Top 50 wrestling stars of all time countdown
With WWE recently releasing its Top 50 Superstars of all Time DVD, I have decided to compile my own list.
Beginning later today and concluding Friday, I will count down my top 50 wrestlers of all time.
WWE’s rankings have been the subject of criticism ever since they were leaked online last month. Among the controversial selections were: Shawn Michaels at No. 1; Ric Flair at No. 17; Hulk Hogan at No. 23; and Bruno Sammartino at No. 24.
It’s also unclear whether WWE’s list is all-inclusive or strictly limited to WWE performers. For the most part it seems like a list of WWE stars, but then again, wrestlers who never worked for the WWWF/WWF/WWE such as Gorgeous George (No. 13) and Lou Thesz (No. 21) are on the list.
For my rankings, wrestlers from any promotion based in the United States or Canada were eligible. Wrestlers who made their marks primarily in Japan, Mexico or other countries were not considered unless they also had significant careers in the U.S. or Canada.
I also need to clarify my definition of “all time,” which is not meant to be taken literally. Although wrestling has spanned centuries, pro wrestling began to flourish as a unique form of entertainment during the early days of television, so I used that era (roughly 60 years ago) as a starting point.
This is the criteria I used for the list:
• Success as a main event performer. That, of course, is measured in different ways, depending on the era. In the territorial days, it was all about putting butts in seats. Nowadays, pay-per-view buy rates, TV ratings and merchandise sales are the measuring sticks. Also, wrestlers who were on top when the wrestling industry was hot received more credit than those who were on top when the industry was not as popular. Being a world champion carried weight in the rankings, but it was not a prerequisite.
• Longevity and impact. The longer a wrestler headlined, the higher he’ll be on the list. However, wrestlers who had fewer years on top but still made a huge impact also were recognized for their achievements. Wrestlers who are still active were judged by what they have accomplished to this point.
• Influence. Wrestlers who broke new ground and influenced those who came after them were given “extra credit.” The same goes for wrestlers who transcended the business and became crossover celebrities.
I want to stress that the list is not about who the best workers are or were. Some wrestlers on the list are fantastic workers, while others would be considered below-average in the ring. Headliners come in all shapes, sizes and wrestling styles.
To compile this list, I relied on my nearly 40 years of watching pro wrestling, as well as hours of research. I used the top 50 list that I had put together for the now-defunct Wrestling Digest magazine in 2002 as a starting point, although I altered the criteria slightly for this current list, so while many of the same names appear on both, the order is different. Plus, some new stars have risen over the past eight years, and wrestlers on the list from ’02 who remained active have added to their resumes.
In the end, these rankings are just one man’s opinion, and there is no such thing as a definitive list.
With that being said, check back later today for Nos. 41-50 and let the arguments commence.