The Last Outlaw by Stan Hansen

If you’re a pro wrestling fan, chances are you have personal attachment to a particular era of the business. For some, wrestling was at its best during the Hulkamania/Rock ‘N Wrestling era. Many reading this will point to the Attitude Era. Maybe a masochist or two really enjoyed Vince Russo’s reign in WCW.

For me, it is 1990s All Japan Pro Wrestling. Hard hitting, dramatic,
psychology built upon previous matches, making the notable feuds of the era play out like epic novels.

One of the big players during that time was Stan “The Lariat” Hansen. Thanks to Hansen and Crowbar Press, we can get a glimpse into the world of Japanese wrestling, via Hansen’s autobiography “The Last Outlaw.”

After spending the first 50 pages on his childhood, college days, attempted NFL career (where he scrimmaged alongside Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas), and brief teaching career, Hansen talks about getting broke into the business by the Funks. Since Hansen came into the business during the territory days, he had the opportunity to work all over the country. Amarillo, Florida, Dallas, and Louisiana are some of the early stops in Hansen’s career.

The best part of the book, in my opinion, is Hansen’s account of his time in New York, working for the WWWF. He was brought in to work with WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino, with their first match famously resulting in Sammartino’s neck getting broke from a botched body slam. Hansen goes into detail on the heat he had from Vincent J. McMahon and the fans. Fortunately, Sammartino did not hold a grudge, and seen the opportunity for big business when he returned. Indeed, Sammartino-Hansen was big business, as their rematch drew (according to the book) the biggest crowd and gate ever in New York up to that point.

At this point, Hansen’s career settles primarily in Japan, but he also talks about working in Atlanta for Ole Anderson (where he is apparently the only guy in the business with nice things to say about Ole) and for Verne Gagne’s AWA. Hansen’s stint in the AWA ended controversially, has he never dropped the AWA title he won from Rick Martel. He talks about the confrontation with Verne that led to his exit and what actually did happen to the AWA title that he took with him.

The majority of Hansen’s career, of course, was spent in Japan. While his
first tour of Japan was with Giant Baba’s All Japan, the early part of his career was spent working for Antonio Inoki’s New Japan Pro Wrestling. His jump to All Japan in 1981 is given its own chapter, as Hansen had a secret meeting with Baba months before the move came to fruition. Think of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash showing up in WCW-that was the equivalent of Hansen’s arrival in All Japan.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to stories of life on the road and tales of the boys he shared the locker room with. Humorous stories abound (forearm class with the Funks and Andre the Giant farting in an elevator full of Japanese hotel patrons being my particular favorites). He talks about the influence Tiger Jeet Singh (famously ripped in Mick Foley’s first autobiography) had on his style, the impact Andre had in getting him over in Japan, and stories of a young Hulk Hogan.

Hansen approach to his career: “I have to take care of my own business
because nobody else will do as good a job for Stan Hansen as Stan Hansen
himself.” It is that approach that led to issues with McMahon and Gagne (and provides the source for the book’s title). He had no such problems with Baba, though, as Hansen goes to length in expressing his affection and respect for a boss who always kept his word.

Also discussed at length is Hansen’s partnership and friendship with Bruiser Brody. First meeting at West Texas State, they would team up and learn their trade together in Louisiana and the WWWF. It was in All Japan that Brody-Hansen became legendary. Hansen defines the team’s style as “wildness,” a combination of speed, quickness, brawling, and perpetual motion. It was Brody that taught Hansen an appreciation for the Japanese culture, an appreciation Hansen tried to pass on to other gaijins. Both men also worked in Puerto Rico, and Hansen talks about his and Brody’s Puerto Rico experience, and the dangers of working as a heel there. Understandably, Hansen does not go into length regarding Brody’s murder.

Hansen also gives many opinions on the evolving state of the business. He
was not a fan of AJPW’s “King’s Road” style perfected by Misawa, Kobashi,
and Kawada, saying it was choreographed and took the unpredictability out of the business (though he does profess respect for those three). Choreography is hurting the business in the States as well, according to Hansen, as wrestlers demand to “get their spots in,” taking the uniqueness out of pro wrestling and hurting the bottom line.

If you enjoy reading detailed accounts about wrestling matches, then this
book will disappoint. Hansen rarely devotes more than a couple sentences to his matches (his Comiskey Park brawl with Rick Martel and the infamous
eye-poppping match with Vader getting the most details). The book also could have used tighter editing, as many of Hansen’s stories are just thrown in at random, without regarding to chronology, sometimes making the book hard to follow.

You may not agree with every opinion, but Hansen never comes off as
arrogant. He comes across as a self-confident yet humble man, happy with the way his career unfolded. The book gives a real good account of the business during the territory days, and an unprecedented look at the Japanese wrestling world. Definitely a book geared to serious pro wrestling fans (as most Crowbar Press book are) and not the casual Monday night viewer.

Highly recommended for dedicated wrestling fans. Available through Crowbar Press.

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One Response to “The Last Outlaw by Stan Hansen”

  1. garrymoore Says:

    hi to all joshharding.wordpress.comers this is my first post and thought i would say hello to you all –
    thanks speak soon
    garry m

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