Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your Favorite Wrestlers Ever: Bryan Douglass

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?

Today's entry comes to us from Bryan Douglass. He used to be a blogger/editor at a fairly well-known site, but now, he's the content manager for a new social media project called Wayin. He's also a pretty big old-school wrestling fan. Here is his top five as well as some honorable mentions.

Snuka and Piper, pre-coconut crunch
Photo Credit:
When I was a child, growing in the midst of corn and the heathen Methodists on the plains of farmland Illinois, my mother would drag us to church, forcing my sister and I not only into the one-hour service about fictional characters not named Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, but also pushing us into an additional hour of bible studies.

I hated it. I hated God, I hated the Bible, and I hated every schedule-making Christian on the planet... and for two hours every Sunday morning, I hated my mother.

Back then, Sunday mornings were THE time for wrestling. There was no wrestling during the week, much less in prime time. Cable didn't exist. For me, there was a set of rabbit ears, one hour starting at 8am on channel 11 out of St. Louis, and the weekly knock-down-drag-out with mom. I didn't want God. I wanted Piper's Pit.

When I was nine, my father finally intervened. One fateful Sunday morning my dad interrupted my mother's yelling about my lack of progress away from channel 11 by stating truth.

"I am sick of this shit. All he cares about is wrestling and he's willing to go to hell to have it. And I'm tired of pretending I care because I don't believe in either one. Let the boy watch wrestling."

He won. That day, college and my Star Wars figures are the three greatest things my father ever did for me... and after I go and as I burn in hell, I'll thank him for it.

So... as a preface, it should be clear I am a proud, card-carrying member of the old school. I don't have nearly as much love for the WWE as I do for the WWF, and while I continue to enjoy the entertainment provided by the ring today, my allegiance is firmly rooted in world of wrestling that was.

That's clearly reflected here. Nothing against The Rock, Cena, Triple H or CM... they're great, but they will never register as favorites with me.


- Andre the Giant
An icon involved in some of the most memorable matches ever.

- The Undertaker
If you rooted for the bad guy (as I often did), he was a god.

- KoKo B. Ware
In terms of entertainment, one of the most underrated bangers of all time.

- Randy "Macho Man" Savage
Made me laugh EVERY TIME Mean Gene put the microphone to his mouth. Truly a gifted entertainer.

- Junkyard Dog
Personal bias... I don't want it get into it, but this is where he belongs in my mind.

5. Hulk Hogan - I didn't ruin my shirts ripping them off as an homage to Hogan. That said, anyone discussing this era of wrestling without giving Hogan his due isn't worthy of your ear... because he was the king. He did it all. Even if you weren't a fan, there were times you couldn't help but get caught up in the madness. He worked with the biggest stars on the planet. He was Hot Lips. He made cage matches obsolete, so tacks and chairs and ring bells had to come into the picture.

He was Hulkamania, he was running wild, he is an icon... and he was Public Enemy #1 for my #1, so I have to have him on the short list.

4. Razor Ramon - And you think you know machismo?

I loved this guy. He was such a dick, but he was cool about it... his comfort in being a dick might only be matched by one of the guys below and Jay Cutler. In truth, his prowess in the ring wasn't exactly on par with guys you want to put on this list. It might be fair to say most of the guys on my list fail to rank if you talk about technique and artistic execution of physical presentation, but for me, the entertainment is in the character and the ability to play that character to the point of reaction from the audience. I want to TRULY hate you... and I don't see how you avoid mentioning the Razor when you mention the best at doing that.

And at his very worst, Ramon was the only one who ever made the Intercontinental Championship relevant. Otherwise, it was amateur hour.

3. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka - If I'm going to make a pick, as I mentioned before, based on the joy of physical acts of aggression, I want Snuka.

He is to wrestling as Michael Jordan is to the dunk. Not to basketball... please, Snuka was beyond awesome, but there are some places you simply do not go... but to the dunk, to the art of the dunk... THAT is what Snuka did to wrestling.

There were guys before him that went to the top of the ropes, and there were certainly plenty throwing their bodies to the wind. There just weren't any guys that were as pretty doing it. Snuka took a flying slam and made it into a spectacle, something you couldn't believe possible from a man that large. The Splash... it's commonplace now for anyone who takes to the top rope, but Snuka is the benchmark.

Besides, I have to get at least one of the Captain's guys on the list.

2. Hacksaw Jim Duggan - If the truth were told, I would admit to ranking Hacksaw so high because (a) it was SO much fun to be him when we wrestled in the backyard, and (b) I continue to imitate him to this day (yes, there aren't many who get it... more often than not, those in attendance report me to management and suggest drug testing, but I don't care because it's really f*@%in' fun).

He's about as lovable as a wrestler could be for most, but to me, he was an entertaining reminder of how simple wrestling can and should be. Give me a 2x4, let's get the crowd pumped up, and let's beat some ass. His role was simple as well, the perpetually ignorant ape taking on the cocky, elitist prick.

What's not to like about that... unless, of course, you want to cheer for the elitist prick, which brings me to #1.

1. Rowdy Roddy Piper - When it comes to picking my favorite wrestler of all time, there is no delay in response and there never has been. I have always been enamored with the villain and drawn to the guy you love to hate. During my formative years, I was presented with two of the best the world has ever known and I continue to endorse their greatness today - Darth Vader and Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Nothing thrilled me more than seeing Roddy emerge from the tunnel as "Green Hills" pumped through the sound system and Piper marched out to the set of the Pit. Every single episode was monumental occasion for me, and for me, the return of the Pit has formed an exciting reconnection to the WWE today... despite Bill Simmons' transparent attempts to ruin it.

But beyond the Pit, I simply loved watching Roddy wrestle. He was every bit as strong and technically capable as the greats of the game, and he managed to translate character and emotion as well as wrestler on the roster. He was as exciting and dedicated in loss as he was during the Pit, during locker-room interview, and during victory (which never came as often as it should). Tack on the unappreciated career in movies and I'm sold.

And if you still aren't sold, I'd remind Piper was - without question - the most diabolical nemesis Hulk Hogan ever battled, serving as wrestling's most hated man during wrestling's most glorious place in time... at least in my mind.

That's why I rank Roddy as the greatest that ever lived, and that's my take on the historical elite of professional wrestling.

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