If you’ve ever watched a WWE match it’s clear how much athleticism the performers possess. They risk their bodies each week to provide entertainment for fans across the world. It can be a move as simple as a body slam or as complicated as a 450 splash off of the top turnbuckle. As fans we live for the “holy s—” or “this is awesome” moment, wrestlers use all of their ability to provide.
By now, we all know that kayfabe is no longer protected and even the most casual fan knows that action is scripted. But, as the late George “the Animal” Steele once famously said, “It be predetermined but the bumps and bruises are real.”
In light of that quote and the upcoming celebration of wrestling that is WrestleMania, we’ve decided to compile a special list. We’ve ranked the top competitors in WWE history based on a combination of their in ring work and real life athletic accomplishments.
In order to make this list, you have to be a great worker in the ring and have tangible sports success outside of it. So that means John Cena and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, in spite of their Hall of Fame-caliber sports entertainment careers don’t make the cut. Both played college football, but not well enough to make this list.
Neither does Chris Jericho, who was a minor league hockey player.Hopefully, he’ll understand and I won’t make his list.
Second team All-WWE
Before he became Corbin he was Thomas Pestock and had a successful boxing youth boxing career as a three-time Golden Gloves champion. Pestock, 32, also played in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. He’s very early in his career, but at 6-6 and 317 pounds, Corbin isn’t a man you want any problems with.
Shamrock was a UFC legend. Plain and simple. He also was the 1998 King of The Ring winner when that mattered. He held the several belts in WWE and was a fan favorite for many years.
Let’s get this out of the way now. Lesnar should be higher on the list. He was anNCAA wrestling champion. He also nearly made the Minnesota Vikings without playing football in years. Lesnar is a remarkable athlete. However, his accomplishments in UFC are shrouded in controversy of performance enhancing drugs. It would disrespectful to not have him on the list. It’s also irresponsible to have higher.
He’s the WWE Universal champion as of this posting and has a winning record against Lesnar so, therefore, he’s higher. Don’t @ me, though. Goldberg had a five-year pro football career before eventually becoming a WCW mainstay.
When the WWE calls Henry the “World’s Strongest Man” it is not a work. Henry is a two-time Olympian. He still holds the record for the youngest person to squat 900 pounds. His powerlifting accomplishments are the stuff of legend. Few people in history, let alone WWE superstars have ever been stronger than the big man from Silsbee, Texas. Oh, and Henry did it all clean.
What can be said about the Rock’s in-ring exploits that haven't been already? Back in the day, he was also a starter on the 1991 NCAA Championship Miami Hurricane football team. An unfortunate injury kept him off the field in 1992 and he was eventually replaced by NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. If Dwayne Johnson doesn’t hurt his knee maybe he has the long football career and Sapp would’ve been the wrestler.
First team All-WWE
Sorry fans, but this is one list where Reigns is ranked above his cousin. Reigns, who was Joe Anoa’i was a star defensive tackle for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He was a three-year starter and played with Calvin Johnson. He was first-team All-ACC his senior year and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He then ended up in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Yes, Wahoo was the real name of this legend. He was a linebacker for four teams in the old AFL, and his football career came to an end in1968 after he knocked out two cops in a bar fight. McDaniel was such a bad man he wore his first name on the back of his jersey.
In the ring, McDaniel was a brilliant worker and had feuds with Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Abdullah the Butcher and many others. His tag team work with Gino Hernandez was light years ahead of its time.
The “Big Cat” of Grambling was one of the best wrestlers of his era. He stood 6-9 and weighed 315 pounds but moved with a unique quickness. Behind the mic he was great. He spoke with a veracity few others could match.
As a football player, he was special. He’s in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame, where was a four-time All-Pro in the AFL. He also won a championship with the Chargers. Like McDaniel, he wrestled during the off-season in the 60's. Go and watch some of his work. you’ll see how strong and fast he was. Ladd was truly special and it’s important that fans never forget his contributions.
Young fans of WWE may know Simmons as the guy says “DAMN."But if you have any idea of history you recognize him as world champion in the ring.
He’s the first African-American champion in WCW history. He also was part of the greatest tag teams in the WWE alongsideJohn "Bradshaw" Layfield —APA was a fun group of ass-kickers. But Simmons is so high on the list because of the combo of his wrestling andfootball careers. According to the Florida State University media guide, Simmons is “The Greatest Defender in Florida State History."He’s one of only seven retired numbers in school history. He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. Oh, and he’s considered the greatest defender in school history at school that NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders went to.
He’s an Olympic Gold Medalist, who else did you expect to be first?He’s finally going into the WWE Hall of Fame and it’s a well-deserved welcome back. Hopefully, the return leads to one more match and a few “You still got it” chants.