92. GREG VALENTINE
Real Name – Gregory Wisniski
Aliases – Johnny Fargo; Johnny Valentine Jr
Hometown – Seattle, Washington
Debuted – 1968
Titles Held – WWE Intercontinental; WWE World Tag Team; NWA United States; NWA United States Tag Team; NWA North American Heavyweight
Other Accomplishments – WWE Hall of Fame inductee in 2004; voted Most Hated Wrestler in Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 1975, 1979, 1983; wrestled as the Blue Knight on Shawn
Michaels’ team at Survivor Series 1993
Greg Valentine was a no-nonsense, hard-core bad ass. He could talk on the mic if he felt like it, but usually kept his words to a fairly simple explanation of how badly he was going to beat his opponent. He wasted no words, and no motion – and if he could break one of your limbs during a match, he was a happy man.
Greg was the son of Johnny Valentine, a big, good-looking, much-reviled heel in the 60’s and early 70’s. Greg was trained in the sadomasochistic gulag know as The Dungeon, under the very creepy eye of Stu Hart. He tried a couple of various different non-de-plumes early in his career, trying not to simply ride his father’s coat tails (yes, I know – unfathomable in today’s business). He finally debuted as Greg Valentine in 1975, but was billed as Johnny’s younger brother, in order to prevent the audience of thinking of Johnny as too old to compete. Sadly, this became irrelevant rather shortly, after Johnny’s career was ended due to a broken back he suffered in a plane crash.
Valentine really came into his own in the NWA in the late 70’s, especially after forming a tag team with Ric Flair. They were an especially vicious pairing, twice leaving Flair’s “cousins”, the original Minnesota Wrecking Crew Gene and Ole Anderson unable to leave under their own power. Valentine also held several single titles, including the U.S. Heavyweight Championship, which he won from Flair (who appears just a bit higher on this list). His most famous feud over the U.S. title was with a then-babyface Roddy Piper, culminating in their memorable dog collar match at Starcade 1983. And yes, of course it’s on YouTube. (Well okay, a clip of it is – but it’s still cool.)
Most people reading this probably know Valentine from his time in the WWF, starting with his feud with Tito Santana over the Intercontinental title. In fact, that was when this writer first learned about Valentine: I was fascinated by the back-and-forth feud between these two (try and remember, Hulkamania was launching about now, so was amazed by title matches that didn’t consist of babyface heat segment-heel heat segment-hulk up-punch punch punch-big boot-legdrop). You could sense, even through the television (and sometimes, on the scrambled Philadelphia cable channel Prism) just how much these two really hated each other.
Valentine’s final run at the top of the card was in The Dream Team, with Brutus Beefcake (for Greg’s dignity, we’ll ignore the failed experiment with Dino Bravo). A more cynical writer than myself might point out that Valentine and Beefcake were two of Hulk Hogan’s closest friends, so their extended run with the tag titles might, just might, be seen as backstage politics. But of course, we all know Hogan would never debase himself with that kind of power play, so I’ll ignore it.
And unfortunately, even the baddest of asses sometime partake in total silliness towards the end of their careers. In this case, there was the unspeakably bad feud with Ronnie Garvin, which centered around… shin guards. Apparently, the laws of physics in wrestling state that if you twist a shin guard around while applying a figure-four leglock, the pain is beyond excruciating. However, if your opponent also wears a shin guard – he feels NO PAIN WHATSOEVER. Let me just say, the image of Ronnie Garvin sticking his thumbs in his ears, waving his fingers, and sticking out his tongue at Valentine while in a figure-four stole a little bit of my childhood from me.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.