I present to you the inaugural edition of “The Discussion,” a new series on Bleacher Report.
Like many wrestling fans, I often find myself in heated debates with my friends about anything and everything professional wrestling. During these debates, provocative points are often made and I thought these discussions would translate into engaging articles.
Today’s discussion is centred on one of the most debated questions in wrestling today: Who is the greatest of all time? Recently, my friend Elliott and I debated this very subject.
Please feel free to comment on the points raised as well as who you believe to be the greatest wrestler of all time.
I present to you “The Discussion: Who Is the Greatest of All Time?”
Mat: If you had to say one name and one name only, who would you say is the greatest wrestler of all time?
Elliott: There are far too many variables to consider. To give just one name is quite a challenge. I suppose the obvious choice is Hogan. Hulk Hogan was the face of wrestling during the 80s, a time when wrestling truly was pop culture. Hogan is probably the most famous wrestler of all time. Everyone knows Hulk Hogan, even if they do not know wrestling. Terry Bollea is a certified pop icon. He achieved success that, on the whole, has been unmatched.
Mat: But was Hogan just in the right place in the right time? If you think about it, John Cena is effectively Hulk Hogan 2011. In terms of his presentation, his style, his audience—Cena has become very Hulk Hogan. For my money, I think Cena is a better wrestler and a better speaker than Hogan ever was.
Elliott: But Cena’s contribution to wrestling is nowhere near to Hulk Hogan’s.
Elliott: Just look at Hogan’s appearance on American Idol. No other wrestler could have pulled that off without producing a disconnect with the huge audience that Idol has. If John Cena went on, a large proportion would have to ask who he is.
Mat: Maybe. But what about Austin?
Elliott: Whilst I don’t think he is as big as Hogan was outside of wrestling circles, inside he probably was and is probably more respected. The thing with Austin was that he was a more balanced performer than Hogan. His promos were excellent and his technical wrestling ability is often overlooked. He was a fantastic wrestler.
Mat: If you look at Hogan, he defined an era. Stone Cold Steve Austin did the same but that definition is still around today. Austin revolutionised what a baby face should be. We live in a wrestling era where the bubblegum baby faces are often rejected in favour of a heel or anti-hero. That is because of Austin.
Elliott: I agree. Austin’s influence is far more noticeable in 2011 than Hogan’s. However, you cannot mention Austin without mentioning The Rock. Not only was Rock Austin’s greatest opponent, Rock was the face of the WWE throughout 2000, the most profitable year in wrestling history.
Mat: Very good point. It annoys me when The Rock is labelled as the Attitude Era’s No. 2. Austin was definitely the No. 1 up until 1999, but The Rock was the man until 2002. I think the Rock had the most range of any Superstar—just look at how successful he has been in Hollywood.
Elliott: But that is the point. For me, The Rock was not around long enough to be in contention for the greatest ever. You look at Flair, someone who paid his dues over multiple eras, and then you look at Rock, a man who accomplished a lot in seven years then seemingly turned his back on the business.
Mat: I completely disagree. Yes, he left after seven years, but in many ways this is a central argument as to why he may be the best ever. Think what he did in seven years and then think what he could have done in the past seven years if he never left. Who knows how great he could have been. He left the ring when he was 31! At 38, he is at an age now where most reach their peak. Furthermore, Steve Austin was only Stone Cold in the ring from 1996-2003. That is seven years. People forget that.
Elliott: Spot The Rock mark. I see what you are saying. Austin and Rock are certified legends. Their encounter at ‘Mania was my highlight of the night. But listen, so far we have mostly mentioned personalities as apposed to guys known for technical wrestling ability. Surely we should mention guys like Bret Hart?
Mat: Agreed. Personally, I would favour Kurt Angle over Bret Hart. I think he is stronger in more areas. However, if you’re talking in-ring prowess, why are we not talking about Shawn Michaels?
Elliott: Definitely. Whilst he is not the same sort of technical wrestler, he is probably the best storyteller to ever step in the ring.
Mat: I have never been an HBK “fan," but I find myself drawn into his matches regardless. It sums up how much of a class act HBK is when the moniker “Mr. WrestleMania” is not hyperbole.
Elliott: What do you think about Flair? For me, Ric Flair is one of the first names I would think of.
Mat: Ric Flair has this quality about him where almost everything he does turns to gold.
Elliott: If you think of all the attributes that form the make-up of a wrestler, you think of in-ring ability, speaking skills, charisma etc. Ric Flair is the greatest example of all of these rolled into one.
Mat: Is he tarnishing his legacy in TNA?
Elliott: It depends on the fan. I mean, in wrestling absence truly makes the heart grow fonder. Look at The Rock. He got the loudest reaction at ‘Mania without even having a match. Also, I think Triple H is worth a mention. For me, I see him as a modern day Flair.
Elliott: The problem with Triple H is that it is hard to separate his political power and his dominance on-screen. When his career is over, that will go against him unfortunately. However, his match with Taker showed us all how good he is.
Mat: I’m glad you mentioned Taker because I think he is someone who certainly should be in contention.
Elliott: I don’t know. He is a wrestling icon, a legend, but I think there is something separating him from the likes of Austin, Hogan and Flair.
Mat: Maybe. We have mentioned Hogan, Cena, Austin, Rock, Hart, Angle, Michaels, Flair, Triple H and The Undertaker. I can’t think of anyone we have missed. Who are you going with for the greatest ever?
Elliott:One hundred percent Ric Flair. As I said earlier, he is the best example of all the facets of the perfect wrestler rolled into one. Also, the longevity of his career is unreal. He is the foundation for so many wrestlers today. I’m saying Ric Flair. What about you?
Mat: The Rock. I think his promos are unmatched. He draws you in and creates an investment through some of the best mic skills ever seen. The fact that he left after seven years at 31 years old only strengthens my view that he is the greatest ever. Who knows what he could have achieved if he stuck around? He does stuff others simply cannot. YouTube his heel run in 2003. A legendary run that shows how good he is. The fact that he is only 38 now and is returning after seven years out is amazing. I simply cannot wait for WrestleMania XXVIII.
Elliott: I understand your reasoning. Ric Flair and The Rock. Not bad choices.
Mat: Not bad at all.