Who were the greatest pro wrestlers of all time? There have been many wrestlers worthy of such an accolade, so we’ll narrow down the list. Consequently, in this article we’ll take a look at the greatest pro wrestlers from 1960-2023 who primarily performed in North America. Also check out the first article in this series.
Greatest Pro Wrestlers
Andre the Giant – Born André Roussimoff, Andre was known as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Standing 7′ 4″ and weighing 520 lbs., Andre was more of an attraction than a ring technician. Due to his uniqueness, he was dispatched by the McMahons as a brand ambassador more than a retained promotional talent. As a result, he was one of the most recognizable and beloved athletes on the planet.
Bret Hart – The son of legendary wrestler/promoter Stu Hart, Bret was a talented in-ring performer. Known for the precision and realism of his moves, Hart earned the reputation of being “The best there is, the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be!”
Bruno Sammartino – experts widely consider Sammartino the greatest WWF champion. Considering his 11+ year reign (across two championship runs), we can see why he is considered among the greats. Additionally, Sammartino criticized how steroids and “vulgar” storytelling had taken over professional wrestling after retiring.
Dusty Rhodes – Born Virgil Runnels, Rhodes was an unlikely pro wrestler due to his sloppy appearance and limited technical skills. However, as a wrestler and booker, Rhodes had one of the greatest minds for the business. Also, Rhodes could talk fans into buying tickets. To this day, the American Dream’s “Hard Times” promo against Ric Flair remains among the most memorable of all time.
Harley Race – In the ring, Race was a great NWA champion, holding the title on seven occasions. Outside the ring, he had a reputation as a straight-shooting tough guy. For example, when the WWF was gobbling up territories, it tried to run a show in Race’s Kansas City territory. Race burned down the WWF ring and confronted Hulk Hogan at gunpoint to “convince” him of the error of WWF’s ways.
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Hulk Hogan – Despite limited in-ring ability, the Hulkster (Terry Bollea) oozed charisma; combined with his incredible physique, he was the perfect man for the “cartoon era” of professional wrestling. As the main draw during the WWF’s national expansion, Hogan transcended wrestling and became a bona fide pop culture icon. His NWO heel turn in WCW remains one of the most shocking turns in history.
Nick Bockwinkel – Fans overlook Bockwinkel when discussing the all-time greats, but we won’t make the same error. Bockwinkel was the greatest AWA champion in that promotion’s history, displaying amazing technical mastery, high-tone interviews, and incredible psychology.
Randy Savage – The “Macho Man” was born Randy Poffo, the son of wrestler/promoter Angelo Poffo. Savage’s persona of a barely-in-control wrestler was compelling from the start. With his outrageous interview style and meticulous execution, bookers could deploy Savage as either heel or baby face with equally outstanding outcomes. Additionally, fans remember his emotional baby face turn when he “reunited” with his manager (and real-life wife) Elizabeth.
Ric Flair – Flair (Richard Fliehr) is regarded by peers, journalists, and fans as the greatest professional wrestler of all time, with a career spanning over 50 years. Flair is the most decorated wrestler, with at least 16 heavyweight title reigns. In a nutshell, the Nature Boy did it better, and for a longer time, than any other wrestler. Woooo!
Shawn Michaels – Known as the “Showstopper,” “Heartbreak Kid,” and “Mr. Wrestlemania,” Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) was an incredible big-match performer. Despite being known as an acerbic personality behind the scenes, Michaels was dazzling in the ring. For better or worse, he was the key driver of the WWF/E’s Attitude Era.
Greatest Pro Wrestlers
Steve Austin – Steven Anderson went through several gimmicks in his career: Stunning Steve Austin, Hollywood Blonde Steve Austin, and The Ringmaster, to name a few. However, the switch to his Stone Cold persona cemented his place among the wrestling greats. Stone Cold was the classic anti-hero, the heel that fans love. In addition to his strong anti-authoritarian streak, Austin was involved in the most influential feud in modern wrestling when he took on the evil Mr. McMahon.
Billy Graham – with his ability to self-promote and incredible physique, the “Superstar” (Eldridge Coleman) inspired later wrestling big men like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and Scott Steiner. At the height of his WWF run as champion, he almost succeeded in flipping the company from a babyface territory to a heel territory.
Terry Funk – Besides his success as part of an iconic wrestling family with his father and brother (Dory Sr. and Dory Jr.), Funk’s spot on this list is due to his truly global influence in the area of the “hardcore” wrestling style. Funk’s ability to transition from a traditional NWA-style performer to a hardcore icon inspired generations of wrestlers.
The Rock – Dwayne Johnson was born to be a great pro wrestler. His father, Rocky Johnson, was a popular wrestler in the WWF, and his mother was the adopted daughter of Samoan great Peter Maivia. The Rock’s path to greatness was similar to that of Superstar Graham and Hulk Hogan: talk and charisma rocketed him to the top of the WWF/E. He’s the most successful wrestler to crossover into mainstream Hollywood celebrity.
The Undertaker – Like Steve Austin, Mark Calaway was a mid-card performer with a string of gimmicks until Vince McMahon presented him with theUndertaker persona. His streak of 21 consecutive Wrestlemania wins is likely unbreakable.
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