I've been a fan of professional wrestling for over three decades. Over thirty years of people saying "you know it's fake" and other ridiculous things. I cannot tell you how many times I had to tell people I knew it was fake. I suppose I realized it by about 8 years old. It never changed my love for the sport.
This list of the 10 greatest professional wrestler of all time is based solely on my opinions. I suppose bonus points will be given to those I actually watched. Since I never watched Frank Gotch, for example, it's quite hard for me to really rank him. Still, I will do my best. I may as well come clean...I wasn't a WWE fan growing up. I preferred the NWA/WCW. Come to think of it, most young fans probably don't even realize there was an alternative to the WWE. Oh well. I'd like to think my list is based solely on legitimate, logical data and not wishful thinking. Let's start out with #10 on the list of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
Â· Ring Skill: Pure talent in the ring.
Â· Microphone Skills: It's incredibly important today, but always has been important.
Â· Titles Held: Major accomplishments in the ring.
Â· Longevity: You can't be among the best if you didn't have staying power.
Â· The Sniff Test: If you smell like a Hall of Famer, you are.
Â· Crowd Pop: The good ones could make them cheer or boo loudly.
Â· NOTE: All criteria will be given the old fudge factor. For example: Hulk Hogan couldn't wrestle a bit, but I'd be a fool if he didn't make the list.
#10 â The Undertaker:
I'm not sure how long time fans will feel about this one. The Undertaker is one of the best performing big men in the game. He can work a microphone and get a crowd pop like no other. He's held the World or WWE title 7 times. He has been among the best in the business for two decades. His undefeated streak at Wrestlemania is amazing. No others will ever match it. He belongs on the list of the 10 greatest wrestlers of all time.
#9 â Bruno Sammartino
It's hard to argue with a 7 year, 8 month WWE World Title reign. In addition, his second World Title reign lasted almost 3 1/2 years. The fans loved Bruno Sammartino. He could really bring a crowd to its feet and make them cheer like no other. He was the man of the East Coast during the 60's and 70's. His place in history is secure. He belongs on the list of the 10 greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
#8 â Harley Race:
I may get flamed for this one. Harley Race won 7 NWA World Titles during a time that few men repeated as champion. He could work in the ring like few others before him. Not only could you make the case for him as one of the 10 greatest wrestlers of all time, but you could also put him on the list of top 50 or so, tag teams (with Larry Hennig). I know few people would have him so high on the list, but I think he belongs. I hope you will agree.
# 7 â Shawn Michaels
You can call me a prisoner of the moment, since HBK just lost to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26, but I cannot help but to admire his career. I wasn't going to include him, but just had to. It all started for HBK in the AWA during the mid 80's. His ring skills, microphone skills, longevity, and fan pop cannot be denied. He ruled the PWI Match of the Year Awards throughout his career. Had he not retired for a couple years while in his prime, there's no telling how much he would have accomplished. Flame me if you want and call me a prisoner of the moment, but I really think HBK belongs on the top 10 greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
#6 â Stone Cold Steve Austin
At first, I figured Austin would end up in the honorable mention section. Once I thought about just how much he meant to "sports entertainment", I had to put him on the top 10 list of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. You could make a case that the WWE would not be around today if not for Stone Cold. The WWE was losing the Monday night war, and reportedly, was nearly unable to make payroll, before the Stone Cold legend started. Within months, the WWE was whipping WCW in the ratings war. For this reason alone, Austin belongs on the list. He also managed 6 WWE World Titles.
#5 â Nature Boy Buddy Rogers
The original Nature Boy was the first man to hold both the WWF/WWE and NWA/WCW World Titles. While plenty of other men have done it now, the second man to do it, Ric Flair, did it several decades after Rogers. It was unheard of at the time. While I've never actually seen very many matches for Buddy Rogers, I'd be a fool not to include him in a list of the top 10 professional wrestlers of all time.
#4 â Gorgeous George
I wasn't lucky enough to watch a ton of his matches, but I know he belongs on the list of the 10 greatest professional wrestlers of all time. During the late 40's to mid 50's he ruled ratings and box office attendance. He was the first to really capture the essence of the flamboyant, Hollywood blonde type of gimmick. He's a beneficiary of the fudge factor: I've watched few of his matches and he didn't win much for titles. Still, his place in history is secure. He was one of the very best performers ever. He belongs on the top 10 professional wrestlers of all time list.
#3 â Lou Thesz
He was a little before my time, so I'm mostly going on what I've read over the decades. From the very late 40's to early 60's, Lou Thesz ruled the ring like no others before him. He was an NWA guy. He held 6 NWA World Titles. The combined length of his World Title reigns is over 10 years long. Few even have a career that lasts that long. I don't think any list of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time would be complete without Lou Thesz.
#2 â Hulk Hogan:
As a fan, you're either a Hogan guy or a Flair guy. I'm a Flair guy, but it's close. Hogan couldn't work in the ring at all, but man, he could work a microphone and crowd loved him more than any other before him, or after. You could argue that he has done more for the business than any other professional wrestler. I'd be hard pressed to disagree. Still, the lack of in-ring skill, at least for me, makes him the second greatest of all time. I suspect you could ask 100 fans, and half would choose Hogan, half would choose Flair.
#1 â Nature Boy Ric Flair
He's the best ever and the only choice for the top spot on the top 10 greatest professional wrestlers of all time. Nobody could work a microphone like Ric Flair. He could make the fans cheer or boo. In his prime, the mid 80's, he was the best ring performer in the business. According to the WWE, he's a 16 time World Champion. That number, according to others, is anywhere from 18-21, depending on whom you talk to. WCW had two World Champions at one time, part of the variance. The WWE doesn't recognize the WCW International World Titles. In addition, he was also a two time PWI Wrestler of the Decade Award winner (80's and 90's).
These are some of guys you might have on your list, but didn't quite make my top 10 list of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
Â· Triple H: 12 World Titles. Great microphone skills.
Â· Brett Hart: 7 World Titles and in-ring skills second to none.
Â· Sting: One of the most popular of all time. Great skills.
Â· Dusty Rhodes: Legendary microphone skills. 3 time World Champion.
Â· Andre the Giant: Decades without a pinfall or submission defeat.
Â· Kurt Angle: Great performer. Narrowly missed the list.
Â· Bruiser Brody: Major drawing power. Everyone loved to hate him.
Â· The Rock: Popular. Made the transition to movies.
Â· Verne Gagne: 9 time AWA World Champion.
Â· Nick Bockwinkle: Great skills. Five AWA World Titles.
Â· Kevin Nash: Very good microphone skills.
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