The Greatest Wrestler of All Time (The Fourth Ten)

The Greatest Wrestler of All Time is less a title you assign than it is a vibe that carries you, pleasurably, from one jawn to the next.

Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve written about the Greatest Wrestler of All Time, but it’s not for lack of Greatest Wrestler of All Times-es.

If you remember, this project started because a friend of mine who doesn’t care about wrestling called me to the floor for naming at least a dozen wrestlers the Greatest Wrestler of All Time. Not only does such a title possess a variable quality, applied to one wrestler then another then another, it is a collective title, something every Greatest Wrestler of All Time can hold simultaneously, a trophy as valuable as it is worthless.

The Greatest Wrestler of All Time

I’ve been told on several occasions that my opinions on this matter are less than useless. To those people I say, “Fuck you, pal.” Something wrestling fans get hung up on too often is the need to quantify and rank everything, to judge matches with star rankings, to decide who The Greatest Wrestler of All Time is based on silly criteria like “how good a wrestler is.”

Good, like the title Greatest Wrestler of All Time, is variable. At least it is for me. When it comes to the question of how Mongo rates as the Greatest Wrestler of All Time, my answer is this: I am meeting Mongo where he is, and not one bit higher. Was he a great worker? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Was he a rawboned, oafish, roughly charismatic tank who changed the fabric of the Four Horsemen?

Yeah, he did, and he ruled doing it.

Reading that back, it feels like I’m being a little defensive. I’m not. I’m just preparing you for the fact that Glacier is the Greatest Wrestler of All Time. He’s down there at the end. Ninth wrestler named, first in my heart. Prove me wrong.

Cactus Jack Vader WCW

Cactus Jack

You know the score with Cactus Jack. Capable of getting the best out of anybody, whether that’s Sting, Vader, or Triple H, the Hardcore Legend of professional wrestling spilled blood and lost body parts in the United States, Europe, and Japan. On days where I’m not thinking about Bret Hart, Cactus Jack is my favorite wrestler. Cactus Jack specifically. What makes him the Greatest Wrestler of All Time?

Well, there was this issue towards the end of Jack’s ECW run where he broke up with his tag team partner Mikey Whipwreck. In an interview, Jack noted that he tried to play a Leonard Cohen tape in the car, something to soothe someone who had just been through a great deal of savagery. Whipwreck refused, instead putting on what Cactus Jack described as “satanic rock music.”

You think that’d be it, just a throwaway anecdote in a promo, but when Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck fought in the ECW Arena, a fan brought a copy of The Best of Leonard Cohen on vinyl, the cover art as big as it was subdued. That album made its way into Cactus Jack’s hands, and he cradled it like a baby, keeping it away from Whipwreck, who eventually got hold of the album and whacked him with it.

This is, to me, The Greatest Spot of All Time, and unlike The Greatest Wrestler of All Time, there’s only one.

Konnan WCW
WCW

Konnan

There is a not-insignificant number of white men in their 30s who know a little Spanish because of Konnan’s pre-match promos. That Spanish is completely useless, but it’s there.

Akira Hokuto AJW

Akira Hokuto

When I got into collecting Japanese wrestling magazines, I also got a couple of photobooks of Joshi from the era that I am most familiar with. One was of Akira Hokuto, and in it there’s a picture of her holding a plush Shamu doll. It’s adorable, but I can’t show it to you because that book is in a storage locker, and I forgot the combination to the lock.

Without that picture, all I can say about Akira Hokuto is this — few wrestlers have looked as cool as her, and few wrestlers have gone about their work as recklessly. You can say that for any number of Joshi, and, guess what, I will.

Hokuto, though. I don’t know if I can describe how brightly my brain burned when she showed up in WCW, this complete space alien who did not come to the United States to have a good time. I was too young for wrestling in 1995, so I missed the WCW/NJPW angle. That means Hokuto was my introduction to Japanese wrestling. That may not be the most scientific means of declaring someone The Greatest Wrestler of All Time, but I am not writing a novel.

Asuka WWE
WWE

Asuka

I got into Asuka the old-fashioned way, when I was downloading Serena Deeb matches from Megaupload because I was like “ah, a wrestler who does a gutbuster, she’s the one for me.”

I still like Deeb a great deal, but whether she’s KANA or Asuka, there has not, in my opinion, been a more successful wrestler to cross over from Japan to the United States. (Here’s where I hedge my bet and say “that I know of.”) Her time in NXT and on WWE’s main roster has been exceptional if without a clear creative direction — she seems capable of having a good to great match with anybody in the company, which makes her an exceptionally valuable piece to the world’s worst puzzle.

But its her work before she signed with WWE that I love most. I’ve written about one of her matches against Sara Del Rey in the past, but her stable with Io and Mio Shirai, Triple Tails, was so good that it reinvigorated my love for professional wrestling. Like, real, actual love. The Shirai sisters are also The Greatest Wrestler of All Time.

Mankind WWF Title Win

Mankind

I made a comment earlier tonight that I guess went out over the air that I am deeply ashamed of. If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart I’m so very, very sorry. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith, but don’t let this distract you from the fact that in 1998, The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell in a Cell, plummeting 16ft through an announcer’s table. I don’t know if I’m going to be putting on this headset again. I don’t know if it’s going to be for the Reds. I don’t know if it’s going to be for my bosses at Fox.

But also, the moment where he won the WWF Title for the first time is so good, so unbelievably wholesome and pure, that it is sometimes weirdly possible for me to watch WWE without feeling a little tainted.

Bret Hart Shawn Michaels WWE
WWE

Shawn Michaels

Yes, but he’s less so The Greatest Wrestler of All Time than Bret Hart.

andrade el idolo
AEW

Andrade El Idolo

I asked my friend who does not watch wrestling to name a wrestler, and they named Andrade. Andrade would have likely come up at some point anyhow, but the fact that my friend remembers a wrestler who they saw at an NXT house show seven years ago is pretty impressive. Yeah, he’s a great wrestler. Yeah, he’s very attractive. But I have a friend whose first thought when it comes to wrestling is Andrade. Y’all probably have friends who think of Hulk Hogan.

Eddie Kingston Chris Jericho AEW
AEW

Eddie Kingston

I watched Lawrence of Arabia last night, which begins with a funeral. At the funeral, a journalist goes around asking attendees if they knew T.E. Lawrence. None of them did, outside of a handshake here or there, but Lawrence was widely beloved and had earned his bust in whatever building the English keep their busts in.

I’ve shaken Eddie Kingston’s hand plenty of times, called his matches, shot some angles, but if someone asked me what Eddie Kingston was like, how I knew him, it’d be about the same — I shared brief snatches of time with him, I found him to be an impossibly large figure in my conception of pro wrestling, and I hope that every hard thing he endured for the sake of the business came with at least some reward.

Eddie Kingston burns for wrestling. A lot of people say that they do, a lot of people think that they do, but he cares for pro wrestling to an impossible degree, and not even about his place in it. It saved him, it hurt him, and every step forward he takes is one wrestling takes with him. There hasn’t been anybody like Eddie Kingston since Mick Foley. Mick Foley was willing to burn for pro wrestling, too.

Glacier WCW
WWE

Glacier

If you think too long upon the concept of the multiverse, you create one where The Undertaker failed and Glacier succeeded. I am begging someone to invent something that takes me there.

Dude Love WWE
WWE

Dude Love

It wasn’t exactly Stone Cold’s fault, but if you had a run of good pay-per-view matches against Steve Austin in 1998, you were a miracle worker. Dude Love was a miracle worker. Dude Love is The Greatest Wrestler of All Time