I’ve been a pro wrestling fan since 2002. My first exposure to it was an episode of Smackdown back when it came on UPN. Also, back when UPN was still a channel. From there, I’ve expanded my wrestling viewership past just WWE and have found myself watching TNA, ROH, SHIMMER, and occasionally a number of other promotions without as much exposure. And seeing as I’ve been wanting to do a big Top 100 list lately (aside from the yearly Hot 100 that can be found on my Tumblr), as well as with the countless times I’ve seen the question posted online of “Who is your favorite wrestler of all-time?”, I decided to go ahead and answer that question by doing one of favorite things: making one big countdown. Now keep in mind: this isn’t a list of who I feel are the greatest wrestlers of all-time; I don’t think I’m certified enough to decide such a thing. In fact, numerous people who you might expect to find on an all-time greats list aren’t even on here due to my work being limited by the fact that they were before my time. There are legends on here, but mainly ones who remained active in wrestling during my time as a fan. This is just a list of the wrestlers who have most kept me entertained over the years, the ones who I either enjoy watching in promos and segments, get excited to see step between the ropes to compete, or just most connected with me in some way, shape, or form personally. Heads Up: This is a co-ed list, meaning that both men and women of the squared circle contend for it. Also, as stated previously, I had to have been exposed to a wrestler’s work for them to make it on, so if your little known Indy fave isn’t on the list, I’d suggest you link me to some of their work and then maybe if I revise the list down the road, they can make it on. That or maybe they’re in the honorable mentions, which I will touch on later. Anyway, since we got that out of the way, let’s get things started with our month of a different kind of #WCW: Wrestler Countdown Wednesday, as we look at Part One of my 100 Favorite Wrestlers!
Boy, Rikishi was so close to not making this countdown at all. In retrospect, this Hall of Famer did in fact have a questionable pro wrestling history. Not to say he had a bad one, but it’s not exactly a good sign when his career highlight is running over Stone Cold in the name of The Rock. He doesn’t really make it on the list due to his in-ring attributes either, though I will concede that he was pretty agile for a guy his size. I remember when I first saw him, I thought he was a sumo wrestler; he had the gear of one and everything. I think the thing that most stands out about the performer who bought us “Put A Little Ass on It” was that disgusting-yet-still-somehow entertaining Stinkface. If ever there was something that described “Funny when it happens to someone else, but not to you” it was that move. The fact that this move was so memorable (and his dance skills, too) is what got him on this list.
Kicks are certainly not an exclusive thing in pro wrestling; plenty of wrestlers have regularly cut their opponents down to size using an array of kicks from different styles of combat (you’ll see plenty of them on this countdown). But one female competitor from New Zealand saw fit to name herself the leader of Team (F’n) Kick and she’s bought the team all around the world, from her home down under over to American promotions like SHIMMER and even over in Japan. This wrestler was none other than Evie (not the Descendants character), who first came on my radar in 2011. She immediately became one to watch after I checked out a couple of her matches on YouTube and saw how exciting a wrestler she truly is. She’s still really young and definitely has a bright future ahead of her; I’d say she has the potential to make it to WWE one day. But at this stage of her career, I have no problem putting her on the list.
#98. Austin Aries
This man’s claims to be the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived is probably as exaggerated at the time River Cuomo of Weezer tried to claim that exact same feat in a song. I know wrestlers love giving themselves nicknames, but that’s a lot of competition he has to face to legitimately claim that crown. That said, if he wanted to claim that he’s the Greatest Wrestler Who Ever Lived, he’d at least be in the right ballpark. I don’t know about THE greatest, but he certainly is pretty great in his own right as a performer. He dazzled in Ring of Honor before spending a number of years in TNA Wrestling where he became such a premiere X-Division performer that he transitioned into the heavyweight scene and became a star there too. He’s now in WWE NXT, and who knows what he’ll have in store for the lesser experienced prospects at Full Sail University.
#97. GoldustOK, let’s get weird. It has to take a lot of work, dedication, and adaptability to be a WWE Superstar in 2016 when you were still around before the Attitude Era even began. Dustin Runnels’ key to sticking around the wrestling business seems to be “Always wear facepaint and a glossy onesie”, and it hasn’t failed him so far. In the 90’s, he helped revolutionize the sport with his Goldust persona, an entertainingly strange and provocative who fit right in with the more mature direction wrestling was headed at the time. Overtime he’d become more of a comedy figure, so much so that his most recent angle in WWE sees him obsessed with a phone app for capturing fictional anime characters. But hey, it’s gotta be a step up from anything they had him doing down in TNA. That Black Reign period was kind of unfortunate. As Goldust, however, the man is in the best shape of his life and seems to be set as long as he can go.
#96. KalamityCanadian wrestler LuFisto may not be on the list, but her influence certainly is in the form of former protégé Kalamity. “The Oncoming Storm” went by kind of quickly as Kalamity wasn’t active in wrestling very long. She reportedly first stepped in the ring in 2009 and officially called it a career in 2014. But sometimes, it’s not about how long someone has been doing something as much as what they did with that time and in her relatively brief career, Kalamity was on the fast track to greatness. Her series of matches with her mentor LuFisto in ranging from 2011 to 2012 were always hard-hitting and entertaining affairs in my personal opinion, she delivered the goods in all fifteen of her SHIMMER Women Athlete appearances. In a period of just five years, the small, intense Quebec native did enough to become an all-time favorite.
#95. TazzThis guy is ranked lower than I originally expected him to be due to the fact that I’m more familiar with him as a commentator than as an actual wrestler. As a wrestler, he’s a legend in the land of extreme. As a commentator, he’s the best partner-in-crime Michael Cole has ever had and a guy who gets women confused with vegetables. At least I assumed that’s why he always called female wrestlers “tomatoes”. Anyway, his in-ring days saw him become so synonymous with suplexes and submission holds that he was able to inject his own names into the maneuvers and have them become his specialty. He was a bit on the small size, which was sign #1 that he probably wouldn’t get far in WWE, but it was the tenacity of this Brooklyn-bred pitbull that made him an in-ring force, and I honestly appreciate that. The fact that his commentary work is also really entertaining is a bonus.
#94. Shinsuke NakamuraI’m gonna be direct and address this immediately: Shinsuke Nakamura isn’t very high on here because he’s practically a new wrestler to me. I know he’s been doing it for a while and is very good at it. I know this because 1) I’ve been told and 2) his matches with Finn Balor and Sami Zayn were both absolutely phenomenal. Also absolutely phenomenal and the reason I give the guy additional points is because he’s not only a good wrestler; he’s also a great showman. I can tell English isn’t his first language, but he doesn’t need to communicate with me in his native tough to connect with me very much because it’s stuff like his entrance, his style, his dance moves, and even his facial expressions that let’s me know what kind of a guy he really is. The King of Strong Style makes the list because I really like what he’s about; it seems like there’s never a dull moment with this cat. But he doesn’t make it very high because my not-as-learned self needs to see more of what he can do.
#94. Madison EaglesAs it turns out, Australia has a pretty damn good pool of talented female wrestlers. A few of them are on this list, but some of them just missed the cut. One person I knew I couldn’t leave off was Madison Eagles, a woman who towers her opponents in the ring at a menacing 6’1”, yet still has no problem bringing forks to the ring to potentially stab opponents with. OK, that could lead to some entertaining in-ring bits though. I first heard of Madison Eagles by way of PWI Magazine, a publication where she was once named the #1 female wrestler in the world during her first of two reigns as SHIMMER Champion. And that first reign was a pretty big deal as to secure the victory, she had to defeat MsChif, who’d held the title for two years. And her matches are always a joy to watch, so if you haven’t heard of Madison Eagles, go ahead and check her out.
#92. Alex ShelleyI actually almost thought about putting The Motor City Machine Guns tag team on this list as a unit. But there’s a word for doing something like that: it’s called cheating. As much as I enjoyed Motor City Machine Guns as a tag team, I decided to instead spotlight which member of the team I’m a bit more of a fan of. And after some consideration, I ended up going with the one I didn’t think I’d pick. Chris Sabin is a great athlete, but the more I think about it, Alex Shelley has kind of stood out to me more over the years, and I think it’s because he had more time to show off his personality beforehand. I remember when he ran the Paparazzi Productions segments and I remember when he was kind of a goofball with weird hair back in the early days of TNA Wrestling. Even as a duo, Alex Shelley proved himself to be a pretty entertaining talker. Therefore, he finds a spot on the list.
#91. Portia PerezIf ever there was a Mount Rushmore for bratty wrestling personas, Portia Perez’s name would probably be somewhere on the shortlist. She debuted in SHIMMER as kind of an immature brat, and while she did mature somewhat as a wrestler, one thing that never changed was the fact that she thrived off of being 100% despicable. When she came through the curtain at SHIMMER, the fans were ready to boo. When she took to commentary with Dave Prazak, it seemed like she was determined to drive the man nuts with her hilariously antagonistic commentary. She’s even bought a wrench down to the ring a number of times; who uses a wrench as a weapon? But obviously, if she makes this list, then it means that I see all of these character negatives as performer positives and the truth is that I’m going to miss the now-retired Canadian Ninja.
#90. The MizIf the likes of the Kardashians have taught us anything, it’s that reality TV stars can be annoying as hell a lot of the time. And I think that’s what rubbed people wrong about Mike Mizanin when he first joined pro wrestling. He first got recognized by way of MTV’s The Real WorldMTV’s The Real World, where he made his passion for wrestling known while coming off like an absolute nerd. After losing Tough Enough in 2004, he still found his way to WWE, where he instantly became the very definition of a heel performer as much like Portia Perez, people really love to boo The Miz. Whether or not he actually is AWESOME is a matter of opinion; some people won’t give him a break, some will admit that the former WWE Champion isn’t that bad. I’m in the latter; Miz is really not bad. In fact, when motivated, he’s actually pretty decent in the ring. And his tendency to never shut up makes him a natural at promos and makes him more entertaining that given credit for. And if you don’t agree, that’s just too damn bad.
#89. Diamond Dallas PageFor a guy as popular in pro wrestling as Diamond Dallas Page, this guy sure has been involved in quite a few of wrestling’s biggest stinkers. He as one of the main antagonists in WCW’s widely panned Ready to Rumble film and he was the one who was eventually revealed as the guy who was stalking Undertaker’s wife during the Invasion angle. Good thing DDP had other positives to redeem for such catastrophes. He’s one of many wrestlers to popularize the cutter as an effective finishing move, he won a number of titles during his career, including the WCW World Championship. And he could even be considered a life-saved after he retired with the way he helped turn Jake Roberts and Scott Hall’s lives around. So much to admire about DDP; and as he used to say in the Federation, that’s a good thing!
#88. WinterWrestlers with superpowers are nothing new: The Undertaker has been summoning lightening and cheating death for two decades while Bray Wyatt teleports on the regular. But very rarely do you see a female wrestler cross the otherworldly line. That’s what Katarina Waters did after her stint as British sibling-turned-weird person Katie Lea Burchill in WWE ended, and she travelled down to the Impact Zone to become the mysterious Winter. For some reason, I found myself under her spell; not to say that she zombified me like she did Angelina Love en route to two Knockouts Titles and a Knockouts Tag Team Title, but she was just a magically fascinating presence on-screen. She knew how to make a silly-on-paper character work and I had no problem playing along with what she was doing. She was wickedly wonderful.
#87. AbyssAbyss is one of those wrestlers that just had to be the subject of a wrestling math problem: “Kane + Mankind = ?” When I started watching TNA Wrestling in 2004, that was the very first thing I thought about when I saw Abyss walk through the tunnel: who’s idea was it to combine Mankind and Kane into one person? Much like Mankind, he’s know for taking pain as much as he’s able to dish out. Much like Kane, he has a terrifying and convoluted backstory complete with a story that clearly indicates that he wasn’t hugged enough as a child. Despite this, when he’s not wielding around his demonic weapon-of-choice Janice, he also manages to have a bumbling unmasked lawyer alter ego who’s good for a few laughs. And now, he’s in one of the best things going in TNA at the moment with Rosemary & Crazy Steve in The Decay. Even when I feel lie giving up on Abyss, he ends up doing something on TV to rejuvenate his career and I give him props for that.
#86. Bobby RoodeBobby Roode is going to be a hard one for me to talk about. Personality-wise, I don’t know where to start. He has it, but I don’t really know how to describe it. As far as accomplishments goes, I could probably go on for a while, because he has plenty and I know exactly where to start. Tag Team Champion with his old stable Team Canada (and now I’m having flashbacks to Coach Scott D’Amore getting all up in the camera) as well as with probably TNA’s greatest tag team of all time Beer Money. He’s also been a King of the Mountain Champion and a two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion. In fact, I think he’s stil the longest reigning World Champ in their history. He was also formerly rich and went by the name of “Robert Roode”; I can’t be the only person who remembers that. As far as ring skills go, he reminds me of Triple H; let’s see if he has the potential to have the career The Game has.
“The Bitch” (she called herself that) had been out of action with an injury when I watched Monday Night RAW for the first time in early-2003. so when she put a beatdown on Trish Stratus her first night back, I assumed I was watching her debut. Oh, how naïve I was. As it turns out, the muscled-up grappler had been in WWE over a year at that point, having already won the Women’s Championship at one point and battled Trish Stratus numerous times. I also learned she’d been in wrestling in general much longer than that, having stepped foot in the ECW ring as well. And just in case you think she’s retired after leaving WWE, she’s stepped foot into the ring as recently as 2013, at least as far as I remember. In fact, he she is wrestling Thea Trinidad (Rosita for TNA fans) in 2012. The commentators used to say she had a Mike Tyson-like attitude; if they meant that she was tough as nails and took no prisoners, they’d be right.
#84. Mark HenryI gotta be careful about what I say regarding this guy’s early days: anything I say can and will be used against me in determining whether or not I become a Hall of Pain inductee. Honestly, the wrestling doppelganger of rapper Rick Ross seems like a pretty nice due in real life. In the ring, though, he’s definitely at his best when he’s on a rampage and destroying anyone who’s in his way. Like the Three Six Mafia theme says, “Somebody gon’ get their ass kicked”, and that’s what I most want to see when Mark Henry arrives on the scene, not him making out with old ladies and her birthing his hand-spring a short time later. Then again, that angle is still remembered today, so what do I know? The World’s Strongest Man is a former World Champion and if his fake-retirement segment is to be believed, a top-notch actor. Definitely worthy of a spot on here.
#83. Christopher DanielsAlready this list has seen a number of wrestlers who made their mark on TNA Wrestling’s tag team division, and this is another one of them. With Elix Skipper, AJ Styles, and Kazarian, he’s held tag team gold numerous times there. But he also managed to win the X-Division title a few times and put on a number of clinics in the IMPACT Zone, including his iconic Triple Threat with AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. They also stuck him under a mask to portray Suicide (don’t be fooled by this) and Curry Man for a while, but thank God those didn’t stick very long. If you don’t recognize him from his TNA work, you probably recognize him for his time in Ring of Honor, where he and Kazarian currently work as a tag team and where’s he’s been both Television and Tag Team Champion. Pretty much the only strike against him is being involved in that Claire Lynch thing, but I won’t hold him accountable for that mess.
#82. Maria KanellisThe Maria Kanellis of today is nothing like the Maria Kanellis who started out with WWE back in 2004. The Maria Kanellis who started out with WWE in 2004 was a hopelessly ditzy blonde who provided several funny moments with her multiple interviewing subjects and occasionally stepped into the ring to try to improve her game. The Maria Kanellis of today has not only changed her hair-color, but her entire persona as well. Instead of being the air-headed girl who was mostly reliant for comedy, she’s a serious (if not sometimes delusional and over-the-top) powerful woman who knows what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer. She’s now married to a wrestler (Mike Bennett) and though she manages more than she wrestles, she’s still a fascinating presence whenever she’s on-screen, not just because of her commanding sex appeal but also because of what she’ll say or do.
#81. Hikaru ShidaIt’s not everyday that I get to be in attendance for a wrestler’s debut in a certain promotion, but that was the case when Japanese wrestler Hikaru Shida made her debut in SHIMMER in 2013. At the time, I didn’t know anything about her aside from that she was one of the latest Japanese imports for the promotion. And apparently, that she enjoys carrying around one of my favorite wrestling weapons: the kendo stick. But of course, we all have to start somewhere, and after watching her awesome matches that weekend against Mia Yim and Nicole Matthews, I knew it was going to be the start of something wonderful. Sure, she hasn’t’ appeared for SHIMMER in a while, but her matches and segments from Japan are at my disposal all over the internet, and they’re all pretty entertaining to watch. In addition to her wrestling career, she also has an acting career, so this is one multi-talented girl.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my 100 Favorite Wrestlers List next Wednesday!