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.
10. Chris Jericho
Total Points: 9,969
Total Ballots: 116
Average Rank: 16.2
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 64
First Place Votes: 1
High Voter: Calvin Crowell
Nuance: Chris Jericho debuted in 1999, so even with years off, he’s had more than a decade and a half with the company, easily checking the longevity box. During this time, he’s been both a babyface and a heel up and down the card. He’s been a singles star and tag team competitor with Chris Benoit, Christian, Edge and the Big Show. Jericho constantly reinvents himself, so there may not be a wrestler that has shown greater flexibility in the WWE. He’s a master of nuance and intangibles, which allows him that character evolution.
Jump Up Moments: Jericho’s WWF arrival may be the greatest debut in company history from the countdown of the millenium clock to interrupting a Rock promo, the entire performance came off great and made Jericho look like a huge star. Things faltered a bit after that, but Y2J was a fixture in the Intercontinental Title picture having excellent matches with Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle and others throughout 2000-01. He opposed Steve Austin and Triple H in early 2001, having a great tag match along with Benoit against the Two Man Power Trip. He then was a key part of the Invasion storyline, leading to a rivalry with The Rock featuring great matches over the WCW title in late 2001. Jericho then defeated both Stone Cold and the Rock in the same night to become the first Undisputed Champion at Vengeance 2001, which he may have mentioned once or twice since. He would lose the Undisputed title to Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania X8 and the two would feud off and on until a Hell in a Cell match at Judgment Day 2002. Jericho would then again become a fixture in the IC title scene and form a tag team with Christian during 2002 and 2003. During this time he feuded with Shawn Michaels and the two had a strong match at WrestleMania XIX, ending with a handshake and a kick to the stones by Jericho. Jericho began a face turn during his storyline with Trish Stratus and Christian that resulted in Trish turned on Jericho during his WrestleMania XX match against Christian. He suggested the concept for the Money in the Bank ladder match and participated in the inaugural match at WrestleMania 21. In 2005, Jericho feuded with John Cena over the WWE title with matches at Vengeance 2005 (also including Christian), SummerSlam and a “You’re Fired” match on Raw that saw Jericho dragged out of the building. Jericho would return in 2007 after vignettes with digital code promoted his return to “save” the WWE from Randy Orton before transitioning to a short feud with JBL. Jericho then interjected himself into the Michaels/Batista feud, leading to Jericho feuding with his old nemesis. This feud was some of the best work of Jericho’s career as he and Michaels had a series of great matches, the feud escalated logically and Jericho developed a new, more ruthless heel character based on the villain from No Country for Old Men. Along the way, Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship, which he traded with Batista before losing it to Cena at Survivor Series. Jericho then began running down WWF legends, defeating Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania XXV and Steamboat at Backlash 2009 in surprisingly good matches. Later in 2009, he had a stellar feud with Rey Mysterio over the IC title during which Jericho unmasked Rey to pin him, before ultimately losing the IC title when Rey’s mask was also on the line. He then formed the JeriShow tag team and was a fixture in the Tag Title scene through the end of 2009. He was eliminated from the 2010 Royal Rumble by a returning Edge, then won the World Heavyweight Title and had a good match with Edge at WrestleMania XXVI. In early 2012, Jericho began a feud with CM Punk that featured really good matches at Wrestlemania XVIII and Extreme Rules. Jericho was a part-timer from 2013-15, where he would feud with Dolph Ziggler, the Wyatt Family, Fandango and others. In 2016, he was tied with AJ Styles culminating in a match at WrestleMania 32. He then feuded with Dean Ambrose and tweaked his character, wearing scarves and calling people “stupid idiots.” He then formed an alliance with Kevin Owens, doing great character work, before ending in an attack by Owens at the Festival of Friendship, leading to a match for the US Title at WrestleMania 33. Jericho is a former Hardcore Champion, European Champion, two-time US Champion, nine-time IC Champion (which is a record), two-time WWE Unified Tag Team Champion, five-time WWF/W Tag Team Champion, two-time WCW/World Champion, Undisputed Champion and three-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Promos/Character: No one has gone through more character reinventions and tweaks than Chris Jericho and almost all of them have gotten over. From his great debut and promo, the Y2J character was off to the races. He continued to cut smart-ass and entertaining promos, including his work on the Highlight Reel talk show segment. He had memorable character work during the Christian and Trish storyline over the $1 (Canadian) bet for Trish’s affections, and perfectly sold the “You’re Fired” match stipulation. Upon his return, his work escalating his feud with Michaels was top notch. Along the way he developed the ruthless, self-righteous suit wearing character that was both a stark contrast from the Y2J character and maybe the best work of Jericho’s WWE career. His late career reinvention wearing scarves, calling people stupid idiots and making The List of Jericho was fantastic too. He always got stuff over that would not have gotten over in less capable hands. The Owens partnership was a highlight of TV at the time and culminated perfectly.
Workrate: Jericho is an excellent worker, consistent and solid with a long list of very good to great matches. His matches against Benoit throughout 2000-01 for the IC title are all very good, and the tag team match with Benoit against the Two Man Power Trip on Raw was outstanding. His feud with The Rock in late 2001 saw some of Y2J’s best matches, including No Mercy 2001, Raw in November, Vengeance 2001 and Royal Rumble 2002. The Michaels match at WrestleMania XIX was a very good match, and the match against Christian at WrestleMania XX is another fun bout. Jericho’s matches with Michaels in 2008 at Judgment Day, Great American Bash, Unforgiven and No Mercy are all very good to great matches alone and tell a story of the feud progressing until the ladder match blowoff. His feud with Mysterio over the IC title saw excellent matches at Judgment Day, Extreme Rules and The Bash 2009. The WrestleMania XXVI match against Edge was very good, and he had a good showing in a losing effort at Fatal-Four Way against Evan Bourne. In 2012, his feud with Punk saw very good matches at WrestleMania XXVIII and Extreme Rules.
Staff Thoughts: He’s Y2J, he’s the Best in the World at What He Does, and if you don’t think Jericho makes your list, you might make THE List, you stupid idiot. Nobody has reinvented himself and gotten over more consistently than Jericho. Along the way he had great matches with nearly everyone he feuded with. His run with AJ Styles and Kevin Owens featured good TV and the matches were solid, even if they weren’t up to the standards of his early career. He was the first ever Undisputed Champion, defeating The Rock and Stone Cold on the same night. His tag team with Christian was real good, as was his feud with Cena before leaving in 2005. The list of Jericho, Breaking the Walls Doooooown, it goes on and on. The nine-time IC champion has a nearly two-decade run, which means, Chris Jericho…You Just Made the List! (you knew we had to make that joke, right?) To hear more about Jericho, check out this Making the Cut podcast and this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “Gotta be in the Top 20 for me. I enjoy his ring work just as much now, maybe more, than during the early 00s and as most everyone has already said, the constant reinvention of his persona has added him well. Have enjoyed watching him since the WCW days, but I think the recent “Stupid Idiot/List” period was my favorite run of his yet.” – Mike Andres, June 12, 2017
“Nobody has adapted their character better to stay over and relevant across nearly two decades. Early WWF run produced classic promos and a legendary series of matches with Chris Benoit. Hung as a main eventer with Triple H, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin and especially The Rock as a bonafide main eventer at the close of the Attitude Era. One of my favorite contests ever with Shawn Michaels at Mania XIX. Fun teaming with Christian. Redefined his heel persona upon his comeback and had an all-time feud with HBK plus excellent stuff with Rey Mysterio. Recent comebacks have once again demonstrated his versatility with Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens. Seemingly ageless, he’s an all-time great. Top 20 or even top 10; would crack top 5 if he had a better run on top.” – Ben Morse, June 11, 2017
“Jericho is totally a dark horse top spot for me. His history in the ring can not be denied, but the crazy part for me is that I don’t have a big nostalgia factor towards him. So when I put those feelings (or lack there of) aside and go strictly by the numbers, he’s way up there. I’m starting to think my own list is going to surprise me.” – Taylor Keahey, May 29, 2017
Total Points: 10,544
Total Ballots: 118
Average Rank: 14
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 80
First Place Votes: 2
High Voter: Corey Pierce; Scott Shifflett
Nuance: Wrestling fans born in November 1990 may have spouses, mortgages and kids of their own, but they’ve never known a world where the Undertaker wasn’t in WWF/E. Sure, his part-time status hurts his longevity a bit, but since Survivor Series 1990 fans knew that come sign pointing season, Undertaker would be back for WrestleMania. So he has longevity more than covered. He’s been both a babyface and a heel and has been a singles star and also had tag team success with Kane, Big Show and others. The nuance and intangibles that Taker brings to the table are a huge part of why the character not only survived but thrived when it could’ve easily been a forgotten gimmick of the 1990s. The mannerisms, facial expressions, aura and presence of the Undertaker are second to none and add tons to the character.
Jump Up Moments: Undertaker was one of the rare mystery opponents that worked, when he debuted as part of the Million Dollar Team at Survivor Series 1990. By late 1991 he was trading the WWF title with Hulk Hogan causing the title to be held up and awarded to the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble. He defeated Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VII starting The Streak, which would run until WrestleMania XXX, becoming a focal point for the biggest show of the year by 2005. He had early feuds with Ultimate Warrior and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, turning babyface during the latter. He would feud with various monster heels and thieves who would take his urn, before becoming a more realistic character capable of having better matches. He then had a good WrestleMania match with Diesel and an excellent feud with Mankind, including wild brawls. He would win the WWF Title in the main event of WrestleMania 13 and hold it until SummerSlam 1997 where special referee Shawn Michaels cost him the title, kicking off their feud. Taker and Michaels had a red hot feud, including the first Hell in a Cell match that also featured the debut of his brother Kane. Undertaker would feud with Kane at WrestleMania XIV in a hot angle and that issue would continue off and on for decades. His HIAC match with Mankind at King of the Ring 1998 is one of the most memorable matches of all-time. The Deadman would then be a top challenger for new champion Stone Cold Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1998 in a big time match. He would remain a key part of the main event scene in a number of angles involving Ministries and Corporations and Corporate Ministries and Higher Powers, highlighted by his turn as a limo driver asking “Where to Stephanie?” He would debut the new “Biker Taker” character when he returned in May 2000. He would then defeat Triple H at WrestleMania X7 before becoming part of Team WWF destroying many WCW wrestlers during the Invasion. Undertaker turned heel later that year, becoming Big Evil by forcing Jim Ross to kiss Vince McMahon’s ass, before facing Ric Flair in a no-DQ match at WrestleMania X8. During this time he was a fixture in the main event scene with good matches against Angle, Rock and Brock Lesnar. In 2004 and 2005, Undertaker would be involved in notable moments like Paul Bearer being buried in cement and Mohammed Hassan conducting what appeared to be a terrorist attack. He also feuded with Randy Orton, defeating him at WrestleMania 21 and losing at SummerSlam 2005, and eventually winning the feud in a HIAC match at Armageddon 2005. After an excellent match with Angle at No Way Out and a WrestleMania match with Mark Henry, Taker feuded with Great Khali through 2006. Undertaker won the 2007 Royal Rumble and defeated Batista for the World title in a great match at WrestleMania 23 and continued a damn good feud, before Edge cashed in his MITB briefcase costing Taker his title. He had a good feud with Edge winning the World Title at WrestleMania XXIV and having several rematches throughout 2008. He would then start a feud with Shawn Michaels resulting in an all-time classic at WrestleMania XXV. He would then battle with CM Punk from SummerSlam through Hell in a Cell 2009 and go on to have a great WrestleMania rematch with Michaels. He would face Triple H in divisive matches at WrestleMania XXVII and XXVIII and face CM Punk in a great match at WrestleMania 29, before Lesnar ended The Streak at WrestleMania XXX in one of the most shocking moments in WWE history. Taker would defeat Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 31 before challenging Lesnar in 2015 facing him at SummerSlam and Hell in a Cell 2015. Undertaker faced Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. Undertaker is a Royal Rumble winner, Hardcore Champion, WCW Tag Team Champion, six-time WWF Tag Team Champion, three-time World Heavyweight Champion, four-time WWF/E Champion.
Promos/Character: When the lights went out and BONG… you knew someone was about to Rest…In…Peace. The Undertaker started out in what could’ve been a cartoonish one-note zombie character, but he turned it into the greatest gimmick the company ever had. He evolved that gimmick into a more fleshed out character, evolving it over time (admittedly some reinventions worked better than others). The Undertaker character is iconic, from the eyes rolling into the back of his head to the zombie sit-up to the throat slash gesture to the arms crossed pin with his tongue hanging out. In the early days of the character, Taker was mostly silent merely looking menacing while Paul Bearer did the talking. Later, Undertaker was fine as a promo and played the iconic legend character, adding more gravitas to many of his angles and matches.
Workrate: Here’s a hot take: Undertaker’s workrate is a mixed bag. He’s got all-time classics and all-time classic turds, which are hard to ignore (Giant Gonzalez matches, UnderFaker, etc.). But once he lost the shackles of the Deadman mannerisms, he started having good matches like his WrestleMania XII match with Diesel and his wars with Mankind, including the Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam 1996. He would have more good matches with Bret Hart and others before his feud with Shawn Michaels, resulting in a classic in the first Hell in a Cell match. The HIAC with Mankind is an iconic moment, and the SummerSlam 1998 battle with Austin was a huge match. He had a good ladder match with Jeff Hardy on Raw in 2002 and the three-way match with Kurt Angle and the Rock at Vengeance 2002. His feud with Brock Lesnar featured an excellent HIAC match at No Mercy 2002. The match with Randy Orton at WrestleMania 21 was strong and he and Angle had an excellent match at No Way Out 2006. His match with Batista at WrestleMania 23 was great and the next year his battle with Edge was also very good. Undertaker’s match against Michaels at WrestleMania XXV is an all-timer and the rematch a year later was right there with it. His matches with Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII and XXVIII are very divisive and he would have a great match with CM Punk at WrestleMania 29 in the last year of The Streak.
Staff Thoughts: Undertaker is the iconic character in the WWE, which was clearly recognized by voters as he’s the second wrestler to appear on every ballot. He’s been around longer than anyone and he’s got a case for having both the most epic matches and the most dogshit matches in history. His early years saw some dreadful angles and matches, some of which were not his fault as the character was supposed to no-sell as an undead monster, meant to scare the kids. He evolved from there, having good matches when he worked with Mankind, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. He’s been one of the biggest stars of the late Hulkamania era, the New Generation, the Attitude Era and whatever you want to call the time since. The Streak was arguably the most important part in any WrestleMania for 10-15 years, until it was snapped in one of the most shocking moments in company history. The specialness of The Streak led to great matches and made matches with Michaels, Flair, Punk, Batista, Triple H and others. When all is said and done, we can’t argue that the WWE has been His Yard for more than two decades. You can hear more about what the guys had to say about Undertaker on this FYC podcast and this Making the Cut.
From the Voters: “I wasn’t considering him for number one, but maybe he should be considered. The most iconic character in wrestling history who stayed relevant and valuable across the entire span of his career. Great as a heel and face. Delivered as the cartoon demon and demon killer and later as a guy who could have epic matches. Involved in some of the best matches and moments in company history. It got to a point where the top show of the year was built around him right as it became a stadium show with regularity. The Streak was the most important “title” in the promotion for years. Carried SD with Rey for a long time. A truly transcendent star in an era with few stars at all.” – Dylan Hales, June 3, 2017
“Greatest gimmick in the history of the business. Spent his first six years in the WWF working a restricted in-ring style due to his character, but still stayed over. Once he was able to cut loose and use a fuller arsenal, he immediately put on classic matches with Mankind, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and more. Evolved his look and style as time went on giving him the best tenure of anybody on this list. Late career renaissance yielded more great contests with younger stars like Brock Lesnar and Batista as well as contemporaries such as HBK and HHH. WrestleMania streak was one of the most compelling storylines in WWE. Easy top 10, maybe top five; only hurt by the valleys that come with such longevity.” – Ben Morse, June 9, 2017
“Took him a really long time to start having great matches, but once he did there were few big match workers better. His highest highs are well… high. I have a particularly high opinion of his HIAC matches with Brock and HBK and his Mania match with Punk. I also liked both the contemporary matches with Brock (not the mania one of course) a lot. He was also a staple and somehow got over a dark wizard gimmick well into 2017, which is bonkers. My gut says he is top 10 for me, but I can’t see him really outside the top 25.” – Matthew Richards, June 15, 2017
8. Bruno Sammartino
Total Points: 10,665
Total Ballots: 112
Average Rank: 11.8
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 76
First Place Votes: 9
High Voter: Grady Blount; Scott Herrin; Chris; Michael DeDamos; Cody; Steve Gennarelli; Timothy Drake; Kelly Nelson; Robert Silva
Nuance: Bruno Sammartino spent just short of twenty years with the company, with his time spanning from 1963 to 1988, so he has longevity covered. He never worked heel and was primarily a singles star, though he would tag with other babyfaces, such as Spiros Arion, Dominic DeNucci and Tony Marino. Sammartino had a charisma, presence and connection with the crowd that had not been seen to that time and rarely since. His tough guy persona gave an aura of credibility to the company and wrestling as a whole at the time that helped build the WWWF into the company that still exists today.
Jump Up Moments: Bruno won his first WWWF World Heavyweight Title from Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds on May 17, 1963 to become the company’s second champion. He would hold the title for nearly eight years and defended the title against the top heels of the era including Killer Kowalski, Gorilla Monsoon, Dr. Jerry Graham, Hans Mortimer, Waldo Von Erich, Bill Watts, Ernie Ladd, Spiros Arion and George “The Animal” Steele. Bruno sold out both the current and previous Madison Square Garden locations with great regularity. When Sammartino finally dropped the title in a good match to Ivan Koloff, it was such a shocking moment that the MSG crowd went silent before rioting in anger. In 1972, Sammartino teamed with champion Pedro Morales, and both were blinded by Prof. Tanaka causing the two to accidentally fight each other. This resulted in Sammartino and Morales facing each other in a 65-minute draw at Shea Stadium. On December 10, 1973, Sammartino defeated Stan Stasiak for his second WWWF Title, which he held for three years, four months and 20 days. During this time, Bruno suffered a legitimate neck fracture in a match against Stan Hansen, returning to face Hansen at Shea Stadium in 1976 and later in a steel cage matches around the circuit. Sammartino lost the title on April 30, 1977 to Superstar Billy Graham who had both feet on the ropes. Graham and Bruno would have many rematches, including a steel cage match in Philadelphia that is the only documented case of Bruno losing in a cage. In 1980, Bruno’s protege Larry Zybszko turned on him, busting a wooden chair over Bruno’s head and leaving him a bloody mess. The two would have an escalating feud that is one of the greatest in company history and culminated by drawing more than 36,000 fans to Shea Stadium to see their cage match blowoff, which Sammartino won. He would then retire until 1984, which is when he would return to tag with his son David on a few occasions. He also had a very good feud with Randy Savage, including beating Savage by DQ in a lumberjack match at the Boston Garden and teaming with Tito Santana to defeat Savage and Adrian Adonis in a cage match at MSG. Bruno would also feud with Roddy Piper in singles and tags and eventually beat Piper in a cage match at the Boston Garden. Bruno also participated in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2 that also included NFL players. Sammartino is a WWWF US Tag Team Champion, a two-time International Tag Team Champion and two-time WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Promos/Character: Bruno was a good promo, added an element of believability and sincerity to his promos. The style was different and more serious, but he did a good job of adding to his feuds through promos. The classic feud with Larry Z. is an excellent example of escalating the feud by promo work. His character was an ethnic babyface and legit strongman and tough guy, but Bruno played that character as well as anyone ever has. To say he was over with the Northeast crowds of his time is a huge understatement as they were legitimately shocked on the rare occasions Bruno lost a match.
Workrate: It’s difficult to judge workrate across eras, but Bruno was certainly one of the better workers of his era. He brought a fire and energy to his brawling style that was absent for many other matches and that excited the crowd, adding in an electric atmosphere. His matches with Spiros Arion, Koloff, Stan Hansen, Larry Zybszko and others are very good to great matches. The WWE Network recently had a collection of Bruno Sammartino matches and there is a playlist on the Facebook group as well. Other recommendations include matches with Arion Feb-April 1975 at MSG, Jan-Feb 1976 against Billy Graham at MSG and Ken Patera in March 1977 at MSG, which is on the WWE Network. The matches in the Larry Z. feud are incredibly heated brawls. His matches against Savage and Piper in both singles and tags are also very good.
Staff Thoughts: The WWWF was built on the back of Bruno and if there’s no Bruno we may not be doing this list, because there may be no current WWE. You can say that about a handful of wrestlers, but Bruno is near the top of that list. He’s not called the Living Solid Hand, he’s the Living Legend. Watch any of his matches and they all feature incredibly hot crowds, and he sold out MSG more than anyone. He brought an intensity to his matches most could not match, having very good matches with Arion, Hansen, Zybszko, Koloff and others. The feud with Larry Z. is one of, if not the, best feuds in the history of the company. Sammartino looked, talked, wrestled like a mega star and just oozed pro wrestling out of his pores. The Living Legend held the title for more that a decade during his two reigns! To hear more about Bruno listen to this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “The Zbyszko match got me into wrestling and made me a lifelong fan. He wasn’t on top for so many years by accident. If you grew up on the east coast in the 70s, you knew who Bruno was even if you weren’t a wrestling fan. He brought legitimacy to the sport that, even back then, was seen by many as fake.” – Tim Tetreault, May 29, 2017
“Bruno is a legend. Sold out MSG 20 straight times or something like that..hogan never did that…held the belt for for loooooonng times…having good matches along the way. He is probably in many people’s top 10. Plus he is in the HoF.” – Will Olson, June 1, 2017
“Easy top 10, maybe as high as top 3. He was somewhat limited, but he was a smart wrestler. Sometimes I think he is too quickly dismissed as an in ring performer. It will really depend on how I balance influence and draw vs in ring performance.I can even see it coming down to Bruno and Cena for me. That top tier is going to be tough.” – Matthew Richards, May 30, 2017
7. The Rock
Total Points: 10,868
Total Ballots: 116
Average Rank: 10.5
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 95
First Place Votes: 2
High Voter: Nate Milton; Jason Fastkade
Nuance: How do you think the Rock fares in the nuance category? IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. The Rock was the… BEST… damn Intercontinental Champion there ever was. Is there anyone more nuanced than the Rock? He made the crowd as wet as October with the mere raise of an eyebrow for crying out loud! Wonderful face, but one of the best heels in company history. So great that people went from wanting to see him die to wanting him to be World Champion WITHIN A YEAR. He gets dinged a bit for his longevity but it really is a solid four years of excellence, with bonus appearances where he usually killed it. The Rock can do it all, he CAN DO IT ALLLLLL! He even made those ridiculous boots work which is probably what propelled him to the top ten alone. His greatest ability though, may be his willingness to pivot if something isn’t working. Sure there’s the obvious ones where he bounces off “die Rocky die,” and the city of Toronto, but he even pivots mid match if he feels the crowd isn’t with him. Always the coolest guy in the room, even when wearing a tank top that made it look like he was naked from the waist down.
Jump Up Moments: Let’s skip smiling blue chipper Rocky Maivia, shall we? Except for his debut, which seemed to excited the grumps at the Garden. They would later go on to cheer an old man having a cardiac arrest, so let’s give Rocky some credit for getting over. We have to wait nearly a year for another bright spot, but oh is it ever bright. He joins the Nation and his prolonged breakup with Faarooq is wonderful right down to the Rolexes and portrait. The feud with Ken Shamrock is strong stuff and has at least one moment where Rock is stretchered from the ring with one arm raised in victory. He truly begins to shine in the feud with DX and the SummerSlam ladder match is the jumping off point for both he and Triple H’s careers. He gets so over by the fall they start to build the promotion around him, and his face work before the second consecutive screwjob is inspired. Memorable early feuds with Mankind and Steve Austin pepper 1999, but they just couldn’t keep the man heel. He conquers 2000 with a top-flight feud with Triple H and closes the year with excellent encounters with Rikishi and Kurt Angle. His rematch with Angle at No Way Out 2001 is tremendous and his main event with Steve Austin at WrestleMania X7 is one of the best in company history. The rest of 2001 is somewhat quiet but he does get to tease the tension with Steve Austin by singing him a little song in the build to Survivor Series. Then he fights Hulk Hogan in an all time classic, has a GREAT triple threat with Undertaker and Angle at Vengeance before killing it once again with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Then… we get Hollywood Rock. Which is just the best. The concerts, the spitting in Hogan’s face, screaming HAKU MACHENTE at Hurricane: it all worked. Some convincingly argue that his match with Steve Austin at Wreslemania XIX is the best of their encounters. He then returns to help Mick Foley against Evolution the next year before taking a long hiatus. His first match with John Cena was great, his second was…f ine… the less said about his CM Punk matches the better.
Promos/Character: FINALLY THE ROCK HAS COME BACK TO (INSERT CITY NAME). AND IN FRONT OF THE MILLIONS… OF ROCK’S FANS HE’S GOING TO DRIVE DOWN KNOW YOUR ROLE BOULEVARD, TAKING A SHARP RIGHT ON JABRONI DRIVE AND CHECK YOU DI-RECT-LY INTO… THE SMACKDOWN HOTEL! DO YOU LIKE PIE? OR ANY OF THE OTHER PEOPLE’S PRODUCTS? IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU LIKE! YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR ROLE AND SHUT YOUR MOUTH YOU ROODY-POO CANDYASS! IF YE SMELLLLLLLLAALALALALALALLLLLAAAA WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKING!
Come on he’s the best. Even if you don’t think the material has aged well you can’t deny how well he delivers it. There are so many good promos to name. Poor Kevin Kelly still gets called a hermaphrodite every year on the PTB Podcast Christmas Play because of him. Coach is still afraid to pray. Creative beyond measure in a business of lunk heads. We REALLY miss a guy like the Rock while we are stuck listening to twenty minute opening promos every week. Hollywood Rock truly is one of the best runs of all time, and quite a departure from everything else he had done to that point.
Workrate: Rock could bring it in the ring when he needed to. Yes the sharpshooter was awful (except when I heard it referred to as the Scorpion King Deathlock, which will always be awesome). He had strong punches (made even stronger with spit) and was very fluid for a guy his size. That spin around DDT never really stopped being somewhat impressive. His selling could be cartoony at times, looking at you Stone Cold Stunner sell, but he was an interesting blend of cartoon character and legit athlete. Say what you will about the People’s Elbow, but he got that shit OVER. Finally, he was great at changing his ring style based on what the match was. If he was PISSED at Rikishi he wrestled differently. And ran to the ring in anger, which is always bonus points. His matches had stakes because he gave them stakes.
Staff Thoughts: Rock is always just the slightest of tiers below guys like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and Bruno Sammartino in terms of star power and importance to the business. The ultimate A1 guy. But, no one has ever gone on to greater things than him and it’s easy to see why. He was a once in a lifetime talent who was clearly hungry to grow as a performer and an individual. It’s sad that we as fans now get excited if he is merely going to show up, when we used to get him every week. When you got to see the Rock you were seeing a near blend of comedy, badassery and selflessness, you were seeing perhaps the most poised performer in the history of the business. It was electrifying.
From the Voters: “I think, at the time, people were either Austin Guys or Rock Guys. I was definitely a Rock Guy. In hindsight I love both, but Rock gets automatically and unfairly slotted behind Austin, as you mentioned, and I feel he’s extremely underrated between the bells. Once he figured it out, sometime around late 99, he *really* figured it out and had some gems.” – Greg Phillips, June 5, 2017
“Top ten for me. Came in greener than grass but bettered himself to the millionth degree and became WWF/E’s most successful mainstream star. His work rate tended to be rough around the edges bc he wasn’t a pure technical guy but he always worked his ass off in every match he was in. Nobody could control the crowd the way Rock can. His promos were always the highlight of Raw and SD. Especially in 2000 where he did some of his best promo work. 03 Hollywood Rock is probably his best stuff overall” – Dennis Nunez, June 4, 2017
6. Shawn Michaels
Total Points: 11,546
Total Ballots: 118
Average Rank: 8.7
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 51
First Place Votes: 7
High Voter: Brad Faulk; Microstatistics; Jason Sherman; Ash; Andy Atherton; Neil Trama; Henry Rivers
Nuance: Shawn Michaels had an eighteen-year WWF/E career between his two runs. He played a babyface and a heel and he was both a singles star and featured in significant tag teams with Marty Jannetty, Diesel, Steve Austin, Triple H and John Cena.
Jump Up Moments: Michaels teamed with Marty Jannetty as the Rockers from 1988 to 1991, having a very good matches with the Brain Busters, Rougeaus, Orient Express, Powers of Pain and Hart Foundation. Shawn memorably turned on Jannetty, superkicking him then throwing him through the Barber Shop window to open up 1992. Michaels became the “Heartbreak Kid”, won the Intercontinental Title and feuded with Jannetty, having a match of the year contender on the May 17, 1993 Raw. As the IC champion, he faced WWF Champion Bret Hart in the main event of Survivor Series 1992 in a very good match. After vacating the IC Title due to a suspension, Michaels returned to challenge IC champion Razor Ramon, culminating in the first ladder match on PPV at WrestleMania X in an excellent innovative war. He then won the Tag Team Titles with bodyguard Diesel before the two split and feuded. Michaels won the 1995 Royal Rumble and went on to challenge Diesel for the WWF Title at WrestleMania XI. Michaels turned babyface and had a stellar match with Jeff Jarrett at IYH 2. At SummerSlam 1995 he and Ramon had a ladder match as good or perhaps better than the battle at WrestleMania X. Michaels entered into an angle where an enziguri from Owen Hart gave him a concussion, leading to him coming back and winning the 1996 Royal Rumble and having a very good match with Owen in February 1996. At WrestleMania XII, Michaels achieved his boyhood dream by defeating Bret Hart in an Ironman match to win the WWF Title. He defended the title in good to great matches against Diesel, British Bulldog and Mankind among others, before losing the title at Survivor Series 1996 and regaining it at Royal Rumble 1997. He vacated the title on Thursday Raw Thursday, losing his smile in the process, and taking some time off. Upon his return he won the WWF Tag Team Titles with Steve Austin on Raw before facing Austin at King of the Ring 1997. At SummerSlam 1997, Michaels officiated the title match between Bret and Undertaker, accidentally hitting Undertaker with a chair. He would then turn heel, form D-Generation X and feud with the Undertaker, having great matches at Ground Zero and Badd Blood. Michaels would then win the European Title from British Bulldog at One Night Only in a heated match and the WWF title at Survivor Series 1997 from Bret Hart in the Montreal Screwjob. Michaels injured his back at the 1998 Royal Rumble, leading to him leaving the company for four years after dropping the WWF Title to Austin at WrestleMania XIV. At SummerSlam 2002 he faced Triple H in a fun street fight and won the World Heavyweight Title in the first Elimination Chamber at Survivor Series 2002. He faced Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XIX in a very good match, and a year later challenged for the title in a three-way with Triple H and Chris Benoit. In 2005, Michaels had a very good feud with Kurt Angle, including excellent matches at WrestleMania 21 and Vengeance 2005. Michaels had a brief feud with Hulk Hogan, resulting in a match at SummerSlam 2005. In 2006, Michaels feuded with Vince McMahon and reunited D-Generation X. At WrestleMania 23, Michaels challenged John Cena for the WWE Title in a very good match, and had a strong feud with Randy Orton in 2007. At WrestleMania 24, Michaels had a very memorable match with Ric Flair to send his idol into WWE retirement The match with Flair led to a feud with Batista and then Chris Jericho, which would be one of the best of Michaels’ career, progressing naturally and having lots of great matches. He challenged Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV in a classic. DX would reform again and have a good feud with The Legacy. Michaels would put his career on the line and lose to the Undertaker in another great match at WrestleMania XXVI. Michaels is a two-time Royal Rumble winner, a European Champion, WWE Tag Team Champion, five-time WWF/World Tag Team Champion, three-time IC Champion, World Heavyweight Champion and three-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Promos/Character: “He’s just a Sexy Boy…” and that character kind of…existed. The characters of Shawn Michaels never really clicked, whether it was as a Rocker, a heel or a face. The one notable exception to his character work is the original incarnation of DX in 1997 where Michaels has one of the greatest heel runs in company history. He got incredible heat every week on Raw and that match with Bulldog at One Night Only was insanity. His return as a legend is pretty generic, though he did great character work to escalate the Jericho feud. Shawn was always a good promo and decent in backstage segments as well.
Workrate: Workrate is the biggest thing that Shawn brings to the table, though his work is divisive among many voters, particularly his comeback catalogue. Still, he has an extensive list of great matches that can rival anyone. The Rockers were perhaps the best in-ring tag team the company ever had, having great matches with the Brain Busters, Orient Express and Hart Foundation to name a few. His Raw match with Jannetty in 1993 was very good as was his match with Bret at Survivor Series 1992. The WrestleMania X match with Razor is fantastic and set the template for ladder matches to come, and the two would have an equally good (or better) match at SummerSlam 1995. His match for the IC title with Jarrett at IYH 2 was a great old-school southern style match. Michaels had a good match with Owen in the build to WrestleMania XII and your mileage may vary on the Ironman match, but it is well-worked. His match with Diesel at Good Friends, Better Enemies is a good weapons brawl and his match with Mankind at Mind Games is fantastic. The tag team match with Austin against Bulldog and Owen on Raw is one of the best Raw matches ever and the King of the Ring match with Austin was also good. The first HIAC match against Undertaker is an all-timer and still stands as one of the best HIACs. The match with Bulldog in England is an incredibly heated match and Shawn does great heel work there and the Survivor Series 1997 match was good until the ending overwhelmed it. Upon his return the SummerSlam 2002 and Raw match in late 2003 with Triple H are very good, other matches with Hunter not so much. The Jericho WrestleMania XIX match is good and the WrestleMania XX title match is great. The matches with Angle in 2005 were both excellent and his SummerSlam 2005 match with Hogan is surprisingly good too. The WrestleMania 23 match and Raw match against Cena were very good. The match with Flair at WrestleMania is incredibly memorable. The feud with Jericho in 2008 progressed logically and had great matches at Judgment Day, Great American Bash, the confrontation at SummerSlam, Unforgiven and the ladder match at No Mercy. The WrestleMania XXV match against Undertaker is one of the best WrestleMania matches ever, and their rematch at WrestleMania XXVI is not far behind and a strong retirement match for Michaels.
Staff Thoughts: Michaels is the third wrestler to appear on all ballots, although discussions regarding his placement vary greatly. Some dislike his in-ring work, particularly since his return in 2002, and there are some legitimate criticisms. But Michaels has such a long list of great matches. He was always given good opportunities but he made the most of them, appearing in the first PPV ladder match and the first HIAC match, hitting it out of the park both times, and as a result both became regular gimmick matches for the company. The Rockers may be the best in-ring tag team in company history. His matches with Undertaker at WrestleMania are all-timers, and the list goes on and on. Michaels had good charisma and was a good talker, before having a historic heel run in 1997. Add it all up and the Showstoppah, the Icon, the Main Event, Mr. WrestleMania finds his way onto the top 10 of our list. To hear the guys talk more about Michaels, check out this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “He was my favorite growing up and while I enjoyed his second run too, his first run was really good, from the Rockers stuff to the angle when he turned into a single, his first title run and the awesome heel 97-98 DX Shawn. For WWF purpose, i have him top 10 and probably top 5 to 7.” – Sean Zern, June 2, 2017
“1995-1997 is my favourite in-ring Shawn, outside of the ring by all accounts he was a flaming imbecile but in-ring he was on fire and match of the night or close on almost all those early PPVs. Jarrett, Diesel (x2), Foley, Razor (x2), Taker, the Rumbles, one of the Davey’s, one of the Sid’s, Vader, Bret (x2). His comeback run had perhaps as many great matches in total, but sprinkled over an 8 year period rather than a solid 2 years. He’s top 10 for me.” – James Derbyshire, June 3, 2017
“My favorite wrestler ever and a serious GOAT contender. Half of one of the most entertaining tag teams in WWF history in the Rockers. Elevated the Intercontinental title as one of the best heels of the mid-90s. Promo skill is virtually unmatched. Works as a babyface just as well as a bad guy. Kickstarted the Attitude Era with DX. His second act from 2002 to 2010 eclipsed most guys’ full careers. Classic matches with Marty Jannetty, Razor Ramon, Diesel, Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart, Mankind, Triple H, Undertaker, John Cena…I could go on and on. Seminal Royal Rumble performer. His resume is incredible. Only knock is he didn’t draw on top. Easy top five material.” – Ben Morse, June 7, 2017
5. Bret Hart
Total Points: 11,794
Total Ballots: 118
Average Rank: 7.5
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 50
First Place Votes: 14
High Voter: Jay Hinchey; Eric Miller; Adam Russell; Andy LaBar; David Carli; Sam Symonds; Andrew Nacelle; Trust Issues; Richard Land; James; Rory McNamara; Andy Halleen; Bret Hart; Ernie Rowe
Nuance: Bret Hart had a 13-year career in the WWF, so he gets good points for longevity. He was a babyface and a heel and had great success as a singles worker and in tag teams with Jim Neidhart and his brother Owen. Bret was a stickler for realism and strived to portray a realistic product in the ring and on the mic, and was very detail oriented focusing on the little things in the ring.
Jump Up Moments: Bret teamed with Neidhart as the Hart Foundation, having excellent matches with the British Bulldogs, winning the WWF Tag Team Titles from them in February 1987. Then, at WrestleMania III the Hart Foundation teamed with Danny Davis to take on the Bulldogs and Tito Santana. Bret was the final competitor eliminated by Bad News Brown in a battle royal at WrestleMania IV. The Hart Foundation defeated Demolition in a two-out-of-three falls match to win their second WWF title at SummerSlam 1990. Their second reign lasted until WrestleMania VII when they lost the title to the Nasty Boys and the team split afterwards. The Hitman’s singles career took off with an Intercontinental Title win in a great match with Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991. He lost the IC Title to the Mountie at the 1992 Royal Rumble, but regained it from Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII. At SummerSlam 1992, Hart had an excellent match losing the IC Title to the British Bulldog in the main event at Wembley Stadium in front of 80,000 fans. In October of 1992, Hart won the WWF Title from Ric Flair in a shocking title change that did not originally appear on TV, but instead on Coliseum Video. The Hitman defended the title at 1992 Survivor Series against Shawn Michaels and against Razor Ramon at 1993 Royal Rumble. Hart lost the title to Yokozuna in the main event at WrestleMania IX. Bret won the inaugural King of the Ring in 1993, winning three matches (including a classic match against Mr. Perfect) and starting his long feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler. At SummerSlam 1993 Hart faced Doink the Clown, winning by DQ, and then Lawler, losing on a reversed decision when he would not release the Sharpshooter. At Survivor Series 1993, Bret teamed with his brothers to take on Shawn Michaels and his Knights, with only Owen being eliminated from the Hart team. At Royal Rumble. Bret teamed with Owen to take on the Quebecers for the WWF Tag Team Titles, losing by referee stoppage when Bret would not tag Owen. This led to Owen turning on Bret, kicking his leg out from his leg, but Bret would still go on to be co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble match. Owen and Bret had an all-time classic match at WrestleMania X, before Bret won the WWF Title from Yokozuna in the main event. Bret and Owen had another good match at SummerSlam 1994. The Hitman lost the title to Bob Backlund at Survivor Series 1994 when Owen convinced Helen Hart to throw in the towel. He challenged Diesel for the title in a very good match at Royal Rumble 1995. He had a rematch with Baklund at WrestleMania XI, and resumed his feud with Lawler in a Kiss My Foot Match at King of the Ring and then defeated Lawler’s dentist Isaac Yankem at SummerSlam 1995. Hart regained the WWF title at Survivor Series 1995 in a great match but then lost the title to Michaels in an Ironman match at WrestleMania XII. Hart would take some time off, before returning to feud with Steve Austin and defeat him in a excellent match at Survivor Series 1996. Bret began showing heel tendencies during this time, and executed a double-turn in his match with Austin at WrestleMania 13, a bout that many consider to be the best WWE match ever. Hart’s heel turn was unique as he was a beloved babyface in Canada and a hated heel in the US. He would then form the Hart Foundation with Owen, Neidhart, Bulldog and Brian Pillman. The Hart Foundation feud with Austin and others was white-hot through 1997, with the main event of IYH: Canadian Stampede being particularly insane. Bret won the WWF Title again at SummerSlam 1997 when Michaels accidentally hit Undertaker with a chair. Hart would feud with the Patriot during the fall of 1997 and at Survivor Series 1997, Hart lost the WWF title to Michaels in the famous Montreal Screwjob. Hart is a two-time King of the Ring, Royal Rumble winner, a two-time WWF Tag Team Champion, a two-time IC Champion and a World Heavyweight Champion.
Promos/Character: The Hitman character had a memorable look with his mirrored shades, pink and black attire and leather jacket. He was a no-nonsense wrestler relying on his Excellence of Execution. Despite claiming to be The Best There Is, The Best There Was and the Best There Ever Will Be, he wasn’t the greatest promo early in his career, but he did incredible promo work in 1997 during the Hart Foundation angle, playing a heel in the US and a babyface in Canada. He also performed excellent character work before, during and immediately after his match with Austin at WrestleMania 13 to execute the double turn.
Workrate: Bret leveraged the “Excellence of Execution” to have very good matches with nearly all opponents, using a realistic technical style. He carried the Hart Foundation to good matches with many tag teams of the time including the British Bulldogs, Killer Bees, Demolition, Strike Force, the Rockers and the Brain Busters. The IC Title win against Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991 is excellent and his match with Piper for the IC Title at WrestleMania VIII is very good and a great moment. The 1992 SummerSlam match with Bulldog is a great carry job by Bret and an excellent match. The 1992 Survivor Series match with Shawn was very good as was the 1993 Rumble match with Razor. Bret put on a great performance at KOTR 1993 and the Mr. Perfect match is a classic. The Owen/Bret match is one of the best matches in WrestleMania and company history and the cage match at SummerSlam 1994 is good, with unique psychology of attempting to escape the cage. The match with Backlund at Survivor Series 1994 had good storytelling. He had good matches with Diesel, with the 1995 Survivor Series match being excellent. The match with British Bulldog at the December 1995 IYH was great. The match with Austin at Survivor Series 1996 is excellent and their WrestleMania 13 rematch is a strong contender for the greatest match in company history The main event of Canadian Stampede is a classic and features one of the most molten crowds you will ever hear. The Survivor Series 1997 match with Michaels is good before the screwjob ending.
Staff Thoughts: The Best There Is, The Best There Was and the Best There Ever Will Be is the fourth wrestler to appear on every ballot. During his tremendous WWF career he carried the ball during some tough times for the company in the wake of the steroid scandal and during a creative slump when interest in the product was low. The fans always believed in Bret, certainly more than the company seemingly did at times. He had a tremendous tag team run with the Hart Foundation, an IC Title run with classic matches with Mr. Perfect, British Bulldog and others and a top notch main event run. His matches with Owen and Austin at WrestleMania are some of the best in company history. The Hart Foundation vs. America angle was tremendous and some of the best work of Bret’s career, before the Montreal Screwjob sent him to WCW and doomed us all to the screwjob finish becoming a regular thing. To hear the guys talk more about Bret check out this FYC podcast or this Making the Cut.
From the Voters: “Bret does not look happy in that picture. Rewatching a ton of 93-97 WWF and Bret’s stock is going through the roof. I think he is the best offensive American wrestler ever. He is the God King of face vs face matches, which is probably the most difficult match structure to pull off. He was honestly the best babyface and heel simultaneously in WWF because he had to wrestle so many face vs face matches. The tag work leaves something to be desired. That main event run is pretty damn sweet. He was the heir to Jack Brisco. He would have made for an amazing NWA touring champion in the 90s if there was such a thing.” – Martin Boulevard, May 29, 2017
“In my top 5, easily. Great work-rate made up for his deficiencies on the microphone. Great matches with Curt Hennig, British Bulldog, and even 123 Kid. Also have to mention his matches with Stone Cold, Owen, and Undertaker. Hell, I’ll even go out on a limb and put Bret Hart as my number 1.” – Boyce Antrim, May 30, 2017
“Bret’s going to be a top 10 guy for sure for me. The question for me is, where does he fall, likely in that 5-7 range. Too many great matches, one of the best and most nuanced heel turns in company history. Wrestled in the best match I have ever witnessed live. I’m thinking 5 for right now.” – David Mann, May 31, 2017
4. John Cena
Total Points: 12,007
Total Ballots: 117
Average Rank: 7
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 87
First Place Votes: 14
High Voter: Devon Hales; Kris Zellner; JF Vallee; Martin Boulevard; Patrick Fenton; Boss Rock; Dylan Hales; Dave Musgrave; Steve Williams; James Proffitt; Stacey O’Loughlin; Dean Coles; Steven Graham; Steven Riddle
Nuance: John Cena debuted in 2002 and is still going strong, notching 15 years and running to his name. He actually was a heel early in his run but has primarily been a babyface during his time with the company. He has mainly been a singles star, but has had notable tag teams with Shawn Michaels, Batista, Miz and David Otunga. Cena has a star power that no other wrestler of his era has and his charisma combined with unique fan reactions add a lot to many of his matches.
Jump Up Moments: Cena debuted answering Kurt Angle’s gold medal challenge in 2002 as a white meat babyface. After dressing as Vanilla Ice, he took on a rapper character with an edge, and challenged WWF Champion Brock Lesnar at Backlash 2003. He would later challenge other stars like Eddie Guerrero and he gained momentum as a member of Team Angle at Survivor Series 2003. He won the US Title at WrestleMania XX and defeated Booker T in a best of five series, culminating at No Mercy 2004. Cena won his first WWE Title against JBL at WrestleMania 21, and the rematch at Judgment Day 2005 in a great “I Quit” match. He then moved to Raw and feuded with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle in feuds that were the start of the mixed fan reactions that would come to define Cena. In 2006, he lost the title when Edge cashed in his MITB before regaining it at Royal Rumble. He successfully defended his title at WrestleMania 22 against Triple H but then lost the title to Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand 2006 in front of a rabid crowd. Cena eventually won the belt back from Edge in a very good TLC match at Unforgiven 2006. In 2007, he faced Umaga at New Year’s Revolution and the Royal Rumble, the latter of which was a true classic. He faced Shawn Michaels in a very good match on Raw and at WrestleMania 23 and kept the title for most of 2007, before injury caused him to be stripped, ending the longest reign in 19 years. Cena won the 2008 Royal Rumble as a surprise entrant, and was added to the WWE championship match at WrestleMania XXIV against Triple H and Randy Orton. He won the Tag Titles with Batista before facing him at SummerSlam 2008. He would defeated Chris Jericho for his first World Heavyweight Title at Survivor Series 2008, before losing it to Edge at No Way Out. Cena regained the title at WrestleMania XXV and he would feud with Randy Orton, trading the title back and forth throughout much of 2009. Cena feuded with Batista at WrestleMania XXVI, Extreme Rules and Over the Limit 2010. He would feud with the Nexus in late 2010, before facing The Miz in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, losing after interference from the Rock, setting up their match at WrestleMania XXVIII. Cena then feuded with CM Punk having great matches at MITB and SummerSlam 2011. The match with Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII was a great moment and he then faced the returning Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012 in an excellent match. Cena won the 2013 Royal Rumble, then had a very good six-man match against the Shield at Elimination Chamber before winning the WWE Championship from the Rock at WrestleMania 29. He lost the WWE Title to Daniel Bryan in a legendary match at SummerSlam 2013. At MITB 2014, Cena won his 15th World Championship, before getting squashed by Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014. Team Cena defeated Team Authority at Survivor Series 2014 causing the disbanding of the Authority. He faced Lesnar and Seth Rollins in an excellent three-way match at Royal Rumble 2015 and faced Rusev at Fastlane and won the US Title in a rematch at WrestleMania 31, leading to a series of US Open challenge matches. He faced Rusev in rematches at Extreme Rules and Payback before feuding with Kevin Owens at Elimination Chamber, MITB and Battleground 2015. He lost the US Title to Rollins in a Winner Take All match at SummerSlam before regaining it at Night of Champions then losing it to Alberto Del Rio at HIAC 2015. Cena then took a hiatus, returning at WrestleMania 32 helping the Rock fend off the Wyatt Family. He would return to in-ring competition against AJ Styles at Money in the Bank 2016 in a good match and the two would have an even better match at SummerSlam 2016. Cena had a great match with Styles and Dean Ambrose at No Mercy and faced Styles in a match of the year contender at Royal Rumble 2017, winning the title and tying Ric Flair for the most reigns of all time. He lost the title at Elimination Chamber and began feuding with the Miz, including a mixed tag match with Nikki Bella against Miz and Maryse at WrestleMania 33. He would then take a hiatus, but upon his return he had a very good match with Roman Reigns at No Mercy 2017. Cena is a two-time Royal Rumble winner, a MITB winner, a two-time World Tag Team Champion, a two-time WWE Tag Team Champion, a five-time US Champion, a three-time World Heavyweight Champion and a 13-time WWE Champion.
Promos/Character: Cena is a mixed bag as a promo, as he’s certainly capable of delivering good promos, and he began getting over so many years ago due to the edge he showed in his rap battles. Since that time, he too often cuts goofy joke promos. Cena is one of the best at the current promo style, but that style doesn’t always resonate with a large portion of the fanbase. His character has been the superman babyface and has taken many turns that don’t always ring true, like as a saluting marine, for example. That said, he really is loved by some fans, notably kids, and his polarizing reactions have added quite a bit of atmosphere to many of his big matches and moments. That split reaction defines Cena’s character as much as anything, and he has used it to his advantage, for example at MITB 2011 and ONS 2006.
Workrate: Cena’s a top-notch worker, which showed up in his debut match against Angle. The bloodbath in the “I Quit” match against JBL is very good. His matches against Edge in 2006 are all good, especially the TLC match at Unforgiven. The RVD match at One Night Stand 2006 is great for the atmosphere alone. The New Year’s Revolution 2007 with Umaga was very good and their rematch at Royal Rumble is an all-time great, one of the best title matches ever. He even got decent matches out of Great Khali in 2007. The three matches with Batista in 2010 were all good. The MITB match with CM Punk in 2011 is an all-time great match and angle and the rematch at SummerSlam is quite good too. His first match with Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII was driven by an electric atmosphere featuring two huge stars of different eras. The Extreme Rules 2012 match with Lesnar is fantastic. Cena was in the very good six-man against the Shield at Elimination Chamber 2013. His SummerSlam 2013 match against Bryan is a classic and the three way match at Royal Rumble 2015 is great. He had memorable matches during the US Open challenges with Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and others. Cena has had classic matches with AJ Styles at SummerSlam 2016 and Royal Rumble 2017, both match of the year contenders. The Roman Reigns match at No Mercy 2017 was great and felt like a torch-passing match and moment.
Staff Thoughts: Cena’s the most decorated champion the WWE’s ever had and he’s been the chosen one for the company for a decade and a half. His character may or may not hit with you, but his ring work has been top-notch, quieting bullshit about him not being able to wrestle. His list of great matches is too long to list, but the Umaga match at Royal Rumble 2007, Punk match at MITB 2011, the Lesnar Extreme Rules match, the Bryan SummerSlam match and SummerSlam and Royal Rumble matches with AJ Styles are all-time classics. He’s a huge wrestling star and becoming a bigger mainstream star by the day as well. This all shows that while it’s fun to chant “John Cena SUCKS” in time with the music, nothing could be further from the truth. To hear the guys talk about Cena check out this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “Lay up top 20. Where he lands in that 20 remains to be seen. Not called Big Match John for nothing. Much like the Warrior, saved his best stuff for the bright lights. Can wrestle with anyone from Daniel Bryan to the Great Khali. He is decent on the mic and those boos are out of respect. If no one liked him, they would be quiet.” – Jeffrey Thomas, May 30, 2017
“Top 5. Has a chance to be my #1. One of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. The comedy promos during 2010-2012 PG Era can be bad but otherwise an all-time great promo too. Isn’t a naturally gifted athlete or all that impressive with his mannerisms but his work ethic may be unmatched. Has classics every year dating back to 2005.” – Devon Motivator Hales, May 30, 2017
“He’s also my working #1, for all the obvious reasons, and he’ll definitely be #2 at absolute worst for me. He has the total package, body of work, peak stuff, little stuff, intangibles, promos, overness, longevity, everything you’d ever want out of a WWE ace. I don’t think anyone else combines being an important top guy to WWE with actual workrate and matches as well as he does.” – Stacey O’Loughlin, May 30, 2017
3. Hulk Hogan
Total Points: 12,359
Total Ballots: 115
Average Rank: 5.5
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 100
First Place Votes: 26
High Voter: Brad W; Jesse; Glenn Butler; Ray Miller; Matthew Mehnert; Chad Campbell; Scott Butler; J.A. D’Amato; Matt Ferrell; Blaise Perrone; Karl Grant; Edwin Ortiz Jr.; Brian Scala; Chris Jordan; Sean Fluharty; Tyler Kelley; Ben Morse; Tim Tetreault; Sean; Steve Bennett; Rick Willard; Greg Diener; Troy Brostrom; James Derbyshire; Eric Boyd; Mike Rudh
Nuance: Hulk Hogan’s charisma and presence were custom-fit for the babyface that Vince McMahon, Jr. needed to take the WWF national, and the rest is history. His intangibles are off the charts, with his very name being synonymous with pro wrestling for a generation of fans. Hogan fills the longevity requirements with a decade long signature run supplemented by an earlier run of about a year and several sporadic returns that add up to another couple years. He was a heel in the 1979-80 run and he returned in 2002 as a heel in name only with the New World Order, but spent the rest of his time with the WWF/E as a babyface. He had signature tag teams with Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake and Edge, as well as being a top singles star during the majority of his time with the company.
Jump Up Moments: Hogan had a run as a heel in 1979-80 and had notable matches against Bob Backlund and Andre the Giant. He returned and quickly won the WWF Title from the Iron Sheik on January 23, 1984. Hogan faced Rowdy Roddy Piper at the War to Settle the Score, airing on MTV and their manic promos, larger than life personalities and wild brawling ushered in a new era of wrestling to fans seeing the product for the first time. The two would continue their feud main eventing the first WrestleMania with Hogan teaming with Mr. T, a major TV and movie star of the time. He main evented WrestleMania 2 in a steel cage match against King Kong Bundy and then battled Andre the Giant, drawing between 93,000 and 78,000 fans (depending on whether or not you work for WWE) to the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III. His feud with Andre continued with the controversial loss airing on prime-time network TV at the Main Event. That led to the title being vacated and the tournament at WrestleMania IV, where Hogan and Andre fought to a double-countout. Hogan then joined forces with the “Macho Man” Randy Savage as the Mega Powers, main eventing the first SummerSlam against Andre and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase in a fun match. The MegaPowers would then explode in a classic angle and good match main eventing WrestleMania V. He won the 1990 Royal Rumble before facing the Ultimate Warrior in a title vs. title match at WrestleMania VI, in a match much better than anyone expected. He got crushed by Earthquake before returning at SummerSlam 1990 where he defeated the monster by countout. Hogan won the 1991 Royal Rumble going on to win the WWF Title from Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter in another very good match at WrestleMania VII. In late 1991, he faced Ric Flair in a series of house show matches, before losing the title to the Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991 and regaining it at This Tuesday in Texas. Flair interfered in both matches, causing the title to be on the line at the 1992 Royal Rumble where Sid Justice eliminated Hogan, before Hogan pulled out Justice drawing boos from the fans. Hogan faced Justice at WrestleMania VIII, before taking a leave of absence during the steroid trials. He returned to team with Brutus Beefcake as the Mega-Maniacs losing to Money, Inc. at WrestleMania IX. Hogan would later come to Bret Hart’s aid and accept a challenge from Mr. Fuji to face Yokozuna, and he won the WWF Title again. Hogan would lose the title at the 1993 King of the Ring to Yokozuna before leaving the company until 2002. Hogan returned as his “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan character, leader of the NWO in 2002, facing the Rock at WrestleMania X8 in a classic match with the crowd cheering Hogan wildly. This led to a post-match face turn and Hogan winning his sixth WWF Title at Backlash 2002. He remained in the main event scene, battling Undertaker and Kurt Angle before teaming with Edge to win the WWE Tag Team Titles on the July 4 episode of SmackDown. He lost to Brock Lesnar, passing out in his bearhug. In 2003, he battled Vince McMahon in a crazy brawl at WrestleMania XIX, and he began appearing as “Mr. America” afterward. Hogan returned in 2005, feuding with Shawn Michaels resulting in a very fun match at SummerSlam. Hogan would also face Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2006. He would later host WrestleMania XXX having an icon moment in the *Silverdome* with the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hogan is a two-time Royal Rumble winner, WWE Tag Team Champion and six-time WWF/E World Heavyweight Champion.
Promos/Character: “Well, ya know brother, whatcha gonna do when Real American plays, and the Hulkster brings those 24-inch pythons to the ring, rips off that red and yellow tank top. With all my little Hulkamaniacs training, saying their prayers, eating their vitamins, Hulkamania is going to run wild on you.” Everything in that previous sentence is iconic and the match hasn’t started yet. He delivered his promos with a manic passion that you couldn’t ignore and when he talked, you couldn’t look away. His promos were formulaic, but they worked, as did his angles and matches. Once the Hulkster dropped that big leg for the 1-2-3 brother, you better believe he was going to pose and cup that ear, soaking in the roar of the Hulkamaniacs.
Workrate: The Hulkster gets a bad rap as a worker, but he had very good matches, particularly early in his career. He had good matches on SNME with Bob Orton, Paul Orndorff and Terry Funk to name a few and his feud with Kamala is very well regarded. The MegaPowers vs. MegaBucks match at the first SummerSlam is a very good, fun match. The Savage match at WrestleMania V is strong, and the match against the Ultimate Warrior a year later is a classic. He had a very good cage match against the Big Bossman on SNME airing in May 1989. The WrestleMania VII match against Slaughter is very good, regardless of your thoughts on the angle. His match against the Rock at WrestleMania X8 is a classic thanks in large part to the crowd reactions, but also due to the charisma of both participants. The match with Vince at WrestleMania XIX is a great chaotic brawl. The SummerSlam match against Michaels is known for Shawn’s crazy bumps, but it’s a really fun and solid match, too.
Staff Thoughts: “When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside…” and the roof blows off the damn building when that music hit, for the majority of a decade and for any return since. Without Hogan, are we making a list like this? Or are we having a WWF regional list and a Mid-South list, and a Mid-Atlantic list and so on and so on? There’s no real answer and maybe someone else would’ve taken the reigns, but we can’t picture anyone else having the success Hogan did. Hogan was not just one of the greatest characters in wrestling in the 1980s, he was one of the greatest characters in pop culture in the 1980s. He very much encapsulated that era in his promos, in his larger than life persona and in the energy he brought to everything he did. In the 1980s you knew you were a big star if you appeared on the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling cartoon, but it was named after Hulk Hogan, leaving no doubt who was the biggest star of all. At times his ring work could be formulaic, but at other times he was a helluva good worker. And even the formula matches still sent the crowd home happy. The WrestleMania III match is no workrate classic, but that angle, that event and that crowd set the template for big main events to come. And Hogan’s charisma made matches better with the Ultimate Warrior and Rock WrestleMania matches coming to mind. To hear more about Thunderlips, check out this FYC podcast while enjoying a nice meal from Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania.
From the Voters: “Without him, there might not BE a WWE. Underrated worker as well. Understood (and understands) how to work a crowd maybe better than anybody.” – Ben Morse, May 29, 2017
“The face of the man who is arguably the reason we are having this conversation right now. Many of his Wrestlemania main events are a little underappreciated. I actually enjoy the cage match against Bundy.” – Wil Gertler, May 30, 2017
“Has to be in the discussion for number one. Kind of an underrated worker. Sure there was a formula but the audience was rabid for him every step of the way. Isn’t that the point of wrestling?” – Aaron George, May 29, 2017
2. Steve Austin
Total Points: 12,527
Total Ballots: 116
Average Rank: 4.3
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 20
First Place Votes: 15
High Voter: Lou Spadone; Trent Williams; Ben Halbur; Eric Vejnovich; Steve; Ryan Gray; Jeremy Ray; Jason Hartman; Tony Jurkas; Chris Crane; Vince Male; Mr. P; Jake Imm; Kevin E. Pittack; Owen Waite
Nuance: Steve Austin had a seven-year run as an active participant with some time missed for injuries so he’s about average on longevity, though his peak is shorter than many other top stars. He played both a heel and a babyface, primarily as a singles star, but he had tag team success with Shawn Michaels, Dude Love, Undertaker and Triple H. Austin was a master of facial expressions and body language to add to his matches, promos and segments. He focused on little things and could give incredibly nuanced performances. Austin’s presence and incredible connection to the crowd added more meaning to nearly all his matches, promos and segments.
Jump Up Moments: Austin debuted as the Ringmaster as part of the Million Dollar Corporation, before quickly taking the Stone Cold moniker, which he found more success with. He feuded with Savio Vega losing a Caribbean strap match at IYH: Beware of Dog, causing Ted DiBiase to be forced out as Austin’s manager. Austin would later say he lost the match intentionally to forge his own way. Stone Cold won the 1996 King of the Ring, last defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts, cutting his iconic Austin 3:16 promo after his victory. Austin began showing his ruthless side, turning on friend Brian Pillman and breaking his ankle with a steel chair in a move that came to be known as “Pillmanizing”. He would also travel to Pillman’s house in the infamous “Pillman’s Got a Gun” segment of Raw. Stone Cold began challenging and taunting Bret Hart, who was taking time off, but returned to battle Austin in an excellent match at Survivor Series 1996. At the 1997 Royal Rumble, Austin showed his star power, often looking at his “watch” while waiting for competition before having a great reaction when Hart arrived. Hart eliminated Austin but the referee didn’t see the elimination, so Austin reentered the match and won it. The results were held up, causing a match between Austin, Hart, Vader and Undertaker at Final Four for the WWF Title. Austin continued his feud with Hart, leading to a match at WrestleMania 13 where Hart defeated Austin and the two executed a perfect double-turn in a fantastic match. Austin challenged Undertaker for the WWF title at Cold Day in Hell after he had injured Hart’s leg in a street fight on Raw. He also teamed with Shawn Michaels to defeat Owen Hart and the British Bulldog for the WWF Tag Team Titles, and later won them with Dude Love in very good matches on Raw. He also had a great match with Michaels at the 1997 King of the Ring. Austin was part of the ten man tag match that main evented Canadian Stampede, where he was a hated heel and the Hart Foundation were heroes in front of the Calgary crowd. Austin faced Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997 in a very good match, before a botched piledriver broke Austin’s neck. He relinquished the IC and Tag Titles and attacked Owen at a Raw in MSG, followed by giving Vince McMahon the first of many Stone Cold Stunners. Austin regained the IC Title from Owen at Survivor Series 1997, before moving on to a feud with the Rock that saw Austin throw the IC Title into a New Hampshire river. Stone Cold won the 1998 Royal Rumble and set his sights on the WWF Title, which he won from Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV. The Austin/McMahon feud then took center stage, with Austin choosing to do things the hard way rather than the easy way, hitting Vince in the stones and giving out more Stunners. Dude Love became a substitute for McMahon, and challenged for the WWF Title at Unforgiven and Over the Edge 1998. Austin lost the title to Kane at the 1998 King of the Ring in a first blood match, but won it back the next night on Raw before taking to the Highway to Hell to face the Undertaker at SummerSlam 1998. He continued feuding with Kane and Undertaker, and the title wound up being held up and awarded to the winner of the Survivor Series 1998 Deadly Games tournament. Austin finished second in the 1999 Royal Rumble, but defeated McMahon in a steel cage match at St. Valentine’s Massacre, winning the right to face WWF champion the Rock at WrestleMania XV. Austin continued feuding with McMahon throughout most of 1999, and at various points during their feud he gave McMahon a beer bath, kidnapped him firing a gun with a flag that said Bang 3:16 causing McMahon to piss his pants and various other memorable moments. Austin was run over prior to the Survivor Series 1999 main event giving him time off to deal with an injured neck. In late 2000, Austin returned and faced Rikishi, who ran him over at Survivor Series, before turning his attention to Triple H, who was the mastermind all along. Austin won his third Royal Rumble in 2001 and then faced Triple H in a Three Stages of Hell match at No Way Out 2001. Stone Cold won the WWF Title at WrestleMania X7 in a great match against the Rock, turning heel in the process. He then formed the Two Man Power Trip with Triple H, winning the Tag Team Titles and having a great match with Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho on Raw. During the Invasion, Austin joined the Alliance, turning on Team WWF during the main event of the Invasion PPV. Austin would then feud with Kurt Angle, having an all-time great match at SummerSlam 2001, losing the title to Angle at No Mercy in another good match, before winning it back on Raw. The Alliance was defeated at Survivor Series 2001 and Austin turned babyface the night after Survivor Series and challenged for the Undisputed Title at Vengeance 2001, losing to Chris Jericho. He would also feud with Booker T during this time, including the famous supermarket brawl. Austin challenged Jericho for the Undisputed Title at No Way Out 2002, before taking on Scott Hall at WrestleMania X8. Creative differences and other issues led to Austin missing much of 2002, returning in early 2003. He face the Rock at WrestleMania XIX in his last match for the company. He would appear as Sheriff Austin and other authority figure roles, and is still a popular guest referee or special guest. Austin is a King of the Ring, a three-time Royal Rumble winner, a four-time WWF Tag Team Champion, a two-time IC Champion and a six-time WWF Champion.
Promos/Character: “You talk about your Psalms, you talk about your John 3:16, well Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” And with that one promo countless black and white Austin 3:16 T-shirts were sold. That’s a money promo. While Austin 3:16 is his most famous promo, Stone Cold could be counted on week in and week out to deliver the goods on the stick to deliver promos that both advanced the storyline and electrified the crowd. If you want to hear more give me a hell yeah! OK, his interactions with Vince McMahon helped turn the company around and win the Monday Night Wars, and almost all of that was done through promos and character work, due to McMahon’s limitations inside the ring. Stone Cold’s connection with the crowd as the everyman anti-hero was something that hadn’t been seen before and maybe no one has had as strong a connection since. Giving your boss the double bird before kicking his ass and celebrating by chugging beers is something that resonated with a large portion of the audience that would like to do the same thing. It was wrestling as escapism from real life and it hit big time with the crowd. His later comedy work with Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon and the Alliance was excellent, as well. When it came to character and promo work, Austin could do it all. And that’s the bottom line, ‘cuz Stone Cold said so!
Workrate: Austin was a tremendous worker when healthy and showed great versatility by becoming more of a brawler when injuries slowed him down. His early matches with Savio Vega were good. Austin’s first great WWF match came against Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1996. The match between Hart and Austin at WrestleMania 13 may be the best match in company history. The double-turn was incredibly well done and moved Austin even further down the road to superstardom. The tag team match with Michaels against Bulldog and Owen, as well as the King of the Ring match with Michaels were very good. The main event of Canadian Stampede was fantastic and Austin did a great job playing a heel. The Over the Edge 1998 match against Dude Love was a great match that told a great story. The Three Stages of Hell match against Triple H was very good. The WrestleMania X7 match against the Rock is one of the best Mania main events in history and the bout on Raw with Triple H against Benoit and Jericho is one of the best matches ever on Raw. Austin’s match against Angle at SummerSlam 2001 is fantastic and on the short list of best matches in SummerSlam history too. The WrestleMania XIX match with the Rock is excellent, particularly considering Austin’s health challenges, and it was a great way to end their feud and Austin’s career in the ring.
Staff Thoughts: No star ever burned brighter or hotter in the WWE Universe than Stone Cold Steve Austin. He burned out too soon, due to injury, personal issues and creative differences, but the impact Austin had during his time is undeniable. During Austin’s time on top, the company reached heights of popularity it had never seen before and seems unlikely to reach anytime soon. You can make a strong argument that he’s involved in two of the greatest feuds in company history against Bret Hart and Vince McMahon. The Hart feud saw all-time great matches and moments, particularly the WrestleMania 13 war. The image of Austin bleeding buckets while trapped in the Sharpshooter before passing out is one of the most iconic images in company history. The McMahon feud featured memorable moments nearly every week on Raw, from Stunners to beer baths to pants pissing. He had an in-ring renaissance in 2001 having one of his best years with classic matches against Triple H, Rock, Angle, Benoit and Jericho. Austin’s one of the best promos and characters the company has ever had, from the Austin 3:16 promo to his beer chugging celebrations and even WHAT! All of this adds up one of the best all-around stars the WWE has ever seen. And all our voters said Hell Yeah! To hear more about what the guys had to say check out this FYC podcast.
From the Voters: “In the conversation for #1, but I think he had a strong case against him. Stretching from 97-03, he’s only got six years on top, and he missed one or two due to injury or pouting fits. Post-SummerSlam 97 Austin completely altered WWF main event style from wrestling to brawling, which lasted until Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and WCW imports like the Radicalz switched it back; that could be an argument for or against, but he was able to hang both ways. Working in his favor, arguably nobody else–maybe Hogan–understood how to maximize their character more successfully. He’s got a cavalcade of great matches against Bret Hart, The Rock, Triple H, Kurt Angle and others. Yes sir, definitely in the discussion…” – Ben Morse, June 5, 2017
“In the conversation for number one. I’m throwing him, Rock, Savage, Shawn and maybe a small handful of others into that category. Could do it all, especially when healthy. Along with the Rock, defined the most mainstream and successful period in company history.” – Greg Phillips, June 5, 2017
“#1 Candidate. His biggest weaknesses are longevity & the propensity to fall under the spell of Attitude Era brawls. Some of those brawls are due to booking, some of it to his lingering injuries. It does hurt him though. Amazing worker in 97 & 01. Arguably the greatest WWE character of all-time. All-time great promo. Of the top 50 or so moments in WWE history he’s probably got about 20 of them. All-time great feuds with Bret/HF, Vince, & Rock. Special wrestler & performer. Once in a lifetime star. Maybe bigger than Hogan at his peak in terms of stardom. Probably had the biggest pops in wrestling history when the sound of breaking glass hit. Top 5 lock.” – Devon Motivator Hales, June 2, 2017
1. Randy Savage
Total Points: 12,544
Total Ballots: 118
Average Rank: 4.9
High Vote: 1
Low Vote: 23
First Place Votes: 24
High Voter: Brian Bayless; ElliottPWO; Pete Schirmacher; Taylor Keahey; Jacob Williams; Ryan Everett; Travis Woloshyn; Matthew Richards; Nikolaj; Darren Hibbert; Todd Weber; Brian Meyer; JT Rozzero; Michael Schoen; Jeff; Justin Webb; Aaron George; Matt Souza; Jamie McGleave; D. Macgregor; Scott Criscuolo; Jason Greenhouse; Alexis; Randy Savage; Robert Hawkins
Nuance: Randy Savage is all nuance. Heel? Check. Face? One of the best in the business. Tag work? They’re called the fucking MEGA Powers. For nearly a decade he captivated audiences with his unparralled intensity. He introduced us to Elizabeth, and to what that male/female act could be. No one moved like him, no one spoke like him, and no one connected to the audience like him. He made you care. Each and every time he was out there. Very few matches were throwaways. They were personal. VERY personal. You always got the impression from Savage that he was a real person. A real person who often wanted to murder his opponents. In a world of cartoon characters and Honky Tonk Men this was by no means an easy feat. He was the Macho Man and he was the God damned best.
Jump Up Moments: His arrival in the promotion was heralded, like the coming of a macho comet. He was desired. Men got in line to plead their case to lead him. In the end, he rejected them all. He rejected the weasels, the loudmouths and the devious men in top hats. He chose HER. He needed her. Perhaps he always had. In them we saw the greatness of madness. He protected her and she helped him reach new heights; opening the ropes for him and always there when he needed her. While warding off animals he began conquering the promotion. First defeating a proud man, to win the first, of what would become many, prizes. The prize obsessed him. For years he needed only to protect her, but now there was gold in his eyes. He fought snakes and old Italian men before seeing a man whose drive rivaled perhaps only his own. He saw the Dragon coming. He lashed out, nearly crippling the red-blooded hero. It mattered not, the Dragon returned, and on the biggest stage conquered HIM. Few had ever looked better in defeat though as he soon found himself embattled with a charlatan with greasy hair and a sequined jump suit. They ganged up on him. Beat him. More importantly though they hurt HER. He needed help. Help came in the form of an immortal friend. Together they formed a power greater than the entire universe. Their handshake shook the foundations of civilization. While he would never conquer the sequined man, he would instead, in one night, banish all the demons of the past year and conquer the entire promotion. Things were good. He and his friend were battling the forces of evil, toppling giants and destroying the corrupt. SHE was with them. However when he looked at his new friend he no longer saw support, instead it was replaced with something more sinister. He saw a fleeting touch, a loving embrace… he saw LUST IN THE EYES. His friend had turned on him, and now not only wanted the championship, but he wanted a greater prize; he wanted HER. They battled and HE was toppled. He fought back. Finding new allies in a witch and a would be god, but it was no use. His friend had won. The title, the girl, everything. He spiraled, becoming royalty but never feeling full. He chased dreams. He beat dreams. He aided in stealing Dream’s African-American friend with benefits. It still wasn’t enough. He needed to reclaim the Ultimate prize that was once his. Now held within the clutches of a mighty Warrior, he requested a chance to, once again, prove his worth. When rejected he took matters into his own hands. In an explosion of rubies and gold he took what was most dear from the Warrior, and ultimately, set himself on a path from which he would not return. He fought he Warrior, valiantly, with his entire existence on the line, and lost. Crushed he laid in the ring, a broken and defeated man. The witch was irate, she began beating him. She degraded him. His salvation came through in a familiar face. It was her. She rid the ring of the witch and stood before the man she once loved. In this moment it became crystal clear that their love hadn’t passed. They embraced, reconciling and once again becoming whole. His obsession had driven her away but now they were together, in love, this time for good. She opened the ropes for him, they would leave and begin their new lives together. He stopped. This time HE would hold the ropes. HE would honor HER. This time would be different. He had grown, he had learned. As she left the ring he took a moment to say goodbye, and the tears of joy were as loud as the cheers. He was loved again.
They were happy; got married, but there’s always a snake in the grass, waiting to snuff out happiness. The snake ruined the wedding, the snake attacked whenever he could. The snake brought a 15 foot king cobra in the ring and made it literally bite HIM while tears streamed down the face of the child clad in the HULK RULES shirt. He had tried to leave, but now he was back FIGHTING the snake. Trying to KILL the snake. The snake fell but a different kind of snake emerged in the aftermath. One who claimed that he had had HER. What ensued was a hated filled encounter during which HE once again conquered the promotion. Jealousy and madness had led to his demise, love brought him back and now it once again brought him the Ultimate prize.
Then some douchebag friend of his got all pissy because he didn’t visit him in the hospital enough.
Promos/Character: Fair to say he is easily one of the best talkers in company history. He made a promo with a cup of cream work for Christ’s sake. He always felt real. Go back and watch the promo where he talks about what he’s going to do to Crush. It’s quiet, seething and outright scary. Things affected him. He BLAMED HIMSELF for Elizabeth getting slapped, he WAS ALWAYS NUMBER THREE IN THE MEGA POWERS, every word out of his mouth made sense for his character and was delivered in a way which pushed his storylines forward. He was believable. With. That. Voice. He could do it all on the mic and then some. Modern performers should take note of how he understood the basic rules of television blocking and then purposefully broke them for effect.
Workrate: Crisp, efficient worker. Everything was smooth and realistic. His jabs were tremendous, and he rarely meandered as he climbed to the top rope for his trademark stuff. You could go on and on about his offense, but his selling is truly spectacular. He sold a damn leg injury for the better part of 1992 and never once came off hokey for it. Some may give him flack or knock him for planning out his matches in advance, but once certainly can’t argue the results. Even Ricky Steamboat, who HATED it at the time, can’t fault the system that gave him one of the greatest matches of his career.
Staff Thoughts: Is there anything in the realm of professional wrestling that Randy Savage didn’t excel at? He was a tremendous worker, a top-tier promo and always had the audience in the palm of his hand. He was Mr. WrestleMania before it was a thing. His entire career was essentially one big storyline! That wasn’t due to Pat Patterson sitting by Vince’s pool and plotting out a six year arc. That was Randy Savage being zoned in to his character and meticulously laying out every detail. No one had that type of focus or commitment before, and no one has had it since. You cared about every minute he was on screen. Even when he was in there with George “Mine” Steele. Perhaps his greatest skill though was eliciting an emotional response from the audience. You can sell out the Garden, you can spawn a nationwide mania, you can kick the crap out of your boss every week or you can declare yourself HERE every show but those all pale in comparison to making that guy in the green cowboy hat weep at WrestleMania VII. Randy Savage had it all and the business is better for having had him. He elevated the art form and is still inspiring countless generations to follow in his footsteps. It’s with great pride, and a tear in my eye that we declare that, in this moment in time and with this very specific set of parameters, “Macho Man” Randy Savage is the greatest wrestler in WWE history.
From the Voters: “Short list of guys that could be number one, wont fall out of the top 10. To me, he is the posterboy of 80s WWE. I know Hogan was the draw and all that, but for me Savagerepresented ALL that wrestling was (in ring, out of ring, etc). He was exceptionally well rounded and stole than his fair share of big shows. He also excelled on Saturday Night’s main event. He has a number of quality matches from that show that helped carry WWE TV and I think added a lot of credibility to both the IC and World title.” – Matthew Richards, June 2, 2017
“GOAT candidate, though I’ll argue against him as number one on a WWF list simply because he was never given the ball long enough to run with it. All-time great character who transcended wrestling and infiltrated pop culture. His good matches were great and his bad matches were still pretty good. Maybe had the best match ever against Steamboat. Had classics with Tito, Hogan, Warrior, Flair and others. If he had been handed the reins of the company at either Mania V or VI, this wouldn’t even be a discussion, but he spent too long in Hogan’s shadow.” – Ben Morse, June 6, 2017
“I just wanted to also add I am wearing my Macho Man t-shirt today and have got at least half a dozen comments on it. If that doesn’t warrant Top 10 placement, what does?” – David Mann, June 8, 2017