Okay, I’ve still go a very interesting interview with Stampede Wrestling legend Great Gama Singh in the can and I’m working on my all-time greatest High Flyers series, but this week I’m in the mood to stimulate a little more discussion. Consider this, and the inevitable UNDERRATED! to be my cheap heat columns. Here’s hoping that you not only disagree with my opinions, but that you disagree strongly enough to want to say something about it. You can contact me directly using the link below or, better yet, meet me on the IP Forums where we all get a chance to have our say.
LETS GET THIS STRAIGHT RIGHT OFF THE BAT
There is a difference in meaning between overrated and bad. To call a wrestler overrated is not the same as saying that they lack skill, talent or the ability to entertain. What it means is that some segment of the wrestling fan base thinks more highly of said wrestler’s skills, talents, or abilities than I do. If you call Kamala the Ugandan Head Hunter a reasonably good high flyer then you are, in my opinion, overrating him in that area. If you call him the least entertaining gimmick wrestler of all time then you are, as far as I’m concerned, underrating him. Most of the people that I am going to write about are excellent wrestlers that I feel are overrated because other people rank them as the very best.
Kamala signals that he’s going for the Phoenix Splash
THERE ARE SOME OBVIOUS DIFFICULTY WITH WRITING THIS KIND OF A COLUMN
No two people’s opinions on this subject are ever going to be exactly the same. IP Forum poster Egomaniac247 tends to like classic power wrestlers, and he might consider a lot of highflying cruiserweights to be overrated. Slaughter Noogies enjoys wrestlers with interesting gimmicks, so he might find a lot of no-nonsense mat workers to be overrated. Mr_Black and Crippla love Japanese wrestling, and they likely don’t think that a lot of Noogies’ favourite Sports Entertainers deserve all of the praise that they are given. It would be insane to say that the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) underrates Hulk Hogan while the Casual Fan Base overrates him, since it is extremely unlikely that there is anything like that kind of homogeneity of opinion among any group of wrestling fans.
Still, that’s pretty much what I’m going to do.
Not only do opinions about wrestlers change from person to person, they also change over time. During the Attitude Era, it would have been kind of fair to say that most fans grossly overrated The New Age Outlaws. It would be ridiculous to say that now. Ten months ago, Chris Benoit was pretty much the anointed favourite wrestler of a strong majority of the IWC. After he won the championship, there was a pretty big backlash and it became pretty common to bash him for lacking charisma, or for being five foot nine. Now that he’s no longer the champ, it seems like it’s generally cool to like him again. Is RVD overrated or underrated? Depends not only on who you ask, but when you asked them.
HERE’S HOW I PROPOSE GETTING AROUND THAT
Like a lot of you, I spend a fair chunk of my limited free time watching wrestling, thinking about wrestling, and reading about wrestling on sites like this one. I’m an active member of three different wrestling forums, and I have spent time this month trolling on several others. I’ve also spent time talking on the ‘phone with casual fans, and I’ve read the last two issues of Pro Wrestling Illustrated from cover to cover.
This column represents my educated guess as to who is generally overrated by the majority of the IWC and the average casual fan as of the autumn of 2004. I don’t mean how they have been wrestling the past few months. I mean how people have been writing and talking about them the past few months as it relates to how they’ve been wrestling the past few years.
If you happen to disagree, GOOD! Let me hear about it.
ENOUGH OF THE PREAMBLE ALREADY!
Here are some wrestlers that I personally feel are overrated, one way or another:
AJ Styles is overrated by workrate freaks and fans of TNA.
Make no mistake; AJ Styles is an exciting wrestler. I cannot, however, agree with PWI’s assessment of him as the most exciting talent in wrestling today. Admittedly, I have had very little opportunity to watch many of his recent TNA matches. There is a possibility that Styles has raised the level of his game to the point where he clearly outstrips Low Ki, American Dragon Bryan Danielson, Michael Shane, Paul London, Naomichi Marufuji, and Curry Man in the ring, but I don’t believe that is the case. I’d imagine that Styles is overrated largely because he is (one of) the best worker(s) in TNA, and a lot of people rightly want to see TNA succeed. Believing that Styles is the best worker in the world today plays into those hopes, but I don’t think it’s accurate.
I recently got the Simply Phenomenal compilation tape, which has a variety of Styles matches from 2002 and 2003. There isn’t a bad match on the tape, but I found myself unable to sustain interest for more than a couple of matches in a row. A similar compilation of American Dragon matches kept me fascinated from beginning to end. That may be because I’m a big fan of mat wrestling, which is an area where I feel that Danielson is better than Styles. One other minor quibble I have is that the Styles Clash too often requires a contrived set-up. With the right opponent, this can lead to creative and interesting transitions, but sometimes it ends up looking pretty silly.
The Great Muta and Jushin Lyger are overrated by people who are not Puroresu nerds.
Muta is the best-known Japanese heavyweight wrestler in North America, and Lyger is the best-known cruiserweight. Both of them have had admirable success on this side of the Pacific, which is something that many top Japanese wrestlers have never experienced. It is this very success, however, which leads me to rank them as overrated.
Socrates said, The more you know, the more you know that you don’t know, but it is a sad fact of life that many people think that they already know everything. This is sad because it likely means that they have stopped learning. Indeed, they may very well have closed their minds to anything new. There are a number of wrestling fans who are pretty knowledgeable, but who are not curious to explore anything they haven’t seen already. Judging by what I’ve seen on non-purocentric boards, a lot of those fans are comfortable in believing that Muta is the greatest Japanese heavyweight and Lyger is the greatest cruiserweight. The rational seems to be that if there were wrestlers better than Muta or Lyger wrestling in Japan, that Vince McMahon would surely have brought them to North America by now.
I beg to differ.
Muta is an all time great. Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, Chono, Tenryu, Akiyama, Nagata, and Takada (for starters) are all equally great, if not better. People who have never seen Misawa are apt to rank Muta higher and that leads to me calling Muta overrated.
Lyger may very well be the greatest cruiserweight of all time. I personally would be inclined to rank Tiger Mask Sayama higher, and to put Ohtani, Kanemoto, Dynamite Kid, Misterio, and The Great Sasuke (for starters) on the same level. I rank Lyger as overrated only because there are fans who have never seen Ohtani or Kanemoto wrestle who automatically rank Jushin as superior because they have seen Lyger vs. Pillman.
Jeff Jarrett is overrated by his father.
Nepotism has been a persistent and regrettable problem for most of the recent history of Professional Wrestling. Verne Gagne allowed the AWA to rot away around him while he concentrated on pushing his string bean son, Greg. Cowboy Bill Watts was completely alone in recognizing the potential for greatness in his son, Eric.
Jeff Jarrett is certainly more talented than either Greg Gagne or Eric Watts, but he is simply not believable when cast in a Superman role. I can understand that Jeff Jarrett has value to TNA. He is a good technical wrestler who has had success on the national stage. As a member of the promoter’s family, he can be counted on to remain loyal to the promotion. If Jarrett had been allowed to play a vulnerable heel or a sympathetic baby face, he could have been a very good champion. Trying to get Double J over as TNA’s version of Triple H, though, has done more harm than good.
Kurt Angle is overrated by Yours Truly.
As far as I’m concerned, Angle can do no wrong. I’ve never been bored by an Angle match, and I find the vast majority of his skits and promos to be highly entertaining. Nerdy Kurt was hilarious. Psycho Kurt taping his fists while advancing on Eddie Guerrero was chilling. He made Spanky look like a star. He made Big Show look like a talented wrestler. He and Benoit wrestled one of the greatest series of matches of all time, and their feud was the closest thing North American Corporate Wrestling has seen to Misawa vs. Kawada. Even his low point, as SmackDown! GM, was only disappointing because Angle’s heart wasn’t in it. If the rumours are true that he is now turning into a backstage politician and demanding that he get a run as HHH-style unbeatable champion, well, he’s right. Nobody deserves to be champion more than Kurt Angle. He is simply the best at everything.
Toshiaki Kawada is overrated by Puro elitist snobs.
The last DVDVR 500 had Kawada rated as the number one overall worker in the world, and no one seems to mind.* That is understandable. Kawada has been one of the stiffest workers, hardest bumpers, most intense competitors, and most loyal employees in wrestling for more than 20 years. Kawada rules. The thing is, it is not possible for him, or anyone, to definitively be named the best wrestler in the world. There are too many factors to consider. I seriously have yet to find one post anywhere where a Puro-positive fan has anything negative to say about Dangerous K. Allow me to be the first: The Stepping Kick is a stupid-looking move, and Toshiaki busts it out in every match.
*(CORRECTION: This is not true. Kawada was last rated No.1 in the DVD 500 in May 2001. Thanks to reader Jerad Moxley for pointing that out. I apologise for making such a lazy mistake. The May 2001 DVD 500 is notorious for having provoked Lance Storm into critical commentary).
Kawada: How about this kick? Is this good enough for you?
Randy Orton is overrated by WWE creative.
Orton is talented and charismatic. He has a great look. Mick Foley, Chris Benoit, HHH, and Ric Flair have all gone out of their way to make him look like a star.
The problem is, he’s not there just yet.
This isn’t Orton’s fault. It takes time to win the fans over, and Orton simply hasn’t been around long enough to earn the kind of love and respect that the top stars are accorded. Unfortunately, time is a luxury in short supply in WWE right now. There is obviously tremendous pressure to create new stars, and a lot of young wrestlers are being forced up the card before they are ready. The sad thing is that by elevating Orton to the top of the card before he is ready, WWE creative may be hindering his natural development. Hopefully Randle’s natural skills and charm will be enough to overcome the backlash that his rapid push has already created.
Andre the Giant is overrated by younger fans.
It is generally understood that Andre is one of the great Icons of Professional Wrestling, and one of the biggest box office draws of all time. Everybody loves and respects Andre, and I’m no exception. The crazy thing is, though, that a perception seems to have arisen that Andre was once a talented ring technician. I’ve seen footage of old Andre matches. He was never a great worker. It’s true that he was once capable of throwing a drop kick, but even in his absolute prime he was never more mobile than Big Show or The Undertaker are now.
Something that really surprises me is that there are a lot of people who seem to remember Andre having a good match against Hogan at WrestleMania III. The poor bastard could barely stand under his own power at that time, and the match was, by any reasonable standard, terrible.
There is no way to overestimate Andre’s popularity, but that popularity was a result of the old territorial system. Andre travelled around from one area to another, and he drew big crowds because there were always people who had never seen him before. Once he’s been in a territory for a while, he stopped drawing because, frankly, his matches were never very good. Everybody has heard stories about what a tremendous guy Andre was, and most fans have a favourite Andre memory, but it simply doesn’t make sense to pretend that he was a great worker as well as a great person.
Steve Austin is overrated by casual fans and hardcore fans alike.
People still wonder when he will come back to save wrestling from itself. It’s not difficult to understand, since Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the most compelling characters in the history of wrestling. Of course, as knowledgeable fans, the people reading this all undoubtedly recognize that a combination of knee injuries, neck injuries, and personal issues make any such return unlikely at best. We also recognize that much of the lustre has sadly worn off of the Austin character, and even if he were to miraculously return to perfect health it wouldn’t hold the same thrill to see him in the ring again.
Even though many hardcore fans have become cynical about Stone Cold, a quick perusal of you local message board will reveal that we still tend to overrate his work as Stunning Steve in WCW and Superstar Steve in ECW. The phenomenon is similar to when a local underground band makes the big time, and suddenly everybody is claiming to have been there when they played the local dingy punk club. True fans remember the club being half full at best, and if I look back honestly I have to admit that the Austin vs. Adams feud was mildly interesting at best, and that Brian Pillman was my favourite Hollywood Blonde. The majority of the fans who brag about recognizing Austin’s potential from the very beginning are probably full of crap.