“The revolutionary force for over 50 years in sports entertainment” was a clever tag line used in the mid 90s before every WWF show. For most United States wrestling fans that are still alive, it is a way of life. Greater by the day is the lack of variance in the answer of what wrestling an individual grew up on. For better or worse, WWE has been the standard bearer. Throughout that rich history, performers ranging from Nature Boys to Undertakers have graced the squared circle. Foreign legends have had extended runs and some of the most iconic figures in pro wrestling history have been aces of the promotion reaching unequivocal mainstream pop culture heights in the world of wrestling.
With such a large history to play with, discovering the beauty of Bob Backlund’s charisma or the connection of Bruno Sammartino to the MSG crowd was a new development throughout this project similar to rewatching The Godfather and On the Waterfront to rediscover the genius of Marlon Brando. WWE may not have always been YOUR promotion but for the better part of 50 years, it was THE promotion in the United States and transformed the pro wrestling landscape. This project serves to praise the individuals that best helped shape the vision of Vince McMahon Sr. and Jr. Place to be Nation is proud to present to you a ranking of the Greatest WWE Wrestlers Ever.
– Chad Campbell
Note: Results of this list are based on 118 ballots received between May and December 2017. Voters were asked to submit their list of the 100 Greatest WWE Wrestlers of all time and consider only their WWWF/WWF/WWE career. Ties were broken based on 1) number of ballots a wrestler appeared on and 2) high vote.
Every wrestler who received at least one vote will be recognized in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned to Place to Be Nation as we reveal all of the honorable mentions right through the cream of the crop. Read the other installments, both written and audio, of this project here.
Total Points: 1,287
Total Ballots: 39
Average Rank: 68
High Vote: 16
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Microstatistics
Nuance: There has never been anyone like Asuka and consequently NO ONE IS READY FOR ASUKA!!! She is completely unique in her presentation from the way she looks to the way she moves in the ring. She has an aura about her that no other female performer, or many male performers, are able to match. Asuka is the first KILLER woman the company has had. They’ve tried the formula with bigger woman but even Chyna in her prime would be no match for the Empress of Tomorrow. She feels like a big deal because she IS a big deal. Also has the distinction of being one of the few women called up to the main roster that they haven’t messed up or diminished. Yet…
Jump Up Moments: Her match versus Emma at NXT Takeover London was an excellent performance from both women; we were all stupidly shocked when she choked out mega-face Bayley at NXT Takeover Dallas to win the Women’s Title, which was dumb, of COURSE she was going to kill Bayley; Of course she was going to kill Nia Jax as well and she did so at NXT Takeover The End; The rematch with Bayley was also strong, but led to the same result: a dead Bayley and a dancing Asuka; We’re just going to keep listing Takeovers here because she’s the Queen of them apparently; Takeover Toronto murdered Mickie James worse than when James Storm pushed her in front of a train; Takeover San Antonio she survived a four way match with Peyton Royce, Billie Kay and Nikki Cross and while none were killed we can safely assume that the three women were dead inside after the confrontation; NXT Takeover Orlando saw Asuka defend her title in a stellar match with Ember Moon; She fought Moon again at NXT Takeover Brooklyn III to round out the feud, Ember Moon must be a fucking cat because she’s still walking around; On the June 28, 2017 episode of NXT Asuka and Nikki Cross positively tore the house down in a Last Woman Standing Match; Left NXT UNDEFEATED; Debuted on the Raw Roster at the 2017 TLC event where she murdered Emma again to the delight of anti-Australians everywhere; As of this writing has STILL never lost a match
Promos/Character: Her promos are not your typical fare, but when she does let loose she is downright scary. Hunt down the promo building to the NXT Takeover The End match with Nia Jax; Nia pushes her buttons and Asuka snaps screaming at her in Japanese before yelling the crowd favorite NO ONE IS READY FOR ASUKA!!! Promos aside, her character is so unique and different: killer in the ring, weird serpentine dancer on the way to the ring. I wish I could think of a fun adjective for her special entrance dragon dance but sadly Matt Striker was only in the promotion for a couple of years. The smiling killer is sick, and she plays it to perfection.
Workrate: Her submissions are awesome and her strikes are divine. SHE KILLS PEOPLE DEAD! How many more corpses do we have to see. Her matches make sense from a logical perspective and she’s really great at giving you something different every time she’s out there. Finally she excels at the little ticks, mannerisms and screams that fully connect her to the crowd. She may be the best in-ring performer the women’s division has ever had.
Staff Thoughts: If this list were redone in five years and they stay the course with Asuka we may be looking at a top 20 performer of all time regardless of gender. Excellent in every aspect she delivers the good each and every time she’s out there. As long as they keep giving her the ball Asuka will crush it. She’ll KILL it. And you.
From the Voters: “Longest undefeated streak of all-time and genuinely feels unbeatable despite a solid roster of challengers. I’ve never watched a bad Asuka match, and that includes against Eva Marie; she always keeps things interesting. Very fluid as far as the face/heel dynamic in her character. She’s a lock for me and only places low because she’s still relatively new.” – Ben Morse, May 31, 2017
“I’ve been going back and rewatching everything of hers from when she debuted up to now. She’s just awesome. So much talent. So much charisma. Every single one of her Takeover matches have delivered. Right now she’s landing between 85-95 on my list. If you want a snap shot of Asuka, just watch the video compilations they make to build up her and her matches. The best booked competitor in the company right now, I think.” – Michael Schoen, August 21, 2017
“I think she has a shot of my top 100 in the lower half. Really good run with the NXT Woman’s title although I am still kind of waiting for that great match IMO that I know she is capable of having. I will have to think about her more and she is someone that is only going to building to her resume between now and the cutoff point for the vote.” – Chad Campbell, May 28, 2017
Total Points: 1,296
Total Ballots: 41
Average Rank: 69.4
High Vote: 21
Low Vote: 99
High Voter: Scott Herrin
Nuance: At first glance, Bayley wouldn’t seem to score highly in the nuance category. Longevity hurts her a bit, she’s been in the company about five years, with most of it in NXT and about a year and a half on the main roster. Flexibility could ding her a bit as well, as she’s only played one character and it’s difficult to imagine a heel Bayley character, but time will tell on that. But her character is nuanced and has depth many other characters don’t. While created for and targeted to young girls, she (at least in the majority of her NXT career) had fans of all ages invested in her journey. As fans, we’re always looking for the emotional investment, and Bayley did a better job creating that investment during her NXT run through her character and in-ring work than many others on this list.
Jump Up Moments: If you didn’t think the culmination of her story going from a fan-girl, facing and conquering self-doubt, working her way up the ranks and ultimately defeating Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Title was a great moment, you may not have a soul. Competing in the first ever 30 minute Ironwoman Match was a historically significant moment and backing it up with a fantastic match retaining her title against Sasha was even better. When Asuka choked her out to win the NXT Women’s Title it was another significant moment, signaling a changing in the guard and setting the Empress of Tomorrow on the road of dominance she continues to this day.
Promos/Character: OK, Bayley’s not a very good promo, it’s one of her weaknesses. But what she lacks in promo skills, she makes up for in character. Her character is the first one specifically targeted to young girls, with her penchant for hugging, her wrestling fandom, her ponytails, inflatable wiggly waving guy things and her determination to overcome self-doubt, challenges, failures and tough competition that takes every shortcut. Do you think it was successful? Did you see Izzy breaking down when things looked bleak for Bayley in her match with Sasha Banks? OK Sasha also stole her headband, but still, those girls were buying in. And so was the live crowd and those of us watching at home. Bayley is an underdog babyface that anybody can get behind (in NXT) and she showed that in the way she worked her matches. Which brings us to…
Workrate: Bayley does a great job of garnering sympathy and support through her ring work. She’s a good seller and knows just when to make her comebacks so you don’t lose faith. She was always good in her NXT matches, but when given the chance to carry the ball in the Takeover Brooklyn, she scored big time, providing a great match and an amazing feel-good moment. Their rematch at Takeover Respect earned the main event slot and the 30 minute Ironwoman Match was another classic. Her work as Raw Women’s Champion may not be up to the level of those classics, but her matches are still generally good, with the four way at WrestleMania being in the top-tier of women’s Mania matches.
Staff Thoughts: HEY, HEY BAYLEY! I WANT TO KNOW… Ok, enough of that. Bayley’s just a completely unique character and it shows through in her matches as well. She’s a great storyteller during those matches, playing a sympathetic babyface that Ricky Morton and Ricky Steamboat would be proud of. The Takeover matches with Sasha are among the best women’s matches in WWE and North America. Her work on the main roster hasn’t lived up to the run in NXT yet (and maybe it never will) but that run in NXT is enough to land everyone’s favorite hugger on the list (not Jericho’s list.) To hear Will, Glenn and Stacey’s thoughts on Bayley check out this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “Recency and some missteps on the main roster hurt her, but in terms of match quality and character work she’s the tops, and one of the cornerstones of the mammoth quality surge in the women’s division.” – Glenn Butler, May 28, 2017
“Phenomenal run in NXT, great character, but needs some more seasoning on the main roster. Her day will come, but she takes a backseat to Charlotte and maybe Sasha too for historical significance at the moment.” – Ben Morse, June 1, 2017
“I actually think her character work has suffered for a while, partly through her fault and mostly through the fault of those coaching her. In NXT, she built this incredible childlike underdog babyface character who was (to borrow a Ben phrase) just the BEST PERSON. Unfortunately, after she won the NXT Title, it seems her character became “person who wrestles” and lost the innocence, naivety and uniqueness that got her over. Still, I tend to weigh the good stuff more than the bad, and her good stuff is great. I don’t think she’s as good in any category as Charlotte or Sasha, but I have a strong feeling she’ll make my list. Maybe not, but we’ll see once the numbers are in. I am hoping to see some hidden gem matches (or promos?) posted in this thread.” – Greg Phillips, June 1, 2017
Total Points: 1,302
Total Ballots: 54
Average Rank: 76.9
High Vote: 37
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Michael DeDamos
Nuance: He started with the company in 1992 as the Headshrinker Fatu, which was the start of 12 year run, giving him excellent marks for longevity. Flexibility has to be considered a strength as well. He could work tag team matches, winning Tag Team Titles with Samu as the Headshrinkers (who were a constant in the early 1990s tag scene), Scotty 2 Hotty and Rico. And his career is more noted for his singles run, particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s when he won IC gold and challenged for the WWF World Title. He worked face and heel (although his heel Rikishi character was a fart in church) and played many different characters to varying degrees of success.
Jump Up Moments: Rikishi was a very popular character as the dancing fat guy in a thong in the Attitude Era. He’s probably best remembered for dancing with Too Cool, and in the 2000 Rumble he danced with the team before eliminating Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master in a spot many still remember fondly. He was also known for jumping off cages, first in his hidden gem of a cage match against Val Venis (rhymes with penis) at Fully Loaded 2000, and later was chokeslammed off the cage into a truck bed full of wood chips at the six-way Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon 2000. He was also the lesbian Stephanie McMahon had to make out with, which may be memorable for all the wrong reasons (as was the Stink Face).
Promos/Character: Well, you have to give him points for flexibility when it comes to character work, because he played a lot of different character variations. He was a Samoan savage character as Fatu the Headshrinker before Makin’ a Difference and eventually becoming masked Middle Eastern Royalty as The Sultan. None of those characters were especially good, but they were certainly all very different from the character that eventually got him over: fun-lovin’, dancin’ fat guy who likes to wear a sumo thong and stick his ass in people’s face. And we all have that one friend like that, right? But it got OVER and my god was he over when he was dancing with Too Cool. You may not remember any particular Rikishi promos, but he played his character well, striking the balance between a comedy character and a serious mid-card threat (the attempted transition to the main event didn’t really take, but the heel turn didn’t help either).
Workrate: Rikishi was a good solid worker. The cage match against Val Venis (rhymes with penis) stands out as his best match and it’s a really solid battle. The Headshrinkers vs. The Steiner Brothers at WrestleMania IX is also a really good tag team match standing out on that card. He even had a bout with Bret Hart as Headshrinker Fatu on the March 1, 1993 episode of Raw that voters noted as a good match.
Staff Thoughts: His flexibility was through the roof having a good run with the Headshrinkers before reinventing himself as the dancin’ fat guy (we’ll just pretend everything in between didn’t happen, right?) And damn was he over. Check out the Royal Rumble match from 2000 for the dancing spot, as well as his push as a serious threat eliminating guys. That showed how well Rikishi could walk the line between serious wrestler and comedy figure. Sure he never quite made the transition to main eventer, but that heel turn running over Austin resulting in him feuding with Rock before deferring that heel spot to Triple H did him no favors. Still, you can’t deny that was a super over and memorable character from a hot period for the company. Rikishi definitely Made a Difference with our voters.
From the Voters: “He definitely hits the N in our system for his longevity. He had his fair share of J moments too, jumping off the cage vs Val Venis (rhymes with penis) and the Armageddon Hell in a Cell (one of my guilty pleasures) . I was also a fan of his pairing with Too Cool (the royal rumble dance off). He will be Top 75 for me, he may crack my top 50.” – Scott Shifflett, June 2, 2017
“Was a guy who was more over than his push in the Attitude Era…then they turned him heel totally missing the point. He was one of the few Attitude Era guys who I felt always tried to deliver to his full potential in the ring which does go a long way with me. Very memorable character. Has a shot.” – Dylan Hales, June 2, 2017
“I’ll likely have him on the strength of his longevity and popularity as the Rikishi character. Some good tag work too, vs Steiners at WM is a hidden gem. The Sultan stuff is best forgotten.” – Jeremy Ray, June 2, 2017
Total Points: 1,345
Total Ballots: 51
Average Rank: 74.6
High Vote: 35
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Vince Male
Nuance: Haku had a good initial six-year run with the company in the late 80s and early 90s, and another cup of coffee when he jumped as a surprise entrant in the 2001 Royal Rumble. He did have some singles runs, early on as King Tonga and later after the Islanders split up as King Haku taking the crown from Harley Race before losing it to Hacksaw Jim Duggan. But he was primarily known as a tag team specialist and almost exclusively a heel (the Islanders started as babyfaces but were going nowhere) being a long-time member of the Heenan Family.
Jump Up Moments: His best stuff came with The Islanders with feuds with the Can-Am Connection briefly before transitioning into Strike Force and later with the British Bulldogs. All the matches with the Can-Ams and Strike Force are really good and they defeated the Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware at WrestleMania IV when Bobby Heenan pinned Koko while wearing an attack dog outfit. At WrestleMania VI Haku accidentally savate kicked Andre the Giant in their match vs. Demolition, resulting in Andre’s face turn in his last match with the WWF. Teamed with Barbarian in a fun match with The Rockers in the opening match of WrestleMania VII. Haku also had a memorable moment when he was a surprise entrant in the 2001 Royal Rumble while still holding the prestigious WCW Hardcore title.
Promos/Character: Haku wasn’t much of a talker, but being paired with Bobby Heenan he didn’t have to be. Haku’s character was a silent badass, which he played very effectively, perhaps due to the fact that he was known to be one of the biggest real-life badasses in wrestling.
Workrate: Haku was a really good tag team worker having strong matches as part of the Islanders against the Can-Am Connection, Strike Force and The British Bulldogs. Check out any of those matches you can find, and listen to the guys talk more about those feuds in this FYC podcast. The match teaming with Barbarian against the Rockers at WrestleMania VII is another fun bout.
Staff Thoughts: Haku was a really great utility man, a “glue guy” the company always needs to have around. The Islanders Can-Am/Strike Force feud is just great fun and Haku could always be counted on to deliver good power offense as part of a tag-team. He did the heavy lifting in the Colossal Connection, though Andre’s presence undoubtedly was part of the team’s appeal, Haku did the work during matches. As a long-time Heenan Family member he was always a believable challenger to pull out when needed to get a babyface over. He was a one-time Tag Team Champion and a two-time King (Tonga and Haku) and was a memorable enough character for voters to put him in the top 100. And if you disagree with that placement YOU can tell him that yourself, as we enjoy our eyeballs remaining in their sockets.
From the Voters: “In ring I think the Islanders might have been the most consistent tag team in 86-87. I liked them much better as heels but regardless whether they were heel or face, it seemed like they always gave a good match. Haku was a guy I was always kind of indifferent to when I was younger but I’ve really grown to appreciate him in recent years where he’s now one of my favorite guys to watch from the late 80’s early 90’s year. One of the better movesets during that time and great execution on everything he did. Like you said very crisp.” – Wade Ferrari, May 29, 2017
“Another person who through watching prime time on network realize he was an 80s early 90s staple. His match with him and Barbarian against rockers at mania 7 still one of my favorites. Had good tag matches, nice singles mid card run..he will break my 100.” – Shawn Kidd, May 29, 2017
“I really really like Haku, the more I see of him. You always believed this guy could hurt you. If he could have cut a good promo I’d imagine he might have got an IC title run, even if only briefly. He’ll likely be in my top 100, even if only somewhere in the bottom 20.” – David Mann, May 30, 2017
96. Sami Zayn
Total Points: 1,381
Total Ballots: 45
Average Rank: 70.3
High Vote: 14
Low Vote: 99
High Voter: Scott Herrin
Nuance: He’s been with the company since 2013, so he has more longevity than you may think, but it doesn’t feel like he’s been with the company that long. The bulk of his best work was in NXT where he was the consummate underdog babyface. While he has recently turned heel, his heel run hasn’t set the world on fire, and it’s fair to knock Sami Zayn a bit when scoring for flexibility. Zayn does have some intangibles, including great facial expressions, which help convey the story of a match or angle and helping fans connect with him emotionally.
Jump Up Moments: Zayn’s NXT highlight reel is full of good matches and moments, from his two-out-of-three falls match against Cesaro in August of 2013 to his excellent match with a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura on NXT Takeover Dallas. In between, he had a compelling story chasing the NXT title, which he did in another outstanding match, this time against Neville at Takeover R Evolution. Zayn was immediately attacked by his debuting friend Kevin Owens, setting up a series of title matches between the two. He challenged John Cena for his U.S. title in Montreal in another great match and one of his highlights on the main roster. Zayn continued to feud with Owens on the main roster with their match at Payback being another high point.
Promos/Character: Zayn’s a mediocre promo, maybe a bit below average. He does play an underdog babyface character about as well as anyone on the roster, which was showcased during his NXT run. His facial expressions and body language helped sell the story (in addition to his ring work) and get the NXT fans invested in his quest to capture the NXT title overcoming everyone who doubted him, as well as self-doubt and disappointment.
Workrate: Here’s where Zayn excels, particularly during that NXT run. The Cesaro feud in 2013-14, the Neville match at Takeover R Evolution, the Owens feud over the NXT title, the Nakamura match at Takeover Dallas, the Cena U.S. title challenge and the Owens match at Payback at 2016 were all excellent matches. He’s had other very good matches in NXT, on Raw with Owens and others.
Staff Thoughts: Sami Zayn is the underdog babyface that makes you feel bad for him, want him to breakthrough and be victorious so badly, and FINALLY get his moment in the sun, giving everyone the feels. Now for Zayn, he almost always gets powerbombed by Kevin Owens immediately after, but that’s neither here nor there. Zayn uses his facial expressions and body language to build that story, but mostly relies on great storytelling in the ring. And what in-ring storytelling and matches (which we’ve already outlined)! The highlights have been much fewer and further between on Raw and SmackDown than it was on NXT for sure, but he has had some highlight matches there as well. But that NXT run is still fresh in our minds, and his excellent work there drove Zayn to his spot in the top 100.
From the Voters: “Could find his way into the back end of the list. As mentioned above he has a lot of high end output, especially considering his tenure. His run in NXT was second to none, and his WWE run has had some high highs (along with its speed bumps). In an era where it is legit difficult to find high end pure babyfaces, Zayn is one of the most notable.” – Matthew Richards, June 7, 2017
“I have him having 2 ***** matches. Vs Neville and Nakamura. Add a boatload of ****+ and that’s a better resume than a TON of guys regardless of tenure.” – Aaron George, September 9, 2017
“To put together a top 100 list of the best WWE wrestlers of all time you are going to have to make some tough choices. This is one of them. He was awesome in NXT and has become a great babyface on the main roster. But, he will most likely not make my list.” – Matt Rotella, June 7, 2017
95. Larry Zbyszko
Total Points: 1,545
Total Ballots: 53
High Vote: 27
Low Vote: 98
High Voter: Timothy Drake
Nuance: Larry Zbyszko gets points for flexibility being incredibly over as a babyface as the protege of Bruno Sammartino, before becoming a hated heel when he turned on Bruno in 1980. His run is fairly short and he was in and out of the WWWF from 1973 until 1981. He had success as a tag team wrestler as well, winning WWWF Tag Team gold with Tony Garea in 1979. Zbyszko’s big run against Bruno was full of nuance, with the feud starting with Larry having legitimate points about being in Bruno’s shadow, before ratcheting up the heel work in order to be completely despicable by the end of the feud.
Jump Up Moments: Well, he won tag team gold with Garea and had a good babyface run and an improbable very good match with Ivan Putski in Philadelphia that the Titans of Wrestling podcast crew rave about. But who the hell are we kidding? Larry gets in on this list based primarily on his feud with Sammartino, which is considered one of the all-time great feuds the company ever did. From the time Larry grabbed a chair and left Bruno lying in a pool of blood in Allentown in January 1980, it was on, and the two just kept going before finally blowing off the feud at the Showdown at Shea in a cage match on August 9, 1980.
Promos/Character: Promos were a strong mark in favor of the “New Living Legend,” as his work on the stick was a big factor in getting the Bruno feud over. Like all good heels, Larry believed he was right, adding legitimacy to the feud, before delving further and further into jealousy and heeldom. And boy, did he get that feud over, making himself so hated that after a match with Pedro Morales he was stabbed, right in the ass.
Workrate: Larry was a good worker and used more of a technical style than many of his contemporaries saying he prefered science over brawn. While he would eventually be known of his stalling and deliberate pace, during his late 1970s and early 1980s run he was known as someone who could carry even Ivan Putski. He showed he could work in a brawling style during the Bruno feud, starting with the chairshot and bloodbath and moving on to getting his ass kicked in the cage, telling that story in the ring, just as he had been on the mic.
Staff Thoughts: The Bruno/Larry feud is one of the all-time great feuds the company has ever had. Larry played his character perfectly, starting as the pupil, getting jealous of Bruno and tired of being in his shadow, leading to the turn, the chairshot and eventually the cage match at Shea. He drove a lot of that home with his work on the stick, and when the time was right was ready to take the asskicking the feud required. Ask any long-time fan about the best WWF feuds of all-time and Bruno vs. Larry is bound to come up quickly.
From the Voters: “Gets in on the Bruno feud alone. Want to see some non-Bruno stuff to see how high he goes.” – Good Ol’ Will From Texas, May 31, 2017
“Him and Tony Garea have some pretty good tag bouts at MSG together in 1977. His babyface run in WWWF in general is rarely discussed and there is fair bit of footage out there to judge (a bit more difficult after Black Thursday killed Landy’s channel). He also has great matches with Backlund and, of all people, Putski in Philly during his wonderful 1980.” – Kelly Nelson, June 1, 2017
“The Bruno feud probably gets him in.” – Brian Bayless, May 31, 2017
94. Gorilla Monsoon
Total Points: 1,562
Total Ballots: 40
Average Rank: 62
High Vote: 15
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Steve Gennarelli
Nuance: Gorilla Monsoon excelled in the nuance category, scoring for longevity, as he was a major player from the moment the WWWF was created (he subbed for Buddy Rogers in his scheduled rematch with Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Title) until he lost a retirement match to Ken Patera in 1980. He worked as one of the company’s top heels, feuding with Bruno in singles and tag matches, until he turned babyface in 1969. At that point he became one of the more popular babyfaces, so much so that a young, heel Hulk Hogan was chased from the arena after defeating Monsoon in under a minute in 1980. Monsoon worked singles and tags, winning the US Tag Team titles twice, with Killer Kowalski and Bill Watts. Kowalski and Monsoon defeated Sammartino and Victor Rivera two falls to one at Madison Square Garden. Monsoon also teamed with Professor Tanaka against Sammartino and Spiros Arion in a number of matches, including a Texas Death Match.
Jump Up Moments: Perhaps Monsoon’s most famous moment occurred when Muhammad Ali jumped in the ring throwing jabs at Monsoon before being caught in his airplane spin and being slammed to the mat. The Ali confrontation occurred in Philadelphia in 1976, before Ali’s showdown with Antonio Inoki in Japan. He also was one of Sammartino’s top challengers as a heel in singles and tag matches. His retirement match against Ken Patera is another memorable moment that helped make Patera a bigger star (and Monsoon mostly adhered to the stip, except as a replacement for other wrestlers or doing Big John Studd’s bodyslam challenge).
Promos/Character: His monster heel character was always a believable challenger to Bruno or anyone else. And he also made the transition to a beloved babyface. Monsoon was good on the stick, but that was perhaps better showcased as an announcer, working and creating many memorable calls with both Jesse Ventura and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
Workrate: Monsoon moved around and showed good agility for a man of over 400 pounds. That said, the Gorilla isn’t known for his workrate classics, but more of an attraction, like Andre the Giant. Monsoon was able to use his size to his advantage as a believable monster heel, which added to his matches.
Staff Thoughts: Don’t think Gorilla Monsoon belongs on the list of top 100 WWE wrestlers? Will you stop! Monsoon is a legend known for his run as one of the top heels to Bruno in the early 1960s, his babyface turn and alliance with Bruno and his retirement work as an announcer. His matches were better than expected for a 400 pounder and early in his career he had hour-long draws against Bruno.
From the Voters: “The Ali angle was famous. The match where he boxed Andre is legendary in its own way. I’ll have to hunt down some normal stuff of his. His years as a commentator will get him big “Nuance” points for me though.” – James Proffitt, May 29, 2017
“Absolutely!! A monster heel and part of the second greatest broadcast team in history with Heenan. He was actually feared by fans and had a significant run in against Muhammad Ali.” – Eric Boyd, May 30, 2017
“He definitely rates in all the NJPW requirements not to mention he was a tag team title co holder twice.” – Todd Hall, May 30, 2017
93. Jim Duggan
Total Points: 1,590
Total Ballots: 72
Average Rank: 78.9
High Vote: 25
Low Vote: 99
High Voter: Chris
Nuance: Jim Duggan has longevity, staying with the company from 1987 until 1993. Can’t give him much credit for flexibility, as he essentially played the same patriotic babyface character his entire run. He participated in some tag teams, most notably Survivor Series teams, where he participated in the first Survivor Series style match and every Survivor Series until 1992, when the concept was largely abandoned. The Hacksaw character was not a terribly nuanced one, but we’ll get to that later.
Jump Up Moments: Duggan was the first Royal Rumble winner in 1988. He also defeated Haku to become King of the WWF before losing the crown to Randy Savage giving us the Macho King. Duggan had a memorable introduction to most fans at WrestleMania III interrupting Nikolai Volkoff from singing the Russian national anthem, because he was in the land of the free. This same brand of critical thinking would be used later by master debater Scott Steiner.
Promos/Character: Hacksaw Jim Duggan was fucking OVER. No matter what you may think of him as a wrestler or performer, you can’t deny the character was memorable, and that’s what puts him on this list. People today still know the thumbs up HOOOO!!! Add that to the 2X4, the American flag and U.S.A.! U.S.A.! and it’s no wonder Hacksaw’s so fondly remembered.
Workrate: Duggan wasn’t a great or often very good worker in the WWF. He relied pretty heavily on his gimmick. In all fairness, in-ring work wasn’t valued as much at the time, and Duggan wasn’t relied on to carry major programs. He had his place in the mid-card, coming out and Ho’ing, waving his flag and hopefully hitting a no-good commie with a 2X4 and everyone was happy, match quality be damned.
Staff Thoughts: Scott Criscuolo’s favorite wrestler makes the list on the strength of that memorable character. It’s undeniable he was a huge part of the mid-card in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with enough fond memories from voters to make the list, Tough Guy. HOOO!!! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
From the Voters: “Makes my list. Managed to remain at the top of the midcard for nearly a decade. Had his character down pat and worked a decent power game in ring. On the surface doesn’t have many accolades, but he did have a reign as King and won the inaugural Royal Rumble. Yes, his best stuff was in Mid-South, but still had a solid WWF run.” – Ben Morse, May 31, 2017
“Definitely on my list. Memorable character for me and he was my dads favorite wrestler. Total crowd pleaser, over. Was he great in the ring? No, but that’s not what this is all about. For the most part he was pretty harmless. No one fell by the wayside because of him – he had his role and he played it tastefully.” – Brian Meyer, May 31, 2017
“Absolutely top 💯. A tremendous fan favorite. The patriotic ruggedness and a great feud with Andre the Giant. Not known for being really technically sound but that wasn’t his deal. He was genuinely adored by fans all across the US and was always a favorite of mine.” – Eric Boyd, May 30, 2017
Total Points: 1,596
Total Ballots: 56
Average Rank: 72.5
High Vote: 21
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Ash
Nuance: You know just when you think she could never be anything other than the extreme “diva”/wrestler she goes ahead and portrays a JEZEBEL KANG as great as anyone has ever done. When someone can play both a compelling face and a HATED heel you know she has more going on than those colorful thongs and low riding pants. Lita came in and somewhat changed the game. She was a woman who could do a DAMN MOONSAULT! She was as over as many of the men on the roster in an era where she was barely given five minutes of ring time per show. And her popularity grew to the point where she became the first woman (sigh… along with Stephanie McMahon) to main event RAW.
Jump Up Moments: Replaced Michael Hayes in the parachute pants next to the Hardy Boyz; Fully Loaded 2000 with the Hardy Boyz battled T&A and Trish Stratus in a strong six person tag match; Won the WWF Women’s title from Stephanie McMahon on August 21, 2000 in the main event of RAW; November 2003 had the first ever women’s steel cage match against crazy, crazy Victoria; With partner Trish Stratus fought Chris Jericho and Christian in a hopeless beatdown at Armageddon 2003; In December of 2004 headlined RAW once again for the Women’s Title against Trish Stratus; Stood in the ring while Snitsky punted a baby into the audience; Turned heel in 2005 and acted as a tremendous second for Edge, there is little doubt she helped elevate him to main event status; Was apart of the red hot six person war at One Night Stand 2006
Promos/Character: As a heel her character was excellent, as a face she was somewhat bland. It’s to the credit of her work and connection to the audience that she got as far as she did. “Oh TAG” comes to mind as a particularly offensive promo. When your best promo is telling your real life ex to get over you on a radio show it may be time to pack it in as a babyface. Hey! It was!
Workrate: Horrible, horrible punches. Everything else was pretty solid. Sadly Lita falls in the group of women where her work seemed to be a touch slower than the men in the promotion; but that being said she could do things that no other women could at the time. Great moonsault, fantastic headscissors. No one had as little regard for her body as Lita: whether it was diving from a ladder or dating Edge she just DID NOT care.
Staff Thoughts: Lita is an extremely important woman in WWF history. It’s no surprise that when they wanted to legitimize the entire way we look at female wrestling they brought Lita out to present the championship. She connected with the crowd, was different in the ring and almost certainly spawned thousands of crushes. She was also incredibly effective as a second adding tremendous value to the Hardy Boyz and even more for Edge. The latter being at the EXPENSE of one of the Hardy Boyz. Without Lita you probably don’t have Trish. You also don’t have Kane getting married in a white suit. For that alone we should forever be grateful for the fire headed diva in the parachute pants.
From the Voters: “I don’t think so. I would put Trish on before Litaand I’m doubtful that would happen. The current crop of women wrestlers are so much better.” – Good Ol’ Will From Texas, May 31, 2017
“She had a significant run and another that paved the way for the Women’s Division. Big part of the Hardys success and great feud with Trish. Plus a big part of Edge’ s heel run early on as well. She and Stephanie headlined Raw together. As did she and Trish 4 years later. She might make it on mine.” – Jay Hinchey, May 31, 2017
“Absolutely dire in the ring, and in any talking role she was given. I think she was probably the most important female wrestler, maybe that they’ve ever had, or at least up until Bayley/Sasha. Was really over, the guys loved her as the alternative chick, and young girls seemed to idolise her. Watch her challenging Chyna for the women’s title and the crowd reaction is as close to Dump/Chiggy as you’re ever likely to get in the WWF. I’d like to get her on my list.” – Adam Russell, July 12, 2017
91. Bill Eadie
Total Points: 1,711
Total Ballots: 52
Average Rank: 68
High Vote: 12
Low Vote: 98
High Voter: Bret Hart
Nuance: Surprisingly versatile for a man who was afraid to show his face in public. Not only did he have a wonderful run as The Masked Superstar but was also part of one of the greatest WWF Tag Teams of all time. As one half of Demolition became one of the more over wrestlers of the late 1980s. If you go back and watch Survivor Series 1989 their pop rivals that of anyone on their team… a team consisting of Jake the Snake and Hulk Fucking Hogan. Excelled as a heel but was also able to draw tremendous sympathy from the crowd as a babyface. If we factor in that he was playing a face in S and M gear with his face painted up like he stepped out of the film Once Were Warriors, we should probably acknowledge that he’s pretty damn good. He gets dinged a bit for only being around for about five years total. But he gets points for having the greatest theme song this side of the Quebecers. A man of many facets, of masks, of provocative facepaints.
Jump Up Moments: As The Masked Superstar had a wonderful, albeit short feud, with then WWF Champion Bob Backlund; Was part of some fun matches as one of the Machines, embroiled in a feud with Bobby Heenan and his Family; With partner Smash won the WWF Tag Team Titles from Strike Force at WrestleMania IV; Became so popular beating guys into mush that they performed a double turn with the Powers of Pain at Survivor Series 1988; DEFINED the Royal Rumble by battling Smash in 1989 when they respectively drew numbers one and two; Fought the Powers of Pain and their manager Mr. Fuji in a handicap match at WrestleMania V; Won the WWF Tag Team Championship from the Brainbusters on a late 1989 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event; Teamed with Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake at the Survivor Series 1989, cementing their Main Event status; Got one of the biggest pops you’ll ever hear for a tag team when the regained their tag team titles (3rd reign) from the Colossal Connection at WrestleMania VI; Fought the Hart Foundation in a very good encounter at SummerSlam 1990
Promos/Character: The gravelly voice, the studded leather, it all worked when it came to creating a scary human being. You wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. Who knows what would happen to you. At the very least he’s taking that mask off and sticking that tongue out. And then what? THEN WHAT? A good pump you up promo guy with few promos of important substance. That being said was rarely put in any position to cut any other promo than a mouthful of violent puns and axing euphemisms.
Workrate: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY raised their hands above their heads and crashed them down repeatedly on some guy’s back better than Ax. Not even Smash. And his name was fucking SMASH! Not particularly very good at much else.
Staff Thoughts: Let’s be honest here: his Masked Superstar feud with Backlund was great but he makes this list on the back of Demolition. They were the most over and important tag team of the 1980s, an era when tag team wrestling was an important cog to the company. While never a ring general he knew his role and pounded people on the back for as long as people would cheer him. Thankfully he wasn’t around long enough to portray a Meter Maid or a corrupt psychologist as the WWF entered their “moonlighting” years in the early 1990s. It’s a crime that Demolition aren’t already in the Hall of Fame. They were truly unforgettable.
From the Voters: “Huge dilemma as I love Masked Superstar and hate Demolition. I may have to watch some Demo matches and fast forward the Darsow moments and focus on Eadie.” – Good Ol’ Will From Texas, May 28, 2017
“Hated him as Ax as a kid (compared to Smash or even Crush), but longevity with Masked Superstar & Strong Machine give him consideration for me” – Lee Wes, October 4, 2017
“Just based on the fact that he is one half of one of the greatest tag teams in history. puts him in the picture for top 100. I said that his partner should be in based on this so I would have to say he is in” – Matt Rotella, May 29, 2017
Total Points: 1,738
Total Ballots: 49
Average Rank: 65.5
High Vote: 15
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Microstatistics
Nuance: Finlay had a five-year run with the WWE, which is remarkable, since it started when he was 47! He gets extra points for his versatility, getting over first as a heel, and later as a face, portraying the loving father of Hornswoggle, though he’ll forever be the Little Bastard to us. Finlay was a master of the little things that made his matches and angles better.
Jump Up Moments: He faced JBL at the opener of WrestleMania XXIV in a good Belfast Brawl, participated in the Money in the Bank ladder matches at WrestleMania 22 and 23, and had a great match with William Regal at the Great American Bash 2006. But Finlay’s more known for his solid, week in and week out work, rather than any particular moments. He was never meant to be pushed as a top guy, but wound up winning the US title and being involved in some important storylines, like King Booker’s Court. He was known for taking stuff that should’ve been crap, like his illegitimate son Hornswoggle, and making something out of it.
Promos/Character: He’s Finlay and he loves to fight! Came in and immediately got over as a bad-ass brawler, who loved to swing his shillelagh. He also liked to use it as a weapon in matches. His promos got across his no-nonsense persona. He then joined King Booker’s Court and was an important part of that act. His character work helped get the Hornswoggle angle over, when it should’ve been pure wrestlecrap.
Workrate: Here’s where Finlay kicks it up a notch. He’s just such a great and consistent worker. His brawling style helped make all his matches good, filling time on TV and providing high-quality PPV matches. Finlay was often asked to guide young guys with bright futures, like Bobby Lashley in 2006, and he always helped make whoever he was working with look good. The Regal match at GAB 2006 is one to track down, and his WrestleMania match with JBL is a nice brawl.
Staff Thoughts: Who saw Finlay coming in at 47 and having the run he did? Everybody with their hand up is a liar. He’s a guy that just gets it and knows how to make the most of what he’s given, through hard-hitting matches and figuring out how to connect to the crowd. Excelled far beyond his push, turning both King Booker’s Court and Hornswoggle into really good stuff, when it could’ve easily gone the other way. He was a valuable part of the roster filling TV shows with good matches and bringing up the quality of matches with anyone he was paired with. You can hear the guys talk about Finlay on this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “Was always one of the highlights in an era when Smackdown was pretty loaded with good wrestling. Just the kind of different guy you want on the roster. Got over as a heel, and then got over as a babyface too. Has a bunch of really good matches. That impromptu ppv match he had with Regal is flat-out awesome. Run wasn’t super-long, but was impactful, so he has a chance of getting on.” – Adam Russell, July 15, 2017
“Talk about making the most of what you’re handed. Came into WWE supposedly years past his prime and worked rings around the SmackDown roster of the era. Got over as both a heel and a face. Took the Little Bastard/Hornswoggle gimmick and spun it into gold. Not sure where he lands, but he earns his way onto my list, no doubt.” – Ben Morse, May 30, 2017
“Really excellent TV match wrestler. That goes a long way with me. Carried himself like a badass at a time when the company desperately needed that. For 3 or 4 years he had a hell of a run in ring. Not strong enough a character to rate through the roof, but he will make it.” – Dylan Hales, June 7, 2017
89. Terry Funk
Total Points: 1,837
Total Ballots: 55
Average Rank: 67.6
High Vote: 23
Low Vote: 98
High Voter: Michael Schoen
Nuance: Let’s get the negative out of the way: longevity works against The Funker on this one. He had a year-long run in 1985-86, another run from December 1997 to August 1998 as Chainsaw Charlie and two matches in 2006 as part of the angle with Mick Foley, Edge and Lita paying off at One Night Stand 2006. Funk did show flexibility during his runs with the company, playing a heel as a singles and tag performer in the ‘85-’86 run against the top babyfaces, as a babyface tag team with Mick Foley as Chainsaw Charlie in ‘98 and as a babyface hardcore legend in 2006 against Foley, Edge and Lita.
Jump Up Moments: Funk had a series of matches against Hulk Hogan, including the January 1986 Saturday Night’s Main Event, and also feuded with the Junkyard Dog, including tag team matches with “Hoss” Funk vs. JYD and Tito Santana at WrestleMania 2 in one of the best matches on the card and vs. JYD and Hulk Hogan at the May 1986 SNME. The tag team dumpster match at WrestleMania XIV was a fun tag team match as was his run with Foley and the matches with Foley in ‘98. Funk was part of one of the best matches and angles of the ECW revival and One Night Stand 2006 in the hardcore match teaming with Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty to take on Foley, Edge and Lita.
Promos/Character: Funk is an all-time great talker, and his promos helped get his angles across during his brief time with WWE. He played three different characters during his time in the promotion, from branding iron-wielding crazy heel facing Hogan and JYD to pantyhose wearing chainsaw wielding babyface psycho and the hardcore legend.
Workrate: Everything Funk’s been involved in during his WWF/E stays has been very good or great. His work against Hogan and JYD in the mid-80s is consistently some of the best stuff on the card. You’d be hard pressed to find a good match with JYD in the WWF that didn’t involve the Funker. His work in ‘98 was more a fun tag run, but at a time where the in-ring product was down and he was working with the New Age Outlaws who aren’t known for their list of mat classics. Funk’s Raw falls count anywhere match with Foley was an important part of turning Foley into the corporate Dude Love to challenge Austin. He was involved a great match at 2006 One Night Stand, taking barbed wire to the fucking eye, when he was just shy of his 62nd birthday!
Staff Thoughts: Your mileage on Funk likely depends on your thoughts on quality vs. quantity. Sure, he wasn’t in the company very long and is more commonly associated with other companies, but when he was in the WWF/E he was always doing something important and memorable. Funker was often having the best match on the card, always made anyone he worked with look good and just brought intensity and importance to his work. Voters that valued a short run full of high quality matches and angles supported Funk, leading to him making this list. And that’s a good thing for all of us who’ve ever put pantyhose on our head and played with a chainsaw, it raises awareness.
From the Voters: “Terry Funk maximizes every moment he’s on. So while I’m not going to rank him really high I cannot keep him off because when he was there he was doing something good. The WrestleMania 2 match in particular gets better with age. He has the really good title match with hogan on snme. There’s a reason he finished so high in GWE. Everywhere he went he was great.” – Brian Meyer, June 4, 2017
“His run as Chainsaw Charlie teaming up Mick Foley in early 1998 seems to fly under the radar times but i like their Matches with the New Age Outlaws. His short return in 2006 leading into the ECW stuff feuding Mick & Edge is very good plus that insane Match at One Night Stand is outstanding and brutal at the same time. Great promo guy and always brought his working boots in the Ring. I might find a spot for him on mine somewhere.” – Jay Hinchey, June 5, 2017
“He’ll probably have a low spot on the list due to the lack of longevity for me, but what little there is I really liked. Since nobody else mentioned it, I’d like to bring up the match he had on Raw against Mick Foley during the evil Dude Love era.” – Stephen Brogee, June 16, 2017
88. Dusty Rhodes
Total Points: 1,848
Total Ballots: 56
Average Rank: 68
High Vote: 10
Low Vote: 100
High Voter: Scott Herrin
Nuance: The American Dream appeared sporadically, but perhaps more than you think, for the WWWF from 1977-81, to supplement his polka-dot wearing run from 1989-91. Still, that’s not great longevity for a top 100 list. He always appeared as a babyface, and primarily as a singles wrestler, so flexibility gets middling marks as well. But Dusty Rhodes has intangibles, just that something you can’t put your finger on, but that connects him to the audience.
Jump Up Moments: During his late 1970s run he had a series of matches with Billy Graham, that are among the best matches for both men. They faced in MSG numerous times with Rhodes winning one by countout and losing a Texas Death Match to the Superstar. These matches showcased both men’s natural charisma and had the crowd rabid. He teamed with Sapphire to take on “Macho King” Randy Savage culminating in a match at WrestleMania VI. Was part of not one but two Dream Teams at Survivor Series 1989 and 1990.
Promos/Character: Dusty is a great promo, though we all know his best work on the stick was elsewhere. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have good promos that connected with the crowd in WWF. As a character, he always made the most out of what he was given, embracing the polka dots with gusto and owning the character. His character work and charisma added a lot to the Graham matches.
Workrate: The Dream isn’t a great worker, but those Graham matches are really very good. The crowd was hyped and that added a lot to those matches. By the time he was wearing polka dots, teaming with Sapphire and feuding with the Macho King, the matches weren’t great.
Staff Thoughts: Dusty’s charisma had voters getting funky like a monkey. His matches with Graham were good and he made stops with the company frequently from 1977-81, battling not only Graham, but other top stars like Ernie Ladd, Ken Patera and Mr. Fuji. He got over even with the polka dots, god knows how, and made enough of an impression with voters to land on the list.
From the Voters: “I think Dusty could make it in the 90-100 range because he was an off and on attraction from 77-83 and did more than just work with Superstar. His late career run produced memorable moments and feuds.” – Kelly Nelson, May 29, 2017
“The American Dreams best work unfortunately came in the NWA but his matches with Superstar Billy Graham sold out MSG every time and were exciting to watch. His polka dot Run was less than stellar but he was always entertaining. Good solid feud with Macho Man. He would be right on the bubble for me but probably makes it.” – Eric Boyd, May 29, 2017
“Watching his late 80’s WWF run and it’s amazing how he got over despite those awful vignettes. And he was quite over with the crowds. Don’t know if it’s enough though.” – Brian Cullinane, May 29, 2017
87. Kofi Kingston
Total Points: 1,884
Total Ballots: 61
Average Rank: 70.1
High Vote: 25
Low Vote: 98
High Voter: Vince Male
Nuance: Kofi Kingston’s been around since 2007 when he came joined ECW from Jamaica, mon. Though he eventually lost his Jamaican heritage, he still managed a solid decade in the company giving him high marks for longevity. He’s been a face for most of his career, but spent time as a heel with New Day. Kofi’s a four-time Raw Tag Team champ (with Evan Bourne and R-Truth, as well as the New Day), a two-time SmackDown Tag Team champion, a one-time World Tag champion with CM Punk, a four-time IC champ and a three-time US champ, so he’s got both singles and tag work covered, giving him great flexibility.
Jump Up Moments: Kofi’s most memorable moments are likely his creative and acrobatic Royal Rumble elimination teases, including crowd surfing, rolling chairs and hopping on pancakes (although that last one was outside the voting period, so we can pretend that one didn’t happen.) He was also a good guy to have around during Money in the Bank ladder matches, for similar athletic feats. Feuded with Randy Orton in 2009 captaining the Survivor Series team that defeated Orton’s team. One of his hottest moments as a singles wrestler came during that Orton feud, when he crushed Randy with a boom drop off an MSG balcony.
Promos/Character: He did fine with promos, cutting some good ones during the Orton feud. His character evolved from the original Jamaican wrestler, but kind of stalled after that becoming a bit stale, though Kofi was always a solid mid-card hand. Then the New Day happened. Those characters shouldn’t have worked, but Kofi and his teammates worked to get over, first as heels and later as Booty O shilling babyfaces performing unicorn stampedes. He’d get more points here if he were the one playing Francesca.
Workrate: Kofi’s always been a good, solid worker, focused on athleticism. He’s always good for a Rumble elimination tease spot and someone to put in the MITB ladder match. He had a good three-match series with Cesaro over the U.S. title on Raw, SmackDown and Main Event in mid-2013, with the Main Event match the best of the bunch. Otherwise, he’s had good matches and feuds over the IC and US title, that run together a bit, which is somewhat a result of his longevity. New Day has had a very good feud with the Usos, though the best of those matches featured Xavier Woods and Big E (SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell.)
Staff Thoughts: Kofi had a case for the list as the perpetual mid-card, good hand athletic worker. His matches and feuds with the other solid mid-card workers tend to run together, but he’s a four-time IC champ and a three-time US champ so he had a solid singles resume, to go along with tag title reigns with CM Punk, Evan Bourne and R-Truth. Then New Day provided Kofi with a freshened up character, four more tag titles and an opportunity to host WrestleMania. Add his singles run with his New Day run and Boom! You’ve got a solid case for a top 100 WWE wrestler of all time. Which rocks, much like the New Day.
From the Voters: “The Tito Santana of this generation. Former IC champ who becomes a good lower midcard guy. Then he was rejuvenated with the New Day. Solid YES here.” – Chris Jordan, May 30, 2017
“All of the New Day guys will likely make the bottom of my list (err–if they are all eligible, that is. People better help nominate Xavier!). They’re probably the most important team since the Attitude Era and they’re all three essential in making the team work. Kofi gets bonus points for his long singles career, memorable Rumble spots, and being the best worker on the team.” – Jeff Walker, July 13, 2017
“Good longevity and he is memorable with all the wacky Royal Rumble/Battle Royal spots. Also very successful as he’s a guy who seemingly has always had some kind of title throughout his run. The New Day run also helps his cause. On the other hand I’ve never been a huge fan of him in the ring as while he’s super athletic his offense just comes off as too soft for me. Back quarter guy who I put in the same boat as other midcard mainstays who never quite got there like Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett, although I’m higher on both of those guys then I am Kofi.” – Wade Ferrari, May 30, 2017
86. Ivan Koloff
Total Points: 1,902
Total Ballots: 48
Average Rank: 61.4
High Vote: 22
Low Vote: 98
High Voter: Scott Herrin
Nuance: The Russian Bear appeared sporadically in the WWWF/WWF from 1969 to 1979, and again in 1983. He was a common challenger to top babyfaces Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales and Bob Backlund. Ivan Koloff was always a heel and it’s impossible to picture him as a Russian babyface at the time, so he was limited in that role.
Jump Up Moments: Defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Title in January 1971 at Madison Square Garden, shocking the crowd and causing them to riot. After ending Sammartino’s seven-year reign, Koloff lost the title to Pedro Morales after 21 days. He would later be the first to challenge for the WWWF title in a steel cage when he challenged Sammartino during his second reign. Was one of only two men to challenge Bruno, Pedro, Superstar Billy Graham and Bob Backlund for the title.
Promos/Character: Koloff played a standard evil foreigner character, but played it extremely well. He cut promos to emphasize his danger and adding to the threat he posed for the babyface champions of the day. One of Koloff’s promos is posted in the Facebook thread.
Workrate: The Russian Bear was an amazing worker for his time. He did a freakin’ flying knee drop in the 1970s! No one was doing aerial maneuvers at that time, and this one just added to Koloff’s other power moves. He brought an incredible intensity to his matches and had great ones with Bruno, Backlund, Patterson and others. There are links to many of these matches in the Facebook comments thread, and you should definitely check them out.
Staff Thoughts: Koloff was an amazing worker during his time in WWWF. When he beat Bruno for the title the building fell silent before everyone went batshit crazy and began rioting. It was one of the first shocking events in the WWWF. He was a transitional champion, but damn was he a good one with that kind of heat and having great brawls to boot. His time in the company may have been short, but the quality of matches and moments is incredible for the Russian Bear.
From the Voters: “His title match against Backlund was amazing” – Todd Hall, May 30, 2017 (the match referenced vs. Backlund took place in Aug. 1978 at MSG)
“The Russian Bear! Well he defeated Bruno Sammartino to win the WWE championship which not one person saw coming at the time. He was a brutal rugged heel, and its ludicrous that he isn’t in the hall of fame. Top 💯 for me.” – Eric Boyd, May 30, 2017
“I’d give him a spot simply for the Sammartino feud. People were ready to riot when he won the title.” – Ben Morse, May 31, 2017
85. Bam Bam Bigelow
Total Points: 1,903
Total Ballots: 66
Average Rank: 72.2
High Vote: 17
Low Vote: 97
High Voter: Taylor Keahey
Nuance: He had tattoos on his fucking head and wore a suit of flames! In 1987 he was the coolest/scariest looking wrestler ever and he could do cartwheels. Sadly, he didn’t stay long in either his first or second run with the company, totalling only about four years. He could play either a face, bursting onto the scene as a popular new wrestler or a heel, where he main evented a WrestleMania. He also appeared in Major Payne.
Jump Up Moments: Bam Bam main evented WrestleMania XI against football player Lawrence Taylor in what was the greatest celebrity match at the time and remains on the short list of best celebrity matches to this day. Bigelow was on Hulk Hogan’s team at the first Survivor Series lasting longer than the Hulkster. Faced Bret Hart in the finals of the first King of the Ring. Teamed with Diesel to take on Tatanka and Sid in the main event of King of the Ring 1995 (hey it was the main event of a PPV).
Promos/Character: Bam Bam wasn’t a great talker, which is why he was usually paired with a manager. Whether it was his original babyface manager Oliver Humperdink, his main squeeze Luna Vachon or The Million Dollar Man and his Million Dollar Corporation, Bam Bam always had someone in his corner. His character was kind of always defined by the manager or group he was with, or by the his appearance (big guy with a tattoo on his head) or skills (fat guy agile enough to do cartwheels).
Workrate: Strangely, Bam Bam’s best work was against LT at WrestleMania, at least in the WWF. He faced Bret Hart in the finals of the first King of the Ring in a very good match, but it was overshadowed by Hart’s other matches on the same card. His match with the Hitman from Barcelona is another highlight match too. Bigelow stood out as an agile big man, particularly during his first run, and he always SEEMED like a good worker, but the good matches are pretty scarce. To be fair, good matches weren’t abundant in 1993-95, especially against some of the stiffs he was working against. It’s still curious he was able to carry LT at WrestleMania, but that didn’t translated into a broader body of great matches.
Staff Thoughts: Bam Bam stands out for so many reasons, from his look to working with LT to appearing in Major Payne. He felt like he always just missed his brush with greatness in the WWF. When he came in to the company in 1987, he looked and felt like a huge star, he was on Hogan’s Survivor Series team and appeared on WrestleMania IV but nothing ever came of it and then he was gone from WWF. He should’ve been a big star during his second run at a time when the company needed big stars, but whether it was politics, lack of mic skills, working with slugs or something else, it just never happened. Working with LT at Mania was huge and showed the company had faith in Bam Bam at least for a time, but that was sadly the peak. As it is, voters named him one of WWF’s top 100 stars, but if just feels like he could’ve been a bigger star and is another example of untapped potential and a wrestler sadly gone before his time.
From the Voters: “Came in hot with the face run in ’87 where he nearly got a big victory at Survivor Series. Came back in ’93, had a bad program IMO with Doink, kind of fit nice with the Million Dollar Corporation and of course had the famous feud with LT at Mania XI. Kliq politics hurt him in his face turn which made him leave late in ’95. He would make my Top 100 though.” – Greg Diener, May 28, 2017
“One of the best big men ever, a huge star for 6-10 months in the 80s, had a great 90s run with 2 ppv main events under his belt, one of which was a WM, which got him a bit of mainstream media attention. Plus…he was in Major Payne.” – James Proffitt, May 28, 2017
“I have been watching a lot of BamBam. He is one of my favorites but these matches I am watching aren’t helping his case. A handful have some unique psychology but finding a handful of matches I can present and say this is why he should be on the list, it’s just not happening.” – Michael DeDamos, July 21, 2017