Heel, rule breaker, bad guy; these are just a few titles used to describe the most dastardly, the most devious and the most deceptive men and women in the world of professional wrestling. But what makes a villain a great villain? Is it the rebellious nature of the villain? Perhaps it’s his or her telling the fans just how great they are, or maybe it’s the more vicious, sinister side of humanity, that pure evil which lives within us all, kept at bay by most but embraced by the villain.
Read on and enjoy as I break down WWE.com’s list of the top 50 villains in wrestling history, all the way from #50 to #1. Just keep in mind, as I write this I am listening to upbeat music, how villainous of me.
WWE.COM‘s TOP 50 VILLAINS IN WRESTLING HISTORY:
#50 Batista – The former pro wrestler turned mixed martial artist was undoubtedly impressive to look at, but he was never anything more than looks and raw potential until the tail end of his run with World Wrestling Entertainment. Finally, in 2010, Dave Batista revealed his true colours.
The Animal become jealous of John Cena and announced that he was coming for ‘The Champ’s’ spot. This lead to Batista not only out talking, but out-performing Cena in the ring. Sadly, Batista would soon ‘retire’ from pro wrestling, citing his pursuit of a career in MMA & WWE going PG as his biggest reasons for leaving. Although this is a shocking choice, it is not necessarily as shocking as you might think. Batista was a more than competent bad guy who could have been a great villain, if only he had stayed.
#49 Randy Savage – When you think of the word Macho, there is only one face that comes to mind; the famous lumberjack beard, the impossible to replicate and off-the-wall promos and the consistently show-stealing matches.
“The Macho Man” was a wrestler fans either hated or they loved, although sometimes both. The cockiness, the intensity and the mistreatment of his valet Miss Elizabeth earned Savage the ire of millions of wrestling fans worldwide. Though his matches were a sight to behold, Savage still managed to be booed savagely (no pun intended), while putting on legendary performances on a weekly basis.
If any wrestler deserves a higher spot on this list it’s Randy “Macho Man” Savage; an all time great hero and an even greater villain. Though not officially inducted into The WWE Hall Of Fame, Randy Savage is a Hall Of Fame worthy villain, no doubt.
#48 Vickie Guerrero – “Excuse me!!” Those two words fire up a crowd and inspire anger rarely seen in todays era of WWE. While I personally believe that Vickie Guerrero was only hired because of her last name, you can’t deny that the WWE Universe despises the Show-Off’s second. I wouldn’t have put her in my Top 50, due to a lack of talent, but if we’re grading villains based solely on the heat they get, Mrs. Guerrero is a surefire Top 50.
#47 Mark Henry – “The World’s Strongest Villain”, I like the sound of that. From 1996 through 2010, Mark Henry was never more than ‘good, when motivated’, but in the Summer of 2011, that all changed.
Mark Henry turned World Wrestling Entertainment into his own personal Hall Of Pain. This was a motivated, an unstoppable and villainous Mark Henry. Henry only wanted two things; to be the best and to inflict pain.
At Night Of Champions 2011, “The World’s Strongest Man” became “The World’s Strongest Champion”. No one could stop the man, not Randy Orton, not Daniel Bryan, hell, not even The Big Show could withstand Henry’s regin of terror. Had it not been for a series of nagging injuries, I don’t doubt that Henry would still be the unstoppable World Heavyweight Champion he was last year today.
The fact that Henry was not satisfied merely beating up opponents, winning matches and holding Championships, but rather breaking bones, making people suffer and ending careers is a true testament to just how great a villain Mark Henry truly is.
#46 The Iron Sheik – When you think of wrestling villains, who do you think of? If you older than 20, chances are strong you’ve already pictured The Iron Sheik. The Terror from Tehran was the ultimate bad guy in the 1980’s.
Terrifying, angering and mystifying WWE fans was not the only thing Sheiky did well, Sheik could back up his mouth in the wrestling ring, Sheik could wrestle circles around almost everyone in the locker room, and the fans hated him for it.
Sure, The Iron Sheik could have relied solely on his nationality, looks and culture to get him heat, and he did in the later years of his career, but The Sheik preferred to dismantle people’s heroes, chew out the fans and commit heinous acts instead, and for those reasons he is one of the most evil Superstars to ever grace the ring.
Oh, and if you don’t believe The Iron Sheik was tough, I’d like to see you pick up the Persian clubs and give them a go, tough guy.
#45 Andre The Giant – Although loved by millions of professional wrestling fans the world over, Andre the Giant was also known as a famous villain in the latter half of his career. But how does one of the most beloved figures in The World Wrestling Federation, nay, professional wrestling history become the most hated villains in the wrestling world? He aligns himself with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, he disrespects Hulk Hogan and he then proceeds to challenge The Hulkster to a Championship match at WrestleMania III, and just like that, overnight, Andre The Giant was the most hated man in wrestling.
Andre may not have been the greatest of talkers, with his strong French accent (World Wide Wrestling Tag Team Championship match, anyone?), but what he lacked on the mic, he more than made up for by bending the rules in the ring, interfering at ringside and by teaming up with notorious evil-doers like Heenan, DiBiase & Haku.
While he may not be quite top 25 material as a wrestling villain, “The Eight Wonder of the World” Andre The Giant is one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever live.
#44 Eric Bischoff – The one time head of World Championship Wrestling was not only one of pro wrestlings great on-screen villains, Eric Bischoff also became a villain backstage. Whether it was money, overconfidence or just plain recklessness, ‘Uncle Eric’ became a real life heel. I’m pretty sure hanging out with the ‘big boys’ and acting like one of the guys didn’t help WCW much either.
When Bischoff was revealed as the brain behind The New World Order, he was launched into on-camera fame instantly. But it wasn’t until Bischoff shocked the world and showed up on WWE’s Monday Night RAW in 2002, that Eric Bischoff displayed just how great a villain he is. The fictitious authority role as RAW GM suited Bischoff better than his actual role as Executive Producer and President of WCW.
Whether you love to hate him, or you just plain hate him, there is no denying that Eric Bischoff has natural talent. To Eric Bischoff getting white-hot heat is as easy as a Sunday stroll through the park, and for that I would put him on my Top 50.
#43 Eddie Guerrero – “Latino Heat”, for as great as he was in the ring, for as entertaining as he was on the microphone and for as loved as he is today was a menace in the ring, as well as outside of it.
Eddie Guerrero made every move hurt, he made every glance at the crowd bone-chilling and he said things that made children cry, made men jump guardrails and cause women to protest. Eddie Guerrero was so good at making people hate him, you almost forget he was one of the most beloved Superstars since Andre The Giant.
But at some point the lying, the cheating and the stealing went from being loathed to being loved. There was a point when Guerrero got so good at being bad, you had to cheer for him. Until he did the impossible and made you hate him again in 2005.
Before his career was cut short Eddie Guerrero was once again a fan favourite, but despite that, the proud Latino superstar will always be known as a great villain, and an even greater human being.
#42 Brock Lesnar – While Paul Heyman handles the talking, Brock Lesnar dishes out the beatings like no one else in the history of the game, as evident by his previous two forays in the squared circle, just as ask John Cena & Triple H.
Lesnar not only dominated the world of mixed martial arts, before returning to the WWE, he maintained his pro wrestling heat while fighting for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Lesnar takes his victims, not opponents and he rips them apart, piece-by-piece, limb-by-limb, like a demented child with a helpless fly, and he relishes it.
Whether it’s North America or it’s Asia, whether it’s inside of a wrestling ring or within the UFC’s Octagon, Brock Lesnar is a one hundred percent pure, take no prisoners, smash your face in, bad ass. Oh yeah. And he’s a hell of a villain as well.
#41 Kane – “The Devil’s Favourite Demon” (worst nickname ever), is one of the most agile, intimidating and fascinating figures in WWE history.
Whether it was attacking and burying his brother The Undertaker alive (twice), or it was setting commentators on fire or even kidnapping and impregnating female wrestlers, there is no doubt that Kane is evil to the core.
Forget about the Kane you see today, the Big Red Machine of old is the Kane we all would like to remember. Kane cemented his status as a ruthless villain by making WWE.com’s list, as well as my own personal list.
#40 Don Muraco – When you look up ‘bad dude’ in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Don Muraco pummelling a helpless fan favourite bloody. While many of you may not know the man, “The Rock” (known as The Rock before Dwayne Johnson ever stepped foot in a ring), made guys pay, often with their own blood.
As one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, Muraco engaged in legendary feuds with the likes of Tito Santana, Bob Backlund & “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, among several others.
1981 Wrestling Observer “Heel of the Year” Don Muraco would receive a first class seat in the Villain Hall of Fame, if ever there were such a place.
#39 The Dudley Boyz – Hailing from Dudleyville, D-Von & Buh Buh Ray, collectively known as The Dudley Boyz, have bullied, berated and beaten many opponents senseless since 1996, and in 2012 they show no sign of slowing down, at least Bully Ray doesn’t.
The Dudley Boyz would say and do things no one in their right minds would dare say to the rabid ECW faithful, nearly inciting riots on more than a handful of occasions. In Extreme Championship Wrestling it was about more than pissing off the fans, it was about kicking ass and taking Championships and showing everyone who was boss. The most winning tag team in pro wrestling history and Dudleyville’s finest secure their spot as the baddest of the bad with this ranking.
#38 CM Punk – “Straight Edge means I’m better than all of you!” is all CM Punk would have to say to garner thunderous heat, yet Punk has so much more to say than that.
At first sight I thought CM Punk was a typical independent wrestler; nothing special. CM Punk was just the blond haired, skinny fat ass in basketball shorts who looked like he’d lose a fight to a senior citizen, man, was I wrong. As soon as I heard Punk pick up the mic and talk “The Straight Edge Superstar” had converted me to his fanclub (not an actual fanclub).
CM Punk not only lives a lifestyle few can, he does what even fewer can do, he backs up his talk, has millions of followers and continues to be the number one wrestler in the world today. But on to the real nasty stuff, CM Punk can be a snake (kayfabe), and if you get too close to him, he may just bite you right in the face.
Whether he was leading the cult-like Straight Edge Society or he was preaching about his greatness, CM Punk could play the villain like an instrument.
CM Punk should be your hero, yet he is one of the greatest villains in wrestling history, need I remind you of Punk’s rendition of “Happy Birthday”.
#37 Ernie Ladd – I don’t know much about “The Big Cat”,but from what I do know, Ladd was as bad as they come. The former NFL pro, Ladd, was a heat magnet, and he knew it. If you were his opponent, you’d have to hope he didn’t use his dreaded taped thumb to put you on the shelf.
#36 Ivan Koloff – This Russian mauler was in the business of hurting people, and business was good. Ivan Koloff was as tough as he was intimidating, and three times as ugly.
The most hated man in New York City had dethroned Manhattan’s favourite grappler and long time Champion Bruno Sammartino (a WWE record) to become the new holder of the crown. Though his run as Champion was short-lived, Koloff made the most of it, jumping ship to The National Wrestling Alliance where he became and even bigger star, feuding with Dusty Rhodes and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
“The Russian Bear” will most certainly go down in history as one of the most villainous wrestlers to ever compete in the squared circle.
#35 Paul Heyman – If there is a talker on a higher level than the mastermind behind Extreme Championship Wrestling, I have not seen or heard for them yet. Unlike some ‘great’ talkers and villains, Paul Heyman never sounds like he’s reading off of a script; Paul Heyman makes his words hit you in the chest like the hammer of Thor, while also stimulating your brain and pissing you off like no one else. The man has effectively turned the words “Brock Lesnar” into a powerful statement.
If there was ever was a ‘Getting Heat 101’, Professor Paul E. Dangerously would take us all to school. The man from the land of the extreme can turn a cheering crowd into a sea of hatred and jeers in a snap of a finger.
Paul Heyman could incite a riot via a demonic glare, an act of cowardice or even by simply telling the truth, with the assistance of his vile, venomous and sometimes even violent promos, naturally. Paul Heyman is top 20 material on my list, but hey, #35 ain’t a bad place to be.
#34 Abdullah The Butcher – Abby may be in the barbecue business today, but in his heyday, the Butcher earned his name for attempting to barbecue his foes. Abdullah was known the world for his venomous and violent actions.
It wasn’t unusual for Abdullah The Butcher to bludgeon many an opponent with a fork, a chair and even in extreme casses, his own bare hands. Sure, he wasn’t the most athletic, subtle or scientific catch-as-catch-can wrestler, but, what The Butcher has managed to do extremely well for over five decades was shock, terrify and amaze wrestling audiences all over the world. Abby may be a nice guy at home, but in and around the ring Abdullah was as much of a killer and a villain as any man in pro wrestling history.
#33 Terry Funk – Arguably the greatest professional wrestler to ever live, Terry Funk is loved by many, from Tokyo, Japan to Trenton, New Jersey, Terry Funk is a beloved wrestling icon. But, there was a time when the Funker would evoke so much emotion, anger and hatred from a crowd it was not unusual for a fan to attempt to punch, stab or even pull a pistol on the man from Amarillo.
The Double-Cross Ranch resident was no stranger to the double-cross himself, when blindsided at the time fan favourite Ric Flair with a sucker rabbit punch, a man pulled a revolver on Funk and attempted to kill him. But, if you ask Terry Funk, he prided himself on the visceral reactions he pulled from the crowd. The Funker also nearly succeeded in suffocating “The Nature Boy” with plastic bag, which not made only made Funk a natural villain, but quite possibly as middle aged and crazy as he claimed to be. The branding iron was another item in the toolbox of The Funker, Funk quite literally owned his opponents, and the world hated him for it.
Terry Funk will forever be know by wrestling fans as one of the most adaptable, tough and villainous wrestlers of all time.
#32 Randy Orton – While many fans see Orton as a perennial Championship contender who from time to time finds the motivation to put on great matches, they seem to forget that “The Viper” at his best was also a psychotic villain who not only liked to hurt people, but enjoyed ending their careers. As “The Legend Killer”, Randy Orton vanquished many WWE Hall of Famers, including the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Dusty Rhodes and of course the hardcore legend, Mick Foley.
Whether it was punting the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, attacking John Cena’s father or even kissing another man’s wife, the master of the RKO had no low he would not stoop to become WWE Champion. And for that, he makes the cut.
#31 Kevin Sullivan – “The Task Master” was so deep into the occult, it was almost as if he had lost his humanity to it. The powers Sullivan held over fellow wrestlers was at the lightest bizarre and at it’s most frightening, scary. His classic feud with Chris Benoit showed that Sullivan could wrestle as well as he could earn the ire of wrestling fans, and I have to say Kevin Sullivan deserves a spot in the top 50.
#30 Jerry Lawler – He is the true King of Memphis, no not Elvis Presley, but, Jerry “The King” Lawler.
For many, if not most of the younger members of the WWE Universe, Jerry “The King” Lawler is a loveable Hall of Famer, a part time wrestler and the announcer with more corny dad jokes than Bob Saget on a season of Full House. But for old school hardcore wrestling fans “The King” was once among the greatest villains in all of wrestling.
As an invader in AWA & in ECW, as a thorn in the side of the Hart Family or even as the mean spirited commentator with more one liners than Don Rickles, Jerry Lawler was always at his best when he was being bad. When he wasn’t blasting “The Hitman” in the back of the head with a crutch, maiming Kerry Von Erich or mocking fan favourites and senior citizens, “The King” was busy putting on classic matches. If WWE had forgot to include Jerry Lawler on their list, it would not have been a credible countdown.
#29 Raven – Grungy, dirty and crass could all be used to accurately depict the mysterious enigma from The Bowery, though Raven was just as known for his intelligent words, violent streak and crisp maneuvers as he was for his infamous lifestyle and cult leader like status.
Raven’s personal and heated rivalries with Tommy Dreamer & The Sandman put him on the wrestling map. The former Johnny Polo put fear, intrigue and curiosity into the hearts and the minds of wrestling fans everywhere, mystifying millions over the course of his long run in ECW, WCW & WWE.
Raven is undeniably a villain, through and through. Need more proof? Raven once brainwashed The Sandman’s kid, Tyler, turning him against his own father and effectively replacing the Sandman as Tyler’s new father, oh and he crucified the man, complete with a barbed wire crown of thrones, now if that isn’t plain evil, I don’t know what is. Quoth The Raven, “Nevermore”.
#28 The Fabulous Moolah – If there was ever a tougher woman than Moolah, I’ve certainly never heard of her. The Fabulous Moolah was not only by far the most tough and dominate female wrestler to ever touch the canvas, but she was the WWWF Women’s Champion for a staggering, unprecedented and historic 28 years.
But, Moolah didn’t hold on to the gold for that long by playing nice, no siree Bob. The Fabulous Moolah was a notorious hard-nosed, rule breaking grappler who didn’t mind getting her hands dirty, and didn’t take lip from anyone. Moolah deserves her spot, more so than a lot of people who made the cut *coughTripleHcough*. Seven decades of destruction, several broken bones and the will of a champion certifies The Fabulous Moolah as one of the all time greats in the professional wrestling history books.
#27 Paul Orndorff – “Mr. Wonderful” was the jock with the best looking girl, the alpha-male who stuffed you in your locker and the definition of physical perfection, and he didn’t mind telling you either.
When Orndorff was at his best he was attempting to maim the biggest hero in wrestling history; Hulk Hogan was the bane of Paul Orndorff’s existence and it was “Mr. Wonderful”‘s goal in life to put an end to Hulkamania, once and for all.
I would not have ranked Orndorff so high, but he’s certainly deserving of a spot in the high 40’s.
#26 Nick Bockwinkel – Quite possibly the most cerebral wrestler of all time, the most despised villain in Minnesota wrestling history and most certainly a highly skilled in-ring competitor, Nick Bockwinkel was the total package (he was nothing like Lex Luger).
Bockwinkel was not your typical bad guy; Eloquent, well mannered and more cunning than any man to ever lace up a pair of boots and get into the ring, Bockwinkel had you beat before you ever stepped foot into the squared circle. With his surprising athletic ability, precision maneuvers and vast knowledge of the rarely seen professional wrestling rulebook, Bockwinkel could not be beat in seven years, even when you thought you beat him.
Professional wrestling’s original intellectual saviour to the unwashed masses should be ranked within the top five, but we understand WWE’s love for Triple H often outweighs logic, and we can forgive them, just this one time. Nick Bockwinkel ranks on any serious list of great pro wrestling villains, and this list is no different in that respect.
#25 Big Van Vader – What’s more scary than a pissed off 350 pound Mastodon, who feels no pain and fears no man? Absolutely nothing. The man they call Vader was not only scary in appearance, he was violent, vicious and villainous in the ring, maybe more so than any other man in the history of the business.
Big Van Vader was once hit so hard in the head by Stan Hansen that his eye popped out, he went on to wrestle another 10 minutes to see the match to it’s conclusion, the swelling saved Vader’s eye, now if that’s not quadruple tough, I’m not sure what is.
Perhaps the incident that made Vader an infamous villain was his destruction, dismemberment and deformation of Cactus Jack, that night in Germany the man from The Rocky Mountains detached Cactus Jack’s ear from his head will live in infamy for as long as pro wrestling exists.
The night Vader unexpectedly dethroned the seemingly unstoppable Sting to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion started a run that would see Vader become the most dominant Champion in the history of World Championship Wrestling. With the legendary former 8 times World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race by his side, the unstoppable monster had an insurance policy, just in case his throne was in threat of being usurped.
Vader’s trash talking, bullying and dominance solidified the massive super heavyweight as one of the most destructive, dastardly and deadly villains to ever play professional wrestling’s game of thrones.
#24 Harley Race – “He’s the toughest man I’ve ever met” A compliment many wrestlers have thrown in Harley Race’s direction, and it just may be true. Known for his ruthlessness, both in and sometimes out of the ring, Harley Race was a professional ass kicker if there ever was one. To give you an idea of Race’s legit bad ass status, the Hall Of Famer once pulled a sawed-off shotgun on Hulk Hogan backstage at a live event, now that is a real life authentic renegade right there.
The man preferred to do his talking in the ring, maiming many an opponent with his mammoth hammocks, but Race was no stranger to controversial methods, he would apply these ‘methods’ outside of the ring as well. Race proved he would go to any lengths to keep his prized Heavyweight Championship of the World in toe when he placed a $25,000 bounty on the head of top challenger “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Whether you hated him or you were a diehard fan of the man, the eight time National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Champion was a classic villain, never duplicated, but often imitated. Harley Race has earned his spot as one of the most villainous men in the illustrious history of the sport.
#23 Sgt. Slaughter – This is one choice I partially disagree with WWE.com writers on, while Slaughter was a great villain as the evil drill sergeant in the 1980’s, his evil Iraqi sympathizer gimmick reeked of vintage WWE xenophobia. The un-American angle insulted the intelligence of wrestling fans the world over. Not only had Iraq never threatened The United States Of America at any time, The United States Of America was actually threatening Iraq. While I despised Saddam Hussein, he wasn’t any worse than the Bush family. By the way, having Sheik join the Iraqi faction as Col. Mustafa was possibly the most inaccurate and uneducated decision made in World Wrestling Entertainment history, Iraq was anything but aligned with Iran, contrary to what many have been led to falsely believe. Rant over.
#22 The Undertaker – For a short time, the man from the darkside (not Darth Vader) was the number one villain in WWE, but was he really worthy of a mention in the top villains of all time? I think not. During the early 1990’s Taker would bag his fallen opponents and send them to the depths of hell, but that’s just not good enough.
#21 Freddie Blassie – You wouldn’t expect a man who calls himself “Classy” to cause heart attacks. But after witnessing barbaric displays of Blassie’s brutality on television that is exactly what many Japanese fans did. Blassie tore into the flesh of Japanese wrestling icon Rikidozan, with his alleged nail file sharpened teeth.
Most wrestlers think being a bad guy means getting booed out of the building, but not Blassie. “The Classy One” had to be threatened, stabbed and splashed with acid to know he was doing his job well.
Later in his career “The Hollywood Fashion Plate” began managing and carrying a signature cane he never seemed to use, out-side of cracking unsuspecting foes in the back in order for his men to gain the W.
Fred Blassie was the very definition of what a villain could and should be.
#20 Edge – “The Rated R Suuuuuuuperstar” Edge was tailor made for a career as a professional wrestling villain. Edge had it all; the cockiness, the win at all costs attitude and the vulturistic nature (not a real word, but an excellent word) that enabled Edge to take advantaged as injured opponents licked their wounds.
“The Ultimate Opportunist” exuded sleaze as well, a lesser utilized object in the heel toolbox. Whether it was stealing a man’s girlfriend, a live sex celebration or just attacking a injured and helpless woman to win a match, Edge was always willing to sink to new depths to win Championship gold. Edge easily makes my personal top 50.
#19 Jim Cornette – James E. Cornette was perhaps the most annoying, the most pesky and the most loathed loud mouth villain manager of all time, and for good reason, the ultimate mama’s boy knew how to push all the right buttons to drive the fans wild with rage.
Mr. Cornette always talked a big game, despite looking like an evil Pee Wee Herman. And the worst part of all,
Cornette had his muscled up clients back up his dreaded tongue. When a fan favourite would finally get their hands on Jim Cornette’s scrawny neck, the crowd would froth at the mouth like rabid dogs in anticipation; “At last they thought. Cornette is going to get his”, then out of nowhere, Cornette was pulled to safety, setting off an awe inspiring show of hatred from the fans. When he finally got his the crowd went crazy with joy.
Another thing Mr. Cornette was famous for, or rather infamous for were the venomous, self righteous and vile tirades “The Louisville Slugger” would go on, Jim Cornette inspired Westboro Baptist church level heat wherever he went. If Cornette is not the most hated man to ever come out of the south, he certainly should be in the all time top 5.
Whether he was managing The Midnight Express to Tag Team Championship gold or he was guiding Yokozuna to a WWE Championship, at the very least, Jim Cornette got on your nerves, and at the worst, you wanted him six feet in the ground.
#18 Killer Kowalski – You know a man is pure evil when he is famous for dismembering many an opponent and clawing at their entrails like a hungry zombie. Walter “Killer” Kowalski was just as his name suggested, a killer. Just ask Yukon Eric, who lost part of his ear when Kowalski dropped a big knee on his head way back in 1954.
Kowalski had many legendary fan favourite foes throughout his great career; Bruno Sammartino, Pat O’Connor and even Andre The Giant have all done war with the Polish American wrestler. Kowalski even injured boxing great Jack Dempsey, though that may well have been an accident.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Clint Eastwood was asked to play a character named after Walter Kowalski, tough guys follow in the footsteps of other tough men. Kowalski was one of the great bad guys in wrestling history, and he even trained renown villains Triple H & Damien Sandow, Kowalski’s legacy lives on through them.
#17 Mr. Perfect – The second generation superstar, Curt Hennig, was a meat and potatoes babyface in his early AWA days, but what “The Perfect One” is most famous for is his persona in The World Wrestling Federation, there Hennig showed that he was absolutely perfect.
If you have somehow not seen the legendary Mr. Perfect vignettes, go check them out right now. Hennig was seemingly perfect at everything he did; the perfect dive, the perfect score, the perfect pass… and the perfect reception, and of course, the perfect match.
As World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion, Mr. Perfect showed the world that he was not to be upstaged and never to be outdone. If you need any further proof of this go back and watch his classic matches against Bret Hart, Ric Flair and even his legendary showdown with Hulk Hogan, where he carried The Hulkster to perhaps Hogan’s greatest match.
When Perfect wasn’t showing off how good he was, he and his sleazy manager Bobby Heenan were telling you just how good Perfect was. Never afraid to take a shortcut or take advantage of a Heenan distraction, Curt Hennig will go down as one of the most athletic, resourceful and perfect villains in wrestling history. Lest we forget about the Perfect-Plex.
#16 Sherri Martel – “Sensational”, “Scary” “Queen”; Sherri Martel has taken on many different personas throughout her career as both a manager and as a wrestler, but, what really separated Martel from valets like Miss Elizabeth’s and wrestlers like Wendi Richter was her intensity, agression and intelligence.
Before arriving in The World Wrestling Federation, Sherri Martel was a wrecking-ball in women’s wrestling, capturing championships and breaking bodies everywhere she wrestled on the way to a career as a manager.
“The Sensational One” achieved her greatest fame as a second for great stars like Randy Savage, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Harlem Heat. When a referee’s back was turned Martel didn’t think twice about choking, eye gouging or striking a client’s opponent. Sherri Martel will go as one of the most violent, unstable and unpredictable villains of all time.
#15 Chris Jericho – “The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla”, “The Man of 1,004 Holds”, “The Best In The World At What I Do”; While Jericho may not have been the actual Ayatollah of rock music, Fozzy is certainly trying. As for Mr. 1,004, that’s still disputed. What was not so disputed in 2009 and 2010 was Jericho claim as the best in the world.
Chris Jericho’s mouth has always gotten him into trouble; Do you remember when “Y2J” interrupted The Rock or when “Mr. Monday Night Jericho” insulted Dean Malenko and his deceased father. Whoever said words can never hurt them, obviously never had a run in with Chris Jericho.
Chris Jericho earned his membership into ‘club villain’ by his actions, even more so than he did through his words; whether he was putting Shawn Michaels’ melon through the exceedingly expensive Jeritron 5000, or he was punching Michaels’ wife in the mouth or whether he was forcing an alcohol-free man to drink against his own will, Chris Jericho will always be known as a vile villain, and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
#14 The Original Sheik – While I do not know much of The Original Sheik, I know he was feared for his violent use of his own teeth, sharpened pencils and the ocasional fireball to an opponents face.
From the then mysterious Syria, The Original Sheik mesmerized fans with his exotic look and unorthodox methods. Known for his feuds with Bruno Sammartino, Fred Blassie and many other wrestling legends, The Sheik was a devious villain worthy of praise.
The Sheik trained Sabu & Rob Van Dam, by the way.
#13 The Fabulous Freebirds – Michael “P.S.” Hayes, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy & Buddy “Jack” Roberts were the cool bad guys. The Fabulous Freebirds lived by the motto, ‘You only live once’; sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. They weren’t villains initially.
Come Christmas night 1982, everything changed; when Kerry Von Erich refused The Freebird’s assistance, “Bam Bam” slammed shut the cage door on the future Texas Tornado’s face, costing Kerry Von Erich his NWA Heavyweight Championship, and igniting a massive five year feud between The Freebirds and The Von Erics. Worse than incurring the wrath of the famous Texas family, Roberts, Gordy & Hayes had to deal with the rabid World Class fans. Slashed tires, broken car windshields and stabbing attempts were all on the menu when The Freebirds rolled through Texas.
The Fabulous Freebirds travelled throughout The United States, never being held down by any one territory or promotion, earning the ire and adoration of fans all over the country. When you think of factions, only two factions truly belong on this list, The Freebirds are worthy villains.
#12 John Bradshaw Layfield – The toothy grin, the millions of dollars made on Wall Street and cowardice, what’s not to hate about JBL?
John Bradshaw Layfield is almost in a class of his own when it comes to villainous world title runs, at least in a time where championships are passed around like J-WOWW and Snooki in a nightclub, 280 days as WWE World Champion is incredible. Though JBL’s was not a typical regin; JBL should have lost nearly every time, but, the crafty veteran would always come up with new ways to keep his crown; cheating, taking advantage of lesser known rules, whatever he could do, JBL did it, even when it had seemed that he had finally lost The WWE Championship, Bradshaw would hold onto it like grim death.
JBL is a WWE Hall of Fame bond villain, and you all know it.
#11 Rick Rude – “What I’d like to have right now is for all you fat, out of shape, *Insert city here* sweathogs to keep the noise down while I take my robe off and show all the ladies what a real man is supposed to look like.” Care to guess how that went over with crowd?
The men may have hated him, but the ladies loved “The Ravishing One”, which made their boyfriends and fathers hate Rude that much more. And just when you think he couldn’t get anymore heat, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan joined Rude at ringside, which made even the female fans boo Rude.
Rick Rude was not afraid to get personal either, he even had Jake Robert’s wife, Cheryl’s face airbrushed onto the crotch of his ring attire, now that’s a bad dude.
Not only did Rude have the body, “The Brain” and the hatred of millions of wrestling fans across the globe, “Ravishing” Rick Rude had the skills to back everything up when it came time to get into the ring. Just to show you Rude’s brilliance as a villain, I’ll leave you with one last “Ravishing” quote.
“I feel good and I look even better. I make a burlap sack look like a cashmere sweater.”
#10 Jake Roberts – “Never trust a snake”, truer words were never spoken, and when it came to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, those words hit the nail on the head.
The native of Stone Mountain could finish off any opponent with a DDT, but that was too easy, Roberts preferred to get into a foe’s head and defeat him before the match ever began. A master of psychological warfare, the sly, deceptive and cunning “Snake” liked to toy with his prey before devouring it whole.
Did I mention that Jake Roberts actually carried around a living python in a burlap sack to the ring with him? Well, he wasn’t just called “The Snake” for his style. Draping his prized python Damien over incapacitated opponents was as much a signature of Roberts’ as his patented short-arm clothesline and signature knee-lift.
The man who nearly ended the career of Ricky Steamboat with a DDT on a concrete floor and gifted Randy Savage and Elizabeth a cobra for their wedding was a clod blooded villain, arguably the most evil of them all.
#9 Gorgeous George – Quite possibly the original modern wrestling villain and the first “Nature Boy” like character, Gorgeous George was from a time when men just did not curl their hair, wear studded robes and do everything to avoid being hit.
A trendsetter and a gender-bender, Gorgeous George was a pioner for flamboyant villains in the wrestling business, and we all need to pay homage. Even Muhammed Ali looked up to Gorgeous George for his promos and his style, borrowing many of these qualities on-route to a legendary boxing career.
#8 Bobby Heenan – The quickest wit you’ll ever hear, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wasn’t just quick, he was sudden, there was never a funnier man, not even in the comedy business. Heenan was the total package, he could even sell like Ziggler.
“The Manager of Champions” was not only the greatest manager of all time, not just the best colour man of all time (in any sport) but simply put, Heenan was an incredible villain. “The Weasel” as most wrestling fans referred to him, not affectionately, was the man who would not only take every shortcut in the book, but a man who came up with a few tricks of his own to add to the book. Hooking feet, taking cheap shots on the outside and handing his wrestlers plunder to knock out many an opponent with, Heenan was dirtier than Nixon. When asked what he would do in a match Heenan replied; “Well, I’d have my agent buy it for me, and if that didn’t work I’d take him out back and waffle him with a tire iron.” I set my Dad up with that line when I was a kid, probably the first and only time I ever legitimately made him laugh.
Bobby Heenan will go down as my personal hero, not just in wrestling, but in life… having said that, part of me will always hate him, Heenan’s just that good at being a villain.
#7 Billy Graham – The astonishing physique, the bleach blond hair and that Hollywood style made “The Superstar” just that, a star. His in ring actions, however, made Graham the villain to the hero World Wide Wrestling Federation Champion Bruno Sammartino. When Graham upset Sammartino, it left the wrestling world shocked and angry.
Wrestling fans wanted to see “The Superstar” and they paid to see it, as Graham would sell out all but one of the 20 big Madison Square Garden shows that took place while he was champion. During his 10 month WWWF Heavyweight Championship run, “Superstar” Billy Graham went on to have classic matches with great wrestlers like Bob Backlund & Pat Patterson, solidifying his historic villainous regin as champ.
“Superstar” Billy Graham was “The man of the hour, the man with power, too sweet to be sour” and a heck of a bad guy.
#6 Triple H – “The Cerebral Assassin” may not have been quite on the intellectual level of a Nick Bockwinkel or a Bobby Heenan, but he wasn’t exactly a metal midget either.
Let’s do a checklist of Triple H’s list of despicable accomplishments; Drug and marry the boss’s daughter, check. Create a villainous legacy, check. Bully officials and announcers, check. Break all the rules, check. Attempted murder with a sledgehammer, multiple times, check. Borrow from the best, check.
As an eight time World Champion Triple H has made an impact on the business, but I would not rank him nearly as high as I do his mentors, maybe top 20, not top 10.
#5 “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan – The huge double-cross heel turn hear ’round the world and the revelation that Hogan was the leader of The New World Order alone would give Hogan a top 50 spot. When you consider that Hogan was the leader of the most dominant group in the 90’s and he was the guy EVERYONE wanted to see lose, I’ll give Hogan top 50 status as a villain.
Tagging people with a can of spray paint, strapping people and making the WCW roster look like a joke earns “Hollywood” bonus points, though the latter was probably the death of WCW.
#4 Ted DiBiase – “The Million Dollar Man” is the ultimate villain, perhaps the villain you would create in a video game, if he didn’t already exist. An evil wealthy man who hated poor people, broke all the rules, oh and he had a personal slave he treated like garbage, wait, that actually sounds a lot like Mitt Romney, aside from the slave part.
Ted DiBiase was known for bossing around his domestic worker, Virgil, stuffing $100 bills down the throats of defeated opponents and even scamming little Hulkamaniacs into thinking they could win $500 dollars. A model human being on Wall Street, but an evil man everywhere else, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase will go down as one of the all time great villains to play the game.
“Everybody has a price for The Million Dollar Man, everybody’s gotta pay”.
#3 Mr. McMahon – This is one spot you won’t find me disagreeing with WWE.com writers on, Mr. McMahon is one of the most evil characters, not just in pro wrestling history, but in the history of evil characters.
The Chairman of the Board not only screwed Bret Hart out of his prized WWE Championship, he made Stone Cold Steve Austin’s life a living hell, oh, and there was that one time that Mr. McMahon had his own daughter kidnapped by The Undertaker.
With his sinister smile, that one of a kind voice and an evil catchphrase, when Vince McMahon says “YOU’RE FIIIIRRRRED!!” it sends chills up the collective spine of The WWE Universe, a reprehensible villain indeed.
#2 Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen – What happens when the most decorated National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Champion of all time joins forces with the the toughest tag team in wrestling and one of the greatest scientific wrestlers of all time? You get Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard, with their manager JJ Dillon.
Over the years Ole Anderson left, Windham joined, as well as many others who had no place in the Horsemen joined the ranks. No matter the combination, the most talented Horsemen roster; Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Ric Flair & Barry Windham looked out for each other and held all the gold.
When a fan favourite like Dusty Rhodes got in the way the Horsemen would break a leg or a hand to send a message to Big Dust and all of the fans, those actions are just a small part of The Four Horsemen were villains to the end.
“Just like diamonds, The Four Horsemen are forever.”
#1 Roddy Piper – “The Rowdy One” has said and done nearly everything in professional wrestling; Was his character controversial? You bet’cha. Piper was famous for violent attacks, kicking Cindi Lauper in the face (it was an accident), being a rebel and of course, his mouth.
Piper’s Pit was revolutionary for sports entertainment; Piper would test a man’s limits and his temper within The Pit. Piper was quite possibly the only villain from the 70’s/80’s who was so controversial in his own and almost as controversial today. You could never get away with busting a coconut over an islander’s dome and force feeding him a banana, even WWE is not that blatantly racist.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was the sole reason Hulk Hogan was interesting in the mid 1980’s, with anyone other than Piper as Hogan’s rival going into WrestleMania I seriously doubt WrestleMania would be here today. Piper made The Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection watchable.
Piper’s feuds with Chavo Guerrero, Jimmy Snuka & Hulk Hogan were so entertaining and controversial they changed wrestling forever.
Rebel, Hall Of Famer, bad ass, Roddy Piper wouldn’t allow anyone to pin him in WWE until Bret Hart did in 1992, who else could do that? All of these are reasons why “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is the greatest villain in wrestling history.
“Just when you think you have the answers, I change the questions”.