I evaluate pro wrestlers on a few factors: 1) actual ring skills; 2) believability (do I believe that they could actually win a match against top real competition); 3) microphone skills; and 4) general personna and "pop" -- the ability to impress and carry a crowd to the reaction you want. A key criterion for these two lists (10 best, 5 worst) is that the guy must have appeared as a wrestler on the PWI 500, which is a list by Pro Wrestling Illustrated Magazine ranking the top 500 wrestlers for the time period 1978-2003. So, off we go:
10. and 9 (tie) Mick Foley -- aka Cactus Jack, aka Mankind -- gotta put someone on the list who personifies the style of all-out extreme wrestling where you put your life at stake every night. Was a deeply disturbing character as both CJ and Mankind, but was funny and clever as plain old Mick Foley.
and....Randy Savage -- Hogan was so powerful and so controlled the WWF that no one could bump him off, Savage came closest. Very funny, great athlete, RIP to his late wife, the lovely Elizabeth....
8. Curt Hennig -- RIP Mr. Perfect....there was a reason they called him Mr. Perfect. Probably top 5 all-time as a ring technician. Great at acting arrogant and dispicable.
7. The Undertaker -- I can tell you, when he first came on the scene he scared the shit out of everyone, huge man, tremendous athlete, could rank even higher but for lack of mic skills.
6. HHH -- I just think ya gotta give the guy his due. The fact is he is a believable champion, has a huge fan base and so pervaded society that Brett Favre ran around the field taunting Koy Detmer with a crotch chop shouting "suck it."
5. The Rock -- gone too soon and I doubt he will ever reacquire the taste for the road and the bumps that come with wrestling. Next to Flair, maybe the best mic skills of all time.
4. Bret Hart -- Now, you have to stay with me here, Hart would rank very low in some categories (3 and 4), but there is no one who knew mat wrestling and could actually amateur wrestle any better than Bret, great at singles, great at tags, tough as hell, you could believe that Bret could beat anyone.
3. Sting -- now, this is sort of like putting Sandy Koufax or Gale Sayers at #3 on an analogous list, but Sting before his first knee injury was the best and most charismatic wrestler that I ever saw. Big and strong, unbelievably quick and explosive. If you can get your hands on any Sting match footage 1987-1990, watch it.
2. Hulk Hogan -- category #1 is just too low of a score; Hogan had basically no ring skills but would rank 1-3 in every other category.
1. Rick Flair -- The Nature Boy - I saw him wrestle in 1978 on a 10-inch black and white with me and my brother putting each other in a figure-4 leg lock. I saw Flair wrestle in person at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh in 1988 before a Labor Law final exam; the Flair/Hogan debate is one that will never be settled. Flair is eons ahead of Hogan in category 1, slightly behind in #2, but 3 and 4 are very close. So I gotta go with Flair.
WORST ON THE TOP 500
5. Disco Inferno (#374) -- ya see, his gimmick is he likes Disco, and no one likes Disco ya see, get it? No.
4. Kendall Windham (#444) -- Barry Windham was a great wrestler. Barry Windham's father Blackjack Mulligan was a very good wrestler (Once said, "If Sheriff Joe Bob Jones saw ya puttin' the boots to a man in that situation, you'd be in down in the jail that night, by God..."). Kendall Windham? Um, I guess genetics don't always carry the day.
3. David Sammaratino (#480) -- his dad was a great wrestler, etc....(see above)
2. Mark Henry (#472) -- now suppose that you signed a guy to a 10-year guaranteed contract in a pre-scripted "sport" -- wouldn't you find some way to make him a champion for a decent stint? Um, Henry was/is so bad that the WWF/WWE could never promote him as a believable championship level performer........in 10 years of trying very hard.
1. El Gigante (#498) -- also wrestled as "Giant Gonzales" -- physique was so poor that the WCW had him wrestle in a body suit featuring fake muscles. Once donned a gladiator-type helmet and armor for a ring entrance. I am still not sure why. Former hoopster, drafted by the Hawks, 7'6" but you still could not believe that he could actually win a match. The worst.