#2. Masahiko Kimura vs. Rikidozan
It was a match dubbed the Duel of the Century -- between Masahiko Kimura and the Japanese Professional Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, Rikidozan. Kimura earned his fame by being pretty talented at real fighting -- he had only lost four judo matches in his entire life, and even had an arm lock named after him that's still used consistently in modern MMA. Rikidozan, on the other hand, dabbled briefly in sumo wrestling before really building a career throwing himself around professional wrestling rings.
He loved sucking his gut in too much to go sumo.
But even though one of the fighters was the real thing, the Duel of the Century was staged as a series of fake matches that would have toured around Japan, highlighting the evenly matched skill set of each man. We say "would have" because they never got through more than one match; Rikidozan made it clear that the only thing more important to him than piles of money and attention was winning.
When It Got Real
The very first match was supposed to end in a draw, setting up all the future matches in the Duel of the Century, but Rikidozan went into business for himself just a few minutes into the fight.
The two wrestled for a while like they had rehearsed, exchanging fake holds and dodging painfully sluggish attacks, because apparently everything could be in slow motion in the '50s and still keep the entire audience absolutely enthralled.
"A 45-minute headlock ... how can he withstand such punishment?"
Then without warning, Rikidozan snapped. He unleashed a flurry of chops to Kimura's neck and face. The flustered judo champion backed into a corner, afraid to fight back in any real capacity, because he was concerned that breaking Rikidozan in half might sour the deal.
When he did try judo's deadliest move, the face smush, it was to no avail.
At one point, Kimura even turned to the referee, presumably to ask for some kind of help, only to be pummeled to the floor and kicked in the face while the ref just watched and nodded.
"This'll teach you to ... respectfully adhere to match plans."
Somehow Kimura mustered up enough strength to stand up, bewildered by the turn of events. After the referee checked him for injuries, Rikidozan raced back in and chopped Kimura so hard in the neck that he knocked him out cold.
"Are you OK to continue?"
Rikidozan celebrated his glorious victory while a swollen-faced and disoriented Kimura looked on from his corner, trying to understand what the hell had just happened. In the aftermath, Kimura still had the composure to shake the hand of Rikidozan and congratulate him on the win, even though he was well within his rights, as far as we're concerned, to forcefully rearrange his organs.
#1. Hulk Hogan vs. Richard Belzer
Hulk Hogan's mid-'80s dominance in professional wrestling both revolutionized the sport and took it mainstream. He was everywhere, from cartoons and music to nearly every piece of merchandise you can think of. Naturally, he appeared on the talk show circuit as well. In 1985, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T were invited onto the show Hot Properties, hosted by Richard Belzer (long before he started arresting perverts on Law and Order: SVU).
Nope, nothing odd about that career arc at all.
Belzer, who looks like he weighs about 102 pounds after a Thanksgiving dinner, prodded Hogan to show him some basic wrestling moves, and Hogan obliged.
He obliged Belzer's neck to a 90-degree angle.
When It Got Real
Belzer had spent the whole first half of the show taking shots at professional wrestling and belittling the careers of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. His desire to see a pro wrestling move was less an earnest request and more an accusation that Hulk Hogan was just an actor. Keep in mind, at the time professional wrestling was still adamant that everything in the ring was real, so when some weedy talk show host challenged Hogan to put a hold on him, Hogan's natural inclination was to hurt the guy.
Which, in fairness, wasn't the worst thing he could have done in this position.
So Hulk Hogan, who had been growing increasingly more furious throughout the show, put Belzer in a front chin lock and, whether out of anger or because Belzer weighed about as much as paper, put enough pressure on the lock to close Belzer's airway.
It was only a few seconds before Belzer went completely limp. Like Lenny accidentally crushing a rabbit, a tiny portion of Hogan's brain suspected that something was wrong and he let go. Belzer then crumpled to the floor, completely unconscious, while Hogan stood there and watched him fall. Belzer's head smacked hard on the concrete floor.
Mr. T, to his credit, attempted to alleviate the anxiety of the crowd by suggesting that "he's just sleepin'" while a pool of blood slowly started to form around Belzer's skull. After a few panicked moments where Hulk Hogan showed something like regret for killing a talk show host on his own show, Belzer finally woke up, disoriented and pouring a steady stream of blood down the back of his jacket.
"Just walk it off, somewhere with a softer floor."
Belzer then sued the pants off of both Hogan and the WWF, demanding $5 million before ultimately settling out of court. So today when Hulk Hogan does his Debt Help Center commercials, it's hard not to wonder if he looks back on that moment and questions if it was worth actively trying to hurt a guy he outweighed by nearly 200 pounds just to prove a point about professional wrestling no one believed anyway.
For more on hot, sweaty, half-naked men, check out The 9 Most Unintentionally Depressing Pro Wrestling Gimmicks and 5 Reasons Pro Wrestlers Are the Best Actors in the World.