Today's professional wrestlers are exceptional athletes. But, most don't have the aura that many of their old school ancestors did.
The term "old school" is being loosely used to reference the time period that lasted from the late 1970s through the late 1980s. There are countless wrestling characters that could be mentioned, here are my ten best:
#10: Jimmy Snuka
Snuka often played the hero who soared from the top rope toward an opponent who received his "Superfly Splash". At other times, he was the victim whose head was famously bashed by a coconut that was held in the grimy hand of Roddy Piper.
This native of Fiji became one of wrestling's most exciting characters because of his style, energy and generational appeal.
#9: Jesse Ventura
Long before he was elected Governor in Minnesota, "The Body" was completely flamboyant, arrogant and offensive.
Some people are able to effectively transfer traits from their wrestling character to an announcer's chair. I believe that Ventura did that as well as any and was equally outstanding during both parts of his stellar career.
#8: Lou Albano
The sight of Albano with rubber bands attached to his face and a crazed look in his eyes was pure managerial distraction at it's best. "Captain Lou" was often more interesting than whatever man, woman or tag team he was managing.
He knew how to enrage a crowd, slip foreign objects to numerous clients in the ring and give a killer interview. Albano was the classic triple-threat.
#7: Andre The Giant
The "Eighth Wonder of the World" was a better character when he was a good guy, as compared to when he became a heel. But, this unbelievably large man clearly was an enduring icon.
The indelible image of Andre allowing Hulk Hogan to lift him off the mat at Wrestlemania III is still one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history.
#6: Dusty Rhodes
"The American Dream" was never in great physical shape, but Rhodes had the heart of ten champions inside of his everyman body. Plus, who can ever forgot his unique dialect, raw emotion and scouring pad hair?
This son of a plumber's passion for the trade and his genuine gift for entertaining the masses continues to stand above the crowd.
#5: Roddy Piper
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper was obnoxious, cruel and disgusting. Each of those personality traits helped "Hot Rod" to generate massive electricity when he was in the ring, or when he hosted the original "Piper's Pit".
A trademark kilt made that Scotsman standout, but it was his mouth and ring antics that elevated him to the pantheon.
#4: Randy Savage
The "Macho Man" was the living embodiment of a constant adrenaline rush. Having Miss Elizabeth by his side for many years also gave him someone to defend, in addition to his own honor.
No situation ever stopped him from delivering an exceptionally enthralling ring performance, or from providing a seismic interview response. "Oh yeah", Savage is one of wrestling's most memorable characters.
#3: Hulk Hogan
I offer no apologies to all Hogan detractors. The man helped to shape this industry for many years and had the business savvy to make "Hulkamania" live for as long as it did.
In his heyday, the "Hulkster" filled stadiums around the world through his sheer magnetism. Never the most gifted wrestler in the ring, Hogan's legendary ego and physique allowed him to reach immortality brother.
#2: Ric Flair
Flair was simultaneously "The Dirtiest Player in the Game" and one of the most generous workers ever. The sheer number of wrestlers that he 'put over' is almost uncountable. His trademark "Wooo" howl and association with various versions of "The Four Horseman" in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) built his brand.
Through a mesmerizing amount of titles, braggadocios interviews, robe ensembles and head shakes, Flair became one of the best all-around characters this "sport" has ever seen. But, there is only one other person who I would classify as more unique.
#1: George 'The Animal' Steele
I couldn't take my eyes off "The Animal" the first time that I saw him lurch toward the ring. His bizarre speech pattern, bald head, hairy back, green tongue and turnbuckle tastes make him the most compelling character in my "old school" book.
There might be some fans who disagree with the order of the names on this list, the omission of other great people (be they men, or women) from it, or with the choice to have Steele's name placed in the top spot. If that's the case, I challenge anyone to meet me inside the ring so that we can resolve our differences in a "No Holds Barred" match.
Sean O'Brien's ring allegiance was built in the 1970s by classic televised Saturday morning wrestling matches and through the live monthly shows that were held at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sean is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight .
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