It's been said that "to be the man, you have to beat the man." But, in the sports entertainment world of wrestling, it takes a lot more than wins to truly be considered amongst the industry's all-time greats. Above all else, it takes an ability to forge a unique connection with members of the WWE Universe. With that connection, superstars become legends, and legends transform into icons with incredible career longevity that transcends eras. We've compiled a list of the 10 greatest performers in the history of wrestling.
Since capturing his first of 10 WWE titles in 2005, the leader of the Cenation has dominated the WWE landscape. In that time, the former "Doctor of Thuganomics" has firmly established himself as a favorite with the WWE's younger audience, and has become a pop culture fixture. Truly no performer in history has ever elicited the passionate response Cena receives on a nightly basis from the WWE Universe. On April 7, 2013, he'll wrestle The Rock for the WWE championship.<p>
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Since debuting at the 1990 Survivor Series event, the nearly seven foot "dead man" has won four WWE championships and three world championships. However, likely his greatest legacy is his remarkable WrestleMania 20-0 undefeated streak that in recent years has become one of the annual event's main attractions. Every year, a new wrestler steps up proudly stating they'll end the streak. Every year, the unprecedented streak gets extended. Will he reach 21-0 on April 7th?<p>
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"The American Dream" was easily amongst the most charismatic performers in the history of the industry. As one of the industry's top attractions from the 1970s through to the late 1980s, Rhodes' impact, creativity, and ongoing influence eclipses even the amazing success he achieved in the ring as a three-time world champion. Today, the Hall of Fame father of WWE superstars Cody Rhodes and Goldust helps guide future talents performing on the WWE's NXT program.<p>
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"The Cerebral Assassin" first rose to prominence in 1997 as one of the founding members of D-Generation X. He followed that up as the leader of the faction known as Evolution. Along the way, "The Game" went on to become the second most decorated world champion in history capturing the title an incredible 13 times. Today, Triple H helps shape the future of the industry serving as the WWE's Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events.<p>
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With a nickname like "Mr. WrestleMania," there can be no denying Michaels' show-stopping abilities. "The Heartbreak Kid" captured three WWE championships before being forced to the sidelines for four years following a devastating back injury. Upon returning in 2002, Michaels promptly recaptured his championship form winning the world title only three months later. In 2011, the former Rocker and D-Generation X member entered the WWE Hall of Fame.<p>
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Harley Race, the man who carried the NWA through the 1970s and into the mid 1980s, was so respected within the wrestling industry that upon entering the WWE, he was quickly dubbed "The King of Wrestling." The tough as nails Race made history in 1984 by capturing an unprecedented eighth NWA World Heavyweight championship. Following his in-ring career, he managed and trained wrestlers. In 2004, Race entered the WWE Hall of Fame.<p>
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Unquestionably the most famous Hollywood actor to have ever laced up the boots, Dwayne Johnson, a third-generation wrestler, had all the tools necessary to more than live up to his moniker of "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment." When "The Great One" spoke, the WWE Universe immediately "smelled what The Rock was cooking." After seven years away from the ring, The Rock returned and recently captured his eighth WWE championship.<p>
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"Hollywood" first rose to stardom following his role as Thunderlips in the 1982 hit movie, Rocky III. Two years later, Hulkamania was officially born and "The Hulkster" would go on to win five WWE championships before leaving for WCW where he captured six world titles and started the nWo. In 2002, he returned to the WWE and won the WWE's Undisputed championship and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Nobody embodied the Attitude Era quite like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Following successful stints in WCW and ECW, "The Rattlesnake" entered and won the 1996 King of the Ring. What followed was a show-stopping speech where the phrase "Austin 3:16" was born. Within a couple of years, Austin was WWE champion and at the forefront of record-setting WWE telecasts. Austin went on to become a six-time WWE champion, movie star, WWE Hall of Famer, and pop culture phenomenon.<p>
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In WWE, there are countless superstars and legends, but there's only one Ric Flair. "The Nature Boy" is the record-setting 16 time world champion who also holds the distinction of being the only performer ever inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice. Powered by an unparalleled combination of charisma, mat, and microphone skills, the former member of the Four Horsemen and Evolution spent the majority of his 40-year career headlining shows across the globe.