Hulk Hogan Tops List of Best Professional Wrestlers of All-Time

There have been thousands upon thousands of professional wrestlers through the years and even more who have trained to become one. You can watch any wrestling event and hear about the legends of yesteryear and never know exactly what they’re talking about. Right now, we’ll go through the top ten professional wrestlers of the modern era. That means, no Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Buddy Rogers, etc. This list is limited to the United States. No Japanese or Mexican superstars, and there are plenty of ’em.

Before we get to the list, let’s go over the unofficial and inexact science of grading each wrestler. Everything will be judged, from in-ring talent to mic work to whether or not they were a successful wrestler (on an Championship level and financial level). Personal bias’ will (hopefully) be put aside. Of course, many of you will disagree with the ordering but please take into account all of the above. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

10. RANDY “MACHO MAN” SAVAGE

# of Promotions held Title with: 4 (Southeastern Territories, ICW, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1988)
Most Notable Match: v. Ricky Steamboat, Wrestlemania III 1987
Most Notable Feud: Hulk Hogan (1989)

Randy Savage was one of the most well known wrestlers in America in the late 1980s. He was always the #2 guy during his heyday with Hulk Hogan even when Savage was the WWF Champion. When he jumped over to WCW in the mid 90s, he immediately became an impact player. In his prime, Savage was as skilled as anyone. A wrestling tactician with as much speed as anyone. His famous elbow from the top meant an end to any match. Sadly, a back injury earlier this year has resulted in retirement for the former Champion. Savage will always be remember for the phrase, “OHHHHH YEAH!!!” in his raspy voice.

9. THE ROCK

# of Promotions held Title with: 3 (USWA, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1998)
Most Notable Match: v. Steve Austin, Wrestlemania XVII 2001
Most Notable Feud: Steve Austin (Mankind 1998-1999)

Easily the most charismatic wrestler of all-time, the Rock cracks in at number nine. He would be higher on the list if not for his early jump to Hollywood where has become a successful actor. Still, the Rock has done as much as anyone in wrestling. He jumped onto the national scene in late 1996 and less than a year later would become the brunt of fans loathing everywhere. It wouldn’t take much longer until he would jump into the stratosphere and become one of the all-time greats. His ability to entertain people on the microphone is unmatched by anyone. Nobody had a crowd in his palm much like he did. When he returned to the ring to take on Hulk Hogan a few years ago, he helped create an
unforgettable night in Toronto, Canada. At only 33 years of age, the Rock is still among
the best in the world but his movie career will likely field the majority of his time.

8. THE UNDERTAKER

# of Promotions held Title with: 3 (USWA, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1991)
Most Notable Match: v. Mankind, King of the Ring 1998
Most Notable Feud: Mankind (1996-1998), Kane (1997-2004)

Mark Calloway joined WCW in 1989 and reached mild success as a member of the SkyScrapers tag team with Dan Spivey. Just a year later he would join the WWF and would begin a road that is still being paved to this very day. The Undertaker is still an amazing phenom in the sense that he has been able to change with the times and keep things overly fresh. He was an original when he debuted at the 1990 Survivor Series, and almost immediately showed everyone he was here to stay. As a newcomer, in 1991, he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title. One of the most respected wrestlers in wrestling, he is a
testament to hard work and dedication. His name goes hand in hand with such terms as casket matches, hell in a cell and inferno matches and he is truly a living legend.

7. KURT ANGLE

# of Promotions held Title with: 3 (PPW, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (2000)
Most Notable Match: v. Chris Benoit, Royal Rumble 2003
Most Notable Feud: Steve Austin (2001), Shawn Michaels (2005)

The only Olympic Gold Medal winner to ever wrestle for WWE clocks in at number seven. He didn’t get his start in professional wrestling until after his 1996 amazing win which in itself is truly unbelievable. How could a guy so young into the industry be so great so fast? Angle is the best wrestler in the world today. With a scary expertise at the entertainment craft and the wrestling craft, he is pure gold. It took about three years from the time he won his Olympic Medal to sign a WWF/E contract but he hasn’t looked back. He’s endured a number of surgeries to repair a painful neck injury stemming from his amateur wrestling days. There’s no telling how much time left he has to wrestle so it’s suggested that you take in everything you can and enjoy.

6. STING

# of Promotions held Title with: 1 (WCW)
Largest Title held: WCW World Heavyweight Title (1990)
Most Notable Match: v. Sting Great American Bash 1990
Most Notable Feud: Ric Flair (1989-1991), Hulk Hogan (1997)

The face of WCW, was the only top star to never wrestle for the McMahon family at any point. Sting was the only man that would have been able to (rightfully) take the torch from Ric Flair and run with it into the 1990s. One of the prime characters during the famous nWo storyline, he carried the company through the entire year of 1997 on his road to the eventual fight with Hulk Hogan for the World Title at Starrcade. Since finishing his WCW contract in 2001, he has wrestled sparingly for WWA and TNA. While rumors have floated around for close to four years that he was close to coming to terms to come to WWE, nothing has been confirmed.

5. BRET “HITMAN” HART

# of Promotions held Title with: 3 (Stampede, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1992)
Most Notable Match: v. Steve Austin, Wrestlemania XIII 1997
Most Notable Feud: Shawn Michaels (1993-1997), Owen Hart (1993-1997), Steve Austin
(1996-1997)

Bret Hart should be higher on this list but his cut and dry style of interview takes him down a notch. Hart was a premiere wrestler for the WWF during the mid-80s to the late-90s. Trained by his father Stu Hart in the famous Hart Family Dungeon in Calgary, he was one of the best technical wrestlers ever. His famous matches range with such greats as Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Owen Hart, Undertaker, Sting, Chris Benoit and more. The infamous Montreal Screw-job led to his departure and quick arrival in WCW. From there he didn’t do much due to backstage politics and suffered a career threatening concussion in a match with Goldberg in 1999. He suffered a stroke, unrelated to wrestling, in 2002 but has since made a strong recovery. He’ll never wrestle again but hopefully he will return at some point to television and get a prideful send-off that he deserves.

4. “HBK” SHAWN MICHAELS

# of Promotions held Title with: 3(NWA, AWA, WWF)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1996)
Most Notable Match: v. Bret Hart, Wrestlemania XII 1996
Most Notable Feud: Bret Hart (1993-1997), Diesel (1995-1996), Triple H (2002)

Shawn Michaels, of course, is and will always be connected with Bret Hart. Like his counterpart, Michaels started his wrestling career as a member of a tag-team. But the potential soon turned into hard results and he rocketed into super-stardom. Michaels had that rare quality to connect with the fans and flat out give them a show they’d never stop talking about. Say what you will about the man but he is one of the all-time greats. Stories have been told about what a terrible person he was and has since found religion. His career was thought to be over after a back injury sustained during a match with the Undertaker in 1998. After losing to Steve Austin at Wrestlemania the next year, nobody expected to ever see him wrestle again. Three years later, he surprised them all when he returned to fight Triple H at SummerSlam. Since then, Michaels has gone on to have some of the best matches of this short century.

3. “NATURE BOY” RIC FLAIR

# of Promotions held Title with: 3 (NWA, WCW, WWF)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1992)
Most Notable Match: v. Vader, Starrcade 1994
Most Notable Feud: Sting (1990), Hulk Hogan (1994-1995), Mr. Perfect (1993), Randy
Savage (1992-1996), Ricky Steamboat (1989-1990)

Ric Flair is called the best ever by many, but not me. You should know the top two spots by now but back to Flair. The man has been able to sustain that aura for over 20 years. A member of the Four Horseman, helped create the use of factions. However, best known of Flair are his terrific matches with some of wrestlings best. His series of matches with Ricky Steamboat in the NWA are recognized as the best ever. In 1975, however, his future career was in doubt. He was involved in a plane crash which killed some of the passengers and broke Flair’s back in three places. After being told he’d never wrestle again, he worked his way back and went on to become one of the best of all-time. Whether it’s the dirty tricks he’s patented or the flips and flops he’s made famous, Flair is wrestling to most people. The reason I don’t have him higher is because nationally and in the mainstream, he never caught on as much as these next two guys.

2. “STONE COLD” STEVE AUSTIN

# of Promotions held Title with: 2 (WCW, WWF)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1998)
Most Notable Match: v. Bret Hart, Wrestlemania XIII 1997
Most Notable Feud: Bret Hart (1996-1997), Owen Hart (1997), Undertaker (1998), The
Rock (1998-2004)

Steve Austin is the sole reason why WWE is still in business today. In the mid-1990s the WWF was at a crossroads, business was down and WCW was beating the hell out of ’em. It was at this point in 1996 that a guy by the name of Steve Austin took off like a rocket ship. With this little phrase, wrestling would never be the same: “Austin 3:16 said I just whooped your ass.” Earlier in the decade, Austin was a pretty successful wrestler in WCW. After joining Brian Pillman to form the Hollywood Blondes, Austin went on his own to become “Stunning” Steve Austin. He reached the United States Title but due to backstage politics would not be able to get higher. After being fired by WCW President Eric Bischoff (and being told he couldn’t sell merchandise), Austin went to ECW. Although he only had less then a handful of matches in the Philly promotion, he was able to rejuvenate himself and conduct some of the funniest interviews ever. He parodied Bischoff and Hulk Hogan who he both blamed for his departure from WCW.

In early 1996 he came to the WWF and then in June, won the King of the Ring and Royal Rumble in January of 1997. At Wrestlemania, he had arguably the best Wrestlemania match of all-time in a heated fight with Bret Hart. At the next Wrestlemania, he defeated Shawn Michaels and finally became World Champion. The rest…as they say is history. He put professional wrestling back on the map and single handily made WWE Chairman Vince McMahon a billionaire. Steve Austin could be number one on this list but without this next guy, Austin would never have had the opportunity to succeed in WWE.

1. HULK HOGAN

# of Promotions held Title with: 4 (NWA, IWPG, WWF, WCW)
Largest Title held: WWF Championship (1984)
Most Notable Match: v. Andre the Giant, Wrestlemania III 1987
Most Notable Feud: Andre (1980s), Randy Savage (1989), Ric Flair (1994), The Rock
(2002), Shawn Michaels (2005)

Hulk Hogan is the answer as to why professional wrestling was ever in the mainstream and gained national and international publicity. Back in the mid-1980s, pro wrestling was still territorially based around the nation. That all changed when Vince McMahon’s WWF boasted around its new World Champion, Hulk Hogan and premiere Wrestlemania in 1985. Once most of the territories were rushed out of business or sold, pro-wrestling was recognized by everyone and more specifically, so was Hulk Hogan. The guy was never a great wrestler but he was a showman. His interviews were as entertaining as anything ever seen before. His match-by-match form of “Hulking up” would get everyone in the crowd on their feet and joining in.

When fans were tired of his good wholesome character, he had enough business sense to understand and go along with the New World Order storyline that literally shocked the world. From the mid-late 1990s, Hogan was again at the top of his game. Due to politics and poor top management, WCW would go out of business and Hogan would probably be assumed to be done with wrestling.

Again, people were thrown for a loop. Hogan returned to the WWF nearly a decade after leaving. Fans were still going gaga for the legend and it ultimately culminated at Wrestlemania 18 when he fought The Rock. After being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, at the behest of the fans, he returned to the ring for “one more match.” At SummerSlam he defeated Shawn Michaels in one of the few remaining possible dream matches.

It’s simple to knock Hogan for his minor in-ring wrestling ability or his negative politicking but by the end of the day, you must give him credit for establishing pro wrestling. If it wasn’t for him, pro wrestling would still be in territory mode and the like.

There you have it. The best ten wrestlers of all-time, or at least this modern era. Now think ahead to the future and the end of this decade, at that time will any current wrestlers be able to crack this list? There’s nothing stopping the likes of Shelton Benjamin, Carlito Cool, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and others from working their way to the top of the wrestling world. These ten men, all of them, reached the pinnacle of their industry (some longer than others) and all have carved their own name into the fabric of professional wrestling forever.

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