(authored by Jacob N.)
Top 10 Greatest Hero Wrestlers Ever
1) Bruno Sammartino is not only the greatest hero wrestler ever, he is also without a doubt the greatest professional wrestler of all time. Through the 60s and 70s, he was the ultimate top guy and main box office draw for all of professional wrestling. His greatest accomplishment in his career was perhaps being the longest reigning WWE Champion in history, having held the championship for over 7 years (or 2,803 days to be exact). He was known for his incredible power and strength in the ring which earned him the nicknames “The Italian Strongman”, “The Strongest Man in the World” and of course “The Living Legend”.
2) Although Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat may not have been as popular as some of the other wrestlers on this list, outside of wrestling, he has always been a hero throughout his entire career which spanned for over 20 years. Aside from his “Dragon” character, Ricky Steamboat is best known for his classic feud with Ric Flair and for his show-stealing match against Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania III. He achieved numerous other championship title reigns thoughout his career, including being a one time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
3) During the early 1980s, Junkyard Dog made history as the first African American wrestler who was the top star of a major wrestling promotion. As the face of the Mid- South Wrestling promotion, he would always draw massive crowds and sold out any venue where he was one of the main events. Junkyard Dog is best known as the most charismatic wrestler of his time, he signature wrestling moves such as his crawling headbutt and impressive bodyslams or “thumps” as fans called them, and how he managed to overcome racism both in and outside of the ring.
4) The “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes can definitely be considered to be one of the greatest hero wrestlers of all time. What made Dusty Rhodes stand out from every other wrestler in the 80s was his charisma, personality and his working class gimmick that many people could relate to, especially after his Hard Times interview in 1985, which would go on to resonate with thousands of blue-collar wrestling fans all across America. He was also best known for his feud with Ric Flair over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, a title which he would win 3 times with one reign being at Flair’s expense.
5) John Cena has been considered the face of the WWE since the early 2000s after his impressive debut match against Kurt Angle and his success as The Doctor of Thuganomics. He has spent the majority of his wrestling career as a hero wrestler, having only been a villain once in his earlier years which lasted from late October 2002 to November 2003. His accomplishments in the ring include 25 championship reigns, 16 of which were world championship reigns (tying with Ric Flair), as well as headlining numerous WWE pay-per-views including WrestleMania five times.
6) During the Attitude Era, Sting was the top face and the franchise player for WCW. Sting stood out from other franchise players thanks to his unique ability to evolve his gimmick, from his blonde flattop blue and white face paint surfer persona to his very popular black and white Crow inspired silent hero persona. Another thing that made him stand out was his feud with the NWO, standing up against them at a time where almost every other wrestler in WCW was a member of the New World Order.
7) Even people who don’t like wrestling know who Hulk Hogan is and true wrestling fans know that he was the main force that helped popularize professional wrestling and bring forth it’s golden age. He would see one of his biggest successes during the 1980s as the top star for the WWF due to his physical appearance and charisma, which would lead to his incredible fan support movement known as Hulkamania. Hulk Hogan was the main box office draw for WWF and would headline numerous pay-per-view events including WrestleMania a record 8 times, his most famous one being WrestleMania III against André the Giant where Hogan displayed his powerful strength by body slamming him (which became known as the bodyslam heard around the world) and pinned him to retain the WWF championship.
8) While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did act as a villain sometimes, he has spent almost his entire career as a hero and has gone on to be one of the most popular wrestlers in pro wrestling history. What made The Rock so popular with fans was his amazing charisma, skills with a microphone and famous catchphrases such as “Know your role and shut your mouth!”, “Layeth the smacketh down” and “If you smell what The Rock is cookin”. Sometime after the start of the new millennium, he would become the ultimate top wrestler in the WWF until he left in 2004 to pursue a career as a Hollywood actor.
9) Stone Cold Steve Austin can definitely be considered as a one of a kind wrestler. Rising to stardom during the Attitude Era as The Texas Rattlesnake, a rebel outlaw who refused to play by the rules of the villainous owner Mr McMahon and did whatever he could to undermine and humiliate him. Austin 3:16 was also popular for his mic skills, take-no-prisoners attitude and his redneck behavior and language.
10) Last but not least there is Daniel Bryan, who is without a doubt one of the greatest technical wrestlers in the world right now. While he may have become a villain recently, Daniel Bryan has been able to connect with fans in a way that no other wrestler has been able to do before. The WWE universe was won over by his incredible in-ring performance skills and his “never quit never give up attitude.” This growing wave of support for Daniel Bryan would become known as The Yes Movement, named after his signature chant.