The War to Settle the PeekScore: The Digital Footprints of Pro-Wrestling Luminaries, Past and Present

What is PeekScore?: PeekScore is a rank from 1 to 10, assigned to every person. The higher someone’s score, the “more important” they are on the web. In calculating your PeekScore and updating it often, PeekYou takes into account your known presence and activity on the Internet, including but not limited to; your blogging, participation in social networks, the number of your friends, followers, or readers, the amount of web content you create, and your prominence in the news.

With the passing of Randy Savage last week, we’ve had more than a fair bit of wrestling on the mind (to accompany the internal contest of “wrestling of the mind,” in which we’re perpetually engaged). There’s been quite a lot of talk around here of the past lunacies and glories of this bygone rasslin’ era, or that. While we were utilizing the Internet as the tool for indulging this wistful recall of one long lost “innocent age,” or another (a variety of recall into which we slip more and more frequently as time’s incessant march pushes us ever closer to our inevitable ends), we found ourselves surfing from wrestling website to site, and reminiscing of our teenaged days; when we proudly rooted for the bad guys (of whom, more often than not, Savage was one) from ringside, while the vast majority of the 20,000 fans in attendance threw beer cups, booed, and spit at them… and sometimes at us.

In the midst of all this pointlessly ponderous reflecting, and “taking stock of things” – by this point well beyond the realms of wrestling – we pulled our heads out of our butts long enough to be struck and impressed by just how many of wrestling’s most prominent names from the past currently lead fairly hardy online existences; with Twitters, Facebooks, and personal websites being more common than not. As we similarly wrote in reference to the horror directors list, this clearly speaks to what a powerful marketing and networking tool the Internet is for the niche artist and cult performer. Old wrestlers used to just die drugged up, broken down, and penniless (which of course, sadly, far too many still do), but now some of the more tech-savvy among them can sell autographs, t-shirts, and promote local appearances across the nation (to nostalgic saps such as we at the PeekScore blog), all via their websites and social networking profiles, even after their stars have faded. It all grants them an opportunity to die more penniful, if nothing else.

As you can see, a PeekScore list seemed a natural.

To give this thing a hook, though, we decided we wouldn’t just rank the “legends” (the living ones, of course, of whom there are sadly fewer than there should be), and we wouldn’t just favor the legends from the eras we best liked. We decided to make it a mix of current stars and older ones, throw a couple of our personal favorite managers/non-ring personalities in there, and then just to give the thing a dramatic cherry on top, throw in the controversial man who was and/or is the boss of each of them (at one time or another).

And as was the case with the horror directors list, the sequence is 100% impartial and based entirely on PeekScores. The outcome was not, as it were, predetermined. The 25 names we selected for inclusion, however, were chosen largely subjectively; informed by their either being currently among the biggest stars, being the biggest stars of their respective previous eras, or simply being personal favorites of the PeekScore staff. We invite you to whine and shriek at us in our comments section, and let us know who we should have included instead. If enough of you chime in, a new list incorporating your suggestions is virtually a guarantee. Enjoy.

(Further commentary can be found after the list.)

Rank Picture Name Bio PeekScore

Stone Cold Steve Austin I believe we know all too well what Austin 3:16 says. It says that Stone Cold just whupped the Internet’s a**. Or at the very least he’s given a good thrashing to the posteriors of his wrestling fellows, in the area of online presence and import. The Attitude Era – or, the era when the crowds cheered for the kinds of crummy jerks they used to boo – was personified by Steve here. A bad guy, basically, who the crowd loved. His PeekScore suggests that there’s still a place in this crazy world for his kind. 9.88 / 10

Triple H Married to the boss’ daughter, both in kayfabe and reality. The Head of Talent Development for the WWE, in addition to his superstar duties, he’s apparently quite influential on all current WWE storylines and matches. Make of that what you will. 9.48 / 10

Jeff Hardy We never much cared for the guy until we saw footage of the amateur wrestling expos that he and his brother Matt used to stage in their backyard as kids. It’s tough not to be charmed by the success he’s achieved after learning that it’s all he ever wanted from life, and the degree to which he worked his butt off to get there. Still, sort of a silly guy, even in the context of nearly exclusively silly guys. 9.05/ 10

Jerry Lawler Although he’s worked for the WWE for a long while now, his legend was made wrestling regionally in Memphis for the CWA. His willful involvement in Andy Kaufman’s wrestling career might have had fan opinion divided, but it only secures his legend in our minds. The ups and downs of his long-running feud with the great Jimmy Hart is the icing on the cake. All bow to the King of Wrestling; one of them, in any event (there is another). 8.78 / 10

The Undertaker He’s been able to milk this schtick for 20 years, and folks still seem to be enjoying it. Why his enduring popularity doesn’t result in a return to more cartoony, absurd wrestlers is beyond us. They’re just so clearly much more fun. 8.31 / 10

Vince McMahon Jr. He took this thing nationwide, and kept it afloat through the rougher times. He also has signed the checks for everyone on this list at one time or another. If you’ve enjoyed this rasslin’ spectacle over the last 30 years, chances are that at some point you’ve (whatever your opinion of the man) enjoyed his work. No one seems to trust him much, but some seem to respect him. He’s who he is, and for better or for worse hes a fact of life if you’re into this ridiculous thing. 8.22/ 10

Hulk Hogan By far the name and face most commonly associated with the industry. The formulaic matches and tired, derivative – sub-Billy Graham, sub-Ventura – schtick never blew us away, but there’s no question it made this (ahem) “sports entertainment” madness comprehensible to the masses beyond the diehards. Like Vince Jr. above, he’s a given. 8.11 / 10

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson It’s kind of difficult to have a problem with The Rock. He’s funny, he’s bright, and he’s got the gift of ludicrous wrestling gab. He’s great on the mic, whether it be doing promos or working a crowd. Of the over-celebrated Attitude Era’s biggest superstars, he was easily one of the best. 8.10 / 10

John Cena We’ll confess to not being entirely obsessed with more contemporary wrestling, and this guy sort of personifies why. In a way he reminds us of the of the bland, unbearably tedious babyfaces who used to be around – and wildly popular – in ye olden days. What’s his hook? We don’t get it. 8.10 / 10

Ric Flair What Hulk Hogan represents to the world at large, The Nature Boy represents to many of wrestling’s most devoted fans. If Babe Ruth participated in a sport where the outcome was predetermined (1919 World Series notwithstanding), and the backstory was an overblown morality tale and melodrama, then you could maybe say that Flair was the Babe Ruth of wrestling. The truth is, though, that Flair was an all around artiste. He could rant, he could rave, he could be funny, he could be outrageous, and he was great in the ring. Overrated? Possibly, but still deserving of the accolades and legendary status. 8.07 / 10

Shawn Michaels Wildly popular, and arguably overrated, he’s definitely one of the most memorable of his era. He was better as a heel – as he sort of looks like a kid who would have picked on you (or at least us) in school – but then again heels are just plain better. 8.07 / 10

Chris Jericho The Man of 1,004 Holds, Y2J has the natural intelligence, charisma, and wit of the very best heels. While he’s not from one of our beloved eras, he’s still easily one of our personal faves of all the names on this list. Just plain great. 8.07 / 10

Randy Orton The grandson of Bob Orton Sr., and the son of the great “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Randy – like others on this list – comes from a long line of folks involved in this madness. He’s held various belts a bunch of times, and the fans love him. Good for him. 8.07 / 10

Bret Hart We loved Bret Hart in his pre-superstar days, wrestling with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and being managed by Jimmy Hart, as Tag Team Champions The Hart Foundation. The dramatic and entertaining soap opera of his time with, and departure from, WWE is told in the surprisingly halfway decent documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows. Or just look up “Montreal Screwjob” if you’re not already familiar. 8.05 / 10

Edge His wrestling name is Edge, and his nickname is “The Rated R Superstar.” We don’t know. He seems like a fairly bright and nice enough guy in interviews. We’ll leave it to you to tell us how great he is. 8.04 / 10

Batista In light of the fact that the competition aspect of wrestling is a theatrical exhibition, we’re frequently amused when folks speak of one being a great “technical wrestler.” Of course, you’ve got to put on a show in the ring, but who cares if you could ever hold your own in a real fight? This guy, though, really seems like he could do some damage. 8.04/ 10

Dusty Rhodes Wrestling lost something when it lost the “impossibly vain, impossibly ugly,” prancing, preening sorts who asserted their masculinity through being effeminate. Rhodes was the greatest of this type there ever was. He was also possibly the most intelligent and hilarious of any of the biggest stars ever produced by this thing (and, along with Roddy Piper, the personal fave on this list for those of us here at the blog). His promo rants qualified as art. 8.01 / 10

The Miz So mind-destroyingly vanilla and forgettable. No charisma, no mic skills, not funny or fun. If this is who Vince wants the fans to be excited about, then he’s clearly losing touch. Please observe the monster personalities on either end of this nothing, and recognize by sheer, shameful contrast just how much of a blank he really is. 8.01 / 10

Rowdy Roddy Piper The greatest heel of all time, in our humble opinion. Others have been great, but none have ever surpassed the master. We are so glad that he is as of recently on Twitter, as – while starting wrestling at 15 may have taken up his time for book learning, and his spelling could be stronger – he’s a pure delight to read. Future lists will hopefully find him higher. We love this guy. 7.90 / 10

Harley Race Just a legend. A guy who was in the game forever, and wrestled – and was a star – for every wrestling promotion there was. When we picture a pro wrestler, it’s this guy’s ugly mug which springs to mind. All bow to the (other) King. 7.70 / 10

Bobby “The Brain” Heenan Show some respect, and don’t you dare call this man “weasel.” A genuinely bright and hilarious guy who fully lives and breathes this game. More than any actual wrestler (although his antics over the years have revealed him to be more agile and athletic than passing appearances might suggest), we would point to this guy to illustrate what makes wrestling so great. A first class showman. 7.55 / 10

Bruno Sammartino The living legend. Growing up in the north-east, as many of us here did, you knew this guy’s name before you even knew what wrestling was. Besides Andre the Giant, he was possibly the biggest name in the pre-Hogan era. Go to YouTube and watch his old matches, and see that the guy could generate excitement 7.47 / 10

Jimmy Hart Like Heenan, “The Mouth of the South” excelled at playing the arrogant, fast-talking coward to hilarious effect. Showmen of his caliber are a big part of what makes this thing so great. 7.12 / 10

Superstar Billy Graham “The women’s pet, the men’s regret.” A master poet, a master wrestler, and a bona fide superstar (before Vince McMahon re-branded all of his wrestlers using the term). Without question, one of the all-time greatest. 6.80 / 10

Rey Mysterio We love and respect the Lucha Libre tradition and style, but have never been too sure how well it works when pitted against the behemoths who dominate maintstream professional wrestling. Still, the guy is fun to watch. 5.02 / 10

When the news of “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s untimely death hit last week, we were surprised by the outpouring of utterly sincere tributes adorning our Facebook and Twitter friend feeds. Many of the most heartfelt eulogies originated from the hoityest-toityest intellectual sorts we know. Friends we’d have taken for the kind to look down their noses at this strange, disfigured stepchild of soap opera and sport, actually seemed to not only get it (or, at least get Macho Man’s contributions to it), but they seemed to respect it.


What Savage did was pitched just perfectly enough, we think, to translate to the non-fan. He was bonkers, he was incoherent, he was cartoonishly broad, but he was also obviously a naturally funny, self-aware guy. His rants suggested an innate intelligence surpassing that of some of the other “household name” wrestlers of his era. Given that the guy clearly spent a lot of time in the gym, one couldn’t help but suspect that in his particularly bizarre brand of preposterously outsized boisterousness and arrogance – like many of pro wrestling’s greatest heels both before and after him – he was having a bit of a laugh at the expense of his own machismo, narcissism, and vanity. That’s automatically endearing.

Back in the earlier days of professional wrestling (or, as it’s now euphemized and re-branded by the WWE, “sports entertainment”), it’s possible that audiences didn’t understand that the spectacles they were witnessing were staged, and the outcomes of the competitions being hard fought before them were predetermined. But for decades now, this has been fully understood by all but those with the most tenuous of grips on reality, or the smallest of children.

Baron Von Raschke applies his paralyzing “brainclaw” to a young Ricky Steamboat.

It’s not a sport, of course. It’s a complex (in scope, if not always content), narrative, multi-character, multiple storyline serial fiction. It’s a large scale meta-theatrical production of which the audience – comprised of individuals each giving a performance of his or her own – is completely a crucial component. While the storylines themselves have not always been the most progressive or politically “right on,” the overall theatrical experience is actually a remarkably sophisticated one. Everyone’s in on it, and everyone’s invested in it.

Many scoff at it all, and dismiss wrestling as a loud and crass spectacle which could only amuse simple-minded rubes. But we proudly provide this list today – as bright folks, who read books, and all of that stuff – in tribute to this great American (and as bloated and tacky and insane and inappropriate as the distinction can imply) art-form.

RIP Macho Man.