Friday, August 26, 2011

Your Favorite Wrestlers Ever: Bill Dempsey

Now that my own favorites list is out of the way, I posed the question to some of my colleagues in the fan/writer community. Who are your favorite five wrestlers?

Yes, I'm still taking submissions. So yeah, if you want to send in a list, feel free. If you don't have my e-mail, well, now you do. tom DOT holzerman AT gmail DOT com. Just sub the DOTs out for .s and the AT out for a @ and you'll be fine. Anyway, this unordered list comes to us from one Bill Dempsey, one of my oldest running buddies on the 'Net. We started out together in e-feds, and when I tell you he was one of the two best handlers I've ever come across, he's one of the two best handlers I've ever come across. Bill now works for HBO, and he's met some pretty cool celebs, but he still gives lil' ol' me and TWB the time of day. Here are his five favorite wrestlers ever. Enjoy!

Two of the best, two of Bill's faves
Photo Credit:
Steve Austin - When thinking about the Austin era I got a little hung up on who my favorite guy was from those years. Strong cases can be made for The Rock, Angle, Jericho, Benoit (I know) and several others. But the fact is that when I consider it I still think of it as “The Austin Era” and that says it all. Not that it’s easy to leave Rocky off the list, as I look back on his contributions with a lot of joy, but Austin was always more fun for me, because he was an ass kicker who could force some comedy from time to time whereas Rock excelled with humor, but I didn’t always buy his ass kicking. Chalk it up to personal preference. Then there is the physical aspect of Austin, where, beyond his frankly limited moveset (post knee surgeries) he was one of the best bumpers I have ever seen. The guy bounced around like a rubber ball and always made things look like they hurt, which is a really under-rated skill, I think. The great thing about anyone on this list is that by the time they are in the discussion you can look back at the early parts of their career and appreciate them more than you did at the time. Not that Stunning Steve was ever not fun to watch but knowing what he would become, I find it really cool to go back to the Dangerous Alliance Era and watch him knowing what he was growing into. He was a guy that excelled at two vastly different characters and also bridged the gap between those two characters with a masterful run as half of one of the greatest tag teams in history. Once he got to WWE the record speaks for itself. Yes, in the later years he became sort of a caricature and things got repetitive, but I appreciated that he tried to go heel and wish we had seen where that was going minus the Trips injury and the Invasion angle. And the fact remains that starting with the Bret Hart feud right up through WrestleMania 17 I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun watching a single guy, and that is despite Russo booking a ton of that stretch.

Bret Hart - If I were putting these in order I might have Bret Hart listed as my favorite wrestler of all time. He’s just so good at everything. He certainly doesn’t have the promo skill of Flair, but minus that, I think he is everything we all think of when we talk about Flair, just better at most of it. Like Flair, his matches definitely have a similar feel and flow about them, but I find them much easier to go back and watch again, despite the fact that Flair’s super high end stuff is probably better than Bret’s if I’m being honest. But seriously, name a bad Bret Hart match. Even if you can come up with one or two (and the McMahon thing from a couple years back doesn’t count) you’ve gotta admit it’s not easy to do and the fact that he was such a consistent guy with so many different opponents is unreal. He bumped great, his offense was always crisp and tight, and his psych almost always made sense – the perfect triple threat. Again I find myself heaping a lot of the same praise on Bret that is usually reserved for Flair, but where Bret gets the edge in my eye is that he stopped before becoming a total joke (notwithstanding that it wasn’t really his choice). We have the benefit of not having to have had to watch Bret decline the way we did with Flair. In fact, if not for the move to WCW, who horribly mismanaged his career (he’s still got good matches there, but the whole period feels like a bore, minus that one match with Benoit and maybe some Goldberg stuff), I think Bret might be in the discussion as a unanimous Best Ever guy.

Vader - I’m very comfortable listing Vader as the best big man I have ever seen if we’re talking straight peak. Other guys have lasted longer (Taker comes to mind & we can argue other names depending on how we want to define the term “big man”) and it’s impossible to ignore Vader’s almost immediate fall from grace when he showed up in WWE, but at his best, he was clearly in the conversation for best in the world, big man or not. Obviously the matches with Sting are legendary, the Starrcade match with Flair is nearly perfect and the Cactus Jack stuff was way ahead of its time. Beyond that he was able to pull off remaining a scary no nonsense badass in a particularly goofy time in WCW in the days before and just after Hogan’s arrival and right up until Hogan killed him dead. Even after his WWF debut he had a few standout matches (vs. Bradshaw at Breakdown, Michaels at SummerSlam, & the Fatal Four Way come to mind) but he was clearly done by then and just got fatter and less motivated. But for 5 or 6 years before then he was absolutely must-watch and his matches tended to make everyone else’s look that much worse in comparison, which is a pretty good gauge of talent in my book.

Brock Lesnar - I went back and watched the Iron Man match with Angle last night, which is my first exposure to Lesnar in years. He totally holds up. Definitely the most natural and gifted wrestler I can think of. Just completely fluid and instinctual and a guy that just looked like he knew what he was doing at all times, not only throwing guys around like a gorilla, but actually wresting smart matches. Even the infamous botch at WrestleMania was something he went for 100%, just believing he would nail it. I can’t imagine how good he would have been if he actually liked wrestling and stuck to it. He couldn’t really talk, but he didn’t need to, and who knows if he would have developed that skill or not. Either way, I think we’d be talking about him as a GOAT as far as in-ring is concerned, and as mentioned above, depending on your definition probably calling him the best big man ever. Sadly, his run was way too short, but even with just those few years we have incredible matches to look back on with Hardy, Undertaker, Rocky, Angle, Big Show, Benoit (yeah, I know) & Guerrero. Just thinking about this now as I write it a Lesnar/Vader match with both guys at their prime would have been fucking ridiculous (and arguably we never even saw Lesnar in his prime). Not to mention how incredible a Lesnar/Mike Knox match would have been (I think Knox may seriously be my favorite guy from the past 5 years, although there are clearly guys more talented).

Randy Savage - Like everyone else, I remembered how much I loved Randy Savage when he died. My only real beef with him is I don’t think he had a single match worth watching once he left the WWF (and didn’t have many after his “retirement” match with Warrior, although the Flair match at WM8 is the clear exception). That said, even as he got older and less mobile and his matches all started blending together, he remained an exciting guy to watch just because he was so insane. The intrigue surrounding whether he would join the NWO was incredible right up until they had him join and become totally irrelevant. Still, he’s clearly the best that the WWF had in the WrestleMania era leading up to his departure and his resume in those 10 years is incredible. If he only had the two years between WrestleManias 3 & 5 he would be in the discussion as the best guy in the 80’s (with the year long Hogan feud being possibly the most perfectly booked main event program ever), but there is so much more to it than that, and as I get older I really enjoy his shitty weasely scumbag pre-WM3 heel act from a lot of the MSG and Boston Garden shows with him being the best wrestler on the card, moving at about 100 coke induced miles an hour at all times, blowing everyone’s minds collectively and cheating like hell without needing to. The guy was totally electric and it was so obvious that he had to be moved up the card. Just an all around great, with the only real complaint being a slightly repetitive offense, which he made worth watching by being completely crazy at all times.

No comments:

Post a Comment