As much as some fans hate to admit it, a brutal truth of the wrestling business is that amazingly skilled guys don’t always make the best stars. An old saying is “a guy can be a great worker but he can’t draw money.” It’s not fair but that’s how it is as amazingly skilled guys like Dean Malenko or Ricky Steamboat just aren’t meant for the main event and carrying a company on their shoulders. It continues today as so many wrestlers are slammed for being incredibly limited in their skill set…and yet so many of them also ruling as major stars, showing how easily charisma and good mic skills can overcome deficiency in the ring to emerge as stars despite how limited they are.
It’s a common thing and really amazing to see how many guys bring the same act all the time to the ring. John Cena is slammed as one-dimensional but has shown himself very skilled, able to go from brawling to putting on a wrestling clinic. Likewise, Mick Foley was capable of doing so much more than just a hardcore battle and other fights. Yet so many workers in history have been guys showing off just one style of attack that rarely changes. It’s not someone like Flair or Bret Hart who were often accused of working the same match a lot, but could prove themselves in other ways. These are guys who really come off flat in their style, not that good in the first place and yet somehow, some of them were able to become mega-stars despite all that. Here are the top 15 most one-dimensional wrestlers in history.
15 Andre The Giant
It may be a bit unfair to have him on this list as Andre’s act was based on his monster size but it still bears noting that his ring work was poor. It wasn’t as terrible in his younger days when he was actually slim but as time went on, it got worse and worse, Andre was only able to chop guys, slam others and use his size to grind guys down. It was sad seeing him in his later years, barely mobile and his work regressing but the brutal truth is that even at the height of his career, Andre just traded on his size and charisma to overcome his one-note offense that still made him famous.
14 Larry Zbyszko
For a guy who trained under Bruno Sammartino, Zbyszko could be a pretty poor worker. The “Living Legend” was hardly legendary in the ring, infamous for his stalling that could drag out any otherwise good match and his offense was just a lot of rough stuff rather than anything technical or flashy. His best work was in tag teams to let other guys carry him but his singles stuff was very poor as his run as AWA champion helped send the company to its doom. His promos were good but in terms of ring work,Zbyszko could be as one-dimensional slow as one can imagine.
13 Buff Bagwell
It’s amazing to look back at a young and rather thin Marcus Bagwell, pushed as a classic babyface in WCW with some runs as tag team champion with various partners. He became more famous as Buff, the roided up arrogant douche who annoyed fans with his mannerisms. His ring style had already been limited to some high flying but with that taken out by injury, Bagwell was just a flat power worker who relied on his outrageous promos to get ahead. His matches were pretty bad on multiple levels and the arrogance would cost him dearly down the road to show charisma can’t always overcome bad ring work.
12 Bobby Lashley
It’s easy to see why Lashley was pushed as he has well-muscled, imposing look and a good manner. It quickly became clear that he was the classic case of a guy with basically just one move set and stuck to it over and over again. It was one thing in WWE to get over but his injuries hampered him and forcing him to push even less. After a brief MMA foray, he moved to TNA as their champion, was pushed as a monster smashing guys up and while not bad in that regard, it also showed his limitations, big time. He’s not the worst TNA champion to be sure but much better in a “less is more” aspect.
11 Jeff Jarrett
Jarrett is a fair mid-card guy, good on the mic but suffers from the major issue that he truly believes he’s on the level of fan heat as Austin or Hogan. That’s more amazing considering how one-note his ring work is. He goes for stalling, submission moves, too much old-school wrestling without any real flash, that annoying strut and more. The fact Jarrett thinks he’s getting monster heat for it all is more amazing and his promos of an arrogant guy are way too annoying, clearly thinking he’s doing a Flair-style rant when it comes off a cheap imitation. Again, not a bad worker but nowhere near as faceted as he thinks as a performer and why many hate his TNA run.
10 The Great Khali
It’s easy to slam so many giant guys as one-dimensional but Khali still has to rank among the bigger cases (no pun intended). It was obvious how he was signed on due to his size and look, which were imposing to be sure. But the man’s attack style was just harsh chops and slow choking moves, never anything fast and the way he was pushed to the top was crazy even by WWE standards. Khali could show some humor down the road but in terms of being one-dimensional, it’s harder to find more guys higher than this.
True, Batista could surprise you with some good matches like against Undertaker or Cena. For the most part, it’s not a surprise that someone who started as late as him wasn’t exactly overly skilled in the ring. He was a power worker, using his size well for a brawling style and had some good moves on the way to the power bomb finisher but kept to an easy style, no doubt to limit his tendency for injuries. They took their toll as evidenced by his brief 2014 return and no wonder he’s moved onto movie roles as being a big guy has limits, especially starting late.
WCW tried to do a thing with Goldberg improving in the ring, sometimes breaking out a technical move here and there. For the most part, however, his match style was simple and obvious. He would come out, no-sell any offense the opponent threw at him before hitting his spear and jackhammer to win. A telling early bit was William Regal dominating Goldberg in a longer match and fired by WCW for showing how poor Goldberg really was.
He could surprise with battles against DDP and others but Goldberg’s style was pretty one-note, which was great when he rose to fame with the streak. When that ended, however, the limitations became more prominent (not helped by WCW’s horrible booking) and far worse in his bad WWE run. Even Goldberg admits he was no great shakes in the ring and it was a rare case of doing good work that made him a hit by WCW.
7 Roman Reigns
It’s not that Reigns is bad, it’s that he’s been booked horribly from the start of his singles run. He has some good stuff like his spear and Superman punch but the booking has only added to his status as a one-dimensional guy, relying on the power moves and often exposed as blowing up fast. That’s without his flat promos that just don’t win folks over and so WWE have only themselves to blame for the backlash against Reigns. Roman can be seen as a flat performer but much more of that is his booking than the man himself to present him as a poor guy to have on top.
Hailed as he debuted as “the next Hogan,” Sid quickly proved he was the equal of the Hulkster in terms of wrestling ability…which means little to none at all. His work could be ugly, shown by botches like nearly breaking Brian Pillman’s neck with an errant power bomb and other rough stuff. He relied on rest holds a lot like “nerve pinches” and other stuff with stiff work, never a guy you’d count on for a good match unless he was massively carried and his botched promos have become legendary. It was worse in his later WCW run, slow and plodding for the most part and showing that you can, indeed, be worse than so many on this list in terms of a one-dimensional style.
5 The Road Warriors
The Warriors truly changed the game in terms of their charisma, their power and their incredible appearance. They smashed opponents apart and did promos threatening death and pain to win fans over. Yet this smash mouth style was pretty one-note when you got down to it as more than once, the Warriors were exposed as limited in the ring. Animal used power, Hawk some speed but it wasn’t as major as you’d expect from a team their fame indicates. Many of their bouts were squashes and very few are what you’d call truly great or even that good. Also, as time went on and the initial hit of their debut faded, they refused to adapt with the times, still using the same stuff and made them look even more dated. They’re hailed for their terrific style and how they changed the game so much but in terms of actual wrestling ability, the Legion of Doom were among the poorest around.
4 Kevin Nash
Many slam Nash for helping bring “lazy wrestling” to the forefront with his runs in WWE and WCW. Even at his best, Nash was a slow and sloppy guy, his size making him imposing but also tough to watch with his hard moves. Punches and large kicks were his forte with a few moves to enhance his size and while his jackknife finisher was a cool sight, it was pretty much all he had to offer. It got worse as time and injuries wore on, as Nash refused to adapt more as he could have and between his terrible selfish manner, his self-centered booking and this terrible ring work, it’s no wonder Nash has such a bad reputation with fans today.
3 The Ultimate Warrior
Even Jim Hellwig would admit his ring work was hardly classic. A true example of the ultra-roided era he showed up in, Warrior had an awesome look and entrance but he would be blown up within the first minute or so of the match. His offense was mostly power moves, the flying shoulder tackle and the gorilla press slam and often had to be booked fast to cover his problems. His best matches (Hogan at Mania VI and Savage at Mania VII) were things planned well in advance for him and it got worse after his long absence. While his stardom has been seen in a better light since his death, most everyone will agree Warrior wasn’t known for his good matches.
2 Hulk Hogan
An easy pick as even at the height of his ultra-fame, Hogan relied far more on his incredible aura of a super-hero than his ring skills. In the ‘80s, you could see a Hogan match easily: He comes out with a strong offense, gets some hits in, the heel then dominates for a while, including hitting his finisher only for Hogan to kick out, “Hulk Up” and hit the big boot and legdrop for the pin. It was a steady formula and while every now and then Hogan could show some surprising stuff like a superplex, he didn’t stray from what worked, even when he turned heel. Say what you will but Hogan knew how to work his stuff well so while one-dimensional, it was also damn successful to make him the biggest star in the business.
1 Junkyard Dog
In both the “Best of Mid-South” DVD and a book about him, it’s openly stated that while he was an amazing figure on the mic, JYD was a truly terrible worker. Bill Watts learned quickly to book Dog in short bouts to show his skills, take some hits, fire back and hit his running powerslam to get the pin. Put in longer bouts exposed him badly and he was a hit with crowds with his nice mic work and overall charisma. But that success would soon expose limitations more and more as when he jumped to WWE and later work, combined with drug use and overeating to make his work even worse. While a major star, JYD was one covered a lot by his bookers to limit fans seeing how flat his ring work was.