Craig Wilson, John Carbery, Jamie Lithgow & Brian Damage
We all know the guys that fans rave about as the best of all time and who should feature, if there was one, on a Mount Rushmore of wrestling. But what about the guys that maybe don’t get the credit they deserve despite going about their job diligently? It’s those superstars that are the focus of this latest Top Five.
5. Lance Storm: Now there’s a guy that doesn’t get all that much love. A very talented performer whose work took in stints in America – for WCW, ECW and WWE – as well as in Japan. Never a world champion, but held a multitude of mid-card titles and who can forget the “If I can be serious” shtick that I thought was immensely entertaining. The fact that he now helps train wannabe bodes very well for the future of the business but had virtually everything that could have made him a very strong upper-midcarder but it just never really happened. He could have achieved quite close to the level of success that Chris Jericho did, and that’s not a slight against Y2J as I see both in quite a similar mould. You could certainly always count on Storm to deliver a top class match.
4. Raven: A second consecutive Top Five placing for Raven. I’m a huge, huge fan of Scott Levvy. Crazy, intense promos long before Bray Wyatt climbed into a ring. When all those around him in ECW were happy enough to use chairs or put people through tables, Raven had a level of depth to his character that really made him stand out. Unfortunately the same level of success didn’t quite transition into his runs with WCW and WWE but you only need to hear him speak about wrestling in interviews or ‘book’ on Kayfabe Commentaries DVDs to hear his interest and knowledge in wrestling. A very intelligent man, a great talker and with a unique character. Perhaps so underrated as his peak times came during such a boom period for wrestling.
3. Bam Bam Bigelow: I am a huge fan of Bam Bam. A distinctive look and a moveset not normally associated with big men meant that Bigelow could work as well as strike fear into opponents. Thanks largely to the Network I’ve been able to watch his run with ECW and see what a force he really was. Surprising then that, despite two stints with the company, the WWE never saw that. In the 80s, he could easily have been the foil to Hulk Hogan in a period where the company put big man after big man in front of him. During his second run he had memorable matches with the likes of Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart but will probably be remembered more for his WrestleMania 11 main event versus Lawrence Taylor.
2. Arn Anderson: Ric Flair may have taken the glory from the Four Horsemen but you really can’t underestimate the pivotal role of Arn Anderson, a man who went about his job – as the group’s enforcer – in a quiet but effective manner. Maybe you have to wonder what his career could have been had he not been in the Four Horsemen. Did it hold him back? Could he have, as a singles competitor, gone on to have a high-profile feud with Flair in the 80s over the gold? It may have led to a career worthy of a place in any Hall of Fame but you have to wonder what could have been had he not been involved in the Horsemen and been overshadowed there by Ric Flair.
1. William Regal: Could, and really should, have gotten a WWE title run. Regal, for me, is one of the most entertaining guys in wrestling history and I’m not just saying that because we are both from the same side of the Atlantic. A terrific worker, great talker and with a throwback in-ring style, he really did stand out from the crowd. Admittedly he had a few issues along the way that maybe prevented him from reaching the heights that he did. Fact he was one of two people – along with Kane – to get a shout out from Daniel Bryan during his retirement speech shows the mark he has made on the business and am thrilled with fact he still has a prominent role in the WWE.
5. Chris Masters: When the Masterpiece first appeared on WWE screens he was just another of the uncoordinated muscle men that Vince McMahon was throwing at us in the mid 2000’s. However, over time Masters really applied himself and became a really capable big man. If you’ve ever seen him wrestle on the independents you can see what an accomplished performer he’s become. Sadly he’ll probably be best remembered by most as the guy with the massive pecs who used a Full Nelson as a finish.
4. Too Cold Scorpio: A guy who never really got a main event push anywhere, but a mid card stalwart of ECW, WCW and the WWF throughout the 90s who always delivered. Scorpio was one of the best flyers of the age and always entertaining to watch, though someone who never seems to get the acclaim he deserves. I’d recommend checking out his ECW matches from 1996 to see just how talented he was.
3. Steve Grey: The prototypical World Of Sport wrestler, Steve Grey was a colourless grappler who plied his trade in matches against much more famous faces like Johnny Saint & Vic Faulkner. Still, when you watch these matches to see his more famous opponents you’ll be blown away by just how good Grey was. A technical master who’s well worth seeking out online.
2. Jamie Noble/James Gibson: Jamie Noble was part of the Cruiserweight scenes in both WCW and WWE from 1999 onwards and was in turn a fake Japanese Jr Heavyweight under a mask and eventually a trailer park redneck. When he was released by WWE in 2004 though that Noble/Gibson showed the wrestling world just how great he is. His exhibition of technical skill during his reign as Ring of Honor Champion in 2005 speaks for itself, sadly most television viewers never got to see this work but when he was given the opportunity to shine, shine he did.
1. Marty Jannetty: Constantly overshadowed by his fellow Rocker Shawn Michaels, its somewhat been forgotten just how good Marty was. A dynamic wrestler who put in some of the best performances of the 80’s and 90’s. While HBK certainly got his start tagging with Janetty he also had his first classic rivalry and singles matches with him. The Rockers was always an even effort, its just that with time and with the considerable achievements of Michaels, Marty has been left underrated by many.
5. Kofi Kingston: Kofi reeled off his accomplishments in a recent promo on Raw, and my goodness there were a lot. I grant you that at various intervals holding certain WWE mid-card titles may have carried very little weight, but the fact that WWE continue to use Kofi as a champion speaks volumes. I just find it perplexing that after just one extremely brief attempt to push him further up the card – with Randy Orton circa 2009 – they have done comparatively little with such a talented worker who has been constantly over with fans. To anyone who may argue that point prior to joining New Day: I bet you still enjoyed his matches, right? The irony of Kofi at the moment is that despite being underrated himself, he gets booked in matches ahead of someone even more underrated…
4. Xavier Woods: Maybe it’s because New Day are currently going so well that WWE don’t want to tamper too much, but it amazes me how little they utilise Xavier Woods. We mainly hear him in a talking role, but he is just as good in the ring too. This guy literally has everything needed to be a professional wrestler in 2016. However, he’s not 6’5”. I pray to God that WWE do not still have this big man fetish, but it’s the only plausible explanation for Xavier Woods not being deployed more often and in more meaningful matches.
3. Saturn: By his own admission, Saturn was off his face on drugs for much of his time in WWE. Thus, he did not quite reach the performance levels he once met in WCW and ECW. Having revisited every WCW Nitro and PPV from 1998 I can tell you that this guy was absolutely outstanding in his day. By 1998 the whole nWo thing was getting old, but WCW’s mid-card was stacked with future world champions (Jericho, Benoit, Mysterio, Guerrero). While Saturn did not go on to reach this level, if you want a reason to watch late 90’s WCW beyond the nWo angles and cruiserweight matches, then you won’t go far wrong with Saturn.
2. Kanyon: Chris Kanyon had the size, the ability and the personality but it just did not take off for him. His is a tragic tale, but you can’t argue that when he transformed from Mortis into Kanyon in early 1998 he quickly displayed that ‘je ne sais qua’ you see in wrestlers who occupy higher spots on the card. Upon being repackaged as Kanyon and appearing to feud with Raven one could have predicted a bright future for the former masked man. However, and symptomatic of the rest of his career, the rug appeared to be pulled from under his feet and he became Raven’s lacky instead. And I thought WWE were the masters of stop/start booking…
1. Christian: How can a two time World Heavyweight Champion be underrated? Welcome to WWE. Christian’s problem is that he will always be compared to Edge; they are lifelong best friends, with Edge being slightly older, taller and – sorry Christian – better. However, that’s not to say Christian was a tag-long rather than a tag partner. He absolutely deserved to win his World Heavyweight Championships, which were long over-due in my book. As far back as 2005 Captain Charisma was white-hot in his solo work with John Cena. Since then can anybody name a bad Christian match or promo? His series with randy Orton for the WHC is a testament to his talent. For me Christian is wrestling’s answer to Scottie Pippen. On any other team…
5. David Taylor: When people talk about great European wrestlers of the 1990’s…people talk about the likes Steven Regal, Davey Boy Smith and Fit Finlay. All great wrestlers, but one that continually gets overlooked in this discussion is none other than Dave Taylor or ‘Squire’ David Taylor in WCW. Taylor could wrestle a technical match or he could brawl just as easily. He had a brief run in the WWE as well and helped train future wrestlers down in the WWE’s developmental system. A truly underrated talent.
4. Mike Rotunda: I am certainly not talking about the wrestler he would become as Irwin R. Shyster…but the great grappler he was in his first WWF stint as a tag team with Barry Windham and his days wrestling in the NWA. Rotunda was a great technical wrestler that gets overlooked a lot, but make no mistake, the talent was there.
3. M.V.P. I never realized just how gifted a wrestler Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) was until I saw him wrestle Chris Benoit in some outstanding technical match ups in the WWE. M.V.P. can flat out wrestle and has the gift of gab to go along with his repertoire. He should be considered great, but is often not looked at or considered one of the more talented workers of our generation.
2. Terry Taylor: Don’t let the stupid Red Rooster gimmick in the WWF fool you. Terry Taylor was an exceptional technician in the ring. He had ability, some agility and charisma. People would be surprised to know that Taylor was doing AJ Styles “Phenomenal Foreman” move back in the early 80’s while a star in the old Mid South territory. He also had the look of a future world champion, but politics and bad booking prevented all that from happening.
1. Bobby Eaton: Bobby Eaton was considered a tag team specialist most of his career. He won several tag title in the NWA, WCW and various territories. The thing is, Eaton could go and wrestle a 60 minute Iron Man match with the likes of Ric Flair if given the chance. Bobby Eaton was one of the most gifted technical wrestlers of all time. The main thing that held him back as a true singles star was his inability to do a great interview. Other than that, Eaton was as talented and as underrated as they came in the business.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.