In Pro Wrestling one doesn’t have to be a ring general to be adored by the masses. In fact, if the stars align and a wrestler is great in other areas aside from in-ring skill (mic skills, athleticism, physical look) they can actually get away with being incredibly over yet still manage to totally suck in the ring. The stars on this list reached an incredible amount of popularity in their own right, with a handful flat out becoming icons in and out of the business.
Before I go any further, Roman Reigns is not on the list; I figured he would be way too predictable. On the other hand, it would be way too predictable to have too many unpredictable stars on this list, which is why the first entry on this list is, well, probably a little predictable. These icons and superstars entertained us through the screens, but when it came down to it they all sucked in the ring!
15. John Cena for Most of his career.
JOOOOOHHHHNNNN CEEEENNNNAAA. John Cena is unquestioned as the (full-time yet part-time nowadays) face of the WWE over the last decade. He’s hosted Saturday Night Live, only the third professional wrestler to do so after The Rock and Hulk Hogan. Overall he’s been Vince’s main man longer than Hulk Hogan, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels. Despite improving in recent years and gaining respect (his US open challenge was one of the more entertaining parts of Raw in 2015), and admittedly being involved in some classic matches, (Vs Umaga at Royal Rumble 2007, HBK at Mania 23 and Monday Night Raw). John Cena essentially needs a greater worker to bring the best out of him. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Edge…Cena is barely ranked on this list because he’s had some rough patches. Nonetheless, he’s on the list. Arrive, 5 moves of doom, leave. CENAWINSLOL.
14. The Godfather
This man probably had the most fun gimmick of all time. For Christ’s sake he was a Pimp. He, along with millions (and millions) of fans hopped aboard the “ho” train and what was perhaps the raunchiest of the attitude era gimmicks. His theme music was awesome, his attire was great, and he had the glorious distinction of dancing to the ring with a hoard of beautiful, scantily clad ladies. They’d dance and grind up on him in one big party in the middle of the ring. As fun and hilarious as it was, The Godfather flat out sucked in the ring. To be fair, his character didn’t necessarily require him to be a mat technician, it would probably take a full-on case study to find one worthy match from him. His signature, the “Ho Train” was a fun running splash that got the crowd hyped and his finisher the “Pimpdrop” was a nice take on the Death Valley Driver. Other than that, the Godfather’s ring prowess during his pimpin’ peak left much to be desired.
13. Sycho Sid
For whatever reason, Sid was over, and he was over in a big way. Whether it be Sycho Sid or Sid Vicious, the big man has always seemed to have a connection with the fans, even if he wasn’t quite there in the ring or on the mic. Sid, while very popular at times, flat out sucked in the ring. He had a few cool moves such as a chokeslam, big boot, and his patented powerbomb, but overall it’s hard to really name a very good match from him. Let’s just say that part of the reason “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels is considered by many to be the GOAT ring performer is because he was able to carry sub-par workers such as Sid to three star matches on the big stage (watch his matches with Shawn at Survivor Series 1996 and Royal Rumble 1997). Sid may have sucked in the ring, but there’s no doubt that for many he was very entertaining.
Y’all may be wondering, was Ryback ever really popular? The answer is yes. In fact, he was incredibly over, albeit for a short period of time. Ryback was one of the most popular wrestlers in the company in late 2012. He feuded with CM Punk for the WWE Championship and failed to win the title on multiple occasions, killing the large amount of momentum he gained beforehand. He had a great catchphrase that the crowd loved to chant (“Feed-Me-More”) and his beat ’em up persona echoed the domination of another bald-headed badass on this list. Despite a few power moves here and there, Ryback pretty much blew in the squared circle. He looked stiff and moved around the ring in awkward fashion at times. Botching his own finisher on live TV didn’t help matters much either. Ryback’s time in the WWE is done for now, but at least he sucked in the ring enough to make this particular list!
11. Shane McMahon
Shane, despite barely being a wrestler, is one of the most over personalities in the WWE. His return elicited some of the largest responses of recent memory. Shane O’ Mac was more known for his involvement with his family on WWE Television as a face and heel throughout the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras. He managed to have incredibly memorable matches against Test at SummerSlam 1999, Kurt Angle at King of the Ring 2001, and against his own father at WrestleMania X-Seven. Shane is known for his aerial displays and well, flat out getting his ass whooped and taking crazy bumps. Shane gets praise because he never really was expected to be anything worthwhile in the ring. The funniest moment of all was when the WWE tried to claim Shane McMahon as being The Undertaker’s biggest threat as far as his WrestleMania opponents go…yeah…riiiiiggghhht. And those “punches?” SMH.
10. Lex Luger
Lex Luger, “The Narcissist,” “The Total Package.” Lex Luger might be the most over non-memorable pro wrestler ever. He’s a former world champion and was incredibly popular, even handpicked by Vince McMahon himself to be THE guy moving forward as the WWE entered a post-Hulk Hogan existence in the early 90s. The summer of 1993 was all about the Lex Express. Lex didn’t really take off like the WWE/Vince wanted, but he was definitely known enough to cause a wave of intrigue when he left the company to re-join WCW on their launch of Monday Nitro in September of 1995. It was there that Lex was branded as “The Total Package” Lex Luger, where he enjoyed championship runs and a lengthy time as one of the top faces of the company. All of that sounds great, right? No, not really. Lex Luger was average at best in the ring for a star of his stature. You want a challenge? Name 5 classic Lex Luger matches. No really, try. If you can than you deserve all the praise in the world.
Dave Bautista, aka Batista, made his WWE debut in the fall of 2002. He eventually joined up with Ric Flair on route to forming WWE Stable Evolution with Triple H and Randy Orton. Batista’s popularity skyrocketed when he won the 2005 Royal Rumble, broke away from the group, and won the WWE Championship off of Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania 21. Batista, along with John Cena, were the two main champions of each show (Raw and Smackdown) during the year. Batista eventually left the WWE in 2010, only to return to win the Royal Rumble in 2014. Batista, like other intense big men before him, did what he had to do to get the job done in the ring. If he had a solid match it was because of his opponent (notably HHH or Taker). Overall, he really wasn’t all that good, but with the right dance partner, he could definitely thrive. That said: arrive, punch, spinebuster, possible spear, Batista bomb, leave. He was average at best, but had the look and charisma to help led the company during its post Attitude Era and beyond. But who cares, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looks pretty damn bossome.
8. André the Giant
André the Giant is one of the most iconic figures in pro wrestling and sports history, period. This dude was as big of a star as anyone at his peak. He starred in movies such The Princess Bride and Conan The Destroyer. There are famous photographs of André the Giant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Wilt Chamberlain hanging out. Simply put, the 8th wonder of the world was a worldwide superstar whose image and appeal is echoed to this day (look at Obey clothing’s logo from Shepard Ferry if you’re skeptical). With all of that said, Andre wasn’t exactly a ring general. He was more of a spectacle and attraction in the ring. There’s only so much athleticism a big man can have, but I mean come on; watch one of his matches. He just wasn’t good at all, but that’s okay because he didn’t necessarily have to be; his sheer presence was more than enough. His matches with Hogan at WrestleMania 3 and on Saturday Night’s Main Event remain among the two biggest matches in pro wrestling history.
7. The Ultimate Warrior
The golden age of wrestling will always hearken back to the mid-80s and early 90s in the WWE. That era produced some of the most known and legendary names in the history of the business. Hulkamania ran so wild that one would think that there could be no one to even challenge his spot in the fans’ hearts. Well, believe it or not, only two wrestlers in that era come to mind as even posing a chance; Macho Man Randy Savage in 1988 and the next placement on this list slash countdown, The Ultimate Warrior.
The Ultimate Warrior was a pure product of his era; jacked, colorful, and just entertaining, especially with this iconic entrance which provided adrenaline inducing music and the image of a wild superhero-like figure running to the ring and shaking the ropes as he called to the “Gods.” The reality is, The Ultimate Warrior sucked in the ring. A clothesline here, a clothesline there, a taunt here, a taunt there, gorilla press slam, splash, and leave.
Ultimate Warrior’s most famous match is his clash against Hulk Hogan. The two titans locked up in the “Ultimate Challenge” at WrestleMania 6. The match wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but the scope was unlike what anyone had ever seen during that time; two popular faces clashing for the biggest prizes in the game. Warrior was another classic case of being carried by charisma.
6. Scott Steiner as Big Poppa Pump
Believe it or not, back in the day Scott Steiner was one of the best wrestlers around. He was incredibly athletic for his size, inventing the Frankensteiner (pretty much a standing, non-pinning hurricanrana), and was a part of one of the most popular tag teams of all time, the Steiner Brothers. The Steiner Brothers reigned in WCW and eventually split in the late 90s. Scott Steiner became even bigger and well, way more entertaining on the mic, when he became “Big Poppa Pump,” a “genetic freak” that got all the ladies and flexed his muscles while beating up on opponents. The sad thing is that Scott, despite showing flashes of his old self, became sloppy, slow, and unmotivated in the ring, resulting in a slew of piss poor matches. Don’t believe me? Check out his WWE run and all the botches that came with it. His matches with Triple H at Royal Rumble and No Way Out 2003 have to be among some of the worst matches in the company’s history. Scott Steiner overall is as talented as anyone, but ever since Scott Steiner has been Big Poppa Pump, he’s left a lot to be desired compared to his old school days.
5. Hulk Hogan
The man’s name is synonymous with pro wrestling. It’s Hulk ‘friggin Hogan. You know? Say your prayers, eat your vitamins? Hulkamania? NWO? Brother? 24 Inch Pythons? What’cha gonna do? The helmer of not one but two industry boom periods? Y’all get the damn point by now. However, Hulk Hogan is more known for his charisma, muscles, and real American gimmick than his actual ring skills. Granted, he’s been in perhaps three of the biggest matches in pro wrestling history (vs Warrior at Mania 6, The Rock at Mania 18, and the biggest one of all vs Andre at Mania 3), but when you strip away the crowds and the spectacle and take a peak…it ain’t pretty…Hogan’s aura was more than able to compensate for his lack of ring talent. Yes, fellow smarks, I know Hulk Hogan in Japan showed that he could wrestle, but no one reading this list is gonna care. Want to see one of the worst high profile matches you’ll ever see? Check out Hogan vs Warrior II at Halloween Havoc 1998…I’m sorry in advance.
4. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy was one of the most popular WWE stars of the 2000s and continued his roll in to TNA in the 2010s. Whenever he came out you might has will have had ear plugs in because young women would go crazy during his entrance. However, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, watching a Jeff Hardy or Hardy Boyz match was basically a spot fest. I know what everyone is thinking, “Oh my God. Really? Jeff Hardy? Screw you dude.” Jeff has easily had some of the most memorable matches in WWE history. We can create a list of all his crazy moments. We’re talkin’ TLC 2 at Mania X- 7, the Terri Invitational at No Mercy 1999, The Tables match at Royal Rumble 2000, The first TLC match at SummerSlam, his WWE championship match on Monday Night Raw in 2002 against The Undertaker. Does anyone notice a correlation between all of those matches? Let’s just say if it didn’t involve a gimmick, it most likely wasn’t that memorable of a match. Hardy wasn’t a technician and couldn’t really carry anyone in a match, but he surely had no problem putting his body on the line all over the ring and around the arena.
3. Brock Lesnar (2014-Present)
The Beast Incarnate, the “1 in 21 and 1,” the “next big thing;” everything else that Paul Heyman has said himself. Before I go any further; duh, obviously Brock Lesnar CAN wrestle. The man was a 2 Time NCAA champion. Brock Lesnar had one of the best debut years ever, winning the undisputed title, winning the Royal Rumble, and being in the main event of WrestleMania 19. Lesnar garnered large responses from his audiences whether he was a heel or a face. He left the WWE after an awful Mania match with Goldberg. Lesnar went on to break records and represent UFC as their heavyweight champion. Lesnar returned to the WWE in 2012 in what was definitely one of the largest responses (aka pops) in recent memory. The beast made his biggest wrestling impact by defeating the Undertaker at Mania 30, breaking his undefeated WrestleMania streak. Ever since then all Lesnar does is knee his opponent, gives them the ole’ “ground and pound” and delivers a plethora of violent German suplexes (aka taking them to Suplex City), and delivering his patented finishing move, the F-5. Everyone knows Lesnar is gifted athletically and incredibly talented. However, his latest string of matches aside from a few shock worthy moments and a classic triple threat, consisted of the same old crap. It was cool at first, but dude, it’s old and it sucks.
2. Mick Foley (at least according to Ric Flair)
In 1998 there was an online poll for Time then named “Man of the Year.” The winner of that poll with over 50 percent of the votes was Mick Foley, aka Mankind, aka Dude Love, aka Cactus Jack; nuff said. But wait. How can the hardcore legend be on this list? I myself am a huge fan of Mick Foley, so trust me this isn’t easy. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair said it in his autobiography; To Be the Man, Nature Boy Ric Flair. “When I was training, falling off a ladder was not a prerequisite to making it as a professional wrestler,” he said. The legend went on to proclaim Foley as always being known as a glorified stuntman. While I disagree with that statement, there’s no doubt that Foley has a well known history of putting his body on the line and taking extreme “bumps” (ie, getting thrown off the top of a Hell in a Cell, getting speared on to a table that’s on fire, Getting pedigreed on thumbtacks, losing apart of his ear, you get the point by now). Foley has been in many great matches, but he did it his own unorthodox way. This style made him one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history and clearly drew some controversial ire from his peers, including one of the greatest. Thus according to Ric Flair, Foley should be on the list.
Goldberg – Does anything really need to be said about this? We know the name. We’ve heard the name. We know the moves. Goldberg burst on the scene in WCW in late 1997 and proceeded to rise to insane heights by the spring and summer of 1998. The crowds would go wild due to Goldberg’s aura and pure intensity. His popularity single handily kept WCW in the ratings battle against a white hot WWE in the summer of 1998 and for the rest of the year. Goldberg is also largely remembered for his 173-0 undefeated streak, the 2nd most famous pro wrestling streak of all time. His crowning moment was defeating Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Monday Nitro on July 6th 1998.
There is no doubt that Goldberg made an immense impact on the industry and was one of the most popular superstars in the industry’s hottest period. With all of those accomplishments let’s just say there’s a reason Goldberg couldn’t really go for longer than 10 minutes in a match; because he simply couldn’t wrestle. His matches were often no more than 2 to 3 minutes long and his bad ass, football/MMA gimmick hybrid just worked. He’d perform a couple of impressive power moves and eventually end with a spear followed by the jackhammer. He had match with well-respected mat technician William Regal on Monday Nitro and the world could see that Goldberg had immense trouble when it came to having a non-squash, competitive match. Fortunately, no one cared, and for anyone that watched his rise, it was a hell of a ride. Goldberg returned to the WWE at Survivor Series 2016 and beat Brock Lesnar clean in shocking yet vintage Goldberg fashion.
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