Top 50 Wrestlers Ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated: Nos. 35-26
Just a reminder, this list was compiled by Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) in 2003 and covers the years that the publication covered pro wrestling. Therefore, you won't see any of the stars prior to the '70s or post-2003.
Hope you enjoy.
35 - Davey Boy Smith
This ranking is quite high for my liking and probably had more to do with his success with Dynamite Kid than his singles career.
Davey Boy Smith returned to the WWF in 1990 as a singles wrestler, but received a lukewarm welcome from the fans of North America. Instead, Davey became the face of WWF in the United Kingdom. He was the main reason for the WWF becoming popular on the Sky Sport network and drawing the large crowds they did in live shows.
Davey's success peaked at SummerSlam 1992 when he defeated Bret "The Hitman" Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wembley Stadium in front of 80,000 plus fans. This match was voted match of the year by PWI.
After quickly losing the belt, the WWF fired Davey because he was receiving Human Growth Hormones from a pharmacy in England.
Aside from the Intercontinental Title, Davey held the WWF European and the WWF Hardcore Championships (twice each).
34 - Tully Blanchard
Tully is a second generation wrestler who began his career in his father's promotion, Southwest Championship Wrestling in Texas.
At a young age, Tully had the privilege of gaining experience wrestling Dory and Terry Funk, Gino Hernandez, "Cowboy" Bob Orton and Adrian Adonis. This experience helped Tully to gain knowledge of wrestling inside and outside the ropes.
In Mid-Atlantic/Jim Crockett Promotions, Tully became very successful and wealthy as a member of the Four Horsemen.
Tully held the NWA National Title, NWA Television Title, NWA World Television Title and NWA United States Title.
Tully also was a part of the top feuds during the mid-'80s with Magnum TA, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and Wahoo McDaniel.
33 - Junkyard Dog (JYD)
Entering the ring with his trademark chain attached to a dog collar and to the tune of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," JYD was one of the most electrifying and charismatic wrestlers in the country during the early 1980s.
JYD was known for his head butt and upper-body strength which he used to body-slam large wrestlers like the One Man Gang, Kamala, and King Kong Bundy.
In the Mid-South, JYD held the Louisiana Championship (three times), North American Championship (four times), and the tag-team belts (eight times).
By the time JYD came to the WWF, he had won the numerous mentioned championships, as well as winning the PWI's Most Inspirational Award (1980) and participated in the Wrestler Observer Newsletter's (WON) Feud of the Year with Ted DiBiase (1982).
His popularity was still high in the Northeast, as it was in the Mid-South, but the JYD never received a push for any of the WWF titles. Instead, JYD only reached mid-card success during his four years with the WWF.
32 - Don "Magnificent" Muraco
Muraco began his career in 1970 and mostly fought in the AWA and in Florida during the 1970s.
Muraco instantly won the WWF Intercontinental Title from Pedro Morales months after joining the company under the management of the legendary Grand Wizard.
Muraco participated in one of the greatest Steel Cage matches in history with Jimmy Snuka in 1983. That match saw Snuka leap over 15 feet high off the top of the cage onto Muraco.
Muraco feuded with Tito Santana during 1984, but was not successful in regaining the Intercontinental Title.
In 1985, Mr. Fuji became Muraco's manager which led to a push against then world-champion Hulk Hogan and then a feud against Rick "The Dragon" Steamboat.
31 - "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff
During the late 70s, Orndorff feuded against Jerry Lawler, Ernie Ladd, Baron Von Raschke and Masked Superstar while competing in Memphis, Mid-Atlantic and Alabama.
In the Mid-South, Orndorff defeated Jake Roberts to win the North American Heavyweight Championship in '81.
He then left for Georgia to fight Buzz Sawyer for the National Heavyweight Championship, which he won in '82.
Despite not winning any belts in the WWF, Orndorff was considered one of the promotion's best during the mid-80s.
He was one of the first wrestlers to feud with the newly crowned champion, Hulk Hogan, but was unsuccessful in winning the gold.
The main event of the first WrestleMania pitted Orndorff and Roddy Piper vs. Hogan and Mr. T. Orndorff's team lost the bout after "Cowboy" Bob Orton accidentally smashed him with his arm cast.
Shortly after at the very first Saturday's Main Event, Piper and Orton blamed the Orndorff for the loss and attacked him. This led to Orndorff's face change.
He then teamed with Hogan and Andre The Giant to feud with Piper and Orton during the remainder of '85.
In '86, Orndorff turned on Hogan which led to a feud which was selected as Feud of the Year by PWI and WON.
In the WCW, Orndorff won the World Tag Titles twice with Paul Roma and the World TV Title once.
30 - Rick Martel
In '84, the debate on who was the best World Champion were between Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Martel.
Martel held the AWA Heavyweight Championship from May 1984, defeating Jumbo Tsuruta, to December 1985, losing to Stan Hansen.
Many fans don't remember the long reign as much as they remember the way it ended. Martel submitted to Hansen's version of the "Boston Crab." This was not very common for a "face" champion to lose his belts.
After losing, Martel quickly left for the WWF and formed the Can-Am Connection with Tom Zenk and then Strike Force with Tito Santana.
After winning the tag belts with Santana, the two began to feud after Martel turned heel. He develop a narcissistic personality which led to his "Model" gimmick.
Martel won the WCW World TV Title in '97 by beating Booker T.
29 - Mick Foley
You can describe Mick Foley as a fine wine, his career improved with age.
Before joining the WCW in the early '90s, Foley wrestled in various promotions in Memphis (CWA), Texas (WCCW), Alabama (CWF), Herb Abram's UWF, and back in Texas (GWF). It was in the Tri-State Wrestling (eventually morphed into ECW) where he gain recognition after a three-fight night against Eddie Gilbert.
During the time with the WCW, Foley's image and toughness was born.
First incident occurred after a match with Big Van Vader in '93, Foley tried to repair a knee injury himself which left him unable to walk for eight months. To cover the injury, Vader and Foley came up with a plan for the rematch which would have Vader remove the protective mats at ringside and powerbomb Foley onto the exposed concrete floor during their rematch. This caused a legitimate concussion and Foley to temporarily lose sensation in his left foot and hand.
After returning from the injury, Foley fought Vader in what is considered one of WCW's most brutal matches. The fight was a Texas Death Match at Halloween Havoc and the outcome caused WCW to refuse booking the two wrestlers in future pay-per-views.
The next incident was during another match with Vader which Foley's head was tangled between the ropes. Unaware to Foley, 2 Cold Scorpio had the ropes adjusted by tightening them in an earlier match. The tightening caused the ropes to legitimately choke Foley and during his struggle to free himself, he tore off two-thirds of his ear.
The hard work paid off and Foley won the WCW World Tag Team Belts with Kevin Sullivan late in 1993.
After years fighting in ECW, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and in Japan, Foley made his way to the WWF as Mankind (instead of Cactus Jack). He feuded with Vader, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
After Foley turned face, he wanted to replace Shawn Michaels as Steve Austin's partner. Austin didn't want anything to do with Mankind, so Foley changed personality and became Dude Love. Dude Love was a happy go lucky "hippie" who looked like he belonged at a Grateful Dead concert.
After reverting back to Mankind, Foley participated in what is arguably the best fight ever. The fight was with The Undertaker in the "Hell In The Cell" match at the King of the Ring pay-per-view. The match include Foley falling over 15 feet onto a table.
The legend of Mick Foley was stamped further during his feud with the Rock, especially the "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble in '99. During the match, Foley was handcuffed and ate eleven chairshots but did not say those two words.
Foley championship reigns included winning the WWF World Title (three times) and the World Tag Team Championships (eight times).
It wasn't the championships that defined his career but the outstanding matches that Foley participated during his career in various promotions.
28 - Carlos Colon
The nemesis of Colón's character was Abdullah the Butcher, with whom he staged a long-standing feud. Colón is quoted as saying: "Eighty percent of the blood I've shed in the ring I've shed because of Abdullah." That feud defined the careers of the Butcher and Colon.
Colon was the main reason why Pro Wrestling was popular in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands.
Colon was the co-founder of World Wrestling Council with Gorilla Monsoon.
Some of the talent that fought in the WWC and against Colon were José Rivera, Miguel Pérez, Hércules Ayala, Invader 1, Ernie Ladd, Cowboy Bob Ellis, The Kangaroos, Ox Baker, Toru Tanaka, Antonino Rocca, Bruno Sanmmartino, Afa & Sika, and Ric Flair.
In 1983, Colon pinned Flair for the NWA World Title but this win was never recognized in mainland USA.
27 - Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy
Gordy began wrestling in 1975 at the age of 14. Four years later he formed the Fabulous Freebirds with Michael Hayes and later on Buddy Roberts.
Gordy won his first major title in 1986 by defeating Hacksaw Jim Duggan in a tournament to name the first UWF champion.
The other major non-tag team championships that were won by Gordy were in Japan fighting for All Japan Pro Wrestling. Gordy held the Triple Crown twice by defeating Jumbo Tsuruta and Stan Hansen.
Most of Gordy success was teaming with Hayes. The Freebirds won eight different championships and were chose Tag Team of the Year in 1980 and 1981.
26 - Barry Windham
The son of Blackjack Mulligan gained early success fight in Florida teaming up with future brother-in-law Mike Rotundo.
This team won the Florida tag belts and went to the WWF to win their tag team belts.
After the brief run in the WWF, Windham returned to Florida and feuded with Ron Bass for the Heavyweight championship. He won the belt eight times in his career.
In '87, Windham went to Jim Crockett Promotions and fought Ric Flair to time limit draws on various occasions.
He became a member of the Four Horsemen in '88 and turned on his tag team partner Lex Luger, who were the champs at the time.
After the turn, Windham beat Nikita Koloff for the NWA US Title which he held for nine months. His reign ended in February 1989 by losing to Lex Luger at Chi-Town Rumble.
During the '90s, Windham bounced back and forth between the WWF and WCW. He never gained much success in the WWF, perhaps for his past criticism of the organization in the mid-'80s.
Besides winning the countless championships in Florida and the WWF Tag Team belts with Rotundo, Windham held the NWA US Title, US Tag Titles (with Ronnie Garvin), NWA World Title, NWA World Tag Team titles (four times with Kendall Windham, Lex Luger, Dustin Rhodes and Curt Henning), and WCW World Television Title.
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