I started to watch professional wrestling in the fall of 1992, during a time when the World Wrestling Federation started to focus less on sports entertainment and more on wrestling. (Ironic, huh?). In ushering in the “New Generation”, Vince decided to put the WWF Championship on Bret “The Hitman” Hart. He automatically became my favorite wrestler. He didn’t have the most charisma, he wasn’t the best on the microphone; and more often than not, his promos were filled with tired clichés that often made me cringe. But I didn’t care. He was my guy. Even when he turned heel, waved the Canadian flag, and spit in the face of America, I still cheered for him.
|The original Best in the World|
Photo Credit: WrestlingHeritage.co.uk
1. Lou Thesz – If there was anybody in the history of professional wrestling that could be considered to be the greatest, it is Lou Thesz. Not only is he the youngest World Champion of all time, (21) but he also held NWA Championship for over ten years, (combined total reigns). The National Wrestling Alliance had so much confidence in him, that he won their World title six times!, (unheard of in those days). It wasn’t just because he was trustworthy; it was because of his legit submission skills. If any other wrestler tried to ‘shoot’ on Lou Thesz in the ring, Lou Thesz would stretch the guy until his eyes popped out of his head.
If you’re a fan of such moves as the powerbomb, German suplex, STF and the Lou Thesz Press, you can thank Lou Thesz for inventing those moves. And if you’re a fan of Japanese wrestling, you can thank Lou Thesz for that, too. (Also, buy his autobiography. It might cost you a few hundred dollars, but it’s worth it!).
2. Nick Bockwinkel – When you think of some of the greatest talkers in professional wrestling, you think of such names as Mick Foley, Ric Flair, The Rock, (overrated), CM Punk and Steve Austin. But one name that’s just as good, if not better than the aforementioned, is Nick Bockwinkel. He didn’t scream or yell, he didn’t use clichés, nor did he curse just for the sake of cursing. He was calm and intelligent: using polysyllabic words that made the audience run to their dictionaries. Not to mention he had Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as a manager. How could you ask for a better combination?
And as a wrestler? He’s one of the best to step in the ring. Most of his early work came as a tag- team wrestler, but his career didn’t really begin till at the age of 40, when he defeated Verne Gagne to win the AWA World title. He would go to have classic matches with Gagne, Billy Robinson and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Even in his fifties, he was having matches with Curt Hennig that could only be classified as seven star masterpieces. And if you don’t believe me, then you’re nothing but a belligerent recalcitrant.
3. Bob Backlund – Most of you probably remember Bob Backlund as the crazy guy that snapped and took the WWF title from Bret Hart, before losing it to Kevin Nash in four seconds. Well, that’s how I remember him too. But my fascination with old school wrestlers doesn’t end with Thesz and Bockwinkel. Backlund is another one of my favorites. Not only did he hold the WWF title for almost six years, but he was an outstanding amateur/professional wrestler: having classic matches with Ric Flair, Harley Race and Antonio Inoki. (Thank GOD for YouTube). And after losing the title to the Iron Sheik in controversial fashion, he disappeared for eight years.
He made his return as the old school, babyface, who was always losing his matches, Bob Backlund decided, to borrow a quote from Owen Hart, “enough is enough and it’s time for a change”. After losing to Bret Hart in a classic wrestling match, Backlund snapped and locked Hart in the Crossface Chickenwing. And that was the beginning of one of the most entertaining heel runs in history. (I’m serious, it was fucking awesome). Aside from having the sickest submission hold ever, Bob Backlund should be in everybody’s top five. Hopefully that happens when he comes back for another WWE title run. *Fingers Crossed*
4. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard aka The Brain Busters – Okay, so this is my list and I’m going to cheat a little. When it comes to greatest tag-teams of all time, Arn and Tully are always getting snubbed. They may not have held as many titles as Edge and Christian, or had charisma like the Road Warriors, but when it came down to tag-team wrestling, nobody did it better than Arn and Tully. I love watching a team cut off a ring and isolate a body part. They were like surgeons when they were in control of a match. And I’ve never seen a team master ring psychology better than Arn and Tully. You want to see some heat? Watch their match with Sting and Nikita Koloff. They were the backbone of the Horseman, and were just as good on the mic as they were in the ring. (I’d dare say Arn was just as good as Ric when it came to promos).
5. Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) – These two were so ahead of their time that it took over ten years for American fans to catch up. No two wrestlers had better chemistry than Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask. Their matches were beautiful. Like ballet: if ballet consisted of tiger suplexes, missile dropkicks and tombstone piledrivers. If you don’t believe the hype, then check out their matches on YouTube, or buy the “Dynamite Kid in Japan” DVD. (You can go to highspots.com for all your wrestling needs).
And that’s my top five. It may be long and poorly written, but give me a break, it’s my first blog!