Cageside Seats is doing a fun, mostly harmless tournament by fan vote to determine…I guess just who everybody likes right now.
I say it’s mostly harmless because there is some harm in having a list like this that includes guys like Randy Orton but not, say, Jerry Lawler or Lou Thesz or Jim Powers. Just kidding on that last one. OR AM I?!
I decided, mostly out of boredom and inspired by Tape Machines are Rolling, to give you my picks. Because you clearly care so goddamn much.
My judging is based on a weighing of the following criteria:
- Drawing power
- Staying power/Resiliency
- Memorable moments
- Personal Preference
(1) Hulk Hogan vs (16) Big Show
Just to give context for this and other picks: I was born in ’82, so was reared – in theory – on WWF’s sports entertainment and Hulkamania. Except I was never really that into Hogan when I was a kid. I always liked Randy Savage and Roddy Piper more. And, admittedly, the Ultimate Warrior. I can’t say I hated Hogan since I didn’t really have a reason to, he just didn’t appeal to me. As I got older and he stunk up the ring something awful, THEN I started to hate him. Still do. Going with Big Show out of spite.
(8) Buddy Rogers vs (9) Owen Hart
I’m going to have to go with Owen. He could have been great if he gave a shit, but he didn’t, so he was always just above average in the ring but remembered as a great because of the circumstances surrounding his untimely end. The deluge of World Class footage showing up online and on DVD the last few years has me appreciating the Freebirds stuff more, but Rogers was third in a trio that included a legendary talker/personality (Hayes) and a great worker (Gordy).
(5) Roddy Piper vs (12) Vader
Vader! As I mentioned before, I loved Piper as a kid, but I like Vader more now as an adult. I can look back and watch Vader matches and enjoy them, and I honestly think if the WWF hadn’t shit the bed with him in the late 90s that he’d be right up there in terms of reverence. God, what a waste. It was so bad that when they brought him back last week for that spot with Heath Slater and referred to him as a “former RAW main-eventer,” I scoffed. Firstly at that phrase, which means nothing, and also at the sentiment because are you kidding me? You jobbed this guy out to fucking Edge when he was just some dude who ran out of the crowd and hunted vampires. Fuck you, Vince.
(4) Harley Race vs (13) Diamond Dallas Page
Harley Race. I like DDP (probably/maybe more than you do) but Harley was great. Go watch his stuff from the 70s on YouTube and Daily Motion and what have you.
(6) Freddie Blassie vs (11) Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura. Hard to judge Blassie as a wrestler. I just remember him in the 80s, and I always thought he was over the top and cheesy. I thought Ventura was the balls on commentary, though in later years I’d see old matches of his and boy, did he suck. He was a poor man’s “Superstar” Billy Graham, who himself wasn’t that good.
(3) Gorgeous George vs (14) The Ultimate Warrior
George George because fuck that other guy.
(7) Billy Graham vs (10) Sgt Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter. Graham is the guy who brought the modern look into the sport, which is to say steroids, and that’s his legacy.
(2) Andre the Giant vs (15) Larry Zbyszko
Andre. Zybysko was a decent tag wrestler when I was a kid, and as I got older I saw some of the AWA stuff and he was just okay as a singles wrestler. Andre was Andre. ENNY BUTTY WANTUH PEANUT?!
(1) Ric Flair vs (16) Christian
You’ve got to be kidding me! Flair by a margin that isn’t even conceivable.
(8) Ricky Steamboat vs (9) Junkyard Dog
Steamboat. Whether you’re talking his 80s stint in the WWF as an upper-midcarder, his awesome main events in the NWA/WCW, or even that awful time in the WWF when they just called him “The Dragon” and made him breathe fire and wear goofy ring attire and pretended to not know that was Ricky goddamn Steamboat in there and…sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, loved JYD, but he sucked.
(5) Ted DiBiase vs (12) Tully Blanchard
DiBiase. If I was five or ten years older I might say Blanchard, but DiBiase was the balls as a heel in the WWF. I hear his Mid-South stuff was great, and can’t wait for the WWF to start putting that stuff out (they just acquired the library in the past couple weeks from Watts’s widow).
(4) Terry Funk vs (13) Bob Backlund
Backlund’s become kind of controversial in recent years. There’s a lot of people who say that the greatness bestowed on him is McMahon revisionism, but there’s also a movement that insists Backlund is underrated because of the backlash over him being presented as a WWF legend. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh, him and Terry Funk. It’s the Funker and it’s not even close. Sorry, Bob.
(6) Mick Foley vs (11) Ron Simmons
I’m going to make you go “whaaaa” and go with Simmons. Always liked the guy, always thought he was underrated and underutilized. Foley thrived on a similar rep, and by that I mean in terms of both fan appreciation in spite of a lack of push and then his actual eventual push.
(3) Randy Savage vs (14) Jake Roberts
Randy Savage. No more questions!
(7) Dusty Rhodes vs (10) The Iron Sheik
Gotta go with Dusty. Shit booker at times, but great personality. The Iron Sheik’s second wind as an ironic pop culture icon is awful, particularly with all the homophobic bullshit. It’s almost as terrible as he was in the ring.
(2) Sting vs (15) Rick Rude
If you had asked me ten or so years ago I’d say Rude, hands down, and not hesitate. As I got older I appreciated Sting to be a better worker. His matches in particular hold up a lot better than Rude’s.
(1) Steve Austin vs (16) Daniel Bryan
Every bit as ridiculous as Flair vs. Christian. If not more. Austin.
(8) Goldberg vs (9) Brock Lesnar
Lesnar. Look, WCW screwed it up by having Goldberg’s first loss come to Nash, then the fingerpoke of doom and you know the rest of the story and if you don’t, read The Death of WCW. But I think Lesnar was the better worker and star in the long run, and even he’s tarnished by up and quitting wrestling so he can go up and quit football and then up and quit MMA and then…
(5) Bruno Sammartino vs (12) Jeff Hardy
Sammartino and it’s not even close. Hardy was good at one point, never great.
(4) Triple H vs (13) Barry Windham
WINDHAM! HHH had a couple great years but always had help. He on his own was a top heel, but never a good draw. He always needed someone else who connected with the audience to make them care. Right place, right time. That’s not a knock on the guy, just the reality of the situation. Windham had the stuff but not the work ethic towards the end, which is a shame, but personal preference wins out.
(6) CM Punk vs (11) Batista
Oof. I don’t know where to begin. Batista was better than he should have been, but peaked right when he decided he had enough of this bullshit. Which is a shame. Punk is good, could be great, but the jury’s out on whether that’s actually going to happen. It pains me to say it, but I think I have to go with Batista.
(3) John Cena vs (14) Lex Luger
Cena. Is there a more underrated guy out there? I hate his character too and his style’s not for everyone, but in terms of workrate he’s not 21st Century Hogan as some would claim. He works his ass off, and I’ve seen him work wonders with the likes of RVD and even The Great Khali. Seriously, he got a ***1/2 star match out of that guy. That takes something.
(7) Kevin Nash vs (10) Booker T
Booker T. Nash was part of a hot angle (the nWo) and that’s it. Bad worker, even worse draw, particularly as a babyface.
(2) Shawn Michaels vs (15) Scott Hall
Michaels. Hall will always be weighed down by the kind of worker and star he could have been had he been able to overcome his demons.
(1) The Rock vs (16) Jeff Jarrett
The Rock. Jarrett was never, ever as good as everyone around him – bookers, agents, promoters, other wrestlers, and even some fans – wanted him to be.
(8) Eddie Guerrero vs (9) Randy Orton
Randy Orton is not good. He has the personality of a wet blanket, and I’m of the sound opinion that anyone who thinks he’s a good worker is either twelve years old or started watching wrestling after 2000. Guerrero, on the other hand, is one of the greats of all time. OF ALL. DAMN. TIME.
(5) Kurt Angle vs (12) AJ Styles
Hahahaha. C’mon, son. Angle.
(4) Chris Jericho vs (13) Rey Mysterio
This one’s really, really tough. I think I have to go with Jericho. Mysterio was great in his prime, but always looked silly against bigger guys.
(6) Edge vs (11) Scott Steiner
Edge. Scott wasn’t even the good Steiner brother and his value was artificially inflated by WCW’s terrible booking and lack of foresight (like so many others in that same time period).
(3) Bret Hart vs (14) Chris Benoit
Hart. He was the better worker. People will scoff at that, but wrestling isn’t moves moves moves and technical wrestling and moves. It’s being able to connect with a crowd and make them care. Hart did that in the ring despite not having a ton of personality on the mic, which considering his time and who he was up against was quite a feat. Benoit was a fantastic mid-carder and deserved at least one run at the top and got it. Then he became a disgusting murderer.
(7) Curt Hennig vs (10) Jimmy Snuka
Hennig and it’s so not close.
(2) Undertaker vs (15) Brian Pillman
Pillman. Taker could have great matches with great workers. Pillman was a great worker, period.