Previously on FearlessRiOT’s 100 Favorite Pro Wrestlers of All-Time, we had a demonic super-heavyweight with a tortured past not named Kane or Undertaker, a man who built a career off of golden facepaint and a shiny onesie, a British enchantress who used to have a thing for her brother for some reason, a Japanese wrestler who loves carrying around a kendo stick, and a man who is glorious and will not give in, will not give in till he’s victorious. Now it’s time to move ahead with the next 20 entries on the countdown, and I feel like this section of the list might ruffle some feathers due to the placement of two certain related individuals. But in my defense, instead of just selfishly telling my readers to get over it, I do explain why I placed them where they are. I hope that’ll do the trick. So without further ado, let’s jump right into Part Two of my personal list of all-time favorite grapplers.
#80. Owen Hart
Honestly, Owen Hart almost missed this list. I feel like some older fans might harp on me for this because Owen Hart is seen by many to be one of the greats and an underrated performer for the WWF in the 90s, which need I remind you, was before my time. It wasn’t until I was putting this list together that I realized through DVD retrospectives and archival footage just how much of his career I’m actually knowledgeable of: how he’s been a Tag Team Champion with numerous different partners, how he tore the WrestleMania X house down with his brother Bret, how he kicked Bret’s leg out from under his leg, how he hilariously claimed Slammys he hadn’t win for himself. Even stories about what a great guy he was can still be heard to this day, over a decade-and-a-half after his tragic 1999 passing at Over The Edge emotional subsequent tribute show. This may be the lowest he’s ever ranked on an all-time faves list, but he deserves to be on here somewhere.
#79. Finn Balor
Prince Devitt. It’s a name that I’ve heard numerous times even before he came to WWE and I had no idea what to say originally. I’d regularly see the pics of him in his Venom-like demon paint on my Tumblr feed and while I thought it was cool, I didn’t know what lay beneath it. Then he debuted in WWE NXT under the name Finn Bálor and the hype started to make sense. While the demon makeup is all well and good, he also has a repertoire that’s really fun to watch and immediately made him a fan favorite. Admittedly, his mic skills aren’t much to write home about, but sometimes he can deliver with either the fire or inspiration needed when necessary. Before leaving WWE NXT, he ended up holding onto the NXT Championship for a really long time and before losing it to Samoa Joe; he had nothing to be ashamed of as he now finds himself a top title contender on WWE’s flagship brand, RAW. We could soon see what demon (not named Kane) looks like with some gold.
#78. Nikki Storm
During her time on the independent circuit, Nikki Storm wanted you to know that she is the “Best in the Galaxy”, a boast she proudly claims before all of her matches, along with making sure we all know how awesome the Backstreet Boys are and comparing herself to cheesecake, as well as how to pronounce “Glasgow” correctly in her adorably thick Scottish accent. The wrestler born Nicola Glencross is a charismatic, confident performer, but she’s also a scrappy one; wrestling rough and putting submissions and neckbreakers to work, Nikki Storm should not be underestimated in the ring. And the fact that she’s competed in Europe, America, and Japan shows that when she finally debuts in WWE NXT soon, she’ll bring well-traveled experience with numerous diverse styles to Full Sail. The young Scot has a bright future ahead of her; you could even say she’ll conquer the galaxy soon.
#77. Cherry Bomb
Now playing the hilariously adorable role of Allie in TNA Wrestling, this Canadian cutie who shares a name with The Runaways’ signature song first came to my attention in 2010 (the same year The Runaways movie came out coincidentally) while reading the third annual PWI Female 50 issue. I wasn’t sure how well known she was in the Indy circles around that time seeing as she wasn’t very high on the list; only #44, actually. But now, she’s easily one of the most beloved and successful women around the scene, popping up everywhere from SHIMMER to WSU and everywhere in-between. There was once a period in 2015 when she held four titles at the same time before going down with an unfortunate injury. But you can’t keep a good Cherry down and this is one who’ll bite you back with her fast-paced, impressive offense before proceeding to neutralize you will her impressively high-pitched squeal. The young, talented star is definitely far from done in this game.
#76. Saraya Knight
Ever wonder where Paige got her mix of a sometimes innocent demeanor with a scary attitude from? Look no further than her mother Saraya Knight, who is in her 40s and still going strong in the wrestling ring under the Independents. When you watch her make her entrance in wrestling promotions like SHIMMER, you’ll immediately realize that her nickname “Sweet Saraya” is irony of the highest degree because one look from the woman may be enough to strike fear into you. And a yellow stream of something else out of you. And if you make her angry enough, she will not hold back; she will let the insults fly and it will not be kind! And don’t even get me started on what happens when you sing her “Happy Birthday” on her birthday. She’s also a very dirty fighter between the ropes, making her one of those wrestlers who’s such a perfect villain, face turns may actually be impossible.
#75. Jamie Noble
It feels kind of weird knowing that Jamie Noble is a former Ring of Honor World Champion given that to this day, I most remember him for being paired with the underrated Nidia as a duo so filled with hick blood, you’d think they were descendants of Hillbilly Jim. And it was glorious; they were hilarious together as a couple of white-trash imbeciles and they were a personal highlight of Smackdown for me. But he didn’t get to be a Ring of Honor World Champion by being an in-ring slouch. Also a former Cruiserweight Champion in WWE, Jamie Noble can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. Just because he’s known for his comedic wit, both with the former Tough Enough winner and with Joey Mercury in J&J Security, does not mean you should count him out. Otherwise, this pitbull (remember his old tag team with Kid Kash) will bite.
#74. Sasha Banks
Every now and then, a wrestler will become so popular with the masses, especially those who regularly discuss pro wrestling in a message board or a Twitter timeline, that I will dub them the “Chosen One”. Ever since her NXT run, where she evolved from some small person with a few decent moves to a fully-developed, jewelry-sporting character who regularly earned the adoration of the fans even in defeat, Sasha Banks is perhaps the most fitting of the bill at the moment. The fans have spoken and they demand Sasha Banks. Just listen to the crowd reactions she gets even when she’s not on-screen. Something about the woman who we’ve been reminded of numerous times is Snoop Dogg’s cousin just makes people want to watch her. To her credit, she has delivered numerous amazing matches since she’s been in WWE and as of this writing, she is the current WWE Women’s Champion. Like the title of her theme songs says, the sky is truly the limit for The Boss at the point.
#73. Ethan Carter III
Some wrestlers can certainly surprise you; just when you think that not only will someone’s career never peak anywhere near the top of the mountain of that you’ll never ever find the time to care about them, they catch you off-guard with how good they really are. That was the case with Derrick Bateman from Season 4 of NXT. Looking back, he had some pretty entertaining moments on that season and turned in some passable performances too. But it wasn’t until he emerged in TNA as Ethan Carter III that I realized that this man does have entertainment value to him and can in fact wrestle (despite what fans claim). He’s a natural heel with his wiseass ways, and he is so entertaining to watch that I found it impossible to boo him even when he did something despicable. His rich kid character may be spoiled, but he’s also rich in talent.
Yet another wrestler who came to my attention courtesy of the fine folks at Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Only when I first heard of him, he was in a Ring of Honor team known as The Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero and Sara Del Rey. And in order to have a team name like that, you better be able to deliver on you advertising. Luckily for them, they did deliver, and their hard work earned all of them Tag Team Championship reigns and eventually, WWE contracts. Hero didn’t last long and Del Rey was only hired as a trainer, but Cesaro is currently running on the WWE main roster, and after a very vocal campaign from the folk residing in the “Cesaro Section”, the man has finally been given the opportunities he needs to show off his amazing wrestling ability, be it his powerful swing, his vicious uppercuts, or the airplane spin…OK, he hasn’t done that last one in WWE yet, but he totally should. And sure his mic skills aren’t phenomenal despite him being fluent in five languages, but we’ll let it slide because as he said, he’s too fluent in the art of wrestling to let it hold him back.
#71. Bret Hart
I know, I know. I have some explaining to do. The two most famous Harts to ever set foot in a wrestling ring and neither of them are in the top half of the list. How am I ever gonna be able to justify that? Well, keep in mind that by the time I started watching wrestling, the hindrance of Bret Hart’s health at the hands of both Goldberg and a stroke sealed his retirement . And with WCW folded and the bad blood between him and WWE from 1997 still very much boiling, he was away from mainstream wrestling television for the majority of the 2000’s, not even appearing in non-wrestling roles. Therefore, the fact that I didn’t grow up on The Hitman kind of hurts his placing a bit on this list. But at the same time, there was no way I was leaving one of the all-time greatest submission wrestlers off. Not after he delivered mat classics and amazing stories with the like of Steve Austin, brother Owen, and longtime rival Shawn Michaels. Plus, his vitriolic promos from the 90s after WWE changed direction? Priceless. Bret Hart may not be high on here, but his claim to be the best there is, was, and ever will be is justifiable.
On April 20th of this year, wrestling fans the world over were stunned to discover that one of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era had tragically passed away. Joanie Laurer had her struggles after her time in WWE, a tragic saga of missteps that for a while seemed to hold WWE back from ever acknowledging her or putting her in their Hall of Fame. And if you’re familiar with her career, you know she truly deserves the honor as well. In a time where women were mostly seen as eye-candy in the Federation, Chyna was different. She had a different look, played a different role, and even altered WWE booking in a way since she got to mix it up with the guys more than she did the women. In fact, she’s still to this day the only female Intercontinental Champion and the only woman to ever be a #1 contender for the WWE Championship. And even though she never won the World Title, what she did accomplish is enough to etch her name up there with the all-time greats.
One of the best matches I’ve ever seen in person pit Japanese wrestlers Ayako Hamada (more on her later) and the woman dubbed “World Famous”, Kana against each other. Those two put on a match that made me jump out of my seat from sheer amazement on numerous occasions. So needless to say, for blowing my mind in public like that, I had to put them both on the list. Only Kana isn’t known as Kana anymore; she is now Asuka, a woman who is know just as much for her ruthless in-ring style and deceptive grin as she in for making sure to get every color ever invented somewhere on her ring gear or in her hair. And for such a vicious competitor, it must also be noted that she does have a sense of humor and lets it show in her matches every once in a while. But it certainly doesn’t distract her from winning matches; her current NXT Championship reign shows that she knows how to get it done in the ring.
Speaking of the NXT Women’s Championship, how about the woman Asuka defeated to win that championship? That would be the wrestler formerly known as Davina Rose, who was just on the rise, appearing for promotions like SHIMMER and SHINE when WWE signed her up a while back. Being that she had indy experience, you would think she’d be find in WWE’s developmental territory. But she wasn’t off to the easiest start due to the fact that her character was a shy fangirl who loved hugging people and always ended up being betrayed. Turns out, however, that this gimmick is perfect for character development, and unlike when they tried the same thing with Eugene in 2004 (only with way less taste), this was done absolutely correctly as she’s turned into quite the fighter, a role model for young girl including young Full Sail regular Izzy, and one of the most popular attractions of the NXT brand. I’m pretty sure disliking Bayley is the equivalent of stepping on kittens now. You can’t be that heartless.
#67. Molly Holly
I have to give mad props to Molly Holly, because she’s given mad props to the business of a number of occasions. In fact, she’s done so much for the WWE’s women’s division that she has to go in the Hall of Fame sooner or later. In an interview, Beth Phoenix credits a huge investment from Molly Holly with helping her get into the business. When it was rumored that the Women’s Championship was going to be left off of the landmark WrestleMania XX show, Molly was willing to sacrifice her hair to make sure she and the title made it on the show. Recently, Molly revealed that she didn’t like playing a villain very much, but she ended up playing one in the latter years of her career and she absolutely killed in the role. Basically, she took something she wasn’t very comfortable with and still managed to make it work in the long run. But I wouldn’t expect anything different from the woman who had to previously play sidekick to a Green Lantern ripoff superhero. A former Women’s and Hardcore Champion, we should probably mention Molly Holyl a bit more when talking about some of the greatest women in WWE history.
#66. Sami Zayn
His entrance music sounds like something out of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones discography and he seems like the nicest dude you’ll ever come across. But don’t take either of those as signs to underestimate him. Sami Zayn is one of the best wrestlers WWE currently has; this is something you’d probably never expect out of a guy who used to wrestle on the independents as a fake luchador wrestler by the name of El Generico. His name literally meant “generic” in Spanish. So how is it that as a wrestler, he’s the exact opposite of that? No need to question such a thing when you’re too busy enjoying what he has to offer as a talent. Just watch his series of matches with former friend Kevin Owens/Steen and you’ll see why people love the guy aside from just seeming like the kind of dude you’d love to hang out with. Whether or not he’ll find main roster title gold is anyone’s guess, but it’d be an awesome sight to see.
#65. Jessie McKay/Billie Kay
Two weeks ago as of this writing, Billie Kay won her very first match on WWE’s developmental brand, NXT. This comes about a year or so after signing with the promotion and after months of losing to all the bigger names in the division. Admittedly, she’s not alone in this boat as most of the women’s roster down there have been fed to Asuka, Bayley, and Nia Jax recently, but it really pained me for Billie since I’ve been a fan of hers for so long. When she was in SHIMMER as Jessie McKay, she was like their Kelly Kelly; insanely pretty and lovable to the point of being crazy over with the crowd. There was a difference, though: Jessie was pretty damn good at this wrestling thing.So much so that I can watch her matches against the likes of Madison Eagles and Nicole Matthews for hours.”Everybody’s Favorite Girlfriend” was also pretty successful in her home continent of Australia before coming to WWE. Now that she’s conquered the Indy circuit, she must start anew in NXT, and now that’s finally won a match there, she can get the ball rolling.
A guy who used to compete under a simple one-word name: PAC. WWE then signed him and gave him a brand new moniker: Adrian Neville. Then he got called up to the main roster and was forced to use a one-word moniker again: Neville. Well, it’s better than being given that rumored Mighty Mouse gimmick, that’s for sure. Oh, he can still fly, but instead of being compared to a rodent superhero, he’s simply The Man That Gravity Forgot. When he was on NXT, he was probably the one male superstar who’s matches I always made an effort to watch when they came on. yes, even moreso than Sami Zayn’s even. Neville’s ring style is just incredibly exciting to watch and his finishing move The Red Arrow spits in the face of every physics law known to man. But that’s a good thing because it’s one of the weapons that made me so hyped for the former NXT Champion in the first place. Hopefully this high flyer gets even higher on the WWE ladder.
Yup; another member of the Hart Legacy makes this part of the list. This one just happens to be the most successful female member of the family; a wrestler so skilled and respected that WatchMojo placed her at #2 on their list of Another Top 10 Female Wrestlers. When she first came into WWE, that was pretty much all I’d heard about her is that she was a graduate of the famed Hart Dungeon. That was all well and good, but it seemed like it took a while for her to find her groove, even more so by the fact that she ended up dyeing her hair red for seemingly no reason. She soon went back to blonde and gained popularity when she teamed with Tyson Kidd & DH Smith. Once they split, she finally had the wings she needed to fly to the top of the women’s division, and though a few setbacks have gotten in her way, including one that completely stank, the former Divas Champion is one of the most recognized women of her era, among traditional fans and reality TV viewers.
#62. Brock Lesnar
There is one thing and one thing only keeping Brock Lesnar from ranking any higher on this list: the fact that his latest run in WWE is getting kind of tiresome. Ever since his return in 2012, it’s been a huge guessing game with the guy. When is he gonna show up next? When he does show up again, is he gonna do more than just suplex a guy repeatedly before hitting an F5? Are they gonna stick the World Title on him and pay him to just sit at home the entire reign? I love when wrestling is unpredictable, but it’s not always fun and Brock Lesnar has kind of become a one-trick pony in his latest stint. And that’s a shame because in his first WWE run, the guy was a certified beast. For a big guy, he was quick and agile, but he also has a scary amount of strength at his disposal. If you don’t take into account the fact that he needs Paul Heyman to do his talking for him (though Brock can deliver a memorable soundbite), he’s pretty much the perfect athlete. It’s just the way he’s being used now that keeps me from putting him higher.
#61. Maryse Ouellet
Pro wrestling is certainly not a beauty contest; people come into the profession from all walks of life and they range from varying shapes and sizes. However, if you were to think about who I the sexiest person to ever steps between the ropes, it would be impossible not to think of this lovely French Canadian. In fact, as hard as it is to believe, her beauty did not lead to her winning the WWE Diva Search. But it did lead to here getting signed anyway. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first on whether or not she’d get anywhere as a wrestler. She was very charismatic and could appeal to both many people (English speakers, French speakers, hopeless love-struck fanboys) and help her in non-wrestling roles, but what could she really do as a wrestler. Turns out, plenty. Lethal kicks, agility, and even submissions lead to her becoming two-time WWE Divas Champion and actually winning some fans over, myself included. After time off, she’s back in WWE with husband The Miz. Sadly, she’s not wrestling, but maybe she could one of these days.