So here we are… The top 20 greatest wrestlers of all time. Jesus Christ this has been one hell of a journey and already, looking at the 20, I have come to the conclusion that I may have split the finest of hairs in my number. Even the person who is ranked “20” can have a compelling argument as to why he would be number one. So keep that in mind people, at this point, we have truly hit the pinnacle. Any one of these 20 could be considered the greatest… But ultimately, I did make decisisions… So here we go! Also, be sure to check out the other sections as well!
20. Randy Savage
As stated before, we start off the top 20 with a man who could easily be considered to be the greatest wrestler of all time. This is the level that we have reached. During the boom of the Rock’N’Wrestling Era and the meteoric rise of Hulkamania, there was another man in the wrestling business who was changing the game. While Hulk Hogan was no-selling offense and winning matches through charisma and not pure wrestling talent, Randy Savage was crafting matches through carefully meticulously planned mastery. Savage was well known for scripting his entire match before hand, carefully calculating when was the right moment to hit which move. This was a major departure from the norm of shoot wrestling where the majority of the match was called in the ring.
Not only was Savage a meticulous worker, he backed it up with some of the most iconic promos of all time. Randy Savage may have very well been the best all around athlete during the height of the Rock’N’Wrestling Era which carried on into the late 1990’s and his charisma has proven to be even higher then that of Hulk Hogan as years have gone on. Even to this day, people quote the Macho Man Randy Savage with his iconic promos and is considered to be the poster boy to even nonwrestling fans when someone thinks of what it means to be a professional wrestler.
19. Mick Foley
The purest form of what it meant to be a hardcore wrestler, Mick Foley was the man who made a name for himself by be willing to do anything when he stepped through the ropes. His body bears the wounds of his time in the ring, losing an ear to some rope cables, scars from falling on thumb tacks and barbed wire, being thrown off the cage and through the cage in Hell in a Cell, barbwire bats and flaming tables alike, Mick Foley went the extra mile to take the concept of hardcore wrestling and making it something that was entertaining, but not gratuitous.
Hardcore wrestling is a cruel and dangerous mistress. Matches that are put on by CZW, hardcore Japanese promotions, and local hardcore wrestling circuits tend to fall too far into the hardcore match and turning them less into a match and more into watching two men mutilate each other for the crowd’s entertainment. Mick Foley was able to take the hardcore elements and blend them with legitimate wrestling talent which became the standard for the level of talent and hardcore style you would see Extreme Championship Wrestling during the 1990’s.
Combined with the fact that Mick Foley transferred so seamlessly between the cosmic 70’s Dude Love, the hardcore Cactus Jack, the demented Mankind, and the man behind all three Mick Foley, not only makes him a hardcore icon, but one of the best character actors of all time!
18. Eddie Guerrero
The most notable member of the Guerrero family, Eddie Guerrero went from being a technically sound cruiserweight to a skyrocketing star who was finally appreciated for the work that he did for the professional wrestling industry. In his underdog match against Brock Lesnar at No Way Out, Guerrero stole the show and cemented his place as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Taking the racially charged gimmick of “I lie, I cheat, I steal,” Guerrero took it and made it his own through his insatiable charisma and unbridled enthusiasm in the wrestling business. Eddie Guerrero was always at home in the squared circle putting on stellar matches, each of which were enhanced to intense degrees thanks to his ability to carry any idea to decent success. Even the concept of the Dominick storyline in which Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero wrestled over the custody of Rey’s legitimate son Dominick, came across as still enjoyable thanks to the charisma of the two wrestlers who made a shit gimmick look tolerable… A feat that takes a TREMENDOUS amount of talent to do.
Tragically Eddie Guerrero would past away at the prime of his life. But in the spirit of “the good die young,” Guerrero’s untimely death propelled him to supernova levels and showcased him as the true legend that he was and still is.
17. Rey Mysterio Jr.
I don’t give a shit if people think this is high! I don’t give a shit if you do not think Rey needs to be in the top 20, you all can suck a railroad spike, because this man is one of the most influential wrestlers OF ALL TIME! A lot of the guys on this list make it because they brought something new to the table. They brought a new flair or a new style of working. Rey Mysterio Jr brought two different things to the wrestling world while others could only hope to do one. Rey Mysterio Jr brought lucha libre to the United States when it was only a cheap novelty before he came here AND he brought the concept of the Cruiserweight to our homes, something I will always be grateful for.
This might be personal bias, I will always choose Mexican cruiserweight lucha libre over lumbering giants or even American style athletic showmanship. My favorite wrestler growing up was Rey Mysterio. He would entertain, he would flip through the air, cause feats I didn’t think were even possible in a wrestler. He started as a popular wrestler from Mexico in WCW’s revolutionary Cruiserweight division. But then he grew into so much more. He became a WWE Champion, a World Champion, he brought lucha libre to the USA and made it marketable. Because of him, promotions like Chikara exist as well as Lucha Underground, my personal favorite promotion. Anyone who thinks that Rey Mysterio is not deserving of being in the top 20, sincerely go suck a railroad spike because this man is a fucking legend.
16. Andre the Giant
Is this low? Maybe, but the fact of the matter is that Andre the Giant is still one of the greatest wrestlers to ever exist and changed the landscape of professional wrestling. However, as time has passed, his impact continues to fade with the sands of time. While I doubt the man will ever fall out of the top 20, this spot still feels merited compared to the fifteen that came after him.
Andre the Giant can best be described as a man who was larger than life itself. A giant of a man, Andre was the incarnation of the big man that every wrestling promoter wished they could have. The man was a mammoth, reaching heights nobody would imagine and building himself up as one of the greatest babyfaces of all time. Andre the Giant was a simple enough man to book, just let him walk out and let his size do the talking for him.
Hulk Hogan powerslamming him at Wrestlemania 3 represents one of the biggest moments in wrestling history and the man is still loved to this day by anyone who speaks his name.
15. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Hiroshi Tanahashi was known as the face of the resurgance of Japanese puroresu in the early 2000’s to today. A man who was large in size and large in personality, he had the athleticism and the zeitgeist behind him to become the John Cena of Japanese wrestling. Known for his hard hits, quick pace, and innate charisma that turned out the most uproarious of cheers from the Japanese crowd, Hiroshi Tanahashi lead the charge for a new waive of Japanese wrestling and made New Japan Pro Wrestling the second best wrestling promotion in the world today. While it is possible that Tanahashi’s star is fading in the recent years with his acceptance in the mid card as a legend and Shinsuke Nakamura’s recent resurgence, Tanahashi will always be remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers in Japanese history.
14. Bret Hart
You have no idea how hard I struggled between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. For the longest time these two were neck and neck. Personally speaking, I always liked Hart’s technical mastery over Shawn Michaels flair. But after a while I had to go with who had the bigger impact on wrestling at large and tragically, Michaels just edged him out. After that happened, I argued some more and well… Bret Hart started to slip down the ranks a little bit until he found his way to 14. But do not let 14 be a defeat for the Hitman, Bret Hart’s contribution to wrestling is one of the most powerful on the planet. He was the man who brought legitimacy to the sport.
Prior to Hart, pro wrestling was all about big men doing power moves in a way that was charismatic to the crowd. Guys like Hart weren’t necessarily even considered to be big guys in the business because… Well they weren’t big guys. But as the new generation came along, smaller and more athletic wrestlers were desired over huge muscle men. Leading the charge was two men, one being Shawn Michaels and the other being Bret Hart. Unlike Michaels showmanship, Bret Hart brough technical mastery. He would target body parts and systematically dismantle a wrestler the same way any sort of fighter in that situation could. If he was facing the 7 foot tall Diesel, he would go for the knee and take them down. He revolutionized the concept of ring psychology, making pro wrestling look more like a sport similar to MMA before MMA was even a thing. Hart was a trailblazer who paved the way for the more athletically gifted and technically sound as opposed to lumbering and clunky “big men.” Without him, we would never have anything like Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, or Seth Rollins. All the props to the Hitman!
The Icon. The man called Sting was the original enigma with one of the greatest character changes of all time. Going from a laid back surfer persona in the early 1980’s, Steve Borden, altered his gimmick in the early 1990’s WCW to be in tune with the character from the movie The Crow. The character change did the wrestler known as Sting wonder as he went from a flashy 80’s hard worker to an enigmatic man of the people. During the early days of the nWo in WCW, Sting remained the stalwart face of the people. Even while it was popular to like the bad boy nWo stable, people cheered just as loud for the Icon as when he came on to take on the stable, in most instances, single-handed.
For the longest time, Sting’s claim to fame was the fact that he never touched the WWE ring and was just as powerful and strong without the touch of the Vinnie Mac slathered and battered big boy club. He made the days of TNA before the ruination by Vince Russo, Hulk Hogan, and Dixie Carter enjoyable and only went to the WWE when he was offered the sweet legends contract/retirement package.
Tell the end of days, Sting will always represent defiant rebellion, pure athleticism, and a charismatic aura that was on par with wrestlers like The Undertaker.
12. Gorgeous George
For those of you who are wrestling fans and do not know who Gorgeous George is… Please go and find out before talking to me again about wrestling. Whenever I say all of professional wrestling can be traced back to this man, I DO MEAN ALL OF IT! Well okay, maybe not the moves or the concept. But what it meant to be a showman and what it meant to play a CHARACTER instead of just some dude in a set of wrestling trunks has this man to thank for it. All of the idea of characters, of wrestlers taking on personas, everything that had to do with building heat from gimmicks, and what it truly meant to be a heel wrestler, has everything to thank to Gorgeous George.
Realizing, back in the hey day of wrestling when it was dominated by big dudes like Toots Mondt and Georg Hackenschmidt, that people wanted a show, Gorgeous George took on a persona of someone that could heat up the crowd. He wasn’t just some guy in trunks. He would come to the ring adorned in robes with a butler to spray down the ropes for him. He would be the opposite of hyper masculinity, just to piss off the people in the crowd who were having their thoughts on what it meant to be a winner challenged. And when Gorgeous George beat their big manly men in the ring, people were furious! They wanted the man’s head on a pike and it was everything that a heel should aspire to be. He controlled the crowd in the palm of his hands and blazed a trail for future wrestlers. All heels have Gorgeous George to thank for pissing off every damn person that came his way.
11. John Cena
You knew it was coming! YOU KNEW IT! Do not even give me that! I know you are reaching for your keyboards, I know you are ready to say anything under the book. But listen, it doesn’t matter that WWE shoved him down our throats for the better part the entirety of the 2000’s. It doesn’t matter that he got oversaturated and buried other talent that we wanted to see be boosted up. It doesn’t matter what you think, what DOES MATTER is that this man changed the face of professional wrestling. What does matter is that this man IS the Hulk Hogan of the 2000’s and 2010’s for that matter. What does matter is that this guy IS a good wrestler who puts on good matches. What does matter is that John Cena is without a doubt one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Don’t get me wrong, I too grow irritated at Big Match John. I hated that he buried talent on a regular basis, I hated it that he got shoved down our throats, I hated it that his mere presence by proxy almost buried Daniel Bryan, I hated it that we had two Rock v Cena whenever one would be sufficient. I GET IT! But that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this man was the icon and for the most part still is the icon of 2000’s-2010’s pro wrestling. He has the charisma, he has the showmanship, he ALWAYS delivers on the stick even when it is the same promo done over again, he is great in the ring too, and in all honesty as much as people hate him, he still gives his most stalwart of haters moments where they have to say… Yeah… That was fucking good. John Cena is an icon and one of the best wrestlers in the history of wrestling. It might not get him into the Top 10. But it sure earns him a spot at number 11.
Thank you for reading, come back next week for the end of the list, the TOP 10 GREATEST WRESTLERS OF ALL TIME!