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The 15 greatest T-shirts in wrestling history
We here at WWEClassics.com don’t pretend to know much about fashion. If you’ve seen the unwashed masses that we can be on a WrestleMania weekend, then you’d probably agree. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know a cool wrestling T-shirt when we see one.
Starting with the days when competitors printed their own cheap tees at the local sporting goods store, WWEClassics.com dressed up a list of the 15 greatest T-shirts in wrestling history. Our criteria shifted from early shirts that inspired copycats to the ones that broke sales records, but overall we were digging for tees that were just plain cool. Try these on for size and let us know what some of your favorites are.
Eddie Guerrero's "Latino Heat"
This Eddie Guerrero T-shirt may have been inspired by the 1983 classic “Scarface,” but don’t confuse Latino Heat with the film’s slimy crime lord Tony Montana. Guerrero may have wrestled by a dodgy code of lying, cheating and stealing, but the similarities between the former WWE Champion and the fictional kingpin end there.
The real crossover here is between Guerrero and the film’s star, Al Pacino. Possessing the same fiery charisma and genuine unpredictability in the ring that Pacino brought to the screen, Guerrero thrilled audiences while cheating and enraged them while smiling. It was all in their swagger — that rare ability to attract through movement. In his own way, the magnetic Superstar from El Paso, Texas, was a movie star in the squared circle. What better way to represent him than with a movie poster?
King Kong Bundy
If King Kong Bundy wasn’t a real man, a cartoonist would’ve created him. With his angry, bald face and bulging belly in black tights, the 450-pounder was exactly what you picture a professional wrestling villain to look like. So maybe that’s why Bundy’s image lent itself so perfectly to the animated counterpart on his T-shirt.
Taking a bit of artistic license with King Kong’s already larger-than-life build, the graphic aptly captured the immensity of the man who battled Hulk Hogan inside a steel cage at WrestleMania 2. Bundy, with his bulging eyes and rounded edges, appeared even more imposing in cartoon form while other Superstars came off looking like cheap caricatures. The only thing more impressive is the fact that WWE found a shirt to fit his Guinness-worthy girth.
The Rock's "Brahma Bull"
The Rock’s first “Brahma Bull” tee was a little too cartoony for The Great One, a little too over-the-top to properly capture what made the former WWE Champion "The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment." Over time, though, the logo evolved as the graphics were stripped, leaving behind a blank canvas that was later filled in with the red, white, and blue of the U.S. flag.
Deep into a career that was built on arrogant boasts and a cockeyed sneer, The Rock, almost unexpectedly, emerged as an American icon and this T-shirt captured that newfound aspect of his personality perfectly. In its way, the insignia became something more akin to a logo you’d see on a superhero’s chest plate — the perfect touch for a competitor who always seemed to be a step above a normal man.
Andre the Giant's "Red Hand"
By now, we’ve all heard the “believe it or not” stories of Andre the Giant’s enormity — the rings that were so wide you could pass eggs through the center, the 118 beers he could drink in one sitting and still stand up. All served to perpetuate the fact that the WWE Hall of Famer was the most physically impressive athlete to ever enter the squared circle. The Giant’s T-shirt had to do the same.
Featuring a print of Andre’s legendary paw on the front — the same hand, which once enveloped broadcaster “Lord” Alfred Hayes’ entire face during an interview segment — and his sasquatch-like size 24 foot on the back, the tee captured The Giant’s size without hyperbole. These weren’t exaggerations of the Frenchman’s superhuman measurements, these were the facts. All you had to do was place your hand against The Giant’s and you’d see he truly was The Eighth Wonder of the World.
Chris Jericho’s “Monday Jericho”
When Chris Jericho made his WWE debut on Aug. 9, 1999, he brazenly interrupted The Rock and declared Monday Night Raw was now “Raw is Jericho.” But his faithful fans — the "Jericholics" — knew that his assertion of “Raw is Jericho” was actually the second time he put his name on a show.
While competing in WCW, Jericho made sure fans of the Atlanta-based organization knew that the flagship program was not Monday Nitro. It was, in fact, “Monday Jericho.” The outspoken Superstar eventually donned a T-shirt with a revamped Nitro logo featuring his name. Soon, the top became one of WCW’s most popular, even rivaling the infamous nWo shirts. As Jericho’s popularity was on the rise, fans wanted to declare that Nitro did not belong to Hollywood Hogan, but rather that "Monday Jericho" was the show they paid to see.
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's "I Broke Wahoo's Leg"
Had nearly crippling Mid-Atlantic icon Wahoo McDaniel not already made Greg Valentine the most hated man in the Carolinas in 1977, his reveal of a callous T-shirt designed to boast about the act certainly did. Picking up where his father, Johnny, left off, the young Hammer sought to make his reputation at the expense of the legendary Wahoo by snapping his shinbone before a horrified Raleigh, N.C., crowd.
The sadism of Valentine’s act was bad enough, but there was something about his self designed shirt that made the no-nonsense thug even viler. No flashy graphics. No bright colors. Just four simple words spelled out in plain white lettering on black: "I Broke Wahoo’s Leg." With that, "The Hammer" gave the folks in the Greensboro Coliseum another excuse to pelt him with D batteries. But decades later, when CM Punk aped the top with his own “I Broke Big Show’s Hand” tee, it proved that Valentine didn’t just incite, he inspired.
John Cena's "8-Bit"
John Cena’s ever-changing T-shirt color scheme has garnered the former WWE Champion comparisons to everything from Teletubbies to a bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal. Schoolyard insults aside, the best of the Cenation leader’s many shirts was this tee that depicted the West Newbury, Mass., native as a character in a 1980s video game.
Dubbed Cena’s “8-bit” shirt by those who can recall the technological limitations of the first gaming systems, the tee actually reveals more about the Superstar than his love for Nintendo. While Cena has often been the whipping boy of old school wrestling fans who think he represents the misguided modern era, the truth is Cena is as old school as it gets. And, like his no-days-off work ethic and his high top sneakers, this shirt is another tip of the cap to what came before him.
Every army needs a uniform, and the DX army was no different. Banded together against enemies like The Nation and the McMahon family, Triple H, X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws hit the ring in matching black shirts with the D-Generation X logo across the front and made it clear that they were fighting as one — even if they were fighting for the right to party.
That was never as apparent as it was in 1998 when the degenerates came storming into Norfolk, Va., in an army jeep in an attempt to invade a taping of WCW’s Monday Nitro. In their matching DX shirts, the faction — and their countless fans — sent the message that this wasn’t just an article of clothing, it was a revolution.
CM Punk's "Best in the World"
CM Punk came to Money in the Bank 2011 to make history. Days after he unleashed the verbal "pipe bomb" that turned the WWE Universe upside down, Punk walked into Chicago’s Allstate Arena with the promise to defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship and then leave the company with the title in his possession.
That night, The Straight Edge Superstar stepped out in front of a raucous hometown crowd wearing a new white T-shirt with The Windy City’s flag on the front and the phrase “The Best in the World” emblazoned across the back. Featuring the city and date of the event, the exclusive top was only available to those WWE fans who made it to the Second City that night, so it was no surprise when the tee became the most desired article of clothing in all of sports-entertainment.
Cactus Jack's "Wanted Dead"
The sight of Mick Foley in his Cactus Jack T-Shirt was once such a frightening image that Triple H nearly jumped out of his kneepads when Foley stripped off his button-down shirt to reveal the “Wanted Dead” tee underneath. In that moment, The Game understood he was no longer dealing with a roller coaster enthusiast from Long Island, N.Y., but an unpredictable outlaw from Truth or Consequences, N.M., who felt pain, but seemed to absorb it in a way that other men could not.
Strange the effect that slipping on a simple poly-cotton blend could have on Foley, but The Hardcore Legend underwent a metamorphosis from family man to Hardcore Legend through the sleeveless top. With his scarred arms exposed, Foley survived the grisly King of the Deathmatch tournament in that shirt and won the World Tag Team Titles alongside his mentor, Terry Funk. It’s questionable if he could have achieved the same things in the tie-dye of Dude Love.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s “Macho Man”
Randy “Macho Man” Savage didn’t do T-shirts. The flamboyant Superstar’s personality wouldn’t allow it. For him, it was a sequined cowboy hat with a matching fringed blazer or it was nothing at all. But when he did don short sleeves, he did it right.
Stepping out in a bright purple shirt like only the most confident of men could, Savage wore a tee that was adorned with his nickname in block letters. But it was the graphic of his sunglasses that told the story. In the lenses of the signature shades was an image of the former WWE Champion himself. It was the perfect representation of the Macho Man because, to Savage, all eyes were on him — even his own.
The New World Order's "nWo"
If the logo of The New World Order’s signature shirt looked like it was seared on with a branding iron, that wasn’t a mistake. The insignia was just that: a brand. When you wore the colors of The nWo, you were nWo for life. And it all it took for WCW fans to realize that a Superstar had turned to the dark side was for a competitor to slip on the trademark black and white of the bad guys.
Designed with the same basic color scheme as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s “Austin 3:16” shirt, the tee added to the “so bad they’re cool” mystique of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and the rest of the anti-authority nWo members. It also rivaled The Texas Rattlesnake’s top in terms of ubiquity as it broke WCW sales records at the height of the company’s popularity in the late ’90s.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper's "Hot Rod"
Roddy Piper favored two T-shirts during his run as WWE’s most dastardly villain in the early 1980s. One featured the face of a scowling black panther — a nod to the rowdy Scot’s predatory cat–like dominance over the squared circle. The other, more famous shirt was a red ringer tee with the words “Hot Rod!” seared across the chest in flaming letters. Both captured Piper’s well-documented aggressive nature, but it was the latter that became one of the most recognizable images of WWE’s first boom period.
Predominantly red and yellow — which may or may not have been a clever jab at his greatest rival, Hulk Hogan — the tee matched the Scotsman’s trademark kilt perfectly and gave him a look that no other Superstar could mimic. Few people’s names warrant an exclamation point. With “Hot Rod!” there was no question.
Hulk Hogan's "Hulkamania"
It was T-shirts that brought Hulk Hogan to WWE in the first place. Once a star for Verne Gagne’s AWA in Minneapolis, The Hulkster left the promotion following a dispute over his cut of merchandise sales. Hogan knew there was marketing potential in his mythical size and intoxicating charismatic, but he had to join forces with Mr. McMahon to realize it.
Hulkamania didn’t arrive fully formed, though. On the night he won his first WWE Title, he wore a cheap, red tank top that said “American Made” across the chest. As time went on, his yellow and red “Hulkamania” tee became The Hulkster's trademark and the sight of the big man tearing his shirt off before every match became the defining image of the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” boom of the 1980s.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin's "Austin 3:16"
“Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your @$$!"
With those immortal words, WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became the anti-establishment hero of the WWE Universe. There has never been a Superstar bolder or tougher than The Texas Rattlesnake. One would think that the most popular Superstar of all time would have an elaborate T-shirt to boot. But for the original Austin 3:16 T-shirt — the most popular WWE garment of all time — it was a strikingly simple design.
A black top with “Austin 3:16” emblazoned in white letters on the front and a smoking skull with “Stone Cold” carved into the back, the preferred shirt of The Rattlesnake was a revolution unto itself. WWE fans all over the world turned to Austin as he stood up to Mr. McMahon. Not since the red and yellow of Hulkamania had there been a garment that defined an era of WWE history.