Cageside Seats has a running fan-vote tournament going right now, and since I'll vote on stuff but not comment there (because most of the people who read CSS, which is a very good site, I might add, are not people I want to discuss wrestling with), I suspect I'll go through the first round matchups here and talk about why X should beat Y. Here's the bracket:
(1) Hulk Hogan vs (16) Big Show
I would like to vote against Hogan on general principle, but it's just the Big Show we're talking about, not Buzz Sawyer or someone cool. The fact that Terry Gordy isn't in this field is pretty absurd, in my opinion, but apparently he's no Batista or Jesse Ventura. Anyway, Hogan.
(8) Buddy Rogers vs (9) Owen Hart
I'm not going to pretend I care about Buddy Rogers, because I don't. Owen, even if he is probably overrated in most ways.
(5) Roddy Piper vs (12) Vader
This isn't close. Vader with ease. Drawing power, schmawing schmower. Vader was a far better worker, carried a company, and overcame retardation like the White Castle of Fear to still be a believable badass. Piper was good, but was never really a great worker, which Vader was.
(4) Harley Race vs (13) Diamond Dallas Page
There are good things to be said about DDP, just not in relation to Harley Race. Race in a cakewalk.
(6) Freddie Blassie vs (11) Jesse Ventura
Two corndogs. Blassie.
(3) Gorgeous George vs (14) The Ultimate Warrior
I'm not sure why this tournament has Gorgeous George but not, like, Lou Thesz. But I don't understand a lot of things. If this was the Macho Man's lady friend whose fingers kept disappearing into her vagina in that video I saw in realplayer that one time, I would vote for her. But since it is not, this is a somewhat tougher decision. Look, I'm not telling you that Warrior was better than George at anything, or that Warrior is on the same level historically as Gorgeous George, this is just about who the fuck I like better, because that's all popularity polls should be about. I'm not going to say, "Well, I like Owen Hart more, but Buddy Rogers is way more important and stuff, history, legacy, blah blah blah," because they're both dead and who cares? Legacy in wrestling is in the eye of the beholder. JC Bailey has a legacy. But no I'm voting for George, because the Ultimate Warrior is an idiot.
(7) Billy Graham vs (10) Sgt Slaughter
Another that is, in my view, really not close, and it's Slaughter by leaps and bounds. At one point, he was fantastic, and even in '91 he carried Hogan to a top-notch Hogan match. It is hard for me to decide if Slaughter's time in the AWF is > or < than Graham's spell as Don Muraco's manager.
(2) Andre the Giant vs (15) Larry Zbyszko
Andre. He never said "the STUPID Bowl" as far as I know, and didn't ruin any editions of Nitro with his overbearing shit commentary. On the other hand, Andre never tag taemed with Arn Anderson, but he did tag team with Haku, and Andre could barely walk by then. Zbyszko is just a weird case altogether.
I just realized this tournament has Christian, the Junkyard fucking Dog, and the doofus who pretends he's a snake, but not Jerry Lawler.
(1) Ric Flair vs (16) Christian
Anyone who voted for Christian should have their right to watch anything they might call wrestling wiped out. Flair. Flair a trillion times. Flair today. Flair at 55. Flair tomorrow. Take any two months of 1989 Ric Flair and it's better than Christian's entire career.
(8) Ricky Steamboat vs (9) Junkyard Dog
Emphasis on Junk. The guy was terrible. Steamboat.
(5) Ted DiBiase vs (12) Tully Blanchard
This is a real deal matchup right here. Mid-South DiBiase is flat-out one of the best wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots. That is a fact. But once out of Mid-South, and WWF'd up as the Million Dollar Man, DiBiase lost a lot of what made him truly great, one of the best wrestlers on the planet at a time when there were some great wrestlers out there all over the place. It's not that WWF Ted was bad, mind you, just that it was well below what he was truly capable of, because heels like Mid-South DiBiase didn't exist in the WWF. He was kind of held back there. Blanchard was consistently terrific, and was having good matches on small shows at least through 1998. I love Tully, but I gotta go with DiBiase on the strength of his pre-WWF excellence.
(4) Terry Funk vs (13) Bob Backlund
Funk by a wide margin.
(6) Mick Foley vs (11) Ron Simmons
Well, technically, I'd say:
Ron Simmons over Dude Love
Ron Simmons over Mick Foley
Mankind over Ron Simmons
Cactus Jack way over Ron Simmons
I'll go forward pretending that "Mick Foley" means "Cactus Jack."
(3) Randy Savage vs (14) Jake Roberts
All the mythical Roberts lore in the world can't make him superior to Randy Savage. I find Jake fascinating as fuck, and he was effective just about everywhere he went, but Randy was so much better in the ring that Jake's quiet-SERIOUS-quiet promos aren't enough. Savage. Like DiBiase-Blanchard, this is a matchup of personal favorites, but one is better, and clearly so.
(7) Dusty Rhodes vs (10) The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik on the other hand is an idiot, and he mostly sucked something awful to boot. Rhodes.
(2) Sting vs (15) Rick Rude
I've seen this match a lot. Actually, I personally like Rude better, but I'll go with Sting, totally invalidating my popularity contest bullshit from earlier. He was better than Rude.
(1) Steve Austin vs (16) Daniel Bryan
(8) Goldberg vs (9) Brock Lesnar
Two muscled-up dipshits who aren't really professional wrestlers, just Real Athlete whores the likes of which give Jim Ross wet dreams. I assume Ross puts on the WrestleMania XX match but mutes it out and listens to audio of studio cheering whenever he needs to rub one out. I love that match, by the way, but the star of the match is MSG. The second star is Lesnar, who was losing his mind. Goldberg's best moment was yelling "YEAH! MOTHER-FUCK!" And Austin was there chewing the scenery and shit. I have to figure out if I prefer Lesnar's actual collection of good matches, including a classic with Eddie Guerrero, or Goldberg's nostalgically bonerriffic Streak. I'll go with Goldberg, but it is close.
(5) Bruno Sammartino vs (12) Jeff Hardy
This is like making me choose between a thing I've got little use for and another thing I've got little use for. I couldn't think of good joke items there. I'm not wild for Hardy's crash-and-burn style, but the 70s style -- particularly the 70s WWWF style -- doesn't do a lot for me either. I'll go with Hardy, because he hasn't spent 25 years whining. He also once wrote something on the internet about falling into a "bottomless pit" with a "super soft and relaxing bottom," and he had that song about 9/11.
(4) Triple H vs (13) Barry Windham
This is absolutely nothing to do with me thinking HHH is some evil devil from hell who ruined wrestling. This is everything to do with me not thinking he's as good as Windham.
(6) CM Punk vs (11) Batista
Well on the one hand, Batista's hands are machine gun lasers. PEW PEW! On the other hand CM Punk's middling promos are as good as Batista's best, and Punk is a better wrestler. Batista never went 90 minutes with Kassius Ohno. Punk.
(3) John Cena vs (14) Lex Luger
When John Cena has a year as good as Lex Luger's 1989, let me know. Actually, don't, because you'll just be wrong. Luger.
(7) Kevin Nash vs (10) Booker T
This is interesting. Booker T is a better worker, but Booker T is far from a great worker, and really, be honest with yourself: How many great matches has Booker T ever had? Zero? Nash was carried by Michaels better than Booker was carried by Benoit, and he's Diesel, choo choo, and I am simply more tied to Nash's most famous works than I am to Booker T's. Nash.
(2) Shawn Michaels vs (15) Scott Hall
Michaels. I could go on for about an hour regarding why I'd rather pick Scott Hall, because I like him more, but over time I had to bite the bullet and admit the legendary excellence of Shawn Michaels. Young sports entertainment fans will have a hard time understanding that, perhaps, but I loathed everything about Shawn Michaels for so long that it took me until about 2005 to admit how truly great he really was.
(1) The Rock vs (16) Jeff Jarrett
I genuinely believe in my heart of hearts that Jeff Jarrett is a better professional wrestler than The Rock. I know The Rock drew a lot of fuckin money, but dude is corny as shit and not in a rasslin way that gives me the warm fuzzies. He's corny as shit in a Fast & Furious, Affliction shirt, No Fear gear kind of way. And that I cannot abide. Jeff Jarrett > The Rock. Jarrett.
(8) Eddie Guerrero vs (9) Randy Orton
Get the mother fuck out of here. Eddie vs Bob Orton is way closer, and still not close. Guerrero.
(5) Kurt Angle vs (12) AJ Styles
(4) Chris Jericho vs (13) Rey Mysterio
I go with Mysterio here, and that's not because of anything I have against Jericho. Peak-versus-peak, Mysterio was better, and he was a major part in changing the landscape of rasslin on American TV in the mid-to-late 90s, when the cruisers came along in WCW and switched things up. Years before WCW had the great matches in the main events and some mediocre shit along the way early on the card, but then Hogan came in and it became shit main events with a first hour & a half worth watching on the PPVs. Mysterio, Malenko, Benoit, Eddie were all part of that. Jericho was a far more minor part -- closer to Psicosis or Juventud Guerrera than to the big four of the workrate freaks, which still makes him pretty great (as Psicosis and Juvi were pretty great), but just not at the top of that food chain.
(6) Edge vs (11) Scott Steiner
How in the who in the what in the fuck is Steiner an 11 with Barry Windham a 13 and Scott Hall a 15? What the fuck did Scott Steiner ever do? He was the lesser brother in the tag team and won a world title because WCW had gone to shit. Edge is superior in every way imaginable. Jerry Lawler's not here but this gassed up doofus is?
(3) Bret Hart vs (14) Chris Benoit
Benoit was a lot more versatile. A lot more. And I compartmentalize Benoit and his horrifying end, separate from the professional wrestler. But comparing them straight up is stupid, too. Benoit's experience is a lot different than Bret's. He traveled more, learned more. Bret was straight up Stampede, and great at it. I go with Bret.
(7) Curt Hennig vs (10) Jimmy Snuka
(2) Undertaker vs (15) Brian Pillman
I'm a huge Pillman fan, but his prime was cut short, and not by death but by injuries beforehand. Undertaker is the true model of consistency in modern wrestling, a remarkable performer.