As with any sport, pro wrestling has many legends who are influential in the next generation's choices to become wrestlers themselves.
Tens of thousands of people have tried to become pro wrestlers at one point in their life, maybe more, but a select few become so great that they influence others to do the same.
Many of the names on this list will be familiar to even the youngest wrestling fan, but a few of them may be unknown to the current generation of fans.
Pro wrestling is well over 100 years old and in that time we have seen people of every race, religion and anything else you can use to classify someone as motivators for others.
Trying to rank some of these people against each other would be like trying to compare Michael Jordan to Julius Erving, you just can't do it, so this list will instead be in chronological order based on the start of their careers.
The more influential wrestling families will be grouped on the same slide to save space. The order will fall on the earliest member of the family's debut.
Let's take a walk through history and examine some of the most influential names in the wrestling industry spanning of 100 years.
In this slideshow you will get a brief synopsis of each family/person's contributions to the sport as well as resources where you can learn more about these legendary figures.
Frank Gotch is considered by some to be the Godfather of American Pro Wrestling.
His career started in 1899 and spanned two decades, seeing him become one of the longest reigning world champions in the history of the sport, with a single reign lasting over five years.
Today's fans may recognize his name from recent JBL commentary during Antonio Cesaro's matches, with JBL crediting Gotch for innovating the Neutralizer finisher Cesaro uses.
When Gotch was wrestling, the matches lasted much longer than they do today and were more like watching a Greco-Roman wrestling match than what we are used to seeing.
Wrestling roughly 160 matches in his career was a lot for a wrestler back then, as matches were advertised for weeks in advance and hyped like a major boxing match would be today.
Frank Gotch is an important part of wrestling history as he was one of the first big stars in the sport to make headlines and draw big crowds in the United States.
To learn more about this farmer turned wrestler you can visit FrankGotch.com.
Gorgeous George Wagner was an innovator in every sense of the word. Many of the staples of wrestling today were introduced to the business or popularized by Gorgeous George.
Wagner was one of the first heels to truly create a character to enhance himself in the business and he continued to perfect his gimmick throughout his entire career.
He would often be accompanied to the ring by women throwing rose pedals at his feet. He wore a colorful robe and would usually check himself in a mirror.
Wagner was one of the first to use entrance music, entering to "Pomp and Circumstance", which was later used more notably by Randy Savage.
George and his real-life wife were married in an in-ring ceremony, and when it proved to be a good draw they re-enacted the ceremony at numerous other events.
George Wagner never wrestled for WWE or WCW, but he did make a name for himself as one of the best heels in the business and one hell of an entertainer.
He did not hold many titles in the business, but he did leave a lasting impression, inspiring people both in and out of the wrestling business to adopt some of his more outrageous traits.
Henry Winkler played a character inspired by Wagner in a film, and many other celebrities have credited Wagner with influencing their brash persona's, including Mohammad Ali and James Brown.
Bob Dylan said in his autobiography that Gorgeous George was one of the first people to recognize his talent. Here is what Dylan had to say about Wagner.
"He winked and seemed to mouth the phrase, `You're making it come alive,' I never forgot it. It was all the recognition and encouragement I would need for years."
If you would like to learn more about Gorgeous George Wagner you can go to his official profile at WWE.com.
One of the only men in the business to hold a World title longer than Frank Gotch is none other than the legendary Lou Thesz.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Thesz got his start early in the sport by debuting in 1932.
The innovator of the Thesz press was a six-time World champion, with three of those reigns as NWA champion back when the belt was the most prestigious in the industry.
Besides being an exceptional wrestler, Thesz was a notable commentator, trainer and referee during his life, and he ended up being part of some of the more historic matches in the sport even though he wasn't one of the guys on the mat.
Thesz created moves that are still used by many wrestlers to this day, including the Tesz, which Stone Cole utilized in almost every match he had in the WWE.
Many people may not know this, but Thesz was also the innovator behind the STF submission we have seen so many superstars use, including John Cena.
Thesz passed away in 2002 and he left an indelible mark on the business that will never be forgotten.
If you would like to learn more about Thesz you can check out his biography, Hooker : An Authentic Wrestler's Adventures Inside the Bizarre World of Professional Wrestling.
When you think about the great families in pro wrestling the names thrown around are usually the same; The Harts, Von Erichs, McMahons and Guerreros.
The Guerrero family has seen half a dozen wrestlers compete in just about every promotion one could compete in, and many of them had legendary careers, that is if they are not still wrestling.
Gory Guerrero got everything going in the family, but it was Eddie who really became a worldwide star and the most well-nkown member of the family.
The Guerrero clan pride themselves on being wrestlers who can do everything, and Eddie exemplified that perfectly with his mat wrestling and high flying moves.
Mexico and Texas have become places where you can ask just about anyone who the Guerrero's are and hear a story about their greatness.
To learn more about the Guerrero family you can check out the page for their family tree.
Nature Boy Buddy Rogers is a legend in the wrestling business whose presence is still felt today. Many superstars would take parts of Roger's character and incorporate it into their own.
Ric Flair took most of Rogers' gimmick and adopted it into his own character including the figure-four leglock, nickname and trademark look.
Buddy Rogers was notable in his career for being the first person to hold both the WWWF (Now WWE) title and NWA title among the numerous championships he would gain during his 60 year career.
When Television was first exploding in the wrestling business, it was Rogers who took the lead and brought in fans with his great in-ring work and tremendous ability to entertain the fans.
During his long career Buddy Rogers faced some of the biggest names in the history of the business from Ed "Strangler Lewis to Lou Thesz to Bruno Sammartino.
To learn more about Buddy Rogers you can visit his WWE Hall of Fame profile.
The great thing about Mae Young is that she has never given up the wresting business, even in her advanced age.
Young first debuted in the business in 1939 at the age of 15 and has gained a legacy of being the only person in history to wrestle matches in nine different decades.
Young was always an athlete, wrestling on the boy's wrestling team at her high school and also playing softball during her formative years. This was a major turning point in women's rights as many girls were not allowed to compete in the boy's sports at the time.
As a wrestler, Young worked all over the US and Canada, wrestling for every major promotion from Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling to the NWA and WWF.
Young was one of the pioneers of women's wrestling and her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame is just one way her incredible career and life's work have been validated.
Young is still around today popping up at various WWE events and in March of 2013 she will be turning 90 years old. I am sure she will be here to celebrate her 100th as well.
To read more on Mae Young you can visit her Hall of Fame page or you can check out the DVD Lipstick & Dynamite - The First Ladies of Wrestling.
The entire Hart family has meant so much to the Pro Wrestling world and they continue to have an influence with the current generation of wrestlers.
Stu Hart was the patriarch of the Hart family, but don't think that means he had an easy time controlling his kids. Stu and his wife Helen had 12 children, not an easy number to manage.
The Harts were Canadian wrestling royalty since they were the power behind Stampede Wrestling, with most of Stu's kids having some kind of career in wrestling.
The two most famous members of the Hart family are arguably Bret and Owen, but plenty of the brothers and other relatives also had good runs in the business.
Their extended family included wrestlers like The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and the Hart dungeon trained such incredible talents as Chris Jericho and Tyson Kidd.
The Hart family name will always be linked to wrestling in both the US and Canada as a result of the immense contributions made by the entire family.
Visit the family profile page to learn more.
The man with the record for the most combined days as World champion among different promotions is certainly deserving of a place on this list.
Verne Gagne was the driving force behind the American Wrestling Association for many years as both the founder and top star of the promotion.
This was not Gagne simply creating a place where he would be the top star, this was Gagne being both a businessman and a top-flight athlete.
Gagne utilized moves in the ring many had not seen before, and his agility and athleticism allowed him to put on some exciting matches back when wrestling was still mostly grounded holds.
Gagne was influential in the careers of many legendary superstars he helped train including Curt Hennig, Bob Backlund, Jimmy Snuka and The Undertaker.
For many years the AWA was right up there with the top promotions of the United States, but Vince McMahon's dreams of a national promotion caused him to lose many of his top stars to the WWE.
After his retirement from the sport Gagne was inducted into numerous wrestling hall of fame classes for his contributions to the sport both in and out of the ring.
To learn more about Verne Gagne you can visit his Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame profile.
Listen up you pencil neck geeks! Its time you heard about one of the best heels ever to grace the ring.
Classy Freddie Blassie was one of the most charismatic people to lace up a pair of boots and his time in the wrestling business will never be forgotten.
Blassie got his start in the business by going to local events and learning various holds from the wrestlers who recognized him as a regular.
After serving in the military during World War II, Blassie returned and began wrestling again under a sailor gimmick to capitalize on the patriotism America was feeling following the war.
When Blassie didn't resonate as a babyface he changed his image to that of a loud-mouthed heel who would berate fans and claimed superiority over everyone.
His character was so hated that there were times when real police officers were called in to escort him to the ring for his own protection.
After California made a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 55 to wrestle, Blassie retired from the ring and focused on managing other superstars, which is how many WWE fans will remember him.
Blassie was not just an accomplished wrestler and manager. He also had ties with Hollywood with some very interesting names.
Not only did Blassie regularly appear on Regis Philbin's first talk show to taunt the crowd, but he was a fried of Andy Kaufmann, who would make a film with himself and Freddie called My Breakfast With Blassie.
To learn more about Classy Freddie Blassie you can visit his Biography page.
Mae Young's partner in crime is one of the most respected women in the history if the wrestling business and one hell of a nice lady.
Mary Ellison, better known to the world as The Fabulous Moolah, is a legend in the business and holds records that will never be broken in the business.
Moolah held the NWA Women's title for roughly 30 combined years and became so associated with the belt that she had a customer plate made for it with her picture on it.
Not only does she hold the record for longest reign by anyone in any sport for any championship, but she also holds the record for being the oldest champion by winning the WWE Women's title at the age of 76.
Moolah had a long career that saw her train many fellow female wrestlers and win numerous championships in promotions all over the globe.
The way most WWE fans know her is as a comedic character due to all the appearances she and Mae Young made over the years for Vince McMahon, but her legacy to the business is that of one of the toughest women to ever live.
To learn more about just how Fabulous Moolah really is you can visit her page for the WWE Hall of Fame.
The most accomplished family in American Pro Wrestling is also one that is also filled with tragedy and heartbreak.
The Von Erich clan was led by Fritz, the patriarch of the large wrestling dynasty, and it was continued by his sons Kevin, Kerry, Mike, David, Chris and today by third-generation family members Lacey, Ross and Marshall.
Fritz was trained by Stu Hart and he had a notable impact in NWA, WCCW and Japanese promotions where he was known as The Iron Claw.
His sons had their own success, but the most well-known of Fritz's offspring would have to be Kerry Von Erich, known to some as the Texas Tornado.
Kerry became the only member of the family hold a title in the then-WWF, but his whole family's legacy spreads over many promotions and dozens of titles.
Unfortunately for the Von Erich family and their fans, they have been plagued with many early deaths for various reasons.
Kevin represented the family for their WWE Hall of Fame induction at WrestleMania 25 and the family name is being carried on by his sons Marshall and Ross as well as his niece Lacey.
If you would like to learn more about the Von Erichs you can visit their WWE.com page.
What is there to say about the longest reigning WWE champion in history that hasn't already been said.
Bruno Sammartino was the man who kept Vince McMahon Sr's WWWF going during his time with the company, with reigns totalling a combined 10 years.
His 29 year run with the company saw him participate in many feuds with top stars such as Gorilla Monsoon, Freddie Blassie, The Sheik and George Steele to name a few.
His most high-profile feud was with Pedro Morales, who wrestled Sammartino in a 75-minute match in New York, which was unfortunately not filmed for television.
The interesting thing about Sammartino is that there are just as many interesting stories about the man from outside the ring as there are inside.
Numerous wrestlers tell stories about him in books and autobiographies they have written. One such story involves Sammartino and The Iron Sheik taking out six men at once backstage at an event in a real fight.
Sammartino was so popular in his day that it was a tough decision for the WWWF to take the belt off of him, but in time, everyone has to let the new guys in the business try their luck at the top.
Sammartino has been critical of wrestling in recent years, especially the WWE for how they have changed the sport. He has refused the WWE Hall of Fame a few times because of his beliefs.
To learn more about Sammartino you can visit his official website.
Gorilla Monsoon was an accomplished amateur and professional wrestler, but he is best known to audiences of today as an announcers and agent.
Monsoon was a part of the NWA early in his career, but in 1963 the territory he was in was absorbed by Vince J. McMahon's growing WWWF promotion and he was brought on board.
After retiring from in-ring competition, Monsoon became a prominent figure in WWWF as a booker, agent and announcer.
When Vince K. McMahon took over for his father, he traded Monsoon his shares in WWWF for lifetime employment and Monsoon became a mentor to the younger McMahon for many years.
The position behind the curtain where most of the producing is done for the show is named the Gorilla position in honor of him. He would usually be found there during shows doing his job rather than in an office or production truck.
Monsoon and Bobby Heenan also helped perfect the heel/babyface commentary team with their humorous interactions.
Few people have been as involved in the business both in the ring and behind the scenes as Monsoon and his spot in the annals of history will be that of a highly respected athlete and an intelligent producer and announcer.
To learn more about Monsoon you can visit his WWE.com profile page.
The founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling is one of the more important figures in Japanese wrestling.
His legendary bouts are well documented, but the best-know would have to be his iconic match with Ric Flair in front of 190,000 people.
A little known fact is that Antonio Inoki actually did hold the WWE title for a short time after defeating Bob Backlund for it in 1979.
The long career of Inoki has been filled with many important moments, and his spot in the WWE Hall of Fame was well-deserved when he was inducted in 2005.
To learn more about Inoki you can check out his WWE Hall of Fame profile page.
King Harley Race is one of the toughest men in the history of wrestling and an influence to many current WWE stars.
Sheamus has had his trademark beard modeled after Race's for years and CM Punk even confirmed on Twitter that his beard was inspired by Race earlier last year.
Race got his start in the business alongside Larry Hennig, father of Curt, in the AWA promotion during the '60s.
Race's biggest periods of success were during his times with the NWA and WWE where he would be known as King Harley Race.
Race was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994 before the big presentations they give to inductees today, but it doesn't make his inclusion any less special.
He was so important to WWE that he was part of their first handful of inductees.
Check out Race's official website to learn more about this great grappler.
The extended Anoa'i family may have had more of an impact on wrestling than Vincent K. McMahon, which is saying a lot.
When your wrestling family includes names like Afa, Sika, Rikishi, Umaga, The Rock and about a dozen other wrestlers, you get to claim bragging rights.
The entire extended Anoa'i family has been influential both as tag team wrestlers and singles stars, with many of the members of the family finding success in both the territory days as well as the modern era.
Today's WWE audience is watching The Usos and Roman Reigns continue the legacy of the family churning out great wrestling talent.
To learn more about the Anoa'i family visit their family tree.
Aaron Rodriguez, better know to the wrestling world as Mil Mascaras, is one of the more influential and important figures in Mexican wrestling.
Mascaras, along with his brothers Dos Caras and Sicodelico, make up one of the most well-known wrestling families in all of Mexico and their legacy is that of legend.
Mascaras is credited with popularizing the lucha libre style outside of Mexico during his wrestling career as well as acting in several films.
The lengths Mascaras has gone to in order to keep his face hidden behind his mask are admirable and he is one of the few wrestlers to never be unmasked in the ring after the length of career he had.
These days his legacy is being kept alive by his nephews, Alberto Del Rio and Sicodelico Jr.
During his storied career, Mascaras held titles in the WWA, New Japan and IWA as well as an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Few people have ever had the legacy of Andre Roussimoff in any sport, let alone wrestling.
Andre was born in France in 1946 and by the age of 12 it was obvious his condition had taken control of Andre. He was over six feet tall and well over the 200 pound mark.
The sheer size of Andre made him unable to fit on a standard school bus, so he was instead driven to school by his neighbor, famed playwright, author and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett.
Andre began wrestling in 1966, but it was not until 1973 when he signed with the then-WWF that he was turned into a household name.
Andre portrayed everything from a crazed monster to a gentle giant during his tenure in the business, and his legendary size allowed him to be a stepping stone for the mega-star Hulk Hogan.
Despite being known for his singles work the best, Andre held more tag titles then he held singles titles, including a WWF tag title with Haku and two NWA affiliate tag titles with Dusty Rhodes.
Andre passed away in 1993 after succumbing to side effects from his Gigantism as well as his poor health, but he will never be forgotten in the wrestling world.
Many of today's second and third generation stars grew up around Andre and on occasion we will be treated to a photo or story about the iconic giant who paved the way for guys like Big Show to make their way in the business.
To learn more about Andre The Giant you can check out his bio on the official Andre The Giant website.
Did you know there was someone who went by the nickname "The Rock" before Dwayne Johnson?
No, I am not talking about Jim "Warrior" Hellwig, although he did use the name as well.
The Rock I am talking about is "Magnificent" Don Muraco. Muraco may not have had a career spanning as many decades as Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair, but he was just as important during his time.
Muraco began wrestling in 1969 after becoming the Hawaii state amateur wrestling champion in 1967 and choosing to pursue wrestling instead of football.
Muraco's large physique and demeanor made him popular as a babyface and a heel, but his best work was during his heel days in WWE.
Muraco won the first King of the Ring tournament in 1985 by defeating The Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales and The Iron Shiek in one night, solidifying himself as one of the toughest men in WWE.
He never captured the WWE title from his nemesis, Bob Backlund, but he did manage to hold the IC title a couple times as well as go on to hold the ECW title during the days before the promotion became extreme.
Muraco has influenced many wrestlers including Mick Foley and Tommy Dreamer, who have both mentioned his steel cage match with Jimmy Snuka as one of their favorites encounters.
Murcao still pops up in Japan and at indy events from time to time as he has been able to keep himself in good enough shape to still wrestle at the age of 63.
Check out Muraco's WWE Hall of Fame profile to learn more about him.
Jerry The King Lawler is one of the most recognizable names in the history of the wrestling business and his impact as both a wrestler and announcer is undeniable.
Lawler recently returned to WWE following a health scare and he seems to be back to his old self after a very short time.
Lawler is more important to Memphis wrestling than anyone else and he is credited by many as bringing the potential for combining Hollywood and wrestling to the forefront with his feud against Andy Kaufman.
Lawler's career has seen him hold nearly 170 titles in various promotion around the globe, but ironically he has never held any title in WWE, where he has gained his most exposure.
Besides being a world-renowned wrestler, Lawler is also a talented artist, often creating pieces to be auctioned off for charity.
Nobody has been as involved with wrestling as Jerry Lawler has been over the years, and many credit his skill as the reason he has been able to wrestle for so many years without serious injury.
Covering just one or two of Lawler's feuds would be impossible because he has had so many memorable ones.
Superstar Billy Graham is one of the more colorful wrestlers from his era and he is also known as one of those guys who came before his time.
Graham was an accomplished bodybuilder and football player before training with Stu Hart in his dungeon and debuting in 1970 in Stampede Wrestling.
Graham's build made him a standout at the time, and his skill as a wrestler allowed him to be successful anywhere he went, including the then-WWWF.
Graham held the WWWF title for 296 days as a heel, which is still unsurpassed to this day even though others have had longer overall reigns as both a heel and face or simply as a face.
After the company was re-branded in the WWF, he returned with a bald head and goatee look that did not go over as well as his previous gimmick.
He never won the WWF title again, but he did get to rip it in half after losing to Bob Backlund, which is something many wrestlers have probably wanted to do out of frustration.
Graham has admitted in interviews that he is partly responsible for bringing steroids into the sport, but his legacy as a wrestler outweighs his legacy as a pusher.
Look for a young Paul Heyman in the video included.
Graham recently suffered a health scare and I wish him the best in his recovery.
There is not much about the 16-time world champion that is not known by the general wrestling public.
Ric Flair is one of wrestling's most successful and influential names, with a career spanning over 40 years.
His personal problems have received as much attention as his professional career in recent years, but to wrestling fans he is and always will be the Nature Boy.
Flair began wrestling in 1972 and quickly became known for his talent inside the ring as a technician and his personality as a brash heel.
Not only was he one of the founding members of the Four Horseman, wrestling's best-known stable, but he is also the man who brought the WCW/NWA title with him to the WWF.
Flair has held titles in just about every promotion he has wrestled in, and he has faced every big name from the '70s, '80s, '90s and 2000s.
Many superstars like Shawn Michaels and Triple H have made their appreciation of Flair public knowledge.
His tearful final WWE match and induction into the Hall of Fame helped WWE show Flair just what he means tot he sport and with a return to WWE being possible in the future we could still see the Nature Boy style and profile his way onto out TVs.
Many of today's wrestling fans might not be familiar with the name Dutch Mantel, but after reading this you might want to go learn about him.
Wayne Keown is a former wrestler, author and Vietnam veteran and he is one of the most influential people in wrestling history.
He debuted in 1973 and later changed his ring name to Dutch Mantel as it is easier to pronounce and spell than Keown.
His skills have been passed to many of the people he helped trained, including Sting, Ultimate Warrior, Kane and The Undertaker.
One of the more interesting tidbits about Mantel is that he is the man who actually named gave Steve Williams the name Steve Austin.
Austin had to change his name because Dr. Death Steve Williams already had a career under the name and Mantel changed Williams to Austin and the rest is history.
Dutch Mantel has worked with many of today's top stars as well as written extensively on wrestling.
To learn more about the interesting career of Dutch Mantel you can visit his blog where he talks in depth about his time in the business.
Macho Man Randy Savage is one of those guys who is universally accepted as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
He had everything a promoter would want in a superstar and his success in the business reflects that.
Macho Man could do power moves, fly from the top rope, chain wrestle with the best and have a slugfest with anyone who wanted to give him a try.
His time in WWF and WCW proved he could be a great heel or babyface and he was able to switch between the two at the drop of a hat.
His relationship with Miss Elizabeth has its own legend behind it and his private nature after getting out of the sport is well-documented.
The wrestling world was floored when the news broke of Savage's unfortunate death after a cardiac incident and subsequent car accident.
The influence Savage had on the current crop of superstars is clear, especially with regards to CM Punk, who has been using Savage's trademark flying elbow drop as a tribute to him.
Whether you loved him or hated him, there was no denying that Savage was one of the best the business had to offer and we are lucky as fans to have been able to watch him do so many great things as a wrestler.
Rowdy Roddy Piper might just be the most popular wrestler to never win the WWE or WCW title during his career.
Before joining the national promotions, Piper held dozens of single and tag titles in the territory system, including 17 different NWA tag titles with several different partners in various territorial promotions.
Piper was well known for his skill before joining the WWF, but it was when he got there that he took off and became a household name.
As a participant in the main events of the first two WrestleManias, Piper was one of the guys WWE trusted to carry the risky venture through its first years.
Following his feud with Mr. T, he began focusing on the IC title and he had some of the best feuds over the belt, including one with Bret Hart that saw Piper turn babyface at WrestleMania 8 after he decided not to use the ring bell to knock out Hart during their match.
His time in the business became sporadic after he left in 1994. He made appearances for both WWE and WCW in the following years.
He made some appearances for TNA when they first launched, but after shooting on Vince Russo during a segment, he left the organization.
These days Piper is brought in by WWE on occasion to host Piper's Pit, a segment he made famous after hitting Jimmy Snuka with a coconut.
The Hot Rod is quite possibly the best talker in wrestling history and to this day he is still able to entertain thousands of fans anytime he wants.
Dusty Rhodes represents a lot to the world of wrestling and to this day his expertise is utilized by WWE in their developmental system.
Rhodes was a three-time NWA champion during his career and he had feuds with just about anyone who mattered in the wrestling world.
The matches Rhodes had with Ric Flair at different times in their careers are clinics in how a wrestling match should be performed.
After signing with the WWF, Rhodes found himself in a polka dot outfit with a rubenesque valet named Sapphire. The gimmick was that of a working-class man who enjoyed life.
This gimmick did not keep Dusty from being popular in WWF, although he never held any gold while with the company.
During his long career, Rhodes has been a wrestler, manager, trainer, booker and he was kind enough to pass one his abilities to his sons Cody and Dustin.
If you were to use the number of title reigns someone has had as a measure of their success then Rhodes would be high on the list. He has held almost 60 titles in his career, including tag titles with legends like Andre The Giant and Blackjack Mulligan.
If you would like to learn more about Dusty Rhodes check out his WWE Hall of Fame profile.
If you are reading this slideshow and you have gotten this far then there is nothing I can tell you about Hulk Hogan that you have probably not heard before.
There is no debate when it comes to who the most well-known wrestler in the world is. It is Hulk Hogan.
Hogan helped to usher in a new era in wrestling during the '70s and '80s with his insane promos and popularity with children.
Both of the biggest companies in the history of wrestling relied on Hogan to carry them when times were tough and now he is passing along his years of experience to those in the TNA lockerroom.
Hogan's personal life is almost as documented as his professional life, but when you think about Hogan you think "wrestling."
The iconic slam of Andre the Giant might be his most well-known moment, but his career is filled with hundreds of notable matches and angles that were overshadowed by his show of strength that night.
Hogan is not known for being the best technician, but his flamboyant style and charisma helped make him the biggest draw to ever put on a pair of wrestling trunks.
Not many superstars, when questioned, will deny that Hogan was a major influence on their decision to enter the sport.
Just in case you did not have enough resources to find information on Hogan, here is a link to his official website.
When it comes to tag teams, there are few who measure up to the Legion of Doom in terms of success.
Hawk and Animal wrestled as a team in just about every promotion in the US and they won over a dozen tag titles while partnering together.
Their trademark spiked shoulder pads and face paint made them instantly recognizable to fans, and their popularity among both children and adults was something most wrestlers would be jealous of.
Mike Hegstrand and Joe Laurinaitis were powerhouses for sure, but they were also gifted wrestlers who could make any other team they faced look good.
In the '80s and '90s you didn't even have to like wrestling to know who these guys were, and that kind of success is hard to come by in the wrestling world.
The Road Warriors wrestled together for over 20 years and in that time they travelled the world and made sure everyone knew who the greatest tag team in the world was.
Animal and Paul Ellering accepted Hawk's induction into the WWE Hall of Fame when the team was inducted in 2011, paying tribute to the fallen Road Warrior.
To learn more about one of the most popular tag teams of all time you can check out their WWE Hall of Fame profile.
Mick Foley did things no human should or could be able to withstand and because of his willingness to put his life on the line he has earned a special place in the hearts of fans all over the world.
Foley has wrestled for WCW, WWE, TNA and ECW, holding titles in all four promotions throughout his career.
The big spots of Foley's career like falling through the Hell in a Cell roof or being thrown off it by Undertaker might be his most memorable moments, but they are not what defines Foley as a person.
Foley has proven himself to be one of the smartest people in the business as well. He has published best-sellnig books, acted in movies and TV shows and he has even released a children's book starring the Miz.
Versatility has been the key to Foley's longevity and finding new outlets like stand-up comedy and writing will keep him going for as long as he can.
Mick Foley means so much to the world of wrestling that it seems like a mistake that he wasn't in the Hall of Fame yet. Thankfully, he will get his induction this year.
To learn more about Foley and all he has done for the world of wrestling you can check out his official website.
William Regal is quite possibly the most underrated worker in the history of the sport.
Everyone acknowledges his superior wrestling ability, but nobody ever thought to book him to win the top title of a major promotion. Funny how that works.
Regal has been wrestling for decades, and according to recent commentary from JBL he holds the record for wrestling in the most countries around the world.
These days Regal is used more as a mentor and teacher in WWE, occasionally wrestling matches and putting others over.
Regal has had his issues with substance abuse, but he has been able to keep himself in fighting shape well into his 40s and when he gets in the ring he still looks like he could outpace most of the guys in the back.
If you want to watch a wrestling clinic then all you need to do is go to YouTube and type "William Regal" in the search bar and you will find a plethora of great encounters to choose from.
To learn more about the brawler from Blackpool you can check out his WWE profile page.
How do you characterize the guy who did the impossible and returned after a career-ending back injury?
How do you express what a man like Shawn Michaels has meant to a business that would not be the same had he never decided to wrestle?
Shawn Michaels is instrumental in so many current star's careers because they grew up idolizing him as their hero.
Michael Shawn Hickenbottom debuted in the business in 1984 as a part of the AWA promotion.
He was quickly paired with Marty Jannetty and the two formed a wildly popular team that ended up being what brought Michaels into WWE in the first place.
The swagger and bravado of Michaels helped to push him to the top of a company where guys his size were not supposed to reach the top.
The epic feuds Michaels had with so many different superstars are too many to list without leaving out something important.
Mr. WrestleMania earned his spot in the Hall of Fame years before he actually accepted the honor, and his impact on the industry will be felt many years after he is gone.
To learn more about Shawn Michaels you can check out his official website.
The Undertaker is quite possibly the most important gimmick in the history of the WWE.
In a day of real world characters, Mark Callaway manages to make the Undertaker the most anticipated character every year at WrestleMania.
Ever since his initial debut at Survivor Series in 1990, we have seen Undertaker be one of the pillars of WWE.
He was one of the few major stars who was made before the Monday Night Wars and did not jump ship to WCW for more money.
Undertaker is not just a gimmick, he is an incredible wrestler whose ability to defy what should be his own limitations is simply amazing.
These days we only get one match a year from the dead man at WrestleMania, but his character has grown into a legend and the idea of him returning every year just to defend his streak is something special that will never be repeated on the same level.
To learn more about The Undertaker you can visit his WWE.com profile page.
Keiji Motoh's gimmick of "The Great Muta" is one of the most well known characters in Japanese wrestling history.
Muta is an icon in Japan, so much so in fact that his trademark face-paint and spitting of green or red mist has been used in honor of him by countless superstars.
Muta had a successful run in the US where he was featured on WCW's joint programming with the NWA.
He has held countless titles and had a tremendous influence on the world of wrestling both in and out of Japan.
Muta is till wrestling after nearly 30 years of great matches in his homeland under the All Japan Pro Wrestling banner.
To learn more about one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers of all time you can visit keijimutohcentral.com
Steve "Sting" Borden is one of the only people to ever reach his level of success without the help of Vince McMahon and the WWE, and for that he deserves his own wing in the hall of fame.
Sting was the real force behind WCW when everyone was watching Hogan and the NWO run all over everyone.
He did not use his ego to put other people down or try and leave the company to find a bigger contract.
Sting ate, slept and breathed WCW and the fact that he was featured in the main event of both the first and last Monday Nitro shows how WCW valued his time with them.
Sting is now in TNA and he has been using his celebrity and power to help get the company to a point where they will no longer need him, and they are just about there.
The storyline involving Sting sitting in the rafters for months without saying a word is something nobody should ever try and repeat because it was lightning in a bottle as far as many fans are concerned.
Whether or not Sting will ever wrestle in WWE is yet to be seen, but he has earned his spot in the Hall of Fame as much as any superstar they have.
Anyone who paints their face before going to the ring was probably a huge Sting fan growing up.
Steve Austin is one of the most successful people to ever put on a pair of trunks and much of that success came much later in his career than many of today's top stars had to wait.
Austin was a solid worker in the territory system before settling in WCW as one half of the Hollywood Blonds with Brian Pillman.
The move to WWE almost ended as soon as it started when he was saddled with the terrible gimmick of the Ringmaster.
He used a submission similar to the Million Dollar Dream and he was accompanied to the ring by Ted DiBiase until he lost a match where the stipulation saw DiBiase leave WWE.
Once he was back to using the Steve Austin name he became a big star. The night people like to think he broke out is when he gave the famous Austin 3:16 promo, but he was on track to be a huge star way before that night.
Austin's character and personality were magnetic and he soon became one of the biggest stars in the company with The Rock and DX right there with him.
Austin's career is well-documented and anyone who watches wrestling is probably familiar with a lot of his highlight moments.
Rey Mysterio wrestled his first match at the age of 14 and he has been making history ever since as one of the best high flyers in the history of the business.
Rey got his start in Mexico training under his uncle, the original Rey Mysterio. While there he would hone his skills as a lucha libre star.
Rey was one of the best underdogs in all of ECW and WCW during his time with both companies, and he carried WCW's cruiserweight division along with many other stars.
Rey has been in the business longer than almost anyone else his age and having nearly 24 years under his belt means he is uniquely qualified to help the current crop of stars find their place in the business.
These days Rey takes it easy with the risk-taking due to years of injuries taking their toll on him, but he is still capable of pulling out one of the best matches against anyone.
Whether he is a giant killer or facing someone his own size there is no denying that Rey is exciting and fun to watch.
To learn more about Rey Mysterio you can visit his official website.
Ron Simmons made great strides for African-American wrestlers by being the first African-American WCW World champion.
This is not his only claim to fame, though. Simmons is an accomplished athlete who not only had the build of a bodybuilder, but the quickness of a sprinter.
Simmons is probably best known for his time with JBL as the founding members of the APA Protection Agency.
His image has changed many times over the years, from a standard wrestler to a gladiator with a funny hat to a thug for hire to a one-word act, but Simmons is a legend without a shadow of a doubt.
Anyone getting into the business would be wise to study this man's rise to the top.
To learn more about Ron Simmons you can visit his alumni page at WWE.com.
It might be hard to believe, but Chris Jericho has been wrestling for over 22 years. There is a good chance he had his first match before many of the people reading this were born.
In that time, Jericho has traveled throughout the world performing with many different promotions as many different characters.
He may have gotten his first taste of fame as part of ECW, but it was when he moved to WCW that he really became a recognizable face in the crowd.
Jericho was one of the pillars of the Cruiserweight division and he had some of the best matches of his career while under Eric Bischoff's watch.
The debut on Raw against the Rock is what truly pushed Jericho to main event status. When you go up against the best talker in the company and stand your ground it means you are going to be just fine.
Jericho has become such a great wrestler that he is able to walk away from the business whenever he wants and be welcomed back with open arms when he feels like returning.
Few others have managed to master the high flying style and the technical style as well as Jericho has been able to do.
Coming out of the historic Hart dungeon put Jericho on the right path as he is now one of those wrestlers who is basically a living legend in the business.
Check out his official website for more information on the Lionheart.
Not many people who are passionate about the wrestling business would attempt to start their own promotion, but that is exactly what Matt and Jeff Hardy did with OMEGA before they joined WWE.
Matt and Jeff Hardy are arguably the most popular tag team of the modern era and they are also one of the most successful.
When they first got into the business as teenagers they were used as jobbers in WWF, but eventually they were signed to contracts.
They were paired up with Michael Hayes and changed their look from colorful tights to a more alternative look, wearing pants and shirts instead of singlets and trunks.
Their image along with their willingness to take huge risks helped push them up the ladder in the tag team division, both literally and figuratively.
The Hardy brothers have both found success as singles and tag team superstars, with Jeff being a bit more successful as a WWE and TNA champion.
Matt is the worker and Jeff is the flyer. Their styles complemented each other well and the fact that they were real brothers made it so they knew each other better than most partners would.
Everyone knows about their historic feuds with The Dudleys and Edge and Christian and how they helped usher in a new era of tag team wrestling as well as popularized the ladder match all over again.
These days Matt takes indy bookings and has various other interests both inside and outside the ring while Jeff has been the TNA champion since winning the belt.
A return to WWE as a tag team would certainly make a lot of fans happy, but don't hold your breath.
Their personal issues have been well-documented and WWE might not want to take that chance again.
To learn more about Matt and Jeff Hardy check out the DVDs Twist of Fate: The Matt and Jeff Hardy Story and Jeff Hardy: My Life, My Rules.
Dwayne Johnson is one of the biggest stars to ever step foot in the ring and he got to that level in less time than anyone else has been able to.
With a short nine year run before his first departure from WWE, The Rock was able to climb his way to icon status without even being in the business for a decade.
Some guys have worked for over a decade before winning their first world title, let alone being signed by WWE.
The Rock is one of a kind and there will never be anyone else like him, but so many people have probably aspired to, that he has to be considered one of the most influential people in the business.
Johnson is one of the greatest success stories in all of wrestling, having the most lucrative career outside the ring of any wrestler in history. He even holds a record for the biggest paycheck for a first-time actor for his role in The Mummy Returns.
Very few wrestlers are able to move past their wrestling image. The Rock not only moved past it, but he turned around and embraced it again by being part of WWE for the past two years.
To learn more about The Rock you can visit his WWE.com profile page.
Kurt Angle is a 14 year veteran of the wrestling business and in that time he has become known around the world of one of the best workers in the history of the sport.
Angle first rose to fame for winning the 1996 Olympic gold medal for wrestling while having a broken neck.
After he moved to the more colorful pro wrestling business he was slow to get going because WWE wanted him to be a babyface.
Once he became a heel he really took off as a character and now Kurt Angle is so respected in the business that it doesn't matter which side he is aligned with.
Angle left WWE and joined TNA in 2006 and has been one of their biggest focal points ever since.
Kurt Angle has held more different titles between WWE and TNA than any other superstars in history, with the ECW and TNA television titles being the only belts that eluded him.
He even held every TNA title at the same time early in his run.
Angle is one of those guys who has a story so unique that you can't help but be inspired by it.
Listing the most influential names in the business is difficult because anyone can be influenced by anyone else when it comes to how they got into the business.
Many deserving names were left off the list simply due to the fact that there was only so much room to go around without this turning into a book.
Many people who deserved spots on the list would be Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Bob Backlund, The Sheik, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Boris and Dean Malenko, Ricky Steamboat, Curt Hennig, Terry Funk, Michael Hayes, Trish Stratus, Lita and many more.
Even some of the current wrestlers like Kane, John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge and Christian could have been included.
When I began making this list I decided to only go so big with it because I knew each slide would be more than just one or two sentences and that is why I ended it at 42 slides.
Why 42? Because 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, obviously.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and hopefully you learned at least one new thing. Visit some of the links included to learn more about these men and women and what they contributed to the business.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on the people included as well as those who were left off the list. To read a special thank you message to those who made it through this whole slideshow click this link.
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