Few in the wrestling business can say they were as successful for as long as Greg “The Hammer” Valentine was. A second-generation superstar, Valentine took after his father Johnny and followed in the wrestling business, winning titles in every promotion he appeared in including the NWA, WCW and WWF.
Greg Valentine began his career training in the famous Hart Dungeon under the tutelage of the great Stu Hart. In 1976, Valentine would join the National Wrestling Alliance where he would begin his rise to stardom. Valentine soon found himself teaming with the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, winning the NWA World Tag Team Championships on two occasions before entering into a feud with Chief Wahoo McDaniel over the Heavyweight Championship.
It was this feud that would Valentine the heel heat he would build his career off of. During a match in Raleigh, NC in 1977, Valentine would trap McDaniel in his signature Figure Four Leg Lock, breaking Wahoo’s leg and winning the title in the process. Valentine sported a T-shirt that said “I broke Wahoo’s leg” soon after, drawing the ire of fans in the territory. The two would trade the title before Valentine left to take a pit-stop in the WWWF before making his return to the NWA.
Following his return, Valentine would find himself embroiled in one of the more brutal and personal rivalries seen in professional wrestling. Winning the NWA United States Championship, Valentine began defending the title against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, with the two meeting at the inaugural Starrcade in 1983 in a brutal Dog Collar match. Piper would pick up the win in a match type hardly seen in professional wrestling, but the two would continue to feud before Valentine left again for the WWF.
Quickly after joining the WWF, Valentine would capture the Intercontinental Championship, defeating and injuring champion Tito Santana. Valentine would defend the title at the inaugural Wrestlemania, losing to the Junkyard Dog by countout but holding onto his title. Santana would return from injury and the two would wage war across the country over the title, competing in everything from a lumberjack match to a steel cage match. It was in that steel cage that Santana would recapture the gold, ending the fifth-longest reign in the title’s history.
Following his loss to Santana, Valentine would join forces with Brutus Beefcake and with Johnny Valiant as their manager, the “Dream Team” was formed. The Dream Team would go on to capture the WWF Tag Team Championships from The U.S. Express, defending the titles for over seven months against some of the top tag teams in the business. They would lose the titles at Wrestlemania II to The British Bulldogs before splitting after their match at the following year’s Wrestlemania.
Valentine entered into another hard-hitting feud, this time with “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin who made the move to the WWF in the spring of 1989. Valentine defeated Garvin in a retirement match soon after, forcing Garvin to continue the feud from his role as a ring announcer and referee. Garvin would interfere in Valentine’s matches, causing Valentine and manager Jimmy Hart to lobby for Garvin’s reinstatement for a Submission match at the 1990 Royal Rumble. Garvin would get his revenge when he locked Valentine in the Sharpshooter, ending the rivalry between the two by forcing “The Hammer” to submit.
Valentine would bounce around between the WWF and WCW to end his career before being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. One of the best heels the professional wrestling world has seen, Valentine never got the credit he deserved. His Hall of Fame induction will allow his legacy to continue on, but “The Hammer” deserves more recognition as one of the greatest champions in the history of the business.
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