Fans have long debated who the best WWE wrestlers of all time are. It is a subjective question that brings about many different opinions from the company’s very diverse fan base.
Does being the best have to do with box office appeal? The uniqueness of a character? How good a performer was in the ring? Staying power and versatility? In the end, all of the above and more should probably factor into deciding the best of the best.
With that in mind, let us further fan the flames of this decades-long discourse with our top 20 list of the best performers to ever grace a World Wrestling Entertainment ring.
Honorable mentions: Andre the Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Jeff Hardy, The Big Show, Eddie Guerrero, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Jake Roberts, Ricky Steamboat, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, CM Punk
20. Seth Rollins
When all is said and done, Seth “Freakin’ Rollins will likely move up this list and into the top 10. However, he has already put together a good enough run to land in the top 20, and he is arguably not even in his “wrestler-prime” yet. While he is hitting new heights as a character, he has long been arguably the best pound-for-pound performer on the current roster for years and can have banger matches with anyone in the company.
19. Daniel Bryan
No performer has a better underdog story than Daniel Bryan. While he is one of the best in-ring performers of his generation, that often isn’t enough to succeed in the WWE. However, the “American Dragon” evolved into one of the most entertaining and well-rounded performers in company history during his tenure. Getting to headline two Wrestlemanias is enough in itself to land on a list among the best WWE wrestlers of all time. However, he was so much more.
18. Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino was the company’s biggest star and most dominant champion before Vince Kennedy McMahon took over for his father and made WWWF an international phenomenon known as WWE. Sammartino helped build and maintain the house that would eventually expand into a universe.
17. Randy Orton
Randy Orton had a great deal of pressure put on him early in his career. And while he delivered on camera, he nearly lost his job on several occasions due to his immaturity as a very young WWE superstar. Nevertheless, he grew into one of the greatest athletic talents the promotion ever had and achieved everything that can be done in WWE — often multiple times. “The Legend Killer’s” resume is overflowing with achievements.
Edge was already a Hall-of-Famer and a legend from his era, but his ability to return from a career-ending injury after nearly a decade, and still be one of the best performers on the mic and in the ring at nearly 50 has taken his place in WWE history to another level. Few performers in the company’s existence can say they are one of the greatest singles and tag team wrestlers of all time. Edge can.
15. Mick Foley
Mick Foley brought hardcore wrestling to the masses and has had one of the biggest influences on the wrestling industry over the last 30 years. He proved that looking like a million bucks is not a requirement to be a WWE superstar in the modern era, and showed character work and development can captivate an audience even more than the most impressive moves.
14. Rey Mysterio
One of the hallmarks of a talented wrestler is the ability to work with any performer/style and deliver top-notch matches. Rey Mysterio is the epitome of that despite being one of the smallest competitors in WWE history. He broke threw all the existing invisible barriers for wrestlers under six feet tall and is still an elite performer today as he closes in on 50 years old.
13. Bret Hart
Bret Hart will go down as the greatest technical wrestler in WWE history. He taught a generation of fans that strong in-ring work was just as important as skills on the microphone, and was one of the best storytellers inside the ring that the industry has ever seen. Plus, he was the last great true-blue hero the company had before the age of “Attitude.”
12. Chris Jericho
When Bret Hart had his nasty fallout with McMahon and the WWE, Chris Jericho would eventually come along and put Canada back on the sports entertainment map, but in a very different way. For as good a wrestler as “Y2J” was, he was an even better entertainer. Jericho was one of the most well-round talents in WWE history.
11. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
Many fans know “Macho Man” Randy Savage for his wildly funny — not on purpose — promos during his 1980s WWE heyday. However, many don’t realize he was as elite a wrestler as the company has ever seen. He could wrestle a technical match or take it to the top rope and deliver picturesque moves through the air. Savage still resonates with fans today for various reasons, which proves how once in a generation he truly was.
10. Brock Lesnar
“The Beast.” It is one of the greatest nicknames in WWE history because that’s exactly what Brock Lesnar is. He is a genetic freak that is equal parts power, speed, and ferocity. He is one of the few WWE performers that had athletic success in “real” sports and was an even greater performer in the second half of his esteemed career. Due to his talent, maturity, and resume as a former UFC champion, he became a key part of the company pulling in record profits over the last decade.
9. Roman Reigns
Love him or hate him, Roman Reigns has become a megastar and is a massive reason why the company has raked in billions in revenue over the last 10 years. For years he was knocked for being the chosen one, but the last three years have proven McMahon was right. With the character shackles off, Reigns has become the best performer in the game right now, and one of the longest-reigning champions in WWE history.
8. John Cena
Speaking of love him or hate him, John Cena was the originator of the split audience reaction. He was beloved by the kids and casuals but loathed by men and diehards. He championed the promotion after the “Attitude” era and proved he was far more than the “five moves of doom” at the back end of his career. Cena was a solid wrestler but is one of the greatest entertainers in WWE history.
7. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle took WWE to a whole new stratosphere of athleticism when he brought his Olympic gold medal-winning talents to professional wrestling in the late 90s. However, where he blew diehard fans away was in his insane charisma and ability to be both fearsome and ridiculous. No performer could do everything so expertly as Angle. If he had started his career five years earlier, he might be closer to the top spot.
6. Triple H
Ric Flair will go down as one of the greatest bad guys in wrestling history. Well, Triple H is the Flair of WWE history. No performer was better at being bad than Hunter Hearst Helmsley. However, it can’t be forgotten that he was one of the founders of the legendary D-Generation X faction as well. He is one of the best WWE wrestlers of all time because his run was a major influence on many of the company’s top stars today.
5. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels is arguably the greatest pound-for-pound performer in WWE history. Few have had as many legendary matches and been a bigger influence on many of the top stars competing today than “HBK.” A bad back injury cost him eight valuable years, but the second chapter of his career, while different was just as memorable.
4. The Rock
After Steve Austin helped make WWE cool again, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson further expanded the audience with his uncanny charisma, mic skills, and underrated ring work. He is one of the few talents that had true mass appeal and turned that into a hugely successful career in Hollywood. The Rock will go down as one of the most famous and memorable WWE wrestlers of all time.
3. Hulk Hogan
We would not have WWE as we know it today, if not for the game-changing success that happened in the 1980s because of Hulk Hogan. He helped build the WWE brand nationally, made professional wrestling worthy of primetime television slots, and turned it into an early money-maker on pay-per-view. Hogan truly is the Babe Ruth of WWE.
2. The Undertaker
No other WWE wrestler has ever had the main event-level longevity of The Undertaker. It is safe to say he helped make the company a billion dollars from his success as a performer and the legion of fans he cultivated over 30 years in the promotion. He turned an oddball character into one of the most iconic personalities in WWE history. Plus, he took part in some of the most memorable matches ever. The Undertaker is a name that will still be talked about 30 years from now.
1. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin almost singlehandedly turned WWE from a niche entertainment format into one of the coolest things on television during the second half of the 90s. His iconic anti-hero character and intensity helped build a TV ratings machine for WWE on Monday nights and transitioned the company from a million-dollar company to a billion-dollar corporation. No performer had a greater influence on the company in front of the camera and on their bank accounts at his peak than “Stone Cold.”