Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Favorite Wrestlers Ever: Joe Drilling

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?

In addition to having the best last name to make into a sex joke, Joe Drilling is a huge wrestling fan (and trained wrestler) and the next to have his favorite wrestlers listed. You may know him as a contributor to the first Fair to Flair Quarterly, but he also has two podcasts he's a part of, one called On the Stick, a gaming podcast, and the other called the Action Cast, a podcast dedicated to action movies (duh). Here are his five favorite wrestlers ever.

#1 and #2
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Let me start by saying I agonized over this list. Tom asked me about writing it at least a week ago, and what I initially figured would be fifteen minutes at the computer turned into agonizing about who would make the list for a week or more. To that point; this is not a “Greatest Wrestlers of All-Time” list. A list like that, as Tom has pointed out in his entries, espouses some kind of objectivity or at least a consensus amongst “experts” or whatever. A list like that would certainly contain Ric Flair, which this one does not.

No, this is a totally subjective list of MINE. If you don’t agree, it’s not on my list of things to do to give a fuck. The criteria I used, if you’re interested, is what five wrestlers could I watch any of their matches with anyone, including people who would be on my list of least favorite wrestlers, and still find it enjoyable. These are the five I came up with.

5. C.M. Punk - I first saw Punk perform at a Knights of Columbus in West Allis, Wisconsin on June 3rd, 2001. I was 18 and I was about to start training to become a pro wrestler. I was (and still am) also straightedge. And here was this straightedge, punk rock wrestler. Needless to say, I was captivated. I have followed this man’s career for a decade now. I knew even then that he was good enough to be where he is now. I knew when he had a red hot feud with Ian Rotten that summer (which still includes one of the best Texas Death Matches I’ve ever seen), I knew when he cut his “My name is C.M. Punk, and I’m straightedge. What that means is I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs and I am better than each and every one of you here tonight.” promos. And he has never failed to entertain me, no matter who he’s working with.

4. Ted DiBiase - “The Million Dollar Man” captivates me because there is never a wasted movement in any of his matches. Every step, every look, every punch means something. He wouldn’t waste it if it didn’t. Everything builds to the finish of the match or the end of the angle. He even manages to make Ed Leslie look good at Wrestlemania V, no small feat. If I was to point to a match that really cements my love for this man, though, it’s his match with Jake “The Snake” Roberts at Wrestlemania VI. When two storytellers that good get in the ring together, you can only expect a brilliant match, which is what you get. “The Snake” narrowly missed this list, but he’s still one of the best, and that match proves it.

3. Mr. Perfect - Curt Hennig was someone I loved to boo as a kid. I hated him (and the Genius) so much when he smashed the Hulkster’s title belt. And as a good guy, he made me get up and cheer years later. I even loved him in WCW, and when he came back to WWE shortly before his death, I was very excited. This is a man who simply had a fundamental understanding for how to tell a story in wrestling. Brilliant promos, brilliant work in the ring. He made everyone he worked with look like a million bucks. And like DiBiase, never a wasted movement. Everything served the story. He was absolutely perfect.

2. Chris Jericho - Is it wrong to say that my love for Jericho may well spring from the notion that he’s a latter-day Mr. Perfect? Maybe that’s just me looking for a link, but regardless, Chris Jericho has been a favorite of mine since I was first exposed to him in WCW. His legendary promos there (“Hold #1: Arm bar.”) coupled with his fantastic matches with the likes of Dean Malenko and Rey Mysterio, Jr. put me behind his work right away. And when he finally came to the WWF, interrupting the Rock in one of the greatest debuts ever, I went full-blown Jerichoholic. Sure, he had silly moments (co-IC Champ?), but Vince and Co. recognized his talent in a way WCW never did, and he was finally allowed to be the performer his fans knew he could be. He was the first man to ever hold the WWF and WCW Championships at the same time, an accolade that I think may be lost on younger fans who weren’t around or aware of what was going on in the late ‘90s.

From there, he had amazing feuds with nearly everyone on the roster, including my #1 pick, and left on a high note, putting John Cena over in a big way (not like he needed it). When he came back, he was just as entertaining as ever, but a quick heel turn completely re-invented his character and he was even MORE successful, having what I consider the greatest ladder match of all time with Shawn Michaels for the World Heavyweight Championship. A consummate performer on the mic and in the ring, I really question the sanity of wrestling fans who say they don’t like Chris Jericho.

1. Shawn Michaels - The Showstopper. The Icon. The Main Event. He is truly second-to-none in my mind. When he disappeared after Wrestlemania XIV, I lamented that one of the best had retired too soon. Quite naturally, when he had a match at Summerslam 2002, I was ecstatic. What I didn’t know is that he would have a run of nearly seven more years that would include some of the best matches of an already amazing career. The man who defined the ladder match with Scott Hall managed to redefine it with Chris Jericho over fourteen years later. This is a noteworthy thing.

Ultimately, I can’t say I’ve consistently enjoyed the work of any professional wrestler, regardless of opponent, of face/heel alignment, of era, as much as Shawn Michaels.

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