Did Sports Illustrated successfully pick the greatest wrestlers of all time?
Much like a favourite song or movie, everyone has a favourite wrestler too. Sometimes that distinction has little to do with their in-ring work, feuds they were involved in or even the amount they drew in their lifetime, but on intangibles such as cheering them on, as kids, as they destroyed the evil Heel character.
Personally speaking, I preferred the pre-Attitude era to the Attitude era purely because of the in-ring work of Bret & Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels, The British Bulldog, etc. but I know many of our readers will have a contrary opinion.
That being said, Sports Illustrated recently made a list of the ‘101 Greatest Wrestlers of All Time’.
While you can check out the entire list here (http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2016/07/26/wwe-wcw-ecw-100-best-wrestlers-all-time); let’s discuss their top 25 picks. Here it is, in descending order.
25. Bob Backlund
23. Buddy Rogers
22. Triple H
21. Daniel Bryan
20. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
19. Antonio Inoki
18. Kurt Angle
17. Randy Orton
16. Bret "Hitman" Hart
15. Mick Foley
14. Harley Race
13. Chris Jericho
12. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
11. "Macho Man" Randy Savage
10. Andre the Giant
8. Hulk Hogan
7. John Cena
6. Dusty Rhodes
5. The Undertaker
4. The Rock
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin
2. Shawn Michaels
1. Ric Flair
At first glance, this seems like a very solid list. It covers wrestlers from across generations, right from Buddy Rogers all the way to Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. It holds good workers in high stead with Flair and Michaels ahead of Cena and Hogan, who are possibly bigger household names, and whom the casual audience is probably more familiar with.
But on closer inspection favourites of the Internet Wrestling Community are noticeably absent, including Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and even AJ Styles who’re further down the list.
Even wrestlers such as Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Goldberg and Batista who are all revolutionary in their own way...did not make the Top 25. But enough about them. Let’s discuss these 25 pro wrestlers/sports entertainers.
Across wrestling circles, Shawn Michaels is considered to be the best in-ring performer of all time. While him clocking in at Number 2 is a welcome treat for fans who value in-ring skills; him beating Austin, The Rock and Hulk Hogan is a questionable choice.
One must remember that the WWE (WWF at that time) was on the verge of bankruptcy when Michaels was world champion. And while wrestling purists may be gladdened by the inclusion of Hulk Hogan all the way down at Number 8, without Hulkamania, wrestling as we know it today would not exist.
While Sting (my childhood hero) takes the coveted position of Number 9, his original tag team partner The Ultimate Warrior does not make it to the Top 25. Granted, he was nowhere as good in the ring, but the WWF landscape would have been very different in the late 80s and early 90s without the legendary Warrior.
One also needs to question whether Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan, despite their chequered careers, deserve a slot ahead of an all-time legend like Triple H.
But for what it is, in my opinion, it is impossible to please every single wrestling fan, however good your list is.
This one caters more towards the hardcore fans, but let’s face it...a Greatest of All Time list without Hogan or Cena is hard to imagine. However much you dislike them, Justin Beiber is one of the top musicians of the 21st century; and Salman Khan’s films always pack a full house.
Little wonder then that the list has already garnered polarising opinions across the internet. But then, when has anything wrestling related not got polarizing reactions, including John Cena?
And hey, since neither WWE nor WCW allowed it to happen, it’s always a good thing when Flair beats Hogan clean, right?