Okay, who are the four people that you would point to as who made you a fan or more importantly perhaps, made you remain a fan even if many things about the business were turning you off. There are certainly no right or wrong answers, as this is as subjective as it gets. I've been watching a long, long time but late 1980s - early 1990s tape trading expanded my horizons in ways that I couldn't have believed possible. So without further ado:
1. Johnny Valentine: Quite simply the greatest North American pro wrestler who has ever lived. Whether heel or face he employed the same slow, deliberate style that made him seem a walking engine of destruction. Johnny Valentine wasn't there because he cared about titles, accolades, or any other traditional motivators; he was there because he was going to fuck someone up for having the sheer effrontery to get in the ring with him. If you haven't watched him in action, think of Greg Valentine cranked up to the nth degree (though Greg was/is a good deal saner), and then imagine him being able to work heel and then come back to the same arena a month later and work face after being booed out of the building in his previous appearance for leaving the local boy a pulverized mess on the mat. Johnny V. could do that, what's more he made a career out of it, imagine the most hated heel you've ever seen doing a face turn and that's what Johnny V. could do on a regular basis, and he still left you with the feeling that good/evil were simply the same sides of the coin to him, what was important was having the excuse to fuck somebody up.
2. Dump Matsumoto: Nothing that I had seen in my years of being a fan could have prepared me for Dump Matsumoto. By the 1980s everyone knew that wrestling was scripted, the Sheik could be spotted in Detroit having breakfast with guys that he'd been carving up with a fork or throwing fireballs at the preceding night. Sure, fans would act scared but they did so with big grins on their faces because they weren't really scared, it was all part of the show. However, in Japan something very different was happening, a large woman brandishing a kendo stick making her entrance was generating actual fear on the part of the audience. Sure, Japan was filled with smart fans who knew the score, but the thing is no one was sure just how crazy Dump really was, she would attack her own entourage just as readily as her opponent if they did something to displease her. It's been a long time since a wrestler generated actual fear in the audience and Dump may have been the last one to do so as effectively.
3. Jumbo Tsuruta: A large man (hence the nickname) that moved like a cruiserweight when he wanted to. Quite simply, I don't think that there has ever been anyone quite as good in the ring as Jumbo. Misawa comes awfully damn close, but he had the advantage of regularly working with Kawada to up his game. Jumbo could carry the greenest, most inept worker to a **** match without making himself look weak in the process. His passing of the torch to Misawa (under the Tiger Mask gimmick and eventual unmasking) was a thing of beauty. I don't know of any other worker anywhere in the world that could have pulled it off so well. We've spoken a lot about guys that could vary their game to get the most out of an opponent, I don't think there's ever been anyone better than Jumbo at doing so, and he did so with what we must consider a tremendous handicap. That handicap was quite simply his size, it's much harder to be a sympathetic face when you're the biggest guy in the ring, (see how Hogan had to be fed monster of the month), Jumbo was good enough to give a smaller opponent credible offense without looking weak himself. that's a remarkable skill that not many guys can cultivate. Out of the current crop of wrestlers who are regularly putting on great matches I think Okada is the only one I could point to as a direct successor to Jumbo and that's pretty damn high praise.
4. Arn Anderson: Yeah, I had to agonize about this fourth spot, as I could on any given day put Jushin Liger, Ric Flair, Dynamite Kid, Barry Windham, Chris Benoit, Bret Hart or even current favorite Tetsuya Naito in this spot, but the more I thought about it and looked at my permanent DVD collection it became obvious that this spot belonged to the Enforcer. I don't think that there was ever a period of time that I looked forward to watching wrestling on Saturday more than when Arm held the TV title. You knew that no matter what else went down, no matter how much time would be wasted with Dusty putting himself over, you were going to get at least one fifteen minute match that would be good no matter who the opponent was because that's how Arn rolled. A guy that knew from the get go that he was never going to be the man, (though he could've been), Arn took to the role of the number two guy behind Flair like a duck to water. When he'd cut a promo and describe himself as "the measuring stick" that you had to get past in order to get a shot at the Nature Boy, you knew that seperated the contenders from the pretenders with a quickness. Like Johnny Valentine before him, Arn didn't do a lot of yelling and screaming; instead in a very matter of fact way he let you know that he was no one to be screwed with and provoke him at your own peril. In a world that knew it was all fake, Arn Anderson could still make you believe. Higher praise than that simply doesn't exist.
There's my four, who ya got?