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Current meets classic: 7 modern takes on legendary Superstars
Every competitor is his own man. But longtime spectators of the art form can’t help but compare some modern performers to a favorite star from the past. Even JBL at the Raw commentary desk remarked that The Wyatt Family’s brutish Luke Harper bore a striking likeness to fabled journeyman Bruiser Brody. Whether it is a similarity in persona, grappling style, physical appearance or simple presence in the ring, these parallels can be often difficult to ignore.
WWEClassics.com picked seven members of the current WWE roster that remind us of iconic luminaries of the past. Do you agree? Which other Superstars remind you of legendary squared circle athletes? Be sure to sound off in the comments.
Which current Superstar is most alike their classic equivalent? Vote now!
Luke Harper / Bruiser Brody
JBL comparing Luke Harper to the great Bruiser Brody was high praise from the tough Texan, whose snug ring work was clearly also inspired by the renegade brawler who waged hardcore wars from Puerto Rico to Japan in the 1980s. But what was it about Brody that JBL saw in Harper?
There are the obvious qualities, of course — feral beards, towering size (6-foot-5 for Harper, 6-foot-8 for Brody), overall unpleasant dispositions — but plenty of big men have aped Bruiser’s signature style. Harper, though, possesses a rare intangible that few but Brody had: menace. When the hillbilly goliath is in the ring, people in the audience are acutely aware that the partition separating the crowd from the Superstars won’t keep them safe from Harper. It’s the same unpredictable quality that drew tens of thousands out to the arena every time Brody went at it with Abdullah the Butcher or Kamala.
Their main difference? Brody’s smarts inspired his persona of the “Intelligent Monster.” It remains to be seen if there’s a brain underneath Harper’s zombie exterior, but for now, he’s enough of a monster for that not to matter. — RYAN MURPHY
Big E Langston / Ron Simmons
Still in the formative stage of his career, Big E Langston has a long way to go before he proves that he’s in the same league as WWE Hall of Famer Ron Simmons. That being stated, it’s difficult to ignore the similarities between the former World Champion and the massive competitor who gave WWE Champion Randy Orton a run for his money.
Both Simmons and Langston are incredibly powerful. WCW’s first African-American World Champion was an All-American football player at Florida State University before playing professionally in the NFL, CFL and USFL during the 1980s. Langston’s pre-WWE accomplishments include multiple national and state powerlifting records. Such accolades could draw parallels to Mark Henry, though Langston’s raw athleticism, speed and ability to use his size is undeniably similar to Simmons.
In addition, the arsenal of maneuvers possessed by both the WWE Hall of Famer and Big E Langston consist of high-impact, fast strikes, and their respective signature moves – Simmons’ Dominator and Langston’s Big Ending – are equally as devastating. – KEVIN POWERS
Alberto Del Rio / "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
He would probably want you to believe that he is Mexico’s greatest export. Yet when Alberto Del Rio burst upon the WWE scene in 2010, his arrogant, pompous and aristocratic persona evoked an essence of similarity to that of “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Del Rio has established himself as one who loves to flaunt his self-righteousness at every opportunity he gets, something that DiBiase arguably trademarked during his WWE tenure. That trait alone incurred the wrath and ire of the WWE Universe then, and it does now. And even though DiBiase’s wealth went in many different directions, Del Rio boasted his at one time by driving into the arena of battle with a different luxury vehicle each and every evening. But like DiBiase proved by dominating his opponents by stuffing cash down their throats night after night, Del Rio echoes The Million Dollar Man by exhibiting an impressive wrestling acumen that has garnered him two reigns of both the WWE and World Championship. – HOWARD FINKEL
Dean Ambrose / Brian Pillman
A big part of what makes The Shield's Dean Ambrose so captivating is the feeling of not having a clue what he's going to do or say next. Maybe even he doesn't know sometimes; the wild gesticulations, the bodily convulsions and guttural yells just come out of his soul without warning. Among a roster full of Superstars who appear to have their identities all neatly ironed out, there twitches Dean Ambrose, embracing the "loose cannon" side of his psyche and all the danger that comes with it.
The WWE Universe got the same edgy vibes from watching Brian Pillman at work in the '90s. Whether he was verbally lacing into the mic at the announce table or threatening "Stone Cold" Steve Austin with maniacal anarchy, the unconventional and wildly unpredictable performer captured the essence of The Attitude Era.
It's no surprise that few Superstars – and off-kilter ones at that, such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Goldust – were bold enough to mix it up with Pillman. Similarly, Ambrose has not encountered any persistent contenders for his United States Title in the first 180 days of his reign. Hey, would you want to start a rivalry with a champion who has the looks of a madman? – TOM HERRERA
Dolph Ziggler / Billy Gunn
Yes, there’s more than a passing resemblance between Dolph Ziggler and Billy Gunn. A good portion of the WWE Universe is convinced that the two are father and son. Yet there’s more to comparing The Showoff and "Mr. Ass" than bleach blond hair.
WWE Hall of Fame commentator Jim Ross often declared that Billy Gunn was the best pure athlete in WWE. At 6-foot-3 and 260 lbs. of chiseled muscle, Gunn lived up to that billing, a perfect combination of strength and agility in the ring. A consummate competitor, the confident Gunn dominated the WWE tag team division in the 1990s and 2000s, with partners like Bart Gunn, Road Dogg and Chuck Palumbo. He also picked up the Intercontinental and Hardcore Titles on his own, as well as crowning himself King of the Ring in 1999.
If any current Superstar deserves the title of “best pure athlete in WWE,” it’s Dolph Ziggler. A Superstar committed to stealing the show every time he steps in the ring. Ziggler hurls his body around the squared circle with reckless abandon, a form of wrestling that’s equally beautiful and dangerous. The Showoff’s daring style has paid off in spades, as he has captured the Intercontinental, United States and World Heavyweight Titles.
Funnily enough, Ziggler and Gunn seem to be quite chummy, and even posed together for a picture that went viral on social media. WWE.com also heard that Gunn’s infamous Attitude Era entrance music is one of the few songs that gets The Showoff in the right frame of mind for his rigorous workouts. – BOBBY MELOK
CM Punk / "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
CM Punk says it’s a simple coincidence that he was wearing a “Stone Cold” crewneck tee when he dropped his massive pipe bomb on the world of sports-entertainment in summer 2011. It was just the shirt he had laying around his locker before he stepped through the curtain, he says. True or not, his clothing choice certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
In the midst of a contract dispute, the self-proclaimed “Voice of the Voiceless” set out to revolutionize the same organization that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had taken by storm in the ‘90s. Punk wanted change. He wanted to incite the same groundbreaking rebellion that had catapulted WWE from the bubble-gum days of Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart to the edgy Attitude Era of The Texas Rattlesnake.
When Austin stunned a bible-thumping Jake Roberts and coined “Austin 3:16,” his words were more than a catchphrase. They were a movement, as evidenced by his followers that peppered high school hallways in his T-shirts. Fifteen years later, a Windy City punk with a lauded ring reputation set to do the same when he chewed out company brass and announced himself as the “Best in the World.” He might not have been toasting with a cold Steveweiser, but it was his “Punk 3:16” moment. And with Austin’s black boots sitting on a shelf at the Broken Skull Ranch, who’s to argue with him? – ZACH LINDER
Daniel Bryan / Bret Hart
Smaller than most of his opponents? Check. Made most of his opponents submit? Check. Won a World Championship? Checkmate.
As Hulkamania wound down from its zenith in 1991, sports-entertainment as a whole was in a state of transition. A superhero's physique and matching cartoonish interviews had seemingly run their course. Functional muscle and matching athleticism made for faster, more exciting matches. Leading the way was blue-collar (well, pink-collar wrestler Bret "Hit Man" Hart. After defeating the legendary "Nature Boy" Ric Flair for the WWE Championship, Hart used the Sharpshooter to turn away much larger challengers like Razor Ramon, Diesel, Bam Bam Bigelow and many more en route to the WWE Hall of Fame.
At 5-foot-8 and 188 pounds, nobody – including Daniel Bryan himself – thought he would ever be a WWE Superstar, let alone a two-time WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion. Once "King of the Indies," Bryan proved himself a king of the ring with wins over monsters like Big Show and Mark Henry, as well as megastars like John Cena and Randy Orton. Armed with the LeBell Lock – uh, "No!" Lock, I mean "Yes!" Lock – Bryan has firmly cinched a main-event spot on the WWE roster. Will Bryan one day join Bret Hart in the WWE Hall of Fame? One can’t help but emphatically answer, “YES!” – JOEY STYLES