Even at its peak in the mid-’80s, professional wrestling was filled with tons of bad gimmicks that bored the crowd to death and forced them to wait for the main event. Luckily, there were characters that made that wait a worthwhile one, either aggravating them with their villainy or making them jump for joy once their music hit the arena. Some even made you wonder what side they were really on.
In this top 10 segment, Review Fix Editor-In-Chief Patrick Hickey Jr. counts down his picks for the best characters in the sport during that special decade.
10- “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart: It’s hard to justify how a manager could make this list ahead of great wrestlers the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Magnum TA and Harley Race [who were all amazing in-ring performers, but weren’t exactly the most charismatic or armed with a killer character], but there’s enough justification for Hart. A manager of champions, Hart, armed with his megaphone, managed to piss off hordes of fans during the decade, becoming synonymous with cheap and sleazy tactics in order to win. For that, he deserves a place on this list.
9- Honky Tonk Man: One of the best Intercontinental champions of all time, Honky helped “make” several young rasslers superstars during his tenure in the WWF. With his greasy hair and annoying music, it was just so easy to hate him and love who was ever going to deliver him an ass whooping, and most fans did, playing right into his game. A great performer, seeing him play cat and mouse in the ring was always something special.
8- Macho Man Randy Savage: Always the wild card, you never knew which way Savage was going to do. Add in the best top rope elbow drop the business has ever seen and a beautiful valet and it’s easy to see how he got so popular. Decent mic skills aside, that goddamn Slim Jim commercial still rings in thousands of wrestling fans’ heads on a daily basis. If being macho didn’t come easily to you as a kid, watching one of Savage’s promos back in the day definitely set a good example.
7-“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes: With his saggy chest and plump cheeks, it was obvious Rhodes was an everyman, and that’s what his persona was all about. With an unusual combination of intelligence and physical fortitude, he was perfect for the wrestling business and made the most out of what he had. A great speaker as well, some of his promos, to this day, are still second to none. With a mic in hand one second and his Bionic Elbow in the ring the next, he drove fans crazy.
6- “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase: That music. That laugh. What a bastard. Evil to the core, DiBiase was exactly the type of athlete Vince McMahon wanted on television in the ’80s. Talented in the ring, able to do excellent interviews and portray himself as larger than life, it was impossible for him to not induce some kind of response from fans.
5- Jake “The Snake” Roberts: Possibly the best mic man in the ’80s, Roberts, like Honky Tonk Man, was able to bring so many younger wrestlers to the forefront by not only making them look good in the ring but forcing them to defend themselves on the mic. As a fan, you knew he wasn’t exactly a good guy, but you didn’t exactly care. Armed with a cool as hell snake and the nastiest finisher of the decade, Roberts will always be a legend.
4- Hawk and Animal, “The Road Warriors”: Who would have thoughts that two bad ass kids from Detroit who watched a few bad Mel Gibson movies would have turned out to be the coolest tag team of the decade. Much like Roberts, these guys weren’t good guys, but damn, it was hard not to like them. Excellent athletes that just plowed through opponents, they’ve been copied to death, but no other tag team has been able to live up to their standard. What a rush.
3- “Hot Rod” Roddy Piper: One of the only wrestlers of the decade that didn’t need a title to prove his worth to fans, Piper was always a lightning rod for controversy and his ability to speak his mind and wrestle hard-working matches made him a legend. Again, like some of the other wrestlers mentioned, he was a pioneer in the fact that he brought out something in the crowd that many heels were unable to. He was cool and you didn’t care what he said about the hero. Helping shape countless other athletes’ images over the years, due to his in-ring charisma and show “Piper’s Pit,” Piper’s influence on the sport is a huge one.
2- Ric Flair: Like Dusty Rhodes, Flair didn’t have the best body, but that didn’t stop him from having some of the best matches of the decade with Ricky Steamboat. A master orator and selfless competitor, Flair was the man in the sport during the ’80s and regardless of how much you hated him and his Four Horsemen, you always respected his ability. If you wanted to make money back then, you wrestled in the WWF, if you wanted to wrestle the best in the world, you went to the NWA and guess what? That was Flair’s castle.
1- Hulk Hogan: Say what you want about his wrestling ability, but the guy is number one on this list because he simply made wrestling fun. Helping to bring the sport to the forefront during the decade, Hogan made the sport more than a Saturday Night guilty pleasure and something that was marketable to the masses. For that, he deserves the top spot on this list.