The Greatest Wrestlers of All Time

From the golden age of the ’80s to the sheer carnage of the Attitude Era, here are the true greats of wrestling.

Advertisements

Throughout 2016, nostalgia has been high on the agenda for WWE.  And reached its peak this month with the resurrection of wrestling legend, Goldberg, who faced off against another WWE stalwart, Brock Lesnar, in a titanic clash at Survivor Series.

So, with everyone’s gazes firmly set firmly on the past as the WWE tried to remind us what made Goldberg such an unstoppable wrecking machine in the first place, albeit largely in WCW, it seems the perfect time to roll out the often-divisive “Greatest of All Time” list.

Seeing as the current crop of WWE superstars are hardly living up to the “super” or the “star” in their job titles, I’m delving into the annals of wrestling history to pick out the ten greatest performers.

To minimalise the arguments, this top ten is compiled using a number of factors: actual wrestling ability; sheer popularity; ability to connect with the fans; capability to cut promos; and proficiency at telling a compelling story.

So, without further ado, here we go!

10. Randy Orton

Although by far the youngest wrestler on this list, Orton deserves his place due to the incredible longevity he’s enjoyed in his career despite his relatively young age.

Still only 36, he’s held the WWE Championship/World Heavyweight Championship a staggering 12 times, winning it for the first time at 24 to become the youngest champion in the company’s history.

Orton.jpg

But it’s not just his title reigns that earn him a spot in this list. As a heel, he’s one of the most authentic WWE characters in a hell of a long time. Whether during his Legend Killer run, or as the sly and slippery Viper, Orton knows how to get a crowd to loath him.

Add to all that the fact he has one of the most effective finishing manoeuvres in the business, and you have a genuine contender for the Hall of Fame.

9. Triple H

He might have drawn ire from some quarters for his supposed marrying into the ruling hierarchy, but putting this aside, Triple H has enjoyed a fantastically successful career.

The Cerebral Assassin was not just a terrific singles competitor – winning the WWE/World Heavyweight Championship no fewer than 14 times – he was also behind two of the biggest stables in wrestling history: D-Generation X and Evolution.

HHH.jpg

On top of that, Triple H has competed with many of the WWE’s biggest stars over the years, and has headlined Wrestlemania a record seven times, bringing him equal with Hulk Hogan.

There was absolutely no way he was going to ever miss being on the list.

8. Chris Jericho

In terms of sheer charisma, there are very few performers who can match Chris Jericho. Through tenures in WCW and WWF/E, he’s forged a star-studded career on the back of electric promos and compelling matches.

Not just an excellent performer, Jericho is also a near-flawless wrestler, combining mat skills with impeccable aerial ability. And every kid in the ’90s and ’00s was trying out the Walls of Jericho on his mates.

Jericho 2.jpg

It was testament to his dedication to the art of wrestling that he was chosen to be the first Undisputed Champion back in 2002, beating both The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night.

Whether face or heel (and he was one hell of a heel!), Jericho is a hero, and a perplexingly unsung one at that. A true legend.

7. Sting

Loyalty is the word that springs to mind whenever Sting is mentioned. Even when WCW was being driven into the ground in the final years of the Monday Night Wars, their longest-serving star refused to abandon ship.

An exemplary wrestler, Sting coupled a mysterious presence, akin to that of The Undertaker, with superb technical ability. He could take part in a match with absolutely anyone and make them look fantastic.

Sting.jpg

A six-time WCW Heavyweight Champion, Sting was the face of the company throughout the 1990s, surviving the waves of high-profile superstars that came from rivals WWF to ensure he was still Ted Turner’s most important asset.

Following a stint in TNA later in his career, he finally made his WWE debut and was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame. Whether he made the right call to avoid the calls of Vince McMahon for so long is up for debate, but no matter what, he still goes down as one of the very best.

6. Hulk Hogan

Urging kids to “take their vitamins and say their prayers”, the Hulkster drove the then-WWF to enormous heights of popularity in the ’80s and was the first wrestler to genuinely crossover into the mainstream public eye.

Hulk Hogan is practically synonymous with the wrestling industry, thanks to his tenures in WWE and later in WCW as Hollywood Hogan. From national icon and boyhood idol, to arrogant villainous heel, he was a guaranteed box office hit.

Hogan.jpg

For many, he was the reason they got into wrestling, especially back in the glory days in the 1980s. However, for all his appeal, Hogan wasn’t the most gifted of wrestlers. “Hulk Up”, big boot, leg drop, pin. For the most part, that was literally all he could manage.

Still, despite the notable in-ring limitations, missing his name of the list off all-time greats is about as close to treason as you can get in the wrestling business.

5. Ric Flair

For wrestling fans of a certain generation, it might come as something of a surprise not to see the 16-time world champion higher up this list. Where Hulk Hogan was the face of the WWF in the 1980s, Ric Flair was the face of just about everywhere else.

Travelling the territories, the record World Heavyweight Champion turned regional competitors into wrestling stars, such was he guaranteed to give a scintillating performance every time he stepped inside a wrestling ring.

Flair.jpg

Following his performances in the NWA in the ’80s, Flair continued to establish himself as one of the industry’s top performers throughout the ’90s in WCW and finally in the ’00s in WWE.

Whether he was bellowing “Woo!”, handing out knife-edge chops to everyone in sight or cutting one of his rampant promos, Flair was in a league of his own when it came to having the audience in the palm of his hand.

4. The Rock

When it comes to wrestling stars who have successfully transitioned into pop culture icons, there are none as recognisable as The Rock. Even eschewing his famous moniker for his actual name these days still doesn’t detract from his phenomenal wrestling career.

In terms of charisma, The Rock had no equal. He cut some of the finest promos in the business and holds the record for Raw’s highest ever rating when he and Mick Foley took to the screen to celebrate the Great One’s birthday.

The Rock.png

Inside the ring, The Rock was an athletically-gifted performer, even if he did sell the many Stone Cold stunners he received to within an inch of his life… He knew how to get a crowd to react and he did it with aplomb.

It’s a testimony to his career that he was welcomed so vociferously back into the WWE fold when he returned in 2011 and regained the WWE Championship in front of a new set of fans.

3. The Undertaker

One of WWE’s longest-serving stars, The Undertaker is practically synonymous with longevity. In a captivating career that has thus far spanned three decades, The Deadman is routinely regarded as one of the greatest the business has ever seen.

This is down in no small part to his ability to adapt and re-invent. Over the years, his character has encompassed a mute western mortician, a supernatural dark lord, a badass biker and an amalgamation of all three. No matter what incarnation, The Undertaker has engrossed audiences.

Taker.jpg

Renowned for being an excellent wrestler in spite of his enormous stature, The Undertaker has been involved in his fair share of compelling matches, with his bouts against Shawn Michaels going down as two of the most exciting spectacles in wrestling history.

While he may not have reaped the title gold that the likes of John Cena, The Rock and Randy Orton have accumulated, his legacy has been cemented. There are few superstars with as much presence in the wrestling world as The Undertaker.

2. Shawn Michaels

If you ask many professional wrestlers who their choice is for the greatest of all time, there is one name that pops up with deserved frequency. The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, established himself as a heroic performer in the 1990s – and his legacy lives on to this day.

He pretty much carried the then-WWF throughout the mid-’90s when most of the company’s high-profile names were jumping ship, and if it wasn’t for a horrific back injury suffered during a match with The Undertaker, HBK’s career wouldn’t have been put on indefinite hiatus.

HBK.jpg

He returned in 2002 following a four-year absence and it was like he’d never been away. His story-telling skills weren’t dulled, his in-ring ability undiminished and his sheer charisma as wild as ever.

Few wrestlers can make you feel like Shawn Michaels can: he made viewers privy to his pain and share in his triumphs. When it comes to connecting with an audience, no one can top Shawn Michaels.

1. Stone Cold Steve Austin

In terms of sheer popularity, there was absolutely no one bigger than the Texas Rattlesnake. He led the WWE resurgence at the end of the ’90s, eventually turning the tide in the infamous Monday Night Wars.

His brash, beer-swilling, finger-flipping redneck anti-hero persona resonated with millions of fans and propelled him to the very top of the pile. He spawned the 3:16 movement, popularised the “What?” chant, ended every promo with “‘Cause Stone Cold said so” and had tens of thousands on their feet screaming “Hell yeah!” at the top of their lungs each and every night.

Stone Cold.jpg

It’s somewhat of a tragedy that his phenomenal career was cruelly cut short by a recurrence of a neck injury he suffered at the hands of Owen Hart in 1997, but for the six or so years he was active in WWE, he was untouchable.

His feuds with Mr McMahon, The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker were legendary; his Stone Cold Stunner finishing move is about as iconic a manoeuvre as has ever been invented; and he made the company more money than anyone else in its history.

There is simply only one Steve Austin. And that’s the bottom line…

Review: The Grand Tour’s great, but can a bit more go wrong, please?

The Grand Tour is off to a great start but there’s something missing — a healthy heap of calamity.

If there’s one thing The Grand Tour had going for it on its release, it was that it was always going to be compared with the new incarnation of Top Gear, and seeing how that was utter shite, Jeremy Clarkson’s newest venture was always going to come out favourably.

However, now the dust has settled and the image of Chris Evans’ ginger bonce nodding up and down excitedly as he bellows to camera about what you could expect in the next VT has faded, we can appreciate The Grand Tour for what it really is — faults and all.

While it may have been labelled “Top Gear on steroids” there seems to be a slight departure from the type of programming that made the trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May so unique and so likable. Sure, there’s lots of cars going very fast. Granted, there’s plenty of banter between the three. Yes, there’s a new track and a (semi) tamed racing driver.

But there’s one thing it’s been strangely lacking thus far. A colossal dosage of calamity. That was where the three really came to life: when they were attempting to build amphibious cars and drive them across the Channel; or when they chauffeured celebrities to the BAFTAs in self-made limousines; or that time they raced across Florida and annoyed just about everybody.

Yes, larking about in extremely fast cars is all well and good, but there’s only so many times you can watch three middle-aged men hurtle through pristine scenery in a car worth more than your house.

Perhaps it is something to do with the enormous budget gifted to them by Amazon. But sometimes it’s just terrific viewing to watch them tanking around some unremarkable part of the world in three crap cars, while everything goes wrong, Jeremy shouts, James gets annoyed and Richard crashes into things.

Thus far, and admittedly the series has only just begun, there’s not been enough of that utter stupidity and the impending feeling that everything is about to go absolutely tits up. That’s where the real funniness manifests.

The show is hardly a failure: the Celebrity Brain Crash section of the show is great, the camaraderie between the three is as strong as it ever was and visually the whole thing looks impeccable, but it’d be great to see the presenters in a less artificial setting, where there are no scripts to work off and the humour develops naturally, with as little cajoling as possible.

But there are signs it’s coming. The show touched upon this with the Jordan section – albeit that segment  was appalling and suffered from far too many planned events – and the montage from the first episode did show James May traversing a river in some godforsaken contraption that was rapidly falling apart.

A lot of people want the Top Gear of old back; and others want something bigger, more explosive and more expensive than that. Really, all it needs is a few more things going wrong.

7 Fantasy and Sci-Fi classics you need to have on your bookshelf

Celebrating the rich heritage of fantasy and science fiction, I’ve tried to put together a list of my favourite works of fiction the two genres have to offer. From lands of elves and dragons, to worlds inhabited by hostile aliens, these are the novels, series and novellas you need to have on your bookshelf.

The Wheel of Time — Robert Jordan

Series begins with: The Eye of the World

eye-of-the-worldWhen it comes to building a world of staggering depth, complexity and unbridled imagination, there are few writers who can claim to be as proficient as the late Robert Jordan. His epic series spans 14 novels, covers 12,000 pages and is told in no fewer than four million words. This isn’t a series for the lighthearted or the uninitiated; it’s a truly masterful weaving of multiple tales, following the unfolding fates of dozens of beautifully-crafted characters, perhaps none of whom are as profoundly important as Rand al’Thor.

Though Jordan died in 2007 before he could complete his epic body of works, the series was finished in style by fellow fantasy stalwart Brandon Sanderson. It’ll take up room, but it’s an absolute must have for your collection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — Philip K Dick

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep.jpegAlthough the novel became perhaps more famous for its use as the basis of the classic film Blade Runner, Philip K Dick’s bleak futuristic tale of Rick Deckhard’s quest to retire rogue androids as a means to achieve his life goal of owning a real animal goes down as one of science-fiction’s most engrossing reads. Eschewing titanic space battles, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a masterfully somber affair that explores what it’s like to be human against a post-apocalyptic backdrop.

It’s an altogether different experience to the film, and doesn’t deserve to fall foul of comparison. Ultimately, Dick created one of the genre’s most lasting pieces of fiction — moving, thought-provoking and utterly brilliant.

The Kingkiller Chronicles — Patrick Rothfuss

Series begins with: The Name of the Wind

wind.jpgPatrick Rothfuss’s compelling if atypical fantasy series may not have reached completion yet, but deservedly earns a spot on the pantheon of all-time greats. Impeccably written and beautifully composed, it tells the story of Kvothe in the form of a wistful autobiography told to a mysterious chronicler. Full of intrigue, exquisite prose and sheer adventure, it’s a fantasy novel for people who don’t necessarily enjoy fantasy.

The first two novels, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear have since been joined by a delightfully enigmatic novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things which explores the strange and wonderful realm of Auri; while the third eagerly-awaited installment in the series is already in the works.

Starship Troopers — Robert A Heinlein

ST.jpgMany will recall the 1990s cinematic satirical adaptation that placed a great deal of emphasis on blowing up aliens, but the source material for the film was far more complex than that. If you’re after a traditional story, then Starship Troopers isn’t for you: its pacing is unorthodox, its plot structure a little odd and its themes definitely not mainstream. It follows the exploits of Sgt. Juan “Johnnie” Rico, who enlists in the futuristic Mobile Infantry, and the trials and tribulations he faces.

It’s less a traditional adventure story and more a commentary on society and human nature in general. And though it espouses some fairly radical militaristic views, its a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking read. Oh, and some aliens get blown up too.

The Legend of Drizzt — RA Salvatore

Series begins with: Homeland

homeland.jpgRA Salvatore is about as prolific as they come. The revered author, responsible for the most famous of dark elves, Drizzt Do’Urden, writes almost exclusively in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Of his many series, the core tales surrounding Drizzt and the Companions of the Hall are the most engrossing, yanking the reader by the arm and hurtling them along through a series of fast-paced, action-packed novels that take in everything from evil wizards, marauding orcs, sinister drow and conniving assassins.

The Drizzt saga now spans 27 novels, with the debut Icewind Dale trilogy and the Hunter’s Blades series being particular highlights. But, quite simply, just start with Homeland and read the whole bloody lot.

I Am Legend — Richard Matheson

legend.jpgBlurring the lines between sci-fi and horror, Richard Matheson broke ground with his 1954 novel I Am Legend. Credited with introducing the modern vampire, Matheson’s creation belongs more in the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction and directly influenced the rise of the contemporary zombie outbreak. The novel is bleak, dark and – and times – cripplingly lonely; so much so, it was once described as the “greatest novel on human loneliness”.

Don’t draw parallels with the film — it’s far, far better than the cinematic adaptation. A genuine science-fiction horror story, it moves slowly, creates tension superbly and ultimately leaves you with an unmatched bittersweet feeling.

The Lord of the Rings — JRR Tolkien

lotr.jpgWhere would fantasy be without the man who popularised the genre over seventy years ago? A renowned scholar, Tolkien painstakingly crafted an entire world down to its most minute details. His finest work, The Lord of the Rings, takes place in the Third Age of his epic mythology and is undoubtedly one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written. Pitting good against evil, exploring friendship, heroism, love and heartbreak, Tolkien’s masterpiece transcended the genre and became an integral cornerstone of Western literature.

It’s not only a stunning read that you cannot help but be enthralled by, it’s an entire universe to lose yourself in. Before you read it, however, make sure to read The Hobbit, the prequel in which the events of its successor are set. Plus, it’s a much easier read than its larger cousin!