Daniel Bryan and the Top 10 Everymen in Wrestling History
Some of professional wrestling's biggest stars have been its most common men. It's one of the great ironies of the larger-than-life enterprise.
Common knowledge dictates that it takes an inhuman amount of charisma to appeal to a broad spectrum of wrestling fans. It's just as effective, however, to convey to a mass audience of largely ordinary individuals that you are just like them.
The everyman appeal builds a natural popularity that can be just as strong as a following built through electric promos or a unique look.
In today's social media age where the voice of a fan is louder than ever, the two biggest wrestling companies boast everymen as their world champions.
WrestleMania XXX concluded with over-bearded and undersized Daniel Bryan hoisting the WWE World Heavyweight champion.
Meanwhile in TNA, likely as a response to the Yes Movement, unspectacular lifer Eric Young shockingly captured the TNA Heavyweight championship.
Professional wrestling is no stranger to the everyman, or his success. It is a trait that will forever be a staple in entertainment, from Jason Bateman to Al Bundy.
Wrestlers featured on this list were able to transcend below-average traits into wrestling glory through championship victories and general popularity.
The Average Joe's of pro wrestling is anything but a collection of average wrestlers.
10. Balls Mahoney
Balls Mahoney represented what made ECW largely successful. Raucous crowds were just as big a superstar as the promotion's talent. This is fitting as, in most cases, the two were indistinguishable.
Balls Mahoney did not have the look or wrestling ability that could even make him a low-end star in WWE. He did, however, had the grunge look of a bar fighter—not to mention a freakish ability to swing a chair—that made him a cult hero.
Mahoney never amounted to much main event success in ECW, but he didn't have to. He was the anti-superstar. A hardcore standout. A midcard talent in a third-rate promotion. Does it get any more common than that?
9. Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey Whipwreck was ECW's resident overachiever. Trained by fellow everyman Mick Foley, Whipwreck was an unlikely Triple Crown winner, winning the promotion's heavyweight championship, tag team championship and Television championship.
Billed as an underdog, an otherwise average Whipwreck was able to connect with the hardcore audience by taking an above-average amount of punishment. A precursor to comic-book hero Kickass, Whipwreck was a superhero in the realms of ECW.
Wrestlers trained by Whipwreck include a new generation of underdog overachievers such as Zack Ryder and Jay Lethal.
8. Eric Young
Eric Young has been a TNA mainstay for the majority of his wrestling career. Young possesses the charisma and lovable personality to garner popularity with the loyal fanbase. His diminutive frame only helps his brand.
Young's goofy character has seen him willingly become a TNA Knockout's tag team champion as well as carry around an expired model of the TNA Heavyweight Championship belt.
In the same week a more high-profile athlete of Young's ilk competed twice on WrestleMania to win WWE's top prize, Young pulled double duty on Impact to become the TNA Heavyweight champion for the first time.
Unfortunately, with little build behind Young's journey to the championship, his win may do more to hurt the TNA Heavyweight championship in the long run.
7. The Big Boss Man
In describing the Big Boss Man, Deadspin's The Masked Man (David Shoemaker) wrote “he's overweight, he's got a crewcut and goatee, he's Southern, he's blue-collar. This is the everyman, to a large portion of the WWF audience.”
Throughout his career, Boss Man deftly demonstrated the common-man characteristic of making an honest living. As a hard-nosed police officer, the Big Boss Man promised hard times to opponents, most of whom were evildoers during his prime.
Boss Man didn't have the physique or Hulk Hogan nor the mantra of saying prayers and eating vitamins. He carried a less patronizing message, and he represented the more human hero of men in uniform who protect the rights of citizens.
His career evolution slightly took him away from the vein of the everyman, but Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor remains one of the most successful everymen ever.
6. Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer was one of the top stars of ECW, but this was only a testament to an ability to connect with Average Joe's better than most.
Originally billed as a pretty boy, Dreamer quickly transitioned into a hero of a hardcore fanbase through blue-collar tactics like brawling and persistence. Dreamer went much of his ECW career without having ever defeated Raven.
This made for an iconic moment for one of ECW's most popular stars. Dreamer was one of the few ECW wrestlers who never defected to WCW during the promotion's late-'90s purge that accelerated ECW's demise.
This added another very real dimension of loyalty that enhanced Dreamer's admirable everyman qualities.
5. Diamond Dallas Page
The career of Diamond Dallas Page was an outlier. After training with Dusty Rhodes at the age of 35, Page debuted in WCW where he went on to unlikely main event success.
Amidst wrestling brand names such as Hulk Hogan, Sting and Ric Flair, it was Page's ordinary journey that made him an extraordinary brand of his own.
His career-making feud against Randy Savage juxtaposed the one-man pageant of the legendary Macho Man against the lunch-pale heroics of Page.
The Rock will forever be known as the People's Champion. But, the wrestling legend-turned-Hollywood-A-Lister is currently set to play the title role in the upcoming Hercules film.
Somehow, Diamond Dallas Page's own nickname as the People's Champion seems more accurate.
As a three-time former WCW Heavyweight champion, the home-grown Page was a standout in a sea of free-agent acquisitions. This speaks to the always indomitable presence of an effective commoner.
4. Steve Austin
Steve Austin's charisma or record-breaking drawing power screamed anything but everyman. His blue jeans, bald head, Southern drawl and lengthy conflict with authority figure Vince McMahon, however, allowed a large audience of nine-to-fivers to live out their work frustrations through Austin.
Austin's employee-versus-boss rivalry was easy to digest. The fact that Austin didn't have a cartoonish gimmick made him a breath of fresh air coming off a WWE mid-'90s lull that was full of them.
Austin's ability to transition his everyman appeal to mainstream success slightly hurts his standing on this list, but the origin of the Austin Era was a beer-drinking redneck who later served as a slice of pop culture.
3. Mick Foley
Mick Foley was an everyman in more ways than one, sometimes quite literally. As the only WWE Superstar in history to enter the Royal Rumble under three different gimmicks in the same year, Foley almost was every man.
The successes of Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love paled in comparison to the eventual triumph of Mick Foley, who feuded with anti-everyman The Rock in the heart of WWE's Attitude Era.
Foley's scruffy beard and doughy build were not indicative of an almost superhuman ability to absorb punishment.
It was that ability to take an unworldly beating that allowed Foley to become one of the biggest stars of WWE's most successful era.
2. Dusty Rhodes
Few wrestlers, if any, marketed their standing as a common man better than Dusty Rhodes. The words were even ingrained in the lyrics of his WWE theme song.
With nicknames such as the American Dream and “the son of a plumber,” Rhodes was the personification of a dream come true.
It helped that Rhodes bared his body and competed in his trunks, a rarity even by today's standards, serving as a constant reminder of the mediocre attributes Rhodes was able to use to his advantage as a natural babyface.
Rhodes' legendary feuds with the Four Horsemen presented the perfect paradox of high-society stable of wrestling rock stars against the blue-collar underdog with the deck stacked against him.
Rhodes' shrewd exploits of his common-man character were evidence of his brilliant wrestling mind that allowed him to assume booking responsibilities across various promotions.
1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan's quest to the WWE World Heavyweight championship has been almost exclusively fan driven.
This is because corporate types, both in and out of the ring, did not feel that Bryan possessed the look or drawing ability to be a major star in the WWE.
Despite having a wrestling acumen that is largely unmatched by his contemporaries, it is Bryan's look of a small competitor with a large beard that won the hearts of fans everywhere.
His ordinary appeal turned a cult following into an impossible-to-ignore revolution branded as the Yes Movement. As long as Bryan is booked as an underdog facing seemingly insurmountable odds, he will continue to forge his legacy as the greatest everyman in professional wrestling history.
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