In the history of professional wrestling, one of the most entertaining decades was the 1980s. When it was still called the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, the WWE attracted a record number of fans who came from all walks of life and were of all ages. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was successful in its quest to become a national promotion, and as a result, the organization reached unprecedented heights of popularity and visibility. This catalyzed a massive boom in the Western world’s professional wrestling industry.
Wrestling’s rise to prominence as a popular form of entertainment may be primarily attributed to the superstars who emerged in the 1980s. These superstars also raised the bar very high for wrestlers who came after them. Please look at our ranking of the top WWE Superstars of the ’80s to see where they stand.
Table of Contents
- 1. Curt Hennig
- 2. Jimmy Snuka
- 3. Hulk Hogan
- 4. Jake Roberts
- 5. André The Giant
- 6. Bret Hart
- 7. Bob Backlund
- 8. Roddy Piper
- 9. Randy Savage
- 10. Rick Rude
- 11. The Undertaker
- 12. Greg Valentine
- 13. Ricky Steamboat
- 14. Ted DiBiase
- 15. Arn Anderson
- 16. Ric Flair
- 17. James Hellwig
- 18. Junkyard Dog
- 19. Tito Santana
- 20. Bob Orton, Jr
- 21. Hillbilly Jim
- 22. Jim Duggan
- 23. The Iron Sheik
- 24. Harley Race
- 25. Don Muraco
1. Curt Hennig
In 1980, Curt Hennig made his debut in the world of professional wrestling under the ring identities Curt Hennig and Mr. Perfect. Verne Gagne and Larry Hennig were his trainers throughout his career. As a result of a stretch in his career as a wrestler in which he was almost unbeatable, he became known among his peers as “Mr. Perfect.”
While competing in the ring, Hennig was victorious in several championships and titles. In February 2003, at 44, he passed away from severe drug intoxication in the city of Tampa, Florida. Hennig was honored with a posthumous induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
2. Jimmy Snuka
The 1980s were a golden age for professional wrestling, and Jimmy Snuka was one of the greatest stars of that period. His hallmark maneuver, which he called “the Superfly,” was responsible for earning him the moniker in the ring. It was a soaring technique that never failed to excite onlookers and send the audience into a frenzy whenever it was performed.
He participated in the WWE’s Legends program and became the first ECW champion to hold the World Heavyweight Championship twice. In 1996, he was recognized for his accomplishments by being inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame.
3. Hulk Hogan
In the world of WWE wrestling, Hulk Hogan is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable names. His first match took place in 1977, and the decade of the 1980s saw him rise to the top of the wrestling world. He was a musician in 1976 before he began his career as a pro wrestler, and he has been an actor since 1982. Although he has had a number of other film and television appearances, he is most recognized for his portrayal of Hulk Hogan in the television series “Hogan Knows Best.”
In the decade of the 1980s, he was known both as an all-American and a wicked persona in the ring. He was capable of playing any part convincingly. During his tenure in the WWF, he was victorious in several bouts and guided his tag team to several triumphs.
4. Jake Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was given the name Aurelian Smith Jr. when he was born in Gainesville, Texas, in May 1955. People remember most about Roberts the great performances he made in the ring in the middle of the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as his revival in the middle to late 1990s.
He is known as the wrestler who employed lengthy psychological lines to throw off his opponents’ concentration. Even in 2008, he never stopped making appearances in the boxing ring. Roberts was famous for developing a finishing technique called the DDT, which he used to knock out his opponents and earn victory. In addition, he was infamous for bringing his pet snakes into the ring with him, which resulted in his receiving the moniker “The Snake.”
5. André The Giant
Because of his enormous stature, Andre the Giant is considered one of the most iconic professional wrestlers of the 1980s. The French professional wrestler was also an actor, and we remember him for his outstanding performances in the ring and his part in the movie “The Princess Bride.” Both of these roles are what we remember him most for.
In addition to his success in several other bouts and tag team competitions, he was a fan favorite inside the ring and a former champion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
6. Bret Hart
In 1978, Bret Hart made his first appearance in a professional wrestling match using his name and the ring moniker Buddy Hart. During his remarkable 50-year career with WCW, WWF, and WWE, which began in the 1970s and continued into recent years, Bret Hart won 32 championships across all three organizations. He won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice, and his combined tenure as champion lasted an incredible 654 days.
The year 2006 was the year he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In the year 2000, Bret Hart made the public announcement that he would no longer be actively competing in professional wrestling. He toyed with an acting career in addition to his wrestling career.
7. Bob Backlund
Another well-known professional wrestler from the 1980s, Bob Backlund, made his first appearance in the ring in 1973 using both his name and the ring moniker “Mr. Backlund.” In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while he was a student at North Dakota State University, he started his professional wrestling career as an amateur wrestler.
After joining the WWF in 1973, which would eventually become the WWE, he went on to achieve the distinction of having the second longest championship reign as WWF World Heavyweight Champion, only being surpassed in this regard by Bruno Sammartino. Backlund was honored in the WWE Hall of Fame the following year (2013).
8. Roddy Piper
Perhaps Roddy Piper is most remembered for his work with the WWE and the Legends promotion, as well as his 1980s career with the company formerly known as the WWF. Although Roddy was born in Canada, the WWF promoted him as a native of Glasgow, Scotland.
In 2014, Roddy made his formal exit from the boxing ring. Roddy had a long and successful career in professional wrestling, but he was also an actor in films and a podcast presenter. He shared the screen with Danny DeVito in an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” when he played the role of a wrestler.
9. Randy Savage
The legendary Randy Savage debuted in professional wrestling in 1973 and quickly became a fan favorite. Inside the squared circle, he was primarily known as “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
During his career in the WCW and WWF, he won 30 championships. He held six world titles, contributing to his reputation as one of the greatest professional wrestlers. He won the WWF Championship not once but twice throughout his career.
10. Rick Rude
Rick Rude, an important 1980s professional wrestler, made his ring debut in 1982 under the ring names The WCW Phantom, Ricky Rood, and Rick Rude. Ravishing Rick Rude is a moniker that he gained as a result of the fact that many of his female admirers thought of him as an attractive personality.
From 1982 to 1994, he competed for the WWF/WWE, where he won many championships and thrilled fans until being forced to retire due to on-the-job injuries. In 1997, he competed in one more match before retiring.
11. The Undertaker
For professional wrestling (WWE) fans all around the globe, The Undertaker is essentially a living legend. Even if most wrestling fans are well aware of the theatrical nature of wrestlers, this does not lessen the allure of “Death” The Undertaker.
Calaway started his career as a wrestler in 1987, fighting for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and other programs under various ring names. The Undertaker has been a part of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for about 30 years, making him one of the most prominent superstars in the showcase competition.
12. Greg Valentine
Another professional wrestler who built a name for himself during the 1980s was Greg Valentine. After making his debut in the professional ranks in 1970, he was already a seasoned competitor. Stu Hart and Ed Farhat were his instructors throughout his training.
Valentine has had a remarkable career in wrestling that has lasted for the last forty years, during which time he has won over forty titles. His accomplishments have been acknowledged, and he has been admitted to the halls of fame of both the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & the WWE Hall of Fame. Johnny Valentine, who was his father, was a well-known professional wrestler.
13. Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat, well known by his ring as “The Dragon,” began his professional wrestling career in 1976. However, he became much more well-known after joining WWE in 1985. By participating in a famous feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and battling against Randy Savage at WrestleMania, he established why he is regarded as one of the greatest babyfaces of all time.
In the late 1980s, he moved to WCW, and the three encounters he had with Ric Flair in 1989 are widely regarded as among the very most delicate matchups in the history of professional wrestling.
14. Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase made his first appearance in a professional wrestling ring in 1975. Before joining the WWE Legends program, he had already achieved champion status in several other projects and organizations. He has amassed a total of thirty championships during his wrestling career.
In 1994, he took his retirement from the sport of boxing. During the event in 2010, when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, his sons Ted Jr. and Brett did the honors for their father. Ted DiBiase Sr. is most known for his time as a wrestler, but he has also held the company’s manager position and been ordained as a priest.
15. Arn Anderson
Arn Anderson, often known as “The Enforcer,” was not the first member of the Anderson family, but he certainly has a strong case for being included among the most talented. In addition to being one of the most lasting members of the Four Horsemen, he is also a superb tag team wrestler. He has won several championships in the NWA and WCW, and he and Tully Blanchard won the WWE Tag Team Championship together as The Brain Busters.
The Anderson name has been carried on by wrestlers like C.W. Anderson and Karl Anderson, but his legacy also lives on in “meat and potatoes” heel tag teams such as FTR.
16. Ric Flair
Ric Flair was a different heel than some of the individuals discussed above, and he provided fans with a villain they could easily root against and despise. He believed in his publicity and was a boastful, arrogant celebrity with a vile heart.
Even though his bouts with Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Terry Funk during this period produced several classics, his most significant contribution was the creation of The Four Horsemen, one of the sport’s most iconic stables that have been constantly reimagined and reimagined ever since.
17. James Hellwig
James Brian Hellwig, better known as The Ultimate Warrior, was an iconic figure in the history of American professional wrestling. Before beginning a career in professional wrestling, Hellwig competed in bodybuilding competitions at the amateur level. He competed for WCCW as Dingo Warrior, WCW as The Warrior, and most memorably for the WWF as The Ultimate Warrior.
He was able to defend the title successfully and win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship by defeating the reigning champion Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. This battle is widely regarded as one of the most legendary contests in the annals of the sport’s history. As a result, Hellwig became the first wrestler in history to hold both belts concurrently.
18. Junkyard Dog
Junkyard Dog made his first professional appearance in the ring in 1977 under the aliases Stagger Lee, Leroy Rochester, Big Daddy Ritter, and Junkyard Dog. He was also known as the Junkyard Dog. He was well recognized for his habit of going ringside to see Queen perform “Another One Bites the Dust,” as well as for the dog collar and chain that became his signature look.
In the 1980s, he was undeniably a major celebrity due to his status as a headlining performer who could draw huge audiences. He was successful enough to win several tournaments before retiring in 1993. After his death, Sylvester was honored with induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
19. Tito Santana
Tito Santana was a fan favorite because of his baby face, which made him seem charming and cute when he wasn’t beating someone up in the ring. He has been awarded several championships and awards during his lengthy tenure with the organization.
At this point, Santana is considered semi-retired and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. The Knee lift, Running crossbody, Head scissors takedown, and Diving clothesline was among his defining techniques. In 2013, he was also admitted to the Hall of Fame of Professional Wrestling.
20. Bob Orton, Jr
The year 1972 marked the beginning of Bob Orton Jr‘s career in the professional wrestling industry. Bob was given the name Robert Keith Orton Jr. when he was born in November of 1950 in Kansas City, Kansas. In the ring, Orton was recognized as a true “heel,” and his demeanor was one that fans liked to detest; despite this, he ascended to incredible heights of fame.
He competed for the Globe Wrestling Federation (WWF) and other companies in Japan, the United States of America, and other nations worldwide. In 2005, he was honored by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
21. Hillbilly Jim
Vince McMahon has a particular fondness for hillbillies. The country-bumpkin characters, such as Jim, Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior, began to appear in more significant numbers in the middle of the 1980s. The four guys were generally lousy in-ring performers, but fans also adored them all around the nation. Hillbilly Jim outlived the competition and excelled as Vince McMahon’s organization spokesperson.
It is possible that Jim may not have the same qualifications for the Hall of Fame as some of the other players on our list, but there is no doubting the connection that fans felt with the sometimes carefree country lad. Although his career was brief, his supporters still think highly of him.
22. Jim Duggan
It was in the year 1979 that Jim Duggan made his debut as a professional wrestler for the first time. Audiences grew to like his wrestling persona as he portrayed a great American patriot with a war cry of “Hoooo” and regular applause of “U-S-A.” He achieved notable success by claiming the title of the first victor in the Royal Rumble competition in 1998.
During his professional career, he has been awarded many championship championships. In 2011, he was presented with the distinction of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, which was given to him by Ted DeBiase, popularly known as “The Million Dollar Man.”
23. The Iron Sheik
In 1972, The Iron Sheik began his career as a professional wrestler. He achieved the distinction of capturing the WWF Championship in 1983, putting an end to the reign of Bob Backlund, but only one month later, he would lose the crown to Hulk Hogan. Bob Backlund’s reign was ended.
Because he often bragged about the supremacy of his country while making derogatory remarks about the United States of America, he was considered to be one of the most renowned villains in the sport. This wrestler had a knack for getting the audience all up and getting everyone to boo. He was honored as one of the best wrestlers and admitted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
24. Harley Race
During the 1980s, Harley Race rose to prominence as a superstar wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). He won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title an astounding eight times during his career. Although he stopped competing in the ring in 1991, he remains involved in the sport as a promoter and trainer for the organization.
He is a very select group of individuals who have been honored with induction into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame, the WWE Hall of Fame, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame all at the same time.
25. Don Muraco
The perfect example of a professional was Don Muraco. A dedicated, though villainous, wrestler who not only amassed a lot of title victories but also established himself as a reliable opponent. Before 1986, at least, he could be counted on to put up good bouts and easily transition between the hero and the villain.
Muraco was a throwback to a period when wrestlers, who wrestled, could still go over and stay a vital part of the program at a time when Superstars were evolving into the cartoon-type characters that predominated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That, in particular, will be Don’s most enduring legacy.