10 Underappreciated Pro Wrestling Greats

I wrote a piece about the greatness of Kane and the lack of appreciation for the work he has done in the ring since Glen Jacobs brought the character to life. But as I got to thinking about wrestling as a whole and the state of the business today, the 37 years I have been a fan and the work I have done with the “sport” that it was and the entertainment that it is today, the man they call Kane is not the only performer who has not been given his just due over several decades.

Pro wrestling in a way is an art form, a balance of performance in the ring and out of the ring with props, managers and commentators making up the vast minutiae of the show we see live on or tape. Along the way, there are some great stars who have not received the just due they deserve.

Here is a look at a few of them.

Roddy Piper
I used to watch Piper and Ric Flair go at it in front of Bob Caudill week after week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. While matches with Flair and Piper as friend and foe were always exciting, the comments and the give and take of the promo might have been better than the moves in the ring.

Piper is one of those guys who were never given the chance to win the WWF Title, but had he captured gold, he would have carried the WWF more convincingly than Hulk Hogan.

Jake Roberts
Diamond Dallas Page was correct – Roberts was the best psychologist there was in the ring. But I like to think back to the time in Charlotte and Florida and Georgia. There was a man who never walked into the ring with a snake in a bag or sprayed on tights. Roberts was a real wrestler with a DDT to stop any opponent. His battles with Barry Windham and later Ron Garvin in Georgia are legendary.

Arn Anderson
The greatest wrestler to never hold a world title. Anderson (or Marty Lunde) was a mid-card exception who had a rugged look to him as Ole Anderson’s cousin. He spoke well and had a work ethic few in the business had or have today. He and Tully Blanchard were the perfect heel tag team and as the World Television Champion he was a rough a customer to come down the road in a while. The only thing that held Anderson back, seriously, was Ric Flair. The NWA could have survived with Double A taking it to limit.

Eric Embry
As a fringe player in Florida, Embry got the hell beaten out of him in Florida. In Texas, he was a star and wrote compelling storylines. Embry took a beating, bled all the time and fought the good fight against Skandor Akbar. In the end, he was truly Eddie Guerrero before Eddie was Eddie.

Rick Rude
Rude was a polished a superstar as there was in the world of wrestling, having come from Robinsdale, MN and became a star in Jerry Lawler’s CWF, the NWA/WCW and then the WWF. He was lean and strong. Women wanted to be with him. Men wanted to be him. Rude was a five-time world champion (three-time WCW International World Heavyweight Champion and two-time WCWA World Heavyweight Champion) Also won the one-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, and one-time WCW United States Champion.

Ricky Morton
He stuck with tag team wrestling, but Ricky Morton could have been Chris Benoit. His singles battles with Ric Flair were epic, bring the then-world champion to say Morton never oversold and was a good in the ring as Rick Steamboat – that wrestling Morton was more ballet than wrestling. He was a four-time World Tag team Champion with Robert Gibson when the two battled the likes of the Horsemen, The Midnight Express and the Road Warriors in the NWA.

Steve Williams
“Dr. Death” was a brawler who was a favorite in the Mid-South promotion run by Cowboy Bill Watts. A rough and rugged guy from Oklahoma who played football and was as big a star as anyone to wear the crimson jersey. Williams was the link between the likes of Billy Robinson and Verne Gagne and the stars like Wade Barrett and Triple H. He brawled and teamed with the likes of Ted DiBiase and Terry Gordy.

Jimmy Garvin
The man with the long curly locks, the valet named Precious and a great in-ring shtick. Garvin was a regional champion in Florida and Texas before making his way to WCW to team with Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy to revitalize the Freebirds. Garvin could talk on the mic better than most and is underrated for his mat skills. I loves the pants and suspenders. The 1980s were made for him.

Great Muta
If there was ever an Asian Sensation, it was Muta. He was tough, compact and mystified all of us with his speed, Judo chops and green mist. Kabuki and Kendo Nagasaki were here before him, but Gary Hart used him more than any other Asian import. He battled Jimmy Valiant and Sting and even challenged Barry Windham for the NWA World Title.

Kevin Sullivan
He was cryptic, off the chain, demonic and did things as a small-sized wrestler captivated us all. His battles with Dusty Rhodes in Florida were legendary. And it wasn’t just Sullivan – not with the likes of Lord Humongous, Jake Roberts, The Purple Haze and his wife Nancy by his side. Sullivan is the basis for everything evil in wrestling. Kane, Abyss and Bray Wyatt all time a little of Sullivan and use it for their act.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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