There has been constant chatter lately on who is deserving of what in professional wrestling. Who is overrated? Who is terrible? Who should be pushed? Who’s the next big thing?
Follow me on this three-part piece where I will look at the past three decades of professional wrestling and discuss the superstars that took the main events, those that should have, and those that you have to ask why they were chosen.
To define who is a ‘good’ wrestler in a professional sport where the outcome is predetermined by someone else, however, almost seems like a pointless task.
It would be like saying who is the best Jedi?
Win/Loss records don’t mean much, Goldberg had one of the most famous winning streaks, Andre the Giant had the longest undefeated streak, and the Fabulous Moolah had one of the longest title reigns, however, these three were winners based on story lines and circumstances.
Should it be based on the individual’s prior athletic accomplishments, a gold medal in the Olympics for Kurt Angle, Elijah Burke has an amateur boxing record of 98-1, and Vladimir Koslov was the 2005 USA Open Heavyweight Sambo Champion as well as the United States Kick Boxing International Heavyweight Grappling Champion.
It is sports entertainment. Do we take into account those who have more of an entertainment background or achieved levels in the entertainment industry? The Rock’s film career, The Miz on MTV, and Chris Jericho as the lead singer in the rock band Fozzy dominate the entertainment industry.
In my opinion, a combination of all of these factors is what the difference maker can be between a professional wrestler and a superstar.
The 80s were the birth of the Rock and Wrestling connection and really catapulted wrestling into the pop culture world.
Appearing in movies, video games, music videos and TV spots brought an entire new audience to wrestling and pulled it away from bingo halls and state fairs.
Here’s a breakdown of just a few of those 80s icons, those who ran the show, those who should have, and those who were truly the best of the time.
Two of the Overrated
Sorry Hulkamaniacs, he is ‘the immortal’ one, but as a fan in his prime, that is what ruined it for me. Every match was so predictable, it just seemed pointless to watch.
Hogan throws punches, villain rallies back, Hogan ‘HULKS’ up and then points at the opponent, seemingly now unphased by any type of attack. Proceeds with big boot, followed by leg drop, followed by pin.
Always the same, never a new move, seldom a loss, and the opponents unless it was a pay per view or a Saturday Night's Main Event were all jobbers. As soon as you saw who he was defending his title against, you had no doubt of the outcome.
His mic skills, his gimmick of American Hero got the 80s fans excited and pumped up. His appearance in Rocky as Thunder Lips and coming out waving the flag gave the crowd no choice, but to cheer for him in the time of the Cold War.
The Ultimate Warrior
By far the most overrated guy there was. His run to the ring got the crowd excited, but the truth was he had stage fright and didn’t want to see all the fans.
He had a terrible move set, he had far too many squash matches, and his rants on the mic had you question if he suffered from some sort of mental illness.
Yet, he was pushed in main events, given titles, and was supposedly 'handed the baton.' Well he dropped it, watch The Rise and Fall of The Ultimate Warrior if there is any question as to why this guy when you look back was so incredibly terrible.
Other overrated guys who got pushes based not on skills, but more so to push the champions were guys like King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, and even Andre the Giant.
They were big guys who had not much more going for them other than their size.
Two of the most underrated
"The Rock" Don Muraco – The man was a powerhouse, 6’ 3”, 270 pounds of just brick house strength, and yet never held the World Title.
He was an Intercontinental champion and a King of the Ring winner, he was great on the mic and if a guy like him was in the ring today, he would just dominate and destroy.
I always liked Muraco as I thought he was a great heel and should have been in main events so much more.
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts
It's hard to say he was underrated as he was very popular, had a great talk show segment, and had matches against some greats, but he never held the world title either.
Roberts, even when he was a face, gave off a presence of just being evil, the way he moved in the ring, relaxed in the corner, and stared into the camera as if to say, I could pretty much destroy you at any minute.
Several other underrated guys who today would be considered top-tier guys, but never got the chance were Rick Rude, Bruno Sammartino, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
Two of The Best of the time
Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat
The martial artist that never turned heel once his entire career.
Having some of the greatest matches of all time against the likes of Macho Man Randy Savage, Rick Flair, and Jake Roberts; he was one of those guys that made whoever he was in the ring with look good.
Achieving the Intercontinental Title only one time, but never the WWF championship, definitely should put him in the underrated category as well.
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig
Only holding the IC belt twice in his WWF career, Curt was one of the best of all time. I debated this pick if I were to only choose the top two I knew one would be Steamboat and I toyed with Macho Man, Ric Flair, or Mr. Perfect as the second.
Macho Man had great matches, but his mic skills made him look like a coke head moron.
Flair is The Man, great matches, wild work on the mic, and a legacy few can compare to.
But Mr. Perfect was just that, perfect. His entrance video of doing all sports perfect, the walk to the ring smiling, spitting the gum in the air, and swatting it away, an incredible move set, and his matches were never predictable.
They were fluid, they were exciting, Flair matches at one point became similar to Hogan’s and contained some of the same things over and over again. Mr. Perfect in my opinion was the true excellence of execution.
One man of the 80s may fit all of the above categories, overrated as his wrestling skills never showed much as a tactician, an unimpressive move set with a finisher being a Sleeper Hold.
Underrated as he never won the world title but competed in several of the biggest matches of WWF history.
Best of all time because he was innovative, great on the mic, success outside the ring in movies, talk shows, and still commands the crowd to this day.
Rowdy Roddy Piper is in a class of his own.
Part 2 will jump to the 90s the attitude era, the Monday Night wars, and the land of Extreme.
Stay tuned and be sure to say your prayers and eat your vitamins.