Wolverine’s claws are some of the most iconic weapons in comic book history. With six claws coated in the unbreakable metal adamantium, Wolverine has clawed through countless villains on his way to becoming Marvel’s most iconic mutant. While his claws received a bloody spotlight in “Logan,” Wolverine hasn’t always been able to depend on his famous blades. Even without the claws, Wolverine is still a highly-trained martial artist and an experienced brawler.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of Wolverine’s best fights where he didn’t pop his claws. From friendly sparring matches to brutal battles, we’ll be looking across comics, movies and television for times when Logan faced his opponents using only his bare fists or other weapons.
15. THE CAGE MATCH
In Hugh Jackman’s very first scene as Wolverine from 2000’s “X-Men,” he never actually pops his claws. Early in the film, Anna Paquin’s runaway Rogue comes across Logan while he’s fighting bare-fisted in cage matches in a Canadian bar. As Rogue watches an unconscious fighter being dragged away, another opponent steps into the ring to challenge Wolverine. After taking several body blows, Logan knocks his opponent out with three strikes.
By not showing Wolverine’s claws, director Bryan Singer establishes the character of Logan as a skilled fighter who can take a brutal beating unscathed. As Logan starts to throw punches, the sound of clinking metal hints at his adamantium skeleton and super-human powers. For fans of the character, this helps build anticipation towards the next scene, where Wolverine pops his claws in live-action for the first time. For general audiences less familiar with Logan, this helps ease them into an increasingly fantastic world by starting with some slightly less uncanny details about the character.
14. IRON FIST
With the release of “Logan” and “Iron Fist” set to debut on Netlfix on March 17, Wolverine and Iron Fist will both have an unusually high profile this month. Both characters debuted within a few months of each other in 1974, and they’ve encountered each other a few times since then. As seen in Jay Faerber and Jamal Igle’s 2000 miniseries “Iron Fist: Wolverine,” the two superheroes usually work together as allies.
Although Wolverine and Iron Fist have had some serious battles, most of their fights have been while sparring as training partners. In 2011’s “New Avengers” #15, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato, the two Avengers faced off in a sparring match without using their super-powers. As the fight progressed, Wolverine said that he had seen most of Iron Fist’s techniques before and knocked him to the ground without too much effort. Although both heroes reiterated that they weren’t really trying, Wolverine’s victory was short-lived, since he lost to his next sparring opponent, the unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
Since his first appearance in 1964’s “X-Men” #4, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the high-jumping Toad has gone through a number of drastic transformations. After Ray Park brought the character to life in 2000’s “X-Men,” the character took on many of his cinematic counterpart’s traits, including a newfound swagger, a super-strong prehensile tongue and the ability to project a paralyzing substance that trapped his opponents.
In 2001’s “Wolverine” #167, by Frank Tieri and Dan Fraga, Wolverine encountered this new Toad for the first time in Madripoor’s Bloodsport Tournament, a super-human fighting competition. After receiving a mysterious letter, Wolverine entered the tournament under his old alias Patch. After watching Toad use his tongue to crush the life out of the minor villain Eel, Logan faced the old X-Men enemy in a cage match. Although Wolverine popped his claws to cut himself free from Toad’s paralyzing spit, he ultimately defeated the villain by yanking on his long tongue. This pulled him down from his perch at the top of the cage and left Toad unconscious on the ground in a scene that managed to make both characters seem a little bit cooler.
Although he hasn’t appeared in years, Bloodscream was one of Wolverine’s more prominent antagonists during his adventures away from the X-Men. Created by Chris Claremont and John Buscema in 1989’s “Wolverine” #4, Bloodscream was a 16th century pirate doctor who was transformed into an immortal vampire-like creature by a necromancer. While he appeared human and drained people of their “life force” like a vampire, Bloodscream could also unhinge his jaw and transform into a feral monster.
After an extended chase through the Canadian wilderness, Wolverine encountered Bloodscream in 1994’s “Wolverine” #78, by Larry Hama and Adam Kubert. In this era, Magneto had ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine’s body, and Logan carried the Honor Sword of Clan Yashida for protection. Although Bloodscream couldn’t be harmed by mortally-created weapons, the Honor Sword could cut him, since it was forged from meteorite by the demon swordsmiths centuries ago. In a brief but epic showdown, Wolverine charged towards Bloodscream on his motorcycle and easily incapacitated him with the blade. Although he initially appeared to be dead, Bloodscream eventually healed from his wounds and reappeared years later.
11. SILVER SAMURAI
Since the Silver Samurai is one of the few characters with sword-based powers, it’s not surprising that he’s appeared in some of Logan’s other sword-centric adventures. In the opening issues of Wolverine’s first ongoing series in 1988, Chris Claremont and John Buscema introduced weapons created by the legendary insane swordsmith Muramasa. Using his ability to forge spirits into his blades, Muramasa created the Black Blade using part of his own essence centuries ago. The Black Blade possessed everyone who wielded it, and a cult slowly began to form around its legend.
When the Black Blade found its way to the fictional island nation Madripoor, both Wolverine and the energy-channeling Silver Samurai tried to take control of it. Although Logan was able to rescue his friend Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, from the sword’s curse, he fell under its spell. Possessed by the Black Blade, Wolverine made quick work of Silver Samurai in a clawless duel before breaking free from the sword’s control. At the end of the tale, the Silver Samurai took control of the sword, seemingly unaffected by its possessive properties.
After the Scarlet Witch reconstructed the Marvel Universe at the end of the 2005 crossover “House of M,” Wolverine’s memories were restored, and he explored his newfound past throughout the “Wolverine: Origins” series. He remembered that Muramasa had once created a sword using part of Wolverine’s spirit, filled with grief about the deaths of his wife Itsu and unborn son Daken. Although this Muramasa Blade does not possess its wielder, it can cut things at a molecular level and cause wounds that can’t be treated by accelerated healing factors.
By 2010’s “Dark Wolverine” #85, by Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu and Stephen Segovia, the villain Romulus had orchestrated a complex plot to trick an adult Daken and Wolverine into fighting to the death. In a gambit to draw Romulus out, Wolverine suddenly stabbed his estranged son in the chest with a sword in the middle of a sidewalk café. Although Wolverine had seemingly used the Muramasa Blade, Daken’s recovery revealed that Logan had used a replica sword as part of a larger plan to defeat Romulus.
9. X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
While Wolverine’s claws might make a dynamic visual, they don’t naturally lend themselves well to Saturday morning cartoons with strict content guidelines. Despite constant notes from Fox’s Broadcast Standards and Practices department, the creators of the 1990s “X-Men” cartoon were still able to turn Wolverine into an icon for a generation of young viewers. With ever-changing guidelines that occasionally barred characters from being injured altogether, the show’s producers were forced to drastically alter Wolverine’s violent tendencies.
Since Wolverine couldn’t slice into his enemies’ flesh, his combat style was usually filled with various kicks, punches, throws and grappling moves. Despite these restrictions, Wolverine was generally allowed to use his claws to threaten other characters, attack robots, cut through walls and in other non-offensive ways like cutting a turkey. When Wolverine and the X-Men guest starred on “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” in 1995, they faced even more stringent guidelines that wouldn’t even let Wolverine throw a punch.
Shortly after Cable’s first appearance in 1990, Wolverine met the time-traveling mutant in 1990’s “New Mutants” #93-94, by Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson. While hunting the villainous Mutant Liberation Front in Madripoor, Wolverine and Cable started trading vicious blows. Although Logan began the battle with his claws out, he sheathed them and boasted that he didn’t even need them to beat Cable.
Although Cable and Wolverine seemed evenly matched, the battle came to a soggy conclusion when the New Mutant Rictor dumped a water tower on the two fighters. As Cable and Logan dried off, they explained that their feud stemmed from an earlier encounter before teaming-up to take down the MLF. While the details of their feud remained unknown for years, it was finally revealed in Joe Casey and Stephen Platt’s 1999 one-shot “Cable/Wolverine: Guts and Glory.” When Cable first traveled to the present day from the far future, he befriended police officer named Franklin Rhodes. In a battle between Wolverine and the Cable-hunting time-traveler D’Von Kray, Rhodes was fatally wounded in the crossfire. Cable and Wolverine left the battleground promising to settle the score, which they eventually did peacefully.
7. OMEGA RED
After his creation in 1992’s “X-Men” #4, by Jim Lee and John Byrne, Omega Red became one of the defining X-Men villains of the 1990s throughout comics, cartoons and video games. With a healing factor and the ability to secrete fatal pheromones, Omega Red was given carbonadium tentacles as part of a Russian super-soldier program. While these tentacles weren’t as strong as Wolverine’s claws, Omega Red could use them to drain people’s life force in order to sustain himself.
After countless battles, Wolverine finally killed Omega Red with the Muramasa Blade in 2009’s “Wolverine: Origins” #39, by Daniel Way and Scott Eaton. After the machinations of Romulus led to a battle between the pair in a Russian prison, Omega Red killed Romulus’ partner Wild Child and gave Wolverine one free shot. In that moment, Wolverine plunged the Muramasa Blade deep into Omega Red’s chest. Although Omega Red has managed to stay dead for the better part of a decade, he was cloned into three different villains, including a second Omega Red, who operated together as the Omega Clan.
6. THE BLOB
Although 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” gave Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine his first true starring role, the film was poorly received by critics and fans who were dismayed by some liberties the film took with Logan’s history. With his 1963 creation in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s “X-Men” #3, the Blob is one of the X-Men’s oldest adversaries, even if he’s never really been more than a bit player with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. In “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Kevin Durand’s Blob was a member of Team X, the military mutant strike force that also included Wolverine and Sabretooth.
While this Blob had enough super-strength and durability to take down a tank, he didn’t gain his trademark weight until years later. When Wolverine comes looking for information, Blob challenges him to a boxing match. After easily absorbing several of Wolverine’s body blows, Blob tries to headbutt Wolverine but dazes himself on Logan’s adamantium skull. In one of the film’s lighter moments, Logan knocks Blob out with another headshot before threatening his opponent by popping his claws through a boxing glove.
5. SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG-FU
Although he’s not as famous as some other heroes, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, has a legitimate claim to being the most skilled fighter in the Marvel Universe. Created during the height of the martial arts craze of the 1970s, Shang-Chi made his first appearance in 1973’s “Marvel Special Edition” by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. With a mastery of various types of martial arts, Shang-Chi’s calm demeanor and fighting skills earned him a spot in the Avengers and a status as a perennial guest star throughout Marvel’s titles.
In one of those guest appearances, 1997’s “X-Men” #62 by Ben Raab, Scott Lobdell and Carlos Pacheco, Shang-Chi scuffled with Wolverine before teaming up with the X-Men to take down the Kingpin. During this period, Wolverine had devolved into a more primal state and lost his adamantium skeleton. After Shang-Chi single-handedly dispatched a group of ninjas, Wolverine pinned the martial arts master down by using his heightened agility and enhanced animal instincts. Since this meeting, the two have been allies, and Shang-Chi has even helped Wolverine face some of his inner demons.
While Magneto ripped out Wolverine’s skeleton in 1993, he didn’t devolve into his most feral state until 1996. After the villain Genesis kidnapped Wolverine and tried to give him a new adamantium skeleton, Wolverine’s body rejected the procedure and he devolved into a feral form without a nose. During this time, Elektra and her mentor Stick helped Wolverine regain his humanity in his devolved form.
In 1996’s “Wolverine” #103, by Larry Hama and Val Semeiks, Elektra tried to bring back more of Wolverine by reminding him of his martial arts training. In one training session, Elektra urged Logan to overcome his animal instincts by sheathing his claws and using tactics to place a sword in a sheath on her back. After an acrobatic bout, Wolverine was finally able to control his bloodlust and return the sword to its sheath without injuring Elektra in a moment that works despite the inherent weirdness of the set-up. Although Wolverine regained his humanity in this story, his devolved body faded away after a few months without too much fanfare.
3. THE PHOENIX GUN
In the criminally underrated 2010 miniseries “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine,” Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert sent two of Marvel’s biggest heroes on an adventure through the past and future of the Marvel Universe. While trying to stop the Orb, a minor Ghost Rider villain, from robbing a bank, Spider-Man and Logan were transported back to a prehistoric age by the Time Diamonds. When they find themselves transported again to the future, the pair must face off against Doom, The Living Planet.
Although Dr. Doom wiped out most of Earth’s population when he moved his consciousness into a sentient planet, Spider-Man found the Phoenix Gun in the rubble of a lost world. With the full might of the Phoenix Force contained in a single shot, Logan used the gun to kill the Doom planet at the cost of his own life. With the future saved, Spider-Man was able to use the Cosmic Cube to revive Logan before the pair continued their delightfully absurd, time-twisting adventure.
2. RED SKULL
In 2008, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven crafted an instant classic Wolverine story with “Old Man Logan.” While that story partially inspired “Logan,” it played with the fabric of the Marvel Universe in a way that can’t really be done on film. After a group of supervillains successfully toppled the United States government, Wolverine vowed to never pop his claws again and tried to live a quiet life with his wife and children in a desolate alternate future.
After taking a job to deliver a package to Washington, D.C. with a blind Hawkeye, Logan ended up in the trophy room of the Red Skull. Surrounded by mementos from his fallen friends, Logan took a brutal beating before grabbing Captain America’s shield. Ignoring the Red Skulls’ taunts, Logan decapitated the villain with the shield before stealing an old Iron Man suit to fly home. Although Wolverine and the Red Skull don’t share an extensive history, this moment of violent catharsis became a beacon of hope in the otherwise barren wasteland of despair.
As long as Marvel’s characters exist, Wolverine and Sabretooth will continue to spar in an endless dance of savagery. Although it’s not too likely that either party will ever kill the other for good, that hasn’t stopped them from trying. In 2007’s “Wolverine” #54, by Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi, Wolverine tried to end his bitter feud by executing Sabretooth with the Muramasa Blade.
After Sabretooth’s latest attacks lead to the revelation that Romulus may have founded the Weapon X Program, Wolverine decided to kill Sabretooth for his lifetime of atrocities. In a stunning painted sequence, Logan uses the healing factor-resistant blade to slice Sabretooth’s arm off before decapitating him with it. With that fateful sword strike, Romulus became Wolverine’s primary antagonist for the next few years, and Wolverine beheaded Sabretooth again when he was trapped in Hell. Naturally, it was revealed that Wolverine had actually killed one of Sabretooth’s numerous clones in 2012. Although the real Sabretooth continued to carve a path of destruction across the Marvel Universe, he reformed in 2014 and currently serves as a member of the X-Men.
Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest on Wolverine and the rest of the Marvel Universe! Let us know what your favorite clawless Wolverine brawl is in the comments below!
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