Professional wrestling has a checkered history when it comes to the treatment of the vertically challenged. Midget wrestlers have long held a place inside the squared circle, albeit less in an esteemed, respected position and more as an entertaining, amusing side show worth a laugh. The unfortunate thing about their typical place as non-serious comic relief is that some of these guys can really go in the ring.
Typically known as “midget wrestling,” use of little people in pro wrestling traces all the way back to the vaudeville era. The appeal of these little people brawlers grew right along with the expanded interest in wrestling as a form of entertainment through the middle of the 20th century, becoming as closely associated with the sport as major territorial acts like Lou Thesz and “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. While the marquee, main event fighters would compel audiences with their brutish, physical strength, the midget wrestlers often balanced their unique brand of physical comedy with competitive matches and surprisingly elite athleticism.
As with so many other wrestling promotions, WWE is no stranger to midget wrestling and has traditionally employed the use of little people over the years with varying degrees of success. Even while boasting a level of corny humor that doesn’t necessarily jive with today’s Reality Era product, a “sports entertainer” like El Torito, a little person dressed in a bull costume, can get a pop with some high-risk aerial moves and the odd funny moment or two. Just like their full-sized counterparts, though these wrestlers still have to have the talent to draw in the audience. Here are 10 of the best of all time:
10. Short Sleeve Sampson
It’s an open secret among WWE insiders and internet “smarks” (smart marks) that no one gets a bigger laugh out of the silly, sophomoric and juvenile humor that WWE loves to employ than Vince McMahon himself. It would be quite easy, then, to picture Vinny Mac enjoying some guffaws in the mid-2000s while watching veteran indy midget wrestler Short Sleeve Sampson (real name Daniel DiLucchio) play little person look-alike to superstars like Kurt Angle and The Undertaker. Sampson also participated in the first match of Smackdown’s short-lived Juniors division, defeating Pitbull Patterson.
9. Little Boogeyman
Remember The Boogeyman? While not exactly known for his in-ring acumen, the oddball character came to be highly memorable for his over-the-top appearance, bizarre behavior and, perhaps worst of all, penchant for worm-eating. In order to be his miniature doppleganger, Chris Hollyfield had to commit to the bit, worms and all. As the pint-sized version of the Boogeyman, Hollyfield engaged in a standout trainwreck of a match against Hornswoggle. He also portrayed a mini-version of Booker T, performing Booker’s signature spin-a-rooni.
8. Mascarita Sagrada
Many diminutive wrestlers came from a lucha libre background, where athletic wrestling was emphasized over the silly, cornball humor that has come to dictate most North American midget wrestling. Therefore, mini wrestler Mascarita Sagrada already had enjoyed a celebrated career prior to joining WWE, one that included a reign as Mexican National Mini-Estrella Champion, the top Minis title in the Mexican promotion of AAA. From there, Sagrada joined WWE (then WWF) in 1997, receiving the character Max Mini and even earning victories on a few In Your House PPVs.
7. Lord Littlebrook
British midget wrestler Lord Littlebrook can look back on a career that rivals many of his full-sized contemporaries in terms of decoration and performing on big stages. Littlebrook reigned as the NWA World Midget Champion in the 1970s as part of a 47-year career that earned him enshrinement into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He also wrestled in front of over 93,000 spectators at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit at WrestleMania III and is recognized as one of the first wrestlers of any size to employ aerial assaults on opponents.
6. Haiti Kid
Few midget wrestlers have had the privilege of being involved in back-to-back WrestleMania events, but the Haiti Kid stands out among this rather exclusive group. After getting his head shaved by baddies Roddy Piper and Bob Orton, he served as Mr. T’s corner man against Piper in one of the main matches at WrestleMania II. One year later, he was back on wrestling’s grandest stage as a competitor, participating in the mixed six-man tag alongside Little Beaver and Hillbilly Jim against King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo and Lord Littlebrook.
5. Tiger Jackson / Dink
Typically, a midget wrestler parodying a bigger and more recognizable superstar is a funny gag with a short shelf life. Not so for Tiger Jackson, whose portrayal of Doink the Clown’s little buddy Dink in the mid-90s WWF was so popular that he became a fixture on Raw for a year during 1993 and 1994. During that time, he became best known for pulling pranks on Doink’s opponents and engaging in amusing, clowning antics. The two signature points of his WWF run came on pay-per-view, losing to Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon in a mixed tag match at WrestleMania X and helping Team Doink to victory over Jerry Lawler’s team of mini kings at the 1994 Survivor Series.
4. Sky Low Low
As one of the earliest midget wrestling stars, the reputation of Sky Low Low exists primarily in traditional wrestling lore. He supposedly reigned as the first-ever NWA World Midget Champion, but no one seems to know that for sure. He is said to have wrestled a match with Little Beaver for Queen Elizabeth II, though the exact details seem hazy. What we do know is that he earned posthumous entry into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame after a long, celebrated career built on picturesque dropkicks, solid strikes and a tremendous sense of comedic timing.
3. El Torito
Brought up to the WWE main roster in 2013 alongside the Los Matadores tag team, El Torito has spent the past two years easily outshining his larger stablemates. In addition to cheering on Diego and Fernando, the miniature bull has become known for using a variety of rope bounces in combination with his own dynamic aerial assaults. Torito has even registered victories over his full-sized contemporaries, earning a pinfall victory over Heath Slater and even eliminating Fandango from the Royal Rumble.
2. Little Beaver
The most famous midget match of all time – one that has been referenced twice on this list already – has to be the mixed six-man tag at WrestleMania II. Like so many midget matches before and after it, the battle employed a blend of legit athletic wrestling and comedy spots for an entertaining sideshow. However, what made the WM II match so memorable was the finish, which saw 458-lb King Kong Bundy come crashing down on Beaver with a slam and an elbow drop, injuring his back and expediting the end of his Hall of Fame career.
When Hornswoggle debuted as a silly, one-note leprechaun sidekick to Fit Finlay, few would have expected him to stick around nearly a decade and counting. Hornswoggle has worked his way up the ladder, working with main eventers like Triple H and Shawn Michaels and even getting a long-term storyline as the illegitimate son of Mr. McMahon. Along the way, he has won the Cruiserweight Championship and was revealed as the Anonymous Raw General Manager, ending an on-going storyline. Most recently, he was suspended for a violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy.