There might have been a few wrestlers over the years to simply win the crowds over with their wrestling skills, but that number pales in comparison to the sheer amount of guys who made it by being charismatic and larger than life. Sure you have guys like Bret Hart and Daniel Bryan, who made it based mostly off of their skills in the ring, but for every “shooter,” there’s at least ten guys who can do so much more than just wrestle.
Professional wrestling is really called sports entertainment at this point, right? So that means that at some point you have do more than just wrestle to entertain the crowd. You have grab the mic, pay to the crowd, do a dance, and do something more than just apply a devastating headlock to entertain “the millions and millions.”
Once you get the fans to the arena, then you can wrestle and show off your skills, but you still have to get them to the show. You have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk. With that in mind, here’s a list of some of the best overall entertainers in the business.
20 CM Punk
In his documentary, Punk’s friend Colt Cabana recounts the night of CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb promo and says all he (Punk) ever wanted was the microphone and the chance to speak to get over. In just over five minutes with a microphone being himself, CM Punk did what he couldn’t do for six years prior and that’s make a believer out of Vince McMahon. From here, CM Punk became the main event player he always knew he should be. It might have ended poorly between Punk and the WWE, but make no mistake, CM Punk was right when all of the shot callers were wrong about him.
19 Dean Ambrose
In just a little over a year since the destruction of The Shield, one third of the Hounds of Justice has proven to be the most dynamic man in the entire company and it’s not the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, it’s the guy who stole it from him, Dean Ambrose. If the business is a cyclical one, then Ambrose is the new Austin and Rollins and the Authority are the new Corporation. Obviously Ambrose can’t be the psychopathic, hell raising rattlesnake in a PG era, but he makes a damn fine “Lunatic Fringe (whatever the heck that means).”
18 The Ultimate Warrior
Sometimes you don’t even have to know what in the world a guy is saying for him to be captivating, which was always a part of The Ultimate Warrior’s appeal. Snarling, grunting, and talking with an inane babble made you think this guy was an absolute nutcase who would destroy anyone in his path. Combine that with the charging to the ring at mach–10, the colorful tights, tassels, intensity, and war paint and you have one of the best competitors ever, even if he wasn’t the best wrestler. Warrior didn’t need to be, no one, not even Hulkamania or Macho Madness could stop him.
As the eldest son of the American Dream, Dustin Rhodes was having a very hard time escaping the shadow of his father. Enter the androgynous Goldust. Nowadays in the PG era, Goldust is just a variation of his younger brother Stardust. However, during the New Generation and Attitude Eras, few stars were more compelling than Goldust. When paired with his director, Marlena (Rhodes’ ex–wife, Terri) or Luna Vachon, Goldie got even weirder and wilder, but always entertaining.
16 Superstar Billy Graham
“20 Years Too Soon” is the tagline on the Superstar’s DVD. The WWE wasn’t kidding. To fans who grew up during the rise of Hulkamania, they only knew Billy Graham as Don Muraco’s manager or one the commentators of the very first SummerSlam, but in reality he was the template for every single superstar that came after him. Hogan even admits that he basically ripped off the originator of the pythons. Jesse the Body Venture also had admitted to borrowing from the Superstar. On top of that, watch any Nature Boy promo and the trash talking cadences are very similar.
15 Shane Douglas
Trained by Dominic DeNucci, Shane Douglas had an unforgettable first stint with the WWE (although he did get a nice ovation for his performance at the 1989 Royal Rumble) and a not as a forgettable stint in WCW (where he teamed with Ricky Steamboat and was one half of the Dynamic Dudes with John Laurinaitis). But it was in ECW that Douglas truly found his niche as the brash, trash talking Franchise. Once he threw the NWA title down and became the ECW champion, the guy became the most hated man in the industry for a while.
Before he became the Crow, Sting was the perfect mix of color and charisma. Then WCW turned their backs on their franchise. For over a year, the WCW stalwart fought the nWo, attacking from all angles, descending from the rafters and destroying everyone in his path. He never said a word, but for all those months building up to Stinger’s match against Hogan at Starrcade 1997, the Insane Icon had the wrestling world eating out of the palm of his hand.
13 Mick Foley
There aren’t many people in wrestling who could get over three distinct personalities, but that is exactly what the Hardcore Hall of Famer did. First, there was the bad man from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Cactus Jack, who had little regard for his opponents anatomy or his own; then there was the deranged Mankind, who was devoid of any humane qualities, that is until he pulled out a sock. Lastly, was the character Foley first created when he was a kid, Dude Love, a relic from the sixties. Foley might have had some the bloodiest wars around the world and will be most remembered for his big spots during Hell in a Cell, but the guy’s mouth was just as deadly as his style.
12 Team Xtreme (the Hardy Boys and Lita)
Yes their skills in the ring are pretty top notch, but it was the grungy, generation X, sex appeal of the Hardy Boys that got them over. They had the respect of kids who liked their high flying flashy in ring style, adult fans who appreciated their work rate, and teenage girls whose hearts would swoon when Matt and Jeff would take their shirts off before diving off the top rope. Normally, the teenage girls and kids would turn off the hardcore fans, but when you add the crimson dynamo known as Lita, a fiery red head who could also go in the ring and showed just enough of her thong to turn men into mush, and you have every single section of the fan base in the palm of your hand.
11 The Undertaker
The guy is named The Undertaker, is 6’10", weighs about 320 and is an undead creature from beyond the grave. There wasn’t a whole lot more he needed to do to grab the audience’s attention. He was the kind of character no one had ever seen before and as Chris Jericho has always said, he’s the Madonna of the WWE: ‘Taker knows how to adapt with the times. Whether it was the Corporate Ministry, the American Badass, or the Phenom, few command the respect that the Conscious of the WWE does.
10 Paul Heyman
In the pantheon of great managers, only one has withstood the test of time across four decades. Even without being the maniacal brain behind ECW, Heyman still would have been fondly remembered as Paul E. Dangerously, the Psycho Yuppie who created the Dangerous Alliance, a stable that featured both Rick Rude and a young Stunning Steve Austin. Today’s fans might know him as the Voice of the Voice of the Voiceless or the Advocate for the Beast Incarnate, but there’s plenty more to Heyman, a guy who truly can talk fans into the building.
9 Jake the Snake Roberts
If there was ever a wrestler you wouldn’t want to meet in an alley on a dark and stormy night, it’s Jake Roberts. It has nothing to do with the man’s average physique, or average build, or average looks. The guy looks like a normal, average man. However, if anyone had a mastery of the English language enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone, it’s Jake the Snake Roberts. How scary was the Hall of Famer? Gene Okerlund once asked him what the letters D–D–T stood for. The reply was a cold two words, “the end.” Toss Damien in a bag to allow him to slither all over fallen opponents and you have one of the biggest stars in history.
8 Rowdy Roddy Piper
There are a few matches that really showcase what Hot Rod could do in the ring: vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII and the Dog Collar match with Greg Valentine at the first Starrcade to name a few. However, that wasn’t Piper’s appeal. The man might have been the single greatest stick man in the business. Ask any fan from the Hulkamania Era, if they were a Hogan fan they absolutely loved to hate Piper and if they weren’t a Hogan fan, they loved the Hot Scott. The Snake Pit, the Love Shack, the Funeral Parlor, The Peep Show, the Cutting Edge, MizTV, the Highlight Reel; none of these exist without Piper’s Pit.
7 Randy Macho Man Savage
The man’s theme song was Pomp and Circumstance, which sums up the Hall of Famer pretty perfectly. There wasn’t a thing about Randy that wasn’t filled with pomp. If you thought Flair’s robes were audacious, then you haven’t seen the pageantry of the Macho Man, especially when paired with the equally fashionable Miss Elizabeth. Savage also cut savage promo; just check out his feuds with Hogan, Jake Roberts, and Flair. When Elizabeth’s honor was on the line, the Macho King was a man possessed with destroying his opponent. Freak out, freak out and snap into it while you’re at it, there’s a reason the fans demanded the Macho Man take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, oooh yeah!
6 "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes
You’re on top of the wrestling world; your early days as a heel with Dick Murdock are the stuff of legend. Your wars with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen are still heralded to this day. You’re arguably the most popular wrestler in all of the Southern territories and you’ve booked some of the greatest angles the NWA has ever seen, so what happens when you finally sign with the WWE? Vince McMahon puts you in black and yellow polka dots. Dusty Rhodes could have taken this as an insult and ran back to the comfort zone he created for himself in the NWA. Instead, he overcame and continued to get himself over and stay one of the most charismatic performers of all time.
5 Ric Flair
Ric Flair has stated in many interviews that Dusty Rhodes was a tremendous influence on him. Flair took that influence and bashed it out of the park, becoming the kiss stealin’, wheelin', dealin', limousine ridin’, jet flyin’ son of a gun. From the mid–eighties until the mid–nineties, not a soul on this planet could touch Ric Flair in the ring or on the mic. No one could touch the pageantry of his entrance. Whether it was because he was that good or because he simply lived it, no one else could tell you what “was causin’ all of this” better than the Nature Boy.
4 Stone Cold Steve Austin
During the Attitude Era, there was no bigger star than Stone Cold. From his historic segments with Vince McMahon to his infamous promo at King of the Ring, Austin never stopped entertaining the fans, whether it was in the ring or on the mic. His "What?" chants are still around to this day and though they might be annoying to the current roster, watching Austin do his thing makes you remember how memorable the real thing was.
3 The Rock
Simply stated, we're never going to see another performer like The Rock. Not for the reasons you might think, though. He was marketed as a white meat babyface who would smile and kiss babies. The fans crapped all over that idea and they turned on the future Great One, chanting “Die, Rocky, Die.” So the Brahma Bull decided to turn on the fans and became a trash talking member of the Nation of Domination, which the crowd ate up. Instead of then giving them what they wanted, he turned on the crowds that were beginning to embrace him and instead became the biggest heel in the company. Eventually, there was nothing that could stop the fans from cheering on The Rock and he would take his rightful place as The People’s Champ, except for that time he went 'Hollywood.'
2 Hulk Hogan
One question had by a lot of pure wrestling fans is this: why is the sport’s most famous superstar quite possibly one of the worst in–ring performers of all time? Well, here's an answer; the entire package of Hulkamania completely eclipsed any lack of in ring talent Hulk Hogan had. Hulk Hogan knew how to sell a beating, hulk up, make the big comeback and celebrate with a pose down for the fans while the most iconic song in wrestling would boom through the arena. Eat your vitamins, say your prayers, train, and believe in yourself. There’s a reason he drew fans to the arena and it's that he talked you into the show with his promos and sent you home happy with his celebrations.
1 Shawn Michaels
There’s no argument, as even guys like Ric Flair and Triple H back up the indisputable fact that Shawn Michaels is the greatest in-ring performer of all time. He is Mr. WrestleMania after all. However, Michaels also almost single-handedly ushered in the Attitude Era. From the infamous “Barber Shop,” to coming down the ring on a zipline, the case could have been made with those two moments alone that Michaels was one of the best. Factor in the early antics of DX and his “all white Undertaker,” and it pretty much cements the Heartbreak Kid as the most entertaining wrestler of all time.
Watch This – DX brings “Bret Hart” back to the WWF, HBK’s descent to the ring at WrestleMania XXV, the now iconic Zipline entrance at WrestleMania XII
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