While I am one of the biggest wrestling fans of all time, I am also one of the biggest wrestling critics of all time. And in the 35-plus years I have watched, been a fan and a writer of the business, there are athletes who – although tremendous – never got the real run they deserved for one reason or another. In the case of Barry Windham, who celebrated his birthday on Friday, the singles champion and former member of the Four Horsemen as well as former NWA World Champion, never really got the respect he deserved.
In NWA/WCW, he was a one-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, a one-time United States Heavyweight Champion, a one-time Television Champion, a one-time Western States Heritage Champion, a four-time NWA (Mid Atlantic)/WCW World Tag Team Champion and a one-time NWA United States Tag Team Champion with Ron Garvin. In the WWF, he was a two-time World Tag Team Champion with his brother-in-law, Mike Rotunda. On March 31, 2012, Windham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Four Horsemen.
Windham is not the only wrestler who I feel has been wronged. Here are five other wrestlers who are the most underrated of all time.
Quite possibly the greatest wrestler to never wear a world title. His career has been highlighted by his alliances with Ric Flair and various members of the wrestling stable, The Four Horsemen, in the NWA/WCW. He currently serves as the senior producer for WWE’s Raw brand. In 2012, Anderson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Four Horsemen.
As part of the Horsemen, The foursome frequently teamed together in six and, sometimes, eight-man tag matches or interfered in each other’s matches to help score a victory or, at least, to prevent each other from losing their titles. The alliance quickly became a force within the territory, working in feuds against some of the biggest stars in the company like Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., the Road Warriors and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Anderson also saw success as a singles wrestler by winning the NWA Television Championship. At one point, Anderson was still one half of the NWA National Tag Team Champions and, even though Crockett promotions abandoned the National Tag titles eventually, Anderson’s success as a duo champion elevated his status within the territory.
He had a body that was just plain sick. His work in the NWA – especially in CWF with Jerry Lawler, was legendary. Rude was a four-time world champion (three-time WCW International World Heavyweight Champion and one-time WCWA World Heavyweight Champion). He also became a one-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, and one-time WCW United States Champion. The self-proclaimed “Sexiest Man Alive”, Rude’s physique has been named by WWE as the greatest in the history of professional wrestling. He is also recognized by the promotion as one of the greatest talkers of all time. Rude was one of the four original members of D-Generation X in 1997, alongside Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna. Rude was also the only person to appear on WWE Raw and WCW Nitro on the same day.
He was the more successful and popular part of the Rock & Roll Express. Morton could have been a tremendous singles star, but chose to remain part of the tag team with Robert Gibson. Morton has held seventy-nine championships throughout his career, and is best known for his appearances with Robert Gibson, with whom he has been a four time NWA/WCW World Tag Team champion as one-half of the tag team The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
But in 1986, he showed he was equally adept at singles competition against the NWA Champion, Ric Flair. Morton was having an interview when NWA Champion Ric Flair came out and insulted his fans by calling them “teenyboppers”. He said Morton couldn’t handle real women and Morton stomped on Flair’s sunglasses. This led to a fight and then a series of matches, the most notable being their Steel Cage match at the 1986 Great American Bash.
He does not get the due he deserves. Jim Garvin was one of the best interviews ever. Long hair, an infectious personality, a hot valet and a membership in The Freebirds. Not a bad life to live in professional wrestling. Garvin may be the most underrated interview of all time. Garvin competed in the Mid-Southern and Florida regions, along with World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
While he is probably remembered more for his wildly entertaining interviews, his mat skills were pretty spectacular. Garvin was a singles star in the Mid-South, World Class and Florida regions of the NWA.
The fact that Piper never held the WWF or NWA World titles is about criminal. He is one of the top five best interviews and entertainers of all time. “Hot Rod” accumulated 34 championships in various promotions during his career; he participated in the main events of WrestleMania I and WrestleMania X – as a special guest referee in the latter. Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. By the age of 15, he made his pro debut in Winnipeg, against Larry Hennig.
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