MR. TITO: My Top 25 Greatest Wrestlers of the Wrestlemania Era (since 1985) – WWE, WCW, AEW, ECW, etc.

Several things have impacted the way I think on Roman Reigns, though if you’ve read my columns, you’d observe that I was very critical of him as a pushed main eventer from 2014 through early 2020 but I’ve been a big fan of his work since August 2020. Easy factors involved would be that since August 2020, he’s much more experienced, now working as a heel and that is natural to him, and benefitting from Paul Heyman’s influence. Contrast that to him lacking in-ring experience as a main eventer and struggling to have any good matches, while the highly scripted babyface character just wasn’t in his comfort zone at all during 2014-early 2020.

What has impacted me was something said on Pat McAfee, regarding how Roman Reigns essentially pulled the WWE out of the COVID-19 pandemic by turning heel and starting the Bloodline. I’d take that a step further… His character change pulled the WWE out of a decline that occurred from SummerSlam 2014 through SummerSlam 2020. WWE wanted to make a John Cena clone and that attempt was Roman, unfortunately. RAW lost over 2 million in viewership, DVR numbers went down, attendance went down, and merchandise sales tanked between those 2 SummerSlams. COVID-19 just poured more gasoline on the fire that was burning down WWE’s great empire.

But I’ve also come to realize, and the A&E WWE Legends Biography really emphasized this, is that Roman Reigns is making his opponents and the talent surrounding him look great. Jey and Jimmy Uso, for example, were LOCKED into being a tag team. Now, you know each of them individually and with them being legitimate twins, you can tell them apart based on personality. Solo Sikoa is a big star on the horizon… Sami Zayn lost to Johnny Knoxville in a Jackass match, but then joins the Bloodline and business explodes. Jey Uso and Cody Rhodes, in my mind, have benefitted greatly by being Roman’s opponents. Roman reminds me a ton of Ric Flair by making his opponent believable that they are going to win the title each night.

Also, the Rock is fitting comfortably within the Bloodline storyline and I believe he wouldn’t be as effective with his comeback without it. We all remember the Rock during 2012-2013, as he was struggling to appear hip in his promos and John Cena cooked him a few times on the microphone (CM Punk did too during early 2013). Now, he’s working with the already set-up Bloodline and he’s LOVING IT with the creativity that he can have as a heel.

I think much more highly of Roman Reigns than I have before… A few years ago (struggling to find it), I wrote a Top 25 Wrestlers of the Wrestlemania Era (or since 1985) and I had Roman Reigns somewhere in the mid-teens because through 2022, he had more runway to grow and more of a peak to enjoy. Well, the past 2 years have been explosive in business and his star power has only become bigger.


Mr. Tito’s PHAT Top 25 Greatest Wrestlers of the Wrestlemania Era (since 1985)

Honorable Mention #1: Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, & Andre the Giant because their best years were prior to 1985 and were limited after 1985

Honorable Mention #2: Goldberg, Ultimate Warrior, and Sid Eudy, as I struggled to place them in my top 25 but I love their characters even if the in-ring stuff wasn’t as great as it could have been. Warrior and Sid had issues staying in one place for a while, too.

Just missed the cut: Yokozuna, Kane, Booker T, and Diamond Dallas Page


NOTE: Forgot to somehow add CM Punk to this list. I’ve added him, adjusted the rest of the list… Now a Top 26!

#26 – Randy Orton
I am never going to deny Randy Orton’s pure in-ring ability. He is super talented and silky smooth on how he operates inside the ring. What limits Orton is despite the multiple WWE World Title runs, it’s hard to remember much about those 14 runs. Furthermore, his character has flipped between heel or face so much that it was like hitting the reset button often with his character. In my view, it was a bad decision to make him World Champion at Summerslam 2004 and then missing an opportunity to get that big win against Triple H 5 years later at Wrestlemania 25. I’m missing big moments, big wins, or major moments of making stars with Randy. He’s also the kind of guy who doesn’t hide his body language well, as it’s easly to predict if he’ll win or lose a match based on the attitude presented during a match. Seems too robotic if he’s about to lose, but highly energetic when he’s going to win. Triple H has that same trait, too, as if they don’t like losing. He has longevity on his side, but I need more stronger moments that matter strongly for the WWE fabric. He’s just more of a consistent hand in the WWE and always a complementary wrestler to the top stars (Triple H, Cena, Lesnar, Roman) rather than truly becoming the top guy himself. Orton, however, is healthy again and maybe there is more runway to climb this list.

#25 – Batista
Shame this guy didn’t have an even longer WWE run, but when he was here, Batista was very effective and gave the WWE a homegrown main eventer to help them with their mid to late 2000s business. Triple H built this guy up perfectly for Wrestlemania 21 and put him over like a champ. From there, Batista was always a key contributor at the very top and looked damn awesome with a World Title around his waist. Crazy thing is how GOOD of an actor that he has since become, making me wonder what the WWE Creative Team was missing to really push this guy’s personality. Super nice guy and I really appreciated that he wanted to have 1 more match and that being with Triple H, the guy who helped make his career.

#24 – Eddie Guerrero
Latino Heat! Shame that his career was cut short by his passing during late 2005, but when he was with the WWE for his 2nd run from 2002-2005, he was absolute fire. HUGE contributor to the Smackdown brand first by tagging with his nephew Chavo and then going for the WWE Title. He beat Brock Lesnar before Wrestlemania 20 and everybody was so happy for him. 2004-2005 saw excellent feuds with JBL and Rey Mysterio, and those roots of the Mysterio feud have helped grow what you see today with Rey and Dominik. But before this great late WWE run, Eddie was so solid in WCW and also the other promotions before landing in WCW. Damn shame that personal demons always got Eddie, but unfortunately, the business wasn’t watching out for talent behaviors as it does now. The best part of Eddie was his charisma, fire, and character… When that referee got knocked out, YOU KNEW something highly entertaining was coming. He always put a smile on your face with that 2002-2005 run, but I was loving the origins of “Latino Heat” when he teamed with Chyna. The biggest fact is that Eddie was a HUGE influence on most of the younger wrestlers you see today and that strengthens the legend of Eddie Guerrero’s contributions to the business.

#23 – Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins has been in the WWE since late 2012 and I feel he doesn’t get enough credit for keeping the WWE stable during the 2010s and certainly now as a key contributor. Was he the best WWE champion ever during 2015? No, but remember, WWE censored his Curb Stomp finisher and made him do the Pedigree move instead while being a complete stooge for the Authority (UGH @ that Corporate Kane feud!). Anytime you need Seth to go out there and have a great match, he does it. Always. He’s worked with everybody well and pulls great matches out of everybody. He’s overall good on the microphone, though I’d argue he’s had too many character iterations where he’s overdone it. Needs to understand the concept of “less is more” a tad bit, as I really like when he shows realism such as getting upset with CM Punk. If you’ve ever seen anything behind-the-scenes on Seth, you’ll know that he’s down to earth and is a very honest guy. Yet, that contrasts wth the over-the-top characters he pushes and I believe that has limited him. Give us more honesty and something close to yourself, and it will get over… Just like his contributions to this storyline with Rock and Roman. Seth was telling off Rock, saying he didn’t care if he was a Board member or not. We, as fans, can indentify with that. More of that version of Seth, please.

#22 – Rob Van Dam
ECW’s top draw, in my opinion, as he drew legitimate heat with the “Mr. Monday Night” stuff but then converted that to a strong babyface run with over the TV title. Then, he goes to WWE and gets over instantly and receives various pushes throughout his WWE run including the WWE Title during 2006 before a roadtrip with Sabu took that away. Looking back, WWE handled that poorly, as the fans wanted RVD as champ and to help lead the ECW brand. RVD would have successful runs in TNA and was entertaining with AEW briefly. Cool thing about RVD is that he can always come back to WWE and pull off the same character and moves, while looking completely ageless pulling it off. What I like best about RVD is that he goes to his own drumbeat, even if that upsets the promoter. Then, they keep calling him back…

#21 – Kevin Nash
Biggest shame is that Kevin Nash was around 31 years of age when he started as a wrestler (wish that it was earlier) and then began with the dumpster fire known as WCW from 1990-1993 which gave him multiple characters and didn’t develop him as well as he could have been. Then, he goes to WWE and thrives in that environment and becomes a big superstar. Best bumping big man, in my opinion… Guy could sell anyone’s moves, whether they were his size or smaller. I’m so mad about how WWE pushed him as WWE champion from 1994-1995, but that bred the character that came out of Survivor Series 1995 and morphed into “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash to form the NWO. The beauty of Nash is doing “more with less”. People rip him for doing like 5 moves, but I saw more to his matches than that with the selling, timing of using those moves, and the great finishes. Plus, Nash’s charisma and promo skills got you hyped for the matches even before they began. Nash’s promo work during the 1996-1997 NWO years get often overlooked with Hogan and his buddy Scott Hall, but Nash was selling that NWO product hard and incorporating unique pop culture stuff into it (like hip hop elements). Honestly, his post WCW career was solid as he kept with the WWE and his TNA runs added to his resume. The quad jokes about Nash are silly, especially when the marks making them don’t have the piles of cash that Nash earned for being such a big superstar in wrestling. On a personal level, Nash was one of the coolest wrestlers that I have ever met.

#20 – Scott Hall
Hey yo… PAINS me that this man, one of the most talented, charismatic, and coolest wrestlers ever to lace it up never became World Champion. Yes, I know all about the demons, but you’d think that Vince or Bischoff would be like “look, we want to make you World Champion, but can you clean yourself up first?”. I cannot say if that happened or not, but one would figure that Hall would show some drive to become the very top guy. That said, I’m amazing at how big this guy drew for just being an upper-midcard wrestler. Razor was crazy over in the WWE, and a huge component of the NWO in WCW. Why else would WCW pay this guy highly just so he could never be World Champion? He was THAT good. Shame his WWE run in 2002 didn’t last, as there was still gas in the tank and he was in great physical shape then. Damn party atmosphere back then put him on the wrong track for the next decade until DDP helped clean him up. LOVE me some Scott Hall and I get legitimately emotional seeing him cut promos or talk openly about the wrestling business. Hall LOVED this business like only a few have and you can see how much he adored entertaining his fans.

#19 – Edge
This guy has more runway, even in his early 50s to further climb this list if he can achieve further greatness in AEW. Great career and doesn’t often get credit for being a strong draw during the mid to late 2000s as the perfect foil for John Cena and others. And I don’t know how this guy is still walking after many dangerous matches involving ladders… Edge is tough, consistent, and always available to help out any promotion. You won’t ever see a bad match with this guy and his energy, even in his late 40s and early 50s, always seems to be high. But maybe that is why he isn’t an even bigger superstar. When Edge got over the most was when his character changed to “Rated R” and he was really pushing the sports entertainment side with Lita and other heel antics. I think he’d be more over if he focused more on character rather than the tons of energy he puts inside the ring every night. Very talented and very underrated in his contributions, I feel.

#18 – CM Punk *ADDED, forgot previously*
Punk had a good career before he really blew up in the WWE during 2011… After the HHH takedown of September 2011, Punk went down a bit though I’d argue he had an amazing 2013 year of great quality against great opponents. Then, he abruptly quit and never returned to wrestling until August 2021 for AEW. There, he proved his drawing power by pulling various shows above the 1 million mark while giving AEW its first $1 million live gate. His matches were just OK, though, as father time caught up to him a tad in his early 40s. Things blew up in AEW and they’ve been paying for it via lower attendance, viewership, and merchandise sales ever since. Returning to the WWE, he has helped boost their numbers on top of an already Bloodline/Triple H built foundation and he’s been a positive contributor so far. If Punk can get another 3-5 years of a solid WWE return career here, he can climb my list easily. Resume is just a tad too thin thanks to that 7 year gap.

#17 – Rey Mysterio Jr.
One of the most unique wrestling talents to ever do it, as proven by both AEW and WWE trying to repeatedly find someone like him. They’ve tried to hire multiple Mexico wrestlers under masks but nobody and I repeat NOBODY is better than Rey Mysterio. He’s so smooth, doesn’t botch, and he has an energetic charisma about him that makes the character go. He is seriously Spider-Man for Pro Wrestling, and NOBODY can match his talent, energy, personality, or charisma. I was soooo proud when Rey debuted for the WWE during 2002 and gave that Smackdown brand a major boost. Rey has been nothing but an amazing superstar ever since… But I strongly encourage wrestling fans to check out Rey’s 1996-1999 work… Nothing but quality there, especially on Pay Per Views. Now, he’s the parent of a blooming superstar with Dominik Mysterio who learned from the best and applied his own unique character traits to get himself over, just as Rey did before him.

#16 – Chris Jericho
This guy is still going at his early 50s, so he actually has more runway to maybe climb my list. Jericho is so talented, as the many ways he’s reinvented himself is unique. So many different versions of his character are out there, as he can play the babyface and be very likeable but he can also be heavily despised as well. Then, he can play a quirky character that is intended to be a heel, but you love him anyway. “The List” stuff, for example… He got a damn clipboard over, folks… Show me anyone who could say that! Great worker, great talker, very charismatic, you name it. He made a big name for himself by pure talent in both ECW and WCW, and was then an instant star in WWE. He did everything in WWE, whatever they needed from participating in the main event to helping midcard attractions get over. Then, Jericho goes to New Japan to challenge Kenny Omega and he actually draws more buyers to their streaming services (like a 30,000 cluster). Next, Jericho joins AEW and legitimizes them as their first AEW Champion. He’s still relevant to their roster to this very day. Jericho would be higher on my list if and only if he held on to the WWE main event spots a little longer than he did, but how could he? Rock, Austin, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Triple H, and so many other alpha males were around and then later Cena, Lesnar, Batista, etc. that made it difficult to remain on top. Jericho is too nice of a guy and was willing to just work with whatever WWE wanted him to do.

#15 – Mick Foley
If only this guy could have joined the WWE when he was younger, though I’d argue the pain he endured dealing with WCW, airing out frustrations in ECW, and damn near killing himself in Japan made him into the major WWE success from 1996-2000. Foley is often overlooked as a important component of WWE’s turnaround, but he added the perfect unique talent to complement Steve Austin, the Undertaker, Rock, or Triple H. All of those guys looked amazing with Foley, while fans built sympathy for Foley as a strong babyface as well. I just wish it lasted longer, but the bumps and bruises before 1996 already burned up the tire tread. I wish this guy a happy retirement, and hope that he does not try to hop on this recent wrestling gravy train for one last payday. Write more books, as you are an AMAZING writer. Or join the Creative Team! We need your mind for the business to teach the younger generation on character development and promos.

#14 – Bret “The Hitman” Hart
Now, if this was a list of “biggest influences on pro wrestlers”, Bret would be much, much higher. To me, Bret was like WWE’s version of Sting (literally down to the finishing move). Just always there, always reliable, yet was lacking, at times, in the drawing ability. You can give me “he drew internationally” point, but WWE didn’t tour much internationally during the Hulkamania Era and that helped draw huge for WWE’s “New Generation” wrestlers during the mid-1990s once they finally toured overseas. Plus, they toured overseas because they began drawing poorly in North America and a good bit of that was on Bret’s tenure as top guy. That said, Bret Hart was a workhorse and I’d argue WWE from 1992-1996 would actually be worse off without him. My biggest wish is that his WCW run from 1997-2000 could have been better, but it was largely disappointing especially 1998-1999. He should have put his foot down and said “NO” more often there, but he didn’t. Also, everything seemed repetitive with him which is why the 1997 stuff was so amazing because he was a heel with his fellow Hart Foundation teammates.

#13 – Sting
Longevity, longevity, longevity for things accomplished in WCW, TNA, WWE, and just recently, AEW. Was Sting ever a major draw on the side of Hogan, Austin, and others mentioned above this list? No, maybe during 1997… But as proven by Hulk Hogan deflating his balloon during StarrCade 1997, Sting’s strong popularity was as a result of being a loyal WCW wrestler going against the NWO but also with the Crow gimmick. The 1997 was the peak of his popularity and he’s just been a known quality since. Lots of great matches over the year, but I would suggest that they are often worked similarly to each other. That said, working into your early 60s at a reasonably high level is impressive and should be highly commended. I’m agreeing with Virtue in that part of AEW’s recent decline was caused by oldschool Sting fans, about 20,000 to 30,000, leaving the AEW product once their favorite retired. I know a few of them.

#12 – Triple H
Longevity is on his side, while also being pushed or treated as a main eventer for 2 decades has helped him as well (good bit of that was helped by whom he married). I also think that the quadriceps injury of 2001 forever hindered him as a performer, as he seemed a tad slower after that (added extra upper body muscle). HHH just didn’t evolve much as a wrestler or personality outside of his “Game” gimmick, as even when he was in DX, he was still that same character mostly. That, and that 2002-2004 RAW run as top guy was a chore other than matches with HBK/Benoit. Always struggled to be a babyface, which is crazy to me because he’s very likeable right now as the WWE Chief Content Officer. But with HHH, he has many amazing BIG MATCHES under his belt during big moments and against the biggest stars. Furthermore, he gets major bonus points for making Batista into a major star.

#11 – Kurt Angle
This guy may be the best all-around wrestler on this list… Great in-ring, great personality, charismatic, killer promos, and great look. Yet, he was always like a supporting cast member to complement a bigger star rather than being the clear #1 himself. Maybe he was too nice and allowed others to share the spotlight too much with him? The other factor, especially with his WWE run, as the time off due to multiple neck injuries and surgeries. What a shame, as the pain limited what he could truly do and obviously pushed him into some bad habits.

#10 – Shawn Michaels
Not the biggest draw of the Top 10, but the best in-ring worker I’d easily argue and has the strongest collection of matches from his 1990s era or his 2000s era. So many go-to matches that I still watch repeatedly to this day. Much better heel than a babyface, as I felt HBK doesn’t get enough credit for the heel bastard he played as a midcarder during the early to mid 1990s and then the 1997-1998 DX leader. Montreal Screwjob doesn’t get more heat if someone other Michaels is the one who participated in screwing Bret. Then, his post-2002 work was incredible and put on some of the best matches EVER.

#9 – Macho Man Randy Savage
Nobody but Macho could hold the WWE Title during the peak years of Hulkamania and WWE wouldn’t miss a beat. In fact, I’d argue that Savage built more growth on top of the major success of Wrestlemania 3. The Mega Powers thing was HUGE and there’s a reason why Wrestlemania 5 held on as the #1 purchased Pay Per View until WCW StarrCade 1997 finally beat it. Hogan wrestled multiple more times on Pay Per View for WWE and never drew anywhere close to that number with Savage. And Savage kept doing great after the Hogan run and I’d argue he was a pivotal signing in WCW for late 1994.

#8 – Brock Lesnar
This spot is as far as Brock will go, as I fear we’ve seen the best of his career already and things were getting a tad repetitive. Since 2012, WWE put him against everyone and gave us many great amazing moments even when Roman wasn’t drawing as well as he could during the mid to late 2010s. Lesnar’s 2002-2004 run is very underrated, as he drew very well on the Smackdown brand but that version of the WWE burned him out and gave lighter schedules to WCW veterans (Hogan, Hall, Nash, Goldberg) I’ve been told by a source backstage at the time. Hell of a run to really carry the WWE during the 2010s and give us hope of the next main eventer during the early 2000s.

#7 – Ric Flair
If Ric wasn’t so regional for his most of his peak years (through 1991), I’d have him higher on the list. Furthermore, some of Ric’s better years were before 1985 as well. That said, even though he was older after 1992 when he left the WWE the first time, he still had remarkable matches and great moments. Hell, I really liked him during the 2000s as part of Evolution and felt that added considerably to his legacy. Flair was so loyal to the Mid-Atlantic region that we never saw him branch out into other parts other than traveling as NWA Champion but those were brief stays. Flair’s longevity has helped him, however, build into a pop culture icon that remains famous to this day. If we included Flair’s pre-1985 stuff, he’d likely be higher on this list.

#6 – Roman Reigns
I want to further emphasize that this guy still has YEARS of a runway ahead of him and could jump ahead further, particularly above the next 3 spots. He’s THAT GOOD right now, particularly since August 2020. With hindsight, I’m still keeping my criticisms of his 2014-early 2020 run, but I do appreciate that the HEAT from that overpushed babyface actually adds a layer to Roman’s character and greatness now. For example, he has victories over Cena, HHH, Undertaker, Lesnar, Orton, and many others under his belt that he can brag about as “Head of the Table” now. The big thing with Roman is that now he’s unscripted, comfortable with his character, and taking advice from the right people (Paul Heyman & Triple H instead of Vince McMahon), he’s in a position to thrive. But he’s like Magic Johnson or Lebron James, as he’s making the talent surrounding him better. Both Jimmy and Jey are individual wrestlers now, Solo is killing it, and Sami is a big star while Roman’s opponents are made better after fighting him (Jey & Cody, in particular). In my opinion, suffering for 6 years between 2014-2020 with the overpushed babyface to get what we have seen since August 2020 has been worth it. Roman finally gave the WWE the star they’ve been craving, but just needed to turn him heel and give him a better mentor (Heyman) to achieve it. Roman’s push since August 2020 not only saved the WWE from its decline since John Cena was squashed at SummerSlam 2014, but quickly rebounded them from COVID-19 crushing their business. While enjoying him as a heel, he is now primed to do exceptionally well as a babyface again as needed.

#5 – The Rock
CRAZY thing about the Rock is that maybe by next year or in 2 years, he may jump up the list. Seriously… This return to the “Hollywood Rock” as a member of the Bloodline is compelling and making the already growing WWE grow even faster. The question is where does it go and how committed is he as this new WWE character to stick around. Otherwise, my older opinion remains on Rock. Superb wrestler, great draw, but I still say Steve Austin’s shadow was cast upon him during the Attitude Era and Rock’s best moments were with Austin. When Rock was “the guy” when Austin left during late 1999 for injury, business began to slide just a tad and Triple H was able to be the alpha of that roster for 2000. I actually appreciate what Rock did during 2002-2003 because he had to prove what he could do other than feuding with Austin or being a part of Vince’s corporation.

#4 – John Cena
The savior of the declining WWE following the year 2000, as the Attitude Era wore out its welcome and WWE attendance/viewership dropped through 2004. Cena becomes WWE champ and switches to RAW, and business begins growing again. Cena was also a solid top guy during the Chris Benoit crisis that could have torn the WWE due to a lax drug problem, but Cena was a sturdy wrestler that fans could believe in. I also believe Cena “did more with less” as the WWE roster thinned out during the early 2010s and his work putting over CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles should be highly commended. He made those 3 big stars for many years to come by putting them over.

#3 – The Undertaker
The KING of longevity and oddly enough, it took him a while to really peak. The 1990s stuff and some of the 2000s stuff was hit or miss, but when given the right opponent, Undertaker thrived. Michaels, HHH, Batista, Lesnar, Foley, Hitman, etc. showed what the Undertaker could do. Lots of reinventions and tweaks to the character, too, to remain relevant.

#2 – Stone Cold Steve Austin
From 1998-1999, there was nobody hotter in the wrestling business. Period. But Austin’s candle did not burn for that long, as he just wasn’t the same with his 2000 return, the 2001 heel turn, and struggling to work within the increasingly corporate WWE from 2000 to 2003. That said, I give him extra credit for his “Stunning” work in WCW that gets overlooked and his midcard work from 1996-1997 is amazing as well. Long-term, Austin is more appreciated as well as he still remains a big pop culture icon.

#1 – Hulk Hogan
Yes, I’m well aware about his sex tape and what was said on it. Cannot erase that, but I also cannot erase his entire wrestling career which spans through Vince Sr.’s WWF, AWA, back to the WWE for Hulkamania, to WCW to build an empire and then NWO, and then returning to WWE during 2002 for another great run. Wasn’t the best inside the ring, but Hogan had all of the other intangibles that drew strongly for television, attendance, and merchandise. Hogan has longevity + major drawing runs that keeps him solid at #1.

What’s your Top 25 since 1985, aka the Wrestlemania era? Place them in the comments below!

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