Counterfeit Pennies 10.23.03: 20 Favorite Pro Wrestling Characters Of All-Time


In his latest column over at the 411mania Movies section, my boy Steve Coogan analyzes his favorite movie characters of all-time. From Rocky Balboa and Erin Brockovich to Dewey Finn and Danny Ocean, Coogs comes up with a pretty eclectic list that make his thoughts as accessible as they are insightful.

My hope here is to replicate some of Coogan’s movie magic by applying the idea of favorite characters to my favorite area of popular culture: professional wrestling. While I am nowhere near as knowledgeable in terms of work rate as perennial 411 Hall of Famer Scott Keith, and nowhere near as f*cking brilliantly charged as the rightfully heralded Eric S., one thing I pride myself on is being able to translate my own perspective on the industry – which is more of a pure fan’s perspective than anything else – into something entertaining to read from time to time.

I hear all this talk lately about how Americans are too obsessed with lists and who makes them and who is left off of them. I think people who criticize columns and other articles containing lists need to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Do I care who’s hot and who’s not in Hollywood? Not necessarily. But if a writer or group of writers compose a list of who’s hot and who’s not in Hollywood, using interesting criteria and backing up their list with intriguing explanations, then yeah, I would probably give it a quick read and think about some of the arguments presented.

Why would I do this? Because sometimes life isn’t about finding some purposeful transcendental meaning, and in fact I am sick of people who only seek enlightenment. They’re the ones that have to realize that being entertained by a top ten list while you take a shit is just as vital to happiness as joining an existentialist book club Get the whole picture yet?

Okay, now that I have rambled just long enough to make you displace my original intent, let me bring it all home. The following list is merely an overview of my favorite 20 pro wrestling characters of all-time. This has nothing to do with work rate, behind the scenes politicking or anything else beyond the umbrella of entertainment. These are wrestling personalities who most likely have done at least one of the following six things to me during my 19 years as a fan:

1) Made me laugh hysterically during vignettes or matches
2) Scared the shit out of me during vignettes or matches
3) Made me scream, “Holy shit!”
4) Made me cry legitimately
5) Became a villain to me
6) Became a hero to me

Using the above as a loose set of criteria, here are my favorite 20 pro wrestling characters of all-time, in order for your convenience:

20) Jake “the Snake” Roberts (with Damien): No one in professional wrestling has ever given me the chills like Jake the Snake. While training the Ultimate Warrior for a match against the Undertaker, Jake tortured UW by burying him up to his head and locking him in a casket. I wonder how much he charged per hour

19) “Diamond” Dallas Paige: When DDP was at the top of his game as a face competitor in World Championship Wrestling, all I wanted to do was root for him until my brains fell out. He was a very good at playing the bad ass as well as the crowd-pleasing underdog, and outside of the Stunner the Diamond Cutter was the best pro wrestling finisher around in terms of accessibility and providing a quick reversal of fortune. It’s no wonder, then, why Randy Orton uses a variation of the Diamond Cutter, the RKO, as his current finisher.

18) Yokozuna (with Mr. Fuji and James E. Cornette): Okay, maybe there was one other wrestler that gave me the chills like Jake the Snake. After all, Yokozuna was a monstrous presence in the ring, as well as one who never had to say anything to invoke fear in his opponents or the fans. Having Mr. Fuji as his mentor and Jim Cornette as his mouthpiece more than made up for Yoko’s one-word “Banzai” responses, and no one will ever shake the ring quiet the same way as this late, great WWF superstar.

17) Terry Funk: There’s not much to say about Terry Funk in terms of personality and promotional skills. So, why is the Funker on my list of 20 favorites? Because he got the shit kicked out of him for so many years and sacrificed so much of himself to please bloodthirsty crowds. Terry Funk is on this list in spite of his awful WWF run as Chainsaw Charlie, because virtually no one else has the balls to even try the shit he’s pulled in his fiery career.

16) D-Generation X: One of just two stables on the list, D-Generation X – at least the early incarnations of the group – was the perfect example of an entourage done right. They were brash and brusque, especially when HBK and HHH were in charge, but even more important than that is that D-X was formed at precisely the right time in the WWF timeline. To me, D-X captured the anarchical vibe of the Attitude era, and turned that energetic angst into a reciprocal goldmine with fans.

15) Mr. McMahon: Vince’s act may be overexposed and tiresome these days, but from 1997 to 1999 Mr. McMahon was one of the most captivating sons of bitches across all genres of television programming. For those two years, we all tuned into the WWF shows in droves to see what Mr. McMahon was going to do, what superstar he was going to try and f*ck with, and how his master plan was inevitably going to backfire. He was the Wiley Coyote of the late 1990s, always winding up at the bottom of the cliff while Stone Cold reaped the benefits of the working class anti-hero, serving to constantly foil the plans of his avaricious and overzealous employer.

14) “Macho Man” Randy Savage: I cannot have a list of favorites without noting three superstars that were involved in my favorite pro wrestling angle of all-time. Macho Man is the first of the three characters who were entrenched in the pinnacle love triangle storyline of the 1980s. Of course, I am talking about Macho Man’s heated encounters with Miss Elizabeth and Hulk Hogan, not to mention the fact that the Flying Elbow was a pretty big deal back then in terms of high-flying in-ring antics. He also had that classic match against Ricky ‘”the Dragon” Steamboat, which all the more cements Randy’s place on this list. I could have done without the off-kilter rap album, though.

13) Barry Horowitz, The Brooklyn Brawler, Conquistadors #s 45 and 47, Local Jobber, ET. al.: Unlucky #13 absolutely has to be reserved for my favorite group of underappreciated talent: the jobbers! Barry Horowitz possessed the best self-back-patting skills I have ever seen; the Brawler is the ultimate symbol of in-ring loserdom; and the Conquistadors #s 45 and 47 have a special place in my heart thanks to a Smackdown! Appearance earlier this year, when Tazz remarked, “What happened to #46?” Hmm, what did happen to #46? I smell a perfect Whodunnit angle!

12) “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase: Everyone always had a price for the Million Dollar Man. There were the regulars like Virgil the bodyguard (who would have imagined that this was to be the best gimmick he ever had?), but then even fan favorites like the Native American Tatanka and the extra-voluptuous Sapphire sold out to get some of Ted’s green. In her case, I guess you can call it an even dough for dough exchange.

11) Kurt Angle: The second- or third-most consistent superstar over the past two years (just behind The Rock and a little further behind Jericho), Angle has finally proven in 2003 that he can be entertaining as both a heel and a face. The bottom line is that our Olympic Hero has become versatile both in and out of the ring. He’s been a part of moments with sidesplitting hilarity (such as the homoerotic but humorous Angle-Austin-Vince cowboy hat vignette), moments of keen trickery (Heyman-Angle screw Lesnar), moments of lust (Kurt tries to steal Stephanie from Triple H), and moments that simply kick ass (anything with he and Benoit is just incredible to watch, not to mention the Iron Man match). And just think, we haven’t even hit the Top Ten.

10) The Rock: Despite calls from Hollywood and a lightened WWE schedule, The Rock still remains the most charismatic superstar on the WWE roster. The Rock has had some epic battles with Foley, Austin, Hogan, Goldberg, HHH, etc. you name the wrestler, and The Rock has made them look good at one point or another. I love the Rock because he can make a skit with Steve Blackman entertaining if he wanted, and because he does not always win or dominate his opponents. He may only have three or four moves in his arsenal, but what he lacks in his in-ring repertoire he makes up for with his unparalleled microphone skills. It doesn’t matter what I think, all that matters is that The Rock doesn’t leave WWE completely so that he can entertain us all some more.

09) Mr. Perfect: Mr. Perfect is in the top 10 for one reason and one reason only: The Perfect Vignettes. Whether he was playing basketball and shooting 100 percent from the field, or hitting a bunch of trick shots in the billiard room, Mr. Perfect was the quintessential man of omniscience. Despite UK plane ride incidents and a career that tapered off, he will always be remembered as absolutely, positively, perfect!

08) The Four Horsemen: The best and fiercest stable to ever play the game, and boy did they play dirty! They were always unpredictable and fun to watch, except of course when Steve “Mongo” McMichael came along.

07) Stone Cold Steve Austin: On Raw this past Monday they showed a clip of Austin giving someone a Stunner. The clip must have been from 1998, because a) he was completely ripped; and b) the crowd went nuts for him in a reception comparable only to Michael Jordan in Chicago in the 1990s. Austin broke all the rules back then, and it was fun watching him pour cement into Vince’s car, attacking him at the hospital with a bedpan, and spraying him with a beer hose. Ah, the memories

06) Miss Elizabeth: The First Lady of Wrestling was the integral element to the Savage-Hogan saga in the 1980s, and back then she handled herself with the utmost class. She was graceful, gorgeous, and f*cking hot! And she always stood by her men.

05) Hulk Hogan: Hogan is not in my top 5 favorites because he was my childhood hero. He is in my top 5 because he was my childhood hero and because I hated him with a passion when he turned heel in 1996 and formed the New World Order with Hall and Nash. Hogan is as charismatic as they will ever come, and he proved that he can be a kick-ass heel with the same fervor that he was the Real American.

04) Bobby “The Brain Heenan”: The greatest manager of all-time, and an irreverent broadcast journalist. Whichever role he assumes, The Brain made wrestling fun to watch, even if he was in a cheesy looking studio with Gorilla Monsoon, covering Jobber vs. Marty Jannetty matches.

03) Chris Jericho: The most consistent superstar over the past two years, period. Jericho honed his skills in WCW, and even then I loved him in the role as the unabashed conspirator. “The Highlight Reel” was a nice touch, and his current psychological feud with Austin reminds me of the old Jericho, who would spend hours in law libraries conjuring up ways to keep his WCW Cruiserweight title.

02) “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair: Flair will always be The Man. His promos are still fun to watch, even if he wobbles around the ring these days like Captain Harris on the beach in Police Academy Five. Still, you have to hand it to The Nature Boy for sticking around to give solid advice to the younger talent. Hopefully, the torch he passes won’t be entirely hogged by his apparent business casual successor to the styling and profiling pro wrestling throne.

01) Mick “Insert Alter Ego Here” Foley: Trivia question: What professional wrestler successfully developed three wrestling personas, endeared himself to millions of fans by being thrown off the top of a Hell In A Cell cage and through the announcer’s table, wrote two best-selling autobiographies, was a key participant in the highest rated Raw segment ever, and made pulling a sock out of one’s crotch an acceptable form of entertainment? That’s right, we’re talking about Mick Foley, who is easily my favorite pro wrestler of all-time. Foley was more than just good, he was everything a wrestler should be: creator of holy shit moments galore, great on the microphone, loyal to fans and devoted to his family. He was my hero, both in and outside the ring, and his influence on me will is incalculable. Mick Foley made wrestling real to me for the first time since I was a child, in the sense that when he was on my television screen, I felt connected in some way to his words and actions. It’s a feeling that has not yet been replicated by any other wrestler or sports figure.

With all that said, there’s only one thing left to say Peace.

-Chris Biscuiti

Chris Biscuiti also writes for moodspins.

CB is an Editor for Pulse Wrestling and an original member of the Inside Pulse writing team covering the spectrum of pop culture including pro wrestling, sports, movies, music, radio and television.