WWE: Top 10 Superstars from 2000-2009
The last decade was quite possibly the most important in the recent history of professional wrestling.
The WWF was coming down from the Attitude Era, the most successful period in the company's history, and eliminated any competition, with the purchases of WCW and ECW—something unthinkable only a few years previously.
With the roster stronger than ever, it would take a special performer to break out and become one of the top stars during this transitional era.
Here is a list of, who I think are, the ten biggest stars of the last decade.
Check back soon for the Top 10 Superstars: 1990-1999
There has been a lot of negative feedback in the comments, please read the last slide before commenting. This list only contains wrestlers who had either not made their debut, or not been part of the main event before the start of the year 2000.
10. Rey Mysterio
By the time he debuted on the July 25, 2002 episode of SmackDown, Rey Mysterio was already an internationally-renowned performer, with a highly successful WCW career under his belt.
However, it was during his time with the WWE that he reached the height of his popularity, becoming one of the most decorated smaller wrestlers of all time.
During the course of the decade, Mysterio lifted the World Heavyweight Championship, won four WWE Tag Team Championships (with Edge, Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero and Batista), three WWE Cruiserweight Titles (to add to the five he won in WCW, for a record-setting eight title wins) and won the 2006 Royal Rumble after entering at number two.
Rey Mysterio will be remembered as one of the stars of the decade for his unique and innovative offence, the quality of his matches and, most importantly, for his role as 'The Ultimate Underdog'—a perennially-popular superstar who is always capable of upsetting the odds.
9. Jeff Hardy
At the turn of the decade, Jeff Hardy was already part of a championship winning team with his brother Matt.
But as the years went by Jeff went on to become one of the most popular stars in the entire company. Due to his high-risk offence, that included no shortage of death-defying stunts, Jeff Hardy was the definition of 'Extreme.'
It's hard to believe he's never had surgery for a wrestling-related injury.
As a tag team wrestler, Jeff lifted the WWE World Tag Team Championships six times and the WCW Tag Team titles as part of The Hardy Boyz. He flirted with singles stardom by winning the Hardcore Championship three times, and won his first Intercontinental Title in 2001 with a shocking victory over Triple H.
Hardy also added the Light Heavyweight and European Titles to his list of accolades before leaving the WWE to work in TNA.
After a three-year hiatus, Hardy returned and won the Intercontinental championship three more times, before finally gaining main-event status and winning his first WWE Title in December 2008, dropping it to Edge a month later.
At Extreme Rules 2009, he defeated Edge in a ladder match to win the World Heavyweight Championship, before CM Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase. This led to the best feud of 2009 between the two, with Hardy winning the World Championship for a second time.
Despite his personal issues, that I don't need to go into here, Jeff Hardy was undoubtedly one of the most popular and successful superstars of the last decade.
8. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero made his WWF debut on January 31, 2000 as part of The Radicalz (with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko).
Prior to this, he had earned a reputation as a supremely talented worker after spells with NJPW, ECW and WCW. It was in the WWE where his popularity really took off under the 'Latino Heat' moniker.
Prior to winning his first WWE Title at No Way Out 2004, Eddie Guerrero had already won the WWE Tag Team Championship three times (twice as part of Los Guerreros and once with Tajiri), was a former United States champion and had won both the European and Intercontinental titles twice.
Eddie was an incredibly popular WWE Champion, and the fans loved his charismatic performances and tweener mantra of 'Lie, Cheat and Steal.' After dropping the title, he captured the WWE Tag Team championship with great friend Rey Mysterio and was penciled in for a World Heavyweight Championship victory before his tragic death.
Eddie, like a lot of wrestlers, had his fair share of substance problems away from the ring, which ultimately caused his untimely death.
He remains one of the stars of the last decade for his great in-ring work, excellent work as both face and heel and his ability to work with opponents of any size and bring out the best in them.
7. Randy Orton
Third-generation superstar Randy Orton made his debut on the April 25, 2002 edition of SmackDown and by the end of the decade, he had undoubtedly become one of the company's top stars.
Aligning himself with Triple H, Batista and Ric Flair in Evolution led to a meteoric rise for the youngster, and in December 2003 he began the longest Intercontinental Title reign in seven years, before dropping the strap to Edge at Vengeance 2004.
The following month, he became the youngest World Champion in WWE history at age 24, causing his split from Evolution and rise to singles prominence. By the end of the decade, Orton had won the WWE Title five times, lifted the World Tag Team Championships with Edge and was the winner of the 2009 Royal Rumble.
Since the turn of the decade, Orton has added three further World Titles to his collection, but it was during these years that he rose to prominence. First, as the young upstart in Evolution, through to his 'Rated RKO' team Edge, before creating two memorable personas in both 'The Legend Killer' and 'The Viper.'
Did anyone else think that when they saw 'Deacon' Batista debut with D-Von on May 9, 2002 that they were looking at one of the biggest stars of the decade?
Nope, me neither.
After abandoning the horrible gimmick, Batista came into his own as the 'enforcer' of Evolution and lifted the World Tag Team Championships twice with Ric Flair. After winning the 2005 Royal Rumble and undergoing a masterful slow-burning face turn, Batista defeated mentor Triple H to win his first World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 21.
He ended up holding the belt for 281 days before vacating it due to injury.
During this time, he also lifted the WWE Tag Team Championships with Rey Mysterio.
Batista finally won his second World Championship in November 2006, before falling victim to the Undertaker's streak at Wrestlemania 23. He regained the title from The Great Khali in September 2007 before dropping it to Edge three months later.
After being drafted to Raw, he won the World Tag Team Titles with John Cena, before lifting his fourth World Heavyweight Championship by beating Chris Jerich—though he only held the title for eight days.
Batista won his first WWE Title in June 2009, but was forced to vacate it through injury.
Batista didn't last long into the current decade with the WWE, but during his run he became a genuine main-event superstar, equally comfortable as both face and heel and between 2005 and 2009, he was one of the company's biggest draws.
5. Brock Lesnar
When 'The Next Big Thing' burst onto the scene on the post-Wrestlemania Raw in 2002, we knew we were seeing something special for the first time.
Lesnar went on a path of destruction through the WWE roster, winning the King of the Ring tournament a mere three months after his debut.
Aged 25, Lesnar won the Undisputed Championship from The Rock at SummerSlam 2002, holding the title until November when he suffered his first career loss at the hands of The Big Show. Lesnar won the 2003 Royal Rumble and went on to defeat Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship in a classic at Wrestlemania 19.
As the face of SmackDown, Lesnar and Angle had one of the great rivalries of the modern era, contesting many excellent matches, including an Iron Man classic on the blue show. Lesnar dropped his third and final WWE Championship to Eddie Guerrero in February 2004, before entering a rivalry with Goldberg.
The resulting Wrestlemania 20 match was played out to antipathy, as fans knew both men were leaving the company following the show.
In just two years, Lesnar became one of the most dominant and successful stars of the decade. His unique mix of power and athleticism resulted in some classic matches with a variety of opponents, and his 2012 return has had a distinct lack of the former UFC Champion's trademark intensity.
4. Chris Jericho
After months of cryptic promo videos, Chris Jericho finally made his WWF debut on August 9, 1999.
Well-known and respected by the fans for his excellent ring and microphone work in WCW, Jericho went on to become one of the biggest stars of the following decade, and is rightly considered one of the all-time greats.
Jericho made history on December 9, 2001 when he defeated The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night to become the first-ever Undisputed Champion.
During the course of the decade, Jericho also enjoyed another World Heavyweight Championship reign, held the Intercontinental Title a record nine times, won the WCW Championship twice and the European and Hardcore Titles once apiece.
Jericho also tasted success in the tag team division, winning the WWE Tag Team Titles with both Edge and The Big Show, and he also became a five-time World Tag Team Champion (with Chris Benoit, The Rock, Christian, Edge and The Big Show).
Chris Jericho jumped from WCW as an established upper mid-carder and managed to become one of the most successful smaller wrestlers of all time. As good on the mic as he is in the ring, and not shy of putting other stars over on a regular basis, Y2J is most definitely one of the decade's top stars.
3. Kurt Angle
Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle made his WWF debut against Shawn Stasiak on November 14, 1999 and went on to become one of the biggest stars of the following decade, as well as one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time.
Angle got his first taste of gold in February 2000, winning both the European and Intercontinental Titles and dubbing himself the 'Eurocontinental Champion.'
Before his release from the company in August 2006, Angle already had an incredible list of accomplishments: 2000 King of the Ring, European Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Hardcore Champion, WCW Champion, WCW United States Champion, WWE Tag Team Champion (with Chris Benoit), World Heavyweight Champion and four WWE Championships.
Known for his incredible range, Kurt Angle was able to play both the focused and determined 'Wrestling Machine,' the cowardly heel, the comedy buffoon and much more. Added to this, he proved himself to be one of the greatest ring technicians of all time by having countless excellent matches, often dragging a great match out of a lesser-talented opponent.
It is these intangibles that make Angle one of the biggest stars of the decade.
Oh, it's true.
2. John Cena
Yes, John Cena is only at number two.
When Kurt Angle issued an open challenge on the June 27, 2002 SmackDown, nobody expected the youngster, who gave him a run for his money, to become the biggest star in the company since Stone Cold Steve Austin.
After a couple of false starts, Cena finally found his rhythm as a rapping heel, who would draw heat by mocking the hometown fans in attendance. Eventually, he turned face due to his overwhelming popularity, and first tasted championship gold by winning the United States Championship at Wrestlemania 20.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
By the end of the decade, Cena had well and truly been established as the figurehead of the entire company, with most of the major storylines revolving around him.
By the start of 2010, he had added two more United States Title victories, emerged victorious in the 2008 Royal Rumble, won the World Tag Team Championships twice (with Shawn Michaels and Batista), two World Heavyweight Championship reigns and also lifted the WWE Title no less than five times.
John Cena is undoubtedly the figurehead of the WWE and will always be booked as the main draw, no matter what.
This obviously makes him one of the top stars of the decade.
The reason that he isn't at number one is because his act had grown stale by 2006, yet the WWE still shoved the same old routine down our throats. A great number of vocal fans have turned on him in recent years, but his act will remain the same, denying him top spot on this list.
I don't even think this is a particularly controversial decision.
On November 10, 1997 a young wrestler named Sexton Hardcastle made his WWF debut. Fifteen years later, he is now a retired multi-time World Champion and Hall of Famer.
And in my opinion, the top WWE star of the last decade.
At the start of the year 2000, Edge had only held the Intercontinental Title for 24 hours.
However, by the end of the decade he had a resume most superstars could only dream of: four WWE Titles, five World Heavywieght Championships, two WWE Tag Team Championships (with Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho), 12 World Tag Team Titles (seven with Christian, two with Chris Benoit and one each with Hulk Hogan, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho), five Intercontinental Title wins, a WCW United States Title win and a European Championship reign, added to his victory in the 2001 King of the Ring and Money in the Bank triumphs from 2005 and 2007.
Edge managed to overcome his initial struggles as a singles competitor by working hard to hone his craft.
After adopting the persona of 'The Rated-R Superstar,' Edge proved himself as the best talker in the company, having classic feuds with the likes of John Cena, The Undertaker and Jeff Hardy.
Despised by the fans as an outspoken, controversial heel who would do anything to win, Edge was the perfect foil to John Cena, and fans would unanimously cheer for Cena (which is a rarity)—such was their hatred of the Canadian. Edge was the perfect foe for John Cena, and The Rated-R Superstar's constantly superb work in that ongoing rivalry, along with his development into one of the best all-around talents in the industry, earn him the number one spot.
So there it is, do you agree with my picks for Top Ten Stars of the Decade? Someone important that I left off? Sound of in the comments below.
(Note: The Rock, Stone Cold, Triple H, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels weren't in consideration for the list; they were all established main event players before the start of the year 2000)