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.
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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.
Never the most enticing in-ring performer, he made up for it with his charisma and microphone skills. His association with WWE’s arguably all-time best stable in D-Generation X brought the best out of him, with his acting skills particularly standing out. Though he was not so influential as Steve Austin or Dwayne Johnson in the success of the Attitude Era, he was undeniably one of the key catalysts. Although it is highly unlikely that he would have still carved out a decent career if the business had favored only the technical wrestlers, he is now regarded as a top-class WWE performer.
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.
Big Show has been able to thrive as a sports entertainer due to his 7-foot, 500-pound frame and when you're that big in WWE and can do the job decently, you're bound to succeed in the business.
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.
No matter what the size, a wrestler should always be able to pull off at least one move from the top rope. Kane, at almost 50 years of age, still executes a flying clothesline from the top rope, but the Psychotic One’s arsenal featured no top rope move. Sadly, his wrestling career abruptly ended when he chose to pull off one such move; a big boot from the second rope drew the curtain on his career. Although he would be booed out of the building in the New Era because of his lack of wrestling skills, he excelled as a sports entertainer, when the Internet was less influential than it is now.
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.
The one-time European Champion boasts charisma, solid microphone skills, and the ability to tell stories through his in-ring work, but he will definitely be humbled by William Regal, Dean Malenko, or Daniel Bryan in terms of his ability to get the crowd pumped only by virtue of technical wrestling. Shane O’Mac may be the WWE Universe’s favorite McMahon currently, but he hardly makes the cut as a wrestler. However, he has always thrived as a sports entertainer.
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.
What he lacked in wrestling, he made up for it with his unique persona. However, despite being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, his career can be considered a failure as he missed out on accomplishing more thanks to his ego and continual issues with the management at both WWE and WCW. With that being said, he remains one of the worst wrestlers to make it big as a sports entertainer.
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.
The Rock is undoubtedly the best sports entertainer in history and his net worth bears testimony to the very claim. The Attitude Era’s success is partly due to his outstanding usage of ring psychology, excellent story-telling abilities, catch phrases, flashy clothes, and whatnot, but he might not get past Intercontinental Championship bouts had people regarded WWE as something akin to Ultimate Fighting Championship.
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.
He was never the best on the microphone, but had every attribute of a beast that made the WCW and WWE audience yearn for his presence. The fact that the WWE Universe is excited to see the soon-to-be 50-year-old semi-retired wrestler back in the ring again, after more than a decade’s hiatus, underlines the success he has had as a sports entertainer.
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.
After the inception — and death — of ECW, extreme wrestling has become a part of the art, with companies such as Combat Zone Wrestling espousing the same theme as ECW did. Despite the success of the company and its after-effects on the industry as whole, ECW originals can never be called pure wrestlers.
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.
Despite his unprecedented success, he hardly earned recognition as a top-notch wrestler as almost every single maneuver in his arsenal could be performed to perfection by even a person with little to no wrestling training. His finishing move, Leg Drop of Doom, has been ridiculed so much, especially since the inception of the Internet Wrestling Community. His fortunes —excluding the Gawker money — underline the success he has had as a sports entertainer despite being an average wrestler at best.
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.
It's amazing how many big matches Vince McMahon was involved in, wrestling the likes of Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan. Despite being a terrible wrestler, McMahon always made his matches entertaining.
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.
Starting his wrestling career as an enhancement talent, his charisma, promo skills, body language, and looks have earned him many fans, who have coined a chant akin to Arsenal player Santi Cazorla’s. His trademark "you can’t teach that" promo has become so popular that his popularity will help him stay in the WWE longer than he might have without his sports entertainer attributes, even if he continues to botch his moves every now and again.
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.
His move set, comprising sitout powerbomb, spine buster, big boot, and others, is very simple, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which is one of the very few wrestling magazines to give due respect to technical wrestling, announced him as the Most Overrated Wrestler in 2006. Upon his return in 2014, Vinnie Mac tried capitalizing on his Hollywood fame by handing him a Royal Rumble win. However, the WWE Universe roasted him because of his inability to wrestle as he was booed out of the building every time he walked down the aisle, especially when he wore blue trunks.
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.
However, he is gifted with good microphone skills and as annoying as he is, he produces the reaction the management wants their heels to make. The happy head honchos have already offered him 14 title runs, including a short and forgettable WWE Championship reign in 2010-11. The 'Hollywood A-Lister' is the perfect example of an awful wrestler, who has managed to achieve big as a sports entertainer.
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.
He is often ridiculed by the Internet fans for being vanilla and for his moves being not-so-diverse. Although WWE and the wrestler himself have worked to make the Five Moves of Doom sound relevant, even ardent fans of the franchise admit that his move set is never on par with technical wrestlers, like AJ Styles. He has thrived mainly off of his charisma and insane microphone skills. However, his hard work has also made his detractors change sides to become his fans.
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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