The 411 Wrestling Top 5 6.18.14: Week 268 – The Top 5 Overachievers in Wrestling
Posted by Larry Csonka on 06.18.2014
From Hulk Hogan, Honky Tonk Man and the Miz to Rey Mysterio, the Sandman, Dusty Rhodes and more, the 411 staff breaks down the top 5 overachievers in wrestling!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling's Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, onto this week's topic…
The Top 5 Overachievers in Wrestling
Name the top 5 performers you personally felt overachieved in the wrestling business.
5. The Miz - This is a trend that will continue throughout this top five if I had to guess, but The Miz is an average wrestler who achieved far more than average results. I want everyone to remember that this man main evented WrestleMania. That's insane seeing as he now seems to be a career midcarder, a path that he seems much better suited for. The Miz took his former fame and super natural heel status and vaulted himself into the main event. He got over by force of will. It helps too that he can cut a mean promo. And if you don't want to take my word for it, just watch this:
4. Daniel Bryan - I love independent wrestling. I will take ROH over WWE almost any day of the week. However, when Daniel Bryan originally got signed, I did not have high hopes. And when he got released? Those already low hopes became nonexistent. Yes, Daniel Bryan can wrestle like nobody else. He's arguably the best on the roster (Cesaro also being in that mix, in my opinion). But his promo abilities are below average. He corpses a ton. And he doesn't have the most unique character in the world. But the guy just won the title. At Wrestlemania 30. Against two of the biggest stars of the 2000s. What? Come again? Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying every minute of it. This was just not the career trajectory that I imagined for the man.
3. Shane McMahon - WHY IS HE AS GOOD AS HE IS?! I don't get it. He's on TV solely because he's the boss' son. That is an undeniable fact. But then he goes and puts on one of my favorite matches with Kurt Angle?! Sometimes the world doesn't make sense. And most matches involving Shane McMahon fall into that category.
2. Jeff Jarrett - Here's another one that just doesn't make sense. Jarrett is a career midcarder, or at least should be. He's talented. He's very talented. But without Russo/running his own company, he wouldn't have all the title runs that he now has. He's definitely somebody that got over through circumstance and politics. It's unbelievable.
1. Hulk Hogan - Hulk Hogan is the biggest wrestler of all time. That will never be taken away from him and I'm not writing this with any form of disrespect as I am a massive Hulkamaniac. But he took an inch and made it a MARATHON. He was pushed because of his look. He was a big guy that Vince thought could get over with the Irish crowd if he had the last name Hogan. I don't think that the original plan was to create the biggest wrestling star of all time. But that's what happened. Hulk Hogan transcended wrestling. And who needs real in ring ability when you can hulk up, throw a boot, and drop that leg, brother?
5. Vince McMahon - I am discussing the WRESTLER Vince McMahon here, nothing else. It just amazes me that this guy was able to get in the ring, take a beat, and hold up his end of the bargain. Whether it was against Stone Cold, The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan or whoever, Vinny Mac showed up. Not sure if that qualifies for an overachiever or not, but in my book - he overachieved every single time has had a match...
4. John Morrison - Was going to write Kofi Kingston here but went with John Morrison instead. Sorry, just never "got it" with them two. Since Morrison achieved more than Kofi, he gets this slot. Really, an ECW Title win was about what I would expect. Tag title runs, sure. IC Champ, sure. A (brief) taste of the main event scene? Please. No wonder his WWE Title feud with The Miz culminated on Raw, and not the Royal Rumble. Somebody probably quickly came to their senses after realizing what they had done. Just being in the mix with WWE/World Title matches (again, Kofi too) just never made sense.
3. Rey Mysterio - While the size of a wrestler means nothing in 2014, it certainly did in the late 1990's/early 2000's. Sadly, that meant as popular as Rey Mysterio was, there was a ceiling for that. Well, not for the biggest little man! Royal Rumble win. World Title win at WrestleMania 22. Another World Title win in 2010. WWE Champion (for a night) in 2011. Plus, many more accolades! Yeah, I would say he far surpassed what anybody ever imagined he would do in WWE.
2. The Miz - Major props to The Miz for proving everybody wrong. Always a good undercard or tag team performer but not thought of much more. I actually had no problem with his WWE Championship win in late 2010. He had a nice end of 2009, even getting a pay-per-view match against John Cena, which sort of started his solo run. Then he had an excellent run in 2010 with the US and Tag Titles, leading to a Money in the Bank briefcase. Deny it all you want, but The Miz was climbing the ladder to success (so to speak) and putting the rest of the roster to shame. It is easy to look back now and doubt it, but in late 2010, The Miz was lined up perfectly to become WWE Champion. A few months later, and he is delivering a promo on Raw against The Rock and JOHN CENA in the build to one of the most successful WrestleMania events ever. Oh yeah, and he pinned 'the man' in the entire industry to close out the show. Bravo sir.
1. Great Khali - Won the World Title and is a future WWE Hall of Fame inductee. Think about that...
HM X-Pac - Sean Waltman was a bit of a pioneer in the light heavyweight/cruiserweight movement of the 1990s. His Lightning Kid run in the GWF was a lot of fun, and he feuded with Jerry Lynn all over the country and across the Pacific Ocean. He used to jump absurd distances. He really didn't suck, but when he later became a member of the Million Dollar Corporation, the nWo and D-Generation X, he got in way over his head. He wasn't a smaller guy like Daniel Bryan who could hang with the titans.
HM Great Khali - He could lose a foot race to a sloth. He specializes in zero impact moves. I'm not sure he speaks any discernible language. He lacks anything remotely like viability in the ring. Yet he got a run as World Heavyweight Champion in the WWE.
5. Kelly Kelly - She's incompetent in the ring and built like a toothpick sculpture with boobs. Her real name, Barbie Blank, pretty much describes her personality. She debuted with a stripper gimmick and she was mediocre at that. Despite all this, she got a five-and-a-half-year run in the WWE including a Divas title and multiple WrestleMania matches. There's really no explanation for her career other than Vince McMahon apparently has a type.
4. Chief Jay Strongbow - Chief Jay was my absolute favorite as a kid. When he'd go on the warpath, I was mesmerized. He was a four-time tag champ who wrestled in the WWWF main event mix during the 1970s. He managed to do that with a physique you can find on your local insurance agent and an incredibly sparse moveset. He had no business being one of the top guys in one of the top territories in the industry. If you watch some of his old matches on the WWE Network, he doesn't translate at all. It's a minor miracle he got over in the first place.
3. Sandman - Much as he may be a hardcore legend, Sandman hardcore sucked in the ring. Guys like Steve Austin and Joey Styles like to joke around these days about how terrible Sandman was. We get it, he likes to hit people with a stick. That's his move: hit you with a stick. Thing is, in the 1990s we liked booze and violence. Sandman made sense in a Fight Club kind of way, which is why he became a five-time ECW champ. Joe Strummer once described his light bulb moment with punk rock as you didn't need musical talent and you could still be great. Well, in the '90s you didn't wrestling talent and you could still be Sandman.
2. Dusty Rhodes - Talk about unlikely. Dusty Rhodes looks like a pill bug rolled up and trying to get around on two uneven legs. His looks would be improved if you hit him in the face with a bag of hammers (note: it's highly likely that at some point in his career Rhodes did a spot where someone hit him in the face with a bag of hammers). Yet he's proof that love is blind. Fans loved Dusty Rhodes. They didn't like him. They didn't root for him. They loved him unconditionally. He could drop a promo with the best of them and he'd take a horrific beating in the ring. In a way that's as old school as it gets: Sermon on the Mount/Passion of the Christ. Dusty wrestled for our sins. Nobody would have picked him at the starting line. In fact, I'm pretty sure he got started when one day he declared, "I think I'll give rasslin' a try." ... and he became one of the all-time greats.
1. Honky Tonk Man - How on earth did a chubby Elvis impersonator hold the Intercontinental belt for 454 days? He took the title from Ricky Steamboat and repeatedly foiled Randy Savage. That's ridiculous overachievement. HTM was pure jobber level in terms of talent. Johnny Rodz, Barry Horowitz, S.D. Jones and Steve Lombardi were exponentially better than HTM. Big Dick Johnson vs. Honky Tonk Man would have been a fair fight. Wrestling is a strange business. It's not about ability or execution or even having a good gimmick or talking ability. Sometimes a guy bereft of anything resembling an asset gets over, and Honky Tonk Man somehow took zero talent to the bank. Amazing he didn't beat Hulk Hogan along the way and get a run with the WWE Title. Wouldn't have been any stranger than his Intercontinental run.
5. Rey Mysterio This may be a controversial choice for some but in his book on 50 Greatest Superstars, Larry Matysik makes the observation that in the old territory days, Rey wouldn't have risen that high on his own and sadly, he's right. Wrestling has always been the big guys, that was way before Vince, the business goes for that type. Rey had breakouts in ECW and shone in WCW as Cruserweight champion. His masks made great merchandise sales in WWE although he wasn't great shakes on the mic. We all know that his run as World Champion was just to honor Eddie Guerrero's death and even then, Rey wasn't right for it, just hard to buy a World champ so small. Don't get me wrong, a fantastic worker with amazing moves but just didn't seem right for him constantly pushed in high-profile programs, often against bigger men, and not a guy to really carry a company despite the good will. Sometimes, sad to say, size does matter for the business and Rey couldn't really click in that.
4. Larry Zybsko He may bill himself as a "Living Legend" but Zybsko is really not that great. His early run feuding with Bruno Sammartino is classic and deserves to be remembered but the rest of his career isn't as spectacular. He ran the Western States Heritage title into the ground and his run as AWA Champion only helped push that company further to its death. In WCW, he had runs as tag team champion as Arn Anderson could help him out but on his own, there was rough work and that horrible, horrible stalling to drag things out. Great on the mic but not a guy who should have gotten such major runs, a far tag guy whose solo work is best left overlooked.
3. The Miz WWE is filled with guys who are pushed to the main event whereas years before they'd be just mid-carders in territories. The Miz is one of the best examples as he's an okay worker and can be fun on the mic but WWE Champion? I could never really buy into that myself and not a lot of other fans did either. Indeed, his push to the belt seemed to mar his career, he wasn't right for it and when the fans turned on him, it sent him down the card fast, a former champ now jobbing on pre-shows. Proof that some guys just aren't meant for the main event scene no matter their charisma and it can hurt to reach too far.
2. Jeff Jarrett In various shoot interviews and books, the consensus about Jarrett from his peers matches what I've always felt: A good upper-midcard guy who's under the delusion he's on the same level of mega-stardom as Flair or Hogan. Jarrett had great stuff in his early days but he just let his ego take control and direct him a lot. His WWF run was good as IC champ but his belief in WCW that he was perfect for the Horsemen rubbed people the wrong way and his later run as champ didn't really set business afire. It's in TNA that Jarrett went wild as his hogging of the NWA title and spotlight from 2002-2006 made HHH look humble. Jarrett made TNA all about him, holding onto the title way too long despite probably better guys to carry the belt or company and selling it as himself as a mega-star fans wanted to see in the main event all the time. Not a bad worker but deserving of multiple NWA titles and such? Not really.
1. Kevin Nash You have to wonder how different the wrestling landscape would be if the fans at the 1994 Royal Rumble just hadn't cheered for Diesel the way they did. Nash had the height and look of a wrestler but we all know the limits of his in-ring skills. He had charisma to be sure and fans responded to it in his rise to IC, tag team and WWE champion. But the lack of real support hurt the company and while he made history with the NWO in WCW, we all know the damage he did as booker. Nash was skillful in the politics but his constant runs as champion in WWF and WCW both did major damage to the bottom line, helping the latter's destruction along faster. He keeps coming back for pushes despite his penchant for injuries and bad backstage vibes. Just jarring to see how a guy who really wasn't that good a worker got multiple title runs and main event programs over so many more skilled workers and has to rank high on a list of guys who got a lot more than they probably deserved.
YOUR TURN KNOW IT ALLS
List your Top Five for this week's topic in the comment section using the following format:
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Larry Csonka is a Pisces and enjoys rolling at jiu jitsu class with Hotty McBrownbelt, cooking, long walks on the beach, Slingo and the occasional trip to Jack in the Box. He is married to a soulless ginger and has two beautiful daughters who are thankfully not soulless gingers; and is legally allowed to marry people in 35 states. He has been a wrestling fan since 1982 and has been writing for 411 since May 24th, 2004; contributing over 3,000 columns, TV reports and video reviews to the site.