Greetings, Glancers! Wrestling is not something I talk about much on my blog – mainly because I can’t be arsed writing about it as keeping up with the 100 hours a week content is a big enough pain, and because there are plenty of bloggers out there who are much more dedicated and knowledgeable than I am. Still, it has been something which has been in and out of my life for as long as I can remember. As I sit here with nothing else to write about in September, I realised that I’m quite far behind on my Wrestling viewing. Summerslam has come and gone yet I’m only just finished watching the Raw and Smackdown after Wrestlemania. And I’m at least 7 weeks behind on Impact. Avoiding spoilers is one thing; catching up is another. So I thought I’d make a little Wrestling list.
In Primary School in the late 80s and early 90s – the early years of the explosion of the WWE (then WWF) thanks to main events like Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble, many of my friends were wrestling fans and those who weren’t still got swept along by the marketing and associated toys. If I had a dubious blue style plastic ring complete with announce table and Heavyweight Belt, another friend had an even more souped up model with walkway or Titantron. Actually – here’s the one I had (I still have it):
I went away from it for a while, coming back as the Attitude era was picking up and going toe to toe with WCW. This was my second golden era as a new batch of characters reflecting the writing and tone of the time and yet they were still fighting alongside and against many of the household names from my childhood. Those large than life, yet real-life superheroes were performing entertaining feats of strength and agility that had long since been removed from much of the action movies I had also grown up on, and while the storylines rarely changed, they remained silly and pantomime enough for me to shout at the TV like a yahoo.
Wrestling has always worked in peaks and troughs. A few years after WCW collapsed and most of their talent joined Vince and Co, the Wresting world began to recess from my view – many of the new stars didn’t interest me, plots and gimmicks became too stale, and a lot of the humour and violence was lost. Now in my twenties, I had my own life to live, but as nature and life can sometimes be cyclical it wasn’t long before I started watching again, first with TNA and then back to WWE. A new and enthusiastic batch of younger, fitter, more self-aware and savvy performers had burst onto the scene and my wife (a fan from the 80s too) and kids started watching too. The speed was often increased, there was a focus on Woman’s Wrestling (particularly outside of WWE), and there was more content than every before, including Mexico and Japan’s offerings, Ring Of Honor, and now AEW and Shine/Shimmer. It was not surprise to me that many of the surviving heroes from my younger days were still hanging around, that plenty of the Attitude Era guys were getting major airtime, and that it was as fun and over the top as ever. There’s simply something comforting knowing that these people are still out there selling it every night, and with each generation a new set of heroes is born and drawn to those bright lights and four corners.
And so, in a momentary spin-off from my usual Movie and Music based lists I present my, in no way exhaustive, list of favourite Wrestlers of all time. These are my personal picks based on a mixture of character, performance, ability, and just what they’ve meant to me over the years. It is not supposed to be a best-of, and indeed many of those listed will not be the usual picks. Most though will hardly be surprising to the hardcore. I’ve tried to limit this – believe me there are many many others I would love to mention, but hardly anyone will read this anyway and those who do will likely be bored by the time they reach this sentence. I’m doing this off the top of my head too, so I guarantee that within five minutes of publishing it I’ll remember one of my absolute favourites that I’ve somehow missed. So lets just get on with it. In alphabetical order:
Made of of Faarooq and Bradshaw, also known as The Acolytes, The APA were a no nonsense, tough as nails tag team who would just as quickly take your money in a game of poker as beat you in the ring. Faarooq (Ron Simmons) had been a successful solo wrestler, winning the WCW Heavyweight Championship, but it wasn’t until he paired with Bradshaw as part of The Undertaker’s Acolytes group that both men’s career’s took off. After splitting off from The Dead Man, they continued as the APA – a shady, money focused business racket and would go on to win their third Tag Team Championship, in between acting as bodyguards for whoever needed (could pay for) them.
AJ Styles was known for his hybrid style wrestling during his tenure with TNA and became one of their most valuable assets. As the Company’s fortunes began to sour, he jumped ship like many others. His final piece of characterization on TNA hinted heavily that the real AJ was not happy – growing his hair, beard, and becoming a loose cannon biker type. There was still some interesting stuff as he refused to get involved in the Aces & Eights war (for my money the most interesting stable of the last decade) and then suffering through a dubious title split thanks to Dixie Carter. After losing his match against Magnus to ‘reunify’ the two heavyweight title (don’t ask), AJ left the Company.
AJ’s earliest matches in TNA in the various X Division battles are the stuff of legend – pitted against similar high-flyers like Christopher Daniels, Petey Williams, and Chris Sabin, as well as great feuds with Kurt Angle, Abyss, and Samoa Joe, AJ was one of the most consistent and successful names on the books. That success has only grown since moving to WWE as he quickly became Smackdown Champion and held the title for a year. Recently he has been drifting between characters to see what sticks, currently as some sort of heel after a decent feud with Randy Orton. AJ has one of the most varied move sets in WWE at the moment and consistently looks fresh when viewed alongside many of the other big hitters with a much more limited series of moves, and is equally comfortable on the mat and in the air.
Austin Aries is arguably my favourite wrestler of my own third generation of viewing (generations based on my intro post). His gimmicks have changed over the years and he remains a highly divisive figure among fans and promotions. Nevertheless, the one thing which both fans and detractors call out year upon year is his ego – no matter whether good guy, bad guy, or somewhere in between, it’s his ego which stands out. From The Belt Collector to The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, A Double has provided many of my favourite moments in Wrestling in the last ten years, not least his creation of ‘Option Three’, beating Bobby Roode, and his stint fighting Aces & Eights. A six time X Division Champion, Aries – likes Styles – has a varied collection of moves and ways to antagonize his opponent which never fail to get a laugh out of me.
Aries moved to WWE with a hefty amount of heat behind him, but it always seemed like NXT and WWE didn’t really know what to do with him. I’m not sure of what happened behind the scenes but the two never seemed to click even though on the surface he’s exactly the sort of character – Heel or Face – that the company desperately needs. A promising start led to an injury which pushed him into commentary for a while, before an unsuccessful run at the Cruiserweight 205 Live belt seemed to sour things. Aries returned to Impact again, destroying Eli Drake in what I hoped signalled a return to success for the Company. While the Company’s fortunes seem to be turning, slowly, Aries didn’t last long and left after losing his Heavyweight title in the now infamous Bound For Glory headliner. That particular feud was one of the strangest I’ve ever witnessed with multiple reports conflating and conflicting what was real or planned or scripted and where lines blurred. In any case, Aries is no longer part of Impact or WWE, and the wrestling world is poorer for it, though he’s still lurking in the Indies and MLW. Any chance AEW? (Note, Aries has since given his turn of events in a recent interview with Killer Kross which makes for great reading).
Tag Teams can be hit and miss for me, usually built on some silly gimmick which instantly annoys me or sours quickly. Beer Money was one of the exceptions – an extension of what the APA stood for and acting like a couple of Stone Colds – beer drinking, hard hitting badasses who consistently got the job done. Made up of Bobby Roode and James Storm, the long-haired coupling who had worked against each other before in Team Canada (with Petey Williams and Eric Young) and America’s Most Wanted (with Gail Kim and Chris Harris). The pairing always felt natural and a combination sass and power, with the no fucks given attitude of Austin. Feuds with the Motor City Machine Guns, Team 3D, and the Main Event Mafia consolidated their prowess and influence but it was with Ric Flair’s revamped Four Horsemen – Fortune, that the group took off for me.
From there the group turned Heel to Face and then began branching out as dedicated solo performers. This in turn led to one of my favorite sequences in TNA as both Roode and Storm competed in Bound For Glory for the Heavyweight Championship. Roode was cheated out of victory by Kurt Angle, but Storm was then given a shot and won the title. Being best mates, Storm gave Roode a title shot only for Roode to turn heel and smash a beer bottle over Storm to win the championship. That was essentially the end. Both competitors went one to become personal favourites on their own, with Roode moving to WWE to glorious success and Storm remaining at Impact for a while, selling the likes of EC3 before moving to the newly reformed NWA.
What’s not to love about The Boogeyman? A horrendous and misguided misrepresentation of Lord knows what, he was the latest in a long line of GABBO-esque viral advertising, built up with creepy surprise promos for weeks until he was finally unleashed. And he was… what? Some Baron Samedi-looking ogre with a penchant for live worms and alien voodoo, yet for all the hype and shrieking he never truly amounted to anything or achieved much. He has hyped as the next super-freak, and then faded away to randomly appear in Raw Reunions for larfs. Imagine of Bray Wayatt’s latest incarnation had had a single match after all of those Sesame Street skits we saw, then was never seen again – that’s kind of like what happened to The Boogeyman. What a waste.
This is going to be the most surprising inclusion in my list, but I genuinely think Chad Gable is the best all round athlete on WWE at the moment. While they persist in pushing gimmick based tag teams (New Day/Viking Raiders), completely bland tag teams (The Revival), and the more showy high fliers (Ricochet/Aleister Black), Chad Gable seems to be consistently sidelined. They haven’t quite figured out what to do with him – to me he’s the next natural Kurt Angle and just needs that one-liner or character change to truly break out. He had a decent run alongside Bobby Roode but they weren’t given any interesting storylines or teams to feud with – the same can be said for his stint with Jason Jordan (remember him?) Gable’s skills can’t be argued against – he is a former Olympian and is one of only two people to hold the NXT, Smackdown, and Raw Tag belts. He has seen a recent upturn by almost going all the way in the revamped King Of The Ring tournament (apparently – I still haven’t caught up to that point yet at time of writing). I’m not sure the whole Shorty G thing is going to work – it’s about time he got taken seriously as a hero figure instead of the constant drifting between Roman and Seth. He does need extra skills on the mike, but that only comes with extra time in the spotlight.
Diamond Dallas Page
A hero and inspiration to many, DDP’s exploits are far reaching and famous. Already clearly a good guy and well thought of within the business, his work with helping to rehabilitate wrestlers, athletes, soldiers, and anyone else was highlighted in the excellent Jake The Snake movie. In the ring, he was one of the major draws in the latter days of WCW, only starting to wrestle at the ripe old age of 35. It was a few years after he started that he began to make waves on television, feuding with Eddie Guerrero, NWO, and the Macho Man before truly ‘making it’. After winning several titles he made the move to WWE where he won another two championships. His Diamond Cutter probably remains my favourite cutter in the business.
Where Gable is my pick for ‘should be much bigger than he is’, DJZ was my pick a few years ago for the next big thing. Along with a number of newer high-fliers from Impact such as Andrew Everett, DJZ has all the tools to be huge. A series of injuries has hit him, almost killed him, but he keeps coming back. A clear risk taker, he pulls out moves you’ve never seen before and does the classics with style, as well as being great on the mike. He has the pretty boy snarl to be a popular heel, and has the comic chops to be a cult face. He has had numerous successful runs on Impact, from his early days as Zima Ion eventually picking up the X Division Belt then a funny turn as part of the Bro Mans with Jessie Godderz, Robbie E, and Robbie T when he adopted the DJZ persona. If you’ve never seen an Ultimate X match, or an X division match in general with DJZ, you don’t know what you’re missing. Since leaving Impact, he has moved to NXT and will hopefully make a push onto one of the main brands – they need more interesting heels than Corbin.
Out of all the tag-teams borne out of the Attitude Era, there were really only two who mattered to me – The Hardyz and these guys. They feuded on and off for years, along with Edge and Christian, in their infamous tables, ladders, and chairs matches – the very matches which really sucked me in during my second phase of viewing. Happy to be ‘the bad guys’ up against the pretty and heroic Hardy Brothers, Devon and Bubba were bruisers, adorned in snow camo-trousers, and always ready to smash you through a table or headbutt you in the groin. The team also transitioned over to TNA but it was Bubba (who became Bully Ray) who had the most single competitor success. He would be one of the front running heels for a few years in TNA – his story with Aces & Eights, Brooke Hogan, and Dixie Carter reaching melodramatic, can’t miss Soap Opera issues. As a team they were very fluid – they never looked like high fliers but would frequently be seen hanging off a ladder or leaping off the top rope just like their biggest rivals, and they had the shoot snark to go along with their in ring talents.
It’s difficult to think of a more popular villain in all of wrestling – maybe Triple H? Ric Flair of course? Guerrero transcended the Heel role, becoming more of a scoundrel or loveable rogue through his ‘lying, cheating, and stealing’ and finally becoming an outright icon for good. When in WCW, along with Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko as The Radicalz they took their long standing relationships and became a successful stable. The group left WCW shortly before the company collapsed and all four men went on to varying degrees of success with Vince and Co. It was Eddie who stood out as the pantomime character – his Lucha Libre stylings were mostly unique in the company and he had a knack for pre-memes, thanks to ‘mamacita’, ‘Latino Heat’, and other terms which caught on. It was rare that he ever got a clean win, forcing numerous disqualifications by tricking the officials and becoming romantically involved with the likes of Chyna and Vicky. His womanizing persona won over the crowd, leading to multiple titles, but his physical ability earned his respect, with many fans and fellow wrestlers calling him one of the best of all time. With at least 10 WWE championships, two from WCW, and multiple from other promotions, it’s difficult to argue against that fact.
As mentioned in some of my other entries, Benoit was one of the most successful performers to transition between WCW and WWE, his Air Canada and Crippler Crossface particularly devastating, and his alignment with Perry, Dean, and Eddie a long-lasting winning partnership. Of course every wrestling fan knows that it all ended in tragedy and horror, and I get the impression that there is a lot more about this story and the general physical and mental strain which the Business can cause that will come out in the future. When he was alive, Benoit was one of the best in-ring performers in the world. He may not have been the most electrifying on the mic but his dedication and skills always paid off, leading to one of the most emotional WWE World Heavyweight wins I’ve ever seen. In his time in the two main promotions, he was a two time WCW tag champion, 1 time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, 3 time TV champ, 2 time US Champ, 4 time WWE Tag champ, 4 time Intercontinental champ, 3 time WWE US Champ, and 1 time Royal Rumble Winner.
Eli Drake came to the forefront just as TNA/Impact was on ‘the turn’. It was losing money, viewers, and performers left, right, and centre and Eli Drake quickly bcame noticed as the best mike performer thanks to his early Dummy button gimmick. His catchphrases quickly caught on with the crowd and he became a fan favourite. In many ways I would say Drake is the best mike man since The Rock, someone who has clearly influenced his persona and energy. Drake is not always the most elegant in the ring, but his connection to the crowd and series of devasting moves ensured his matches are always entertaining. He was certainly a major part of keeping the promotion alive during a number of transitory periods, earning several championships and teaming with a variety of stars from Drew Galloway, Scott Steiner, and Jessie Godderz and feuding with Grado, The Broken Hardeyz, and El Patron. Just as he was struggling to find a new outlet and form in his final months in Impact, he parted ways during some controversy surrounding his feelings about intergender wrestling, with Sami Callahan picking up the mantle. Drake is now with NWA, but would be another great fit for AEW or WWE thanks to his hilarious skills in front of the camera. I get the feeling, like EC3 and many others, that WWE wouldn’t know what to do with him.
For my money, Gail is the greatest female wrestler of all time. At the very least she is my favourite. Great on the mat, in the air, on the mike, and with a flexible move-set, she was part of the first true explosion in woman’s wrestling. Always creative in her matches, her long-running feuds with the likes of Awesome Kong, The Beautiful People, and Taryn Terrell remain some of the most electrifying matches you’ll ever see. Even though she won the Woman’s Championship in her first match in WWE, her time with them was not the most fruitful with Kim accusing the company of not knowing what to do with female talent, and specifically Asian talent. Equally alluring a performer as Heel or Hero, Kim relished both positions but as time went on the crowd were less convinced to see her as a bad guy, such was the respect they had for her. She bowed out of competition this year as a seven time TNA Knockouts Champion, selling Tess Blanchard as the next generation. It’s unfortunate now given how Women’s Wrestling has gone from strength to strength that so few wrestling fans, blinded by the glitz of WWE, know who Gail Kim is and that so few of today’s performers would be where they are without he accomplishments. Gail now works backstage on Impact, popping up every so often in front of the camera.
There were a couple of major draws for me when WCW came to Channel 5 in the UK in the late 90s. I knew the big names who had been around the block for the company and of course those convinced to join from the WWE. Goldberg I knew nothing about, until I saw him on Channel 5, learned about the undefeated strike, and watched him in action myself. The guy was simply unstoppable. A powerhouse who would regularly shred opponents to pieces thanks to his Jackhammer and the best Spear in the game. Unfortunately this was around the time he kept being hit by injuries, and within a couple of years the company folded. Goldberg would eventually move over to WWE, the 1 wrestler I most wanted to see make the move, and he continued from where he left off, feuding with the best and going on another streak. His most ntoable feud was against Triple H and pals as he successfully won the World Heavyweight Championship and defended it against all manner of usual HHH shenanigans. I’m still bitter Kane didn’t win the title, but HHH gets what HHH wants. After losing the belt, Goldberg had a brief feud with Brock Lesnar before leaving the company – a feud which would be picked up again years later. There have been few performers as explosive as Goldberg – it’s a shame injuries prevented him from making a longer-lasting impact.
The Hardy Boyz
The Attitude Era was all about 90s cool, but it wasn’t always the easiest task making the ‘roided up, beefcakes of the 80s seem all that appealing to the post-grunge, post-meta 90s landscape. Enter The Hardy Boyz, sleeve tats, punk ethos, dyed hair, piercings, and they didn’t look like superheroes. They almost looked like, with a little bit of training, you or I could match up to them. Crucially, they brought a rarely before seen high-flying, daredevil style to wrestling which took the business to a new level; it wasn’t just muscle bound freaks you could lift a limo with one hand while choking out a rhino with the other. It was guys like you or me who could run, climb, flip, and dive of twenty foot ladders through cunningly placed tables like no-one’s business. I credit WWE’s continued success at the tale end of the century and into the next, to these guys and The Rock, for changing the game like no others. You knew every match was going to be an event, a spectacle, and you knew you were going to see violence the likes of which was usually reserved for Hong Kong movies. Matt and Jeff would continue across multiple promotions, both as a team and as solo competitors, trying new personas such as Jeff’s Willow and Matt’s Broken Hardy, culminating in such madness as lawnmower jaunts in the grounds of the Hardy complex, and sentient drones.
He’s still the most famous of them all, right? Even though his fame has been tinted by a lot of awful personal stuff and stories which have come to light, nobody quite embodies the unique pantomime/gladiator lore as Hulk Hogan.
Jake The Snake
If Hulk was generally known for standing up for all that was good, right, and American, then Jake The Snake was known for, well, having a giant ass snake in a sack. Jake never was able to translate one of the most unique gimmicks into Championship success, but he remained one of the most popular and visible stars of wrestling throughout the 80s and into a less decisive 90s. He was the first WWE figure I wanted to buy – in those days that particular toy range each had a special move – a button to make them kick or slam etc. Jake’s was a fist you could pull back on a spring and release. I chipped my tooth thanks to this fist, within days of purchase. His Resurrection documentary is a great watch, a fantastic insight into the man and the business, and his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast is a must listen for any Wrestling fan.
My all time favourite Wrestler. People love The Undertaker – I love The Undertake, but The Dead Man’s brother appealed to the adolescent underling in me and ticked all the right boxes. He was a towering behemoth, a horror movie villain, a mute and seemingly indestructible powerhouse with a move-set which mimicked his brother’s, with a few twists of its own. Plus he could conjure fire. I don’t think The Company ever gave Kane his due, and still don’t. At minimum they should be wheeling him out each Royal Rumble as an opportunity for him to eliminate a few people and act as an opportunity for one of the up and comers to take him out and make a name for themselves. Too often, Kane has been used specifically to sell someone the company wanted to push and too often has he been used purely to make someone else look good, without allowing him to shine himself. No, his ten plus tag team championships and two time Heavyweight belts aren’t enough. He still holds PPV appearance and Royal Rumble Elimination records, but like a certain Austrian bodybuilder before him, a life in politics has taken him away from his true calling – beating the shit out of people for my entertainment. He still has a couple of good runs in him.
As The Hardy Boys made waves for their high-flying antics in and out of the ring, a young woman by the name of Lita came to prominence by helping out Essa Rios, a new Lucha fighter. He was okay, but she caught the eye thanks to her gritty punk style, good looks, and her top rope moonsault. It seemed inevitable that she would become the anti-poster girl for WWE, feuding with the more traditional upstarts like Torrie Wilson and Trish Stratus. Lita and Trish’s bouts were the first authentic female matches the brand had, and while they still had their fair share of underwear related matches (no complaints from me at the time), it was clear than Lita was spearheading a new movement and proving women could be just as good, and just as much of a legitimate draw, as the men.
I mentioned Kane as my all time favourite, but it’s Undertaker who understandably gets the headlines. He’s been seemingly around forever, he changed the game when it comes to entrances, gimmicks, back story, and he managed to evolve with the business numerous times to remain one of the biggest draws in the business. A character of effortless cool, who doesn’t get a chill down their spine when that bell first tolls, or when you wait in anticipation for the dead man to rise, sit up after being hit with a finisher only to deliver a hellish chokeslam and tombstone of his own? Sure he’s retired about 12 times now, and is last few one off matches haven’t exactly inspired confidence, but when all is said and done he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.
Speaking of all time greats, Sting was the man who kept both WCW and TNA afloat for decades, the one man WWE wanted but couldn’t get. From his bleach blond roots to his conversion to his Crow persona he was a mainstay on ‘the other wrestling promotion’ and a source of respect to everyone in the business. It should have been big news when Sting finally made the jump to WWE, except he suffered a career ending injury in basically his first match, and that was that. When I watched WCW in the early 90s, Sting was to WCW what Hogan was to WWE – bigger than life, heroic, and with a series of moves which been adopted by others while keeping the name he gave them – The Stinger Splash, the Scorpion Death Lock etc. His move to The Crow look, and the related storylines, is one of the best character changes in Wrestling history. Whether as part of NWO, as a heroic face, or in his TNA days, Sting was number one and picked up 6 WCW Heavyweight Belts, 3 WCW tag titles, 2 WCW USA championships, 5 TNA World Titles, and become a two time Hall Of Famer.
The Ultimate Warrior
If I’m honest, I was always more partial to The Ultimate Warrior than Hulk when I was younger. He looks ridiculous in retrospect, but in the 80s and early 90s, The Ultimate Warrior was essentially a real life He-Man. How could anyone have that much manic energy and have so many muscles? The combination of colour and ability made him an obvious stand-out performer. Since his death, a whole lot of rumours and stories and true accounts have come out about the man behind the war paint which have certainly soured his legacy, but as in in-ring performer and a major foil for Hulkamania, there have been few better.
One of the first images I ever remember seeing on a Wrestling Magazine was of Foley, as Cactus Jack, face bloodied and head wrapped in barbed wire. As an already devout action movie and horror fan, I needed this in my life. I already knew Cactus Jack, but only through the heavily censored footage I had seen – they were the matches that were ‘too violent for TV’ or they ‘used REAL violence’ as opposed to what I already knew was fake in the industry. It wasn’t until Foley moved to WWE, initially as Mankind,that I got to see his brutal matches without cut always or censorship. Chair shots, trashcan lids, staples, bats, and everything else were employed in the early days as Mankind started pissing off The Undertaker, kick-starting one of the all-time great feuds. That of course culminated with Paul Bearer dropping Taker, a number of first-time matches (Buried Alive, Boiler Room) and of course the infamous Hell In A Cell encounter – frequently highlighted as the greatest match of all time. No matter what persona Foley adopted, his characters were always quirky and filled with repeatable one-liners. There have been few equal to Foley’s mic skills and knack for getting the crowd on board, and there aren’t many true innovators of violence more influential than him.
We go from one of the best mic-talkers, to the best there has ever been. You go back and watch old promos from the best in the business, to the 80s, and they are almost all ridiculous. Cheesy, hammed up, and amusing, charming, and dated in their ways. You shake your head and wonder how you enjoyed the stuff at the time. Then you watch The Rock and he just continues to blow everyone else away. His lightning fast speeches, his hilarious interruptions, his timeless one-liners and whip-smart humour – he single-handedly destroyed the old guard promos and challenged every other wrestler on the planet to just bring it with even half the skill and style he did. No-one has met the challenge yet. Of course, that would be nowt without in-ring ability.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
As much as I love Kane’s booming intro, there are two pieces of music/sounds which sit at the top of the pile as perfect heralds for incoming mayham. The Undertaker’s doom coloured death knell chime, and the explosion of glass which signals Stone Cold’s manic march to the ring. These two pieces are as perfect as you can get – both symbolizing the character, both instantly recognizable. In this day and age of symbols and memes and endless sharing, the impact that a single sound can have around the planet has never been higher and even now, years after Stone Cold has retired, that crash sends audiences into a frenzy as he heads down to burst open a few cold ones and stun whichever poor sod happens to be in the ring at the time. An all round bad-ass, a good talker, and with one of the most sudden and devastating finishers in the business, while Austin was injured and forced out before his time, he still notched up 14 championships in WWE as well as three Royal Rumble wins and is of course a Hall Of Famer – he picked up a few in WCW too.
As far as, for lack of a more respectful term, joke teams go Too Cool dropped at the right team. While the Attitude era has a little more saucy, a little more hardcore, there was also a lot of room for fun and nonsense. Too Cool exemplified this, with their wide-eyed gazes, dances, Rikishi love, and worms. Everybody enjoyed mimicking their moves and they were popular enough to win the tag championship twice. Today’s most popular teams such as The New Day have a lot to thank Too Cool for.
Maybe the greatest of all factions – New World Order went through various incarnations and saw the likes of Sting, The Big Show, The Million Dollar Man, Bischoff, The Macho Man, Konan, Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart and many others involved, but it was the mainstays and instigators – Hogan, Hall, and Nash – who created and solidified their legacy. Coming in like a group of thugs, seeing Hogan turning Heel and wanting to take over the business. They were the team, and the main reason, most people tuned in to Nitro over Raw in the 90s and remain one of the most influential groups in Wrestling history.
One of the first ‘big men’ who was a complete all rounder – grappler, bruiser, high-flyer, as adapt off the ropes as he was lethal with submissions, Joe was one of TNA’s finest villains. Since moving to WWE he hasn’t managed the same level of impact, usually reduced to more heel plots where he tends to ‘get personal’ with friends and family members but is still clearly a fan favourite in the company. His feuds with Angle, AJ, Magnus, and a good guy turn versus Aces & Eights saw him as one of TNA’s most respected and successful performers, picking up nine championships before earning another four in WWE.
A man whose entire character seemed to be based on a single gimmick – a ridiculous one – somehow manager to build on that to become one of the most entertaining talkers in both WWE and Impact. That gimmick? Quite simply, he would announce himself when he had a match, hurling out his name (similar to ‘Best In The World Shane McMahon’), then pause for a couple of seconds, then repeat his surname. That’s it – Mr Kennedy….. Kennedy. It was nonsense, but somehow it worked. I used to head out to bars on a Saturday night – metal bars mostly – and after a drink too many I would mimic his shout. Without fail, some other drunken loon would repeat ‘Kennedy’ before I could. He’s infamously the only person to lose the Money In The Bank briefcase before cashing in, but he did become USA Champ and Two Time Heavyweight Champ in TNA.
Frequently called out as the best all round Wrestler of all time, it wasn’t always plain sailing for Angle. He had a rough time in his early days in WWE, not coming across well to fans, but thanks to feuds with Eddie Guerrero and honing in on his comedy skills, he eventually won the universe over, then allowing his obvious in ring talent to shine. For someone who won an Olympic Gold Medal with a broken freaking neck, his success was inevitable. In many ways his most thrilling matches were with TNA, where he decided to go for more daredevil moves and being part of some of the best solo and group feuds in the company’s history. He has of course returned to, and retired from WWE due to many legitimate neck injuries, but he leaves behind a career which saw him pick up 6 TNA Heavyweight Championships, 1 X Division Title, 2 TNA Tag Titles, 2 WCW belts, two Hall Of Fame medals, and for WWE – 5 Heavyweight, 1 Tag Title, 1 Euro Champ belt, 1 Hardcore Belt, and 1 Intercontinental Champ. Presumably he’ll pick up the 24/7 belt at some point.
There you go – my favourite wrestlers ever, from the top of my head. I know I’ve missed some of the most famous and plenty of the current stars – but let me know in the comments who would be on your list!