The world of professional wrestling is filled with all types of characters, none usually more outspoken or vocal than the fans themselves. I should know, I am one of them.
Whether it is a web site like this or any one of the seemingly endless number of pro wrestling forums on the Internet, you will most likely find wrestling fans arguing back and forth about their favorite wrestlers. Everyone has their own idea of who is the best.
Professional wrestling has a long and storied history, and the business is constantly evolving. What made for a great wrestling match in 1960 would likely put most of today's generation of fans to sleep.
The same can be said for the criteria of what makes a great professional wrestler. It has changed over time as the industry has evolved. In today's wrestling world, there are so many different options and different styles of action that it is very difficult to pick out a wrestler that is universally accepted by all as being great.
The bottom line is that this type of thing is merely a matter of opinion more often than not. Every wrestling fan has their own idea of what makes a wrestler exceptional.
Two of the most important criteria that most fans can agree on are a wrestler's personality or charisma and their actual skill inside the squared circle.
Someone can be great on the mic or highly entertaining but they may not be able to wrestle their way out of a paper bag. On the other hand, we have seen some incredibly gifted performers who dazzle us with their in-ring ability but bore us to death whenever they speak. It is a rare treat, however, when we come across someone who excels at both.
The following three wrestlers will be used as examples, or archetypes of sorts, to illustrate my reasoning:
Bill Goldberg: One of the most popular wrestlers of all-time, known mainly for his incredible and unprecedented winning streak in WCW. He was big, strong, intimidating and very athletic but he simply wasn't a great technical wrestler. He was often too stiff and sloppy and hurt opponents unintentionally.
Goldberg's popularity stemmed from his image and his charisma. The man brought and undeniable energy to the ring, which got him incredibly over with fans. Wrestling purists view Goldberg and the epitome of what went wrong with pro wrestling.
He is a perfect example of how mat skills can be overlooked as long as the image and personality are strong. He relied mostly on high-impact power moves and tried to incorporate some mat wrestling into his game, but he knew the spear and the jackhammer were his bread and butter.
Regardless, few have been able to reach the heights of popularity that Goldberg achieved.
Jerry Lynn: Some of you may be asking "Who is Jerry Lynn?" He is a perfect example of how all of the wrestling ability in the world sometimes does not translate to a great career in this business.
Lynn has wrestled all over the world, including stints in every major promotion in the USA. He has also competed all over the independent scene. Lynn is an incredible in-ring talent but he also lacked good mic skills and never really developed much of a personality. Hardcore fans know and love JL, but the casual fan typically has no idea who he is.
Despite producing some of the most innovative offense and delivering some of the most memorable matches of the last decade, Lynn has never really been able to achieve that level of superstardom.
Kurt Angle: The only Olympic gold medalist to make the jump to professional wrestling and become a true blue superstar. Kurt Angle is arguably the most talented athlete to ever step into a wrestling ring, but he also possesses incredible charisma and great skills on the mic.
Love him or hate him, Angle is undeniably one of the very best and his combination of personality and wrestling ability has given him a very successful career. Despite personal problems and injury issues, Angle is still a relevant name in this industry and will continue to be until he decides to hang up his boots for good.
Angle possesses an uncanny ability to make almost any opponent look good and constantly puts on four or five star matches, even as he gets older. His combination of ability and personality is rare in this day and age.
Those three are simply the first examples that came to mind, many others could be plugged in to fit those archetypes and my point would remain the same. Technical ability may make someone a great wrestler by definition, but it does not necessarily make them a superstar.
Unfortunate as that may be, the casual audience demands someone who can entertain both in and out of the ring. It may not be as important to die-hard fans like myself, who can appreciate a performer simply based on their in-ring performance, but the 10-year-old in the crowd isn't going care as much about such things.
Pro wrestling means a little something different to all of us.
In closing, I simply ask you all one question; what do you think makes a great professional wrestler?
Photo courtesy of "Krystal"