Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Favorite Wrestlers Ever: #25 through #21

Let's dive into the list, shall we? Let's do it!

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25. Kurt Angle

Full disclosure, Kurt Angle would be a lot higher on this list if he didn't fall off towards the end of his WWE run and into his TNA/Impact tenure. Ever since he dropped the "goofy" from his "goofy badass" persona, I've really found him to be bland and mostly unappealing. Even his wrestling has sunken for me.

That being said, I'm not here to bash the guy. This is my favorite wrestlers list. There was a time when Angle was must-see TV for me. From the time when he first debuted at Survivor Series '99 through his feud with Brock Lesnar, there were a scant few who commanded my attention both in the ring and out of it like Angle did. He was great as a performer himself, but he was also a great foil for nearly everyone he worked against, be it Steve Austin, Big Show, Lesnar or Booker T. At one time, he was the best in the world, which makes his fall from grace for me that much more painful to watch.

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Scott Finkelstein
24. UltraMantis Black

When most people mention the Dark Lord, they're probably Star Wars fans referring to Darth Vader or Harry Potter fans referring to Lord Voldemort. When I refer to a Dark Lord, it's lovingly and obediently and directed at one UltraMantis Black. Why? Well, because he's awesome, that's why. To begin to understand how Mantis brings in the goodness is just to understand his gimmick. He's a guy who wears an insectoid mask, carries around a staff and is an alleged proponent of black magic. It's utterly silly, silly enough that it fits into the Chikara ethos perfectly.

It's not just the gimmick either. He's a good wrestler, maybe not the best in terms of ability in any one area, but the dude knows how to convey a story. He's also one of the best announcers in wrestling right now, and whenever he's calling a match on Chikara DVDs, ESPECIALLY when his partner is Bryce Remsburg, the results are magic. He's also one of only three guys whose t-shirt I own or have owned in the past. One was mentioned yesterday. The other one is my favorite wrestler of all-time. That's pretty good company.

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23. Booker T

SUCKAAAAAAAAAAH! Booker T always had that wild-eyed charm, an unhinged aura that made him eminently likable to me. As a guy who didn't watch all that much WCW until 1999, I missed out on a lot of Harlem Heat. But when he busted out as a solo star, I thought WCW had something with him. They tried turning him into a dimestore imitation of The Rock, but he deserved so much better than that. Much like Christian is portrayed now, Booker was always played up a the foil who lost, especially when brawling with Steve Austin in a supermarket while Ric Flair and Vince McMahon watched on the TitanTron.

Thing is, Booker now continues to prove his awesomeness to me every Friday night and on PPVs when I get to order them. He's so damn charming and exuberant that it doesn't matter that he states the obvious all the time or doesn't really know to defend himself when Michael Cole barbs him. And when he made his comeback, doing the Spinarooni before getting tossed to the floor by Mason Ryan at the Royal Rumble? Yeah, I marked. Huge.

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22. Yokozuna

Yoko has the distinction of the first heel that I really rooted for. It wasn't early on in his run, but after WrestleMania: The Arcade Game came out for Sega Genesis, I started using the shit out of the sumo warrior. From there, my vicarious living through digital means of the big lug made me more and more of a fan of his.

I also thought he was very underrated as a worker. I mean yeah, there's only so much a 500 lb. guy can do, but what he did do, he did really well. I loved the Banzai Drop as a finisher too. Simple, effective match finishes are sometimes the best, and while a three-and-a-half rotation corkscrew moonsaulting cutthroat Death Valley Driver might be pretty to look at, a quarter-ton dude jumping ass-first on a guy's chest gets to the fucking point right away.

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21. CM Punk

Only 21st? Yeah, it might seem low, but when you consider there have been thousands upon thousands of guys to step in the squared circle, 21st is probably somewhere in the 99th percentile. And that's damn good.

See, just because I like 20 guys throughout wrestling history more than Punk doesn't reflect badly at all on the Straight Edge Savior. I also admit that the way things are going now, as he gets more and more of a stage to do his thing, if I were to do this list next year, he might make top 10. His ceiling is that high, and he's done a fucking fantastic job of entertaining me since I've come back to wrestling three years or so ago.

The reason why he resonates with me, and with so many other fans, is that he gets it. He's not a "performer", he's a real person, with real thoughts, speaking real words and sparking real emotion. He's a great wrestler and never denies that this is wrestling. When he speaks, it's so natural. He's not afraid to take risks either. I mean, from him jabbing at Jeff Hardy's drug addiction in 2009 all the way up to insinuating that he has an intimate relationship with Triple H's wife today at ComiCon, he has a flair for the entertaining.

So yeah, don't think of this as me underrating Punk. Think of the other 20 guys on the list over the next few days as guys I really, really have a fandom for. Because if I have Punk at this spot, imagine how much I enjoy the next twenty.

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