In the world of WWE, it pays to be bad. The meaner you snarl and the harder you hit, the more fans hoot and holler from the arena stands. For decades, the sport has showcased the world’s toughest and most charismatic fighters. From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Triple H and Kurt Angle, the greatest to ever grace the ring always leave the crowd stunned. These are the best of the best and the baddest of the bad; the greatest wrestlers of all-time.
Did your favorite make the cut?
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Is Charisma Defined
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson defined the WWE for a young generation of new fans at the turn of the century. He was brash and arrogant, and never afraid to give the “People’s Elbow” to his opponents to finish them off in the ring.
He is also the only WWE superstar we can think of that transitioned smoothly to full-blown Hollywood action hero. From joining the Fast and the Furious franchise to launching his own a rebooted Jumanji, few WWE legends have accomplished as much as Johnson has inside and outside the ring.
Hulk Hogan Is Still As Popular As Ever
In the 1980s, Hulkamania swept the nation and Hulk Hogan became a household name. He was extravagant in the ring, dressing in bright yellow and red with the personality to match.
If it wasn’t for his over-the-top persona, Hogan might not make this list. His skills were limited, but he was a fan favorite and became well-known for his outrageous outfits. He was a living breathing cartoon and helped brand the “Rock ‘N Wrestling” era for WWE.
Coming up, nature was natural for this iconic character.
The Nature Boy Will Live Forever
For four decades, Ric Flair has been a steady presence in the WWE. Known by many names, his most famous persona is probably the “Nature Boy:” the arrogant and self-absorbed character that rubbed his wins in the faces of his defeated foes.
Today, Flair continues to make appearances for the promotion despite several health problems. His health has been such a concern that when he went to the hospital for a scheduled procedure in 2019, it was falsely reported that he was rushed there with a “serious medical emergency.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin Is A Scary Man
Easily one of the most popular wrestlers of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin is also one of the most dominant. When he retired he was a first ballot Hall of Famer, and you better believe he walked through the door with a beer in his hand.
Thanks to Austin being the perfect face of the “Attitude” era, the WWE saw ratings and profits soar. He took on the persona of a bulked-out redneck, and truly believed he was the world’s “toughest S.O.B.”
The Undertaker Is Immortal
During their careers, most wrestlers are involved in several promotions and only spend a portion of their career with the WWE. That same sentiment can’t be said for The Undertaker. Since making his debut it 1990, he has never worked for another company.
For nearly three decades, The Undertaker has been a top draw for WWE. He is the longest tenured wrestler currently on the promotion. These days his appearances might be limited, but when his entrance music starts playing, everyone pays attention to the chaos that’s about to rain down.
A giant is up next, but what he did for the WWE was more important than how big he was.
The Great Khali Broke Down Barriers In The WWE
When The Great Khali won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2007, he became the first man of Indian descent to become a WWE world champion. He wrestled for the promotion from 2006 until 2014, and today continues to make part-time appearances.
Outside of the WWE, Khali has appeared in several major Hollywood films including Get Smart, The Longest Yard, and MacGruber. Making his home in Texas, Khali became an American Citizen in 2014.
The Macho Man Was More Than “Mr. Slim Jim”
In the history of the WWE, it’s possible that no two wrestlers are more connected than Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. The two had a legendary feud in the ring and a deeply personal friendship outside it.
Anyone who grew up in the 1990’s, of course, will remember Savage as the spokesperson for Slim Jim. One look at his illustrious career in the WWE, however, will remind them just how legendary of a wrestler he was.
No One Liked Roddy Rowdy Piper
Another wrestler with a bone to pick with Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper is one of the most memorable WWE superstars ever. He would be even higher on this list if he had ever won a world title, but he didn’t.
Just because he never won the big prize doesn’t mean he didn’t leave his mark. Piper was the most over-the-top wrestler at a time when being over-the-top appeared to be the main goal. He was one of the best to ever work the mic, and even got his own “talk show” during matches because of it.
Another wrestler who took his size to heart is coming up!
Andre The Giant Lived Up To His Name
Andre the Giant was a behemoth of a WWE superstar. Large in size and personality, he took his persona as far as it would go and lived a mile a minute when the lights went down.
Near the end of his career, Andre transitioned to Hollywood as his skill set in the ring became limited. He starred in The Princess Bride and Trading Mom. He also continued to make random appearances for WWE until 1992. Tragically, he passed away in 1993 after his heart failed.
John Cena Is Following The Rock’s Example
John Cena has won 10 WWE Championships and become a major movie star in his own right. Just like Dwayne Johnson, he’s used his immense charisma to transition into a new career while maintaining a stunning presence with the promotion.
Unlike The Rock, Cena has made his name in comedies after failing to impress in the action films The Marine and 12 Rounds. It wasn’t until he starred alongside Amy Schumer in Trainwreck that fans learned how brilliant his comedic timing is.
Kurt Angle Got His Start In The Olympics
Kurt Angle’s path to WWE superstardom was not an easy one. He persevered through a difficult childhood to win gold at the Olympics in wrestling and then used his real wrestling background to carve a unique role for himself within the promotion.
During his run with the WWE, Angle was known as one of the most intense wrestlers. He put all of his energy into his performance, leaving him with little energy for a life outside of wrestling. In 2019, he officially retired at Wrestlemania, taking on Baron Corbin as his final opponent.
Shawn Michaels Revolutionized Tag Team Wrestling
Shawn Michaels is one of the most influential wrestlers the sport has ever seen. During his original run with the promotion, he changed the way audiences looked at tag team wrestling. Then, in his second run with Degeneration-X, he left his mark on WWE forever.
The most impressive thing about Michaels is that he was considered too small for his entire career. Opponents couldn’t believe how good he was for his size, allowing him to wrestle his way to several WWE Championships.
The “Hitman” of the WWE is just entering the ring!
Bret Hart Defined The ’90s
While Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage dominated the WWE in the ’80s, Bret “The Hitman” Hart was the face of the next decade. His less than intimidating physique came at just the right time for the promotion, too.
Coming out of the ’80s, the WWE was on the verge of dying. A steroid scandal had rocked the sport to its core, and Hart looked like he had never taken a drug in his life. He also helped the WWE gain popularity in Canada, the country he grew up in.
Triple H Was A Big Winner
Not only did Triple H end his WWE career with 13 World Titles, but he was also the second superstar in history to win the promotion’s Grand Slam. He was all attitude during the “Attitude Era” and was an easy choice for induction into the Hall of Fame.
One of the keys to Triple H’s success is in longevity with the WWE. He has proven to be indispensable, and even after his main career ended he stayed on as the company’s General Manager.
Chris Jericho Left The WWE On Bad Terms
If only Chris Jericho’s divorce from the WWE hadn’t been so messy he might be higher on this list. He was, after all, the first Undisputed Champion in the history of the promotion. Initially popular for his baby-faced good looks, the older Jericho got, the darker his character became.
When he returned in 2007 from a stint overseas, he turned into one of WWE’s top heels. In 2018, Jericho had his final WWE match, losing to Braun Strowman in the Royal Rumble. One year later, he made a surprise appearance for upstart promotion All Elite Wrestling, turning his back on the WWE for good.
No One Is More Decorated Then Edge
In the history of the WWE, no one has more titles than Edge. In total, the “R Rated Superstar” has claimed 11 World Titles and 12 Tag Team Titles. When he left the WWE, the hole that needed filling was huge.
A true rock star of the arena, Edge had charisma through the roof and the wrestling skills to match. He also loved making the fans hate him. Sometimes it pays to be bad, and Edge made of lot money that way.
A Hall of Famer who really hated Ric Flair is just ahead!
Dusty Rhodes Kept Ric Flair Honest
One look at Dusty Rhodes and you wouldn’t think he’d be a WWE Hall of Famer. If you followed his career with WWF, NWA, TNA, and WCW though, then you know just how incredible he was.
Not only could Rhodes handle his business in the ring, but he also provided Ric Flair with some of his hardest fought battles. In many ways, he was the perfect foil to Flair’s over-the-top and arrogant persona in the ring.
Ted DiBiase Never Met A Feud He Didn’t Like
In the ’80s, Ted DiBiase was one of the older wrestlers for the WWE. As a result, he wound up feuding with just about every up-and-comer the promotion could throw at him.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t get to scrap with the big boys. During Wrestlemania IV, he was the headliner in a match with Randy Savage. Unfortunately for DiBiase, he never won the big match, but he did earn a soft spot in the heart of millions of fans worldwide!
Mick Foley Is Unique
Mick Foley had three different characters he played during his career. His most famous is probably Mankind, who really cemented Foley’s place in the history of the sport, but it’s impossible to forget Dude Love and Cactus Jack.
Along with his sock puppet, Mankind was one of the most unique and psychotic wrestlers to ever step into the ring. He may not have been physically intimidating, but his “man on the edge” mentality made him one of the most popular and feared stars of the “Attitude Era.”
Eddie Guerrero Was A High-Flying Spectacle
Another wrestler who would be listed higher with more wins and a longer career in the WWE, it’s hard to deny the impact Eddie Guerrero had on the sport. He even had a brief run as the WWE Champion!
If there is any knock against Guerrero, it’s that he never really got an opportunity to fight the promotion’s biggest stars. Being relegated to SmackDown during its start meant he was more of a liaison to get fans to tune in every week. We still love him, though!
Sting Was A Scary Man
Sting is easily one of the scariest wrestlers of all time. Although he made his debut with the WWE later in his career, he still deserves a mention on this list. It’s not easy to transition to a new promotion after 30 years in wrestling, but that’s exactly what Sting did.
Sting started with WCW in 1987, where he became one of the promotion’s most popular heels. In 2003 he joined TNA, and stayed there until 2014 when he finally came to the World Wrestling Federation.
Randy Orton Has A Great Finisher
Randy Orton is one the WWE superstars who helped the promotion change eras at the start of the century. In 2004 he became the youngest world champion, and has had several championship reigns since.
Orton has also feuded with The Undertaker, which is never a smart thing to do (even if it is entertaining). Did we forget to mention his RKO move, which is one of the best finishers in WWE history? How could we forget?
Daniel Bryan Might Not Be Your Favorite, But He’s Still Great
Daniel Bryan can be seen as a controversial entry on this list, but we think he fits. During his time in the WWE, he hasn’t always been a fan favorite. What he has been, however, is incredibly successful.
Bryan also has one of the most storied independent wrestling careers of all time. If a wrestler like Sting can make this list without much experience in the WWE, so can someone as perfectly imperfect as Daniel Bryan.
Brock Lesnar Is A Real Fighter
Brock Lesnar is definitely not the most experienced wrestler on this list, but don’t tell him that! Lesnar has worked for both the WWE and UFC. If you were to challenge him to a fight in real life, he would definitely win.
When Lesnar left the WWE to join UFC that’s exactly what he wanted to prove. Just because he doesn’t wear makeup like Sting or act like he came straight out of a horror movie doesn’t mean he isn’t scary. We wouldn’t want to be left in a room alone with him!
CM Punk Is Too Cool For School
CM Punk has one of the more unique gimmicks in WWE history. He was a rebel and a punk, and used his strange charisma to have one of the most legendary runs in the promotion’s history.
In 2014, CM Punk retired, although he continues to make brief appearances today. In one of his last appearances, he was chokeslammed by Kane and pushed through a table. It was a perfect way for one of the WWE’s coolest wrestlers to end his career.
Rey Mysterio Brought Flair To The Promotion
Rey Mysterio is one of the smallest WWE superstars of all-time, and he knew how to use his size to his advantage. Not only was he small, he was agile and acted more like an acrobat then a wrestler.
For years Mysterio was seen as a sideshow, though, and wasn’t shown much respect. When he joined the WWE late in his career everything changed. He became the World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 22 and cemented his legacy.
Van Vader Was A Showman
One of the most entertaining parts of any WWE era is how big some of the wrestlers are. Andre the Giant was the biggest, but Big Van Vader was no slouch in the size department.
We only wish Vader could be higher on this list. He was one of the best wrestlers of his era, but was shown no respect by Vince McMahon when he joined the WWE. When he retired, Vader dedicated himself to being a father and teaching his son to achieve his football dreams.
Roman Reigns Is Making A Push In Hollywood
Roman Reigns has been through a lot in his short wrestling career. He has been at the top of the world, winning championships, while being torn down to his core the next day.
In 2018, Reigns appeared visibly shaken as he told fans on national television he had leukemia and needed to take a break from the WWE. Not one to be kept down, Reigns came back strong on SmackDown and is now stepping into movies, starring alongside Dwayne Johnson in Hobbs and Shaw.
Goldust Invented The Attitude Era
Leave it to the son of Dusty Rhodes to create one of the strangest wrestlers in the history of the WWE and start the “Attitude Era” as a result. Looking at Goldust, you would probably be confused, but you also wouldn’t want to face him in the ring.
We’re still not sure what Goldust’s gimmick was. He painted himself in gold and black, wore tight leather, and had a ball gag. It worked though, and we’ll never forget him for being so weird.
Owen Hart Will Never Be Forgotten
We guarantee that Owen Hart would be higher on this list if his career wasn’t tragically cut short. During the peak of his career, Hart was being lowered in to the ring by a harness and grapple when he fell 78 feet onto a rope, which threw him into the ring.
Hart passed away, and we’ve never forgotten how much potential he had. At the time he was considered one of the best in-ring performers for the Promotion. There is no doubt that had be lived he would have won several championships during his career.