The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
My Personal Hall of Fame: The Modern Era
The Kingfish Arnie Katz talks about great, or at least memorable, wrestlers of the wrestling he has seen for the last half-century.
For Those Who Missed Part One
I’m not trying to set up yet another Hall of Fame. I’ve seen the attacks by the people who criticize Hall of Fame selections and I’d rather not stand in their crosshairs.my own personal Hall of Fame, based on my own recollections of pro wrestling. I’ve seen a lot of wrestling since I watched Verne Gagne fight Lou Thesz on filmed wrestling from Chicago in the early 1950’s, so that particular Memory Lane is a crowded thoroughfare.
What I thought I’d do is offer
By the same token, you won’t find all the wrestlers you loved in this column or its sequels. If I didn’t see them, I can’t remember them. (The 1970’s is also a blur, but that’s another subject.) Among wrestlers I didn’t see enough to include is Dick the Bruiser, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski and Verne Gagne.
To put my choices in perspective, let me give a bit of my background”
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up in New Hyde Park, Long Island. I saw a lot of WWWF/WWF/WWE wrestling. TV also gave me access to Wrestling from the Olympic (Los Angles) and Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie.
This isn’t a complete list by any means. It’s more a rundown of the “charter members” of my personal Hall of Fane. Maybe it’ll jog a few of your memories, too.
This installment of my Hall of Fame focuses on the era from the end of WCW until the retirement of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock.
He is a type of babyface I wasn’t sure we’d ever see again. Batista is nothing less than Bruno Sammartino of his generation. He is, in fact, the first performer to successfully work the Ethnic Super Hero gimmick since the Abruzzi Strong Boy. Batista has the aura of a champion, a grandeur that is not easily acquired. Like Bruno, he isn’t a great technical wrestler; he creates drama and excitement without a lot of fancy maneuvers. A comparison between Batista’s work and Goldberg’s makes it only too obvious where the mistakes were made with the ex-footballer.
His youth and exuberance are magnetic. Like The Rock, his humor is outrageous and, by wrestling standards, reasonably funny. He has his catchphrases and mannerisms, as do all of the 21st Century greats, but Cena puts out a steady stream of fresh material. His in-ring work could still benefit from a wider repertoire of maneuvers, but his effort and his fast-moving style produced some of this era’s most exciting matches.
I don’t care what you call them; I love this team. They always connected with me, where my interest in The Road Warriors or the Steiner Brothers was a good deal less intense. Devon would be the lead talker in any tag team that didn’t include his ring brother Ray – and Ray is simply sensational with the mic when he gets on a roll. In my pantheon, they are right up there with the Valiant Brothers.
Whether he’s a babyface or a heel, the former Olympian is one terrific worker in the ring. He has inherited Ric Flair’s mantle as The Man inside the ropes. He wrestles a strong match and he is one of the best talkers, too. His ability to move fans whether he’s a hero or a villain is testimony to his verbal ability.
Ol’ JR is the best play-by-play man since Gordon Solie (with a nod of respect toward Joey Styles). He weaves folksiness and inside knowledge in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of baseball’s Vin Scully. He imparts a lot of information while he also works with the color commentator to ratchet up the intensity. There are other good announcers, but his work towers over his contemporaries.
The Latino-American Masked Marvel has beaten the odds to become a marquee star in big-time pro wrestling despite his slight stature. His wild style may leave him a cripple in his post-wrestling life, but you have to admire the way he risks his neck. Mysterio is currently in an in-ring rut and needs to vary his assortment of hold, but he made an indelible impact on me from the very first time I saw him.
I could’ve included him in the previous era as Christian Cage’s tag partner, but I‘ve placed him here, because this is when he became a lead heel. Edge has always done a good job in the ring, but his intensity is now incredible. He is the kind of performer who can put the show on his back and take it all home with his gut-wrenching dramatics.
She came into wrestling as eye-candy, a body-book covergirl. She became WWE’s best female wrestler of her time, a beloved personality and the stuff of dreams for many, many colorful dreams. She is almost the template for all the Divas of the last decade.
She got a chance to get into wrestling, because they wanted an “answer” to Trish Stratus (which is a hell of a question, when you come to think of it.) Torrie Wilson could’ve had a career as a human echo, but she learned how to be a star performer. Her lovely personality, incredible beauty and surprising ring ability elevate Torrie Wilson above the Playmate Wannabees.
That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising daily wrestling column. I hope you’ll return to join me and, please, bring your friends.
— Arnie Katz