Let’s face it, you gotta be at least a bit of a showboat to be in pro wrestling. A showboat is essentially a showoff, an exhibitionist craving the limelight, who eats up every ounce of adoration or hatred that comes his or her way. Cocky? Sure. Conceited? Perhaps. But, love ‘em or hate ‘em, a good showboat can spin the fans’ reaction into making them sports entertainment’s next superstar.
Urban Dictionary defines showboating as having an exaggerated idea of ones talents or a grotesque amount of undue pride for mediocre ability. While I don’t necessarily agree with this, everyone listed here is without question talented, though there are some who perhaps fit more closely to this mold.
It was a tight battle to get on this list. Many of WWE’s greatest showboats didn’t quite make the cut. Only three active Superstars did and Dolph Ziggler, the self-proclaimed Show-Off himself, isn’t one of them.
It’s an eclectic group. Some are heel, others are classic babyfaces. Some used their spotlight pandering en route to the top of the mountain as WWE Champions, while others were just never able to grab that brass ring. Despite these differences what they do all have in common is a consistent, attention-stealing allure that makes them the Top 15 Showboats in WWE History.
15 ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis
Adrian Adonis played a biker gimmick in the AWA and found success in the WWE, winning the World Tag Team Titles with Dick Murdoch. After losing the belts and aligning with Jimmy Hart, he drastically altered his character into The Adorable One. With his pink tights, bleach blonde hair, effeminate swagger and cladding himself in makeup and gift bows, Adonis became not just one of the WWE’s biggest showboats, but one of its most hated wrestlers.
A trendsetter continuing the legacy of wrestling’s first gimmick "Gorgeous" George, Adonis’ effeminate nature went a step further when he “came out” on Tuesday Night Titans. The highlight of his showboating is best displayed during his interview segment The Flower Shop, which replaced Piper’s Pit. This all led to Adonis and Hot Rod’s classic hair vs. hair match at WrestleMania III where The Adorable One’s trademark locks where shredded away and Brutus Beefcake, another showboat, officially became a Barber.
14 The Godfather
WWE’s resident pimp daddy is a great example of how a little (or a lot) of showboating can propel a wrestler into superstardom. Previously as The Supreme Fighting Machine Kama and Kama Mustafa, Charles Wright was your typical bad guy worker who lacked pizzazz. But when The Rock took over The Nation and Wright transitioned into the role of a street pimp, the fans ate it up.
The Godfather wore flashy colorful outfits, smoked cigars and led the way to the squared circle with The Ho Train, a parade of ladies of the night who amped up arenas the world over. From his wild strut, to revving up his Ho Train corner splash, to his pre-match mic work where he’d get 20,000 fans a night to scream in unison that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” The Godfather happily became one of the most popular stars during the Attitude Era and one of the biggest showboats the sport has ever seen.
13 Rob Van Dam
Who’s got two thumbs and likes to point out he’s the best wrestler in the world? This guy! During the old ECW, Rob Van Dam went from an opening card, semi-jobber to becoming the face of the company after he started just being himself. Doing so meant being a consummate showboat who the fans loved to watch. He catapulted into the WWE after the closure of the land of extreme as Mr. Monday Night, The Whole F’n Show… Rob… Van… Dam!
Van Dam dripped with confidence, one of the cockiest babyfaces wrestling has ever seen, but backed it up as one of the best in-ring performers in the world. The first person who let you know RVD was the man was always RVD himself. His antics and acceptance by the fans took him to the WWE Championship, when he beat John Cena on home turf at One Night Stand. RVD was the epitome of a showboat.
The son of the legendary American Dream, Dustin Runnels was practically unrecognizable when he debuted as The Bizarre One in 1995. There’s literally not a thing about the Goldust gimmick that isn’t showboating at its finest. From his breathy promos, elaborate robes, face paint and zip up onesie, there was gold literally falling from the rafters when he’d enter an arena while TV screens would display him in a film-like filter.
Goldust would reach his showboating peak when he pushed his (and the fans’) boundaries to the limit at the end of 1997 as The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. With Luna Vachoun escorting him, he would alter his look for every appearance. Sometimes he was a Christmas tree, sometimes he would mock his opponents gimmicks and other times he would simply stop at the local S&M shop and wear latex garter belts and ball gags. Nobody in WWE history has quite pushed the showboating bar like Goldust.
11 The Miz
Did you know The Miz is awesome? He’s likely the first person to tell you. Mike Mizanin has made a career out of being a showboat and he’s very, very good at it. The Miz is the cocky, confident heel who you love to hate and hate to love and has been a WWE mainstay for over a decade. He’s overcome the odds of being one of the smaller wrestlers in the company by decorating himself with nearly every title and prize sports entertainment has to offer.
With origins in reality television from MTV’s The Real World and Road Rules, The Miz has transitioned from the squared circle to a decent career in film and television while continuing on as one of the WWE’s hottest stars of today. A flashy entrance, flashier ring gear and an unequaled attitude, the only thing The Miz seems to love more than the spotlight is himself because he’s The Miz and he is awesome!
10 Billy Gunn
Who knew when Billy Gunn was the handlebar mustached, blue jean wearing Smokin’ Gunn with his brother Bart, that somewhere deep inside this cheesy babyface was a showboat just itching to escape. He did just that after the failed Rockabilly gimmick by teaming up with The Road Dogg and becoming "Bad Ass" in the legendary duo, The New Age Outlaws. This of course led to D-X and the rest, as they say, is history.
Despite sharing the spotlight with a stable full of showoffs, Mr. Ass always stood out as the one who loved the adoration the most. Even later in a tag team with Palumbo as Billy & Chuck, Billy has always been that guy who loves being the center of attention and he backed it up with entertaining in-ring work that always went hand-in-hand with his crowd-stealing showboating. And if you’re not down with that, I’m sure he’s got two words for ya!
9 Kurt Angle
Integrity. Intensity. Intelligence. The three I’s of your Olympic Hero could’ve easily been three I’s and an S, because Kurt Angle was nothing short of a showboat during his WWE tenure. Angle has always loved the limelight and he personifies every quality a good showboat should have. Through a decorated career that saw him fluctuate between phases as the most loved and most hated man on the roster, one thing that always remained constant was his cocky attitude in the face of the fans’ response.
In addition to being one of the best in-ring performers, Kurt was also one of the best on the microphone and is responsible for some of WWE’s funniest and more memorable moments, both in and out of the ring. Arenas full of people chanting “You Suck” as you make your entrance might throw some showboats off their game, but not Angle. It’s true… it’s damn true.
8 Mr. McMahon
When this boss orders his superstars to perform some off the wall shenanigans in front of thousands of people, he at least has the decency to take part in it himself. Nobody loves showing off for the WWE Universe quite like the chairman of the board. From his infamous strut and overdramatic gulp to screaming “You’re Fired” in the faces of countless of his workers, Mr. McMahon is undeniably one of the best showboats in the biz.
While the joke has definitely been on those opposing him over the years, like when McMahon made himself the WWE Champion or the infamous Mr. McMahon Kiss My Ass Club, the nice thing about Vince is he doesn’t mind being on the receiving end too. Some of his best showboating includes him overreacting to being sprayed down by the Stone Cold beer truck, getting his head shaved by Donald Trump and even peeing his pants in the middle of the ring.
7 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Oh Yeah! No wrestler in WWE history could command a room of thousands of screaming fans quite like Randy Savage. Show me a match he’s had, heel or face, where The Macho Man doesn’t at some point choose to showboat to the crowd instead of focusing on his opponent and I’ll die of shock. Savage played every match, every promo and every second in the spotlight for the fans like a conductor weaving his wand during the symphony of a lifetime.
Through each of his iconic iterations over his WWE career (and beyond), Savage was the epitome of showboating. In his earlier days with the glittering capes and almost nonsensical promos, to joining fellow phenomenal showboat The Sensational Sherri as The Macho King, to the tassels and dazzlingly colorful ensembles he wore as he’d strut to the ring to Pomp and Circumstance, nobody did it better and no one seemed to love the attention more.
While Randy Savage gracefully stepped away from the spotlight when he felt he was done, there weren't many who thrived under the bright lights quite like the Macho Man.
6 "Ravishing" Rick Rude
“What I’d like to have right now is for all of you fat, out of shape (enter name of city here) idiots, keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show the ladies what a real man is supposed to look like!” When a guy starts off every match with this decree, he just might be a little bit of a showboat.
Perhaps the greatest WWE Superstar to never hold a title, Rick Rude was portrayed as the cockiest man on the planet. Rude’s conceit and flare for showboating hit an all-time high when he chose a lucky lady from the audience to get a kiss from The Ravishing One, something he often did. But on one particularly entertaining occasion, the lady in question was Cheryl Roberts, wife of Jake "The Snake," sparking a major feud. The feud was a WWE classic that saw Rude reveal Cheryl’s face airbrushed on the crotch of his tights. Talk about a Rude Awakening!
5 Chris Jericho
Launching himself from useless bookings and backstage politics at WCW, Chris Jericho arrived to the WWE in the summer of ’99 and was finally allowed to become the star he deserved to be. As Y2J, Jericho debuted in a showboat promo war against The Rock and quickly rose through the ranks of the company. Whether it be backstage shenanigans, hosting The Highlight Reel, his glow in the dark jackets or one of the best entrances in wrestling history, Jericho is a show stealer whose cocky demeanor and love for the spotlight is equally matched only by his excellent in-ring abilities.
Y2J is one of those guys who always seems “on” from the word go and loves being at the center of attention. He’s shared the squared circle with the absolute best of the best the business has and is a cocky showboat the likes of which the world is never… eeeeevvver… likely to see again.
4 Ric Flair
Though his status as a household name and world class athlete became a staple long before he ever stepped foot in a WWE ring, Ric Flair created a legacy as not just one of the greatest wrestlers of all time but one of the industry’s biggest showboats. When others were content with just being a standard grappler, Ric Flair became the rock star of pro wrestling. He would style and profile and eat up every bit of attention he got, always paying it forward back to the fans with his incredible matches.
The Nature Boy is a guy who lives his gimmick and someone who has earned the right to be as big of a showboat as he wants to be. Whether while wrestling or just being on camera or in front of a crowd, Ric Flair is always performing. His classic collapse forward onto his face, dropping knees and elbows onto nothing and the signature strut are all just small parts of a forty-plus year performance we’ve all been lucky to have witnessed.
3 Hulk Hogan
Without question the most recognizable face in the history of pro wrestling, Hulk Hogan put sports entertainment on the map while being an unparalleled showman who yearned for the attention of the fans. Hulkamania literally ran wild as people everywhere were saying their prayers and eating their vitamins while copying Hulk’s iconic poses, both at live shows and in their living rooms at home.
Hogan’s love of the limelight may have made him a star, but it also most definitely prevented others from reaching the same status. His history of burying opponents, not just in the ring but through backstage politics, have been well documented. Despite all the negatives that could be said about the Hulkster and recent events that have seen him part ways with the WWE, he still is and always will be the showboat’s showboat who loved his fans. Hulk Hogan has established a class of his own.
2 The Rock
Whenever I see a hard working wrestler struggling with a gimmick that just isn’t flying with fans, I think of The Rock. Nobody in their right mind would’ve predicted that the babyface Rocky Maivia would become the most electrifying man in all of sports entertainment, let alone a bonafide movie star. It was all because they gave him just a little push, handed him a microphone and allowed him to become the showboat he truly was.
Whether the people were chanting “Rocky” or “Rocky Sucks," it truly didn’t matter. The Rock was literally the most entertaining performer the WWE had ever seen and rose to the top during a time when guys like Stone Cold, Mick Foley, Triple H and The Undertaker were all jockeying for position as the top guy. All of it would’ve amounted to nothing if The Rock wasn’t the showboat that he was and still clearly is.
1 Shawn Michaels
Could anyone else even be considered number one when it comes to this list? Nobody, absolutely nobody, in the history of the business is a bigger showboat or lived for the spotlight more than Shawn Michaels. In five years, The Heartbreak Kid went from putting Marty Jannetty’s head through The Barber Shop window to zip-lining his way into WrestleMania and becoming WWE Champion and the face of the company.
Vince McMahon used to call Michaels the most flamboyant superstar in the history of the WWE, and up until that point, he definitely wasn’t wrong. And though many a sports entertainer have come and gone who match or outdo Michaels in one or two areas, his overall showboating performance is something to which nobody can hold a candle. With the outfits, the pose, the music, the time with D-X and the self-assured, constant cocky nature, HBK is a recipe that makes him the biggest showboat in the history of the WWE by a landslide.