Monday, March 28, 2011

WrestleMania Week: Phan Request – The Top Ten Black Wrestlers

Welcome to WrestleMania Week here at Needless Things! It's time for my first ever Phan-requested post! This one comes from young Phantomaniac Carlito via Facebook:

Dear Phantom Troublemaker,
Will you please list the top ten best black wrestlers? Then the top ten Asian, Hispanic and white?
Thank you so much – you are my very favorite masked blogger!
Sincerely,
Carlito

Of course I will! Since you gave me no guidelines this one will be easy as pie. Awesome pie!

Just to make things clear, here’s how Phantom Troublemaker defines “Great Wrestler”:
A Great Wrestler has not only solid in-ring skills, but also great promo skills. They must have played a vital role in a major promotion. Not necessarily held the main title or even main-evented a pay-per-view; but at least been a major part of storylines. Longevity also comes into play. Chances are my Number 10 pick would be a lot higher if he had stuck around longer.
Also, I’m only including wrestlers from my experience of watching wrestling. I know about legends like Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson and Ernie Ladd; I just don’t have opinions on them other than, “I’ve heard they’re great”.
10)Bobby Lashley
If Lashley had stuck around for just a few more years in WWE (or even TNA) he would be much higher on this list. As it is, in his short time in WWE the man made such an impact and got so good so quickly that he was often compared to Brock Lesnar. Lashley has many must-see matches to his credit, but he made the most headway during his time as ECW champion feuding with Rob Van Dam. Their matches were easily the most memorable of any that occurred during that horrible mis-step that was Vince McMahon’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. It was also during this time that Lashley started to truly develop his mic skills. While he was never on par with greats like The Rock or Chris Jericho; the man was cutting solid promos by the time he left the company. Lashley came a long way from telling Simon Dean he was going to make him eat cheeseburgers.
9)New Jack
Some of you might be groaning right now, but there’s no denying New Jack’s star power and ability to connect with a crowd. From his beginnings as half of the original ECW’s tag team The Gangstas to battling for the ECW title, he became one of the most entertaining wrestlers to utilize ECW’s hardcore style. While New Jack’s technical skills may be negligible, his ring work was always amazing and entertaining. From taking staples to the forehead to diving off of twenty-foot high balconies, New Jack gave everything to entertain the fans. He put just as much into his mic work as he did wrapping chairs around people’s heads. Every promo was an over-the-top performance designed to wow the audience and terrify his opponents. You may dismiss what New Jack did as garbage wrestling, but there’s no denying the man’s appeal to the fans. He would later appear in TNA and briefly in WWE's ECW and was able to tone down his style and still remain entertaining and relevant.
8)Elix Skipper
From his beginnings in WCW as part of Team Canada to his outstanding work as part of Triple X in TNA, Prime Time has always given 110% to the ring. Elix has held multiple titles in both companies and may well be the most explosive worker on this list. When called upon to speak, Elix was always quiet and determined, cutting extravagant promos with wild declarations about his abilities. Skipper is also responsible for what I consider to be the signature TNA moment – delivering a hurricanrana to James Storm from the top of TNA’s six-sided steel cage. If TNA had stuck with the style that Elix delivered so well, I think they might still be a viable company today. Hell, I’d still be watching.
7)D’Lo Brown
I used to absolutely hate D’Lo Brown. And that’s because D’Lo is very good at his job. He was one of the first heels that I really, genuinely loathed post-kayfabe. Everything he did was dirty and every win was underhanded. Then he got injured, and when he came back he had a “Doctor’s note” that allowed him to wear a chest protector during his matches to protect his torn pectoral muscle. Naturally the chest protector ended up being used as weapon – making D’Lo’s Frogsplash finisher that much more devastating – and stayed around for months after it should have. D’Lo was gold in the ring and on the mic, and was a vital part of the WWF as a member of the Nation of Domination and later as a singles wrestler. D’Lo also wrestled in TNA for a time and even made a brief comeback in WWE after spending several successful years in Japan.
6)Ron Simmons
I only vaguely recall Simmons’ early-90’s WCW championship run. I was barely paying attention to wrestling at the time, much less WCW. But Simmons’ win was noted in the media because he was the first black man to win a World Heavyweight title, WCW or otherwise. Everybody in Georgia knew about it. I do know Ron Simmons very well from his WWF/WWE run. He may not have had the best gimmick in the world as some kind of weird gladiator accompanied by the delectable Sunny, but Simmons made his mark as leader of the Nation of Domination in the late 90’s. He was amazing on the mic – delivering the group’s Black Power message with a gusto that made his gripes believable. Simmons was also having solid, dramatic matches. His feud with a young upstart named Rocky Maivia is one of the greatest – and most important – of 90’s WWF history. Simmons could have easily dropped down to Midcard anonymity after portraying such a strong and polarizing character for so long, but became a part of the Ministry of Darkness after a “rehab” program courtesy of Don “The Jackal” Callus. Along with Justin Bradshaw Layfield, Simmons was half of the most feared tag team in the WWF/WWE for many years – The Acolytes, later known as the A.P.A.; the Acolytes Protection Agency. Simmons has a stiff, brutal style that looks fantastic in the ring and lends itself to his gimmick of being a feared man.

5)Ron Killings
Ron “The Truth” Killings first gained popular attention by replacing “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn as “Road Dogg” Jesse James’ tag team partner in the WWF. Needless to say, the tag team improved immediately. Regardless of that fact, the WWF never really did much with them and Killings – known as K-Kwik at the time - was eventually let go. He next appeared in TNA during their Wednesday night Pay-Per-View days and was one of the best early world champions they had. He was the first black man to ever hold the NWA World Title and cut amazingly heartfelt promos and had outstanding matches to get there. And believe me, everybody in TNA was having outstanding matches in those days, so for Killings to stand out among those athletes is an accomplishment in itself. His gimmick at the time was the black man that was being held down and what was so surprising was that he not only remained a babyface but managed to make the gimmick seem fresh despite the number of time it had been used in other companies. Every word he said made it feel like he was really fighting for something. Nowadays Killings is in WWE under the moniker R-Truth. He still has solid, though overly-gimmicky, matches and cuts a good promo when he is permitted the mic time. His time and accomplishments in TNA overshadow what he’s doing in WWE right now, but Truth should have years ahead of him in which to once again make a major impact. I think he has it in him if WWE gives him the chance.

TNA NWA Impact Samoa Joe The Truth by JasonDX
4)Shelton Benjamin
Shelton is without a doubt one of the greatest athletes – black, white, yellow, blue, whatever – to ever step in the squared circle. Every match he ever had is at least good. Most are great, many are outstanding. Starting out with Charlie Haas as Kurt Angle’s protégés in Team Angle, Benjamin quickly made a name for himself as a solid worker that was worth paying attention to. Haas and Benjamin soon set out on their own as The World’s Greatest Tag Team and lived up to the name every time they stepped in the ring. When the two split up, Benjamin found some level of success as a singles performer. He has never been superlative on the mic, but has enough chops to get the job done. What Benjamin does have is more Memorable Moments than many World Champions can even claim. From his signature WrestleMania Moment of leaping straight onto an upright ladder during the first Money in the Bank match to getting kicked literally out of the sky by Shawn Michaels after leaping across the 22-foot ring, Shelton has amazed time and again. You could easily fill one of WWE’s signature 3-disc DVD sets with great Shelton Benjamin matches.
3)Junkyard Dog
Everybody loves JYD. He was the first black wrestler I ever remember seeing and he was always in the middle of things. I remember getting so excited every single time he came out – something big was always going to happen. I’ve since seen plenty of matches and even more interviews thanks to WWE’s home releases, but the little boy that I used to be will always have a fondness for Junkyard Dog that comes from pure excitement.
2)The Rock
Despite his lowly and – let’s face it – terrible beginnings as Rocky Maivia to his current status as the man producing the most groan-worthy moments on RAW, there’s no denying The Rock’s spot as one of the greatest in-ring entertainers of all time. It didn’t take long after his recruitment into the Nation of Domination for Rock to establish himself as a strong solo competitor. After a memorable and important feud with Nation leader Ron Simmons, The Rock took control of the Nation and then eventually struck out on his own. He had success after success in the ring and earned what can only be termed a meteoric rise to the top. Remaining entertaining and injury-free for years, The Rock rose alongside one of his most famous and best opponents – Triple H. The two have feuded for the European, Intercontinental and WWF/WWE Titles and each time was better than the last. Rock also had tremendous feuds with Mick Foley, Chris Benoit and – of course – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock is commonly known as “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” and that is – beyond a shadow of a doubt – the truth. He now refers to himself as “The Most Electrifying Man in All Entertainment” and that… well, let’s see how his current run works out. He is currently feuding with both John Cena and The Miz and aside from the fact that he is The Rock hasn’t been doing what I would call a bang-up job. But even with the current crop of goofy, off-putting promos, The Rock is a force to be reckoned with and will always be remembered as The Great One.
1)Booker T
Booker T is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. I’m not sure there is any greater combination of mic skills and ring skills. Booker first gained notoriety as half of Harlem Heat with his brother, Stevie Ray. The pair enjoyed years of success as a hugely popular tag team with multiple title wins before they finally split. Booker found success as a singles competitor almost immediately, quickly winning the United States title. He went on to the main event, becoming one of WCW’s great World Champions. Booker was one of the few main event wrestlers to make the move to the WWF after the infamous sale of WCW to Vince McMahon. While it was Booker T’s disastrous match with Buff Bagwell on Monday Night RAW that killed any enthusiasm for maintaining WCW as a separate company, the blame for that lies entirely on Bagwell’s shoulders. Booker T gave it his all, he just didn’t have anything to work with. Booker remained with WWF/WWE as a solid team player, eventually working his way back to the main event. He found what may be his greatest success ever as “King Booker” after winning the King of the Ring tournament, traditionally a make or break event for a WWE Superstar. Adopting a ridiculous British accent and what can only be described as fancy-pants mannerisms, Booker became the single greatest heel in WWE at the time. He eventually left WWE for the lighter work schedule offered by TNA. In TNA, Booker maintained his excellent work ethic and was part of the world title picture or at least the main storyline for the duration of his stay there. Now Booker T is back home in WWE as an announcer. He has done an amazing job sitting in on SmackDown and was almost immediately the best announcer in WWE. His skills alone have made SmackDown a much more entertaining show.
Booker T has created a legacy of great entertainment that none can match. Decades from now, people will look back on his run as one of the greatest in all of professional wrestling. He has done more and meant more to more people than anybody else on this list and will easily be in the top five of any Greatest of All Time list.
There you go. I’m honestly not sure I’ll get around to the other requested lists any time soon thanks to more material than I had planned on this week, but feel free to look me up on Facebook and request your own article. I’ll write about anything once.

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom


8 comments:

  1. No Ernest "The Cat" Miller? For shame.

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  2. He totally would have been number 11. Well, maybe... 19. 32 at least.

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  3. Also Virgil.....poor, sad, Virgil.

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  4. Virgil. Somebody tell me how many black wrestlers there have been and I'll tell you what spot Virgil is in. I actually have a Virgil story. He gave me advice about women. I'll get around to sharing it one of these days.

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  5. I just remember the one dragoncon, some people were getting autographs and I was standing in the middle talking to him. When everyone finished and I went to leave he said "So would you like an autograph?". Me: "No man thats ok". The look on his face made me want to cry. Then I just went back to drinking and making fun of people.

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  6. Yeah - Virgil is like the Marc Singer of wrestling.

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  7. Butch Reed? Tony Atlas? Rocky Johnson? Papa Shango???

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  8. Andy - read the introduction. Don't be like io9 commenters.

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