When the words "greatest wrestler of all time" are mentioned, dozens of names jump to mind.
Stars of the '60s and '70s such as Bruno Sammartino and Buddy Rogers. Stars of the '80s such as Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Stars of the '90s such as The Rock, Steve Austin, Undertaker, and Bret Hart. You can ask 50 people, and you might get 50 different answers.
What does it take to be the greatest wrestler of all time? Wrestling talent? Mic skills? Charisma? Popularity with the fans? Merchandise sales? Selling pain? Performing well on the biggest stage?
Which wrestler combines all of the above? Which wrestler has the total package of all that is needed to be considered the best?
In my opinion, there is only one man who deserves to be called the greatest of all time.
That man's name is Shawn Michaels.
Wrestling talent? Arguably the best ever. With a scrub of an opponent, Shawn can have a good match. With a good opponent, expect a great match. And with a great opponent such as Flair, Undertaker or Jericho, don't be surprised to end up with the match of the year.
Mic skills? Shawn's promos are always one of the highlights of any wrestling show.
Charisma? Shawn has that in spades.
Popularity? He routinely gets the biggest pops of the night.
Selling merchandise? Just glance at the threads on a typical wrestling audience member if you need proof.
Selling pain? Aside from Mick Foley, no one can sell like Shawn Michaels.
Shawn has an excellent move set, flawlessly combining high flying, striking, submission, and grappling. His Sweet Chin Music can come out of nowhere and is one of the most lethal finishers of all time.
Think of some of WWE's trademark matches. The ladder match. Hell in a Cell. The ironman match. Who was in the first of all of these? Shawn Michaels. Each match was five-star caliber, or damn close.
In 2002, Shawn made his return from what many thought was a career-ending back injury. After four years away from the ring, Shawn seamlessly regained his spot as the best in the business.
At the grandest stage of them all, Wrestlemania, there is absolutely no one better than Shawn Michaels. Undertaker has his streak, but when Wrestlemania rolls around you know Michaels will most likely have the best match on the card.
Since his return from injury, Shawn has taken part in seven Wrestlemanias. The matches, with my ratings, are as follows:
Wrestlemania 19 - Michaels vs. Chris Jericho: ****1/2
Wrestlemania 20 - Michaels vs. HHH vs. Chris Benoit: *****
Wrestlemania 21 - Michaels vs. Kurt Angle: ****3/4
Wrestlemania 22 - Michaels vs. Vince McMahon: ***1/2
Wrestlemania 23 - Michaels vs. John Cena: ****1/4
Wrestlemania 24 - Michaels vs. Ric Flair: ****1/2
Wrestlemania 25 - Michaels vs. Undertaker: *****
Six out of seven matches over four stars, with the lone exception being against Vince McMahon. Getting a three-and-a-half-star match out of Vince is a miracle by itself, so we will forgive Shawn for failing to crack the four-star barrier here.
Two five-star matches, coming at Wrestlemanias 20 and 25, were clearly matches of the year. Absolute classics against Jericho and Angle could easily be considered match of the year candidates. All of this AFTER returning from a back injury that caused him to miss four years.
Shawn Michaels combines everything that makes wrestling great. He can wrestle, promo, and bring the fans to their feet. For bonus marks, he carried Hulk Hogan to arguably the greatest match of Hogan's career at SummerSlam 2005.
The awesome theme song, the fantastic promos, and the dozens of matches that will go down as some of the greatest of all time add up to one thing.
The greatest wrestler of all time is Shawn Michaels.