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December 27, 2010

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.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 3:33 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Top 50 wrestling stars of all time


Allow me to be the first to say... you're wrong! Your list is wrong! How dare you have that wrestler in that position? How dare you rank this guy higher than that guy?! How dare you left out these legends? How dare you not consult me and copy my own list exactly? How dare you have your own set of opinions? Who the hell do you think you are to come up wtih a list that differs from mine?! I know better than you! Your experience counts for nothing! You are just a mark!!!

I can't wait for this. I have no doubt it'll be much better than WWE's joke of a list.

As a long-time Roddy Piper fan, how can WWE rank Hogan at #23? Do you have any idea what their criteria was because it would seem Hulk would have to be #1 on any WWE list unless it was only being based on in-ring ability?

Looking forward to this!! WWE lazily slapped together a sloppy, deliberately awful list designed to promote their current & recent stars, and then cynically promoted it as "controversial." Ugh.

Controversy means heated disagreement... whereas with WWE's list there was universal consensus that it was hopelessly wrong.

For instance I wonder where Benoit will be on Kevin's list. I feel he belongs on there no matter how people want to rewrite history based on his tragic death. Benoit brought massive legitimacy to the sport in his heyday, personified the Ruthless Aggression era and was definitely influential both as a wrestler and in the effect his sad end had on the business. I personally believe he is the reason chair shots to the head are no longer done and why concussions are now part of the health discussion in wrestling.

YOU'RE WRONG! YOUR LIST IS WRONG! How dare you have that wrestler in that position?! How dare you rank this guy... oh wait, LOL, someone already covered all of this.

Thanks PS!

I'm curious if and how you look at the longevity of a career pre-Raw/Nitro and post-Raw/Nitro. It's my opinion that longevity today and in the past are much different. The schedule that today's wreslters have to keep, the abundance of quality wrestlers, more risky spots, frequency of title changes and the availability of the product today makes it very, very hard to be a main event performer over an extended period of time; because of this I hope that you have considered longevity differently depending on the era in which a wrestler performed.

I haven't seen the whole list yet but because 14 of the 20 wrestlers posted so far wrestled before Raw and Nitro, it made me wonder how much you considered what wrestling was then and is now.

On a side note, thinking about all this has made me realize the irony in those that are nostalgic over Hogan but berate Cena. But that can wait til we see them on your list.

I didn't find the Shawn Michaels ranking shocking at all because it's simply hard to argue it, but I did have difficulty understanding Hogan, Flair, Jericho, and Angle's rankings.

I was really hoping to see Chief Jay Strongbow on the list! Ol' memories of the tomahawk chop and sleeper hold. The feuds with Albano and Spiros Arion were awesome!

Where is George "The Animal" Steele?

RESPONSE FROM KE: Parts unknown

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.

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