We make such a big deal about the current wrestling scene and the one that got away.
The one that our heroes wrestled in, gave up blood and injuries and performed over 300 nights a year. The one that made wrestling "cool" and "real" and sensitive to the mainstream media.
The one that doesn't exist now.
While wrestling is more of a theatrical performance and the athletes are better than they have ever been, the lost art of kayfabe and true secrecy is lost on this younger generation of wrestling fans.
Gordon Solie, Jim Ross and Lance Russell used to tell a different story from the announcer's chairs, one about great heart, sacrifice and the need to pay attention to the storyline and the feud, not the merchandise it would sell.
If there were less PPV events and more build on characterization, then maybe the cross-culture that unites us as fans would be stronger. Titles would remain around the waists of our champions for longer periods and the idea of a real feud would not last a total of three minutes.
I know I am sounding off, but it pains me to see what has become of this business some times. And when we see former wrestlers come out of "retirement" for one last match, it does not always go according to plan.
As a kid growing up in NWA country, I was amazed at the "magic" of the screen and the story told. Solie made everything seem as real as possible. The wrestlers had a "homey" charm to them both "face" and "heel" and the scripts were better than they are today.
It would be great to see my favorites in the ring today. Wrestlers in their PRIME, not washed out, not looking to get over, but to help build the "sport" because back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was considered a sport until Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan broke down all those walls.
These 20 wrestlers provide me with the comforts of my youth and by love for the business and in their prime of their careers, they were the best at what they did.
I first saw Terry Allen wrestle in Florida.
He was thin, awkward and a little timid. But he had a look that was undeniable.
He "was" the stuff then and would have been "the guy" if not for the accident that almost killed him.
TA was working on his mic skills and his "Belly to Belly" was the best in the business until a guy named Angle came along.
He could have carried the NWA for a decade if given the chance.
Dr. Death was a great brawler and wrestler and looked like he could take your head off with one punch.
He was loved in the UWF and Mid-South areas of the country feuding with Hacksaw Butch Reed and Ted DiBiase.
Williams knew only one way and that was at full steam and he could have been a true role model for the likes of Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler.
He is missed by all who knew him for the performer he was in the ring.
Just think how things would have been had Windham had not joined the Four Horsemen.
Windham could have carried the NWA after the loss of Magnum TA. And by joined Ric Flair instead of challenging him, he knew it was better to join the best if he could not beat the best.
Windham was my favorite wrestler growing up.
I want Piper from the NWA, not the WWF.
Piper had the best mic skills in the business and can still bring it today.
He was loved as a face and heel in the Carolinas and brought with him an "off the wall" commodity that you did not see with a lot of wrestlers.
The loose cannon theme still works today.
He may have been one of the 10 most technically sound wrestlers to ever compete.
When he was in the AWA, he was a young kid trying to best his father Larry "The Ax" Hennig.
He was a tag team champion and a world title holder.
In the WWF, he was as scientific as they came.
And in WCW he as the rule breaker the company needed him to be.
As tag team champions, there was no one better. Others tried, but they had little success.
Jack and Jerry, real brothers, were two technically sound singles champions that worked just as well together in the ring.
They fought back all challenges including the Assassins, The Funks, Rick Steamboat and Jay Youngblood and Ric Flair and Ray Stevens.
If you want to know how to properly wrestle on a mat, all you need to do is watch tape of them in action.
He helped put St. Louis on the map and showed true grace as a champion.
Race was a multiple time NWA Champion and held every major title there was regionally.
His bouts with Terry Funk, Jack Brisco, Giant Baba and Ric Flair are legendary.
He was an older man when he came to the WWF and was used in a lesser capacity.
Savage was as good as anyone ever was.
A great look despite the hair and a great gravely voice that made you think of nails on a chalk board.
He was great not only as a heel but as a face and everyone was captivated by his love affair with Elizabeth.
He was one of the 10 best of all time.
The "Mad Dog" was just that. He came to the ring and stalked his prey. He was a face forward wrestler who stood up to everyone.
And there may not have been a more hard headed wrestler.
He feuded with Tommy Rich in Georgia like his life depended on it.
He won Intercontinental gold in the WWF but was never given a shot at the WWF Title during the Hulk Hogan era.
Muraco had a look that was pre-Batista, pre-Steve Williams.
He was a brawler and very popular in his days with the NWA.
Another guy who was hurt by the Hulk Hogan Era.
With that look he would be a world champion today.
Orndorff was really more of an NWA guy with his power and skill. He held many titles regional before heading to the WWF where he was the main heel to Hulk Hogan and his baby face image.
He could have carried the company while feuding with Hogan and should have been given a chance to carry the strap at least once.
I think he could have been a huge star in the late 1980s early 1990s with his skill, his mic skills and his look.
Johnson was a man amongst men in the WWF and was a great tag team champion with Tony Atlas.
As a singles competitor he won many regional NWA titles and was one of the best built men in the business.
He is on this list for his ability to brawl, his ability to bring down the house, and his ability to move from promotion to promotion and draw.
He was one of the best international stars the NWA ever had.
He was also such a bad ass, he set the stage for others of the past ten years and today.
What would the WWF been like if Vince McMahon had picked Snuka to lead the charge instead of Hulk Hogan.
A whole different world.
Snuka was the master of the highlight reel from the top rope. A lof of what you see today was influenced by Snuka and his aerial assault in the 1980s.
He was a great "face" but he never had a solid title run in the WWF.
Before there was Shawn Michaels, there was Rick Steamboat.
The look alone was impressive. He was cut like a sculpted statue and he could move in the ring like it was child's play.
Steamboat was the hero to Flair's villain in the NWA in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. Then, when WCW wanted to create magic, they did it again and Steamboat became a world champion.
Steamboat may have looked good in the WWF and his feud with Randy Savage may go down as one of the best ever, but if you watch Steamboat early in his career with battles against Flair, Sgt. Slaughter, Harley Race and Roddy Piper, you see the makings of a star.
I like him and appreciate what he did as a wrestler.
Michaels wasn't overly big, wasn't over strong and wasn't overly powerful. But he was the underdog who rose tot he top and when he studied the likes of Ric Flair and other top stars, he emulated them in a way that helped to create the "Michaels" style.
Whether he was a heel with Sherri Martel or the fan favorite that everyone loved as the "Show Stopper" or the funny act in DX, everyone who ever paid the price of admission to see him got their money's worth.
While he had a body that made every man sick, the one thing Rude did was pull off the ultimate "bad guy" in wrestling better than anyone.
There was no way around it. Rick Rude could not have been a "face" in the NWA, WCW or WWF. He was too arrogant and too much of a hot head to have been anything else.
Even when he started in Minnesota or moved to Memphis or caught on with the NWA and then WWF, he was hated and loved where ever he wrestled.
From the moment I saw him in 1981, I thought he was a cocky, big nosed ass.
And he was the best. Great talk, great walk. great technique.
By then, I was 10 years old and had figured out the "heel" vs. "hero" thing and was comfortable with seeing Flair challenge Dusty Rhodes or Jack Brisco because the show was phenomenal.
Anyone can talk about how Hulk Hogan was the best in the business. But for me, Ric Flair for about 10 years, was the business.
The best to never win NWA or WCW gold.
Anderson was a mid card wrestler and brought to the NWA to help create the greatest stable in wrestling history, The Four Horsemen.
Anderson could mat wrestle and chain wrestle or just flat out brawl.
He could talk on the mic, maybe better than Flair and he could make everyone in the building feel what he said.
When Muta burst on the scene, he was like no other wrestler who had come from the Orient. Shorter, quicker and more muscular than most, he was as quick as a cat and could take down bigger more powerful men.
Muta was an anomaly for me; a "heel" whom fans seemed to like more and more for his martial arts and his style. And the use of the ring ropes as a weapon surely made us all gasp as we never knew what he would do next.
His winning the NWA World Title and feuds with Sting were a testament to his talent and appeal.