Kurt Angle and The Best Wrestlers of the 20th Century
In times of greatness, every man becomes a king, which is the price paid by kings when they cannot stay the energies that keep them on their thrones. - Mark Helprin
Recently Kurt Angle challenged me to a match at Wrestlemania XX.
This challenge wasn't part of some wrestling storyline. Angle told ABC news that many people in the business consider me to be the greatest wrestler of the 20th century - and they're telling him that, so far, he may well be the greatest wrestler of the 21st century. He said his dream match would be to wrestle me. I am genuinely flattered by Kurt Angle's challenge. And to me, just to be thought of in the same league as the great workers who I would consider to be the greatest wrestlers of the 20th century is the ultimate complement.
Asking exactly who the greatest wrestlers of the 20th century are is one of those subjective list making things that leads to sometimes heated, but hopefully fun, controversy. The opinion of someone who never stepped foot in the ring will be different from that of a matt veteran.
Here are some of the first names that come to my mind, in no particular order:
- Dory Funk Jr. Dory established the work rate that everyone else patterned themselves after - including me and every other great wrestler of the time. He was the Gordie Howe of wrestling.
- Nelson Royal. A smaller version of Dory Funk.
- Buddy Rogers. He invented high spots and long routines and started wrestling in the direction that it went. He was sometimes criticized by his peers for being "a routine man" but turned out to be ahead of his time, Pat O'Conner. A long time ago Leo Burke described him to me as the king of smooth. O'Conner's realistic approach gave wrestling legitimacy.
- Leo Burke. He was privileged to wrestle so many of the greats and his special talent was his knack for gleaning the best from each of them and adapting it to his own style.
- Archie The Stomper Gouldie. The total package. A guy that had everything - the look, the size, the physique, the persona He was a lot like Bill Goldberg except that Archie was a wrestler's wrestler. And Archie cut the most believable one chilling promos I have ever heard, then or since!
- Harley Race. A legit tough guy and one of the hardest working bump men in the history of the business.
- Cowboy Bob Orton. A wrestler's wrestler. Credible. The only guy I know of who has a comparable safety record to me.
- Perdro Morales. Often overlooked for being as good as he was. Realistic. Consistent. He was one of the few great performers from his time that was also a great worker. Morales could wrestle a broom stick. Besides that, he was exceptionally kind hearted and always had his ego in check.
- Antonio Inoki. Plain and simply a phenomenal technical wrestler.
- Dynamite Kid. Always an innovator. Pound for pound the best there ever was.
- Undertaker. Despite his Frankenstein gimmick, Mark Callaway is a solid, convincing, steady, reliable wrestler.
I wonder how others in the business would sum up my contribution. Vince McMahon recently said to me that he's seen them all and in his opinion I am the greatest storyteller in the history of wrestling. If that is how I am remembered I have done well.
As for Kurt Angle, I think he is simply the best there is ...today. He reminds me a lot of Chris Benoit - and that's a compliment. If I worked with Kurt Angle I imagine our match would be similar to the ones I had with Benoit, which many people tell me they consider to be classics.
Many fans have written to me saying that Hitman vs. Angle is a dream match they'd love to see - and I agree! In fact, not long ago I actually awoke from a dream in which I had Angle clamped in a side head lock. Never in all my years in the WWF did I ever dream of a wrestling match in my sleep, It made me realize that if I was going to come back for just one more great match I'd want Kurt Angle to be the guy.
It'd be a match of high caliber in the spirit of when I worked with Curt Hennig. Roddy Piper. Steve Austin. Davey Boy. And even Shawn Michaels.
I look forward to meeting Kurt Angle. Edge told me that Kurt wasn't a wrestling fan as a kid but that when he started in pro wrestling he watched every tape he could get his hands on and decided he liked me best. I'm flattered.
Thing is, I truly believe that Kurt Angle is the guy that can save wrestling - from itself. In my opinion, the problem with wrestling today, the reason why the ratings are down, is that very few guys know how to wrestle any more. I mean wrestling as an art form. To me they all look like a bunch of Mexican jumping beans and after a while that gets boring. It's like a movie full of car wrecks and explosions without any story. I believe that one of the reasons I got the World Heavyweight Title, the first time, was because in the midst of a steroid scandal the WWF needed a champion who could really wrestle as one way of showing that the business isn't all about muscle . I believe that's what the WWE needs today and the guy that can pull it off and carry the torch is Kurt Angle.
If I ever could have a last match it would be with him.
I still get letters every single day asking...
Hey Hitman . when are you comin' back ....