It’s a slow Sunday, so I was scrolling Twitter and came across the WWE social team throwing out an interesting question contained within the following tweet:
Who was the greatest WWE Champion?— WWE (@WWE) December 4, 2022
I’m assuming this is timely because of the run Roman Reigns is currently on. The longer he holds the title the more this question will come up while fans debate his place on the list of all time greats, both overall and specific to this particular run with the championship.
It’s an interesting debate because it almost entirely depends on your own subjective definition of “great” in this context. What makes someone “great” in pro wrestling? Putting on great matches? Drawing money? It’s not a true competition, considering there are bookers and writers and money men who make the decisions, making it that much harder to draw definitive conclusions.
There are a few answers you could give that I wouldn’t argue too hard against but for my money the answer has to be Stone Cold Steve Austin. There’s almost certainly a LOT of bias in that answer, considering that’s who I grew up with, but there are plenty of fans of today who didn’t get to truly experience what it was like while Austin was on top. There was no such thing as a quiet arena. Fans were blowing the roof off at every venue anytime that glass hit, and for every Stunner, and every finish, and all the wacky hijinks during the forever feud with Vince McMahon.
Beyond that, Austin was a mainstream star. Fame was different in the late 90’s. You couldn’t get famous off a Tik Tok account back then. If you were famous, you were REALLY famous, as in the majority of the country knew who you were because if you got big enough you ended up on The Tonight Show, and all the morning shows, and the news stations, and MTV, and then you were doing all the radio spots. There was only so much media to consume, so everyone ended up exposed to the folks who were asked on those shows, which is why it was such a big deal to be asked to appear.
You went to the mall and while there were endless nWo shirts, there were just as many Austin 3:16 shirts. I’m not sure that it’s fair to use that as a mark against any of the more recent top stars, like John Cena or Roman Reigns, but it’s certainly in Austin’s favor that there was an opportunity to be the super mega over top guy during an ultra competitive era filled with huge names who would all become top stars in their own right and he took it and became the best of them.
He was a bit limited in the ring because of the neck injury he suffered in 1997 but you almost never even thought about it because he made sure his matches were still wildly entertaining. And he had the best damn finisher out there. Nothing beat seeing Austin hit the kick-wham-Stunner.
But that’s just how I see it.
Now I want to hear how you see it. You know where to tell me.