The last couple of weeks here on PWO, we have seen several threads talking about who was the best at working in various decades. This, in turn, led to me having a conversation in person with one of my friends about it. That conversation then spawned into a lot of listing names and trying to back-up each selection with examples of why they were great. We were better at eliminating names than being able to defend them and bump them up, for one reason or another. It probably had a lot to do with our pessimism and cynicism. That being said, that discussion then morphed into "OK, well if these guys are great if we're solely looking at in-ring work, who are the top guys if we look at everything BUT in-ring work?"
I'm not sure if this would make a good thread or not, so I thought I would write a blog about it instead. I do have two questions to ask at the end.
Obviously there were a few names that immediately sprang to mind: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan..
I should preface this by saying that there are a lot of people with a bigger knowledge or pro-wrestling than me, especially around these parts. I was born in 1981 and didn't start watching wrestling until about 1987 or so. I missed the territory days and for me, growing up, it was a lot of WWF and then later on some TBS NWA/WCW and some ECW at the end of 1998. I took a hiatus from wrestling sometime around the WWF steroid trial. I came back and starting watching against, unsurprisingly, in 1996. So I saw a lot from '87-'92 then from '96-present. I got internet access in January of 1999, right after Starrcade 1998, where I saw Kevin Nash end the streak of Goldberg. One of the first things that I did was go on-line to read about impressions of it, and to my surprise, I saw a lot of people shitting on both Nash and Goldberg, and from there.. things changed.
As that were, if anything, I just found myself finding more information about wrestling, broadening my horizons and seeing a lot more wrestlers, promotions, and shows due to the power of this media age. I was able to read about the history of wrestling, watch the work of guys when they were still in their prime, see recognizable faces without the WWF gimmicks attached to them.
Even so, I find it hard-pressed to name too many names in this discussion with them not being huge WWF mainstays. Hulkster, Rocky, Stone Cold. There have been a lot of great promo guys over the years. Ric Flair was name-dropped, as an example. However, a big part of what made Flair great was he would build-up the match and then the match would deliver too. But if we're taking the match out of the equation and we're just going on the ability to get over a character, have memorable stories and promos? He's still in the conversation but from the stuff I have seen, it was more about his matches. Growing up, using Hulk Hogan as an example, I remember the stories; the soap opera. I remember him getting squashed by Earthquake and having kids sent in their get well soon cards. I remember Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter and Hogan getting a fireball in the face. I remember the Mega Powers exploding and Savage attacking Hogan in the medical room as the doctors were tending to Miss Elizabeth. Hell, I remember Zeus blocking the steel cage door and beating Hogan down so that his match with The Big Boss Man didn't happen! Then Hogan would cut promos, monumental promos about fault lines cracking, towers falling and dog-paddling... The Rock did everything from sing-a-long songs to the infamous "This is your life" segment. He was legitimately funny and entertaining. I remember having discussions about his ring work actually, because it was not as crisp as that of others. More specifically knocking his Sharpshooter or Belly-to-Belly Suplex or whatever. When it came right down to it though, none of that mattered. He was just too entertaining and you wanted to see what he would do next. The same with Austin. Who is he going to stun? What is he going to drive to the ring? It wasn't about the matches at all.
So here are my questions:
1. How much do the actual matches really matter, especially in this day and age.
2. Who is in the conversation that isn't Hulk Hogan, The Rock or Steve Austin?
I'm sure a case could be made for Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Maybe Mick Foley.