Vince McMahon once, without any remorse and with the utmost respect for the industry that has made him a billionaire, claimed he would rather be called a sports entertainment promoter than a wrestling promoter. "That's what my grandfather and father did," he once said, regarding the term professional wrestling. And there is definitely evidence that this mentality pervades a lot of McMahon's decisions. Just consider how a wrestler with luchador training and experience on the Japanese soil like Funaki and a no-nonsense technical wrestler like Dean Malenko have largely been used as enhancement materials, while colossal success was enjoyed by Lex Luger and a certain Roman Reigns.
However, none could point his fingers at Vince for his questionable decisions, as his decisions have led him to make a ton of money.
Still, World Wrestling Entertainment's approach has changed in recent years, with the Internet influencing their booking decisions as much as merchandise sales do. WWE is now striving to woo both its casual fans and Internet smarks by pushing a supposed sports entertainer in John Cena and AJ Styles, a critically acclaimed wrestler who hardly possesses the traits of a typically successful WWE employee. Even WWE, who hardly admits to being influenced by the Internet’s opinions, has incorporated the friction between wrestling purists and modern day sports entertainers into a storyline, with Styles and Cena going up against each other in what should already win multiple awards in the best feud category.
Many of McMahon's employees, despite not being top-notch wrestlers, have enjoyed insane degrees of success by being fantastic sports entertainers. The following article will take you through the 15 best WWE-esque sports entertainers, who could hardly be called wrestlers. If we have missed anyone whom you believe should have made this list, as always, drop his or her name in the comments section, and the writer will either apologize or claim it doesn't matter what your opinion is.
15 Road Dogg
Road Dogg only had a seven-year spell with WWE as a full-time in-ring performer. However, his short stint with the WWE earned him ample recognition, especially as one-half of the highly successful tag team in New Age Outlaws, who held the WWE Tag Team Championship five times. After a decade’s hiatus, he returned to WWE as a producer and has been working as one since.
14 Big Show
The Big Show has managed to enjoy a ton of success in the wrestling industry. When he jumped over from WCW to WWE, he was given a 10-year contract, as he had so much promise. Once he got to WWE though, much of his motivation to improve wasn't there. While he showed a lot of athleticism in WCW, he began wrestling a more simplistic style once he got to WWE.
His first few years in the company saw him sputter, as he was named The Wrestling Obersver's worst wrestler in 2001 and 2002. Despite all that, Big Show is still in the WWE today and has said he has no immediate plans to retire. It must be because he is still earning a ton of money in the business, with his net worth at an estimated $20 million.
13 Sid Vicious
Standing at 6 feet 9 inches and weighing over 300 pounds, he boasted the physique that could get a person — not necessarily a wrestler — far ahead at that time in the wrestling industry. Not surprisingly, both WCW and WWE tried pushing him to the pinnacle, but his lack of microphone skills and in-ring abilities ensured the two biggest wrestling promotions of the time looked silly.
12 Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon could have elected to be in the Gorilla Position and still make millions every year, but he chose instead to sustain a neck injury after being suplexed through glass twice by Kurt Angle, jump off the top of the titantron and the Hell in a Cell structure, and get his testicles electrocuted with a car battery by Kane. However, all his daring spots hardly mean he has been a top-notch wrestler.
11 The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior was a major draw during his time as a wrestler, although he amassed 12 Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards in "worst" categories. Although he was among the top three wrestlers alongside Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan in the late eighties and early nineties, he was never the best in-ring performer. The fact that Vinnie Mac let him pin the Hulkster at WrestleMania VI for the WWE Championship while he was concurrently holding the Intercontinental Championship underlines the desire of the company to push him as a mega star.
10 The Rock
The Rock was a good wrestler, but he was never the greatest wrestler of his era. While technical geniuses like Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were still used for filler matches, he was main-eventing shows with Steve Austin and Triple H. He had a simple yet flashy move set that hardly featured a move that a trained professional wrestler cannot pull off. His finishers, especially the People’s Elbow, would be laughed off in the New Era, which caters to the audience that recognizes the believability of moves and the effort that goes into pulling off the move.
During his prime, Goldberg was the wrestler a promoter could build his company around. WCW’s popularity grew in leaps and bounds during his unbelievable 173-match undefeated streak. On the course, he defeated the likes of Sting, Hulk Hogan, Raven, Scott Hall, Big Show (formerly the Giant), Curt Hennig, and Diamond Dallas Page. Most of his matches were squashes, which ended with a spear followed by a jackhammer. However, his inability to put on a wrestling match was exposed by William Regal (formerly Lord Steven Regal) when he tried diminishing the reputation of one of the WCW’s biggest stars on his way out.
8 ECW Originals
Apart from Rob Van Dam and a handpicked few, no ECW original had a successful wrestling career after Paul Heyman’s promotion went bankrupt. The ECW originals largely made money and a career out of hitting each other with barbed wire, throwing each other into tables, and other such spots only through Heyman’s genius. Although Sabu, New Jack, Sandman, and Tommy Dreamer have earned a reputation as big names of the industry, most of them were not as technical as a proper wrestler should be, and thrived off meeting the modern day fan’s needs – seeing blood, violence, sex, death-defying spots, and whatnot.
7 Hulk Hogan
Standing at over 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighing over 300 pounds came with many perks during a period when kayfabe was running wild. Hulk Hogan benefited the most out of it as technical workers such as Ricky Steamboat and the likes were forced to play second fiddle to the Hulkster. In an era when cartoonish characters gained the most success, the Hulkster character won the fans over, and it is safe to assume that the WWE may not have thrived without the brother.
6 Vince McMahon
The Mr. McMahon character has enjoyed a lot of success; it can never be recreated again. However, the Evil Genius was never the wrestler to get such recognition. His character thrived only off of his acting skills, strong command of ring psychology, and a proper grasp of what the fans wanted from him.
Despite the one-time WWE Champion’s inexperience inside of the ring, he was able to produce mind-boggling displays against Steve Austin, with whom he was also embroiled in one of the best feuds of all time.
His sturdy physique also helped him amply as he comes across as a rather successful sports entertainer, who also virtually owns the wrestling business.
5 Enzo Amore
In an era when wrestlers who frequently botch, have little to no experience on the independent circuit, and have a limited move set are ridiculed and hardly offered a chance to entertain their detractors, Enzo Amore has defied the odds to become one of the must-see wrestlers on the roster right now. The Smacktalker Skywalker revealed in an interview that he made his friend hand Triple H a video of him cutting a promo and that the former on-screen Chief Operating Officer took him under his wings after watching it.
It shows when a wrestler with no experience in the independent circuit hits the WWE ring just as much as it shows when an indie legend steps into a WWE ring. The former often looks devoid of ideas halfway into the match while the latter often fails to captivate the audience through his microphone skills. Batista had both flaws, but thanks to his outrageous physique – he weighs almost 280 pounds and stands at 6 feet 6 inches tall – he has amassed four stints as the World Heavyweight Champion and two spells as WWE Champion.
3 The Miz
The Miz attracted a lot of animosity from the locker room for having things easy; he was even unjustly forced to change in the public bathroom before shows only because he ate chicken in the dressing room. His time with MTV made Vinnie Mac think he would make a good wrestler. The Miz now has 14 years of experience as a professional wrestler. Despite working with Tough Enough, Ohio Valley Wrestling, and Deep South Wrestling, he never transformed into a fine in-ring performer.
2 John Cena
Much like almost every other entrant on this list, John Cena had very little experience in the independent scene before earning a contract with the wrestling industry’s juggernauts at the WWE. The Face that Runs the Place never really intended to make it as a wrestler as he was eyeing a career as a bodybuilder. It was not until his friend suggested that he should join a wrestling school that he ever mulled over the prospect of becoming what he is today.
1 Triple H
Triple H started his WWE career as Connecticut Blueblood, a rip-off of his own WCW character. Had he worn a tailcoat suit for the whole of his wrestling career, he would have only enjoyed Damien Sandow-levels of success. It was during his time as a part of the notorious WWE faction D-Generation X that he rose to superstardom. During an era that gave more opportunities to technical masterminds such as Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, he thrived, and when the company was reaching its pinnacle with Steve Austin and The Rock at its forefront, he managed to stay relevant.
However, it was never his move set that helped him stay relevant. He was even branded as the Most Overrated Wrestler three times by The Wrestling Observer. He was never the best wrestler, but his microphone skills and a good grasp of psychology helped him stay with the company for as long as he has been able to. His marriage to Stephanie McMahon definitely helped, but it was mostly down to his sports entertainer-esque attributes. WWE has seen better wrestlers than HHH, but not many have surpassed his tally of 14 World titles.
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