Professional wrestling is no different than any other form of entertainment out there in that individuals who have big-time personalities are far more likely to get over among audiences than people who are, no offense to them, perceived to be quiet or even boring. Any World Wrestling Entertainment performer will, of course, only go so far as he or she is allowed per the booking of the writing team and of those running the company, but wrestlers are able to do themselves plenty of favors by completely buying into the characters created for them and by presenting themselves as larger-than-life people.
It should be no surprise to anybody who has followed the WWE or the wrestling business, in general, that some of the most charismatic wrestlers in the history of the industry also happened to make a ton of money during their careers. The biggest draws in the history of the WWE were some of the more entertaining performers to ever work for the company, and they will be revered by fans long after they have called time on their careers. The type of charisma that draws viewers to television sets and draws people to arenas also leads to fans willingly spending money on WWE shows and on merchandise.
15. Michael Hayes
“Purely Sexy” Michael Hayes made his name in the wrestling business for being the lead man of The Freebirds. Hayes feuded with some of the biggest names in the history of the industry during his time as an active performer, and he “borrowed” portions of acts associated with music superstars to create his character. Hayes now works for the WWE behind the scenes, serving as a producer and also the head of agents for the company. Anybody looking to break into the WWE should review promos Hayes cut during his career when looking to form his or her character.
14. Buddy Rogers
Before the time when Ric Flair began what ultimately became a legendary career, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers was enjoying a run that would change how we know the wrestling business today. Without Rogers, the likes of Butch Reed and of the previously mentioned Flair would have had to look elsewhere for influences, and portions of his act are still commonly seen in the industry today. The figure four leglock and the struts that Flair and Vince McMahon have used while working as on-air acts were all adopted from what Rogers did as a performer.
13. Billy Graham
Any list of charismatic wrestlers would be empty if it did not include “Superstar” Billy Graham. Graham is widely regarded for being an innovator in the wrestling business, as he helped shaped what wrestling fans now know as promos. Graham’s interviews were unlike any others that the industry had seen before him, and he has been praised for helping influence some of the most popular workers in the history of the business. WWE fans who enjoyed watching the likes of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Scott Steiner and so many others owe Graham much gratitude.
12. Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon has worked as a wrestler at times of his life, and thus he has to be included in this list. The heel “Mr. McMahon” character that was created following the “Montreal Screwjob” incident changed the tide in the Monday Night Wars as it helped propel the World Wrestling Federation ahead of World Championship Wrestling at a time when WCW could seemingly do no wrong. Without McMahon becoming the top heel in his company and in the industry, in general, the WWE may not exist as it does today. The WWE is still looking to recreate that magic, this time with the next man on the list playing his version of the Mr. McMahon character.
11. Triple H
The hot takes some WWE fans have about Triple H supposedly holding some talent down and about him “marrying” his way into a role of power within the company should forever be silenced. Triple H has earned everything that he has achieved while working for the WWE. He was a key player in multiple feuds that helped the WWF beat WCW at the end of the 1990s and in 2000, and Triple H was also part of two of the top factions in the history of the company – D-Generation-X and Evolution. Triple H remains a draw to this day even though he is no longer an active in-ring worker.
10. John Cena
Those who consider themselves to be in the “Cena sucks!” group of WWE fans may take offense to this, but they are not recognizing what John Cena has accomplished during what is a Hall-of-Fame career. Cena has been the top babyface draw in the business for over a decade, and he also turned what could have been a comedic role of a heel rapper into what became the best character in all of the WWE. Nobody in the WWE has had a better run than Cena over the past 15 years, and his ability to draw reactions – positive and negative – from fans is unmatched in the business today.
Charisma comes in different forms, and that fact is no more noticeable than in Undertaker making this list. He did not jump up and down and scream and yell during the prime of his wrestling, and yet the Undertaker character has featured on WWE television for over two decades and is seen as one of the most successful in the history of the company. Credit for that has to go to the man tasked with playing the role. Undertaker has done far more with the gimmick than anybody could have imagined back in the 1980s, and he is a living legend who makes headlines among industry insiders whenever he appears on WWE television.
There were, in the early days of his career, a number of reasons to explain why Sting would not be a major hit among fans. His promo work was shaky, and he was not all that great inside of the ring. Sting evolved as an overall performer, in part because he was helped out by feuds with Ric Flair, and the former bodybuilder went on to become the face of WCW before the company died an unfortunate death in 2001. Nobody will ever mistake Sting for being an in-ring marvel, but the man made a good living for himself because he had a charisma that allowed him to play a top babyface.
7. Ultimate Warrior
Say whatever you will about his work inside of the ring and also about some of the more controversial comments that he made when he was no longer an active WWE in-ring performer. The Ultimate Warrior should be recognized as one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the history of that company. Everything from his promos that often left fans scratching their heads to his deciding to sprint to the ring before matches made Warrior a favorite among those who followed the WWF in the 1980s and early 1990s, and it was his charisma that got him over more so than what he did during matches.
6. Randy Savage
Some people are seemingly born to work in their chosen professions, and that was the case with the “Macho Man.” A talented baseball player who could have possibly made it in the sport, Randy Savage instead went all-in on a pro wrestling career, and fans were privileged to see him work in the industry for decades. Savage was responsible for some incredible promos during his career – look for “the cream rises to the top” as just one example – and he was able to flip from babyface to heel and back with no problem.
5. Shawn Michaels
He was, in his time, truly the showstopper, the headliner, the main event and, of course, the “Heartbreak Kid.” Shawn Michaels is widely recognized as one of the best overall wrestlers in the history of the WWE, and he was part of a plethora of classic matches that were the best parts of shows and that helped improve upon what was already a legendary legacy. HBK was like a fine wine in that he only got better with age, and Michaels would probably be one of the top workers in the WWE today were he to decide to return; which is, unfortunately for fans, not happening.
4. Hulk Hogan
It is a safe bet that there are more than a few WWE fans who would consider Hulk Hogan to be the most charismatic wrestler to ever work in the industry. Hulkster’s contributions to the business and also his greatness as a performer cannot be denied, but it also has to be remembered that he had plenty of help along the way from bookers and heads of companies who were more than happy to push Hogan straight to the top of cards. With that said, Hogan was absolutely tremendous as both a babyface and a heel, and he is at worst in the top-five of any list of all-time great wrestlers.
3. Steve Austin
There was once a time before he was known as “Stone Cold” when Steve Austin would never had been thought to make such a list. That speaks more about how those running WCW at the time squandered a man who could have possibly saved the company during the Monday Night Wars. Austin became the biggest star in all of the business when Vince McMahon allowed him to be himself but with the microphone turned all the way up, and the company has spent the last decade searching for the next edition of “Stone Cold.” Keep looking, WWE, because Austin was one of a kind.
2. Ric Flair
There are pockets of WWE fans who will remember Ric Flair for being the older wrestler who would, from time to time, drop elbows on clothing items while cutting promos inside of rings. You would have to go, either via the WWE Network or a website such as YouTube, and watch Flair’s work during his prime and during the 1980s to truly appreciate the charisma that he had when he was arguably the best overall wrestler in the business. Flair’s greatness cannot be oversold, and anybody looking to break into the industry would be wise to review all aspects of the career had by the “Nature Boy.”
1. The Rock
The wrestler who has called himself “The most electrifying man in sports and entertainment” has proven himself to be that and more over the past two decades. The Rock has had the type of professional career that most wrestlers could only dream of, making the transition from an active in-ring performer to a legitimate movie star who frequently stars in Hollywood hits that make millions upon millions of dollars. WWE fans will remember Rock for all that he did while working for the company, but that Dwayne Johnson has done well to make a name for himself outside of the ring.