A lot of fans like to compare the current day wrestlers to those from their fondest memories. Most often online that comparison is done to the Attitude Era but what about the first major worldwide boom - the Golden Age era of the 1980s?
The 80s were most notable for the rise of Vince McMahon Jr.'s World Wrestling Federation thanks to the launch of professional wrestling's juggernaut, WrestleMania. With the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, André the Giant, and Rowdy Roddy Piper regularly at the top of the bill the landscape was one filled with big personalities and a cartoon feel. A lot of emphasis was put in crossover appeal with the Rock 'n Wrestling connection and the likes of Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, and Piper appearing in films and television.
Meanwhile, Jim Crockett would rebrand his promotion NWA World Championship Wrestling in order to compete with the WWE on a national level, eventually selling to Ted Turner in 1988 where it just became WCW. This company was headed by the more realistic feel, as Ric Flair cheated his way to the top, and to stay there, faced off against the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Sting, and Ricky Steamboat.
So, who from today's WWE roster would fit perfectly into the decade of one of professional wrestling's biggest booms?
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15 The Dudley Boyz
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley are undeniably one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Depending on who you ask, they are 23 or 18-time World Tag Team Champions and hold the distinct honour of holding the WWE/F, WCW, ECW, IWGP, TNA, and NWA tag straps. That's a lot of gold from a lot of wrestling companies.
It is hard for anyone to mount an argument against the duo succeeding in a promotion but they would be a more natural fit for the WWE than WCW's more sport-like presentation at the time, although it would be reasonable to also expect good things in either.
If the 80s could birth The Nasty Boys, there is no doubt that the Dudleyz would fit in stylistically, especially in their original ECW gimmicks. They might want to drop the 'z' though, that is most definitely a product of the 90s.
14 Brock Lesnar
The Minnesota-born destroyer is a mountain of a man and is an instant threat just by sight. Given the WWE's 80s reputation as being the land of the giants, there would be few more natural fits into that world from a purely physical standpoint.
Lesnar quite famously has one big weakness in the world of sports entertainment, however. Many believe he lacks character and he is generally weak on the microphone, even looking uncomfortable when asked to cut a promo.
Fortunately for 'The Beast', the 80s were one of the peaks of managers in the genre. Bobby Heenan, Lou Albano, Jimmy Hart, Paul Ellering, Slick, and many, many more were all helping to elevate performers by association and, where necessary, covering up the talking weaknesses many possess. Even the man currently fulfilling the role, albeit it under the guise of 'advocate', Paul Heyman began his managerial career in the late 80s under the name Paul E. Dangerously.
13 Alberto Del Rio
Despite a hot return back in November, Del Rio has become the forgotten man in the WWE. As such, it is easy to forget how talented the man is and what a physical presence he brings.
Del Rio has proven time and again that he is good at character building including piling on the cheese, something that would be necessary if he were in 80s WWE. He likely would've been saddled with an overly stereotyped gimmick but then again, hasn't the modern day WWE already has done that to him several times?
ADR could also have fitted in with ease in the NWA/WCW promotion with his technical wrestling ability and MMA background, and there was always the option of wrestling in his home nation of Mexico in then EMLL (better known now as CMLL). Del Rio knows his audience, knows his character, and, most importantly, knows how to wrestle. He would've fit in seamlessly in the 80s wrestling scene.
12 Braun Strowman
Rumors persisted earlier this year that the WWE was planning on giving Strowman a big solo push beginning with a WrestleMania match with The Undertaker himself. These plans were mercifully put aside due to the inexperience of the Wyatt Family member and negative fan reaction online.
In the 1980s neither of these would have been a roadblock for Strowman. His size and unique look would give him an almost instantaneous spot into a main event feud in the WWE. It's not too hard to imagine Strowman standing toe-to-toe in the ring with the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, the Macho Man Randy Savage and countless other babyfaces from back in the day.
During that time pre-internet time, fans had little to no idea of the experience level of talents unless they followed wrestling magazines fervently. Certainly, they had no real way to voice these issues on a platform that could see the feeling spread or be shared.
11 American Alpha
American wrestling fans have always been very patriotic but there is, arguably, no era that better encapsulates that notion than the 1980s. In particular, the WWE and their poster boy Hulk Hogan. It wasn't uncommon to hear Hogan utter the letters 'U-S-A' while carrying the American Flag on a near daily basis.
But they were far from the only performers playing on the USA chants and goodwill. Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter and many others also fought for national pride.
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable would be the perfect poster boys for this kind of mentality back in the 80s. And with an amateur wrestling background to play on as well, the duo would have been great plucky vessels for the crowd. While they may have been undersized compared to the giants of yesteryear, Jordan and Gable would have had some interesting matchups with the likes of the Hart Foundation and the Rockers.
10 Chris Jericho
He may be on the smaller end of an 80s roster but when you have the skills, charisma, and crossover appeal of Chris Jericho, that would mean little. His size would make him a more natural fit to NWA/WCW if he were looking at the main event but he would still have a place in the WWE with his big character and is an epitome of the rock 'n wrestling connection.
In the WWE, it would be fascinating to see him in the vicinity of Rowdy Roddy Piper with them both in their prime. In WCW he could be thrown in the mix with the likes of Flair and Steamboat, both of which he has shown to have good chemistry within the twilight of their careers so a battle in their prime would have been classic. While the 80s was certainly seen as the land of the giants, just imagine the Intercontinental title scene with Jericho in it?
'The Big Guy' may be having some big issues with the WWE at the moment, to the point we may have seen the last of him there, but he would have had a much better ride of it back in the 1980s.
Ryback is a perfect fit for the colossus battles of the era, a true powerhouse whose character often strays into the more cartoonish territory and wrestles in colorful attires. Crowds may compare him to Goldberg but Ultimate Warrior is the more appropriate equivalent. Both men even have a tendency to talk gibberish when given a microphone too.
How different could the wrestling landscape have been if Ryback had been the man Hogan passed the torch to at the beginning of the 90s following a tear through the roster in the late 80s? While Lex Luger may have not existed, that's not necessarily a bad thing; instead, the WWE Universe could've seen Ryback Express while being the poster child of the New Generation.
8 Mark Henry
Speaking of monsters, you don't get more of one than the World's Strongest Man. Henry's power and size make him a threat in any wrestling ring but his accolades before the sport would also be huge bonuses. With a legitimate claim to World's Strongest Man and an Olympic weightlifter, Henry has several ways to fit in. Whether it would've been the late-80s in the WWE or the time of NWA/WCW, Henry would've been a force to be reckoned with.
Like previous entries, he could have the patriotic advantage having represented the USA at the Olympics. Furthermore, the WWE had a tendency to have strength contests between some of its strongmen like Ken Patera, Don Muraco, and Dino Bravo. Henry would have easily fit into these positions. And that's not all; like Braun Strowman, Henry could've also been the monster heel that opposes every good guy on the roster, as his size and strength was, and still is, intimidating.
Another man who would fit into the tests of strength is none other than the Swiss Superman, Cesaro. Whether he's dominating the opposition with devastating uppercuts or swinging them around multiple times, Cesaro very well may be the strongest man on the planet. Pound-for-pound one of the strongest men in the history of wrestling, Cesaro's impressive feats of power would place him highly in the 80s wrestling world.
There is a reason why commentators refer to Cesaro as a throwback and there is no doubt of the success he could have had in the 80s. There are few men currently around that would be able to compete with Cesaro's conditioning and ability to wrestle for an hour long 'Broadway', that were very popular title matches at the time. Imagine Cesaro facing off against wrestlers like the Macho Man Randy Savage and Rowdy Roddy Piper in their prime, and even a young Bret Hart? Those matchups would've been a true sight to see.
6 Luke Gallows And Karl Anderson
When wrestling fans think of a classic wrestling tag team, many will default to the Road Warriors (also known as the Legion of Doom). Animal and Hawk were two large men whose brawling style saw them dispatch opponents in brief matches and established them as one of the most dominating teams in history. Other teams that fit this mold are Arn and Ole Anderson, Demolition, the British Bulldogs and the Freebirds, amongst others.
This would be the perfect formula for the former Bullet Club team to find a similar level of success in the era. Anderson is slightly smaller but as a unit, the two come across as an intimidating duo that could dominate any given match. This is especially true when clad in the face paint they were known to wear in New Japan. Unlike a lot of recent tag teams, the Gallows and Anderson enlist in a ton of combination moves, something that would also fit into the 80s style of wrestling.
5 The Big Show
Honestly, was there any way Big Show wouldn't be on this list? As a man giant the instant comparison is made to the legendary André the Giant, to the point that his WCW debut was made under the guise of being his son, The Giant. Despite wearing a matching singlet and being of similar size, the Big Show may have been better off, simply because he is a far better athlete.
Comparisons will always be made between the two but what if they had actually been around at the same time? It may even have resulted in André's big heel turn being to pass the torch on to The Big Show instead of Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Imagine that? Big Show as the face of the WWE instead of Hogan?
Since WCW was doing their best to replicate the late 80s era of the WWE in the mid-90s, the Big Show as Andre the Giant's son was expected. But as over as Big Show was in the modern era of wrestling, he may have been an even bigger star a decade earlier.
4 The Revival
Their name says it all. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are a modern day tag team with the mindset of a classic one. They are particularly reminiscent of The Brain Busters, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, one of the top teams of the late 80s.
Dash and Dawson would be a perfect team for WCW in the 80s or any of the NWA territories for that matter, particularly the likes of the AWA or Georgia Championship Wrestling. Their unforgiving, brash and physical style of wrestling is a rarity in today's world, but back in the 80s, these guys would have fit right in and been a fixture in any tag team scene.
The duo could have been one of the top teams anywhere in America during this boom and it would have allowed many interesting clashes with classic potential. And if American Alpha had been in that time period with them also, well, we know how that plays out. And while those matches were amazing, imagine a dream matchup of the Revival and the Brain Busters? If only...
3 Big E
He may be a part of the New Day now but in the 80s he would be a standout on his own. At nearly 300 pounds, Big E is a large man and he is a fun character to boot. Even before his time with Kofi and Xavier, E had exhibited some unusual tendencies that showed him to be quite eccentric. He shows off the same fun personality on his Twitter account too. And while that obviously didn't exist in the 80s, there's no denying that his personality would've shined bright on the big stage.
All these make a great combination that would result in an 80s star that would be huge with audiences, especially the children. Yes, Vince would have very likely saddled him with a demeaning or stereotypical gimmick and placed him in a Junkyard Dog style role on the card, but his original pitch to the trio was already in that realm anyway.
2 Samoa Joe
Hard hitting, technically gifted, looks like a physical threat, Samoa Joe has it all to have been a top Samoan in any time period. The 1980s were a good period for Samoan wrestlers - at least in terms of their success - and they were still often portrayed primate-like like cannibals in their gimmicks. While Joe doesn't act like that now, his heritage as a Samoan would've certainly added to his allure as a wrestler.
Whether lumped with that sort of gimmick or not, Joe could have walked into any of the top companies and been a main event wrestler. Due to the times, he likely would never be the top face for a company but he could have been a top heel or a high level face. Either way, there's no denying Joe would've made a ton of money while wrestling in the 80s, and his matches with some of the top talents at that time would've been a sight to see.
To see who could fit into the 1980s landscape best, it is important to look at what was big in the 1980s. Arguably nothing was bigger than a foreign heel. Better still, a communist heel.
With the Cold War still raging on, Vince McMahon took advantage of his audience members feelings by making the villains of his show helm from Russia and their comrade nations. The Iron Shiek is probably the most notable of the bunch but there were dozens of these heels set up to try and foil Hogan and his American compatriots.
Rusev is the modern day version of this character and with his Accolade finisher he is very reminiscent of Shiek. An incredibly talented powerhouse, Rusev was on course to emulate the astronomic heat of Shiek until he was prematurely felled by the modern Hogan, John Cena. But if this was 1988, Rusev would've main evented multiple WrestleManias and would've been one of the top players in the industry.
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