Like any wrestling fan, I hear the same question time and time again: "Who's your favorite?"
It's not easy to play favorites. In fact, I've whittled my list down to not just one but five all-time favorites. That part wasn't too hard. But what about current favorites? I don't point out enough that I love many of the current crop of wrestlers, just not the product in which they are presented. There's an amazing group of talent out there in all of the top companies, but I never really got around to thinking about who my current favorites were--until now.
In this and four upcoming entries I will highlight two stars of the ring--one of my all-time favorites and one current favorite. Like I said, there are many more legends that I admire and many other current stars that I look forward to watching. In the case of the current stars, I chose five that have been around for a spell. While many stars that I enjoy such as D'Angelo Dinero, Heath Slater, and Jack Swagger are certainly high on my list, they don't have the years that the others on my current list have under their belt. In other words, the current stars on my list are more "current all-time," if that makes sense. These stars, both current and all-time, are also in no particular order.
Without further ado...let's discuss my first two choices.
1 of 5 All-Time Favorites: Harley Race
Wrestlers can have virtually any look imaginable. Beautiful or ugly. Fat or thin. Tall or short. Proper or slob. While Harley Race once used the "Handsome" moniker, one of the things that always made me enjoy him so much is the fact that he just LOOKS like a wrestler. If you ask me, you should be able to open up a dictionary and when looking up the word "wrestler" see a photograph of one of three men: Arn Anderson, Don Muraco, or Harley Race. For whatever reason, to me these three men epitomize the word "wrestler" by look alone.
Race did more than just stand around and look like a wrestler, he could back it up in the ring in spades. Show even the most stubborn wrestling "doubter" a Harley Race match and you may just have a believer.
Race does not get enough credit for being one of the very first wrestlers to have the all-around package. He had the look. He had the in-ring skills. He had the skills on the mic. For quite a few years he even had the mutton chops. According to many inside the business, he also had the ability to take care of himself outside of the ring as well.
Race is in virtually every wrestling Hall of Fame imaginable but I've always felt that "The King" simply doesn't get all of the accolades which he deserves. A WWE-produced DVD collection would be an amazing gift to fans, and although the company may not feel that he is as marketable as others that they have highlighted, such a set has a better chance than ever to be produced as Triple H makes more and more such decisions.
Indeed it does speak volumes about Race when stars such as Triple H and Mick Foley publicly point out the contributions that the legend has made to their own careers. Since retiring, Race has also trained many stars including Ted DiBiase Jr. and Trevor Murdoch.
Although Harley Race was well into his reign as "The King" in the WWF by the time I became a fan, the magic of videotape allowed me to go back and follow Race's career from virtually the beginning. The growling voice and methodical, calculating ring style won me over immediately. I'm not above saying that the man honestly scared me. Although I have had the fortune to be in his presence many times as an adult, the impact of seeing Race's work is still enough to make any fan a bit uneasy. He was that good.
1 of 5 Current Favorites: The Big Show
Paul Wight will go down in history as having one of the most debated careers in the business. Was it a success? Was it a failure? Considering he's still at the top of business, I would say that a 100% conclusion can't be made at this time. If I was forced to make that decision, I would ultimately consider it a success.
The problem with Wight's career is the constant comparison to Andre. To me, the only comparison that can be made to Andre is the fact that at one point his gimmick was being "the son of Andre." That's it. The Big Show and Andre the Giant are two different men with two different careers in two VERY different eras in professional wrestling. End of subject.
It was once rumored that Hulk Hogan told his friend, Paul Wight, that Vince McMahon would know how to make Wight a success. Whether or not the story was true, the message was correct. Wight did not appeal to me as "The Giant." At that point he essentially WAS supposed to be another Andre. As The Big Show, Wight was able to show his own personality. Was he too beatable at times? Perhaps, but the "giant" successes of his career continue to block out the bad similar to how his 7 foot frame blocks out the sun.
The Big Show appeals to me because in that 7 foot body he is able to put on an exciting, believable, and entertaining match as well as men half of his size. Detractors of his usually turn out to be the same naysayers who will automatically dislike any wrestler that doesn't excel with the fairyland expectation known as "workrate." The man can work. He's not flippy. Deal with it.
Currently in the midst of a fun feud with another underrated giant in the form of Mark Henry, Show is still going strong sixteen years after his WCW debut. Honestly, I would say Show has never been better. Each time that injuries have threatened to end his career, the man comes back a bit better than before. I'd like to think that Show has a few more years left in the ring, but when it does end I hope he goes out with a bang. Like the song says... "You won't see it coming, but I promise you'll know..."
I hope you've enjoyed the first two "My Wrestling Favorites" capsules. Stay tuned for four more installments! As always, for updates on the blog and galleries full of hundreds of great wrestling collectibles join our Facebook Fanpage!