Top 50 Wrestlers Ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated: Nos. 25-16

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Top 50 Wrestlers Ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated: Nos. 25-16
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We are half way through identifying Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 50 wrestlers. For those interested, here is the first and second parts of this series.

As a reminder, the list was compiled in 2003 and features wrestlers during the years that the publication was started (mid-70s).

I will provide some insight to the wrestlers listed and summarize the achievements.

Now onto the list...

 

25 - Sgt. Slaughter

Not a big fan of this wrestler and don't feel he deserves to be rank in the top 50, nevermind sitting in the 25th spot.

Slaughter began his WWF experience as heel, feuding with Bob Backlund and Pat Patterson. But once he returned in the mid-80s, the patriotic Slaughter began feuding with Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, waving "Old Glory" and defending America's honor.

This was a storyline Bill Watts promoted years earlier with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Volkoff.

There's a good chance that Slaughter would have won the WWF World Title, if Hulk Hogan didn't sign.

Since Hogan became the main face of WWF, Slaughter left to replace him in the AWA.

In the AWA, Slaughter continued the gimmick of "Mr. Patriotic" and feuded with Sheik Adnan Al Kaissie's Army (Boris Zukhov, Col. Debeers and Nord the Barbarian). He even appeared in the cartoon GI Joe.

As soon as the new decade started, Sgt Slaughter left the AWA and became a Iraqi sympathizer in the WWF.

In a turn of events, Slaughter was feuding with Volkoff, but as a heel.

Slaughter won his only WWF championship by defeating Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble. This victory was a big surprise to many, but everyone knew the reason was for Hogan to win back the belt, which Hogan completed at WrestleMania VII.

Aside from the WWF World Title, Slaughter held the short-lived AWA Americas Title, NWA Central States Title, NWA United States Title, and various tag titles.

 

24 - "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase

In earlier articles, I mentioned how successful DiBiase was in the Mid-South region and his great matches with Duggan, Ric Flair, and Junkyard Dog.

I wrote how he was the face of the organization, due to his terrific wrestling abilities and interview skills.

I wrote how his fight with Flair is a You Tube Must See.

In the WWF, DiBiase came close to buying the WWF World Title from Andre The Giant who defeated Hulk Hogan in controversial fashion. The WWF would not recognize DiBiase as the champ, which led to the title tournament in WrestleMania IV.

After not being able to win the world title, DiBiase introduced the "Million Dollar Championship". This championship was not recognized by the WWF, but it did provide some interesting storylines and feuds during the early 90s.

After feuding with his former bodyguard, Virgil, DiBiase found championship success by winning the WWF Tag Team titles with IRS (Mike Rotundo).

Due to various injuries, Dibiase's in-the-ring wrestling career was basically finished by the mid-90s. This led to a managerial and a commentator career the rest of the decade.

Ted's legacy will continue, as all three sons (Mike, Ted Jr. and Brett) are currently wrestling.

 

23 - Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka

Though, limited in championship reigns, some wrestlers are still very popular and successful.

Snuka falls into that category. He only held the following major championships, NWA National Title, NWA United States Title and NWA World Tag Team championship, but is still ranked this high on the list.

It probably has to do with his famous matches, like the steel cage bouts against Don Muraco and Bob Backlund in the early 80s. The latter won PWI Match of the Year in 1982.

Perhaps, it has to do with his extreme popularity. There's just something about Snuka that peaks wrestling fans interest, especially when he climbed the turnbuckle and floated, like no one before him ever did, onto his opponent.

 

22 - Big Van Vader

The following appeared in a prior article I wrote about Vader being one of the top "Giants" of Professional Wrestling. I felt it was fitting for this spot.

Leon White began his career with the AWA in 1985 and was known as Bull Power.

New Japan is where the Big Van Vader gimmick started, after Antonio Inoki suggested the change. In Japan, Vader fought the top faces like Inoki, Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Masa Chono.

In the WCW, Vader was managed by Harley Race and feuded with Sting for the WCW World Title. He eventually won the belt and lost it three weeks later to Ron Simmons.

Vader held the World Title three times and once held the WCW United States Title.

In the WWF, Vader often competed in the main event matches but was not able to win the WWF World Title.

Vader was a big man who was exciting to watch. He would just pound his opponent to submission. There were no arm or headlocks in Vader's matches. Just pure power.

 

21 - Kerry Von Erich

I was very happy when Kerry joined the WWF in 1990. Fans, including myself, was able to see on weekly basis on TV how great he was. He basically lived up to the many articles written about him in the various magazines.

Kerry won the WWF Intercontinental Title one month after debuting. He was a replacement for Brutus Beefcake and defeated Mr. Perfect in SummerSlam.

Prior to the WWF, Von Erich made his bones fighting with his brothers against the Freebirds and Gary Hart's Devastation Inc. stable in WCCW. He held various singles and tag titles in Texas.

 

20  - Jerry "The King" Lawler

If you didn't grow up watching 80s wrestling, you may be unaware of Lawler successful wrestling career and only know him for his also successful commentating job.

Then again you may have seen Jim Carrey's movie Man on the Moon, which is about comedian Andy Kaufman and features his events with Lawler.

Lawler was the face of Tennessee wrestling, especially in Memphis. He held the Southern Heavyweight Title, a remarkable 52 times from 1974 to 1987. 

During this period, Lawler feuded with top fighters like Bob Armstrong, Tommy Rich, Bill Dundee, Jimmy Valiant, Dutch Mantel, Jesse Ventura and Buddy Landel.

The other main title Lawler held was the AWA World Title, which he won from Curt Hennig in 1987. But due to disputes with Verne Gagne, a very common practice, Lawler left without losing the title.

 

19 - Terry Funk

During the 70s, Terry and brother Dory feuded with the Brisco Brothers in the Mid-Atlantic region for the belts. The feud included Terry defeating Jack Brisco for the NWA World Title.

During the early 80s, Terry fought in Texas' Southwest Championship Wrestling and won held their heavyweight championship as well as the tag belts with his brother.

In the late 80s, Terry joined WCW and began a feud with Ric Flair. The feud included the "I Quit" match which received a "5-star rating" by Dave Meltzer.

After unsuccessfully in winning the title from Flair, Terry joined the upcoming organization, ECW, in 1994.

In ECW, Funk began fighting a more violent style of wrestling called hardcore. This style included using various weapons and competing in dangerous fights like the "Barbwire Match."

He also helped in teaching and pushing young talent like Public Enemy, Sandman, Shane Douglas, Sabu, and Tommy Dreamer.

He also won the ECW Heavyweight Championship twice and their TV Title once during his three years stay.

 

18 - Undertaker

Undertaker's debut in the WWF has to be one of the best ever and simply a classic. Seeing him slowly walk down the aisle with his Deadman persona which was modeled after a mortician in a Western movie, wearing a trench coat, black hat, grey gloves and boot covers.

His first main match in the WWF occurred when he was the mystery partner of Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar team at Survivor Series. Undertaker eliminated Koko B. Ware and Dusty Rhodes.

A year later, Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Title, but quickly lost the belt six days later back to Hogan.

Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak of 17, was selected by the Daily Mirror as the 7th greatest streak in sports and the only streak from professional wrestling.

The following wrestlers are part of the streak, in order:

Jimmy Snuka, Jake Roberts, Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Psycho Sid, Kane, Big Boss Man, Triple H, Ric Flair, Big Show and A-Train, Kane, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Batista, Edge, and Shawn Michaels.

Something tells me that the streak will not end. McMahon probably learned from the WCW regarding ending streaks like they did with Goldberg. Sometimes it just does not pay to end them.

 

17 - "Total Package" Lex Luger

Heading to the 90s, Luger and Sting were the top young wrestlers to compete for the WCW World Heavyweight Title and lead the organization to new heights.

By 1990, Luger held the NWA/WCW US Title twice (defeating Nikita Koloff and Barry Windham), the NWA World Tag Team belts (with Windham by defeating Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), fight with and against the Four Horsemen, and won the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup (with Sting).

A void was created when Ric Flair left WCW in '91. He defeated Barry Windham for the title in a steel cage match.

Similar to Flair, Luger left for the WWF due to contract disputes with the current management in WCW.

After a "wasted" year as Narcissist, Luger changed his gimmick to a patriotic American to fill the void left by Hogan's departure.

Luger's popularity was peaked after bodyslamming Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid on July 4th, 1993. This led to a feud and a chase to win the WWF World Title.

Unfortunately, Luger was not able to win the WWF World Title or the WWF Tag team belts (with Davey Boy Smith) before leaving in 1995.

Luger went back to the WCW and became successful in his feuds against Hogan and the nWo.

 

16 - "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

Before he was "Stone Cold" or even the "Ringmaster," Austin was simply "Stunning."

Austin was a member of Paul E. Dangerously's stable Dangerous Alliance and defeated Bobby Eaton for the WCW Television Title.

In 1993, Austin teamed with "Flyin" Brian Pillman to form Hollywood Blonds. Two months after forming, the Blonds defeated Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas for the NWA World Tag Team belts.

Later that year, Austin defeated Dustin Rhodes for the WCW US Title.

In 1996, a year into his WWF stay, Austin started to receive a push and began taunting Bret Hart. This began a long and intense feud, though Hart won most of the matches.

Austin has won six WWF/E World Titles, Intercontinental Title twice and the tag team titles four times.

His popularity and marketability helped the WWF compete against the WCW/NWO success.

His feud with Vince McMahon was hilarious and successful, awarded PWI Feud of the Year for 1998 and 1999. Austin was also selected PWI Wrestler of the Year in '98,99 & '01.

Unfortunately, injuries prematurely led to Austin's retirement from the ring.

But even today, arenas will explode once they hear the sound of glass shattering, signaling Steve Austin entrance.

 

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