Stew Thumbs Up! Top 10 Favorite Wrestlers, #5 – #1
Welcome back, Ghosts fans! Last weekend, I gave you the beginning of an insight into the characters that always have me coming back to the world of professional wrestling, and today… today, we reveal the Mount Rushmore (plus one, I guess) of my all-time most beloved figures in the world of wrestling!
We’re going to get right into it, but first, a quick recap of what you missed if you did not join us for part 1 (which you should totally just go do. This article will be here when you get back, chum!):
#10. The Miz
#9. John Morrison/Johnny Mundo
#8. Seth (“Freakin'”) Rollins
#7. Owen Hart
#6. The New Day
How will the creme de la creme pan out? Let’s find out… NOW!
For the longest time, Edge was probably my favorite WWE talent that I would constantly forget to include on any such list. He would be the guy that, if you asked me unprepared to name a top ten list such as this, I’d invariably leave him off entirely. But when I saw him on television, I’d always think “Damn, this guy is great at everything”. And you know what? Damn, Edge was great at EVERYTHING. And he’s easily in my historical top five. If you ignore his singles career entirely, his work in Edge & Christian would have them as a top three or four tag team for me, but then his career after they dissolved? He would “only” go on to become one of the very elite main event heels of all-time. Hell, the guy even mastered the maniacal, crazy facial expressions he needed to sell any situation in which he was involved. He had brilliant feuds with the likes of John Cena, The Undertaker, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, and Triple-H, and his record of sustained success over time is something to behold. He just showed up, year-in and year-out, and put on the matches, the promos, and the entire body of work of an all-time legend. His forced retirement due to neck injuries is one of the most unfortunate situations WWE and its fans has faced, but at least he still has his long-term health. And we have a WWE Network full of the memories he left for us.
Edge is the first of three men at the top of this mountain, actually, who all have one weird thing in common: they all gave powerful goodbye/retirement speeches on Monday Night Raw.
4. The Rock
Rocky is a guy that I absolutely adored during his heyday in the Attitude Era. My friends and I were fascinated with him from his Nation of Domination days through the rest of his main run. And I think he’s become an immensely talented Hollywood actor in his post-WWE life. But I often wonder… does his wrestling stuff hold up? Did we just like him because we were goofy, and he was a silly guy with zany facial expressions and great put-downs? Aren’t there many better overall talents who should have surpassed him by now?
No. No, there aren’t.
If you take the WWE Network trip down Memory Lane, take the left at Jabroney Drive and check yourself DI-rectly into the Smackdown Hotel, Rock unquestionably holds up. It’s not just his larger-than-life personality and his unparalleled ability to command an audience; the guy just GOT in-ring storytelling. He understood that wrestling was essentially an art form, a rollercoaster of character arcs and tales to be told, and he knew how to use matches to convey that. He was, and still is, THE most electrifying man in sports and entertainment. Well, maybe fourth most, at least. That’s pretty good!
3. Daniel Bryan
I don’t always like professional wrestling.
I started watching in 1992 and watched continuously through the year 2000. When I moved away to college, I did not have cable for a couple of years and thus watched very little until I got back into it in 2005 or 2006. And from there, I faded in-and-out as a fan, sometimes watching religiously and sometimes being almost entirely disengaged from it. I kept up with it through website reviews, but I wasn’t actively watching. It was 2013 that brought me 100% back to being a full-time, fully-participating fan, and the reason for that is wholly and entirely Daniel Bryan and his burgeoning push towards the main event. To put it in the cheesiest but plainest way my undeserving words can: Daniel Bryan made me LOVE wrestling again.
This is where I break my list a bit, to be honest. Likely, Daniel Bryan is my actual favorite wrestler that has ever lived. If I picture it in my mind’s eye, I would not even hesitate in cheering Bryan over either of the men ahead of him on this list. I am more emotionally invested in Bryan than any other figure in the sport’s history. He is a guy who seems to live and breathe what he does, and he does it on a level few others ever have. He is the greatest babyface that has ever played the role (though he has also been a fun heel character at times). And damn it… he just makes you care. I was devastated when he retired, but not as much as I was overjoyed when he was cleared recently to return to the ring. I will be a fan as long as Daniel and his body decide to keep giving us fantastic matches. I honestly feel like the reason I started watching wrestling was to eventually see Daniel Bryan do what he does.
2. Chris Jericho
How does one man reinvent himself as many times as Chris Jericho has? Jericho is the epitome of not resting on your laurels. Do you know how hard it was to pick a video to go with for this entry? Do I go with the ‘Man of 1004 Holds” promo? Something from his work with Ralphus? His Millennium Man WWE debut? His becoming the first ever Undisputed Champion? His quiet “Honest Man” portrayal? His current bloodthirsty and vicious work in NJPW? Ultimately I went a little more recent from his WWE history with the List Of Jericho era, but this guy is a master’s class unto himself on finding constant ways to stay fresh and relevant. Every time I thought I couldn’t dig Chris Jericho any more, he finds a new, better shtick. That is dedication! And, for the most part, they have all been home runs. From his ECW time as a hard-working babyface who put on stellar matches through his blood-and-vulgarity tear through New Japan, Y2J has a 20+ year history worthy of being called the best in the world at what he does. Well… except maybe for one man…
1. Shawn Michaels
Yeah, I couldn’t pick just one video for Shawn. See, the thing about Shawn Michaels is that he is the best. The best ever. Shawn himself wouldn’t say so; he would say Ric Flair is the greatest of all time. And he might have an argument, and I respect that. But nope… Shawn is actually the best.
I’ve yammered a lot across ten entries here about how professional wrestling is an art that relies on performers who are great storytellers and how my favorites are a lot of the men who excel in that regard. But compared to Shawn, everyone else is performing The Very Hungry Caterpillar while he’s doing Shakespeare. Shawn Michaels matches are all about conveying a tale to the audience. Every move he makes is calculated and every word he says has purpose, and that is to keep a crowd in the palm of his hand and stuck to him as he carries them through a journey.
If Shawn had stayed retired in 1998 after his back injury, he’d still be on this list. Shawn’s first 10 years or so in WWE were still grand enough that I would have included him, and he’d likely still be top five. He was my first REAL favorite wrestler as kid (and he’s the guy who made “cocky, self-absorbed jerk” a can’t-miss gimmick for me). But then he returned in 2002 and had a second half to his career through 2010 that is flat-out unrealistic. Overcoming a debilitating back injury and a multitude of personal demons, Shawn came back to put on match after match, angle after angle, that showcased him as the most talented and dedicated wrestler I have ever seen. And to this day, Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 is the best wrestling match I have seen (and hell, maybe that’s a list for another day).
So there you have it. That’s my personal Top Ten. I certainly have a type, it seems. Heh. But it’s just my list. Who do you have, Ghosts fans? Who’s your Top Ten? I’d love to hear it, so let us have it!
Until next time… take care!