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Serious Greatest of All Time Candidates


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#1 Dylan Waco

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:01 AM

I was thinking about this over the last couple of days, but when I started posting about wrestling on the net over fifteen years ago the range of acceptable "best ever" candidates was really small. It expanded a bit over the years but by and large there was a very small number of candidates that wouldn't be met with accusations of insanity/trolling. I would say about ten years ago the serious candidates would have been: Kawada, Misawa, Jumbo, Flair, Destroyer (I believe the Beyer pimping) and maybe Liger. There were a few guys touting people like Funk, Takada, various Joshi figures (most notably Jaguar, Aja or Hokuto), Dynamite and Harley but they were more isolated and in many quarters were viewed as contrarian picks. Lucha was almost never discussed, shootstyle was off the radar, NJPW heavies largely ignored and a non-NWA champ GOAT claim from the States would have been dismissed out of hand (yes I realize Terry is not pimped for his title run but I'm on a role here). Fast forward ten years and the explosion of available footage and access to it and it seems like there are a mammoth number of available GOAT contenders. I am a Lucha novice but I have seen claims for: El Dandy El Hijo Del Santo Negro Casas Satanico Blue Panther is another name that I know is highly regarded though I get the feeling GOAT would be considered excessive. Still those are guys with followings that weren't even in the discussion before. From the U.S. you've got: Terry Funk Ric Flair Eddy Guerrero Stan Hansen (though I guess you could argue that a lot of his claim rests on stuff from Japan) Jerry Lawler The Destroyer (see Hansen) You still see an occasional Harley fan out there though he's not as touted as before. Bockwinkel has fans. Benoit was a guy with supporters before the murders. A couple of days ago my brother mentioned Rey and I found it impossible to argue against. I get the feeling if you were in the right place Michaels, Austin and Bret would all have many advocates as well. Even someone like Bill Dundee does not seem like a totally off the reservation pick to me. The point is there are more obvious candidates then before and several others that I think would be in the discussion. Japan probably has seen the biggest shake up as people pay less attention to Juniors and no attention to Joshi. This has led to a situation where no one is touting Joshi gals anymore but I think if anything the over all field has expanded dramatically. Japan: Tenryu Kawada Misawa Kobashi Jumbo Fujiwara Fujinami Hashimoto Liger I am tempted to include Volk Han, Tamura and even someone like Ishikawa as he is someone that has a vocal following online though I don't know that anyone would tout any of these guys as GOAT. Anyway I was curious to see if the general view is that I am crazy and we have just seen a sea change in who is pimped so heavily or if we are actually seeing a broadening landscape leading to a more inclusive and (perhaps) thoughtful appraisal of who the best ever was. Also would love to hear if anyone thinks any of these names are stretches, if anyone else could be included, et. For example are their any Europeans worth considering? Did I name all the relevant Luchadores? et, et, et

#2 sek69

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:08 AM

I would have to think Santo (Sr. not Jr.) would be a no brainer considering his status in Lucha. I don't think the country will shut down for a day of mourning when anyone else mentioned passes on.

#3 El-P

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:40 AM

Really, with a few exceptions (Fujiwara, Lawler, lucha guys), I don't see that much of a shake up. The fact that no ones pays attention to joshi is just sad, but it doesn't change the fact that Hokuto, Aja, Jaguar, Chiggy and Devil were some of the greatest of all time. Even back in the late 90's, Volk Han and Tamura were considered GOAT by people who cared about the style. Benoit is dropped for non-wrestling reasons, while Dundee shows up. I have no notion of Race not being pimped anymore, when did that happen ? You forgot Backlund though, he's a guy that after the WWF polls and SC and DVDVR can easily be add to the list. Really, I don't see any major changes, most of these guys were already pimped 10 years ago as GOAT. Most notable additions in the US and Japan fields are Lawler and Fujiwara. Fujinami I never heard him massively pimped as a GOAT, and considering his 90's work, I don't see it at all. It makes me laugh that Fuji would be considered while Takada of all people would be dropped. Takada's career murders Fuji. And I like Fuji.

#4 MJH

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:50 AM

I think the differentiation needs to be made between "an all-time great" (one of many) and "greatest of all-time" (singular). And, even still, I think there's only ever roughly the same dozen-or-so 'places', hence the pro-Fujiwara movement bringing an anti-Takada one... Lawler coincided with a fall (of sorts) for Harley etc... and then other people fall by the wayside like Dynamite etc...

Personally I don't see much of an argument for the majority of the people on that list, though I'd call most "great". I've never got the Lawler/Fujiwara pushes, though I can see something in Lawler (the same for, say, Tenryu or Fujinami), but I think GOAT is laughable hyperboly. Ishikawa is even moreso. I'm as big a Han and Tamura fan as anyone, but I don't see a case at all - "best matwork" and that's about it. It doesn't mean they weren't great, but...

[There's probably some European guys to be added to your list of "new-found great worker" etc...]

I still think it has to be one of the All Japan Four (Jumbo, not Taue, of course). I can understand where Terry or Eddie comes from, and obviously Flair will always be around, but their best stuff was just on a different level to everyone else's.

#5 El-P

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:39 AM

Tamura and Volk Han were more than just "great matwork". In the confines of their styles, they're just the greatest workers ever. Volk Han got good match out of the shittiest of the shittiest, the name of the guy was Tariel I think, and he managed to get something actually exciting out of that guy. The anti-Takada trend is the most ridiculous ever. I can understand the anti-Tiger Mask trend, moreso because I never bought Tiger as a great worker to begin with, although it goes way too far. Lawler I've had the opportunity to see more of him, and the issue is that, well, if you can get past the fact that 99% of his offense was a punch, the rest of Lawler's work was great (selling, bumping, facials). But the punching is an issue though. I have no idea where he would stand compared to Bret or Flair. Tenryu is a strange case. I think some anti-Tenryu sentiment came from the infamous Jewett comp which tended to show that Jumbo carried Tenryu to the famous greatest match of the 80's. And the fact that Tenryu was dismissed because he worked too much with NJ heavies, whose style was considered inferior, and indy leagues, including FMW. To me, the more I watched Tenryu, the more it was obvious this guy was a great worker. Not the greatest mechanic, but a great worker. Not as great as Jumbo, Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi, but who was ? Fujinami was great in the 80's, and merely good at best in the 90's, whith a very dated and often boring style whenever he didn't feel like working hard. Don't see a case for Fujinami at all. Despite what Benoit did, there's no doubt he is one of the greatest ever. Too fucking bad. Michaels is a rather laughable candidate.

#6 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 07:37 AM

I don't really think this is a pressing concern for people anymore. I can't imagine people ever getting as involved in a topic like this as they may have done in the past. If you asked people now who they thought the greatest of all-time were, you'd get a bunch of new choices from folk who like "digging in the crates" for new stuff and standard answers from folks who've either stopped watching or only watch a bit. I agree with MJH. I don't think there's all that many people pushing the names you've mentioned. Jerome's fretting about people being anti-Takada, but that amounts to all of four or five people. Speaking for myself, finding new workers is the only thing that keeps me interested in wrestling and seeing any list of great workers with names like Jumbo or Kawada instantly bores me. This tends to influence my own wrestling opinions a lot, but it can'be helped. New is better for me, and revised opinions are paramount. Personally, I'd like things to go further. I'd love for there to be a great overall of the thinking about lucha, for example, but I can't see it happening. All told, I think wrestling opinions are becoming less and less important.

#7 MikeCampbell

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 07:43 AM

Billy Robinson is definitely up there.

#8 MJH

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 08:24 AM

Oh, Jerome, I'll totally with you on Han and Tamura, I wasn't implying that all they had was the matwork. It's a bit like Blue Panther; that's their calling card, and the one aspect I feel safe as saying they were the best ever at. I think perhaps it's just that bit removed, or different, similar to how people talk of Lucha but in (especially) RINGs case being closer to an actual truth. There's "story" and "structure" to a point. You could say Han had a great moveset, he was as creative in his form as Toyota or Kobashi were really, but I find myself sort of transposing the idea almost. Selling, too, although that Tariel match (assuming you mean the '95 loss, which I agree is a fantastic short match and a fantastic performance/"carry job") is really an exception within the form, generally the selling's more pure body language, putting over the long-term toll rather than hobbling excessively to put over a kneebar or whatever. Tenryu, I'll agree, was pretty great. Fujinami too. But it's back to my first point; there's "great" and there's "might be the single greatest wrestler ever". I'll admit that the excessiveness of the "Lawler Movement" irked me into holding more against him, or focusing on what I didn't see there rather than the good stuff I did. (kind of like the NJ Juniors in the '96 Yearbook forum). I'd hear stupid arguments about how "Lawler showed more counters to a headlock against Race in their '77 broadway, ergo, he's better than Steamboat". Or something of that ilk. Whereas those headlocks were Race's routine (and he used the same ones with Steamboat) and I'd put the entire match as perhaps our best example of Harley's touring 60:00 routine. Lawler was great (or thereabouts) and I love his stuff with Bill Dundee. I think he just became too much of a poster-child for the whole "anti-moves", "big-up for brawls", "punches and angles for hicks = wrestling" trends etc... Ultimately I agree that his selling and bumping etc... were really, really strong, but there's a big leap between that and GOAT, isn't there? And, yeah, it's what Dan said. People are always more interested in what's new to them, it keeps things fresher. Though there is an anti-AJ rising; Misawa's death exacerbated the discomfort people felt with "dangerous" moves after Benoit's death. Do people really think Misawa or Benoit are less-talented? I couldn't say. I'd hope not, it doesn't affect me, I never really stopped watching or avoided Benoit's matches, and I don't wince any more than I used to at Misawa falling on his head. Maybe I'm alone in that...

#9 rovert

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:16 AM

Hopefully you guys dont mind me posting this here as Im posting it everywhere else. But it is pretty resounding who the Powerslam magazine editorial staff think dominated during the history of the publication (1994-present):

10. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi
(All Japan, October 31, 1998)

9. Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue
(All Japan, June 9, 1995)

8. Manami Toyata vs Akira Hokuto
(All Japan Women Destiny, September 2, 1995)

7. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
(WWE Wrestlemania XXV, April 5, 2009)

6. Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama
(NOAH Departure, July 10, 2004)

5. Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito vs CIMA, Naruki Doi and Masata Yashino
(ROH Supercard of Honor, March 31, 2006)

4. Manami Toyata vs Aja Kong
(All Japan Women Big Egg Wrestling Universe, November 20, 1994)

3. Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama vs Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama
(All Japan, December 6, 1996)

2. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi
(NOAH, March 1, 2003)

1. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi
(All Japan, January 20, 1997)



#10 Ditch

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:47 AM

Good job on #4 there Powerslam.

#11 puropotsy

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:52 AM

More and more lately I am thinking Terry Funk should be considered the greatest of all time. I always would have said Flair before but looking at Funk's career he was great in so many ways in so many places and eras. And he talks about the business with more intelligence thatn just about anyone. ONe of my future orders from Will is probably going to be the Funk set just to re-affirm this in my mind, and also becaus it will be awesome.

#12 Dylan Waco

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:25 AM

Really, with a few exceptions (Fujiwara, Lawler, lucha guys), I don't see that much of a shake up. The fact that no ones pays attention to joshi is just sad, but it doesn't change the fact that Hokuto, Aja, Jaguar, Chiggy and Devil were some of the greatest of all time.
Even back in the late 90's, Volk Han and Tamura were considered GOAT by people who cared about the style. Benoit is dropped for non-wrestling reasons, while Dundee shows up. I have no notion of Race not being pimped anymore, when did that happen ?
You forgot Backlund though, he's a guy that after the WWF polls and SC and DVDVR can easily be add to the list.
Really, I don't see any major changes, most of these guys were already pimped 10 years ago as GOAT. Most notable additions in the US and Japan fields are Lawler and Fujiwara. Fujinami I never heard him massively pimped as a GOAT, and considering his 90's work, I don't see it at all. It makes me laugh that Fuji would be considered while Takada of all people would be dropped. Takada's career murders Fuji. And I like Fuji.


Speaking for myself of course but I think Fujinami destroys Takada. Takada would not even make a top hundred for me at this point. Really disappointing on the NJPW 80's sets and the UWFI stuff does not hold up nearly as well to me as the other "shootstyle" feds.

#13 Coffey

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:38 AM

I think it depends on the criteria that you're looking at. Growing up in the United States and watching NWA & WWF, being able to talk matters a lot and when watching Puroresu I never see them talk at all and if I did, it would be in a language that I do not understand anyway. In Japan, at least when talking about the Misawa's and Jumbo's, it was more about what happened in the ring. In the United States, I think it was more about making people want to see the match because of the storyline leading up to it. People didn't want to watch Hulk Hogan because he was a master technician in the ring. In the end, professional wrestling is a business, so how much does being a draw matter? Or longevity? Austin made a ton of money but wasn't on top for very long. Plus when he was on top, his body was pretty broken down and his best matches, I would argue, were behind him. The first name that came to mind for me was The Great Muta. Although he falls into the can't talk/speaks foreign category so how could I put him over someone like Flair? Even with his longevity. I think it's like trying to ask someone to name their favorite song. If you listen to a lot of heavy metal and you ask a hip-hop fan what their favorite song is, obviously you're not going to agree.

#14 Dylan Waco

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:39 AM

Enjoy the responses so far. This is kind of what I expected to see as I figured some people would say that I was conflating greatest with GOAT, figured others would say a few of the names have changed but the amount of serious candidates are about the same and pretty much knew OJ would say that no one thinks about wrestling this way anymore :)

#15 El-P

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 12:30 PM

Speaking for myself of course but I think Fujinami destroys Takada. Takada would not even make a top hundred for me at this point. Really disappointing on the NJPW 80's sets and the UWFI stuff does not hold up nearly as well to me as the other "shootstyle" feds.


Well, you know we don't always the same tastes, to say the least.;)
Your list is really the first time I've seen Fujinami in a "greatest wrestler ever" talk though, that's interesting. I wonder if that's strictly a personnal thing from you, or if it's a new "popular" opinion than emerged with the NJ set (I haven't followed the discussions much) ? I've been aware of the Fujiwara craze for a long while, but Fujinami being mentionned in that list really surprised me.

#16 El-P

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 12:40 PM

Oh, Jerome, I'll totally with you on Han and Tamura, I wasn't implying that all they had was the matwork. It's a bit like Blue Panther; that's their calling card, and the one aspect I feel safe as saying they were the best ever at. I think perhaps it's just that bit removed, or different, similar to how people talk of Lucha but in (especially) RINGs case being closer to an actual truth. There's "story" and "structure" to a point. You could say Han had a great moveset, he was as creative in his form as Toyota or Kobashi were really, but I find myself sort of transposing the idea almost. Selling, too, although that Tariel match (assuming you mean the '95 loss, which I agree is a fantastic short match and a fantastic performance/"carry job") is really an exception within the form, generally the selling's more pure body language, putting over the long-term toll rather than hobbling excessively to put over a kneebar or whatever.


But that's really all about the style he worked within, it's hard to compare, just like lucha. It's so specific.

Do people really think Misawa or Benoit are less-talented? I couldn't say. I'd hope not, it doesn't affect me, I never really stopped watching or avoided Benoit's matches, and I don't wince any more than I used to at Misawa falling on his head. Maybe I'm alone in that...


You're not. I've been watching the whole ECW product last year, so I watched a good amount of Benoit, and I'm into WCW 98 these days, so I'm watching ton of Benoit, and it doesn't bother me at all nor does that affect my views of his work. I know it might seem odd, but that's the case.

#17 jdw

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 12:59 PM

Destroyer (I believe the Beyer pimping)



You forgot Backlund though, he's a guy that after the WWF polls and SC and DVDVR can easily be add to the list.


Two examples of what drives me nuts about how people run with positive and negative comments about wrestlings. This is the other end of the spectrum of criticism of Flair, where people run with the notion that you think Ric "sucks" if you mention anything critical about the High God of Work. No... even good workers do goofy things that warrant pointing out.

As far as I know, no one major has even pushed Beyer as the greatest worker of all-time. What "Destroyer Pimping" was about was that he was a great worker who pretty much got lost in time in hardcore (and even more mainstream wrestling) discussions about wrestlers and workers of the era. As his matches were more widely available, more people tended to come to the same conclusions: he was a great worker in the style of that era, especially in terms of holds and matwork.

Why this pissed people off, and why people read more into it... one can only guess. I suspect it was due to the people pointing out Beyer was a great worker, and probably the manner they did it (i.e. contrasting good Beyers hold/matwork with shitty hold/matwork of sacred cows). And perhaps because we were assholes in general that there were always folks who had a gag reflex to want to hate what we liked.

But even Yohe while saying that Beyer was his favorite wrestler of all-time dating back to seeing him at the Olympic as a kid wasn't calling Dick the best worker ever. So where the notion that "Beyer Pimping" = "Beyer Best Worker Ever" came from... I tend to think it's another example of people not able to parse what's being said.

The Backlund comment is similar. As probably the biggest "Backlund Pimper" around, or at the very least the one who gets tagged with it, I've gone out of my way over and over and over again to say:

I'm not trying to say or convince anyone that Backlund was a "great worker".

I've tried to get across that he was a "good worker" and that a lot of what was Hardcore Consensus about him (and often still is) doesn't match up with what we see in the ring.

Before someone uses Mr Searchy and finds the word "great" in various posts I've made about Backlund, saying that something a wrestler does is "great" doesn't mean you think they're a great worker. Saying they're in a great match doesn't mean you think they're a great worker. I don't know if I'd classify Samurai as a great worker. He was a good, solid worker. But if one were point to me using the word "great" or "off the charts" in talking about his match with Ohtani, it's the *match* and the work in it.

Backlund-Patera and Rude-Warrior are two of the greatest matches in the WWF in the 80s... probably Top 5 for me, and candidates for 1-2. Would I say that over the course of their careers that any of those four were great workers? A stretch. I do think Patera was a great heel in 1980. But spinkling around the word "great" in those two matches, and around for other stuff that Patera did in 1980, doesn't raise any of them to GWOAT status.

I know that's not quite what Jerome is doing. But we have the tendancy to take other people making mild/normal level of praise/criticism and run with it to make it far more than it is. I tend to think it's a reflection that we largely can only have discussions and assigning of value/worth at extremes. This goes back more than a decade on things like star ratings, where *** and **** lost meaning when you suddenly have 100 ****+ matches in a year, and 25 ****1/2 matches. Simply giving a match *** and calling it "good" either had no meaning, or was an insult.

An example:

Tito-Orndorff from St. Louis that was on the 80s set was a good match. Solid work, good selling, lots of nice little stuff. I use it a lot as an example of the fact that there was good wrestling in the WWF in the 80s, not just all the stuff people bag on. Good match, along the lines of a good match that people would see in other territories in the era.

I may mention it so often that people when watching it expect a MOTYC, that Tito and Paul will be off the charts, and that his one of the great lost matches of the decade between two of the great lost workers of the decade.

No. It's just a solid, good match.

In the original set it stood out a bit because there were a fair number of pretty mediocre matches. It's entirely possible it won't stand out in the DVDVR 80s WWF Redux because there will be a larger number of good to excellent matches on the set. It wasn't "great" on the first set, and it won't "suck" on the second set. It's still just a solid, good match.

Our natural rush to talk at extremes on judging the value of things that are simply "good".

Backlund was a "good worker". More people see that now than in the past. That's a long way from the consensus of 1996. That's all people are trying to do.

Beyer was a great worker. More people get that now. That's a long way from 1996 when only Yohe gave a shit about him, hardly anyone had seen any matches of his, and Beyer was little more than a name on a list.

#1?

Does it really matter?

John

#18 MikeCampbell

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 01:03 PM

More and more lately I am thinking Terry Funk should be considered the greatest of all time. I always would have said Flair before but looking at Funk's career he was great in so many ways in so many places and eras. And he talks about the business with more intelligence thatn just about anyone. ONe of my future orders from Will is probably going to be the Funk set just to re-affirm this in my mind, and also becaus it will be awesome.


Last weekend, Ted DiBiase made an indy appearance and I took the opportunity to ask him his opinions regarding Jumbo being the GOAT. He said that he'd rate Jumbo as one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers of all time, but that he felt that Terry was the best of all time. He also mentioned that he'd trained in Amarillo with Jumbo.

#19 MJH

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 01:37 PM

I always liked DiBiase's criticism of Misawa/Kobashi/Kawada - "they worked harder than they needed to." And, yes, I'm aware of the wider point. No one's going to react much to someone calling Terry Funk GOAT, though; I think I have him at 1/2 US GOAT and that's a below-average position.

#20 El-P

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:07 PM

Just for the record, I always loved Backlund and thought he was better than *good*, and the WWF SC poll complete with watching tons of Backlund matches from the 70's and 80's convinced me that he was a great worker. So, I may be on the "He's overrating Backlund" wagon, but I've always been a fan, I just wasn't aware he had so many excellent matches in his prime. DiBiase surely never worked harder than he needed too, especially in Japan.:) Terry Funk as the best wrester ever ? I'm ok with that thought.




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