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The Best WWE Professional Wrestlers of All Time

Updated on June 5, 2017
Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine is a writer living in South Africa. He enjoys writing about music, video games, and online marketing.

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The Undertaker

The Undertaker came into the WWF in the early 1990's, and he was part of Ted Dibiase's stable, and like Lesnar is to Heyman, Taker was unstoppable and easily Dibiase's best acquisition ever.

Undertaker would quickly go on to cement himself as the top dog in the company, and his streak at Wrestlemania began after beating Snuka, then Jake Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Psycho Sid, Kane -- the list went on, and it included the who's who of the wrestling world and went on until Lesnar managed to break the streak after 21 consecutive wins.

Taker also held numerous WWE and World Heavyweight championships in his illustrious career and tag teamed with the likes of Mankind, Big Show and Kane. He was also the head of the infamous group, the Ministry of Darkness, which really consisted of an alliance between the Brood (which had Edge & Christian in it) and the Acolytes, as well As Mideon and Viscera, and this culminated in a feud with the Corporation.

There was a time after this where Taker, it seemed, lost his edge, and adopted a new persona for some time, referring to himself as the the American Badass or Big Evil, and took on a new look and character which was miles apart from the Taker we knew in the past. Also, injuries that occurred during this time meant that Taker wasn't really at a strong point in his career.

But in 2004, he came back as the Deadman that we all knew and loved, and for a time had a very successful run, with more championship reigns and of course the ongoing steak to complement it. He also mended fences with Kane, his on screen half brother and they tagged together again as well as the Brothers of Destruction. After a time, his appearances in the ring became less frequent, mainly restricted to Wrestlemania.

The Undertaker was never your typical big man in wrestling. He could brawl, being an imposing figure at nearly 6 feet 8 inches, but he was also quick, could throw fast punches, and had uncanny agility, able to throw himself into the air in death defying suicide dives, balance and jump off the top rope, and was known to wrestle quite a methodical, technical match, which was always a pleasure to watch, whether you liked him or not. He was quite well rounded for a big man, certainly well above average. Most men his size didn't have the quickness, agility, tenacity or expertise that he demonstrated in the ring. A man of few words, he always let his actions do the talking, and often got inside the heads of his opponents before the match even began. Few people could play mind games like The Undertaker.

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Kane

In 1997, during the very first hell in a cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, nobody was expecting what happened that night: for a near 7 foot giant of a man in a red mask to walk to rip the door of the cage right off and tombstone The Undertaker. This was Kane – Taker’s long lost half brother, and was he a menacing sight to behold.

Kane had a long feud with his brother, before taking on everyone else, decimating the locker room, including one incident where he set Jim Ross on fire. After some time the Big Red Monster seemed to calm down, even becoming a fan favourite, teaming up with Rob Van Dam and winning the tag team championship.

But it wasn’t too long before Kane went back on to a destructive path again, even losing his mask and turning heel once more. He terrorized the WWE for several years, before coming to a realization: up until then, Kane had only had very brief tastes of gold, so he set out to win and keep the World Heavyweight championship for a lengthy reign.

After he lost the title, the devil’s favourite demon vanished for some time, only to resurface once again with his mask, and his old black and red attire, along with his original theme music. The Old Kane had returned, perhaps having grown sick and tired of people’s reaction to his hideous looks, and wishing to embrace the hate again.

Kane always filled the role of a malevolent giant that needed felling perfectly, and although he didn’t hold many singles titles in his career, he was part of several high profile and very successful tag teams, including teaming with Mankind, RVD, The Big Show, Daniel Bryan, and even The Undertaker himself. He is certainly one of the strongest men to ever set foot in the ring -- this has been claimed by several men, including Brock Lesnar and The Big Show. He had quite a huge frame and physique in his prime. He wasn't necessarily have good conditioning, but did possess natural, raw power that few could match.

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Shawn Michaels

Not too many wrestlers are known for their looks, but part of the Heart Break Kid’s success was down to just that. Gyrating and dancing around and inside the ring, he was every girl’s fantasy.

Shawn started with professional wrestling in 1984 at the age of 19, and Jim Ross claims to have called his very first match. He began to make a name for himself in a tag team in the AWA with Marty Jannety in the 1980’s called The Rockers, and WWF signed them in 1987, only for them to leave shortly thereafter. But they returned the following year, and quickly became one of the must see tag teams around despite never really being champions apart from one controversial time when they were but then they weren't again.

Eventually after dabbling in singles competition a few times, Shawn knew that with most successful singles competitors, he had to break free and go it on his own – and the way he did that was by super kicking Jannety and putting him through a window on the set of the Barbershop, hosted by Brutus Beefcake.

Shawn went on to achieve immense success, and garnered a number of nicknames over the years, such as the icon, the showstopper, the main event, and Mr. Wrestlemania. His legendary run in the mid 1990's ended suddenly however after he sustained a back injury at the Royal Rumble in 1998. This injury was worsened in his last match at Wrestlemania that year, before he sought to recover from the injury. He waited some time before finally having surgery but then problems with drug addiction prevented him from coming back earlier than he really did, which was later on in 2002, when he competed in the first ever elimination chamber match, defeating the defending champion, Triple H, to win his fourth and last singles title.

Some consider his second run to be as good, perhaps even better than his first, as he more than held his own against newer talent, putting on great matches with Y2J, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle, Shelton Benjamin, and others.

He is considered by many to be the best in ring performer of all time, including the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin. And when he wasn’t wrestling, he captivated audiences with his charismatic promos, and his emotional speeches. It was a no brainer then that he was a first ballot candidate for the WWE hall of fame the very year after he official retired in his last match at Wrestlemania against The Undertaker.

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Triple H

Paul Levesque nearly went down a very different path in life in this early 20’s. He had grown up spending most of his free time in the gym, and was due to go to college to study graphic design. Then in 1992, he decided he wanted to pursue professional wrestling, the only real sport he had ever followed while growing up, idolizing the likes of Ric Flair. WWF offered him a job, but he thought he needed more experience, and so competed in the indie circuit known as Terra Rising, having been trained by Killer Kowalski. By 1994, he was in WCW and was a lackey to Lord Stephen Regal, before eventually making it to WWF in 1995, as the Connecticut Blue Blood Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

Up until this point, not many liked HHH – not the fans, and not the critics either. They accused him of relying too much on his legs and knees for manoeuvres (something he would regret later on perhaps when he ended up tearing both quadricep muscles in the space of a few years). He was nothing more than a gofer or a sidekick in the Kliq and in the original De-Generation X. But after HBK was put out of action due to a seemingly (at the time) career ending back injury, Hunter stepped up to the plate and became the leader of the new D-X, and later sold out and joined the Corporation and from there rose to the top of the pile, forming another successful stable in Evolution and winning all in all 14 world championships – currently the 3rd most after Ric Flair and John Cena, who are both tied at 16.

HHH isn’t just a great wrestler, but also a brilliant tactician outside the ring as well. He married in to the McMahon family, becoming Vince’s son-in-law, and after he stopped competing full time was given a job as the COO or chief operating officer of the WWE – so if anything he is set to be around in the WWE for a long time to come. And one thing is for certain: nobody plays a better villain than the game.

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Edge

Edge made quite an impact early on in his career.

In the early and mid 1990's he was on the Canadian indie scene where he wrestled as Sexton Hardcastle and Adam Impact, and he formed a tag team with Christian Cage called Hard Impact, but they were also known as the Suicide Blondes and the Canadian Rockers, probably inspired by the likes of Steve Austin & Brian Pillman, as well as Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty.

In 1998 he officially came into the WWE, after having small time involvement with them over the past year or two, and his image at the time was that of a violent, sociopathic loner who liked to inflict pain on people, usually random strangers in public places at night like at train stations, and alley ways., before he eventually became a part of the Brood with Gangrel.

It wasn't long before he tagged with Christian, his long time friend, and became Edge & Christian. They went on to become multiple time tag team champions together, until eventually Edge started to forge his path as a singles competitor when he won the King of the Ring in 2001, and he became a fan favourite for siding with the WWF during the invasion storyline.

After holding the intercontinental title several times, it looked as though he was destined for stardom, but a nagging neck injury caught up with him and forced him out of competition for over a year.

When he came back though in 2004, he blazed a trail heading straight towards the WWE championship, first winning the intercontinental championship for a 5th and final time from Randy Orton, and then winning the first ever money in the bank ladder match. He headed into a long lasting rivalry with John Cena, who was at the time champion after Wrestlemania 21, taking the title from JBL, and had a target on his back, being challenged by the likes of Christian and Chris Jericho. Edge bided his time and later cashed in the contract at New Years Revolution the following year, beating John Cena after a grueling elimination chamber match which John had actually won to retain the title.

This was Edge's first WWE title reign, and easily one of his most memorable even though he didn't hold it for long, earning him one of many nicknames, the ultimate opportunist.

Edge went on to hold the top title several more times during his career, even after being out with another injury later on, eventually putting him at an 11 time champion, until he was forced to retire after he reinjured his neck. He holds the record for most World Heavyweight title (not WWE title) reigns at 7, and is one of the most decorated wrestlers in the WWE, having had over 30 title reigns during his career. He was inducted into the HOF in 2012.

Edge was often cited as having one of the most impervious move sets in wrestling, being able to hit anyone at any time from any direction, whether it be from the top rope with a missile drop kick, spiking them on the mat with the impaler DDT or crushing them with the spear from one of the four corners of the ring. He also brought a last gasp of the fading attitude era with his live shows with Lita, and engaging in more than a few raunchy angles in his career involving divas and love triangles. This obviously gave him the name, Rated "R" Superstar.

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Stone Cold Steve Austin

Steve Williams started his career in WCW, as a long haired blond – much the opposite of how we came to know him in later years. He was considered one of the most charismatic rookies the promotion had to offer, and after being part of a tag team with Brian Pillman for some time as the Hollywood Blondes, he had some success as United States champion.

After being fired from WCW, he ended up in ECW where he mainly did promos as he was injured, and it wasn’t too long before he moved on to the WWF, where he worked as The Ringmaster. Unsatisfied with this gimmick, he reinvented himself as Stone Cold Steve Austin, and shaved his head completely bald and threw out some catchphrases like the legendary “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”

It was as Stone Cold that he became one of the architects of the attitude era, which officially began after HBK passed the torch at WM 14 when Austin won the match and took the title, and arguably the most popular figure in the industry during the late 1990’s, known for having a long feud with The Rock, and not to mention being the arch-rival of Vince McMahon himself.

Austin's career was cut short after he retired in 2003 after a spine injury that had been with him for several years prior, sustained at the hands of Owen Hart, but in that time he did more than enough to make him one of the most memorable characters in WWE history.

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The Rock

Rocky Maivia came into the WWF in 1996. He was a former football player who would have made it into the NFL had it not been for a career ending back injury, and the son of a Rocky Johnson, as well as the grandson of High Chief Peter Maivia. A third generation superstar, he should have been well loved and respected, right?

Wrong.

People didn't quite like Rocky to begin with. In fact it wasn't long before they outright disliked him, booed him, and the Rocky sucks chants began, even though he wasn't doing too badly at the time, having had a stint as the intercontinental champion, and being part of the Nation of Domination group.

He took a break and came back where he reinvented himself, or according to some, acted in a more natural way, which the fans clearly loved, even though he had gone full on heel by this time. He soon grew tired of the Nation though, and moved on to being on his own, where he feuded with Stone Cold Steven Austin -- the Rock taking the side of the Corporation and Vince McMahon among others. He also had a protracted rivalry with Triple H, the then leader of Degeneration X.

The Rock won a won a multitude of titles in the company in a relatively short amount of time, even forging a successful tag team with Mankind in the Rock 'n Sock connection. But as early as 2002, his appearances started to become less frequent due to his filming schedule. Hollywood was calling, and after his last (at the time) match at Wrestlemania, and the only time he ever defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin at said event, he left to pursue a movie career. The Rock was absent from Raw and the WWE for several years before coming back to begin a feud with John Cena, which eventually led to a match at Mania, which The Rock won, before he left again.

There would be a rematch between the two, after he faced off against CM Punk for the title and beat him, with John winning that match.

The Rock is often called the Most Electrifying Man in all of entertainment -- he certainly could pull off promos like almost nobody else in the business, and he could wrestle a decent match. In fact, The Rock was probably one of the few top men in the company to be effective at selling other people's moves, and didn't really have a problem with putting other guys like HHH, Austin, or Austin over when he had to.

I think even though he might be described as a jerk, he was always likeable. People who have met him in real life have said as much. I don't think one could ever bring themselves to really hate the man, especially with that wide, brimming smile.

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Chris Jericho

Jericho got on to people's radar in wrestling in ECW, despite having started his professional career years prior. One of his most successul and well known runs was in WCW, before eventually making it to WWE, where his accomplished arguably his most talked about feat - defeating Stone Cold and The Rock in the same night to become the first ever Undisputed champion, something nobody else has ever done.

Despite this, I can't help feel, apart from being in the first money in the bank ladder match that he was relegated to the mid card for most of the early to mid 2000's before he left the company. He came back though a couple of years later and quickly became a record holding intercontinental title holder before winning the World Heavyweight title again.

Chris himself said that he was no longer the same man as he had been before, even shearing off his long blonde hair, going for something more modern, even wearing different wrestling trunks. He had adopted a different, more serious look.

After tagging with the Big Show as the champions, he left the WWE again.

He came back for another in more recent years and competed against the more current crop of wrestlers, being one of the last remaining guys from the attitude era, and one of the most decorated, but has since left TV due to commitments involving his band, Fozzy.

Jericho to me, was always like the Madonna of the WWE, reinventing himself every now and again to breathe some new life into his character -- something that very few wrestlers do, and even if they do it, they aren't anywhere near as successful in their endeavors.

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Bret Hart

Bret started out his career as yet another fine young wrestler to come out of the legendary Hart Dungeon in Calgary, trained by his father Stu. He wrestled in Canadian Stampede wrestling in the 1970’s before eventually making his way to WWF in the 80’s where he was part of the tag team known as the Hart Foundation alongside his brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. It was some time before he started to compete in singles competition exclusively, and after winning the intercontinental title – typically a stepping stone to the WWE title, he won his first WWE title from none other than Ric Flair. After losing the belt to Yokozuna it was nearly a year before he won it back again.

Bret was known chiefly for two things in his career: one of them was the fact that he was a marvellous technician in the squared circle – his prowess earning him the name the “excellence of execution”, a moniker that fit perfectly with his nickname, the hitman. The second thing people remember Bret for was his long standing feud with another WWE superstar who had a similar rise to the top, Shawn Michaels – which spilled over in to real life leading up to the Montreal screw job that took place in 1997, even if the key figure in the whole plot was Vince McMahon.

After he left WWF, disgusted at what had taken place in Montreal, Bret went to WCW, where he was involved in some high profile matchups – one against Curt Hennig, and another where he faced off against the crippler, Chris Benoit. His career was unfortunately cut short after a match with Goldberg, where after he suffered a concussion, he retired.

Bret continued to train wrestlers out of the Hart Dungeon after his father’s passing, and produced several new wrestling talent such as DH Smith, Natalya Neidhart, and Teddy Hart. He is undeniably one of Canada’s greatest superstars of all time, and I’m certain that Bret will remain the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be to his many fans.

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CM Punk

Philip Brooks started his wrestling career in his early 20’s in 1999 in a backyard wrestling promotion. He was part of a tag team called the Chick Magnets (which is what CM stands for), along with CM Venom. The promotion soon went under after Phil’s brother Michael embezzled funds – an act which led Phil to disown Michael, never speaking to or having anything to do with him again.

He toiled away for the next several years on the indie scene, becoming one of the poster boys for Ring of Honor, alongside Samoa Joe. He also made appearances in TNA. It was only in 2006 that he made it in to ECW – no longer an independent promotion at that point, but more of a brand of WWE. This is where he claims he became a “Heyman guy”, after having been signed up by Paul Heyman – one of the most successful managers of all time. Before this, he debuted at Wrestlemania in 2006 as one of the gangsters riding on the car as part of John Cena’s entrance for his match against HHH for the WWE title.

He became a fan favourite with his somewhat unorthodox style comprised of different martial arts mixed with high flying manoeuvres and submission holds, and it wasn’t too long before he won his first championship – the ECW title, and from there made it to RAW, where he was probably best described as a mid-card performer for a few years, before he stepped up his game and turned heel – something which he hadn’t done since coming to WWE.

He formed the SES, or Straight Edge Society, and played the role of a hardliner. After that he assumed command of the Nexus, after Barrett left and formed rival faction The Corre.

But it was in 2011 where CM Punk really shone as a superstar when he outwrestled John Cena for the WWE championship and became involved in one of the most exciting angles in the company in years – it really was like the edginess of the attitude era of the late 1990’s, and CM Punk was at the helm. He went on to hold the championship for 434 days – the 8th longest reign in history – although a lot of that had to do with Heyman, The Shield, and even Brad Maddox. After losing the title to The Rock, CM Punk became a good guy again, and it wasn't long before he left the WWE and went to train to compete in UFC.

There have been long standing rumours that CM Punk may come back to the WWE at some point, but he claims that he is done with wrestling.

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Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle started off with amateur wrestling in college and became an NCAA champion. From there he progressed to the trial for the Olympics Games which were to be held in Atlanta, in 1996. Angle’s neck was broken. His career at stake, Angle faced two options: have surgery which would mean he would miss the Olympics, or have strengthening injections put in his neck which would allow him to compete. Against the advice of professionals, Angle opted to have the injections, and competed in the Olympics. He won the gold medal, having beaten the very man who broke his neck the year before in the trials.

Angle arrived in WWF in 1999, and almost instantly became one of the most hated wrestlers around. He was arrogant, brash, and didn’t take any nonsense from anyone. And what’s more, he had the goods to back it up – being arguably the most legitimate performer to ever step in professional wrestling ring. He was brilliant on the microphone and cut awesome promos, and not only that, but he was brilliant in the ring too. He quickly became one of the most decorated performers in WWF/WWE, and one of the toughest competitors in the locker room who was damn near impossible to beat due to his impeccable mat wrestling skills and excruciating submission holds like the ankle lock.

But Angle’s body wasn’t holding up too well due to constant pain stemming from back problems as a result from his neck injury years prior. In 2007, Angle failed a Wellness Policy examination and was fired from WWE. He went on to wrestle in rival promotion TNA where he was once again, undeniably at the top, before coming back to the WWE. After being inducted into the 2017 HOF, he now serves as the RAW General Manager.

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Ric Flair

Richard Fliehr started off wrestling in the 1970’s, before eventually becoming a household name in the 1980’s. With his long blond locks, strong physique and sound technical wrestling ability, he would become that which many wrestlers who followed him would aspire to be. HHH, HBK, Jeff Jarrett, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and many others idolised and indeed emulated The Nature Boy over the years.

Ric was known for being a party animal, but also for being one of the hardest working men in the industry; the last to go to bed, and the first to rise in the morning. This determination to be the best landed him with 16 World title reigns – a feat that nobody has managed to top to date.

Ric formed arguably the greatest stable in wrestling history, the Four Horsemen, and they were just about untouchable in the days of NWA/WCW.

In the late 1990's when his career was going nowhere, he came back to the WWE, not having been there since 1992 when he was champion. He was considered a jobber for the most part, losing to many wrestlers and putting them over, which was actually a good thing, seeing as guys like Hulk Hogan often refused to lose. This was something that couldn't be accused of for the most part. He joined Evolution with HHH and Randy Orton, with Batista coming in later and enjoyed success as a tag team champion, before eventually feuding with HHH, even successfully defending the intercontinental title against him.

He had another tag team title reign with the late Rowdy Roddy Piper before being retired in 2008 by Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania. He competed in TNA for a while, before coming back to the WWE to manage his daughter, Charlotte Flair, who has gone on to become a well known WWE women's division competitor, even having held the title multiple times.

Wrestler
Years Active
World Title Reigns
Shawn Michaels
1984 - 1998; 2002 - 2010
4
Kane
1992 -
3
The Undertaker
1984 - 2017
7
Chris Jericho
1990 -
6
Ric Flair
1972 - 2012
16
Stone Cold Steve Austin
1989 - 2003
6
The Rock
1996 - 2004 ; 2011 -
10
CM Punk
1999 - 2014
5
Bret Hart
1978 - 2000
7
Edge
1992 - 2011
11
HHH
1992 -
14
Kurt Angle
1998 -
13

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© 2017 Anti-Valentine

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    • Icankbelandean profile image

      Icankbelandean 4 months ago from Indonesia

      Undertaker my favorite.

    • NBYomi profile image

      N B Yomi 4 months ago from Dallas, TX

      Interesting list.