Volume 2, Issue 3 University of Houston
Millennium madness -- it's never over
The Wrestling Report
Ed De La Garza
Yeah, I know. You've had enough of all the millennium lists. But really, would there really be a point to living if you hadn't read The Wrestling Report's Top 10 List of the Last Millennium? So what if the next millennium doesn't begin until Jan. 1, 2001?
Top 10 of the last millennium
I based this list on several factors, including impact on the "sport," skill, personality and fan appeal. Yes, it's open to debate. If you don't agree, let me know.
10) Lou Thesz -- Thesz personified the tough guy image of golden age wrestlers. Between 1937 and 1966, he held the National Wrestling Alliance World Championship belt six times for a total of 13 years. Not many of you know about Thesz, but he's one of the all-time best.
9) Frank Gotch -- Gotch defeated Georges "The Russian Lion" Hackenscmidt for the NWA belt in 1908 and didn't surrender it until 1915. Gotch wrestled at a time when wrestling was as popular as boxing. He was wrestling's first great champion.
8) Shawn Michaels -- You may not think of the Heartbreak Kid as being important in the grand scheme of things, but Michaels elevated himself to superstar status despite not being a true heavyweight. Along with Scott Hall, Michaels participated in the two greatest ladder matches in history. In '96, he wrestled Bret Hart in an iron man match, where he won the World Wrestling Federation World Title for the first time. Though he may return, years of high-risk maneuvers and massive bumps forced him to retire in mid-'99.
7) Bret Hart -- Hart is "the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be." He may not be charismatic, but he's still the best mat technician to ever grace the squared circle. He also participated in the most infamous professional wrestling match in history -- the WWF World Title match against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series '97.
Having signed with World Championship Wrestling, Hart was scheduled to lose the match. After years of loyalty to the WWF, he persuaded owner Vince McMahon to book a disqualification ending. The original ending had Hart reversing Michaels' sharpshooter hold. However, McMahon changed his mind and had referee Earl Hebner end the match before Hart could turn the submission hold. He never tapped out, hence Survivor Series '97's subtitle "The Screw-job at Montreal." Hart finally regained his status as World Champion at WCW when he defeated Chris Benoit at Mayhem in November '99.
6) Bruno Sammartino -- Sammartino was to the WWF what Thesz was to WCW/NWA. He held the WWF Title twice between '63 and '77 for a total of 13 years, at one time holding the belt for more than seven years. He is still regarded as the greatest WWF Champion of all time.
5) Rocky Maivia -- You may argue with this, but the Rock may be more popular than Steve Austin. This three-time WWF World Champion is this high on the list for two reasons. One, he's black. Before you send the hate mail, the Rock became the WWF's first black World Champion at Survivor Series '98. Though Ron Simmons reached the same plateau with WCW years earlier, he wasn't as popular as the Rock. It doesn't matter what race, creed or religion you are, everyone's a Rocky fan. Two, and most importantly, at 27, the Rock has the potential to be the greatest WWF Champion of all time.
4) Steve Austin -- Austin's rise in popularity ushered in the WWF's shift in "attitude." A four-time WWF Champion, Austin said what he wanted to, regardless of the occasion. His feud with McMahon helped resurrect the Monday night wars and elevated RAW to its weekly dominance over WCW's Nitro. Though currently out of action with a neck injury, he may be back in time for Wrestlemania 2000. His popularity rivaled that of Hulk Hogan in the Hulkamania days. More importantly, Austin was the figurehead of wrestling's popular upswing.
3) Andre the Giant -- Andre became the WWF's goodwill ambassador during the '70s. Though a fan favorite, he was never given the World Championship. He finally received a title shot in '83 against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. It wasn't until '88 that Andre was rewarded for his years of service with a World Title reign. He died in '93.
2) Ric Flair -- A 14-time World Champion, Flair was perhaps the greatest showman in the history of wrestling. He may have pulled a few face turns, but Flair spent the majority of his career as a heel, a role he loved. The interesting thing about that was that people always cared about Flair. The third "Nature Boy" was one of those wrestlers who had the ability to draw people with his interviewing skills, charisma and had the wrestling ability to back up his boasts. He was a World Champion in both WCW and the WWF, even showing up on WWF television with the WCW/NWA belt. Whoo!
1) Hulk Hogan -- Ugh. He couldn't wrestle worth a lick, but he made up for it by having the personality to bring wrestling into the mainstream in the mid-'80s. He was the first true crossover star. Hogan was a household name and wrestling owes its current popularity to Hogan's ability to reach a mass audience. It kills me to admit he's No. 1. Enough.
There have been six matches announced for WCW's Souled Out (Jan. 16, 7 p.m., PPV) so far. There's no Wrestling Report next week, so let's go ahead with the preview.
World Title: Bret Hart vs. Sid Vicious -- The title can change hands via a disqualification ending. Hart is perhaps the best wrestler of the modern era, but unlike Flair, he can't make inferior wrestlers look better. Unless Sid puts on the match of his life, don't look for much here. Prediction: It better be Hart.
U.S. Title: Jeff Jarrett vs. Chris Benoit -- This is a "Triple Threat Theater" match, meaning there are three specialty matches. The first is a "dungeon rules" match, the second is a "bunkhouse brawl" match and the third is a "caged heat" match. The first wrestler to win two of these matches wins the U.S. Title. Prediction: Jarrett
Other matches include Norman Smiley vs. Brian Knobs vs. Fit Finlay vs. Meng in a "Four the Hard Way for the Hardcore Championship," Tank Abbott vs. Jerry Flynn, Diamond Dallas Page against Buff Bagwell in a no-disqualification, no-referee, last man standing wins match and David Flair vs. Vampiro. Predictions: I don't care, Abbott, Page and Flair.
Until the DC 2000, that's it for now.
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