding him would stop any chance he had of providing for his family.
Still, I can’t imagine that a furious Haku jumping on you and kicking your a** from here to Albuquerque could have been high on the list of things Jesse Barr expected to happen when he woke up that morning.
Sometimes you hear stories about a person and realize that that’s all they are…stories. But there are so many corroborating witnesses and tales of Haku’s badass attitude that I’ve not even covered here. Such as the time he pushed a guy through two different sets of doors with one hand. That when people claim that he was the Hardest Bastard to ever walk the face on the Earth then you have to believe them.
Haku himself disputes this claim though, saying;
Wrestlers just wanna throw my name out for the heck of it. I think we were all tough. You had to make the people believe that in wrestling for us to make some money. For us to have all those angles on TV, and to bring them back for all this good stuff. Everybody was tough those days to make money and protect the business.”
Haku may have a point as wrestlers, especially old school ones, do have a tendency to embellish their stories somewhat. Just think of Hulk Hogan claiming everything from playing bass for Metallica to having a cure for Covid-19, but I think I’ll leave the final word to Jake “The Snake” Roberts:
If I had a gun and was sitting inside a tank with one shell left and Haku is 300 yards away, he’s mine, right? Well the first thing I’m going to do is jump out of the tank and shoot myself because I don’t want to wound that son of a bitch and have him pissed off at me.”
Ok, so who should be the next inductee? Who do you know stories about or want to hear about? Let us know in the comments below.