(Previously in the Greatest Wrestler of All Time: The First Ten)
Only hundreds of people can be the Greatest Wrestler of All Time. Well, possibly thousands. See, throughout the history of the great sport of professional wrestling, there’ve been an uncountable number of professional wrestlers. A real “grains of sand on a beach” scenario, if you will. And to make things completely terrible for people like me, whose credibility rests on their ability to say, with certainty, who the Greatest Wrestler of All Time is, every single one of them has been the Greatest Wrestler of All Time for at least a moment. One second, five minutes, whatever—every wrestler who’s ever laced them up has had a moment where they were really feeling it, where nothing went wrong and the crowd ate up everything and the planets and stars were aligned.
I don’t care about those guys. I’m here for the long-term winners, baby. Forever champions.
Razor Ramon HG
HO-KAYYYY. Razor Ramon HG is not only the Greatest Wrestler of All Time, he’s the Greatest Fake Gay of all time, in wrestling or anywhere. Are Fake Gay wrestler’s problematic? Probably, but that’s not a universe of discourse I’m particularly interested in. I want to keep things Hard Gay at all cost. So imagine that you’re a young person who likes The Tom Green Show, Jackass, and wrestling in the mid-to-late 2000s, right? You type “Razor Ramon” into YouTube and this dude shows up, and someone has already translated it. The first words you hear?
“MOM AND DAD! SORRY THAT I’M HARD GAY!”
You, sitting in front of your computer, are, if anything, Soft Gay. That’s fine, good things come to those who wait, but here’s this clown thrusting his crotch to Ricky Martin, doing cooking lessons, making young people call their dads for Father’s Day, and going into the woods with an appraiser to see if he could find any lost treasure. He did all of this in a twinky leatherman getup fresh from a TV movie remake of Cruising.
There’s a lot about Hard Gay that I probably don’t understand, but here’s the thing: I don’t need to. Level one of Hard Gay knowledge is itself a kind of nirvana, I entered it years ago, and I am happy here. As for the wrestling part, he did wrestle, and pretty well. He famously got crushed by Bob Sapp, shared the ring with Toshiaki Kawada on multiple occasions, and beat fellow Greatest Wrestler of All Time Genichiro Tenryu in a lucha de apuestas match that forced Tenryu to dress like ol’ Hard Gay himself. Maybe you had to be there? Luckily, I was.
“Psycho” Sid Vicious
You know who I’m jealous of? Literally every single person who got to fist bump Sid.
Bret “Hitman” Hart
When Bret Hart said that he was “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be,” he was being modest. Not only is he the Greatest Wrestler of All Time, he’s the Greatest Wrestler Who’s Ever Worn Denim. That’s greatness of an entirely different order.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
You could throw Dusty’s promos in the trash and he’d still rule. When he used to hit people, whether it be with his punches or his bionic elbow, the crowd would go “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM,” every time he tagged somebody. Later in his career he learned how to do a sleeper hold from a Grandpa Wrestler named Johnny Weaver, making me the youngest person in the world to know who that is. Enjoying Dusty Rhodes beyond things like “Arn Anderson is a walk-behinder” and “the treasure chest of beef” is like opening a door into a largely forgotten world of wrestling where nothing went forgotten. That’s fantasy, of course, but so is Dusty Rhodes—perhaps wrestling’s greatest. Now go take his promos out of the trash. They’re important!
“The Alpha Male” Monty Brown
Hello, here is 11 minutes of Monty Brown pouncing people. You’re welcome.
Precicely nobody’s sidekick, Arn Anderson is the Greatest Wrestler of All Time. He is the most realistic looking wrestler ever, too–take one look at him and tell me that it doesn’t look like he gets paid to be extremely mean to people within the confines of the squared circle. Part of this is the way he talks, soft and measured like a guy who has really chewed on how much violence he is capable. It doesn’t matter if he’s speaking for or against somebody, he’s a guy who knows that whatever he’s about to do is unsavory work. Most of it, which is incredible given how great he is on the mic, is the fluency with which he worked in the ring. His DDT? The prettiest ever. His spinebuster? Good enough that S Tier spinebusters are called “Arn Anderson esque.” What really puts Arn over the top, though, is the way the bear community has cottoned to him as a figure of potent masculine energy. Go to Tumblr and type Arn Anderson into the search bar and you’ll see what I mean. As an ex-bear, I have no choice but to sing Arn Anderson’s greatness from the heavens.
The New Day
Can a stable be the Greatest Wrestler of All Time? Absolutely. Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods are so talented and fun that it’s impossible not to acknowledge their status, their importance, to this generation of professional wrestling. Great tag team and trios wrestling? They’ve got it. Overcoming early crowd disinterest? They did it. Consistently great babyface work? Yeah, about six years worth. The New Day are the locus of two of the more important, climactic title wins of the last five years, Kofi Kingston’s WrestleMania defeat of Daniel Bryan, and Big E’s recent Money In the Bank cash-in on Bobby Lashley. That the whole industry gathered to celebrate their successes tells you everything you need to know. Collectively, as a unit, whatever–Big E, Woods, and Kingston have been one of a few truly bright spots in a frankly terrible era of WWE product, and if you can put the largest promotion in the history of professional wrestling on your back like that, you are, indeed, the Greatest Wrestler of All Time.
Do you have any idea how many people wanted to be Lita? She was such an aspirational figure during her run in WWE that it hurts to remember how frequently the company let her down, whether it was by ignoring some frankly worrying behavior on Matt Hardy’s behalf after the dissolution of their relationship to bring him back to work a feud against her and Edge, or the way her farewell angle the night of her retirement involved the tag team Cryme Time selling her panties to ringside fans. I hate mentioning those things in calling her the Greatest Wrestler of All Time, but frankly, making it through all of that is one hell of an impressive achievement, to say nothing of what she accomplished as a wrestler. Before women’s firsts were en vogue, she and Trish Stratus were the first women to main event Raw, and she and Victoria had the first women’s cage match. She was unquestionably the coolest part of Team Xtreme, and while her TLC II run-in isn’t the most-remembered spot, regardless of her Mia Hamm tribute, it was easily the best of the three, and was a look forward at how accepted intergender wrestling would eventually become.
The Steiner Brothers
The Steiner Brothers’ WCW theme song begins with the line “Here’s the story of two brothers, Rick and Scott.” What the song omits is a history of punishing, dazzling tag team excess. Their lariats caved chests in. Their suplexes caused grown men to question whether it was worth having been born. While Rick was technically the better wrestler, the stuff that Scott was capable of—his moonsault powerslam and Frankensteiner in particular—should have been impossible period, let alone a man of his size. While Scott had a long and eventful singles career, separating him from Rick would be like separating him from his Shoney’s—which happened and made me incredibly sad. With the arrival of Bron Breakker—Rick’s son who wrestles like a hybrid of the two, wears old school Steiner gear, and speaks like his uncle—the Steiner Dynasty has begun, and it’s only a matter of time before I’m calling a third Steiner the Greatest Wrestler of All Time.
I mean everything I’ve written thus far sincerely, but nothing so much as this: Owen Hart is the Greatest Wrestler of All Time. He would have merited inclusion in the 100 or so that I’m showcasing in this space, but I’ve been truly moved by his inclusion into the fabric of All Elite Wrestling this week and straight-up cannot joke. Owen was an incredible technical wrestler, an influential figure in junior heavyweight wrestling, and wrestled a perfect match against the 1-2-3 Kid in under five minutes. He’s incredible. What I appreciate most about him as a performer is his attention to small details. In the run-up to his match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania X, there’s a squash where Owen picks up the win. While he and Bret are walking to the back, he stops to admire his Sharpshooter. The difference between his Sharpshooter and Bret’s—Bret’s is all business, Owen raises an arm in triumph—tells you everything you need to know about him as a character. It takes a master to turn something so small, so seemingly insignificant, into something that generates heat, but guess what: Owen Hart was a master. Owen Hart is the Greatest Wrestler of All Time
The Greatest Wrestler of All Time updates on Friday.