You’ve read Sportskeeda’s list of the Top 10 Greatest WWE Wrestlers of All Time. The list allowed room only for ten wrestlers, so understandably many deserving candidates weren’t able to make the cut. Many wrestlers who gave their blood, sweat, tears, and even their entire careers for the WWE didn’t make it, which speaks high volumes of the level of those who did.
Now I present to you five wrestlers who missed out on our Top 10. These individuals have earned their dues for their magnificent careers, and claim their rightful status as the greatest of the greats. They’ve entertained us for years, and will hopefully continue to keep us enthralled by the spectacle that is the WWE, for years to come.
NOTE: Our entire list has only considered wrestlers from 1985 onwards, as it’s unfair to rate wrestlers that you’ve never seen.
In no particular order:
The iconic image of the Big Red Machine walking down to the ring after his explosive entrance has been a staple in the WWE for the last 15 years. It horrified us as children, but we loved it as we grew older. One of the central figureheads of the Attitude Era, Kane made his incredible début at Badd Blood 1997 by tombstoning his brother the Undertaker and costing him his match against Shawn Michaels. The devil’s favourite demon would then engage in a lengthy feud with the Phenom lasting several years, with the latest installment taking place in 2010 over the World Heavyweight Championship.
Kane is truly the last of his breed, and his ability to adapt to change throughout his career has won him universal praise. He has constantly evolved to remain relevant as time passes by, evidenced by the removal of his famous mask in 2003, and the return of the mask in 2011. Apart from his topsy-turvy relationship with his father Paul Bearer (‘Father of Darkness’) and the Undertaker, the 7-foot tall monster has been involved in legendary duels with X-Pac, Rob Van Dam, and his current entertaining odd-couple pairing with Daniel Bryan. No slouch in the other compartment, Kane has also been involved in atrocious angles such as the impregnation of Lita, and his supposed ‘rape’ of Katie Vick.
Kane is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and his eventual retirement will be a huge blow to the WWE.
Mick Foley aka Mankind aka Dude Love aka Cactus Jack
The Three Faces of Mick Foley was another mainstay of the Attitude Era, with Foley alternating between three contrasting personas. The most famous one, Mankind, was a mentally unstable schizophrenic and later a comedic lovable goof. Dude Love was a retro, 60s inspired hippie character, and Cactus Jack, a character he developed in ECW, was a fanatic of hardcore wrestling. Debuting as Mankind in 1996, Foley immediately entered into a feud with the Undertaker, a rivalry between two of the most sadistic individuals in WWE history. His long-drawn out hostilities with the Undertaker would establish his credentials as a top performer, despite him lacking the physique of a true ‘superstar’.
His Hell in a Cell match against the Undertaker at the 1998 King of The Ring epitomized the Hardcore Legend, as he took two career-shortening bumps. As the Undertaker and Foley were battling on the top of Satan’s structure, Foley was sent crashing down through the Spanish announcer’s table, and amazingly got up and resumed the bout. The second spot involved Foley being chokeslammed through the cage, from the top and fell onto the ring. It stunned everyone in the audience, and especially the wrestlers, as it wasn’t pre-planned. The Undertaker later admitted that he thought that Foley was dead.
Mick Foley sacrificed his body to do what he loved, and his career was cruelly shortened as a result. He made a major impact on the Monday Night Wars, decisively turning the tide in the WWF’s favour when he claimed his first WWF Championship on the January 4th 1999 edition of Raw. Foley took part in several excellent feuds with the likes of the Rock, Triple H, and Randy Orton, and his tag team with the Rock, the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection, is one of the most beloved tag teams of all time.
Before he was 30, the Apex Predator of the WWE was a 5-time WWE Champion, 1-time World Heavyweight Champion, 1-time Intercontinental Champion, and the 2009 Royal Rumble winner. One of the greatest stars of the decade (and all-time), Orton achieved more than fame and recognition before he was 30, than most do their entire career. It was not because it was in his blood, not because he was a ‘favourite’ of the management, but because he is that good!
Orton got his first real break in the WWE as a part of the legendary stable Evolution, with Triple H and Ric Flair serving as his mentors. Rising to prominence with his ‘Legend Killer’ gimmick, Orton was a shoo-in to become a megastar, and his rivalries with legends such as Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, and Mick Foley etc. catapulted him to the World Heavyweight Championship. It led to his departure from Evolution, and kick started a long, bitter, hate-filled critically acclaimed feud with Triple H that finally ended in 2009.
As Orton progressed through his career, he displayed remarkable adaptability to the changing times and became ‘The Viper’ in 2008, and in the process became a slow, methodical, sadistic and despicable superstar with anger management issues, a truly evil superstar in the mould of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. Orton’s ascension to the top of the ladder has been meteoric, and has engaged in phenomenal feuds with superstars such as Christian, Batista, John Cena, and CM Punk. Orton’s star is still rising, and one can only expect the Viper to move up the list as the years roll by, given that he is still only 32.
The only wrestler to have ever been inducted twice into the WWE Hall of Fame (once individually and the second time as a member of the legendary Four Horsemen), Flair is one of the few superstars who can lay claim to the title of the greatest wrestler of all time. 16-time World Champion, 1992 Royal Rumble winner, multiple time Wrestler of the Year, leader of an iconic stable, The Four Horsemen, possibly the greatest heel wrestler ever etc., and you may ask why isn’t the Nature Boy our No. 1, let alone warrant a spot in the Top 10?
It’s pretty simple actually, as Flair never really spent a lot of his peak years in the WWE (only 18 months in the early 90s when he won the WWF Championship twice), and wrestled mainly for the NWA and WCW, where he won most of his numerous accolades. No slouch in the WWE, Flair was basically the manager of Evolution, taking Triple H’s career to new heights, and kickstarted the careers of Batista and Randy Orton.
While older fans remember the Dirtiest Player in The Game for his clashes with legends such as Sting, Lex Luger, Terry Funk, and nWo in the NWA and WCW, Flair’s final swansong took place inside a WWE ring, in a high-octane, heart-breaking, and emotional match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24, which as per the pre-match stipulation, ended the storied career of ‘The Limousine Ridin’, Jet Flying, Kiss Stealin’, Wheelin’ Dealin’, Son of a Gun’.
The only Olympic Gold medalist in the history of professional wrestling is the greatest pure athlete that the industry has ever seen. Fresh from winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Angle signed a contract with the WWF in 1998, and made his debut in 1999. In an incredible rookie year, ‘The Olympic Hero’ won the European and Intercontinental Championships, dubbing himself as the ‘Eurocontinental’ champion, won the 2000 King of The Ring, and capped it off by beating The Rock to win his first WWF Championship title in October 2000. Angle defended the belt successfully on several occasions, before handing it back to The Rock at No Way Out 2001.
Voted wrestler of the decade by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2009, Angle was the complete package, possessing bundles of charisma, and could back it up better than anybody in the ring. A staple of Friday Night SmackDown during the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era, Angle was the face of the blue brand during this time, alongside Brock Lesnar. Angle’s classic rivalry with Lesnar featured some clinical wrestling bouts, entertaining comedy segments, and a real desire to outshine the other, as they both came from amateur backgrounds. Their Iron Man match on SmackDown in 2003, for the WWE title is the greatest match ever wrestled on the blue brand.
Angle was a one of a kind superstar, with his smugness, emphasis on drinking milk, and the three I’s (Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence). The ‘You Suck’ chant popularized by Edge, when he feuded with Angle in 2002, followed Angle throughout his career. Despite him working as a heel, the fans loved him and just couldn’t get enough of him. He was involved in legendary feuds with the likes of Triple H, Edge, The Rock, and Eddie Guerrero. Angle is still going strong in TNA today, and helped put that promotion on the map.
A true legend in every sense of the word.