CM Punk and 10 Other Wrestlers That Can Claim to Have Been the Best in the World
In professional wrestling there is a monumental difference between the actual best in the world and the man that the company elects to push as the best.
It is the difference between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, the difference between Goldberg and Sting and the difference between John Cena and CM Punk.
Hogan's marketability made him the biggest draw in the history of wrestling despite the fact that his wrestling skills were limited and his promos were catchphrase-ridden and clichéd.
When Hogan's popularity dipped, Vince McMahon gave the ball to the Ultimate Warrior to run with, another hugely popular superstar.
Warrior was booked as an unstoppable force that was almost impossible to beat but true wrestling fans know that he was never the best in the world.
The modern-day equivalent is CM Punk's war of words with John Cena in which he claims that Cena cannot touch him in the ring or on the microphone.
The reality is that Cena, while not as accomplished as Punk in those departments, is the perfect face of the family-friendly PG era.
While Edge may have been better in the ring and with mic skills to rival Cena, his sleazier, more controversial character did not fit the bill as the company's main man.
This is also true of CM Punk whose non-conformity to the WWE stereotype may have held him back with Vince McMahon.
True wrestling fans will always be able to distinguish the best in the world and here are ten wrestlers that can claim to have fitted that description at one point in their careers.
Sting: Sting's long and winding career path has made him a multiple time World Champion in WCW and a big-time player in TNA where he is the current champion. He has never wrestled for the WWE but the buzz that was caused by his rumored dream match with the Undertaker at WrestleMania shows the high esteem he is held in by the wrestling world.
AJ Styles: AJ became the face of TNA and his multiple reigns as World Heavyweight Champion show that he has the necessary skills to drive a company forward and he remains one of the best in-ring performers in the world.
Samoa Joe: The "Samoan Submission Machine" characterized the spirit of TNA before Hogan and Bischoff and his unique wrestling ability and surprising speed and agility made him the most sought-after talent in wrestling in 2007 and 2008.
Eddie Guerrero: Guerrero was talented, popular and charismatic. The fans loved to cheer for him and he played an integral part in the initial success of SmackDown. He had a rare ability to bring a smile to people's faces.
Edge: The Rated R Superstar has won more championships than anyone else in WWE history with 11 world title reigns and a record twelve tag title victories. He has been a main event star in the WWE for the majority of his career and his departure has left a big hole yet to be filled.
Randy Orton: The Viper's sadistic character that saw him feud with Triple H and John Cena in 2009 was the highlight of WWE programming for months.
Buddy Rogers revolutionized wrestling in so many different ways.
Not only did he establish the character that Ric Flair took inspiration from, but he also developed the in-ring psychology that has since been used by the top heels of every era.
He was also the first wrestler to draw considerable heat through interviews.
He came across as a smug and arrogant person on the microphone, and his different mannerisms and catchphrases established his reputation as a top heel.
Without Buddy Rogers, there would be no Ric Flair and heels nowadays would be much less entertaining.
He was the first ever WWWF Heavyweight Champion and he was arguably the first man to draw considerable heat from the crowd.
His catchphrase of "to a nicer man it couldn't have happened to" only served to add fuel to the fire of his smug persona that Flair drew so much inspiration from.
The second "Nature Boy" arguably surpassed his mentor in terms of success and left an ever-lasting legacy within the business.
His skills on the mic are unrivaled, and his many catchphrases and sayings are still rehashed and repeated today.
He used the interview to enhance his feuds like never before and he made the people want to see him get beaten by honest men like Dusty Rhodes.
Flair also had the swagger and he seriously lived his gimmick. He was the "Nature Boy" and he certainly loved a party.
Flair also pioneered the stable concept with the original "Four Horsemen" and he can boast 17 world title reigns.
While "Hulkamania" was running wild in the WWF, Flair was the "real" World Heavyweight Champion as he toured the territories defending the NWA title belt including a dream match with wrestling legend Antonio Inoki.
Unlike Hogan, Flair can claim to have taken part in some of the greatest matches in wrestling history. His bouts with Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes in the NWA are legendary and his "I Quit" match with Terry Funk and his cage match with Harley Race are still cited today as works of genius.
Randy "Macho Man" Savage
While Hulk Hogan was the face of the company and Vince McMahon's golden boy for the majority of the 1980's, Randy Savage was not far behind in popularity.
Savage, like Hogan, became a pop culture icon and this was the main reason his tragic death was met with such sorrow from personalities outside the wrestling community.
But Savage, unlike his fellow "Mega Power", was the complete package of what a professional wrestler should be.
In a land of bodybuilders and slow giants, Savage became one of the few main-eventers that combined charisma and personality with an intense in-ring style that produced many a five star match.
His colourful ring attire combined with his familiar rasping tones, his "oh yeah" catchphrase and flamboyant nature made him a memorable performer who was immeasurably popular with the fans.
Savage was voted by the WWE as the “greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time” with the company citing the credibility that he brought to the belt as almost a secondary world title.
Savage’s 14-month reign as champion came to an end at WrestleMania III after one of the greatest matches in history with Ricky Steamboat.
Savage and Steamboat stole the show with a match that featured nineteen two-counts and perfect storytelling. The main event had a hard time following this display of athleticism and drama.
Hogan will probably go down in history as the biggest star in the history of the business, but the "Macho Man" will always have more fans among the smart wrestling fans.
Bret "the Hitman" Hart
Bret Hart became the figurehead of a new movement in wrestling after Vince McMahon was indicted for allegedly handing out steroids to his wrestlers.
Hart became the face of the company and the WWF Champion as he represented a smaller and more natural look.
But the "Hitman" was also elevated to main event status because McMahon had realized that no-one could touch him in the ring.
Hart was able to make a good worker look great and managed to grind good matches out of below-par wrestlers such as Kevin Nash or Yokozuna.
He brought back credibility to a belt that had been dominated for so long by clumsy musclebound behemoths like Hogan and Warrior.
Hart never had the charisma or the mic skills to forge a dynasty within the WWF but he was incredibly popular and, without a doubt, the best wrestler in the world.
But there was one man that soon began to outshine Bret Hart and would become the "Hitman's" greatest ever opponent.
That man was the "Heartbreak Kid", Shawn Michaels.
The "Showstopper", the "Icon", the "Main Event" will remembered as the greatest in-ring performer in the history of wrestling.
He had an uncanny ability to steal the show time and again on the "grandest stage of them all", leading to perhaps his most famous nickname, "Mr WrestleMania".
The torch would be passed from Hart to Michaels in controversial circumstances in an event known as the "Montreal Screwjob".
But before Michaels could reach his prime, his career was curtailed by a devastating back injury.
HBK would return years later however to engage in many classic feuds with Chris Jericho, John Cena, Triple H and finally the Undertaker
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Austin is the only man in wrestling that can claim to have rivaled Hulk Hogan in mainstream popularity.
The "Austin years" saw the highest television ratings and pay-per-view buy rates in wrestling history as the WWF decided to promote an edgier product.
Austin was the perfect face of the "Attitude Era" and his feud with Mr McMahon made for some of the most compelling television ever broadcast by the WWF.
He represented the working-class man rebelling against the establishment and his popularity as a beer-swilling foul-mouthed antihero rocketed sky-high.
Unlike Hogan, Austin could back up it in the ring and he delivered countless unforgettable promos including "Austin 3:16" and his lesser known shoots in ECW.
The Rock was perfectly poised to take the mantle from Stone Cold and become the biggest star in the history of the industry before he opted to pursue a career in acting.
But it is undeniable that there was a time when the "Great One" performed at a level that no-one could compete with.
Probably the most charismatic wrestler in the history of the business, the Rock has been able to fashion himself a hugely successful Hollywood career off the back of his time in the ring.
The reason being that whenever the Rock got hold of a microphone, everyone knew something special was about to happen.
There has never been a more natural promo man than the Rock and he would have surpassed Ric Flair if he had continued his career as a wrestler.
But the fact remains that the Rock achieved more in four full-time years with the WWE than most wrestlers achieve in their whole careers.
Rock was talented in the ring but it was his natural charisma and ability to run his mouth in whichever scenario he was presented with that made him stand out.
Who can forget the great back and forths with Austin or the comedy segments with Mankind?
Whether as a heel or a face, the Rock always brought it on the mic!
The longevity of the Undertaker's career and the high standards that he has always set for himself made it inevitable that he would one day reach the pinnacle of the wrestling world.
While the "Phenom" never quite surpassed Austin and Rock, he truly dominated the new Millennium as the other "Attitude Era" stars faded out of the limelight.
The Undertaker's breathtaking gimmick and incredibly well-crafted back story always meant that he would have a successful career.
But only Mark Calaway could have become the "Dead Man" and made the Undertaker such a legendary figure in the wrestling business.
There has never been a more athletic big man in wrestling and the two WrestleMania matches with HBK proved that the Undertaker got better with age.
He was always up there with the best in the world but he finally became the undisputed greatest wrestler on the planet and definitely one of the greatest ever.
After WCW folded and the "Invasion" angle fizzled out, the WWE seemed to go through a period of creative stagnation, almost as if they felt no need to try anymore.
The shining star of this stale period was Kurt Angle who became the biggest star in the company.
His amateur background meant that he was exceptional in the ring but his Olympic triumph also did wonders for his gimmick.
Angle had the charisma and the mic skills to seamlessly pull off the transition from Olympic hero to arrogant sports star.
The shock at his move to TNA while still in his prime resounded around the wrestling world.
It was Angle's decision to jump ship that really put TNA on the map and he has since done his utmost to better the WWE's biggest competition today.
Kurt Angle's five star matches with both companies are countless to list and he was the hottest property in wrestling for a long period of time.
One of the best promo men of the modern era, Jericho was able to hold his own in verbal showdowns with Austin and the Rock and delivered a highly memorable promo on his WWF debut by interrupting the Rock.
But he could never quite surpass those legends of the "Attitude Era" with his cocky and brash Y2J character that was still extremely entertaining.
But it was the more psychotic and sadistic incarnation of his character that brought out the best in Jericho.
This complete reinvention of his wrestling persona brought results for Jericho and the smooth-talking suit-wearing model of a heel has become the prototype for the likes of Miz to copy.
But no-one is as good as the original who was extremely convincing at portraying arrogance and narcissism.
His feud with Shawn Michaels will go down as one of the greatest of all time and Jericho's unfailing ability in the ring meant that he was always able to steal the show.
At this point in his career, he would often describe himself as the "best in the world at what he does" and few could argue with him.
CM Punk has restored wrestling's mainstream popularity and made the WWE a trending topic on all the major social networking sites including Twitter and Facebook.
He has done this by speaking his mind and delivering a worked shoot that Steve Austin described on Twitter as "scorching hot promo...delivery, content and attitude...one of the best promos I've ever seen."
In this promo, Punk detailed why he was the best in the world and cited the fact that he constantly proved it on the microphone and in the ring.
He went on to take part in an all-time classic match at Money in the Bank 2011 with John Cena where the WWE reaffirmed the importance of a main event pay-per-view battle.
The wrestling world is hanging on Punk's every move and there is no doubt that he speaks the truth when he describes himself as the "best in the world."
Punk first established himself as a great mic worker with WWE in his captivating feud with Jeff Hardy that produced some of the best matches of 2009.
He went on to lead the "Straight Edge Society," whose segments were always the highlight of Smackdown, and the "New Nexus."
No man in wrestling today can claim to be as unmissable as Punk, who is always entertaining and when he talks, everyone listens.