As the holidays approach, it is often believed that they are defined by two things: the love of those around you and the amount of money needed to express that love to them. It becomes the constant tug-of-war between making money or loving what you are doing. Wrestling fans know that all too well. Many figures in the wrestling business can often seem more concerned with the amount of the checks they bring in, as opposed to the quality of their work.
Not everyone who performs in the WWE is greedy, at least not among those we see on screen weekly. In fact, there are even some who care a heck of a lot more about how the fans pay to see them, as opposed to how much they get paid themselves. Many wrestlers are still big wrestling fans at heart and have a sense of pride in the quality brought forth by themselves and others around them. Here are 10 superstars on the current roster who still care about wrestling and are doing it "for the love of the game" and not to just make money.
Need an unselfish superstar to be a face of the WWE right now? Look no further than CM Punk. Sure, Punk was the topic of the summer's most controversial storyline and was believed to only come back after getting an obscene amount of money in a new contract, but it is much more than that. Even in the independent leagues, Punk was a company guy. He is much more concerned with how the company does than how much he rakes in.
Punk shows that desire in his matches, trying unique and spectacular things in every match. Not only does he attempt to make his opponent look great in the match, but he is very much in touch with how the fans feel. That's what you get when you are a fan yourself. Punk could wrestle a superstar 20 times in a row and every single match would look different. That's how passionate CM Punk is about the wrestling business.
What in the world is the face of WWE's marketing plan doing on this list? Simply put, you don't need to like John Cena, but he does respect wrestling as a business. His finishing moves may make it to be predictable, but he is always trying to improve his overall moveset. Remember how shocked we all were when he adapted top-rope moves, submission holds and even a dropkick? The guy cares about how he is perceived and is constantly trying to improve.
Anything with Cena's face sells, but that doesn't make him a sellout. Cena knows his place as the face of the company is a tough one to be in, but he tries to use his celebrity to promote the company at any chance he can. Judge him all you want, but he respects the wrestling world like any other fan would. Think about it this way: in his position, would you object to be marketed as heavy as he is?
A lot of talk has been going around about The Rock's status with WWE. Would he become a full-time wrestler again, at least until WrestleMania? The popular perception is that The Rock would, but for a price. Despite speaking in the third-person in his promos and being a huge movie star, The Rock always has a soft spot for the wrestling fans. His heartfelt speech after Survivor Series was all heart and not an act. The Rock could be making another movie and a boatload of money, but he is starting Team Bring It instead.
Triple H began his WWE career as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a snobbish character that was fancier than everyone and everything. It was almost like a mix between Cody Rhodes when he was dashing and William Regal when he was a stereotypical British guy. The gimmick was just plain awful and had an eventual dead end without a drastic change. Suddenly, he became The Game, an all-time great and even became a member of the McMahon family along the way.
Triple H could have stuck it out in a silly gimmick, made his money, and lived off of that for his career. However, he constantly looked to better himself and those around him. Even in his position as Stephanie McMahon's husband, he has taken an interest in the company and seeks to bring the best product forward. It was Triple H who has helped search the world for the best wrestlers for WWE, including Sin Cara.
Speaking of William Regal, the man has had his life defined by wrestling. Unlike the has-beens who grace independent promotions and live off of their ring names, Regal has been a company guy, whether of not that company wanted him around or not. Do you think he was happy about once having a gimmick that was like the Brawny man? Regal does whatever he is asked to do, even if that involves doing commentary on NXT with Todd Grisham. One of the greats in the last few decades, Regal is one of those unsung heroes who isn't a sexy name for Hall of Fame intentions.
Daniel Bryan was a legend in the independent promotions. His legend grew as this sensation became known as a "founding father" of the popular Ring of Honor promotion. In WWE, Bryan was an anticipated member to join up with the developmental territory. Bryan didn't care if WWE wanted to flip his name around from his normal ring name or even have him job in NXT. The big thing for him is his actual matches. Daniel Bryan puts on a show and has developed a following in WWE, even with those who never followed his career before appearing on NXT.
He may be the man known as Goldust (or formerly known for a short time in the Attitude Era), but he is also known as a fan's wrestler. Goldust was born into pro wrestling (sort of) and has made it his life. Initially doing it to be closer to his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, the character of Goldust was done to blaze his own trail. As a heel, he angered fans, which made them love him even more. The gimmick never made Rhodes world title material, but he is a recognizable face from the 1990s and 2000s.
Even after his vices were getting the best of him, Goldust rose above and returned to the ring. It was like he never really left. Goldust didn't simply live off of being recognized and worked hard to get into the best shape of his life. Even with injuries slowing him down in the last year, Goldust has worked behind the scenes to improve the product. Goldust is the perfect guy to talk to about pride in one's self
Rey Mysterio is simply a throwback. Not only is he the little man with the fight of a big man, but his attitude reminds me of an old school baseball player. Lou Gehrig never missed a game in 2,130 contests for the New York Yankees, even playing both halves of doubleheaders. His mentality: if there was a little kid in the ballpark seeing him for the very first time, he didn't want to let him down. That's the kind of spirit that Rey Mysterio is.
His world titles and long tenure in wrestling make him a Hall of Fame candidate waiting to happen, but it is his work ethic that is most remembered by old school fans. Even at his age and after so many injuries over the years, Mysterio still does whatever he can to entertain. If he's hurt and still in a storyline, he will ride that story out as long as he can. Mysterio will likely wrestle until he medically cannot. Even though he is more than well off financially, it is about the respect and adoration that he has for wrestling and that the fans have for him.
When I was at Survivor Series this past weekend, I heard the following remark by a fellow fan. "Dolph Ziggler could wrestle a broomstick and make it look good." That's a little much, but not too far off.
Ziggler is one of the best workers in the world right now. He has survived two bad gimmicks, one awful name, lived in the mid-card, and had to be a world champion for about six minutes. Even through that all, Ziggler is a team player. As a heel, his athleticism enables the crowd to cheer about as loudly for him as they do with anyone. Ziggler was often compared to Billy Gunn for his generic style, but Ziggler is rising above the naysayers and making a place for himself. Check in five years from now and see how big a star this guy is going to be.
You don't think he isn't selfless? How come everyone wants to wrestle him and he gets almost everybody over with the fans?
Big Show may be one of the most athletic big men that I have ever seen in my life. Need an agile super heavyweight? He's your guy. Looking for a seven-footer to leap from the top rope? Look no further. Big Show will do, and has done, just about anything you could ask from him. He will use his big size to make anyone seem like they have just slayed the giant. It's no wonder why anyone would be thrilled to work with the big man. His career speaks to a lot more than his titles and accomplishments, which are still incredibly impressive.