Wrestling in the 80’s was incredibly fractured, and there was a lot more choice in promotions. Characters were more vivid, and a lot of the time larger than life. It was a simpler time, while some look back fondly at it, I view it more as a foundation of what led to the best era in wrestling in the 90’s. That’s another story though for another day.
The 80’s were the golden age of wrestling, a time where many well-known legends made their names. But it was also a time of significant change regarding the invention of new moves, match types, and yes the introduction of PPV shows. It was the birth of the WWF, and the decline of the NWA as it began folding into larger promotions and WCW began forming as a major force in wrestling. All of this made stars out of those who could “play the game” and stay ahead of the rapidly changing world of wrestling. These are my picks for who stood out the most to me.
5) Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Coming in at number five is a personal favorite of mine. I didn’t grow up with him so much as learn more about him later. He was a very talented performer. He had a lot of skill in the ring, and like most successful professional wrestlers he was good on the mic.
Throughout the 80’s he held a few tag titles and other more major titles of the time. Anytime he entered the ring you knew you were in for a treat. He feuded with Ric Flair, but never could capture Flair’s soaring popularity.
Steamboat traveled all over and wrestled not only the NWA but also the WWF(now known as the WWE).
If you ever get the chance to watch a match featuring Steamboat and Flair, do it. They were all amazingly classic matches.
4) Hulk Hogan
While some credit Hogan with popularizing modern professional wrestling I was never truly a fan. See, I found him a bit generic and singular in both match action, and mic promos. It seemed almost all of them were the same thing with small changes.
Now, that’s not to say he wasn’t talented, he was. And maybe without him, wrestling would not have gotten to where it is today, but like I said I was never really a fan of his. During the 80’s he held the world championship as well as a few other minor titles of the time.
His famous slogan is still remembered to this day. The guy is a legend, and there is no getting around that like him or not.
3) Hot Rod “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
In at number three we have someone that was in a lot of ways ahead of his time. He had the attitude of the attitude era before the attitude era was a thing, he was also considered not only a heel in the 80’s but a face as well.
He wrestled all over the world in both the NWA and the WWF. He’s what I see as one of the earliest and finest examples of a tweener. Fantastic.
Love him or hate him in the 80’s there was virtually no one as good on the mic as Piper. And in the ring, he was no slouch either. Having held an assortment of titles in his lifetime, he was an accomplished wrestler with no compromise. So many great television moments and matches.
At number two we have Sting, he entered wrestling in the mid 80’s but quickly soared in position to take his rightful place amongst the legends. He was known for getting the crowd behind him and still to this day remains one of the most skilled wrestlers in and out of the ring.
I have a lot of respect for just how much Sting has done for the business over the years. Even from his early years he never seemed to take the opportunities he was given for granted. He always strived to do more, not just for his fellow wrestlers, but his fans and the industry as a whole.
He held a few titles in the 80’s but that is not what defined him, nor what made him the legend he is. Sting will always be remembered for being the good guy that sometimes just cared too much.
1) Ric Flair
At number one it’s no secret and should be no surprise Flair is topping the chart.
Flair is hands down the finest professional wrestler to ever live. Is he my favorite? No. But, oh man was he loaded with talent, charisma, and unchecked, unmitigated arrogance. The great part about this though was he could back it up, and he did time and time again. He remains to this day one of, if not the most decorated, and celebrated champions of all time.
He brought out the best in his opponents whether it was Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, Sting, it did not matter who. If you got the chance to enter the ring with him, you were always taken to the next level.
From forming groups like the Four Horsemen to his individual accolades in and out of the ring, he is one who will never be forgotten.