With the WWE recently releasing their list (and subsequent DVD) of their definitive top 50 wrestlers of all-time, the crew here at Never Hand Over felt we'd chime in on their picks, giving our opinions on if they're deserved it or not.
50: Killer Kowalski
J: So, to kick off the bottom of the list we have Paul Levesque-McMahon's mentor and trainer. Can't say i'm all that familiar with the bulk of his work or career but I would have much preferred a great technical workhorse from the golden age like Gene Kiniski on here than this craggy old scrapper.
B: Known for ripping off a part of Yukon Eric's ear, guy had the credentials, so no problems here, especially just making the tail-end of the list. You can see some of his stuff on YouTube, including bouts with Baba, Gagne, etc. One thing I noticed in the clips I saw was, for such a big dude, he didn't mind throwing his weight around and bumping big.
G: From what I've seen of Kowalski, he has a presence in the ring that demands intensity and a fight. He has a down-home, gritty wrestling syle that I dig. He is indeed a craggy old scrapper, but I feel that people always wanted to watch him because he was a spectacle to see, being a fist-to-fist kind of guy.
J: This would be a really hard sell for me. Became a fan of Batista, especially his monstrous heel character towards the end of his WWE run but honestly, he was in the sport less than a decade, his first years were pretty bad but he learned quickly. I think he had a good career, but was it one of the 50 best, not for me. He would compare to Kensuke Sasaki to me, a guy who was really strong and was touted early, had a rough patch in his developmental stages but eventually won buttloads of World Title and was a main eventer. But I think I would put Sasaki ahead of him and he wouldn't make my top 50 either.
G: I have to agree with you Jess. During most of his tenure in WWE I simply could not get behind Batista. I felt like he was just one of those guys who had an enormous physique that Vince had an erection over. It wasn't until he was ending his run with WWE that I started to get behind him. His infamous sell of Mark Henry's push was amazing. His final feud with Cena was all kinds of great... but top 50, ehhh.
B: I could see him potentially making it towards the very end of a potential top #100 list, if it was pulling from exclusively a pool of American talent, and even that's being generous -- and that's coming from a guy that likes him more than most. Seeing him a bit during his territorial run he was real bad, even his earlier Raw stuff he worked dangerous nearly killing guys like Jericho on poorly executed power stuff, etc. He did grow into his push, though, and his matches with Undertaker (and Cena to a lesser extent) were just really tremendous and better big man vis-à-vis big man than '90's offerings like Diesel vs. Undertaker, anything with Sid in it, etc.
#48: Rick Rude
B: Definitely deserving of making the list, and honestly, I'd have bumped him up at least another ten or more slots. Never got a chance to win the big one in WWF but dude was crazy talented and almost never had a match even resembling dull. Great character and promo ability, fantastic bumper, etc.
J: Rick Rude would find himself comfortably settled into my late 30's I think. He's succeeded everywhere he went, from the Texas territories, to Mid South, Memphis and the big pearly gates of New York and Atlanta. He's one of the most reliable guys you would want to put in a match, plus he gets heel heat like no other. His only downside would be the shortening of his career by his injury but even that probably wouldn't hold him back on most people's lists.
G: Rude is amazing. Watching some of his pre-WWF stuff really warrants viewings. His selling and asshole, chauvinistic gyrations of the hips really made him a superstar. He's one of my favorites at exhaustive selling as well. As far as heel heat is concerned, he's the epitome of arrogance. Loved it.
#47: Bob Backlund
J: This is sort of a tough one, Top 50 is elite, you know, when also considering all the top guys from Mexico, Japan, and other places that got no credence on this list. Backlund is a fair to very good competitor, had a great run in the later 90's when working with Bret, but not so much with anyone else, his historic title run is record setting but from the matches i've seen he was hot and cold. If he made it on my list, it would be near the bottom, but I don't think he gets a slot.
G: I have to agree with you, Jess. I enjoyed Backlund because he was so vibrant and got the fans on their feet, but there are a lot of guys who belong on this tail end. Backlund's technical style was fun to watch, and his energy was really great, but he's really at the bottom of the barrel.
B: I like Backlund more than my colleagues and think he's a top #30 guy. He was well-known for defending against other champions during his reign, the AWA champ (Bockwinkel), NWA champs (Race and Flair), and NWF champ Inoki. We'd never see something like that nowadays. I love that pro wrestling grew out of and evolved from amateur wrestling, so it's great to see a guy who wrestled a style that paid homage to that and actually won matches (and lots of 'em) utilizing said style. Be it working a 63-min. draw with Billy Robinson in Montreal, to defending the gold against arguably the toughest and largest amount of competitors of any champion ever (Rhodes, Hansen, Fujinami, Chosu, Hogan, and literally 100 others).
#46: Dory Funk jr
J : I've seen Dory's work ranging from early All Japan matches with Baba, Race, teaming with his brother against any combo of great legend from the past, on up to his 90's All Japan & ECW stuff, and as Brian mentioned earlier with Backlund, a guy with great amateur pedigree is a treat to watch. Dory would rest somewhere in the latter half of my list as a tremendous worker, of both mat based stuff and spots and kept even the dullest material pretty interesting.
G: The Funks are the pinnacle of great wrestling, in my opinion. When talking about Dory, my greatest memories of the man come from his career in All Japan. His broadway match with Inoki in the 70's is the epitome of pacing and mat-style. Nowadays, people want to see dives and high spots. Dory could make the chicks scream with the spinning toe hold. Dude was awesome.
B: I like Dory, in some ways more than Terry, but while the madman Terry certainly would secure himself a lucrative spot on my list unfortunately I think Dory would just fall short. The Internet has allowed me to see a lot of his All Japan stuff, and really, that's his saving grace with me. If I wouldn't have had access to it I would have seen very little (not like his '70's stuff is readily available here stateside) and on reputation alone he's not top #50 of all time material in my eyes.
#45: Jeff Hardy
J: My one thing to think about here, and this is my opinion alone, is I don't think Jeff, overall, is any better or worse than his brother Matt, he's acheived way more singles success and made a bigger name for himself so I could see how they would have picked. Matt would never make it on a Top 50 of all time list though, unfortunately so I couldn't in good conscience put Jeff on, plus when you talk high flyers, even with the heavily skewed American flavor of this one, omitting Jushin Liger, Brian Pillman, and El Hijo del Santo is a crime. Top 50 tag Teams of all time though, Hardys are easily in Top 10, easily.
G: As a team, the Hardyz are amazing. One of my favorite tag teams. As singles.... ehhhh. I believe that Jeff better than his brother, but as far as Jeff is concerned, his exhaustive selling is top fucking notch. Watch any Hardy match, then watch for the rest spot. Take a look at Jeff's grimaced, exhausted face. Boom. Right there. Jeff's reckless abandon in the 90s was amazing, This spot is deserved.
B: I think, with what Jessie said above, in terms of just in-ring mechanics, it's hard to make a definitive case for one brother over the other. However, there's more than just in-ring to look at when compiling this list, and Jeff had that inexplicable "it' factor, he connected with audiences, moved more merchandise, than not just his brother, but than anyone else in the world during his last groundbreaking run as WWE champ. People will be imitating him and referring to him as an influence and groundbreaker for a long time to come. As Geo said, dude's selling is top-notch, too. I'd say I could live with this spot.
#44: Nick Bockwinkel
J: Onto the Bock, probably considered by most purists to be the greatest in ring performer of the AWA legacy, arguably. The guy was not only a great wrestler, but he won titles, he performed against numerous opponents of all shapes, sizes, varying talents, and looked good doing almost everything. He carried himself really well, great promo, had heel heat unlike most other villains of that time or any other, his career speaks for itself, so he would def. make my list, probably a few spots higher than where he is on this one.
G: I've seen a couple dozen of Bock's matches. He is indeed a purist and a great performer. I still to this day maintain that both his best match and Hennig's best match was the hour draw they had. That was absolutely incredible. I think this is an appropriate spot for him on the list.
B: I dig Bockwinkel, real great on the microphone, classic promos, unreal charisma, etc. Also very competent on the mat working all sorts of different talent. I think, even just for his AWA contributions, which were legendary, he should make the list. As much as I like watching him as a performer I wouldn't place him any higher than this, though, and if we were going international, someone like Jaguar Yakota or Giant Baba could push him even further back.
J : Is this a rib? Kane is a comfortable middle of the show guy for me, I really can't recall a single main event that was made better for his inclusion, not to mention he hasn't had many title runs and has been invovled in some of the most ridiculous programs this side of necrophilia. Not to mention, he's not anywhere near top tier working ability or promo, so he wouldn't be anywhere close to my list.
B: Jessie pretty much ran the gamut of why Kane shouldn't be here. I'll say, though, that as I've aged I've noticed more subtle aspects of the in-ring game, many of which Kane excels at, apron work, i.e. being in his character at all times, during pin attempts, rest spots, etc. whereas you'll see a lot of guys coming up who'll have blank looks on their faces when they should be channeling some sort of emotion, etc. He's done some good character-driven matches, but yet, has also been part of some horrendous feuds as previously mentioned, including dragging down one of history's all-time greats Mysterio to a terrible series.
G: The feeling is mutual between us. This is just ridiculous. Kane's greatest asset is his character, but in ring is a totally different story. I dug Kane when he had the mask because it added a realistic feel to his character. Post-mask has just gone downhill. Belongs nowhere on this list,
#42: Sgt. Slaughter
B: Alright, Slaughter, man -- now this is tougher. I'll go ahead and say I could see him making it around #45-50. Sure, I'm a nostalgic freak, and his affiliation with G.I. Joe certainly helps, but in all honesty, watching his work in past years, he's got the goods. For a bigger guy, he'd truly bump his ass off around the ring, go headfirst right into the buckles and flip backwards like a tumbleweed in the wind, guy was insane when motivated. His character-driven stuff was top-notch, too; him being a turncoat and support Iraq in the middle of a bitter war was molten heat across the country and he had humongous balls. You know what? Scratch that -- he's somewhere between #41-36 on my list.
J : If you're talking within the lexicon of the WWE "Universe" Slaughter should be heralded as an important figure, his 80's patriotic run with bloodbaths with Shiek & Patterson, top face in the company for years, his stellar run across the country, stint against Cobra Commander (which was epic) and then the historic Iraq sympathizer heel turn that was generating hatred from the whole country, he's a top 25 guy in just those regards, Top 50 in the world, I could still see him squeezing in the bottom 10 easily.
G: This spot is perfect for Sarge. I loved his heel character in the 80s teaming up with Shek. He had a presence that just made everyone hate him, but he could easily be a great face as well. Awesome selling accompanied by great workrate makes this an appropriate spot.
#41: Jack Brisco
J : Is it just me or is there always a sort of disconnect with people from a different era than from what we grew up watching? If you read Meltzer's brillian obituary, Brisco was a phenom in the collegiate level, then made a masterful transition to pro wrestling and was heralded by many as one of the best of that era, even by most workers. He was NWA World champion, in a time when it was infinitely tougher to get the strap, by all those standards, he should be on a list of top 50 in the world, so I could leave him. Following and seeing his work in Mid Atlantic and NWA in the latter stages of his career, he was a fine technician, but no one i would call "top 50 ever"
B: This is a tough one for me, I know his acumen, history, etc. and I know, for a time, he put lots of asses in seats. But, I haven't seen a fraction of his work to have a truly great sense personally of what he does that makes him one of the 50 best performers of all-time in the industry. I've seen some great bouts, will hopefully see more, but he's a tough sell on me at this point. Was watching a CWF episode last night and Gordon Solie said young Barry Windham reminded him of Jack Brisco, which had me think, why hell, why isn't Barry on this list?
G: I've seen some of his Florida and MA work. While it's more than obvious that he has a collegiate background using a very mat-based style, which I like, I haven't seen enough of his work to determine a proper spot on the list.
#40: Big Show
B: This dude's not top 50 of all-time, maybe at busting up buffets but not purely on in-ring and entertainment alone. I know he can be a polarizing figure, there's lot of people online that pimp him as some overlooked, unheralded super worker which is taking it laughably far, but I also don't fall into the camp that think he's the drizzling shits either. He was super limited and green during his first WCW run but amid all the bullshit he's been subjected to and a part of in WWE he's also had several great singles matches peppered throughout a tenuous stint. Taking in the rest of the globe, I'd say, he'd make my #250 somewhere near the bottom third but he's got no chance in hell making it this high.
G: I'm sorry but this is just not right. Big Show, while he does have strengths in the charisma and fan lovableness department just doesn't belong on this list. I think his selling is decent and he can get guys over well, but #40 in the greatest of all time? Me thinks not.
J : My thinking was long the lines of what Brian said, while I think he's helped make matches good, even great over the years (not many) against Kane who it's hard to categorize, he also had some abysmal rookie years in the biz and as a guess, I would say he's had the most uneven PPV/TV matches over the years bordering on well done and entertaining to downright bottom of the barrel shit. As "some guy in a coma" would say, No Chance in Hell he'd make anywhere near my top 50 list.
#39: Jake Roberts
J: I think a lot of people inside the industry and merely observers would easily write Jake off a list like this, he never held any major championships, his career was marred with drug issues as well as his personal life, but one thing you can never discredit is Jake will be remembered by even the most casual or non-fan when it comes to big names. The snake helped sure, but Jake had an aura about him, he was able to suck fans into whatever he was saying or doing, don't know if a single move was ever as over as the "DDT" ever, period to where people would chant for it, plus Jake's psychology was as good as the best that ever fought in the game. I would say he would make my list somewhere
G: I am a fan of Jake, but whenever I think of him I instantly think of substance abuse and not a wrestling career. His raspy voice and cold, dead eyes were great for promos and connecting with the audience, but his in-ring style wasn't my fave. Still, for historical significance, I do think he deserves a spot on the list.
B: Roberts is a guy who I've got a ton of respect for, all throughout his storied career, and while championship gold eluded him, he's certainly etched a permanent spot in wrestling lore and history. Phenomenal promos, just chilling, arguably one of the top two or three ever at pure in-ring psychology, and a damn good talent. While he doesn't have the achievement credentials on talent alone he deserves to be at least this high.
#38: Superstar Billy Graham
J : For pure personality, historical signifigance and the people that emulated him and their success, I would add him to this illustrious list, I don't think Goodhelmet will be making a 50 disc comp of his career anytime soon for work rate but he was fascinating to watch.
B: He's a tough sell for me -- limited in the ring, bought into his own hype (not on its own an unforgivable excuse -- else most of the stars of the '90's would be guilty), and much of what he did do has been done bigger and better, by guys like Hogan, Ventura, etc. Dude had a phenomenal look, was part of a history, and for those things amongst others he could find his way into my top 100 but I need more evidence to get him in an elite 50 list like this one. In my eyes he's the American equivalent to Tenzan and he doesn't come close either.
#37: Junkyard Dog
J : JYD's notoriously known for being a subpar worker, even ruining a series with Ric Flair in his prime, but he did have some good years, notably in Mid South where he was a megastar and broke down racial barriers and became a certifiable legend. He's a toss up, i could see myself replacing any number of guys in the lower 40's to add him on a whim, but I could also leave him off and be satisfied. No higher than 47/48 though if he was on
G: His Midsouth run was awesome. Whenever "Another One Bites the Dust" hit, the fans would tear the roof off the arena. Despite not being able to do a whole lot in the ring, his charisma and fandom was awesome and still makes me pop to this day.
B: I liked him growing up, not sure a lot of his criticisms hold up today, especially when you dig deep in the hours upon hours of Mid-South stuff of his which I've had the pleasure of doing in recent months. Personally, I think he's great. However, I think he'd just miss my top 50, probably finding himself more in the 60-75 range. In no way a technical maestro but his ability to control a crowd, especially given racial hurdles then, is really breakthrough stuff.
#36: Gorilla Monsoon
J : As an announcer, superb, marvelous, "quite a happening" as he might say but as a wrestler, no way he's getting in. Of all his work from late 70's, early 80's i've seen he's a big lumbering brute who can throw a good punch but that's it. Even Andre couldn't pull a good big man match out of him, so nope for me.
B: I know he's a WWE safe guy, in that, certain people politically have clout (i.e. deserters like Hogan, Flair, etc. getting shafted) and he'll always be beloved there. Still, he's not top 50 of all time, under any criteria, unless as Jessie mentioned we're discussing commentators and in that case he's fabulous. Guys like this that are sort of a just tossed out there is when it's really apparent international talent would have really helped legitimize this list.
G: One of my favorite commentators! I've seen zero of his matches, so I don't think I have any authority on offering insight on his wrestling career, but he seemed like a big, lovable guy who was great on the mic.
#35: Buddy Rogers
J : Not that familiar with the original "Nature Boy" need to see some more of his work, know as far as work rate heard he wasn't that great, but he has a heavy WWWF connection, being their first recognized champion, so that's probably how he made the list. I wouldn't include for sake of argument, but need to see more of his stuff to make a more informed opinion. I'll just say if he's better than Inoki was in his heyday, he would make it but if not, I'd put a guy like that in this slot.
B: I'm with Jessie here 100% -- I've got tons of respect for the industry's forefathers and have only seen a smattering of Rogers' footage but while I enjoyed the hell out of what I saw I'm no authority on the guy's career or contributions. I wouldn't be opposed to him making other peoples' lists but he'd probably fall just short of mine.
G: Third. Love his selling! If I had more footage I'd def. watch to see the original Naitch.
#34: Kurt Angle
J : With being an Olympic champion who was willing to go into pro wrestling, Kurt was going to have a lot of help to succeed in this business. The fact that after a very rocky first year, Kurt matured and picked up the game quicker than 95% of anyone who ever tried to make it as a wrestler makes him a unique property. His in ring prowess and ability to lay out a match became one of the greatest in WWE history during his run there, I likened him to Barry Windham, or Brian Pillman, or for Japanese fans, Jumbo Tsuruta as a guy who instantly was a natural. Throw in the fact of his natural charisma, he can play goofy comedy, or intense shootfighter and his numerous achievements and world titles and he's almost a lock, one of the only picks that's debuted within the last 10 years or so I could safely say that about.
G: Kurt is amazing. There's so many good things to say about him. A lot of people like to bash him for working some sort of formulated style, but he was great. I constantly go back to saying he is one of the best false-finish guys in the biz -- by that I mean kicking out at the very last possible second! His selling is good and he is just so much fun to watch. He deserves to be higher, if you ask me.
B: Kurt's background and amateur wrestling pedigree lend him a believability or sense of legitimacy that immediately allowed him to run with the big dogs. As Jessie mentioned, the guy's multifaceted, he can do goofy comedy with the best of them, but can also been insanely intense and driven. In terms of structure, there doesn't seem to be a lot of gray area, people dig it or find it superfluous/formulaic, although in that regard Flair is as formulaic as anyone ever and he still gets (deservedly so) high praise so what gives? I think Angle is great, one of the most consistently good in-ring talents of the 2000's in the US, and deserves a spot in at least the 40's of a list like this.
#33: Mick Foley
B: No. I grew up as a kid loving Cactus Jack, for reasons unbeknownst to me, then, around '98, as a teenager, I identified with Dude Love/Mankind, so in many ways I'm the prototypical Foley fan. I've read all of his books (including the fiction ones) and think he's a genuinely awesome guy. I could see him, at best, making it around the 60's, but top fifty? He's done probably more as a brawler than just about anybody (save for Brody and Funk) and achieved higher than his (or anyone else's) wildest expectations, but after re-watching a lot of his '99 stuff for a project recently (which is allegedly his prime) at times he looked downright embarrassing and I rarely bought him winning matches.
G: While he's not the most technically sound, Foley is one of the best at connecting with his audience. He was so easy to get behind after he dropped Paul Bearer and became the lovable, demented Mankind. His tag team tenure with the Rock was one of my favorites, and I loved his sense of gentle insanity that he portrayed. I've really enjoyed watching his career over the years, and I've enjoyed watching his career flourish no matter where he goes.
J: Ah, lovable Mick, I don't even think he'd make a case for him to be Top 50 honestly. He's a fan favorite that I knew right away couldn't make my list under pure logistics, naming the guys Brian did, Brody, Funk, Hansen even, as guys who wreslted the style Foley did and did it better, and in some cases achieved more success with it. I don't think there's a person out there who could hate Mick Foley (he loves roller coasters, garbage bumps and Christmas!) but He wouldn't be on my list.
#32: Jimmy Snuka
J: Another tough call, Snuka made a name for himself as a great high flyer, i've seen a good heaping of his work from the 80's and 90's and would say he's a hit or miss worker, even during his Japanese stint. I would say it depends on how he sits with you, as a legendary high flyer who was ahead of his time or a pretty cool guy who had a brief run as a top guy but man, many years being not as good. he could make my #50 spot as a nostalgia pick but most likely not.
B: I like Jimmy, met him at a ratty show once and got a photo with him while wearing a Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. t-shit, etc. but I don't know if he makes this list. If this was, let's say, WWF talent only, then definitely. And, to take nothing away from him, he was a bit of a trendsetter and influenced a lot of guys, he was smooth in the ring, good pained facials, etc. But, if we're looking at the whole world, there's guys in Mexico and Japan that were even more graceful at flying and even better at awing audiences at that same time.
G: I think Snuka is pretty important historically because he paved the way for a lot of lighter weight guys to pull off a more cruiserweight style. I think he made it on the list because of the Don Muraco dive off the cage. He always seemed to be solid in the ring at selling and such. I'd probably drop him down a bit.
#31: Iron Sheik
J: I don't think so buddy. As entertaining you are on unrestricted interviews, I can't in good conscience make this call, especially at a spot like 31. This is where I'd much rather sit a Liger, or Ultimo, someone who has a long career of historic moments and matches not a guy who held the big one as a placeholder for Hulk.
B: Oh, hell no. I like Sheik more than most, and if this were say, a top tag teams list, I could see putting him and Volkoff together in the late-40's, but as an individual he just doesn't cut the mustard. He was a hell of a heel, in his time, but was turned into a mediocre joke as the years passed and having seen some of his post-WWF work on the indies, etc. and constantly making a fool of himself in shoot interviews I've got to say he's soiled his reputation similarly to how he soils his pants routinely.
G: Gotta say I agree. His heel work was great, but this is just ridiculous. His bootcamp match with Slaughter was one of my favorite 80s WWF matches, but seriously? Like Brian said, I see Sheik differently now that he was trying to set up a deal over the phone in the middle of a shoot interview. His in-ring was decent, but not top 50-worthy, much lest #31.
#30: Pat Patterson
B: This one might be harder for some of the younger fans to appreciate, many of which, only saw Pat as a bumbling buffoon as McMahon's lackey in the late-'90's. But, that's really underselling him, as besides historical significance, he was really a great in-ring talent, someone who really committed to the physicality of the sport and was more than game to bump his ass off all around the ring. I've seen a decent amount of Pat, from old tapes, to YouTube, etc. and while his spot on the list gets muddled when looking at the big picture I'd still be fine with him making it near the bottom of my top 50.
J: Patterson was the first IC champion, a claim to fame he's been holding onto since 1979, and it used to mean a lot until the late 90's when nearly every midcarder the WWF had got a piece of that action. Pat's even more notorious by his peers as part of a great team from California with Ray Stevens, who mysteriously has been omitted from this list, who was every bit as charismatic and great worker as Patterson was, even more so actually. If either man gets a spot here, it would Stevens
G: The first IC champ coming in at number 30 is proper. I loved his matches with Backlund from the 70s WWWF. I'd really be into digging some footage of his even earlier career, but from his WWWF work, he was a real standout. Besides being historically important, he made huge strides in backstage politics being one of the first openly gay wrestlers, which I think is cool of him.For historical purposes, this spot is deserved.
#29: Randy Orton
G: Ok, Randy Orton. I don't know how to feel about this guy. Part of me really digs his in-ring and mic skills, but another part of me wonders if he really earned his spot in the company or if he was literally grandfather-ed in. I dig his maniacal look in his eyes and his sustained selling, but I think his in-ring is a tad shoddy -- especially the GOD-AWFUL powerslam. This spot should have been reserved for someone else. Orton would not make my top 200, much less 50.
B: I like Randy, dude's insanely talented, but this may be a bit of a stretch (him making the list at all -- let alone at #29). He started off green as hell, having seen a lot of his OVW stuff, guy was bush league, at best. It took him awhile to develop in the WWE, too; now he's easily one of the top talents in the entire company. I don't know, he may have already peaked, as the last couple years, especially the Triple H feud that culminated in one of the most lackluster main events in WrestleMania history, haven't been his strongest. I think his feud with Cena will really hold up over the test of time, alongside memorable feuds from past generations even, but as of right this second, he's not one of the 50 best ever.
J: Have to agree with both of you, Orton is for sure a shining spot in the WWE, it took him a long time to get there, and I think setting himself apart performance wise is what helped him do it, his mic skills are pretty par for the course and aren't rising anyone's skirts. But, things are all relative: Orton's held the belt what, 6, 7 times now, but that doesn't mean as much anymore, so while understand they're trying to pump he's one of the greatest of all time because he still has a future, but realistically, he wouldn't make this list by any standards, def. not at this point, if his career continues on an upward swing and stays consistently there for years to come, he could break through.
#28: Fred Blassie
J: Blassie was a bloodletter in his early days, has a lot of respect from all the boys, from the 50's on, and made a lot of money, but even from the scant footage I've seen of him , he wouldn't make my top 50 by a long shot. Go to managers and I think he excelled there, but I would say history and the evolution of the sport has passed him by years ago in terms of creating a list like this. This was a gimme spot for his good standing with Vince and family for years.
B: While I went to bat for Patterson (see his WO MotY from '81 vs. Slaughter in an Alley Fight) I can't do the same for Blassie. I know he's lost more blood than a gunshot victim on her period but I haven't seen enough to know the scope or significance of his influence. He's a pencil-neck geek.
G: Can't say I've seen a lot of his matches, but he got some great heat while managing Sheik. He made the crowd hate him by simply existing. The pencil-neck geeks ate him up.
#27: Fabulous Moolah
G: I really don't know what to think about this. Let's see, Keijo Mutoh or Moolah? Moolah, obviously... No, I do dig the fact that she represented an entire gender in the sport, but I think this spot is more deserving of others.
J: Agreed Geo, I believe even top wrestling pundits will tell you Moolah, in ring was atrocious, even in her prime. But it's not all about that, she's a historic women's figure, not just for wrestling but for all women athletes. I could see how she may make it on for historical purposes, but no i'd rather give the spot to Manami Toyota
B: Historically, I can understand and appreciate her having a spot somewhere around #50, I suppose, but then Jaguar Yokota (arguably the most talented in-ring woman ever) should be here, too.
#26: Ted Dibiase
B: Ted would practically make it just on his incredible Mid-South run alone but as the "Million Dollar Man" he was one of the best American heels there's ever been. He combined great, razor-sharp instincts in the ring, with charisma and personality and was able to rile up crowds in a league all his own. I'd say he definitely deserves a spot, but not quite this high unfortunately.
G: I dig him. Agreed that his territory work was amazing. Some great gems were had in Mid-South. His gimmick in WWF is legendary and historical. This is a good spot for him.
J: Way too high for Dibiase, re-watching older stuff was his best by far, some early work in Japan, what little of Mid South i've seen was his tag with Doc, I could take him or leave him honestly, but if i count up spots, i find myself leaving him off for so many other guys I would want on the list. Technically, he was a marvel, really knew how to build a match correctly and put over any babyface they could find, but he feels very much like a Rick Rude to me and I think Rude would make it on and Dibiase may not.
#25: Chris Jericho
J: Okay, personal bias aside, off the bat, Jerich would be on my list, but again, he wouldn't be this high. I think to break into the top 25, you not only have to be a great legend who's accomplished many things but be remembered for all time. Jericho has traveled the globe, put on 4 star matches too numerous to count, been World Champ many times and been a consistent entertaining presence on a sometimes stagnant program. But he had bad years as well, honestly, his ECW run was nothing to brag about and his atrocious run as Undisputed Champ. But with his career achievements, he earns a spot, lower 30's/high 40's probably off the top of my head.
B: I could see Y2J squeezing into a top 100 but he wouldn't make my top 50. In terms of talent he's right up there among many of his peers, such as Benoit and Mysterio, but if we're talking about late-'90's breakout stars with top of card experience and the skills to match he'd be on that list but not atop it. Similarly, looking at Japan you could take a guy like Tanahashi, who's dynamism similarly to Jericho has endeared him to a percentage of the fan-base, both guys have had major titles, etc. but when you're talking the best of all-time they don't stack up quite as favorably among some of the pioneers and their contemporaries.
G: One of my favorites. His world travelled resume and his great technical ability make him one of the best. His ability to be face and heel in the flick of a switch is something that rivals a lot of wrestlers. During the last couple of years he's had some great feuds with Michaels and Mysterio, and was such a great arrogant prick heel. I love it. His work in Japan in supercards were amazing. What a great career. I dig this spot for him.
#24: Bruno Sammartino
G: There's a lot of differing opinions about Bruno and to be honest, I'm not sure where I stand on him. I appreciate his WWWF career and what he did for McMahon. I have to say that his matches were decent, bu then again I'm a fan of methodical wrestling. I simply don't have an opinion on this spot without being further educated on him.
J : Bruno's in. He has to be. Not only did he have arguably the most amazing run on top as WWWF champion, but he's a cultural icon for the Italian people. Bruno brought fans out in droves when he was defending the title, and took on every challenger in the book. I have not a lot bad to say about Bruno in the ring, he wrestled his style and I think he was a very good big match guy, because he could take a beating and could get great heat on his comebacks. His later years were pretty nondescript but I don't think it's enough to take away from his legend. This is a good spot for him on the list
B: Sammartino has earned this spot, he was a huge deal, and as Jessie mentioned, really put the "asses in the seats" as J.R. would say. He was larger than life in a way only few other guys (Hogan, Austin, etc.) ever were. What I've seen of his in-ring was far from transcendent but while his match layouts may have not had staggering layers of depth they didn't necessarily call for it; immigrant everyman overcomes adversity at the end of the day was the story he told, and told, and told again but it connected with a passionate audience who ate it up.
#23: Hulk Hogan
J: Say what you will about old Terry and he has tons of detractors everywhere in the business, he made wrestling bigger than it would have ever been, even if it was Vince's brainchild and marketing, people have to accept it and with Hulk, it hit at the right time and the sport of wrestling rode a wave of success with it. People shit on Hulk's in ring but i would call him middle of the road because he couldn't do a lot in the ring true, but he was fairly good at his moveset, selling was great, but he could control a crowd like damn near no other. Hulk's also earned a spot on this list and would def. make my top 15, on being such a historical figure, if I was more soft on him, easy top 10, if you go by name value alone, he's top 5.
B: I'd find it hard under any criteria to not have Hogan in the top ten of all-time. I think a lot of criticism towards him rings hollow (similarly to Cena bashers nowadays) as, bottom line, he entertained and captivated audiences to a degree that'll likely never be duplicated. He had people living and dying on every match, pinfall, etc. He's not just an athlete and entertainer but a cultural icon.
G: Alright, so we all know that Hogan is in the 20's because of bullshit politics, but this man is a wrestling god. He brought to the forefront of America something that's near and dear to all of our hearts. His connection with the crowd and every move he makes makes him immortal. He canot be duplicated. He cannot be touched. He is simply one of the greatest draws in all of sports. He's a REAL FUCKING AMERICAN.
#22: Terry Funk
G: Top ten eligible without a doubt. Lately I've been pondering where I would put Terry as one of my favorites, and I have determined he is my third favorite wrestler of all time. His selling, sweet GOD his selling cannot be duplicated. He is one of, if not the best seller of all time. His in-ring is to die for. It can't get any simpler than this: He's one of the best.
J: God knows I love Terry Funk, when we had our own clandestine backyard federation I emulated him nearly every week. He's one of the most entertaining, relevant guys in the business of all time. He's one of few guys to really find a niche in almost every promotion he went to, as he got older and more broke down, he still put forth inhuman efforts. A lot of people in the industry that peaked early and found great success (such as him becoming NWA champion in 1975) fizzled out and never achieved that again, not to say Terry ever matched the accomplishment of being the champion of the world, but he was in the public eye and had one of the greatest hate fueled feuds of modern American history against Ric Flair. I could see him as my Number 10 choice
B: I think Funk deserves a spot somewhere on the list. He's a guy, similarly to Flair, that overstayed his welcome and began tarnishing his legacy (see him vs. Lawler from 3PW, etc.) Still, as the guys above said, Funk was a madman that was just so much fun to watch in the ring doing his thing, his ridiculous, wobbly-legged selling is always a treat. His NWA, ECW, and Japan runs are all top-notch and he's arguably one of the best brawlers of all-time.
#21: Lou Thesz
B: When it comes to historical names a lot of younger fans won't have much say one way or the other, but, I think here with Thesz is one guy from the golden era that definitely deserves a spot. Lou had a legitimacy that was unrivaled and was a hooker/shooter that could beat or give a war to just about any man walking in his prime. He was influential and admired by peers, colleagues, historians, etc. and his contributions still reverberate within the industry today.
J: Totally agree. If you go back through the anals of wrestling, to the golden era in the 50's there's one name that's synonomous with it and it's Lou. Known as a shrewd businessman, loyal protector of the industry's secrets and world renonwed shooter who only competed against who he considered the best, he was also a top notch worker. You can find some of this bouts against legendary names online, I remember 2 matches that really stand out; one was an old stock footage bout against Gene Kiniski that was technically heads and tails above anything else that's done today. And another was his strange exhibition against mentoree Masa Chono back in the early 90's where this old frail looking man was wrapping him up in lock after lock. Thesz is top 20 for me
G: I think it would be hard to make a list and not include guys from the Golden Age. These are the kinds of guys who paved the way for a lot of the
guys we see today. I've seen a few matches from Thesz's dvd set and the shit is killer. I loved how his mat technique was so methodical and awesome. You can't not include him on this list. This is a proper place for him.
#20: Jerry Lawler
G: You know, after watching a bit of his matches on the Memphis set, I've gotta say that I dig Lawler. His in-ring abilty to be a face or a heel is great. His sneakiness as a heel is awesome and his conectedness with the crowd is rather good. Gotta love the piledriver.
J : Lawler is a guy who a lot of people online and in the industry think is a great old southern style worker and while he may be that, I've never really found that one match that tells me he is one of the best of all time. But, personality, charisma, how to entice a crowd, all the qualities that Hulk was known for and excelled at our also Jerry's top talents. It would be a toss up really, if I made a personal 50 favorites/best list, he wouldn't make it, if for historical reasons would he be on the list, absolutely.
B: Lawler's deserving of a spot, possibly in the 40's, as far as regional guys go he's got to be considered one the best in-ring (Buddy Rose in Portland comes to mind). If you've only seen his WWE stuff qualifying an opinion on him would be as ridiculous as someone's who's never had sex but watched lots of porn having an opinion on their favorite position. I'm neck-deep in Mid-South right now, but down the road, I intend on watching a few hundred hours of Memphis and from what I've seen so far, Lawler's ability to control crowds, make lesser talent look like stars, and the fact he's one of the best punchers in the game all earn him a spot.
B: Fuck you.
J: Bwa hahahahahahaha
G: Once upon a time.
17#: Dusty Rhodes
J: We began watching wrestling as kids at the tail end of Dusty's career so I was never that high on him as a worker but one magical night back in 2006, the NHO crew at the time, me, brian and adam got together to accomplish a remarkable feat: Watch the WWE Dusty Rhodes Anthology in one night. And that we did. Ever since that night, I've had an abundance of respect for Dusty and his long body of work. He was the like the best of all the top guys, could pop the people like Hogan, could entertain like Rock, could wrestle as long as Flair and hang with him, and he could do what all the greats can do and that's carry and elevate the talent he was in the ring with. As sure as all wrestlers are conmen, Dusty makes my top 20 easily
G: I dig Dusty. Apart from his selling and all around great pacing in the ring, his character was so perfect. He was a humble man who came from humble beginnings. This was important because it connected with the audience so much because they could relate. Everyone wanted to root for him because they could relate to him, evelvating him to one of the best in the company. An appropriate spot indeed.
B: Dusty's just great and so worthy of this spot. He just made people smile and lighted up entire buildings and on top of that, physique aside, dude could go and go. I think of him as the American equivalent to Hashimoto, flabby, neither guy is unanimously loved, but both have very vocal backers and passionate fans. Rhodes' best stuff, against other legends like Flair, Race, etc. is stuff absolutely everybody should see in their lifetime.
#17: Ric Flair
J : Whoo! Seems like you should always do than when mentioning Flair. Honestly, 8/10 times I'd make a top 50 list, i'd put Flair as my No. 1 pick. The Whoo, "Wheeling, dealing, kiss stealing, limosuine riding jet flying son of a gun", Space Mountain, the chops, the figure four, the robes, the lovely ladies,Space Odyssey theme music, the fireworks, the custom made suits, the legendary interviews, the Horsemen, 60 minute draws, Flair didn't create all of these things, nor introduce them to wrestling but he made them all iconic and things synonomous with Ric Flair. He's had so, so many amazing bouts over time, he's fought every top guy or mid guy or bottom guy that's been in the industry in the last 30 years. He's just Ric Flair, as he says in his promos, He's the man.
B: Flair's the man, easily one of the top five ever, and no fear of that changing in this century. There's been a backlash of sorts towards him in some circles online, because he's such a formula guy, but really, what does that even mean? Any wrestler with his longevity has wrestled thousands and thousands of matches -- do you expect him to completely change up his routine in each and every city each night? As far as formulas go -- were there ever any better? You don't hear that complaint leveed at successful sports team that re-use strategies or actors who fall back on their beloved mannerisms/roles. I've watched so many hours upon hours of Flair footage and I still always look forward to when I come across something from him I've never seen and can relish it.
G: When you talk about pro wrestling you can't go without mentioning Ric Flair. He is wrestling. He is a legend. His illustrious career rival that of nobody. He is the gold standard for what pro wrestling is supposed to be. He's been everywhere, seen everything, and beat everyone. He is the man. He is number one. We all know he's #17 because of bullshit politics, but we all know where he should be.
#16: John Cena
G: I dig Cena. A lot of people like to bash him because of the lack of a moveset (or a shallow one), but good God can the man tell a story. His facial expressions of agony and aggression are amazing. He takes the crowd along for the ride and they hang on his every move. He is this generation's Hulk Hogan as far as popularity is concerned and I will stand by that statement. Cena is the man. He's great. I went through a "hater" phase, but my eyes opened after seeing him bust his ass night in and night out. I dig him,
J : John Cena's only been in the game for under a decade but the improvements he's made to his game are nothing less than astounding. Geo mentioned a "hater" phase, let's be honest, Cena always had the drive, but his charisma and ringwork never matched up until a few years back. It takes time to become a headliner in WWE, to work the way they want and are used to, Cena has now surpassed that phase and constructs real stories and gets people emotionally invested in matches akin to Austin, Hogan, Sammartino, etc. did in their own glory days, does Cena make the company as much money, has he won more titles, sold out more arenas, these are all questions that become irrelevant when all you have is a DVD player and keen eyes because he can compete with the best of those guys and more by what he does in the ring. It's really hard for me to gauge where he stands in the Top 50 best of all time at this point because his career is far from over, especially when weighing in all the tremendous talent from Japan and Mexico that hasn't been mentioned yet, but I do believe at some point either in his prime or when his career has ended, at least for me, Cena will be on this list and he'll probably never come off of it.
B: I'm an unabashed Cena fan, I think the guy's fantastic, one of the best in the world right now. Could you say his last five years are as good as, say, any of other megastars like Hogan of Austin's? It's an argument that could be made and would likely hold up under scrutiny, especially when he measures up quite favorably against those guys in terms of sheer in-ring and storytelling ability. He and Mysterio are the two main reasons I continue to tune in to WWE's every telecast. I'd say, while young, he's already accomplished more in his span until a lot of other guys one this list (i.e. Iron Sheik, Snuka, etc.) and while perhaps somewhat controversial I think even now he deserves a spot on this list (but certainly not this high yet, with "yet" being the operative word). As the song goes, you'll never catch me in the next man's sweater.
#15: Curt Hennig
B: No, Hennig would be cut just shy of my ballot, and to say he's this high is borderline criminal and patently insulting. As far as '80's heels, DiBiase, Rude, Anderson, etc. deserve a spot, and the inclusion of international talent would even further evaporate Hennig's chances of getting on. Yes, he's one hell of a bumper (different than selling, I must point out) and a great hand in the ring, someone I'd love to watch against just about anybody (can you imagine him vs. Aries? Doi? Hama? Snyder?), but I can't let that blind me from that fact that he's track record doesn't warrant this spot.
J: I knew ahead of time looking over the list, Curt also wouldn't cut the mustard for me here. Thought I may be in the minority, honestly he wrestled his own unique style and was a capitvating personality but I think he was a guy who wrestled for years without it meaning very much (WCW) and that's very sad considering the talent he carried. But there are only 50 spots and when as Brian mentioned, Arn Anderson didn't even make a spot on this list (while he certainly would have on mine) Henning just doesn't cut it.
G: Hennig is timeless. While this spot may be high, I always loved to watch his work. He had great bumping abilities and I enjoyed watching him sell. I always loved seeing Hennig on the card because I knew the show would be that much better. While this is a bit high, I feel he definitely deserves to be in the top 50,
#14: Randy Savage
G: You can't really talk about 80s WWF and not mention Macho Man. His timeless gimmick will always live on to be imitated by wrestling fans. His dedication to wrestling was amazing and his ability to tell a story was off the charts. His run with Hogan in the MegaPowers was something that will always be remembered. OHHH YEEEAHH.
B: I think Savage makes the ballot, regardless of criteria, unless said criteria was "best spouses". The guy was gifted in the ring, could move quicker and go harder than anyone of his era, completely willing to kill his knees and back, by taking reckless dives and leaps to the floor, and of course, bumping big to make even the most labored offense (Junkyard Dog) look believable and painful. While being a Savage fan in general won't place you in the demimonde, at least around WWE headquarters you'll have to do it discreetly, as he's on Vince's bad side for allegedly slipping a teenaged Stephanie his gnarled, meaty Slim Jim.
J : I can't see a list where Savage doesn't make it on, his unique character, promos that were nigh indecipherable, and his gifted abilities in the ring have been fondly remembered for years and years after his talent waned and he became another desperate guy clinging onto his former glory. In his youth, he was about the perfect worker and has brian stated made many, many bad opponents look like 5 star caliber workers. As far as his place, off hand, this may be a tad high but I think from work rate and legendary status alone, top 25 is not unreasonable.
#13: Gorgeous George
J : huh, #13, you say? When's that WWE produced film coming out? Nah, i don't have a lot to say, know he was a trendsetter with his character but have also heard his work was nothing special and he was a diva the size of Michaels in the 90's or worse. Could be a kind sir and give him the #50 spot out of the good ness of nostalgia.....but probably not.
G: Really don't have anything to say due to my ignorance. Personally can't wait to discuss the next one.
B: I got the privilege of seeing some of his stuff back in '06 courtesy of a VHS tape from my local library's interlibrary loan system. I was blown away. He had one of the first real gimmicks, and was damn good at it, had tons of courage to portray such a flamboyant character in an industry than ran predominantly by gruff, genuine bad ass dudes. I loved when he'd have someone spray perfume around the mat pre-match. You can find some of his stuff on YouTube, it's mileage will vary given your tastes, but I think, for his era, he was certainly one of the most entertaining and capable in the ring. As far as American legends, in terms of historical value, he's got to be on that short list, so I don't have any problems with him being on here.
G: The one I have been waiting for. Ok, we can all probably find some common ground with HHH, be it his respect for NWA legends (like Race), yet ignorance for Japanese stars (like we all discussed during the TLC PPV), or his skills in putting guys over, but Paul Levesque is a piece of shit, I have to say. I know this list wasn't intended to talk about the person, but rather the wrestler, but I can't ignore the sugaring up to McMahon to get where he is today. He is one of my least favorite wrestlers because I cannot look past the man behind the performer. He totally sucks the golden tit of McMahon.
B: Well, while I can respect Geo's position, if we were looking at the quality of character a lot of these guys have outside of their performances in the ring, this list would fall apart rapidly, as we've got drug pushers, liars, egoists, and backstabbing cutthroats (and that's just Shawn Michaels!). Jessie and I have talked at length about where Hunter's legacy will eventually lie. While I can testify I, like most of my friends and colleagues, have grown tired and wearisome at least some point, if not multiple times throughout his run, of HHH I certainly think he is at least partly as good as he professes himself to be. Yes, his small-mindedness can be chalked up to pure ignorance or vapid despotism. However, in the ring, mechanically, he's transformed the WWE main event style and been able to craft more stories within it than his peers like Austin, Rock, etc. Is he a schmuck? I don't know. Sure. But, I believe, 5-10 years from now, purveyors of the sport like us, will be looking back at his career and finding lots of gems we'd previously overlooked due to personal biases. I think he deserves a spot, but personally, I wouldn't place him any higher than 35.
J: As we narrow down the list, (we're nearly in the top 10 now), places on this list should become scarce, not relegated to son in law's and other personages that have been friends to the McMahon family. Looking back through the NHO archives recently, I have found that HHH has fared very well in a majority of matches reviewed here on the blog. He feels like the ocean to me, the way his career and effort flourishes at some points and flounders during others, he has good periods and periods where it's all about stroking his ego and pushing himself to the moon when the work isn't there. He has character, personality, the in ring skills of most if not all top stars of any era, so I do believe in the end, he will be on this list, but he would be in my latter half. 13 World Titles is a major accomplishment even if he won them all in the WWE vacuum system and within a matter of years, so I don' t think the legacy he's created will ever feel as big as Flair's, or Gagne's, or Lawler's to some people but it's still a legacy.
#11: Eddie Guerrero
J : Oh Eddie! There's really not a facet of the industry Eddie Guerrero did not excel at during some point of his career, work rate was always there, has had numerous fantastic matches with so many great workers and a lot of bad workers, story telling he mastered, later on, fame, World Titles, fortune, buy rates, and his extremely high entertaining factor. The fact that he died so early in his life and his constant battle against the addiction to pain pills and drugs that consumed major parts of his life have furthered the mythos of Eddie, making you wonder "if he performed that well under those circumstances, how much better could he have been without them?" It's a shame, damn shame, his life, along with many other very young performers, have been cut short, but I believe Eddie had cemented his legacy already. Speaking of placement, #11 could be a bit high, I have a feeling a lot of people now place Eddie to his potential because even though he only had 1 run with the belt, he had the potential to be a major headliner for years. Also, off topic, Chris Benoit was omitted from this list for obvious reasons, but as we stated earlier during the HHH discussion, if we discount personal lives and things of that nature, and speak only of their wrestling careers, Benoit would have to be a lock to be on this list, in my opinion.
B: Eddie was fabulous, but, he'd likely fall a spot or three short of my final list. I was just discussing Benoit's exclusion from the list the other day, as Jessie has also noted on, and, in my opinion Benoit's contributions and tireless work ethic and intensity ratchet him up considerably higher than Guerrero's steady oeuvre. Besides Benoit, would it be completely unheard of for an independent journeyman like Danielson who's had just as good if not better in-ring output that Guerrero making this list? Thanks to a recent contribution from Jessie next year I'll be able to re-watch a lot of Guerrero footage which may sharpen and alter my overall opinion of his output but for now, while technically a good to great wrestler, historically he's not on the level of guys like Race, Inoki, and Santo (and #11 is a highly unrealistic spot).
G: LATINO HEAT! One of my all-time favorite workers. Really, really love his technical in-ring style mixed with a great lucha background. So much respect for this man. His workrate and ability to work with anyone he was put in the ring with makes him very respectable and very, very awesome. He had his rough patches, sure, but he came back and started anew, more respect. Just overall a great, great performer and a great wrestler. This is a proper spot.
#10: Roddy Piper
G: No list would be complete without mentioning HotRod. From his days in Portland to the WWF and WCW, his career is one that to call "illustrious" would be an understatement. His bumping and selling were always off the chain and he was just one of the top guys in the game. His wacky antics outside the ring garnered him fans everywhere he went, as well as his ability to put on a hell of a show. Little high, but I can see him making #10.
J : As we hit the Top 10, it's interesting to have these names here to argue, we're talking about the 10 greatest wrestlers of all time, whether you use workrate, entertainment, promos, historic signifigance, etc. Roddy Piper is a legendary interview, possibly the greatest of all time. His timing, quick wit and all around charisma pushed him to the top of the WWF in relatively short time. I've seen a boatload of his Portland work, where he put his nose to the grindstone more often with hard working performances but even his character was outshining all others in mic skills there. Is Roddy Piper one of the 50 greatest wrestlers of all time? Hell Yes he is, he's bashed continuously for his work rate but you can add him to the list of other amazing performers that are here such as Hogan, JYD, Superstar Graham and dozens upon dozens of other great people that didn't make this list in knowing how to work the crowd and still put on competent wrestling matches, no matter their hindrances physically. Is he one of the top 10 greatest wrestlers of all time? That may be a stretch
B: In some regards Piper is my all-time favorite wrestler. If nothing else, he's my favorite personality, guy was just pure dynamite, endlessly watchable, the best promo guy there's ever been, quick wit, crazy antics, etc. I'd rather watch him talk than watch most of his peers wrestle. Jessie pointed out some pundits knock his in-ring game, which, in my eyes seems extremely myopic, it'd be like criticizing Walt Frazier, saying, "Guy could sure play basketball, but he wasn't very good at dribbling". Piper could jump-start or revitalize anyone's career by working a program with them, the crowd wanted to see Piper killed so would naturally get behind anyone going after him. Piper was a hard worker, loved the business (just not the politics), and to this day is a class act. I like this spot for him.
#9: Rey Mysterio
B: Well, it's no secret, and these guys will tell you, I'm a colossal Mysterio fan. I've always liked him, dating back over a decade, but, just within the last few years, when you'd think he'd be slowing down as his body deteriorates in-front of our eyes, I've grown an even deeper respect and admiration for him. In '09 I ranked him as the best in the world in a 100 man ballot I carefully selected and agonized over. His ability in the ring, speed, adaptability, etc. coupled with his tremendous selling, even in a mask he emotes more than most wrestlers ever will, make him easily one of the best pound-for-pound of the last decade or two, if not of all time. He was a big breakthrough, too, pushing the lightweight, more fast-paced style into the mainstream and being its flag-barer and golden boy. I'd say, his work in the ring, plus his immense historical worth, earn him a very high slot on any such list, so I'm fine with this number while others will undoubtedly dispute it.
J : When I first saw this list, and see Rey at #9, it's kind of a refreshing pick, and when you think about greatest workers, day in, day out, of all time, Rey is in the Top 10, he's as good as any of his Lucha Libre peers ever were at building a match, workrate, i'm talking Hijo del Santo, Casas, Panther, Villano III, any one. What also surprises me and (sort of pisses me off) is if Rey's really this great, how come the company never truly gives him a great run with the title? It feels almost backhanded, their placement of him on here. But nonetheless, you can never argue Rey's abilities in the ring, he knows his character, is a massive draw almost everywhere he goes, going back to when he first got the title, it's clear it was sort of a nod to the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero, but as we all assumed, Rey wasn't 1 and done, his popularity was so great and talent in the ring so undeniable, he was made into a main event player even though the company buried him unscrupously. I'm not sure where Rey's legacy stands in the overall annals of wrestling, but as Brian mentioned, he's one small, lightweight guy who started out in the Mini's division of AAA who became World Champion, a feat that will probably never be replicated. He would be shy of my top 15 more than likely, but would leave him in the top 20.
G: I really dig Rey. His charisma is so emoted that it pours out of his body through his body language and just overall emotion. Rey is seriously on of my favorite talents in the last 10 years. Despite his size, he has gone on to do great things with his career, and make not only himself a star, but also the people he's been in the ring with. His selling is off the chain. To be able to show so much pain while wearing a mask is something that is unrivaled even today. When he first won the heavyweight title in 2006, it was a miraculous and hearfelt moment. I really, really dug it. Now, he's putting guys over left and right and still busting out crazy dives despite his bad knees. Rey definitely deserves this spot.
#8: Andre the Giant
G: No list is complete without mentioning the 8th Wonder of the World. Andre's passion for wrestling was an incredible thing to witness. Along with his work in the WWF, his work in Japan really shined through and showed just how good of a worker Andre was. His stiffness and great selling were a sight to behold, along with his montourous size and awesome presence. I have a tremendous respect for him and really enjoyed watching the way he worked with guys of all sizes. Such a respectable wrestler in a respectable spot.
J : Again, hate to tip my hat to WWE, but Andre's always been an impressive man, i think he's looked at with reverence by all fans and rightfully so. But it wasn't until after watching the WWE produced dvd on his career where you get this respect for his work (and a recent bout where he took Jim Duggan to a nearly 4 star match) where you know that Andre was the real deal. There's no question Andre is in the top 10, so No. 8 I have no problems with.
B: I told Jessie this on the phone week ago, and, it stands: Andre's my current #1. The guy was literally and figuratively larger than life. He had such a presence that he could fill young and old alike with a sense of awe that no other performer will likely ever be able to reproduce or duplicate. Growing up, he was such an important part of the wrestling landscape, but, as an adult, my appreciation for him has grown and deepened. He was a part in some of the biggest and best, most memorable, moments in WWE history. Also, as Geo rightfully pointed out, his work in Japan is the stuff of legend and demonstrated his abilities to an even higher degree. In my eyes, when I think of a #1, I think of the guy most captivating, most essential and crucial to his time period, most strong when held up under scrutiny, etc. and Andre tops all those lists. He was truly one of a kind.
#7: Ricky Steamboat
B: Steamboat's just awesome, anyone in the know, be it in the business, or lifelong, hardcore fans like us, have so much respect for Ricky and his work. The guy was just such a natural in the ring. He made it look so effortless and smooth. Easily one of the best, pound-for-pound, nightly inside the squared circle. His selling had to be considered some of the finest ever which is a huge accolade in its own right. I think, he deserves to be fairly high, within the top 20 certainly, I'm not sure if I'd have him quite this high, his lack of major championship opportunities, a prematurely ended career, etc. knock him down a peg in the historical categories.
J : In my eyes, the best pound for pound performer of all time, i'm saying that he's in an elite class, and tops them all, for me, in that regards, when i think of best pound for pound guys i immediately think of Rey Mysterio, Mitsuharu Misawa, Bret Hart, Negro Casas, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, people in that realm but Dragon is the top dog. I do'nt think he ever looked like he had an off night, as Brian mentioned, his selling was the most expressive to ever be in the game, the way he told a story is a lost art, Dragon didn't do 5 minute sprint fests, everything built towards a climax, every move meant something, as far as his placement, He's in the Top 10 for me for sure, his career did end while it was still riding high, but he did have 15 tremendous years and on top nearly all of it and again, he also didn't get many championships, but I'll remember his 1 reign as NWA champion more so than nearly all of any other major top guy in the last 15 years whether it be Cena, Jarrett, HHH, Michaels, Edge, Rock, you name it. I'll say this spot suits him for me.
G: Without question, Steamboat is so deserving of being on the top ten list of all time. From his legendary matches with Flair to garbage indy promotions, Steamboat is a professional wrestling mainstay. His in-ring technique and hybrid style (bordering somewhere between lucha a methodical) was revolutionary. He could stub his toe on the ring post and the fans would get behind him, hoping he was ok (nevermind about Flair choping his ass!). Just an all-around legend that sits comfortably and appropriately at number 7.
#6: Harley Race
B: Harley's another guy that I think, scarcity of footage, etc. will hold him down a lot of peoples' ballots but the guy was arguably one of the top in-ring performers of all-time. His wars with Flair, Rhodes, etc. are stuff of legend, but what really stands out to me, is even in throwaway bouts, like a recent one I screened vs. Hogan from a SNME episode, he bumped around like a complete nut and for a guy his size he was just throwing his whole girth into every single shot and taking big risks to make Hulk's offense looks as good as it ever had. I think, a lot of my generation, they dig big bumps, expressive selling, etc. but they can keep their Eric Young and Chris Hamrick, as nobody did it better than Race. He's a top 20 guy I'd wager and feel confidently saying so.
G: I agree in that if more Race footage was readily available to the 'common fan' he would be a lot bigger. His work in the 80s territories as NWA champion along with his work overseas in Japan was so crisp. He has such a methodical style that is so clean and clear that you can't help but watch. I think a lot of ADD viewers would be bored by him because the vast majority of wrestling fans have become conditioned to see flips and movez, so Harley's style of wrestling would hardly warrant a spot like this to ADD viewers. When you look at him from a standpoint of what he did in the 70s and 80s, he was awesome. His matches still hold up to this day as a gold standard for wrestling, in my opinion. I'd put him closer to #10 rather than #6, but goddamn he's great.
J: The thing about Harley Race is he's one of the most respected guys that ever wrestled in the industry, known for his legendary toughness with the boys. He also held what is basically known as the "wrestling World Title" the NWA belt 8 times, a feat few have still matched, and especially when you think of at that point Titles meant something. You really only need to open up YouTube or any other video sharing site and type in Harley Race matches to see how stellar the guys work rate is. What's so fun about watching Harley is he strives to make his matches seem real, from his strikes, kneedrops, to his selling on big moves. He's def. within the top 20 for me.
#5: The Rock
J : So where does the Great One lie? Good question, could take many different approaches to this. The Rock, like many of the other greats in wrestling, carved their own niche in the industry, grew his own fan base from the nothing and became arguably the most well known wrestler of all time. He had a really hard work ethic, understood how to tell a story in his matches and never afraid to put someone over. With so many legendary guys, I pondered on Rock's spot, and I think after pouring over some names, He would make my cut, somewhere in the 40's I believe.
G: I have to say that this spot it waay to high. Sure, Rock could make the people pop by simply raising his eyebrow or lifting a microphone to his mouth, but this spot is more deserving of other guys (LIKE FLAIR!). Rock was legendary in that he made WWF sports-entertainment. He was one of the most entertaining guys to watch in the ring, no doubt, but I think this spot more belongs to more legends of the sport. I dug Rock, but he'd probably be in my top 30-ish area and not number 5.
B: I'd honestly struggle with forfeiting a spot to The Rock on my prestigious ballot. I think the guy's endlessly entertaining, learned quick, and became one of the most, well, electrifying, in-ring talents of this or any other time. Knocks against him are that his career wasn't really all that long, while he worked on the top of the cards, he never really got the opportunity to work a wide variety of opponents, have that many real memorable feuds, and ultimately, left the business before he'd even hit his physical or dynamic prime. I'd actually argue Cena over Rock, not only is John more capable inside the ring, but, while not as over the top, I believe Cena connects with audiences just as well and gets similar reactions whenever he walks out into an arena.
#4: Bret Hart
B: Bret's a pretty easy top ten guy, I'd think, and it kills me to see him devalued by being beneath the likes of Michaels. The three guys above him were arguably, at one point or another, as popular if not more so than Hart at his peak, but none of them could come close to working as solidly as Bret night in and night out. More so than anybody else, Bret made professional look and feel "real", something that, in the '90's, it failed miserably trying to do. While the veil had been lifted on the mystique of wrestling as it was being touted as entertainment, Bret could still make you believe, by his hard-hitting, Stampede background and legit toughness from being a product of the infamous Hart Dungeon. Hart's one of the rare guys that you could absolutely put him up against any wrestler, from now or the past, be it a Japanese submission expert or a weekend warrior on the independent scene, and he'd take them to levels they'd never yet achieved and have as good a match with any of them as they'd get anywhere else. As champ, he was beloved in his home country of Canada, and became a national hero. How many wrestlers can say that?
J : Yes, Bret is top 10 for certain, possibly top 5. I love Shawn, for his work ethic and entertainment, but he falls short of my top 10, as surprising as that sounds. All the points Brian made are exactly why Bret Hart not only broke out from being simply a tag team wrestler, broke out from being one of 12 kids sired by the legendary Stu Hart and actually became much bigger, and on a much larger scale worldwide than his father ever dreamed of. Bret didn't simply rise from the pack and give fans a more legitimate wrestler to believe in during the character period of the 90's, he changed the WWF's philosophy back to that of using a pure wrestling athelete to lead the company and captivate audiences away from the cartoonish and goofy period that Hulk, Warrior & sometimes Savage ruled in. And Bret did that, he opened up new markets, countries where still to this day he's a massively popular superstar. Bret was also one of those guys who rarely had an off night and performed to his top capabilities for most of his career (sorry WCW, no one really did) This is a rightful spot for him to be in and at least shows the respect he's deserved and not gotten from this promotion in the decade preceeding this one.
G: When discussing the top fifty wrestlers of all time, damn near everyone you'd talk to will mention Bret Hart, and probably put him in the top 10. I know that I would! What he lacked in charisma was certainly made up for in his methodical style that paced the match in such a way that it seemed as though he was in control the entire time. His matches with his brother were classics to say the least. You'd be hard-pressed to go through WWE history and not find a bunch of matches considered some of the best that didn't include Bret. His technical ability was unparalleled at the time, and his captivating wrestling style will go down in history as one of the best.
#3: Steve Austin
G: If you want to talk about someone who connected with the audience, this guy is one of, if not the best. Every time you'd hear that glass crush over the loudspeaker, you'd be sure to have the decibles shake the foundation of the building. In the ring, he had the energy that always made people want to watch him. Out of the ring, he seemed like he could take on the world with his take-no-names attitude. His ability to work the stick paralleled that of The Rock. There are so many things that Austin did during the Attitude Era that changed the landscape of the WWF. For that reason, he belongs in the top 10.
J: I was a huge fan of Austin during his WCW run, as a technical heel, with his smarmy mannerisms and interviews, the Hollywood Blondes is still amongst my favorite teams of all time. For large parts of his giant run, basically cementing himself among the biggest headliners of all time, as we go back through time and rewatch so many old shows and matches, i'm not as down on his style as i used to be, Austin had so many classics and has assembled such a great body of work it would be hard to deny him a post in the Top 20, plus he's pretty damn entertaining
B: It still feels somewhat weird considering Austin one of the best, alongside true, time-tested veterans like Race and Flair. That's probably because growing up I saw his stint in Texas and his WCW run and never thought of him as "the guy". Was it a, right guy, right time scenario? Am I bold enough to suggest timing beyond his control made him the superstar he became and a lot of that didn't fall on him? Well, I'm not sure I can take that leap, wrestling was hotter than ever during his period on top but, while they could have pushed anyone to the moon, it was Austin's personality that took that opportunity and turned it into something astronomical and memorable. While fun to watch, his in-ring wasn't necessarily his strong suit, his punch-heavy matches during his main run are repetitive at best and at worst sloppy, derivative messes. Did I just take a crap on his career? Well, I won't take away his popularity, but being a household name aside, I can't justify him cracking my top twenty.
B: Here's a true force in the wrestling industry. This guy made a ludicrous gimmick sustain for two decades. He's evolved instead of resting on his laurels, something guys like Austin, Sting, etc. never really did. Over the last few years I watched a ton of his stuff, including several DVDs worth of his WWE run, and it made me admire and respect the guy all the more. While his earlier stuff is campy shtick that wouldn't even work on an adolescent, he was able to do that character as believably as could be pulled off, and then, over the years that followed transform it and alter it to varying degrees, all the while, being one of the most consistent in-ring performers in the biggest wrestling company on the planet. I'd say he's a top fifteen guy for sure.
G: With a nickname like "The Phenom," you know he had to have been a huge part of the WWF. When he burst onto the scene at Survivor Series, scooting down the aisle in that very creepy manner, you knew things were going to be huge. As his career flourished, he would become known as one of the best strikers in the industry. His way of communicating the fact that he was a badass to the crowd sent him from an awesome status to straight up legendary. His most recent matches with Michaels at 'Mania were indeed amazing, and he will always be known as an integral part in pro wrestling.
J: Undertaker is a true force in the pro wrestling business, he reminds me of Muta, being this mysterious character who's evolved over time, numerous times and always captures the intrigue of the audience. For that, i think everyone in the industry respects him deeply. Taker's also shown that he can work with damn near any style wrestler you can think of and has over his long tenure in the company. I'll agree 100% about his early stuff being campy and going back a lot of it was pretty terrible, his last few years with so many bruises and bumps have been hit or miss as well, He'd fall somewhere in the 30's for me.
#1: Shawn Michaels
J: I'll go ahead and sound off on the WWE's pick for No. 1 since i'll probably be his biggest supporter here. For this list, as politically charged as it is, this was probably a safe bet for them. In the world, no way, i'll cite a few factors, one that I think keeps some guys lower and some higher, 1 Michaels has never ventured beyond the gates of McMahon world, therefore has never fought anywhere with any company in the world but WWE, that can go for a lot of guys, but the old timers tested their mettle everywhere and anywhere they could. 2 would be his obvious terrible attitude and demeanor through the years and has certainly made his enemies. But you must give credit where credit is due, Michaels can entertain whether with his high flying style or crazy bumps, or his storytelling in matches, he's been under the fire many times in big matches and most of the time has delivered in spades. I think the latter half of Shawn's career has been an interesting piece to his overall puzzle, while he doesn't have the youth and athletic abilities he once did, he has had arguably more important and classic matches since he's been back. I think Shawn will be remembered by the general public as one of the greatest of all time and as we've seen on this list, no matter personal opinions of small cliques of wrestling fans, that does mean something. For every Hogan hater, there's a Shawn hater, and so on so forth but that doesn't take away from their legend. He would end up in my top 20.
G: Alright, I gotta say that I knew Shawn would be No. 1. If you look past his personal, ahem, deficiencies, he was a fun dude to watch in the ring. His bumping was so great. Every time he'd take something he'd bump like crazy. You could make the argument that he was overselling to make his opponent look bad, but I personally don't think that's the case. I think that Shawn just really had a lot of heart and loved doing what he did. He sure as hell has had some classics in the ring. So, does he belong in the number 1 spot? I'm really having a hard time deciding that. I personally feel that he is definitely in the top 5 of all time simply because he had a great presence and impact on pro wrestling, but again, his dickish personality in the 90s is something that can't be overlooked, especially after reading Bret Hart's book and some of the crap that Michaels did. He is a great performer - -one of the best, no doubt, but I am in a conundrum as to where I would place him on this list, so I can't accurately say if #1 is proper for him,
B: I've disliked Michaels for a long time, be it for being a bold-faced lier, troublemaker, callous sexist, druggie, politicker, backstabber, his outbursts, or an egoist, take your pick, from all I've read, heard, and seen, the guy was (is?) a grade-A piece of shit. But, looking at his work, there's a case to be made he deserves a spot in the top fifty, especially when you add in historical achievements as his multiple title reigns can't be ignored. I disagree with Jessie on one thing, looking at his oeuvre objectively, it was his mid-'90's pinball bumping and theatrics that make him stand out from the back and, in my eyes, are easily his best (and most healthiest) years of service. Ever since his return he's plagued my TV for a decade with substandard stuff, his TV matches being particularly painful excursions, and for a guy that prides himself on not fidgeting in his chair for any film, wrestling match, etc. I found it hard to sit through him coasting on formula for so long. I'd say, of his ten years or so back on the forefront, he's had only a small handful of really good to great performances, namely the series with Cena (as I fail to find the Undertaker matches as great as everyone else, especially the second one). A guy that went from an overrated tag team (Gagne and Brunzel were doing it better in AWA, Rock 'n Roll Express did it better in NWA, etc.) to being a showoff singles star with a huge chip on his shoulder doesn't endear him to my ballot so in the end I could see him in the late-forties if at all.