Originally I had planned to post this as one article, but as I kept writing the word count piled upwards and onwards. So, I will write several more- digestible article
Before I start, the structure of this article was the idea of 411mania.com columnist, Chris Lansdsell. For those who are interested in his work, he is a link:
Now, I will begin.
Hollywood has Pacino vs. De Niro. Football has Pele vs. Diego Maradona. Rock and Roll has Elvis Presley vs. The Beatles.
Professional wrestling has Hogan vs. Flair
Or is it Hogan vs. Austin?
Or is it Austin vs. Rock?
Maybe it is the Rock vs. Shawn Michaels?
You get the picture.
Unlike the other three professions, there are no two wrestlers that stand out as the greatest of all-time.
There have been multiple eras in professional wrestling, and, in each era, multiple wrestlers claimed to the greatest.
I will try to identify the greatest wrestler through a points system. I have chosen seven wrestlers. Therefore, I will introduce seven different categories. The wrestlers will be ranked one through seven in each category...
7 points for every No. 1
6 points for every No. 2
5 points for every No. 3
4 points for every No. 4
3 points for every No. 5
2 points for every No. 6
1 point for every No. 7
Deciding on seven wrestlers to evaluate was difficult. I started out with eleven names. Unfortunately, Shawn Michaels, Sting, Chris Jericho and Randy Savage did not make the cut. The seven contenders are as follows:
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Now that we have our final seven wrestlers, here are the seven categories in which they will be judged are:
Relevance outside of wrestling
In ring work/match quality
After a traditional game of ‘eeny meeny miney moe’, I will start with...
From the start, you can tell that the top three in this category will be Austin, Rock and Hogan (no particular order), but what about the remaining three?
Despite being the best technical wrestler of the candidates, Kurt Angle has to come bottom in this category. Although he was a 12-time World Champion, during his WWE Championship reigns, he was never the biggest draw.
He feuded with The Rock during his first reign. His second reign saw him feud with Austin. So, during his early successes, he was up against biggest draws of all-time.
As his number of championship reign increased, Kurt’s luck stayed the same. By 2003, the WWE split into Raw and Smackdown. Kurt was placed into Smackdown. While being, by far, the best technical wrestler, his drawing power is behind The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar.
Today, Kurt is one of the bigger draws in TNA, possibly the biggest. However, due to the emphasis on other stars such as AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle is not immediately associated with TNA. With all due respect to TNA and their workers, they are not half as big as WWE. For them to approach WWE's popularity, they would need The Rock or Hogan. As much as I hate to say it, when it comes to drawing power, Kurt Angle is seventh.
Coming in at number six is "The Master of the Power Cut," The Undertaker. With almost 20 years in the WWE, you may think his ranking should be higher.
Let me give you some names: Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and John Cena. During "The Deadman's" near 20-year career in the WWE, the aforementioned wrestlers have all, at one point or another, prevented The Undertaker from being the top guy. No one wrestler has held their main-event status longer than "The Phenom."
However, despite being one of the most recognizable names in wrestling, it is amazing to think that The Undertaker has never been the biggest draw. The Undertaker is my No. 6.
Woooooooooooo! At number five it is the kiss stealing, wheeling dealing, could not draw a dime because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time son of a gun Ric Flair! Alright, that may be an exaggeration, but is a damn good rhyme!
Flair had all the right makings of being a top draw. He had the look, the charisma, and the aura that very few have in the wrestling business.
Flair’s downfall however was WCW.
Although WCW broaden his global profile, it stunted his drawing power. At NWA, in the 1980s, Flair was a huge draw, second only to Hogan and Andre the Giant of the more financially powerful World Wrestling Federation.
Fast forward to the 1990’s, and you have the same story as you had with The Undertaker. As big as Flair was, there was always someone bigger, starting with Hogan in the 80’s and early 90’s, then Sting, and finally the NWO. Ric Flair is my No. 5. Wooo!
In at number four is the "Excellence of Execution," Bret Hart. Bret’s timing could not have been better.
He was in the right place at the right time after the 1992 steroid scandal that reshaped the WWF. Bret was the first of a new, smaller breed of world champions that would consume the main-event picture for the next decade. Bret was also the top guy at a time when the WCW had not reached the heights of its popularity.
From 1992 to 1996, Bret was undoubtedly the WWF’s star performer. Taker was involved in mid-card feuds with the likes of Kamala and ‘fake’ Undertaker. Shawn Michaels would not reach the main-event spot until late 1995. Others such as Diesel, Razor Ramon and Sid just could not attract the crowds that Bret did. When you add Hart's worldwide appeal and fanbase, and you have yourselves a global superstar.
Now, this is the tricky part, if ya smell what I am cooking. Sorry Rock fans, "The Great One" only qualifies for a bronze medal in the battle of the three biggest draws of all-time.
Unlike Austin and Hogan, Rock seemed to benefit from the stardom of others such as Austin. Hogan came from seemingly nowhere. Suddenly, at the start of 1984, Boom! Hulkamania has arrived! It was similar for Austin, although it may have taken longer for him to reach the heights of Hulkamania. However, with one memorable promo and one iconic image, Austin was on his way to wrestling god-like status.
Would The Rock have been as popular with Austin? Austin paved the way for a new, "be yourself with the volume turned right up" persona, a persona which to his credit The Rock absolutely nailed. Had it not been for Austin, the Rock never has a chance to use that persona.
Whatcha Gunna Doooo, when Hulkamania comes in at number twooooo!?!?!? Choosing between Hogan and Austin in this category is difficult. However, during Hulkamania's height there was little competition. There was NWA, but that organization was not at level of WCW.
Simply, there was no main-event competition for Hogan to contend with during the 1980s. Andre the Giant was not as big of draw as The Rock or The Undertaker. That is my rationale for Hogan coming in at No. 2.
I place "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at No.1 because he transformed Monday nights. He was thee star on a roster full of names such as The Undertaker, The Rock, Mick Foley, and D-Generation X. Most of all, he was able to take on the WCW, more specifically the NWO. He even took on "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan!
Austin’s natural charisma, attitude, and humour helped him relate with working-class people. It was working-class people who paid to see Austin "stick it to the man" week-in-and-week-out. Hogan made wrestling mainstream, but Austin revolutionised wrestling.
So, after round one, the standings are as follows:
1. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin-7 points
2. Hulk Hogan-6 points
3. The Rock-5 points
4. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart-4 points
5. Ric Flair-5 points
6. The Undertaker-2 points
7 Kurt Angle-1 point
Stay tuned or log on, either will do, for the next round when the category will be "ring work/match quality."