50: Mr. Perfect
He had every tool needed to be one of the all-time greats. He was in shape. He was charismatic. He knew how to wrestle. He knew how to sell in the ring. His matches tended to pop through the tv screen, almost as if he made them feel bigger just because he was in the match.
The only thing he didn’t have was health. He was never taken seriously for a run with the Heavyweight title because he could never seem to stay healthy long enough to be considered reliable. That’s the biggest shame of his career. We really never got to see Perfect and what he could do at the top of the mountain.
Greatest Match/Feud: Perfect vs. Bret Hart at Summerslam 1991.
49: Owen Hart
Never given enough proper feuds to work with. I’m gonna skip the tragic end to his life and instead focus on a feud that made me want to be a wrestling fan forever. Owen vs. Bret. Even then, I realized how important the feud was. It was little brother vs. big brother. The rest of the family was at ringside. Everything felt so real and raw, and going back and watching it again, that feeling comes back, sweeping over me. The matches age really well, with two incredibly well trained technicians at the height of their ability going at it.
Greatest Match/Feud: Hart vs. Steve Austin at Summerslam 97. His entire feud with is brother in 1994.
48: Daniel Bryan
His placement here is more of an understanding by me of his importance in wrestling in the current age. His underdog run that led to his championship win at Wrestlemania is still one of the best wrestling moments of the past two decades. The reason he isn’t higher is, this is my damn list. I just never got into Bryan as much as others did. Going back and watching old ROH matches of him, and you could see why guys like Kevin Owens was going to be a star. Even then, though, I never quite saw it.
His elder statesman status in WWE earns enough respect to land him top 50.
Greatest Match/Feud: Winning the championship at Wrestlemania 30. Bryan vs. Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniel at the first ever Ring of Honor show in 2002.
47: Lex Luger
A cautionary tale for drug abuse in wrestling, the way it all ended for Luger sometimes covers up how good he was for as long as he was. Trying to shoe horn him into the role of “New Hulk Hogan” notwithstanding, Luger had impressive championship runs in NWA and WCW. He was considered a centerpiece of WCW at the most important time in the company’s history. It’s all just fantasy booking at this point, but one of the great matches generationally would have been Lex Luger vs. Brock Lesnar.
Greatest Match/Feud: Luger vs. Ricky Steamboat at Great American Bash 89. Luger beating Hogan for the title on Nitro in 97.
There is an alternate universe where HHH follows Scott Hall and Kevin Nash out of WWF after the Curtain Call. Maybe he becomes a huge star in WCW. Maybe he gets lost in the shuffle. His exit would never have been known in the moment. But with the ability to look at history, his staying would eventually put into motion the wrestling industry as it is this very day.
HHH would go on to found DX, a seminal group in WWF and vitally important during the Monday Night Wars. He would main event Wrestlemanias. He was a king maker in WWE. He would rise to one of the top positions in the company and his fingerprint, along with guys like William Regal and Dusty Rhodes, are stamped on what NXT has become.
Greatest Match/Feud: HHH vs. Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30. HHH vs. Cactus Jack at No Way Out 2000. HHH vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania 20.
45: Fabulous Moolah
It’s a huge stretch to say that there would be no women’s wrestling without Fabulous Moolah. But without her, a lot of glass ceilings wouldn’t have been pre-broken for future generations to rise through. By all accounts, she wasn’t the best human being. And here is the thing about Moolah: none of the stuff that came out after WWE tried to name a women’s battle royal after her was actually new information. People treated it like it was, because they chose to be outraged by it in the moment. But the fact is, all of this stuff was out there, and alleged by A LOT of female wrestlers in the era in the documentary Lipstick and Dynamite, which had come out more than a decade before.
With all of that said, she was an innovator in women’s wrestling and did pave the way for every generation to come after her.
44: Gorgeous George
A brief history lesson about wrestling: in the early days, it was seen as a legitimate sporting battle. Matches could sometimes last hours. They were slow, plodding events of people breaking holds and attempting to put in their own moves.
Wrestlers were never really personality driven. They were sometimes hyped based on their country of origin, because that could play well to crowds. But with the advent of television bourne an opportunity. Wrestling was fairly cheap to produce and was infinitely watchable if the matches were shortened up. Wrestling immediately became one of the earliest ratings stars on television. What it was missing was characters that could reach out through the tv and transcend the screen.
Enter Gorgeous George. He was a middling wrestler who was one of the first to realize that he could create a larger than life gimmick. He dyed his hair blonde. He started wearing feathered robes. He had a servant go into the ring and spray cologne until the ring smelled suitable for him. He talked down to people. He mocked crowds.
He was the first true wrestling heel. And he became the biggest tv star in the country because of it. I’m not overselling when I say that, either. He went on tv shows. He did interviews (often in character) and lived the lifestyle. For those reasons, he makes this list, no doubt.
43: La Parka
THE CHAIRMAN! Total personal pick here. I loved La Parka growing up. He played air guitar with the chair. He was always an integral part of the cruiserweight division in WCW. He had great matches. And most importantly, he is still going! La Parka is main eventing MLW’s first PPV in November, facing Joseph Fatu for the Heavyweight Title.
Greatest Match/Feud: La Parka vs. Bill Goldberg on Monday Nitro. Him nearly accidently murdering Mance Warner on a pile driver in MLW last year.
42: Great Muta
Muta is one of the most respected wrestlers in history. I personally remember watching his feuds with Sting when I was very young and even then, knowing I was watching something completely different. Muta is another guy who probably doesn’t get enough respect among the mainstream wrestling fans, but is universally beloved among the hardcore fans. It’s not difficult to trace his in ring work to that of a number of wrestlers that would become stars in his mold.
Greatest Match/Feud: Muta vs. Onita in an electrified barbed wire match in 99. Muta vs. Sting at Starrcade 89.
41: Dustin Rhodes/Goldust
Longevity over top end gets Dustin here. That’s not to say he isn’t a great wrestler. He is. He was just never the most important guy on a wrestling show. With that said, he ran with the Goldust gimmick. It could have died after a year or two. Instead, it lived on for over two decades. That isn’t writing. That isn’t just matches. That is 100% the man behind the character.
Greatest Match/Feud: Goldust vs. Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 12. Rhodes and others vs. the Dangerous Alliance in Wargames at Wrestle War 2.