Ranking the 10 Greatest WWE/WWF Wrestlers of All Time
If you're ready to find out where "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ranks on the list of the greatest wrestlers in World Wrestling Entertainment history, give me a "Hell yeah!"
To determine the order, each legend of the four-sided ring was given a score from 0-10 in these four categories:
Entrance Music—Did their walk down the ramp immediately get you excited for the confrontation ahead?
Finishing Move—How original and how awesome was it?
On the Mic—Professional wrestling is all about the feuds, so how well could they sell a rivalry in promos?
In the Ring—How many belts did they win, and were they a good enough wrestler to carry the main event of a pay-per-view?
Those four numbers were summed for a total score out of 40, and the wrestlers were ranked in ascending order.
Because those were the criteria, apologies to original legends like Bruno Sammartino, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Harley Race, who didn't come close to making the cut. Entrance music and promos weren't really prevalent until the 1980s, but it's impossible to imagine an episode of Monday Night Raw without those elements.
Be sure to note: We're searching for the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time. Guys like Sting, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page might be worth considering as all-time greats of professional wrestling, but they each spent most of their careers in WCW.
Andre the Giant
The Eighth Wonder of the World was a mountain in a singlet. Billed at 7'4" and 520 lbs., The Princess Bride's Fezzik made large men like Hulk Hogan seem small. And until his body broke down, the big man had legitimate moves in the ring. Though an unforgettable presence, his time atop the WWE—he only won two belts in his entire career—was too brief to warrant a spot in the top 10.
Bret "The Hitman" Hart
Interestingly enough, "The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be" fell just shy of our top 10. The Excellence of Execution was a great technical wrestler, and the Sharpshooter was arguably the best submission finisher of all time. But he always seemed to be reading from cue cards in his promos, and his entrance music was average at best.
Unlike Hart, Jericho was one of the best trash talkers the WWE has ever—e-e-e-e-ver—had, and his entrance music was top-notch. But he always seemed to need a cheap shot or some sort of interference to win his best matches. That isn't to say he wasn't a great wrestler, but it just devalued him a little bit. Also, the Liontamer/Walls of Jericho was one of the more underwhelming finishing moves.
No women made it into the top 10, though the Ninth Wonder of the World was worth considering. Chyna had a short run in WWE, but she was something of a one-woman revolution en route to winning the Intercontinental Championship. Before Chyna, the roles of women in wrestling were predominantly as managers or valets. Less than two decades after Chyna took the world by storm, WWE is going to have its first all-women pay-per-view event in October.
The American Dream didn't have great entrance music, his "Flip, Flop and Fly" finisher was sub-par compared to the rest of the candidates for the top 10 and he only spent a couple of years as a full-time wrestler with WWE. Still, he was a prominent figure in the sport for nearly half a century, which at least warrants an honorable mention.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H)
Coming from a former DX junkie, The Game will always be a personal favorite. But he was like the Grant Hill of wrestling, constantly battling injuries that kept him from truly fulfilling his potential—though he did win more than his fair share of belts over the years.
Perhaps the greatest technical wrestler in WWE history, Angle is also one of the most loathed characters of all time. Entire arenas have been chanting "You suck!" during his entrances for more than 16 years, so it's hard to imagine wrestling without him.
Only two guys who made their WWE debut in the last 20 years were even considered for this list: Orton and John Cena. And even though the RKO is an outstanding finisher, The Viper has always been a little overshadowed by Cena.
The Ultimate Warrior
Some wrestlers routinely engaged in 15-minute matches for decades. Not the Warrior. His matches typically ended within three minutes and his career barely spanned 10 years, but it was one hell of a whirlwind ride.
He wasn't legitimately considered for a spot on the list, but as far as entrance music and charisma on the mic is concerned, Mr. McMahon is an all-time great. And the gifs and memes of his overreactions to everything will live on forever.
10. Mick Foley
Entrance Music: 3.7 / 10
We start out the list with a tricky one for this category, because Mick Foley wrestled under several alter egos, each of which had a different walkout song. But they were all rather forgettable. The best of the bunch was arguably "Wreck," which was the one that he used when he was plain ol' Foley late in his career. Unless you're an unabashed fan of disco music, the worst entrance music was definitely for Dude Love.
Finishing Move: 5.9 / 10
It's no Rock Bottom or Stone Cold Stunner, but the Mandible Claw was certainly unique. If nothing else, I believe it's the only finishing move that one could theoretically practice by doing it to oneself, though that behavior is strictly discouraged. (Just trust us. It hurts like hell.) It probably would have only scored a 4.2 if Foley hadn't later turned it into Mr. Socko.
On the Mic: 9.5 / 10
Plenty of wrestlers over the years have played the role of the tormented soul. Guys like Kane, Raven, Gangrel and Al Snow did it quite well. But no one could deliver a deranged soliloquy quite like Foley. And the fact that he could juxtapose Mankind's mania with Dude Love's chill persona only added to his intrigue. Foley's most memorable/haunting monologue of all time, however, came as Cactus Jack when he was with ECW.
In the Ring: 9.7 / 10
Foley was far from the most technical wrestler, but man alive could he take a beating and put on a show. The moment The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the Hell in a Cell and onto the announcing table is one of the most iconic in WWE history. Two years later, Triple H threw Cactus Jack through the cell and through the canvas of the ring in an even more death-defying stunt. It's a miracle Foley's career lasted as long as it did—a career that produced three WWF championships, eight WWF tag-team championships and a WWF hardcore championship.
Total Score: 28.8 / 40
9. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Entrance Music: 7.9 / 10
The most effective entrance songs let the entire arena knows within one note or sound who is about to walk down the ramp. In that regard, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's entrance was a success. Even if bagpipe music makes you cringe, there was only one man it could possibly be when you heard it. The irony is that Piper wasn't actually from Scotland. He has Scottish heritage, but he's Canadian.
Finishing Move: 4.0 / 10
Piper was one of the first to master the art of the sleeper hold, but it's a submission maneuver that has appeared in many an arsenal over the years. Because it isn't particularly unique and because most submission finishers simply aren't that entertaining, we had to give it a low score.
On the Mic: 9.9 / 10
For better or worse, Piper's Pit is what turned wrestling into the dramatic theater that it is today. Piper was a promotional hit every time he touched a microphone, and he became a sensation for interviewing other big-name wrestlers in the mid-1980s. From that point on, the ability to talk trash has been just as crucial to achieving superstardom as the ability to actually wrestle.
In the Ring: 8.1 / 10
Piper's legacy lies primarily in his tongue, as he was one of the greatest heels to ever grace the canvas. But he was a good wrestler, too, partaking in several classic matches alongside the likes of Ric Flair and Bret Hart. He only won two belts during the WWE/WWF portion of his career, though, and the tag-team title that he won with Flair in 2006 at the age of 52 was just a one-week publicity stunt.
Total Score: 29.9 / 40
8. "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Entrance Music: 3.5 / 10
I'm sorry, Randy Savage, but are we at a wrestling pay-per-view or a high-school graduation? How in the world did this wild egomaniac of a character end up with "Pomp & Circumstance" as his nightly introduction to the audience? The Macho Man might have landed in the top five if not for this.
Finishing Move: 8.5 / 10
Though his entrance was weak, Savage's finishing move was simplistically awesome. If you were a kid who watched wrestling in the 80s or 90s, there's a near-100 percent chance that you once jumped off a bookcase, a bunk bed or anything high enough to deliver Savage's trademark flying elbow to a pile of stuffed animals. He's the only member of our top 10 who used aerial acrobatics to end matches.
On the Mic: 9.4 / 10
If you've never gone down the YouTube rabbit hole of Savage's most ridiculous interviews, be sure to find some time to do so in the near future. His delivery was glorious, raspy and terrifying. "Mean" Gene Okerlund should've won an Oscar for not breaking character during Savage's "cup of coffee in the big time" rant in 1987.
In the Ring: 9.6 / 10
Savage only spent a decade of his 32-year career in the WWF, but he won the World Heavyweight Championship twice and the Intercontinental Championship once during that time. Savage was such a talented showman in the ring that the fans loved him, even though he was supposed to be a heel. (As opposed to Kurt Angle, who has been such a heel for his entire career that fans adore hating him.)
Total Score: 31.0 / 40
7. John Cena
Entrance Music: 8.5 / 10
It's nowhere near the top of the list of the worst entrance songs in WWE history, but John Cena's intro is easily one of the most annoying. Don't get me wrong: The first 10 seconds are amazing, and that instant hype only intensified as he became more and more of a fan favorite. Moreover, the whole "You can't see me" thing was a legitimate movement that ushered in a new generation of wrestling fans. But I couldn't go any higher than a 8.5 here, because those blasted horns are going to be stuck in my head for at least the next three hours.
Finishing Move: 6.4 / 10
Cena has both a knockout finisher and a tapout finisher. There's the Attitude Adjustment, which is what you would get if you crossed a fireman's carry with Bill Goldberg's Jackhammer. There's also the STF (Stepover Toehold Facelock), which is what you would get if you crossed Kurt Angle's Ankle Lock with Chris Benoit's Crippler Crossface. Cena also has the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, which is just The People's Elbow with a fist instead of an elbow. It's not the lack of originality that bothers us, but rather the fact that someone wouldn't need three finishers if they had a single great one.
On the Mic: 10 / 10
The Rock is the most successful movie star to get his start with WWE, but Cena might be the greatest orator Vince McMahon has ever employed. He's legitimately funny when he wants to be, but he can also deliver an impassioned speech like no other.
In the Ring: 9.6 / 10
Cena is a 16-time WWE Champion. He has also won the United States Championship five times and the tag-team belts four times. He's one of the most decorated wrestlers of all time. And he has done most of it in jean shorts, for reasons no one will ever understand.
Total Score: 34.5 / 40
6. The Undertaker
Entrance Music: 9.6 / 10
The Undertaker's entrance is one of the best experiences imaginable. When the lights go out and that gong starts chiming, it's almost impossible to not get goosebumps, no matter how old you are. After that, it's the combination of the slow, menacing walk and the eerie, crypt-yard music, culminating in him raising the lights from the top of the steel staircase. It would have gotten a perfect score if not for that five-year stretch in which he inexplicably became a Kid Rock-loving biker.
Finishing Move: 9.2 / 10
The Undertaker had two finishing moves: the chokeslam and the Tombstone Piledriver. Oftentimes, he would use both to finish off an opponent, but either one could do the trick by itself. The tombstone was the much superior move, though. Not only did it require a greater feat of strength, but it also immediately transitioned into his patented cross-armed pin.
On the Mic: 6.2 / 10
Taker wasn't much of a talker early in his career—Paul Bearer did most of that for him—and he was never great on the mic. He had to do a little jaw-jabbing to promote rivalries, but there was no question who would win the war of words if he was going up against a Shawn Michaels or a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. But The Undertaker put on a great show outside of the ring in spite of that shortcoming. After all, no one can sit straight up out of a casket and roll his eyes into the back of his head like The Deadman can.
In the Ring: 9.8 / 10
The king of the underworld was also the king of Wrestlemania, putting together a Joe DiMaggio-esque streak of 21 consecutive victories on the sport's biggest stage. The Undertaker was a seven-time WWE champion and a six-time WWE tag team champion with four different partners. Most impressive, though, is the longevity: He could carry the main card of a pay-per-view event for a quarter of a century.
Total Score: 34.8 / 40
5. Ric Flair
Entrance Music: 9.6 / 10
Not many wrestlers could pull off a classical piece by Richard Strauss, but "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair was stylin' and profilin' to the tune of "Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30." It's not the type of music that instantly jolts you out of your seat, but it does crescendo for roughly a full minute such that it's hitting the sweet spot right as he's entering the ring.
Finishing Move: 9.5 / 10
You don't find many submission moves on the list of the greatest finishers of all time, but Flair's Figure-Four Leg Lock belongs on a pedestal in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. It's that much of a timeless classic.
On the Mic: 10 / 10
Woo! Put a microphone in front of the Nature Boy and he was liable to go off the rails in the best way possible. You could do a top 50 of the greatest Flair promos of all time and still be forced to omit some classics. No one was better about bragging about his own greatness and riches while strutting around and screaming "Woo!" A top-five spot on that list would have to go to the time he stripped down to his boxers and handcuffed himself to the ring while challenging Eric Bischoff.
In the Ring: 6.5 / 10
Ric Flair was an incredible wrestler. He was named world champion so many times that people literally lost count. The disputed total is somewhere between 16 and 25.
Here's the problem, though: This is a ranking of the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time, and Flair spent less than two years in the WWE during his first three decades of wrestling. He returned to the WWE in 2001 at the age of 52 and continued to wrestle quite well for his age, but there's no question that his prime came with WCW and NWA. Because of that, we had to dock him a few points. Still, he was a WWE legend.
Total Score: 35.6 / 40
4. Hulk Hogan
Entrance Music: 10 / 10
Hulk Hogan had nearly a dozen different entrance songs throughout his career, including "Eye of the Tiger," "Real American" and "Voodoo Child." But while he was lacking in consistency, he gets a perfect score for being a revolutionary. Hogan was the primary reason that entrance music became what it is today—a means of hyping up the crowd and getting them to immediately recognize who was headed to the ring.
Finishing Move: 6.6 / 10
It's astounding that Hogan became one of the titans of wrestling while armed with one of the most underwhelming finishing moves ever. He had some great moves. Bouncing an opponent off the ropes before shoving a big boot in his face? Awesome. The running clothesline? Even better. But the Atomic Leg Drop was such an anticlimactic final touch on a match. We're cutting him some slack because it worked for the '80s and became an iconic move by means of repetition. But if someone tried to introduce that as a finisher today, they'd get laughed out of the business.
On the Mic: 9.5 / 10
Hogan was right up there with Macho Man Randy Savage on the list of '80s wrestlers who would have been been given a wide berth if they were walking around the street talking the way they did in promos. Once Hollywood got to ripping his shirt in half, flexing, talking about his Hulkamaniacs and calling everyone "brother," the crowd was always riveted. He wasn't ever as great at the back-and-forth repartee as some of the greats who came along later, though.
In the Ring: 10 / 10
I mean, it's Hulk Hogan. He was a six-time world champion in both the WWE and WCW. He is the Michael Jordan of wrestling insomuch as he spent two decades as the dude every kid wanted to be when they grew up. Despite harping on his finishing move earlier, giving the Hulkster anything less than a 10 in this category would be sacrilege.
Total Score: 36.1 / 40
3. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Entrance Music: 8.9 / 10
Few entrances in WWE's history have packed an opening punch quite like The Rock's did. The entire arena was on its feet within milliseconds of his "If ya smell..." blasting over the speakers. Beyond that, though, it was a boring entrance song, full of generic anthem rock electric guitar, drum beats and a repetitive, monotone recording of him saying, "The Rock says." Worse yet, the song droned on for too long while he climbed two turnbuckles, raised a fist and an eyebrow and sniffed the air.
Finishing Move: 9.7 / 10
Maybe you prefer Goldberg's spear/Jackhammer one-two finishing punch, but he did the vast majority of his damage in WCW. As far as the WWE is concerned, there was no better setup and closer combo than the Rock Bottom and The People's Elbow. And if the sequence began out of seemingly nowhere, leading to Jim Ross or Michael Cole screaming "Rock Bottom!" three or four times in a row, even better.
On the Mic: 10 / 10
If you're enough of a jabroni to think The People's Champion deserves less than a 10 in this category, well it doesn't matter what you think! Know your role and shut your mouth. The king of the one-liners consistently delivered the best insults and promo material of "The Attitude Era."
In the Ring: 9.8 / 10
The Rock was a great wrestler, but he was an even better actor. With the possible exception of Vince and Shane McMahon, nobody could sell the devastating impact of a Stone Cold Stunner quite like Dwayne Johnson did. And because he put on such a great show, he won eight WWE Championships, five tag-team belts and a pair of intercontinental titles.
Total Score: 38.4 / 40
2. Shawn Michaels
Entrance Music: 10.1 / 10
Are you ready? Yes, 10 is supposed to be the max score for each category, but how could we not give at least a little bonus to Shawn Michaels? The Heartbreak Kid wasn't just a sexy boy; he was also one half of D-Generation X, which gives him two entrance songs that belong in the all-time top 10. Bow to the master.
Finishing Move: 9.2 / 10
There weren't many "could be used at a moment's notice" finishers that can even hold a candle to Sweet Chin Music. Michaels literally used his heel to turn heel and back again several times during his decades-long run with WWE.
On the Mic: 9.6 / 10
Whether he was a fan favorite or a loathed villain at the time, Michaels was always a riot with a mic in his hand. (This on-camera talent hit its apex when he and Triple H were feuding with Sgt. Slaughter in the late 90s.) Not only was HBK witty with his own dialogue, but he was one of the best ever when it came to reacting to what others were saying. Even if he rambled on for 10-15 minutes, it was good entertainment.
In the Ring: 9.9 / 10
Without question, Michaels was one of the best wrestlers in WWE history. Whether he was feuding with Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, John Cena or The Undertaker, the impending pay-per-view event was guaranteed to be a classic. As a result, he was a four-time heavyweight champ, as well as intercontinental champion and European champion during his career. Michaels was also an incredible tag-team competitor, winning those belts six times with four different partners.
Total Score: 38.9 / 40
1. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Entrance Music: 10 / 10
You know you're in the presence of a wrestling fan if a glass shatters and he or she quickly scans the room in search of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The beginning of Austin's entrance song is the quintessential sound of wrestling for an entire generation of fans. But unlike The Rock's entrance, which immediately went downhill from there, Austin's entire walkout song essentially became the WWE anthem for more than a decade.
Finishing Move: 10 / 10
The Stone Cold Stunner is the greatest finisher in WWE history, and that isn't open to debate. (Although, if you wanted to argue that Austin's actual finishing move was climbing to the second rope and pouring a few cold ones down his throat, that's fair.) You never knew for sure when The Texas Rattlesnake was going to strike, but it was always amazing. And any time he delivered a stunner to Vince McMahon and proceeded to scream right in his semi-conscious face, it was even better.
On the Mic: 10 / 10
"Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass" might be the most iconic mic drop in wrestling history. He wasn't the best role model for kids, but Austin turned flipping birds and chugging beers into an art. His career-long feud with Vince McMahon resulted in an absurd number of spectacular speeches and classic videos to be played on the Titantron. And it's because of Austin that fans have been incessantly screaming "What?!" during monologues for the past two decades.
In the Ring: 9.7 / 10
It's the only area where Austin's legacy falls short of perfection, and only because he suffered a devastating neck injury about a decade into his professional career. He continued handing out stunners like they were candy bars on Halloween, but he was more of a brawler and a showman than an actual wrestler beyond 1997. Still, Austin battled night in and night out, winning 12 WWE belts as the intercontinental champ (twice), tag-team champ (four times) and WWE champion (six times).
Total Score: 39.7 / 40
Kerry Miller is a multisport writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.