The World Wrestling Entertainment is the undisputed king of sports entertainment. From its original name of World Wrestling Federation, it outgrew and literally eliminated its competition. In 2001, both the World Championship Wrestling ( WCW ) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW ) folded one after the other. The WCW was bought by Vince McMahon’s WWF while the ECW filed for bankruptcy. The surviving entity was renamed WWE in 2002. Now a billion dollar industry with over four million followers, the WWE has gone a long way from its beginnings.
As the industry grew leaps and bounds, its stars also became big names not just in professional wrestling but in other avenues as well. These stars have been immortalized long after long after they have completed or even as they continue to compete.
Here are the top 10 greatest WWE wrestlers of all-time:
10. Brock Lesnar
Eat, sleep and break the streak. That wasn’t just Brock Lesnar’s famous shirt. It wasn’t even about breaking the Undertaker’s 21 fight winning streak at Wrestlemania. It’s Brock Lesnar’s personal mantra.
This former Minnesota Vikings DB ( although he was cut before the 2004 season began ) does nothing but train and get ready for big fights, whether be it in pro wrestling or in real combat sport. After achieving his first string of success in the WWE where he became Undisputed WWE Champion five months after his debut, Lesnar successfully transitioned to MMA. At the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Lesnar became UFC Heavyweight champion in 2008. Lesnar defeated the legendary Randy Couture to win a UFC belt in the fewest fights ever. After he retired from MMA, he returned to the WWE and broke the Undertaker’s 21 consecutive wins at the annual Wrestlemania event in 2014.
Currently, Brock Lesnar is part of the WWE’s Raw Brand where he is the current WWE Universal Champion in his first reign. Lesnar is married to the hottest WWE Divas of all-time: Sable ( Rena Greek ).
9. Triple H
From being Hunter Hunter Hearst Helmsley ( where Triple H came from ), he emerged into The Game, one of the most influential wrestlers of all-time. It helped that he was married to the daughter of the boss, Stephanie McMahon. But it was Triple H’s mind games and backstage presence that made him a vilified superstar with huge drawing power.
Triple H was a game changer. He founded the D-Generation X stable along with Shawn Michaels and they started a revolution that would later be the major part of the 'Attitude Era'. At about the same time, the storyline of his marriage with Stephanie McMahon made him one of the most powerful figures during the 90's. Over the next two decades, Triple H became the company's best wrestler and main attraction. He won a total of 25 world championships including 9 reigns as WWF/WWE championships and 5 as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Triple H headlined Wrestlemania seven times, a record he shares with Hulk Hogan.
Since 2011, Triple H has taken a bigger role behind the scenes. He officially married Stephanie in 2013, becoming a member of the McMahon family which controls the WWE.
8. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Who could forget the beer smashing, dirty finger flashing bad boy who loved to go against authority? What? Stone Cold Steve Austin was the poster boy of the 'Attitude Era' because he was an anti-hero who challenged authority.
Austin won a total of 19 championship during his career. These included 6 WWF champion reigns, two intercontinental belts and four tag team titles. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the fifth Triple Crown champion in WWE history and the only wrestler to win the Royal Rumble three times. Austin was a staple in the WWEs PPV cards, headlining several events including three Wrestlemania events.
He was forced to retire in 2003 following a series of knee injuries and a serious neck injury. Austin was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
7. Bret Hart
The Excellence of Execution. Bret Hart was perhaps the most technically gifted pro wrestler of all-time.
The Hitman first gained acclaim in the all-time great tag team Hart Foundation where he teamed up with Jim ' The Anvil' Neidhart. Hart later would achieve more success individually. He won a total of 32 championship belts during his glorious career and held at least one title in five decades from the 1990s to 2010. The Hitman was a five time WWF champion who reigned for a total of 654 days as champion, longer than anybody during the 1990s. He was also a two-time intercontinental champion and two-time tag team champion, making him a Triple Crown Champion in the WWF. Hart is also the only two-time King of the Ring tournament winner.
Bret Hart comes from a family of wrestlers. His father Stu was a pro wrestler who had his own promotion called Stampede Wrestling in the 70's. His late brother Owen also wrestler in the WWF. Owen died from an accident during a WWE live event.
6. Shawn Michaels
Before he became famous for being the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels was one-half of the popular tag team Rockers with Marty Jannety. After a successful campaign in the former AWA and later in the WWF, duo would have a high profile breakup in 1992 and Michaels competed individually as The HeartBreak Kid. An alliance with a Triple H led to their founding of D-Generation X which propelled Michaels and Triple H to full superstar status.
Shawn Michaels would go on to win three WWF titles, one WWE heavyweight championship and three Intercontinental title belts. He was also a two time Royal Rumble winner, first WWF Grand Slam champion and fourth WWF Triple a Crown champion. After suffering a back injury during his 1998 Royal Rumble Casket Match against the Undertaker, Michaels was forced to retire. After four months, he returned and assumed a role as matchmaker by replacing Sgt. Slaughter as WWF commissioner. Michaels returned to action in 2002, had a DX reunion before retiring for good after losing to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVI.
Michaels' real name is Michael Shawn Hickenbottom. As a child, he hated the name Michael so he was just called Shawn. Little did he know that he would become a world icon using Michaels as screen family name.
5. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior was the most enigmatic superstar in WWF history . He was a burning symbol of strength and intensity. At Wrestlemania VI, he brought Hulkamania down to its knees and a year later, he retired the iconic Macho Man. Throughout his career, he press slammed many of the greatest wrestlers to step foot in the WWF.
Born as James Brian Hellwig, the Ultimate Warrior was known for his war painted face, body builder frame and colorful arm tassels that highlighted his muscle toned biceps. The Warrior was known for his first reign as Intercontinental champion where he beat the Honky Tonk Man as a replacement for Brutus Beefcake. He add the WWF Championship to his resume when he defeated Hulk Hogan in their gargantuan match-up at Wrestlemania VI. In doing so, the Ultimate Warrior became the first man to hold both titles concurrently. The Warrior retired to a Public Speaking career in 1998 although he would wrestle one final time in Spain ten years later.
He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in April 5, 2014. The following day he made an appearance at Wrestlemania XXX and then made his first RAW appearance since 1996 on April 7th. He died of heart attack the next day.
4. CM Punk
He tried to follow in Brock Lesnar's footsteps by joining the UFC but had a disappointing debut.
Phil Brooks in real life, CM Punk is the longest WWE champion in modern era. His reign of 434 days from November 20, 2011 to January 27, 2013 is recognized as the sixth longest of all-time. Punk is the fastest Triple Crown Champion in history, having accomplished the feat in just 203 days. Brooks was a two-time WWE champion, one-time WWE World Heavyweight champion, one-time intercontinental champion and one-time tag-team champion. While he lacks the title belts that the others in this list have, Punk’s influence over the fans was unmistakable. His straight edge attitude connected well with his audience and made him one of the all-time crowd favorites in WWE history.
CM Punk was named as the 2011 Superstar of the Year is the only two-time Money in the Bank Winner. He left the WWE as a free agent in 2014 to pursue a career in mixed martial arts. After two years in the shelf, Punk made his UFC debut at UFC 203 where he lost via first round submission to Mickey Gall.
3. The Undertaker
We were taught to fear dead men walking but this one is an exception. The Undertaker was one of the most well-loved WWE superstars ever. The Big Evil had the most creepy yet electric ring entrances of all-time. Whether coming from a casket or suddenly appearing in the middle of the ring after smoke, the Undertaker was a living dead legend and the most successful gimmick in the history of pro wrestling.
The Undertaker is known for his Wrestlemania streak, where he won an unprecedented 21 consecutive matches in the annual Wrestlemania event. The streak ended at Wrestlemania XXX after the Taker lost to a Brock Lesnar. He has been in the main event of a record 69 PPV events, including four Wrestlemanias. Since beating Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship in 1991, the Undertaker won the WWF/ WWE title four times and the WWE Heavyweight title thrice. He was also the winner of the 2007 Royal Rumble.
The mystery of darkness remained until the Undertaker's final bout as he disappeared from the smoke after leaving his gloves, coat and hat in middle of the ring after losing to Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 33.
2. The Rock
Do you smell what the Rock is cooking? If you a wrestling fan from the 'Attitude Era', you know that line very well. Or the one that goes: ' The Rock says...'
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is perhaps the most successful professional wrestler ever. We say that because Johnson used his wrestling fame to become a Hollywood superstar and producer. He has appeared in major roles in big movies like The Scorpion King, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Baywatch and in the famous Fast and Furious series. But let's go back to wrestling. Johnson first wrestled as Rocky Maivia in the WWF and quickly became a superstar because of his famous eyebrow and inborn charisma. He became Intercontinental champion barely three months after his WWF debut. He would go on to win the WWF/WWE Championship eight times, with his seventh reign as Undisputed Champion. He also won the intercontinental titles twice and the tag team title five times.
The Rock's 2000 autobiography was on the New York Times' bestseller list for 20 weeks and sold 720,000 copies on hard bound cover alone. He is a third generation pro wrestler as grandfather Peter Maivia and dad Rocky Johnson ( combination of both formed Rocky Maivia ) were also wrestlers in the pro circuit.
1. Hulk Hogan
For every sport, there is an athlete who transcends it like no other. There was Muhammad Ali for boxing, Wayne Gretzky in hockey and Michael Jordan in basketball. In Pro wrestling, there was Hulk Hogan.
Hogan will always remain synonymous with the WWF. He is the most recognizable wrestler in the planet and the most popular WWE star of the 80’s. He was a box-office draw and PPV attraction everywhere he went. The Hulkster was a six time WW Champion with his last reign as the undisputed WWF champion. He was the first wrestler to win the Royal Rumble in consecutive years from 1990 to 1991. He also won 6 world titles under the WCW banner.
Hogan’s crossover popularity led to a successful Hollywood career. He starred in his own TV series called Thunder in Paradise while making appearances in movies like Rocky III, Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny and Santa With Muscles. Next to the Rock, Hogan is the most successful pro wrestler in Hollywood. More importantly, he will always be remembered as the greatest WWE wrestler of all-time.
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