Blading with Bill: The most underrated wrestlers of all time
Over the last few weeks, I’ve given you my choices for my Mount Rushmore of heels, babyfaces, tag teams and managers.
This week I am going to dive in a little deeper and pick my top four underrated wrestlers of all time.
So, what exactly does that mean?
Underrated, for the purposes of this column, means to me a wrestler who was very good at his craft, but for some reason flew under the radar and didn’t receive the notoriety of the mega-stars. Even wrestlers who held belts fit this description.
I’ve read and heard of wrestlers such as Ricky Steamboat or Barry Windham referred to as underrated, but that’s not what I’m looking at here. Those two, for example, were world champions and figured into some of the greatest angles in wrestling history.
I’m thinking along the lines of skilled wrestlers who could have been bigger stars given different circumstances.
Often, it comes down to being at the right place at the right time.
Once again, there are so many to pick from who could have easily made the grade, but came up just short because of the numbers game.
Names such as Ricky Morton, Kevin Sullivan, Ron Garvin, Bob Orton, Dick Slater, Dustin Rhodes, SD (Special Delivery) Jones, The Great Muta, for the WWF fans, Shelton Benjamin, — the list is endless. Going back further, how about Jerry Blackwell or Jumping Jim Brunzell from the American Wrestling Association? And let’s not forget Iron Mike Sharpe, who despite being Canada’s greatest athlete, was never world champion.
Fans from Jim Crocket Promotions remember Bobby Eaton as Beautiful Bobby, a member of the highly successful Midnight Express tag team along with Sweet Stan Lane and manager Jim Cornette.
Eaton certainly had his time in the spotlight as part of the Midnight Express, and later the Dangerous Alliance under Paul E. Dangerously, but Eaton was never truly appreciated for what he was.
Eaton rarely, if ever, spoke in interviews, wisely letting Cornette shoot off his big mouth to draw heat.
His inability, or unwillingness, to cut promos no doubt hurt Eaton, but watch a match and you’ll see one of the smoothest, most competent ring technicians every to lace up a pair of boots.
Cornette, whose podcast, The Jim Cornette Experience, is a must-listen, often said Eaton never had a bad match.
Robert Eaton is now 61 and retired.
Malenko, like Eaton, was part of a famous group. From 1998-1999, Malenko was a member of the Four Horsemen. He often teamed with the late Chris Benoit as one of the best technical duos of all time. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle in Toronto and they were indeed great in the ring.
Malenko, whose father, Boris Malenko was a Russian Heel in Florida in the 1970s and ’80s, was a gifted worker who made matches believable. Malenko, however, suffered from a lack of size and wasn’t the most charismatic on the mic. It’s odd because many backstage often referred to Malenko as one of the funniest characters around. He just couldn’t bring that persona to the ring, where he was all business.
Dean Simon worked for World Wrestling Entertainment as a road agent for 18 years before parting ways with the company last year.
The late Brian Pillman (he died in 1997 at just 35 of a heart attack), was a high flyer in the ring and a self-proclaimed loose cannon outside the squared circle. In fact, he took the character so seriously many couldn’t tell if he was really off his rocker or if he was simply playing the part.
Pillman, too, was a member of the Four Horsemen, but never really fit that group. He could wrestle and had heat, but he was too unpredictable. Compare Pillman to Arn Anderson, the quintessential Horseman, and you get the idea.
Pillman was a terrific athlete — he played pro football in both the National Football League and Canadian Football League — and was skilled in the ring.
He was in line for a major feud with Ric Flair in the early 1990s when management at World Championship Wrestling axed the idea. It would have been awesome to see those two go at it. Flair could have turned Pillman into another Sting.
He did team with Stunning Steve Austin to form the Hollywood Blondes in WCW before Austin went to WWE and made it big as Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Darren Matthews (not much of a wrestling name) performed in both WCW and WWE as a boorish snob who hated getting his hands dirty working with lesser opponents. He played the character very well and drew more than his share of heat.
Regal won an impressive number of titles — he was a WCW tag champion on four occasions — and also held various tag team and individual titles in WWE.
This guy could work with the best of them and his snarky promos were great. He was voted as the No. 18 singles wrestler in the world in 1994 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. He was also legitimately tough and wasn’t to be screwed around with.
Watch one of is matches. It’s better than anything being served up today.
Regal has been candid about his drug use which could have held him down. He also suffered from a heart ailment.
Next week: The most overrated wrestlers, brother!
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