Ranking the 20 Best Underdog Stories in WWE History
Underdog stories are as old as storytelling. And in pro wrestling, they are a staple of creative teams across the country.
In this slideshow, you'll see 20 of the most exciting, interesting and inspiring moments, storylines, events and wrestlers who should not have succeeded, whether real or kayfabe. Most are from WWE or companies now owned by WWE, but TNA makes an appearance.
Without further adieu...
20. Crash Holly
Weighing in at allegedly well over 400 pounds is Crash Holly. Perpetually bullied by his cousin Bob "Hardcore" Holly, Crash Holly was a super heavyweight in his own mind.
He got his WWE start in Mexico wrestling as the Green Ghost for WWF Super Astros. After working hard for three months, he debuted as Bob Holly's cousin on Raw in 1999.
Holly was small for WWE, standing 5'10" and weighing 212 pounds. But what he lacked in stature he compensated for with heart: He was energetic, fun to watch and very talented.
He was a 22-time WWF Hardcore Champion, second in history only to Raven.
Until his tragic death, Crash Holly was the embodiment of an underdog.
19. Zack Ryder
Zack Ryder was one of the hottest stories in 2011.
After spending several years in various tag teams and being relegated to the online WWE show Superstars, Ryder took matters, and the direction of his career, into his own hands.
He started filming Z! True Long Island Story, a YouTube show done on his own. His show and his Twitter page got fans buzzing. Chants of "We want Ryder! Woo Woo Woo!" echoed throughout arenas across the country.
After these chants started, WWE started using Ryder more on television.
Into 2012, Ryder began wooing (pun definitely intended) Eve Torres. After that relationship soured and Ryder was beaten down and shoved off the stage by Kane, he quickly descended back into the lower card.
WWE likely isn't interested in Ryder and simply doesn't want to give him a push.
But for a brief moment in time Zack Ryder, with the help of the fans, overcame WWE creative and had his 15 minutes of fame.
18. Mick Foley
"Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy" was unlikely to become a star in any other time in pro wrestling. But Foley had the good fortune of reaching his peak during the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era.
Foley never had the look that Vince McMahon likes and preferred a more blood-and-guts style of wrestling. Foley would be a part of some of the most brutal matches in WCW, ECW, and WWE history.
By all accounts, Mick Foley didn't have the look or the wrestling skills to succeed. Overcoming those "deficiencies" took hard work.
But he did it and won the WWE Championship three times.
Christian may not seem to be an underdog at first glance. But he had to overcome the breakup of perhaps one of the greatest tag teams ever to exist.
His former partner Edge transitioned into his singles career, but Christian took more work. After being a part of one of the hottest tag teams, he never could quite break into the main event scene.
Instead, he left for TNA, where he finally got the chance at a main event. After winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship twice, he returned to WWE, where he won four more world titles.
After years of hard work, Christian finally became the wrestler he could be.
16. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has one of the most storied careers in WWE history. So how could he possibly be an underdog?
On January 18, 1998, Shawn Michaels competed in a match with the Undertaker. During the match, Michaels was tossed onto a casket. He landed on his back, rupturing two discs and completely crushing one.
His career, many thought, was over.
Michaels would rehab for four years before finally returning to the WWE full-time. He sporadically appeared for WWE in guest roles, but many questioned whether he would ever return to the ring.
In experiencing his terrible back injury and the following surgeries and rehab, most fans were convinced he'd never be the same.
But after his 2002 return, Michales had another strong run in WWE.
15. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit is another small wrestler who had to work incredibly hard to win a world championship.
After years of putting on great matches, Chris Benoit was finally given a World Heavyweight Championship match. The match took place at WrestleMania XX and was a triple threat against Shawn Michaels and Triple H, making a win even more unlikely.
Yet, defying all odds, Benoit managed to force Triple H to tap to the Crippler Crossface and win his first world title.
14. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero came from a long line of wrestlers, and naturally he became a wrestler. But he could never quite win on the biggest stage. In the run-up to his match with Kurt Angle, Guerrero was not even given a chance to win.
The same night that Chris Benoit won his first World Heavyweight Championship, Eddie Guerrero defended his WWE Championship, defeating Angle—he had defeated Brock Lesnar at No Way Out to gain his first WWE Championship.
After toiling for years in AAA, ECW and WCW, Eddie was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after his untimely death.
13. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Before "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the face of WWF, he was fired from WCW and ECW.
Even in WWF, he was first known as the Ringmaster.
By 1997, Austin was on his way to super-stardom. He began a very high-profile feud with Vince McMahon—"Stone Cold" Steve Austin would constantly harass Vince, but as the boss, Vince had all the power.
Austin was arrested, beat down and attacked. But he never quit and would continue to war with McMahon until he was sidelined for neck surgery in 1999.
Gillberg was a parody wrestler mocking Goldberg, who at the time was WCW's hottest commodity.
Before Gillberg was Gillberg, he was on the J.O.B. squad. Gillberg was perhaps one of the biggest underdogs in WWE history because he never really won any matches.
He did manage to capture the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship though in his only win as Gillberg.
Goldberg may not come to mind when you think of the word "underdog." But in his feud with the nWo, he most definitely was. Everyone was, at that time.
He managed to overcome Scott Hall and the nWo to win his first and only WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
In addition, each match Goldberg won became more and more unlikely as his win streak grew. His streak ended at 173-0, when he lost after being shocked by Scott Hall.
10. Jeff and Jerry Jarrett Founding TNA
Jeff and Jerry Jarrett deserve a lot of credit. They founded TNA in 2001 right after WCW had been purchased by WWE and while ECW was going through bankruptcy. 2001 was not the ideal time to found a new wrestling company.
TNA started as an NWA territory but eventually grew to become the second largest wrestling company in the United States. Televised on Spike TV live every Thursday, TNA has become a destination for talent.
And while its ill-fated war with WWE failed, TNA is still growing. In an era when WWE destroyed all competition, TNA has managed to survive and thrive.
9. Spike Dudley
Spike Dudley was the runt of the Dudley litter.
For a wrestler, he's very small: only 5'9" and 150 pounds.
His size alone made him unlikely to win against any opponent. But, like most other small wrestlers, he had heart. He would typically get beaten down without help.
But Spike always brought it and earned a place in the hearts of hardcore fans everywhere.
8. Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is the ultimate underdog in WWE history.
Despite giving up inches, and often a foot, in height during his matches, he has managed to win the World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE Championship.
Rey Mysterio truly embodies what it means to be an underdog.
7. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy has had a hard road in recent years. He has bounced back and forth between WWE and TNA for nearly a decade, winning world titles in both companies.
But his most recent stint in TNA is different.
Most wrestling fans will remember his 88-second sham of a match against Sting at Victory Road in 2011. Hardy was clearly intoxicated and in no condition to conduct a match.
Yet Hulk Hogan saw something in Hardy.
He has since made amends and began his road back to the top of TNA. After winning the Bound for Glory Series, Hardy's redemption was complete. He won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Austin Aries at Bound for Glory 2012.
Few people in their right mind would have ever expected to see Hardy as champion, much less back in a TNA ring. No one gave him a chance, and his underdog story is one to remember.
6. Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer had one epic feud with Raven in ECW. And as good as Dreamer was, he never could quite get a win against him.
Feuding over Beulah McGillicutty, Dreamer and Raven fought for two years. Beulah, a once-overweight girl they both knew as kids, became a Penthouse Pet. They both wanted her.
By the time Raven was leaving ECW, Beulah had hooked up with Dreamer, but the "heart and soul" of ECW had never once defeated Raven.
But in Raven's last match, two years of frustrating losses were redeemed.
Tommy Dreamer finally defeated his rival.
5. CM Punk
CM Punk is perhaps the most polarizing wrestler in recent memory. John Cena may be the only person to draw more debate and discussion than him.
But there can be no doubt that what CM Punk has overcome is amazing.
Considered undersized, WWE creative (according to accounts from the Best in the World documentary) never knew what to do with him.
CM Punk started impressing WWE while in Ring of Honor. But it wasn't until he joined WWE that he truly had professional obstacles to overcome.
In spite of all the people who didn't want CM Punk or the lack of direction and disliked his character and real personality, he is as successful as anyone over the last five years.
Not only that, but CM Punk has also managed to hold the WWE Championship for the fifth longest reign in WWE history.
4. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan has been called the greatest wrestler to ever live. He certainly gave the industry new life in the 1980s.
In Hogan's match against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, no one gave Hogan a chance.
But when Hogan lifted up all 520 pounds of Andre, the crowd went crazy, and perhaps the greatest moment in wrestling history was cemented in the minds of a generation of fans.
3. Zach Gowen
Wrestling is hard enough. Wrestling on one leg is a difficult task. Zach Gowen has managed to do it for his entire career.
JR may think that one-legged men can't do well in ass-kicking contests, but Gowen did it at the highest level. He even scored a victory over the Big Show (with a lot of help).
Gowen proved that size, stature or even number of limbs means nothing when you have the desire to win.
2. Paul Heyman and ECW
When Paul Heyman took over Eastern Championship Wrestling, it was an obscure promotion that no one really paid any attention to. That would change rapidly.
After Heyman turned ECW into a hardcore promotion, it rapidly made waves in the pro wrestling world. ECW began to compete with WCW and WWF, companies many times larger than they were.
ECW gained a rabid fanbase and, thanks to them, was able to be a competitor in the Attitude Era. With virtually no money, ECW had video games, merchandise and even made primetime cable television.
Many of the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression stars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, the Dudley Boyz and more were ECW alumni.
In a time of massive wrestling companies, a small, Northeastern promotion crafted a legacy that lasts to this day. ECW chants still echo through arenas, paying homage to the little company that played up to its competition, pushing the envelope more than anyone else and changing the business forever.
1. Mikey Whipwreck
Finally, to the best underdog story in WWE (ECW is now owned by WWE, so this counts) history.
Mikey Whipwreck's story is like a movie.
Small, short and light, Whipwreck joined ECW and became a part of the ring crew. After showing Paul Heyman that he could wrestle, he got his chance.
Whipwreck would essentially go down to everyone. In fact, he never was able to mount any offense at all. After losing match after match, he finally was given the opportunity to win.
Fans loved him and went berserk when he finally defeated Gary Wolfe of The Pitbulls for the ECW TV title.
After that, his career took off.
He won titles in ECW and challenged for the Cruiserweight Championship in WCW.
Whipwreck, unlike most other wrestling underdogs on this list, actually had his amazing story play out on ECW television.
He is truly the ultimate underdog.
What Do You Think?
So, what do you think?
Who should, or shouldn't be on this list?
Your comments are always welcome, and I'm sure this topic will spark a nice discussion.