The recent list of the top 50 Superstars as released by World Wrestling Entertainment included a number of former NWA stars. The list, which as with any list is relative and subject to conjecture, debate and opinion is full of the expected names that made the WWE what is it today including Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Steve Austin, Randy Savage and Randy Orton.
Former NWA stars listed include Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, who made a name for himself in the Mid-Atlantic area before moving on to the WWE and WCW, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Lou Thesz, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., and Jack Brisco.
Piper, who was instrumental in the development of the WWE, then the WWF in 1985 when he and Paul Orndorff teamed to battle Hulk Hogan and actor Mr. T at the first WrestleMania, was a fixture in the Mid-Atlantic region and had epic and brutal matches against Greg Valentine as well as the Portland territory where he came on the scene and started to make a name for himself. Piper and Valentine had one of the most brutal matches at StarCade ’83 that was a dog collar match and Piper suffered a ruptured ear drum causing a partial hearing loss.
Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were tied on the WWE list at 17 which seemed very low for two of the greatest stars in wrestling but one has to remember this list was relative to the WWE, not wrestling. Flair’s career speaks for itself being a world champion 21 times, wrestling into his 60s and being an integral part of Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association, Mid-Atlantic, Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, the WWE and now TNA. Ric Flair is to wrestling what Babe Ruth was to baseball.
Dusty Rhodes made his mark in Florida during the 70s and early 80s before becoming a major part of Georgia Championship Wrestling and later World Championship Wrestling. Rhodes has been the brains behind a number of major wrestling events including StarCade and gimmicks including The Undertaker who was originally a gimmick slated for Black Bart. Rhodes time in-ring in the WWE was spent mostly making a mockery of himself by wearing embarrassing black tights with big yellow polka-dots. Rhodes has continued to be part of the WWE as a trainer, agent and talent scout for the Florida developmental league.
The Funk brothers, both NWA World Champions are the sons of legendary NWA star Dory Funk Sr. whose Texas territory was one of the most successful in wrestling and spawned a great many careers. Dory spent a short amount of time in the WWE but brother Terry went not only as himself but also in character as Chainsaw Charlie for a brief run.
Jack Brisco, along with brother Gerry were mainstays in the WWE after selling their portion of Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon without the knowledge of partner Ole Anderson which led to dark times for GCW before WCW was eventually founded. Jack Brisco was one of the most heralded champions the NWA had having the legit tough qualities as well as the amateur wrestling background that was coveted in the 60s and 70s.
The legendary Lou Thesz wrestled for Toots Mondt and Vince McMahon Sr. on occasion, representing the NWA as only Thesz could in the NorthEast. For Thesz to be acknowledged by the WWE speaks volumes for Thesz and his imprint on wrestling as a whole. Thesz was one of the best pure wrestlers and hookers to ever hold the NWA title.
For the NWA to have so many former champions and stars make a list of the top 50 Superstars as composed by the WWE shows just how strong the NWA was and still is in the world of professional wrestling. Today’s NWA, while not as powerful as it was in its heyday, still carries a strong tradition of tough and talented champions and still has enough clout to make the cut on a list of some of the best wrestlers in the industry.