Top 10 underrated performers in WWE: Number 7
Moving along with our list of the top 10 underrated performers in the WWE, today we come down to number 7. Last time, we had seen how Dynamite Kid’s career imploded, and in the end, he had no one else to blame but himself. After years of drug abuse and use of steroids, Dynamite was left paralyzed for life, and in the end, he never achieved at least half of his potential. These are the few underrated performers, who are praised universally by the wrestling fans and had never received their due for one reason or the other.
Today, we look at another such performer who was heralded as one of the most gifted technicians in modern wrestling. Although he didn’t throw his career and life away like Dynamite Kid did, he couldn’t amount to much after the powers that be decided that he wasn’t big enough. Like the Benoits and Eddie Guerreros, he too suffered the ‘small guy’ tag, and with Nash, Hall and Hogan terming him a ‘vanilla midget’ in WCW, he couldn’t break those shackles for the rest of his career. Although he was respected and loved by all the fans, he never quite achieved all that he could have in WCW and WWE. He is none other than ‘The man of 1,000 holds’, Dean Malenko.
Malenko was always known as a master technician, and the major companies such as ECW and WCW started scouting Malenko during his stay in Japan. When Malenko joined ECW, he gave the fans something that they weren’t used to seeing, which was pure technical wrestling. The fans appreciated Malenko, and when WCW signed him up, the ECW faithful showed their appreciation to the ‘Ice man’. His biggest success came in WCW, as Malenko was involved in many legendary battles and feuds, but perhaps none bigger than his personal feud with Chris Jericho for the coveted Cruiserweight championship. A testament to that was Slamboree 1998, when Malenko, dressed as Ciclope, won a battle royal to face Jericho. When Malenko unmasked to reveal his true identity, the place came unglued and Jericho later wrote in his autobiography that it was one of the loudest pops in the history of professional wrestling!
Malenko, along with Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, was tired with the constant backstage politics and the lack of opportunities to the ‘smaller guys’ in WCW, and decided to jump ships to the then WWF, naming their faction as the Radicalz. Although Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero went on to greener pastures, winning the World Heavyweight and the WWE titles respectively, Dean Malenko was stuck in meaningless feuds with the Hardyz. Malenko’s biggest issue, like most other technical wrestlers, was his mat based style which didn’t go well with Vince McMahon. Also, the fact that Malenko was barely passable on the mic held him back.
Dean Malenko soon retired from professional wrestling and became a road agent in the WWE. Along with that, Malenko also started training the younger crop of wrestlers, and has since become a mentor to the rookies in WWE’s developmental territories. Malenko was voted as the best technical wrestler by Wrestling Observer twice, in ’96 and ’97. In his career, Malenko won the Cruiserweight championship, the United States Heavyweight championship, the ECW World TV title and the WWF Light Heavyweight championship along with couple of runs as one half of the tag team champions in ECW and WCW.
To all the ardent wrestling fans, Dean Malenko will be one of the greatest technical wrestlers in professional wrestling history. The fact that Malenko helped guys like Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho proves his credibility as a master technician. It is also well known that Benoit’s finisher, the crippler crossface was given to him by Dean Malenko! Malenko should have achieved a lot more in the business, but because of his physical constraints and the fact that he was seen as a ‘vanilla midget’, his dreams were cut short. This places him at number 7 in our list of the top 10 underrated performers in WWE history.