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Ian's Top Ten Wrestlers

12:31:00 PMPaul

Paul's earlier Top Ten post inspired me to pay homage to some of the great wrestlers of our time as well, past and present, who made and indellible impact on my youth as well as helped me bond with my older brother over lunacy in recent years. It should be noted that while never referenced in a Monday Nostalgia, we did once sit our Dad down to an installment of WWF Superstars for what seemed like 20 minutes before, and I may be wrong, he averred, "See, ha, heh, this is just stupid," and walked away. Sooooo...

10. Mike Quackenbush

In the city of Philadelphia, PA, there's only one organization of genuinely talented athletes that actually live up to the hype the city's residents build up. This organization is Chikara, founded in 2002 by the man in my opening spot. In addition to being a great trainer and having a great eye for burgeoning talent, as well as providing a solid viable alternative to the shame that Mainstream Pro Wrestling has become, Mike Quackenbush is a supreme technician, a man who truly loves the sport and displays it with constant innovations, creating signature submissions, power moves and aerial techniques. Chikara boasts the combination of all styles of wrestling, and the founder certainly embodies that ethos of versatility. For wrestling nerds, this choice is probably considered bandwagoning, and for Philly sports fans, please have the person reading this out loud to you press play below:

9. Andy Kaufman

When Paul created his list, he inculded for each honoree a favorite moment. This makes Andy Kaufman a perfect choice, because his wrestling career is nothing but moments. There are few legitimate against calling what Andy did wrestling. The story is famous, as is the man's genuine love for the sport. And he played his role so well that there are still those who believe he didn't have the utmost respect for the people he worked with. While he never executed anything that remotely resembled a legit wrestling hold, the sport of pro wrestling is just as much about taking a beating... and about working the crowd, as we'll see in My Personal Favorite Andy Kaufman Moment

8. Marty Jeanetty

All respects go to Kevin Horner who first passed me a Rockers trading card during a Center Elementary School Halloween Parade. What's truly funny is that I jumped on the Rockers bandwagon right as their demise was being manufactured. Probably the first time I was convinced wrestling was real is when many weeks later, Marty Jeanetty ran from the crowd to confront Michaels after the Rockers split. I was geuinely surprised to see him appear, so happy I was watching it happen live and super excited to find out what would happen next. In the ensuing weeks, it appeared the Federation was giving him a chance to climb the ladder but Marty just wasn't up to the task. As I grew up and learned about the politics of pro wrestling (any profession really), I discovered that while the former tag champ worked as hard as he could, even jobbing for a long while, WWF just had no interest in developing him as a singles draw.

7. Claudio Castagnoli

In the 21st Century, no one has pointed to his noggin in an arrogant display of his ring know-how moreso or more effectively than Claudio Castagnoli. He embodies the classic heel traits that most Indy and Extreme atheletes have forgotten. He's wonderfully antagonistic, he's a damn intimidating beast of a man and he isn't afraid to hit the top rope when necessary. Of course, he receives hefty bonus points for sometimes appearing as the third Ice Cream, Very Mysterious Ice Cream (see no. 3). More impressive than anything else, for me at least, are his signature moves--The Ricola Bomb and Swiss Death. Maybe without all that his agility and wit would have gone unnoticed. But impressed or not, one must agree that he does it all with a certain unmatchable panache.

6. Curry Man

Again, all credit goes to Paul for introducing me to this man, the closest a human has ever come to an accurate portrayal of an explosion. The intro enough lets you know someone's leaving with a bump on the head and a smile on the face. If I ever had to describe anyone as a "mid-flier", it would be the King of Spice. I just have a giant soft spot for someone who can stay true to his gimmick and still wrestle seriously. He comes to the ring, gets everyone dancing, tosses the ref his cane, and then it's down to business, all tactical lock-ups and a strong reserve of energy. And yes, that is a plate of curry on his head, thank you for noticing.

[Very Honorable Mention to Super Wrong, whose dancing skill may surpass that of Curry Man.]

5. "Mean" Gene Okerlund

Yes, this is fairly pointless nostalgia and while Gene Okerlund is not known for any particularly devestating manouvers, there's simply no way wrestling would have been nearly as memorable or as exciting without Mean Gene ringside. The man's been everywhere and done everything and you can simply tell it in his voice. I've included what is just one of so many moments in the man's impressive career.

4. Bret "The Hitman" Hart

Bret Hart's an extremely easy choice. He's probably the one wrestler I don't think anyone over the age of 12 could have a List without. And again, we know how much he loved his hometown and his country and his fans; that's unparalleled, we know. We know how hard he trained and that he'd give his all at a house show attended by twenty people. The only comment I think I can add that's the slightest bit original is that even as a child, it gets boring to watch your most favorite wrestler hack it with the same moves week in and week out, but watching Bret Hart was always surprising because no matter how short the match was or what the angle, it seemed he'd always have one new move to break out in the doldrums of the middle of a match. His subtle stable of grapples was outshined only by his promo prowess. Anyway, when I was most into watching wrestling (in secret of course), Bret Hart owned the WWF, he owned the era, he owned that sport for sure. Here's a great match that has it all.

3. Los Ice Creams

This is the single greatest tag team I've have ever witnessed in my 20 years as a wrestling fan!!! In all seriousness, though, the invention of this team is solely responsible for rekindling my interest in professional wrestling as more than embarrassing nostalgia. They combine everything I love in great heels/Rudos. They take the sport and the crowd's entertainment very seriously and they don't take themselves seriously at all. They combine a clearly reverent knowledge of wrestling's varied history with a near mockery in its practice. Some signatures of theirs include the Cold Stone Stunner, the Double (sometimes, Triple Scoop Slam) and poking an opponent in the butt. It's true I've never seen them win a match, but they make losing look like so much fun! Much props to Paul for being the first and only person to share Chikara with me thus far and thus broadening and enlightening my knowledge of the (usually) square circle.

My favorite Los Ice Creams moment (part of a much larger display of silliness--UltraMantis Black announcing "Jimmies to some!"):

2. Owen Hart

It's hard to imagine Owen Hart as a heel. This isn't because he wasn't one of the most dedicated performers or because he ever broke character even for a second, but because he's so damn likeable. It's also hard to say anything new about Owen Hart since 1999, when I created an honorary though crudely sculpted Blue Blazer clay statuette in Ms. Black-Truskey's art class. Owen was a class act in pretty much everyone's publicized opinion, and it's easy to say he was championed after dying in the ring. I think it all sort of fits together, he only died because of his passion and showmanship and good nature. It's only shocking because of the vitality he displayed in the ring. Again, another versatile talent, Owen did turns as an acrobat (ie, Blue Blazer and High Energy) and mat strategist (see his feud with Bret as the Black Hart) and as a weekend brawler (during the penultimate phase of his career). I'm no insider, and no wrestling nerd, but I grew up watching Owen and it was always a very exciting treat to know he'd be making an appearance.
[Very Honorable Mention to Koko B. Ware, the other half of High Energy, and probably a huge reason I enjoyed the team so much. It's his theme music playing in My Favorite Owen Hart Moment.

1. "Macho Man" Randy Savage

If you grew up when I did, pro wrestling was a huge draw, at its peak even, and as a result, there's only maybe half a dozen choices for the top spot in your list of favorites. For me, it's always been Randy Savage. From the ostentacious entrance that leaves you expecting him to appear at every pre-school graduation ceremony you'll attend in your life to the electric conclusion of the Flying Elbow Smash, "Macho Man" never disappointed. Even when he'd burst through the wall with a Slim Jim, I still thought that was cool. One might argue that he could have spent a little more time developing his ring repetoire, but his character is perennially flawless. My favorite moment below is from a latter day WWF feud of his that never broke records or left any lasting impression, but I remember it vividly and while it's not a classic match, it certainly demonstrates his willingness to receive a thorough thrashing:

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