Throughout its rich history, the WWE has produced some of the greatest entertainers the world has ever seen. From Bruno Sammartino to Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan to Triple H, GiveMeSport takes a look at the greatest WWE superstars of all time.
1. Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid holds many nicknames. To many he is The Showstopper, to other he is Mr. WrestleMania, but to most fans of any form of wrestling, Shawn Michaels will forever hold the distinction of being ''the greatest WWE superstar of all time.''
Michaels made his debut in 1987 alongside tag team partner Marty Jannetty. Together they set about creating a new vision for tag team wrestling within the company. Two weeks later however the duo were fired following an incident outside of the company. A year later, the pair were re-signed and began to chase the dream for real.
By 1992, Michaels felt that in order to achieve his childhood dream of becoming the WWE champion, he needed to cut his ties with Jannetty and tag team wrestling. HBK won his first title in the WWE that same year, defeating The British Bulldog in October.
It was the first of three times that he would hold this championship. During these reigns, Michaels competed in some of the most innovative matches ever seen in the company's history. Most notably the first ever ladder match against Razor Ramon at WrestleMania 10.
In 1996, Michaels won the Royal Rumble match for the second consecutive year, earning the right to face WWE champion Bret Hart for the title at WrestleMania 12, in an Iron Man Match. After over an hour of intense battle, Michaels nailed Hart with his finishing move, Sweet Chin Music and finally realised his childhood dream of becoming WWE champion.
The following year, Michaels formed D-Generation X alongside best friend Triple H, together they became the most controversial duo in the company's history.
Arguably the most significant event of his career came at Survivor Series in 1997. Michaels defeated Bret Hart for the WWE title once again only this time it was in much more controversial fashion. With Hart being locked in his own sharpshooter finishing move by Michaels. the referee called for the bell though Hart had not submitted.
This became known as ''The Montreal Screwjob'' and is one if not the most infamous moments in wrestling history. Following defeat to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14, Michaels retired from sports entertainment due to a serious back injury.
By 2002 however, The Heartbreak Kid returned to the WWE after a four year absence. Less than six months into his comeback, Michaels became the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time in the first ever Elimination Chamber match.
The Showstopper continued to roll back the years in WWE for almost a decade before putting his career on the line at WrestleMania 26, in 2010. Despite a heroic effort, Michaels was defeated by fellow WWE legend, The Undertaker which signalled the end of almost 20 years in sports entertainment. The following year, Michaels was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by longtime friend and former tag team partner, Triple H.
2. The Undertaker
The Phenom made his WWE debut in 1990 at Survivor Series. He remained undefeated for over a year and won the WWE title from Hulk Hogan, at the same event, one year later. Along with being the most respected WWE superstar of all time, The Undertaker also holds a number of exclusive honours.
The Deadman holds a 21-0 winning streak at WWE's premiere event, WrestleMania and his bone chilling entrance has defeated many an opponent before The Undertaker has even entered the ring.
One of the most famous matches of his career came at the King of the Ring event in 1998. The Undertaker faced Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match in which The Phenom threw his opponent from the top of the cage to the announcers table. It is one of the most notable visuals in WWE history. The Undertaker has also engaged in a number of battles with Kane and has defeated The Big Red Machine at both WrestleMania 14 and WrestleMania 20.
It took 17 years for The Undertaker to win finally win the Royal Rumble match, but after succeeding at the event in 2007, he won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time by defeating Batista at WrestleMania 23. In addition, The Deadman has also faced Triple H three times at WrestleMania and has defeated ''The Game'' each time, most recently at the 29th anniversary of the event.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin
There has been no superstar, past or present quite like The Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin. A year after making his professional debut, he was signed by WWE's biggest rival, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1990.
He later became known as ''Stunning'' Steve Austin and formed a highly successful tag team with Brian Pillman known as The Hollywood Blonds. The duo won the tag team titles on two occasions. Austin also won the United States title in WCW but after suffering an injury to his arm, he was fired by Eric Bischoff in 1995.
Just a few short weeks later, Austin joined Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and began to cut promos due to being unable to wrestling on account of his injury. His stint in ''The Land of Extreme'' was brief, as WWE soon came calling.
Austin joined the WWE after Vince McMahon was convinced by announcer Jim Ross to sign him. Initially he was known as The Ringmaster and was managed by WWE legend, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. Soon afterwards however, he changed his ring name to Stone Cold Steve Austin and took on a more dynamic, take no prisoners attitude.
His big break came at the King of the Ring event in 1996. Austin defeated Jake ''The Snake'' Roberts. After the match, he cut a promo referring to Roberts' religious beliefs and also used the phrases ''Austin 3:16'' and ''That's the bottom line cos Stone Cold said so'' for the first time.
Austin's career went from strength to strength and at WrestleMania 13, he faced former WWE champion Bret Hart in a submission match. Despite passing out and subsequently losing the match, Austin received praise for not giving up and established himself as a top contender in the WWE.
Austin won the 1998 Royal Rumble match, advancing to the main event of WrestleMania 14, where he defeated Shawn Michaels and became WWE champion for the first time. Following the win, Austin's career skyrocketed to levels never seen by any superstar before or since.
During this period, Austin engaged in a now legendary feud with WWE chairman, Vince McMahon. As McMahon was desperate to take the title away from Austin, The Texas Rattlesnake turned back all challengers including Mankind, The Undertaker, Kane and The Rock.
Stone Cold won the WWE title on six occasions, he also faced The Rock three times at WrestleMania and defeated ''The People's Champion'' twice at this event. In 2009, Austin was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by none other than the company's chairman, Vince McMahon. This concluded with McMahon declaring Stone Cold Steve Austin as the greatest WWE champion of all time and the most popular superstar of all time.
4. Hulk Hogan
Arguably the first man to ever capture the term ''superstar'' in the WWE. Hogan separated WWE from every other wrestling promotion in the world in the 80's and 90's. Popularising catchphrases such as ''Hulkamania is running wild'' and ''Whatcha gonna do'' Hogan was the most regular headliner in the company for over ten years.
He appeared in the main event of the very first WrestleMania in a tag team match with Mr. T from the T.V. show the A team.
One of the most famous matches of his career came at WrestleMania 3, when he faced Andre The Giant for the WWE title. Hogan defend the championship in front of over 90,000 fans in what was known as ''the biggest main event in sports entertainment history.''
Hogan won the match with his patented leg drop, seeing off the seemingly unbeatable Andre. The Hulkster remained champion for over four years from 1984 to 1988 before losing the title coincidentally to Andre in February of the latter.
In 1994, Hogan joined WCW who had become a force in the sports entertainment world thanks to the financial backing of Ted Turner. However during his time in the company, Hogan took on a much more villainous persona as opposed to the super hero all American he portrayed in WWE.
He joined the stable of the New World Order (NWO) along with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Now known as ''Hollywood'' Hulk Hogan, he went on to become a six time WCW heavyweight champion. However following WWE's purchase of WCW in 2001, Hulk Hogan returned to the company that made him famous the following year.
Upon his return, Hogan, Nash and Hall reformed the NWO but soon after his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania 18, Hogan once again became a fan favourite and defeated Triple H for the WWE title in April 2002, his sixth and final reign as champion. Prior to leaving the company, Hogan defeated Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 19 in a match dubbed ''20 years in the making.''
In 2005, the night before WrestleMania 21, Hogan was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame by Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone after The Hulkster appeared in the movie Rocky 3 alongside him. He has since made a number of appearances and has engaged in a number of short feuds, notably with fellow WWE legend Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton. To this day, Hogan remains the most recognisable wrestler in the world.
5. The Rock
A third generation wrestler, The Rock was destined for greatness from the moment he stepped foot in a WWE ring at Survivor Series in 1996. He won his first title in the company less than a year later by defeating Triple H for the Intercontinental title on an episode of Raw.
During his first two years in WWE, The Rock remained a villain and formed the stable known as the Nation of Domination along with the likes of Mark Henry and Faarooq. In 1998, The Rock overthrew Faarooq and became the leader of the group. However later that year, The Rock engaged in a feud with fellow member, Mark Henry which subsequently ended the Nation of Domination.
The Rock began pursuing the WWE championship and at the Survivor Series in 1998, he defeated Mankind in the final of the ''deadly game'' to become the youngest WWE champion at 26 years old at the time. The Rock then defeated Mankind again at the Royal Rumble event in 1999 to regain the title.
The Great One then faced Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 15 for the title, with Mankind as the special guest referee. On this occasion, Austin defeated The Rock in the first of three matches between the two at this event.
In 2000, The Rock and Triple H engaged in a series of matches for the title. The championship changed hands a number of times before The People's Champion finally got the better of The Game at the King of the Ring event by regaining the title in a six man tag team match.
The Rock lost the title to Kurt Angle at No Mercy that year but managed to defeat the gold medalist at No Way Out the following February to set up a second match at WrestleMania against Stone Cold. The Rock would once again be defeated by Austin and left the WWE for four months.
At WrestleMania 18, The Rock defeated Hulk Hogan in a match known as Icon vs. Icon. That same year, The Rock won the WWE undisputed title for the first time, defeating The Undertaker and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match.
At WrestleMania 19, The Rock faced Austin for the third time at the event. After coming up short on the previous two occasions, The People's Champion finally best his rival in what would be his opponent's last ever match of his career. In 2004, The Rock left the WWE to focus on his acting career.
After appearing in a number of Hollywood movies, The Rock returned to the WWE in 2011 and began a feud with John Cena leading to a match between the two at WrestleMania 28. On this occasion, The Rock left as the victor only for a rematch to be scheduled for the event the following year.
At the Royal Rumble in 2013, The Rock defeated CM Punk for the WWE title meaning that his match against Cena would be for the championship. Cena defeated The Rock for the title at the 29th edition of WrestleMania, it was The Rock's final match to date.
That concludes part one of the 20 greatest WWE superstars of all time. Keep an eye out for part two of this article, viewing five more of the top stars ever in WWE.
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