1. The Undertaker: When he joined the WWE back in 1990, he would have a ring name and a character that would define him for the rest his career. He was first introduced as the mystery partner for Ted DiBiase (The Million Dollar Man) in 1990. After a stint with WWE’s version of Robert Tilton or Benny Hinn (Brother Love), The Undertaker comes under the “management” of Paul Bearer who is just as frightening if not more than the Undertaker. Eventually even Paul got tired of the Undertaker and decided to go with Mike Foley who was in his Mankind persona at the time. His gimmick was kind of cheesy in the early years with Undertaker breaking out the body bags to put the defeated “jobbers” (slang term for a pro wrestler assigned to lose the match) in. By the late 1990’s he became a dark priest as if he were an agent of Lucifer himself.
It was controversial at the time but it showed that the WWE has grown up for better or for worse. Undertaker underwent the most unusual gimmick come around May 2000. While there were still elements of the “supernatural,” The Undertaker adopted a biker persona and would enter the ring riding on his motorcycle, either to the music of Kid Rock (American Bad Ass) or Limp Bizkit(Rollin). He would eventually return to form of something similar back in the 1990’s, but regardless the Undertaker (Born Mark William Calaway) proved to be one of the most respected and feared WWE Superstars if not for all time. If you’re going to take him on, have your tombstone made out in advance cause if given a chance and if he truly had it his way…. you’re not only going in a bodybag, you’re going in a casket and six feet under.
2. Hulk Hogan: Hulk Hogan was the prefect personality for Professional Wrestling to finally become a coast to coast attraction. On December 27, 1983; he took on Bill Dixon in the city of St. Louis and won. Soon after in 1984, he stood up for Bob Backlund as he ‘rescued’ him from the tag team The Wild Samoans. But what really cemented Hogan is when he took on The Iron Sheik at the famous Madison Square Garden and escaped from the Sheik’s signature move and eventually defeating him and winning the Heavy Weight Title…which he would hold on to for a very long time. The fans, the media, they all ate it upand Hulkamania was born.
Hulk is also one of the few if not the only Pro Wrestler to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Hogan was able to fuse pop culture with sports entertainment (especially the use of ‘entrance theme songs’), and the WWE would not be the empire that it has become without Hulk Hogan ‘Can Do’ attitude, and charisma.
3. Triple H: Paul Michael Levesque first came to the WWE building on his previous character at former rival WCW. They wanted to call Levesque; Reginald DuPont Helmsley, but he knew better and at Levesque’s suggestion his ring name became Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Helmsley was first known as the “Connecticut Blueblood” and WWE in house music composer Jim Johnson created a Baroque style (as in one of the styles in the “Classical Music” cannon) entrance theme. As his character evolved so did his entrance music. Johnson’s “Blood Blue” was replaced withLudwig Van Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” from his Ninth Symphony with the familiar choral strain. Helmsley eventually dropped the blueblood snob persona and became your typical Blue collar tough guy look consisting of leather jackets, jeans and t-shirts and a short version of his ring name (Triple H).
Around the same time, Johnson also composed the theme “My Time” featuring vocalistChris Warren (who’s vocals sounded similar to Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine) to fit the newer image. Britain’s famed metal group Motorhead (and one of Triple H’s favorite bands) build on the riff of “My Time” and composed Triple H’s best-known entrance theme “The Game” which best described Triple H and who he is. You want to challenge Triple H, you better be just as strong as he is and play to win…because if given the chance, Triple H will give you the pedigree (his finishing move) and its “Game Over Man.” It should be noted that Triple H married into the McMahon family for real in 2003, when he and Stephanie McMahon were legally married and not just a on camera relationship in order to get the best of daddy Vince. Triple H is not only The Game in the ring, but in the actual real world of business.
4. The Rock: Dwayne Johnson adopted the names of his father and grandfather becoming Rocky Maivia, but the fans did not warm up to him. He embraced being his inner heel and eventually started to call himself The Rock, and become known for his consistent no holds barred equal opportunity smacktalk.
The Rock persona won him fans, and eventually the title “The People’s Champion,” and while he would no longer call himself Rocky, his fanschant that respected name in unison. Johnson’s “gift of gab” eventually allowed him to move into the world of action movies (more/less). The Rock was one of two WWE Superstars to pick up where Hulk Hogan left off, and keep WWE on top of the world in Sports Entertainment. In his own words; “If You Smell, What The Rock Is Cooking.” Who is the other one? We are coming to him now.
5. Stone Cold Steve Austin: While “The Rock” was the ‘People’s Champion,’ it should also be noted that Stone Cold Steve Austin was also an important WWE Superstar that kept the organization on top of the world. He was first known as “The Ringmaster,” but in March 1996 he adopted his Stone Cold moniker when he grew a gotee and shaved his head bald. He would win the title of King of The Ring in that same year defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts.” The popular passage of scripture John 3:16 (God so loved that world, that he gave his only son) would be incorporated into one of Austin’s biggest trademarks when he got the last word with Roberts. “You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16… Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” Was it a mockery of scripture or was it really a mocking of Roberts who claimed to be a born again Christian? Either way, Austin was the WWE’s top superstar of the mid 1990’s, and the bad boy of the WWE.
Austin 3:16 was just another handle for Stone Cold, for whatever action he successfully executed. However, he dared challenge the greatness of Mike Tyson, and that lead to an on-screen rivalry between himself and WWE’s owner Vince McMahon. No matter how he tried to take Austin down, Stone Cold could take the abuse and bring it right back to his superior. That rivalry was just as important to the success of WWE in the mid 1990’s as The Rock becoming the smack talking “People’s Champion” at the turn of the century.
6. Macho Man Randy Savage: Sir Edward Elgar’s March No. 1 in D/Land of Hope & Glory from his “Pomp and Circumstance Marches” may forever be connected to this WWE superstar whether he likes it or not. “Ode To Joy” was easy for Triple H to knock off, but Elgar’s famous March from the Pomp and Circumstances music cycle is not as separable from this charismatic performer in professional wrestling. Even though he mostly played the heel (wrestling slang for villain/antagonist) he was respected by the fans and was Hulk Hogan’s equal in drawing power.
He would work for WWE’s rivals WCW (before WWE bought them out) and TNA before he retired from Professional Wrestling altogether. One rival in real life did take out Savage. That being death itself, and it came for him on May 20, 2011 when he and his wife at the time Barbara Payne went for drive in Seminole, Florida. Here is a fun fact regarding Savage. “Leaping” LannyPoffo (a popular jobber in the WWE ) who actually wrote poetry and did it in the ring, is the younger brother of the Macho Man. Poffo would pay his respects to his Big Brother when Randy was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
7. Roddy Piper: Contrary to popular belief; Roddy Piper is really from Canada, not from Scotland…but his lineage does trace back to Scotland. His rivalry with Hulk Hogan pails these days to the one that Austin and Mr. McMahon, but back in the day it was all the rage. His Scottish passion and wit would earn him the names “Rowdy Roddy” and most importantly, “Hot Rod.” The Hogan/Piper rivalrybegan in early 1985 with the only WWE program/special to air on MTV called “The War to Settle the Score.” Piper got a title shot for Hogan’s World Heavyweight Championship belt, but Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton, Jr. cost him the chance to claim that title. Piper lashed out against Mr.
T and rising pop star Cyndi Lauper (Captain Lou Albano portrayed her father in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” music video) who were at the Score event. This storyline, setup what would become the WWE’s equivalent of the NFL’s Superbowl, as well of the first of the main four and consistent Pay Per View events put on by the WWE…”WrestleMania.” Hogan and Piper were set up to fight each other once again.Hogan had Mr. T and JimmySnuka in his corner while Piper had “Mr.Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Cowboy” Bob Orton. When all the dust had settled, Piper came up short…again and the Hot Rod was damaged…again by the power of Hulkamanina. Piper would never earn a world champion belt in his wrestling career, but he was a respected professional wrestler in his own right. Piper passed away in his sleep in his Hollywood home on July 31, 2015. Piper correctly predicted that he would not live to see 65 years of life. He was 61.
8. Mick Foley: Everyone knows that many Wrestling Superstars have ring names and personas. But one guy that could change his persona on a whim and on camera was Mike Foley. They say that Mick had “three faces.” If you include Mick himself, it’s really four faces of Foley. The three faces of Foley during his prime were the hippie/disco loving Dude Love (Jim Johnson composed a Bee Gees esque entrance theme for this persona), the mentally deranged Mankind (who eventually went with a shirt and tie and a sock puppet), and last but not least the modern-day outlaw Cactus Jack and his barbed wire bat. The biggest accomplishment that Foley did was write his OWN autobiography without the help of a ghostwriter and/or co-writer.
He wrote this book while he was on the road with the WWE and apparently wrote it in longhand. That hard work would pay off for his “Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks” which became a #1 New York Times Bestseller. He followed-up that book with “Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker Than Wrestling” and “The Hardcore Diaries.” Foley was and still is keeping himself with stints in the WWE and its rivals and few movie and TV appearances outside professional wrestling along the way.
9. Andre The Giant: The Eighth wonder of the world does have his place in the top ten of WWE superstars. He took his giantism and turned that from being a Lemon to some great lemonade. That in part would earn this Frenchman his nickname “the Eighth Wonder.” We know him best for his on and off friendship with colleague with Hulk Hogan, and long before thatrivalry he was known for his undefeated streak from the early 1970’s into the 1980’s back in the day when WWE was known corporately as Capitol Wrestling Corporation and later as Titan Sports.
It was also the days when these companies were focused more on the east coast territories of the Pro Wrestling business. He even faced off with Hogan when he was not the breakout Superstar he would soon become. He was the first true WWE Superstar before Hogan, Austin, or even The Rock could join his ranks. He will also be remembered for his role (and his personal favorite) as the giant Fezzik in the movie adaption of the 1973 novel “The Princess Bride” in 1987. In the early 1990’s Andre finalized his will, and in late January of 1993, he would pass away in hotel room in his native country of France.
10. Chris Jericho: He has become a jack of all trades, and while he may not achieve the equal status of some of the other WWE Superstars mention, he too is a WWE Superstar in his own right. He won the WWE Championship at least once, and won the heavyweight belt three times. On top of that heclaimedthe Intercontinental belt a total of nine times. Hey once called it the CHRISinental belt…that turned out to be prophetic. He has done three stints with the WWE, and currently is on hiatus due to his involvement with the hard rock band Fozzy (who Jericho has been involved with since its 1999 formation). He may moonlight as a rock vocalist, but his wrestling days are not over yet.