It’s easy for wrestling fans (and truthfully, this applies to fans of any sport or entertainment form) to sit back and criticize the talent who perform for them. A recurring criticism that fans like to throw around towards some athletes is that they’re one trick ponies. Maybe it’s a hockey player who only has a good slapshot or a boxer who only has a good right straight, athletes can get typecast into certain roles the same exact way an actor can be stuck playing the same role for the rest of their career.
Being a mix of actor and athlete, wrestlers can doubly fall into this trap. We’ve seen plenty a wrestler throughout history unwilling to change their gimmick or in-ring and as a result they’re lost in the minds of fans or remembered for one moment and that’s about it.
Not so much for these guys. The 15 wrestlers on this countdown have shown throughout their careers that they’re able to reinvent themselves in the eyes of fans and/or possess so many various skills that you could book them into nearly any situation and they would rise to the top. Just like the great philosopher Randy Savage once said, the cream always rises to the top. Ouuu yeah.
Honestly, there are a couple of wrestlers that served as a prototype for how to be a well-rounded performer, including the one and only “Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels. Does that necessarily mean that he is number one? Only one way to find out so let’s get started.
15. Hulk Hogan
Okay, okay it may seem ludicrous to put a man who spent the first 10 years of his WWE career holding his ear and if that was all Hogan did in his career he wouldn’t even sniff this list. But then he went to Atlanta and traded the red and yellow for black and white.
Once Hulk Hogan turned on WCW at Bash At The Beach 1996 and formed the n.W.o, he completely re-invented his VERY well established character and drew tons of money with his now heel character.
Is he varied in his ring work? Hell no, but Hogan’s ability to draw huge money as a heel and face nets him a spot low on the countdown.
14. Owen Hart
His brother Bret may be the most famous of his family, but Owen Hart may be the most well rounded Hart ever.
While he may be just a couple of ticks below Bret in terms of technical wrestling skills, Owen far outclassed Bret in terms of high flying. His comedic talents are legendary as everyone knows but this gem of a promo from late 1997 shows how Owen could also be taken as a serious threat.
If the tragedy of Over The Edge 1999 never came, Owen might have found himself near the top of the list but as it is, he still deserves a spot on this countdown.
13. John Cena
GARGH FIVE MOVES OF DOOM!!! Relax relax angry internet resident, John Cena is absolutely deserving of being on this list.
While it may have been news to some people, but John Cena actually could put on a great match going as far back as 2003 as evidenced by his matches Kurt Angle and The Undertaker. If you want to go more recent Cena work, just look at any of his U.S. Open Challenges from the past year for a plethora of great matches.
Just like his in-ring work, Cena’s promo skills are better than people give him credit for. Yes he has a few flat attempts at comedic promos, but feuds with CM Punk, Edge and Kurt Angle show how he can balance out his comedy with seriousness.
Don’t gotta like him, but at least acknowledge how well rounded Cena can be.
12. Stone Cold
WHAT? Yes, Stone Cold Steve Austin is damn deserving of being a list of most well rounded wrestlers.
He may have made his name thanks to his brawling style, but most people forget how good of a technical wrestler Austin could be (look at his Survivor Series 1996 match with Bret Hart) before injuries caused him to wrestle a safer style.
On promos, he was largely a take no prisoners, beer-guzzling badass. But, as she showed especially near the end of his career, Austin could crank up the comedy with his 2001 heel turn and the simplest catchphrase known to wrestling fans: WHAT?
Oh hell yeah, The Texas Rattlesnake qualifies for the number 12 spot on this list.
The Big Red Machine may be a pathetic. mis-booked mess as of now, but that doesn’t dismiss an entire career of laughs, screams and mark out moments from Kane.
When he first debuted in WWE at In Your House: Bad Blood 1997, Kane was a silent killer who fans bought as an equal to Undertaker. As his career continued on, he would go through phases of comedy with stars like Daniel Bryan, Big Show and Rob Van Dam in between his runs as a lunatic.
Throwing in the occasional high flying to go with his big man moveset, Kane is a vastly underrated and extremely well rounded performer.
10. Triple H
The internet loves or hates him depending on the day, but Triple H has proven multiple times throughout his career the range of his skills.
He started his WWE career with a gimmick typical of the mid 90s — a cartoonishly snobby rich guy. Imagine Alberto Del Rio with a cane and a female valet and you get the idea. Somehow HHH morphed from that into a part of D-Generation X, where he engaged in such antics like dropping his pants, shooting a super soaker and making various sex jokes. It was good stuff and totally not juvenile, I swear.
HHH once again shed his skin to become one of the best heels the company ever had in 1999 to become “The Game”, a man hellbent on success at any cost, including drugging Stephanie McMahon and marrying her. Yeah, that’s a crime, seriously what the hell WWE?!
A snake sheds his skin every once in a while but since Triple H was so well-rounded, I’ll accept it.
9. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero always had the tools to be a big star but never had the opportunities to move up in WCW. Not many guys could be both a credible Crusierweight champion in WCW and then a credible WWE Champion years later. Guerrero not only was able to be incredibly funny on the mic, but he could be an outright psycho, as evidenced in his 2005 heel run. His cheating antics were able to be charming as a babyface, yet dastardly as a heel.
He was technically sound, a terrific high flyer and could put on a great show in a brawling style of match. If you needed a high energy opener, you could have him start the show. If you needed a compelling main event, he could fit there as well.
8. The Rock
They don’t call him the most electrifying man in sports entertainment for nothing. The Rock is a unique case where he spent his entire wrestling career exclusively in WWE, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t show great diversity in his career.
Obviously he is most well known for his comedy, his legendary list of promos and skits speak for themselves. But people forget that in his feuds with Triple H and CM Punk for example that Rocky could turn up the seriousness and intensity when he had to. The Rock also had a pretty varied move set for a main event talent in the Attitude Era.
Far from a one trick pony, The Rock will go down as one of the most well rounded performers in wrestling. Ever.
He’s been a vampire, a complete geek and R-rated rockstar. Who the hell has a resume like that but Edge?
A wrestler who competed through the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era and whatever the hell this era is called (reality era?) and a fixture in every one of them, Edge holds a special place in nearly every WWE fan’s heart for the amount of sacrifice he gave to the business.
While most people would associate his ring work to that of a hardcore wrestler, Edge showed plenty of times in his career that he could go tit for tat with Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and the rest of the famous “Smackdown Six”.
Don’t sell the Rated R Superstar short because he is absolutely well-rounded. If awesomeness had a scent, it would smell like Edge. Eww.
If white-meat babyface were to be in the dictionary and required a picture, you would grab a shot of Sting in the late 80s and early 90s. Smiling for the crowds with bright face paint and a signature scream, Sting’s natural charisma struck a connection with WCW fans.
However, he threw it all away in 1996 when he went mute, didn’t wrestle and stalked the n.W.o for more than a year before finally defeating Hulk Hogan at Starrcade 1997 despite a horribly botched finish. Sting would later go through various looks and subtle changes to his gimmick from the late 90s all the way to his final days in TNA in 2014.
It’s a shame WWE fans only saw a little bit of the Stinger because he is definitely up there with most well-rounded performers in wrestling history.
5. CM Punk
In my opinion, no other performer in the history of wrestling provokes a bigger reaction on the internet than CM Punk. A lot of that comes from his departure from the WWE in 2014, but also because is such a damn well-rounded wrestler.
Just through his straight-edge lifestyle alone Punk has played that card as a face and heel in his career. He led a cult and played a false messiah character as the head of the Straight-Edge Society and New Nexus showing off how creepy he could be, especially when he sang happy birthday to Rey Mysterio’s daughter. Take notes Bray Wyatt.
Finally during the famous Summer of Punk storyline, Punk transitioned into a true man of the people and spoke out against the real life problems in the WWE. The final heel run of his WWE career gave us some fantastic promos including his promo on the go-home Raw before Royal Rumble 2013.
No matter what you think of Phil Brooks, CM Punk is a hell of a well rounded performer.
4. Daniel Bryan
A trainee from Shawn Michaels’ wrestling school in the early 2000s, it’s no wonder why a young man named Bryan Danielson became one of the most well rounded performers in wrestling history.
In his days on the indie circuit, had a reputation as a little guy who can take a hellacious beating from anyone, including the 350-pound Takeshi Morishima who detached his retina during a match yet Bryan was rematching him just three weeks later.
Once arriving in the WWE Bryan kept his tenacious attitude but also become a hell of a promo guy with the help of cowardly heel character in late 2011 and his tag team with Kane as Team Hell No. Bryan has shown through his time in various promotions just how amazing he really is.
3. Mick Foley
How can a man with three different personas in one company not be on the list? Dude Love, Mankind and Cactus Jack all showed off a different aspect of the actual Michael Francis Foley.
Cactus Jack is up there with Terry Funk and Bruiser Brody as the innovators of hardcore. Dude Love was Foley’s attempt at acting out his teenage fantasies while Mankind brought us one of the most deranged characters the wrestling world had ever seen.
Each and ever one of Foley’s personas ran the whole emotional spectrum. While Foley’s in-ring work never deviated too much depending on the character he was playing and that keeps him out of the number one slot, nobody had the diversity on promos that Foley had. And I didn’t even mention his Commissioner Foley run!
2. Shawn Michaels
There’s a reason why nearly every single wrestler lists a certain Heartbreak Kid as their main inspiration as a performer. Throughout his entire career Shawn Michaels has been in nearly situation you can be in.
Face of the WWE, white-meat babyface tag team champion, leader of the innovative D-Generation X, super cocky heel and living legend, HBK has done it all. Whether he was making you laugh, cry or cheer in excitement, Michaels stole the show every time out and lived up to his various nick-names.
1. Chris Jericho
Not many wrestlers choose to reinvent themselves as much as Chris Jericho has throughout his career. And through hell and high water, Jericho has always succeeded and strived through any promotion or country he has been to.
Jericho has competed as a pro wrestler in Mexico, Japan, ECW, WCW and WWE and picked up skills and racked up accomplishments everywhere he went. Once he hit WWE, he established his career as a silver-tongued firebrand who could do it all in the ring. While he could have done that for the rest of his career, Jericho re-invented himself in 2008 as the template for the modern main-event heel via his feud with Shawn Michaels.
It’s only fitting that a man who listed Shawn Michaels as his main wrestling inspiration would surpass HBK and become the number one most well-rounded performer in wrestling history.
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