By Lexi Helms
It’s always sad when the news breaks that a wrestler passed away. Just over a week ago, news broke that Dusty Rhodes had passed on to the great wrestling ring in the sky. The news of any wrestler's passing makes me reflect upon my time as a wrestling fan - the wrestlers I’ve cheered and booed, the moments that left me in awe, the moments that were a huge talking point amongst friends.
During this time, I look through my list of favourite wrestlers of all time. Some are obvious and some are not, they don't look the same, they're not all heavyweights or high-flyers, and some are not as successful as others. Regardless, I could watch them wrestle and cut promos until the cows come home. After many hours of reflection, it hit me that the one thing they have in common is that they made an impression. Scientists believe you have only 7 seconds to make an impression. With this statistic in mind, what does it take to make a lasting impression on a wrestling fan?
Let’s start with the obvious - the look of a wrestler. In Pro Wrestling, there is an awful lot of skin on show regardless of gender, so having a great look is a good way of getting noticed. It goes without saying that if a male or female wrestler is pleasing on the eye, you’re probably going to take more of an interest in them. How many of us who watched wrestling in the early to mid 1990’s talk about Bertha Faye? Earthquake? Or Tugboat? Is it because you don’t remember them? Because of their look? Or simply because they were not good enough? I think Tugboat is more remembered for being the “Shock Master” than either Typhoon or Tugboat combined!
There are also several modern wrestlers who have the look, but are forgettable for other reasons. One example that I could use is Ethan Carter III: did you know he was in WWE under the name Derrick Bateman? More shockingly, Daniel Bryan was his mentor? I certainly didn’t know either fact - until I looked through my WWE Encyclopedia and the help of Wikipedia. With the benefit of hindsight it is an easy spot, but it goes to show the difference a haircut can make.
Could it simply be that his character wasn’t memorable rather than his look? Another one is Mordecai, who was on SmackDown back in 2004. He had a memorable look, but didn’t really leave an impression and seemingly vanished without a trace. In 2006 Mordecai became Kevin Thorne - another example of what a good haircut and bottle of hair dye can do for a person, as Thorne’s character made a huge impression - to me at least.
Could it be the entrance music of a wrestler that makes the impression? If you’re a subscriber to the WWE Network, there is a delightful documentary on the Top 20 entrance themes of all time (if you've not seen it, I highly recommend it and won’t discuss it further to avoid spoilers). However, there are lots of music that got missed out. For example, and please correct me if I'm wrong, Sting used to come out to Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy”. Being a Metallica fan, Sting instantly had more of my attention. It set the tone for Sting - this guy is here to kick arse and take names. The same can be said for the Sandman and the use of “Enter Sandman”, which was a genius move by ECW. Diamond Dallas Page used a modified version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
There is also the Ultimate Warrior. His music captured his energy and excitement perfectly. It stood out over everyone else’s on the roster at the time and certainly made an impression. I can also talk about “Here Comes The Money” for Shane McMahon. It has been, and still is one of my favourite ringtones and still sends a shiver down my spine when I hear it. I could not continue without mentioning Triple H's use of Motorhead. The two together now go hand in hand, and you know, once his music hits, what you’re dealing with.
There are, however, some notable music fails. Randy Orton used “This Fire Burns” by Killswitch Engage for an episode of RAW and it did not fit his character. This eventually went on to become the theme for a certain C.M. Punk. A more current one, for me, is Samoa Joe’s NXT theme. It starts like his old TNA theme. This is awesome - you know who it is... but then goes into something that I feel is too happy and upbeat for Samoa Joe.
Another factor to consider is the mic skills of the wrestler in question. We all know that cutting promos are an important part of Pro Wrestling. One of the greatest of all time on the mic was Dusty Rhodes. He spoke with such passion, soul and grace, but the audience knew that he was serious. He was able to transfer this into his commentator role and give an insight into the mindset of both the heel and face in the match. He could be quite funny at times - probably unintentionally. We cannot continue to discuss this without talking about The Rock. During the famed Attitude Era, this man made you sit up and listen - and usually laugh. I have no doubt in my mind that this is one of the reasons why The Rock became so successful.
There are other greats like Ric Flair, Eddie Guerrero, Triple H, Stone Cold, Edge, Chris Jericho, John Cena (back in the day, his raps were hilarious), Dean Ambrose, C.M. Punk, Paul Heyman, Kevin Owens, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode... the list is endless, and with some of them, we’ve yet to see them at their best. However, one of my favourites from my childhood never spoke - at least in his initial start. That man was Goldberg - without words, he made everyone know that he was a legitimate bad ass. So, are mic skills that important? Currently, with WWE it seems, not really - need I say Roman Reigns? His promos are woeful at times, but he still got a push.
In addition, we have to examine the in-ring abilities of a wrestler. Currently, I feel that one of the best wrestlers is Neville. There is no doubt that he has the skills and his Red Arrow finisher is amazing. It is so amazing that I know of people who cannot watch him perform it in case it goes wrong. No matter who the opponent is, I stop what I’m doing to watch his matches. The same can be said for Austin Aries, Paige, Sami Zayn, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Finn Balor (to name a few). All of them excite me and feel fresh, allowing the audience to suspend their disbelief during their matches, which never get stale.
Could it be, with the exception of Aries, that this is because they are not “over-exposed” yet? Yes, they are usually on programming most weeks, but their time always has a purpose and doesn’t come across as merely a “time filler”. I also get the impression that they treat every match as their “big” break, and give 100% to it. However, there are some wrestlers, both past and present who come across as lazy when they make it to the main roster.
Whilst I idolise the Ultimate Warrior, I have to admit that his matches were... not the best, and that is not a reflection on his opponents. Does this mean that the abilities of the wrestler really matter? If we look at The Rock, Cena, Hogan, and Warrior, all of their matches can be easily predicted. With that said, I have to give credit to Cena who’s upped his game lately. All of them held world titles at some point in their career, hold various records between them and are household names.
Throughout this piece, I’ve listed the qualities that make an impression on me. In all honesty, I still cannot tell you what makes the wrestlers mentioned in this article stand out (that and the word limit imposed onto me!). Whilst not everyone mentioned in this piece are on my favourites of all time list, they have been named for a reason. I cannot tell you why certain wrestlers stand out to me and not others. What I can tell you is that they must be doing something right to leave that lasting impression on my memory.
With everything mentioned above, I’m sure I’ve missed people and qualities out. What wrestler has made a lasting impression on you? Why have they? Is there anyone I have missed out? Are there any other qualities I have missed?