Note: Steve Austin does not appear on any of our lists.
It’s August, Holtby and Johansson have re-signed, and there’s basically nothing else going on. RMNB’s Slack has somehow turned into a discussion on the greatest wrestlers of all time. Ian supposed Kane might be one of my favorites. I informed him, no, Kane falls somewhere behind The Godfather and Val Venis on my list. And then the lists came out.
Presenting: Our Favorite Pro Wrestlers of all time. Hashtag: #summercontent
5. Rey Mysterio, Jr.
I like the tiny hard workers, and Mysterio was one of the best. He came out of Mexico’s luchador circuit and blew mainstream US audiences away with performances that were actually fun to watch in a visceral way, rather than just buff dudes doing feats of strength to pad for time *cough* Hulk *cough*. Like a few other guys on this list, Mysterio’s career had its share of infamy: Perro Aguayo died during a match against Mysterio this March.
4. The Rock
No one has ever cut a better promo than Dwayne Johnson without the aid of benzoylmethylecgonine.
3. Shawn Michaels
This will be a bit hypocritical when you get to number one on my list, but I loved HBK when I was a kid. I loved him for his role in the Rockers, I loved him for his star turn, I loved to hate him for his heel turn(s), and I loved him for giving DX its first spark. Not the best technical wrestler, and he had no shortage of awful feuds (#1: The “no hitting in the face” fight against Rick “The Model” Martel), but he was iconoclastic in an era of icons.
2. Eddie Guerrero
The most fun in-ring performer in the sport. Youngest scion of the legendary wrestling family, Eddie was often cast as a heel, but he was too ecstatic for the role to stick– fans rooted for him anyway. He was beloved because he was lovable. His death broke my heart, and it’s a primary reason why I don’t watch wrestling anymore.
1. Bret Hart
I don’t see how he’s not the consensus pick for greatest wrestler of all time. Well, actually I do: he’s a dick. He’s a mostly humorless dick. He’s the Terminator in pink. But he was the perfect wrestler: a big guy who could do the acrobatics as well as the small guys with technical perfection. His exit from the big stage was the definitive watershed moment in the industry: The Montreal Screwjob. He’s a Legend.
While I appreciate everyone else’s vigor for this subject, I realize that this entire post is essentially making fun of me because I’m the only person here who actually still watches wrestling. I do for a lot of reasons: unintentional comedy, studying the way they promote each wrestler, the cerebralness behind the booking, and did I mention the unintentional comedy? I actually get a lot out of it and I do get emotionally attached to some of the wrestlers (who are actually great wrestlers but not great everything else and are never pushed by Vince McMahon. Go to hell, Vince McMahon).
You’ll notice that I don’t factor a lot of older wrestlers into my list because – frankly – almost every athlete now is 30x better at wrestling than they were. Hulk Hogan’s finisher was a leg drop. A freaking leg drop. Shawn Michaels’ was essentially a super kick. Every wrestler does that at least 45 times a match now-a-days. Now that I think about it, it’s amazing how little wrestlers had to do in the old days to be famous.
Anyways, if you’re a mark, you’re going to love my list. Or lose all respect for me if you haven’t already.
He’s the best wrestler on the current WWE roster and has been for probably the last two or three years now. Cesaro is likely pound for pound the strongest guy in WWE history and is flexible enough to be able to pull off any move. He won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania in 2014 after throwing 450-pound Big Show over the ropes. He’s won almost every belt possible except for the WWE title. He even did this to John Cena in the PG era. Oh my god, Cesaro I love you.
One of his finishers is the Cesaro Swing, where he picks up heavy dudes and just swings them around in a circle and makes them dizzy. Sure it’s a circus act, but it highlights how strong he is and it’s just so ridiculous that it’s perfect.
Unfortunately for Cesaro, he’s from boring ol’ Switzerland so that doesn’t necessarily make him seem tough. His Europeaness comes through when he talks on the mic and that doesn’t necessarily connect with the US crowds. But dammit, I think this guy is a star. I have loved watching him perform over the years and I’m rooting for him to win the title someday.
4. Brock Lesnar
Broke Lesnar broke the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania, gave John Cena his most lob-sided loss of his career at Summerslam, and is the most believable ass kicker on the entire roster. He is just so menacing and great at this business. He’s a monster. He will hurt you. He does not care. Lesnar is the only athlete who has ever won the UFC Championship and the WWE championship.
Sure he’s so bad at speaking that it’s comical and he needs someone else to talk for him. But even that adds to his mystique.
Check out this segment between Brock and The Undertaker from a week or two ago. Oh man. Michael Cole just throws his microphone down and runs away when his music hits.
3. Kevin Owens
Since he looks like the everyday man, he instantly connects with the WWE crowd. Even though he’s presented as a heel, everyone cheers for him like he’s a baby face.
I’ve followed Owens forever, even when he was Kevin Steen. He was amazing in ROH and the independent circuits. Then Triple HHH signed him along with other international stars Hideo Itami and Finn Balor to NXT.
Owens won the NXT title within a month of debuting. His first WWE match was with John Cena and he won. Sure he got buried two PPV matches later, but this guy is a star. I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes in his career. He’s incredible and I want to see him in a match with Brock Lesnar.
Undertaker is the best character in WWE history. When I hear the gong of his entrance, chills go up my spine. I really don’t think I need to elaborate here. Everyone’s heard of him – even if you don’t like wrestling.
Let’s just not talk about his biker phase. That was so weird.
1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan is my favorite wrestler of all-time. I’ve never rooted for someone harder. He is just a good human being who is great at what he does. He can do anything in the ring. Despite his size, he seems like someone you’d never want to mess with. He’s unbelievable at cutting promos that you can really connect with. His series of videos getting anger management counseling with Kane is probably the most I’ve ever laughed.
Last year when he presented Connor the Crusher with The Warrior award, I sobbed during his speech.
Wrestlemania 30, he was not supposed to be in the main event. But people revolted against Batista, and rooted for him so hard that Vince McMahon had no choice but to let him win. It was and still is the most I’ve ever celebrated after a win. He is the best. He is transcendent. And God I wish I had that beard.
5. Ultimate Warrior, Jake the Snake Roberts and Hacksaw Jim Duggan (three-way tie)
Any list that fails to include all of these fine role models is incomplete. I mean, the Ultimate Warrior, come on. Who didn’t have one of those dolls?
Where else but the late-80s/early-90s WW
FE could you watch people get bit by snakes? Children, there was no YouTube then. You couldn’t just Google “people getting bit by snakes.”
And if you don’t cap off every accomplishment you achieve with a hearty “HOOOOOOHHHHHH!” well then you’re not really living life, my friend.
I attended my first and only live WWE event at the age of 22, and the Undertaker’s entrance gave me chills. I’m not saying I was scared per se, but wow, what a cool entrance. Few characters are both so patently ridiculous and so enduring.
3. Macho Man Randy Savage
Snap into a Slim-Jim. Ohhhhhhhh, yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!
2. Hulk Hogan Two words: Suburban. Commando. (Almost definitely Christopher Lloyd’s best movie.)
Uh, yeah, nevermind.
1. Shawn Michaels
I’m a proud mark for the Heartbreak Kid. One of my clearest memories of childhood is, I kid you not, watching Shawn Michaels throw Marty Jannetty through the barbershop window.
In hindsight that might have been a little much for a 7-year-old who didn’t have a clear picture of the line between real and fake in pro wrestling. But I think it actually (and ironically?) taught me a lot about friendship and loyalty. When I attended RAW (14 years later), my sign said “Reunite the Rockers.”
5. Kurt Angle
More than anything, I was always drawn to the character aspect of a wrestler. Angle’s character was built around the fact that he won Olympic gold for his country in real life, an easy babyface attribute. Yet, impressively, this shoe-in babyface characteristic was used to make Angle a top heel during his WWF days. So annoying, so pompous, and so entertaining.
4. Bret Hart
The Hitman was the first wrestler I remember cheering for. I loved the hair, the sharp shooter, and the fact that he gave his sunglasses away to a fan before each match. Oh, and like Peter said above, he was really athletic in the ring.
3. Triple H
I didn’t really care about HHH during his DX phase. But give a man a Motorhead theme song and have him carry around a sledgehammer on the regular, and I’m all in. He was the top bad guy during the Attitude era, and some of his matches with Mick Foley, Stone Cold, and The Rock during that time are some of my favorite matches of all-time.
2. The Rock
What Alex Ovechkin is to goal scoring, The Rock is to promos. None better on the mic, ever.
1. The Undertaker
I rented a PPV on VHS in elementary school that had an especially eerie appearance by The Undertaker. I had to sleep with the hallway light outside my bedroom on that night. Much like The Rock had everyone in the palm of his hand when he was on the mic, everyone stopped to watch the spectacle of an entrance by The Undertaker. Let’s just act like the whole biker phase didn’t happen.
Oh boy. So that just happened. Please use the space below for two purposes: sharing your own top 5 and also for turning heel and attacking us with a steel chair for how awful our picks were.
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