Matt’s Top 10 Favorite Wrestlers of All-Time
I’m a huge professional wrestling fan. I talked about my admiration for the sport in my article last week, but this week is all about some of my favorites. Professional wrestling has been around for a long time, and there have been so many wrestlers that it’s very difficult to choose a Top 10 list, so I decided to choose the 10 that influenced me the most. I started watching wrestling shortly after the turn of the century, and while some of the performers that captivated me are still around, most of them are either retired, semi-retired, or have passed away.
Many performers from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s are incredible and are on a Top 25 list of mine, but this list today consists of those superstars that made me fall in love with professional wrestling when I was in my pre-teen and teenage years. Without these 10 performers, I would not be writing this article today or be an entertainer.
So, here we go. These are my Top 10 Favorite Wrestlers of All-Time.
The homicidal, suicidal, genocidal maniac. Those three adjectives completely describe Sabu in a nutshell. While his style was very violent and extreme, he’s an incredible athlete that always had a compelling match. Even later in his career when he faced the likes of John Cena and other non-ECW stars, he showed how he’s a master in the ring and an incredible performer. He introduced me to violent side of wrestling, but he mainly introduced me to how wrestling can be an art form.
#9. Triple H
The King of Kings. The Game. It’s all about him and has been for several years. Triple H always proved to be a great champion, having some of the most incredible runs in history. His entrance is nearly as iconic as that of The Undertaker, and he put his masterful skills on display every night. His in-ring abilities are wonderful, but his abilities on the microphone and in front of the camera are hard to replicate, truly making him the full package. He’s been a staple in the industry ever since I started watching, and now it’s great to see him continue to wrestle and work in the company’s corporate office.
#8 Dean Malenko
One of the greatest technicians to ever step into a ring. His matches with the great Eddie Guerrero are some of my favorites, and Malenko will always be my favorite cruiserweight champion. If you want to see a real wrestling match, any of Malenko’s matches will not disappoint you. Don’t believe me? Go on YouTube and check it out for yourself.
#7. Chris Jericho
While I believe he needs to retire for good because his latest stints in the WWE have been kind of bland, Jericho will forever be the Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rolla for me. His skills on the microphone perfectly mirror his skills in the ring, which allowed him to be one of the first cruiserweights to compete on the highest level (with the heavyweights). Sure, cruiserweights had matches against heavyweights for a long time before then, but the heavyweights usually won within a minute or two. Jericho led the way in showing how a smaller guy could compete on the larger level, earning him the accolade of becoming the very first Undisputed Champion.
#6. Chris Benoit
I won’t talk about the controversy that surrounds this man’s death, but there’s no doubt that Chris Benoit is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. Seriously, watch any of his matches and you’ll notice that you’re completely entertained the entire time. He knows how to sell spots and make them look exceptional; all while performing at a level most wrestlers would love to reach. His story is exceptional and harrowing at the same time. The latter will probably keep him out of the Hall of Fame for a long time, but Chris Benoit made me fall in love with the technical side of wrestling. I always thought actual “wrestling” would be boring to watch. Benoit said different and proved to me why every time he was in between the ropes.
The Animal, who is now in Hollywood just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is one of my favorite powerhouse wrestlers. His sheer ferocity and power made me a fan early on in his career. His “Batista Bomb” is one of my favorite finishers, and he also worked very well in tag teams, espcially with Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton. With some of my favorite title reigns in history, I’ll miss the days where Batista was the top dog and his explosive entrance (which is incredible to experience LIVE by the way). His recent stints in the WWE aren’t anything like his old ones, but that doesn’t change the fact that he strengthened my love for this sport.
#4. Dolph Ziggler
Mr. Show-Off himself. Dolph Ziggler is a former World Champion, but he’s never reached the peak of his potential during his career, in my opinion. There always seems to be something holding him back, keeping his exceptional level of talent at bay. Regardless of that, he’s the only wrestler that I’ve seen week in and week out give 200% of his ability in order to entertain the fans. He’s an excellent performer and wonderful to watch, but I wish he had more title runs throughout his career, which I think is coming to a close soon. He demonstrated to me that even though you may never be the top dog, working hard and performing great are more important at the end of the day.
#3. Randy Orton
The Viper. The Legend Killer. Mr. RKO-Outta-Nowhere himself. Randy Orton has had many character phases and many rivalries, but regardless of who he was facing or who he was stalking, he always held his own during a match and show, demonstrating how much of crowd-pleaser and crowd favorite he is. Whether he’s a bad guy or good guy, the WWE Universe loves this man because of his in-ring ability and overall persona. Orton is so high up on my list because I’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a performer and as a human being. He showed me that even during your darkest times, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and you have to keep striving for it.
#2. Eddie Guerrero
He lies. He cheats. He steals. Eddie Guerrero’s worst matches are still better than most wrestlers’ great matches. That might be a bold statement, but it’s very true and he outperformed every opponent in every match until his untimely death in 2005. Watching Eddie invigorated me with the most love for this business out of anyone on this list. It’s too sad that he’s gone, but my memories of his matches on the grandest and smallest stages will forever be with me. If someone asked the question, “What’s a good match to watch? One that will get me to love wrestling.” I would give them any Eddie Guerrero match, no matter his opponent. (But most likely Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio at Halloween Havoc 1997.)
#1. Shane McMahon
Shane O Mac… I know. I know. Shane isn’t a “wrestler,” but he’s one heck of a performer. He may not have been an in-ring performer for as long as all of the guys on this list, but whenever he stepped between the ropes, the match was completely and utterly entertaining. He’s a normal-looking guy with lots of athleticism that used his unique personality and style to entertain everyone, which is why I looked up to him so much because I always knew I was NEVER going to be a bodybuilder or an INCREDIBLE athlete. I grew up as a slow, chubby kid but had some decent athleticism to go along with it. Shane was just like me (not the strongest, fastest, or most athletic), yet he entertained the crowd with what he had. That’s what I respected and looked up to the most. Shane made me see that I can do anything I want, even though I’m not the best. It’s this way of life that has led me to all of my accomplishments and dreams, including a major aspiration of one day working for the WWE and being an on-air personality. Shane always being the unique dark horse truly is the reason I aspire to be a great entertainer, regardless the medium, until the day I die.
Funny how professional wrestling can be so inspiring, huh? Maybe now it is, but for a fat pre-teen/teenager, most of the time it was all I had. I thank every single one of these guys for making me a believer in myself and for helping me stay positive and follow my dreams. Without professional wrestling, I would’ve never fell in love with storytelling and writing. The WWE’s product might be a bit unimaginative today, but with what they have done in the past, especially with these wrestlers, I’m comfortable in saying that the company will make it back to that point one day, inspiring kids just like they inspired me and raising a new crop of dreamers.