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20 competitors who consistently bring the heat
What does summer mean to you? Does it involve cheerful chants of “No more pencils, no more books” as the school year fades into the distance? Will it mark the advent of countless barbecues (with J.R.’s BBQ sauce, of course), beach visits and backyard shenanigans that fill the coming months with happy memories?
Of course, WWE Superstars are adept at making the “fun in the sun” sentiments of summertime last year-round. That’s because the talented competitors always turn up the heat, intensity and passion as they strive for success in the squared circle. It’s as if the sun never sets on the WWE Universe, since they can usually feel the temperature rising whenever championship gold is on the line or a rivalry is renewed.
With summer now in full swing, WWE.com celebrates accordingly by paying tribute to 20 fiery personalities who consistently brought the heat to the ring.
Sweeping through WCW’s tag team ranks like a wildfire, Harlem Heat experienced a decade of dominance that few pairings past or since can match. Booker T & Stevie Ray combined their street savvy with a technical in-ring proficiency to rise above rivals like The Nasty Boys, The Steiner Brothers and The nWo.
The fraternal bond shared by this tenacious team showed every time they stepped in the squared circle, and not just because they wore matching tights adorned with flames. Harlem Heat, at their heart, were a family business – and business was booming, leading them to claim a record 10-time WCW World Tag Team Championships.
Terror engulfs the WWE Universe whenever the lights dim, the flames rage and the first chord of Kane’s theme music hits. The Devil’s Favorite Demon may choose to hide his fear-inducing face behind a mask, but everyone easily recognizes the hellish tactics that have made him a squared circle stalwart in WWE for more than 15 years.
No Superstar has handled the heat of WWE competition like Kane, who frequently uses fire as his calling card to announce his impending arrival or just to send a message to a rival. The Big Red Monster even competes periodically in a ring engulfed by flames, such as his legendary Inferno Match against The Undertaker in 1998.
The three faces of Mick Foley may magnify his personality traits, but the common thread between Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love is Foley’s complete lack of fear. Regardless of the opponent or the match stipulation, Foley was as gritty a grappler that’s ever stepped into the ring and regularly disregarded his own health and well-being to gain a psychological and physical edge over an opponent.
Though few competitors could match Foley’s insatiable desire to win at all costs, that approach would periodically backfire against Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy in the grandest of fashion. At WrestleMania 22, Foley’s decision to set up a table during a Hardcore Match against WWE Hall of Famer Edge left him feeling the burn as The Rated-R Superstar wound up putting The Hardcore Legend through the flaming table to get the win.
Short fuse? Check. Perpetually ready for a fight? Check. Possesses a painful arsenal of moves? Check.
Woe to the unfortunate competitor who triggers The Celtic Warrior's Irish temper. Sheamus can keep himself cool, calm and collected in most of his endeavors, but the Gaelic brawler with the fiery red hair can still clash with anyone at any time and just about anywhere.
Those in need of evidence of the red-hot rage that Sheamus can create need only to witness his return to The Grandest Stage of Them All. After waiting patiently for Daniel Bryan to receive his good luck kiss in the opening moments of WrestleMania XXVIII, The Celtic Warrior unleashed a jaw-jacking Brogue Kick that knocked Bryan senseless and crowned Sheamus as the new World Heavyweight Champion in an encounter that lasted barely 18 seconds.
Sunny primarily plied her trade as a manager to the likes of WWE Hall of Famers The Legion of Doom as well as The Bodydonnas, but this vivacious hellcat more than made her presence felt at ringside. The frisky firebrand aptly blended her brilliant mind with her beautiful looks to meddle in any match for the benefit of her charges – and much to the chagrin of the opposition.
Her theme song, “I Know You Want Me,” felt appropriate given her self-centered temperament, but Sunny’s unmatched ability to get a rival’s blood boiling helped make her a suitable role model for the modern-day Diva. In recognition of her influence on the Divas division, Sunny was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Though he frequently preached his family’s mantra of “cheat to win,” Eddie Guerrero needed absolutely no help in fueling his competitive fire. Having honed his craft in ECW and WCW before taking the main stage in WWE, the Mexican American Superstar firmly established his ability to grapple with the greatest mat technicians of his time or take to the skies against any high-flying foe.
The WWE Universe could only muster two words to describe Guerrero’s unrivaled capabilities in the ring and his fiery personality: “Latino Heat.” The tenacious trailblazer’s star sadly burned out much too soon due to his untimely passing in 2005, but the legacy of Eddie Guerrero is alive and well and forever recognized by his WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2006.
Hailing from Death Valley and haunting WWE competition for more than two decades, The Undertaker is as synonymous with wanton destruction as any who ever set foot in a WWE ring. The Deadman’s unparalleled ability to demolish opponents is rivaled only by his ability to scare the living daylights out of them with countless shows of supernatural force during his career.
Just ask Randy Orton, who witnessed The Undertaker return at Survivor Series 2005 following a bolt of lightning that set a casket ablaze. Kane can also tell a tale of his trial by fire against The Deadman in the first-ever Inferno Match at Unforgiven: In Your House in 1998.
The fiery redhead with the fierce demeanor helped define what it means to be a Diva in the 21st century. Her pinup-worthy looks and her penchant for not backing down from a fight gave Lita the confidence to accomplish anything she desired, whether it was winning the WWE Women’s Championship four times or punishing a rival that had pushed her too far.
Of course, Lita could bring the heat on her allies’ behalf as much as she could in the ring. She proved her worthiness of being part of Team Extreme by matching the high-flying maneuvers of The Hardy Boyz. WWE Hall of Famer Edge can also attest to Lita’s hot-tempered tactics, as she certainly assisted in putting the “Rated R” in The Rated-R Superstar’s reputation.
Bam Bam Bigelow
Bam Bam Bigelow didn’t become a WWE Superstar in hopes of winning any beauty contests. This blue collar brawler from Asbury Park, N.J., blended his forceful attacks with an unexpected agility to run over the competition. The combination worked perfectly, as Bigelow clinched championship gold in WCW and ECW while leaving opponents confused about how to even handle the menacing competitor. Bigelow even gave the first WWE Hall of Famer, Andre the Giant some of the toughest fights of his life.
Of course, Bigelow’s distinctive look didn’t hurt his reputation as the “Beast from the East.” The tattooed crown of fire that wrapped his bald head made him literally appear hot-headed at all times, while the flames that adorned his full-body tights came to symbolize Bigelow’s burning desire to batter adversaries whenever he set foot in the squared circle.
WCW fans instantly recognize Disco Inferno as one cool cat who never backed down from a good fight. The Disco devotee hustled his way through the competition and boogied down in WCW from 1995 to the company’s subsequent purchase by WWE in 2001.
Don’t let the pompadour, the nylon shirt and bell-bottoms discount what Disco Inferno could do to an opponent, though. He had enough ring savvy to allow him to regularly engulf rivals with Disco fever. The results speak for themselves, as Inferno came away from his tenure as a two-time WCW World Television Champion and a one-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion. So no more jive talking about the Disco legend, you dig?
In between tours of duty with WCW in the early 1990s, WWE Hall of Famer Ricky Steamboat embraced his “Dragon” nickname by portraying himself to the WWE Universe as a literal interpretation of the mythical beast.
Dressed in a reptilian outfit of green scales and a bristly mane of gold, The Dragon weaved his way down the entrance ramp and waved a wand of fire in the spirit of the legendary serpent. He then proceeded to breathe fireballs into the air above the ring, which signaled to all who saw him that the spirit of Steamboat was ready to engage in the latest round of competition.
Fire & Ice
Before he aligned himself with the renegade faction the New World Order, Scott Norton stood in Ice Train’s corner as part of a massively muscled tag team looking to run roughshod through WCW. The pairing united after displaying a mutual respect for each other’s talent following a match against one another on WCW Saturday Night in February 1996. Within weeks, they joined forces and, in tribute to Norton’s burning desire to win and Ice Train’s frosty fighting style, started to refer to themselves simply as Fire & Ice.
Fire & Ice set out to blaze a trail to tag team glory, which quickly led them to heated rivalries with The Steiner Brothers and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Their growing pains became too much to bear for Norton, who would later attack Ice Train following a loss. The former partners settled their differences in the ring shortly thereafter, marking the end for Fire & Ice before the summer of 1996 concluded.
Adopting the undying spirit of a vampire, Gangrel’s tenure in WWE commenced in 1998 and quickly led him down a path that would strike fear in the hearts of his foes. Whether he was working to promote his own agenda or standing in support of The Ministry of Darkness, Gangrel needed little help in imposing his will in the ring – and even less in announcing his arrival.
As a ghostly voice demanded that the WWE Universe “be ready,” a red light engulfed the arena and a ring of fire appeared on the entrance ramp to signal the arrival of Gangrel’s faction of night crawling Superstars that included Edge & Christian and later The Hardy Boyz. The trio arose from the flames and made their way to ringside to torment their latest adversaries. ( WATCH)
Terry Funk was not your run-of-the-mill competitor with a burning desire to win at all costs. He came from a lineage of Funks that so influenced professional wrestling that the family was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. Terry Funk played a pivotal role in ushering in the hardcore wrestling era with his in-ring exploits and the innovative tactics that seem too extreme to be true.
One such maneuver became Funk’s calling card, as he would sometimes carry a flaming branding iron to the ring to literally leave his mark on his opponent. Few fell prey to Funk’s branding iron, but its mere presence at ringside gave him a psychological edge that helped him reach the top of WWE, WCW and ECW.
His family knows him as Ed Farhat, but his fans around the world call him The Sheik. The Sheik brought hardcore wrestling to the forefront long before anyone knew what the term even meant, meaning he was busy mixing extreme competition with in-ring grappling tactics to get ahead while others dabbled in one or the other. His ability to battle or brawl at a moment’s notice against the likes of The Funks is the stuff of legend, which inevitably led to his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
Of the many tricks that The Sheik kept up his sleeve, his use of a fireball made the biggest impact on the capacity crowds that came out to see him in action. Sometimes he would generate a blast of flames to announce his arrival while other times he used it to weaken a rival, but the fireball became synonymous of the extraordinary measures that The Sheik made part of his regular arsenal.
Scotty 2 Hotty
Few Superstars could bring the heat with their feet like Scotty 2 Hotty. When he wasn’t grappling with opponents, Scotty danced with a fire that prominently displayed his passion for entertaining the WWE Universe. He seamlessly incorporated his dance moves into his arsenal, which is best exemplified by the damaging routine of his signature finisher, The Worm.
The cavorting competitor didn’t just dance with the Superstars during his tenure in WWE, though. Scotty 2 Hotty clinched tag team championship gold on two separate occasions, once with his longtime “Too Cool” partner Grandmaster Sexay and later alongside WWE legend Rikishi. He also defeated “The Man of 1,000 Holds,” Dean Malenko, in 2000 to claim on the WWE Light Heavyweight Title.
After proving her mettle in AWA, WCW and Japan as Madusa (short for Made in the USA), Alundra Blayze made her WWE debut in 1993 and immediately helped rekindle the existence of the Women’s Championship. She earned the championship gold following a six-woman tournament at the end of 1993 and held on to it for nearly a year. Blayze later added to her title history by winning the coveted prize two more times after defeating two of her primary rivals, Bull Nakano and Bertha Faye.
However, it was how Blayze’s third reign as WWE Women’s Champion came to an end that ignited one of the most infamous moments in WWE history. Upon departing WWE for WCW, Blayze threw the title into a trash can on the December 18, 1995, edition of Monday Nitro. The incident sent shockwaves throughout the WWE Universe and served as an early catalyst for what would come to be known as the Monday Night Wars.
Part rocker and part fighter, The Demon’s tour of duty in WCW during the late 1990s left a lasting impression that was based more on looks than talent. That’s because The Demon did not represent himself as a tortured soul like Kane or a diabolical presence like the Road Warriors.
No, The Demon initially took his inspiration from the legendary rock band KISS. Adopting their outrageous look and their flair for the dramatic, he made himself a larger-than-life presence with face paint, elaborate outfits and the use of fireballs and pyrotechnics. Championship gold never adorned The Demon’s waist, though it didn’t help that his rise to prominence in the ring coincided with the lowest rated segment in Nitro history during the final days of WCW.
One of the more peculiar personalities in WWE history, Papa Shango sought to establish a spiritual advantage over his adversaries with the assistance of voodoo magic. His black top hat, skull face paint and bone necklace was enough to unsettle any opponent, but the witch doctor ardently believed that supernatural forces could influence a bout’s outcome and incapacitate a rival like Ultimate Warrior.
Papa Shango frequently displayed his frightening power, which included explosive tactics that could ignite fear in any foe. He regularly appeared engulfed in smoke and often set his opponents’ hands and feet on fire to send a message regarding the unorthodox competitor’s capabilities.
Preoccupied with proving the WWE Universe wrong about his own capabilities, Steven Richards started a paranoid partnership with Victoria in late 2002. Richards’ relationship with the devious Diva was a symbiotic one, as he helped her retain the Women’s Championship while she supported his attempts to rebuild his in-ring reputation.
Richards, however, took a turn for the bizarre when he convinced himself that he was the General Manager of Sunday Night Heat. The self-appointed GM donned hot pink tights that labeled him as “Stevie Night Heat” and started to meddle in other Superstars’ affairs, which usually wound up backfiring on Richards in a highly comedic fashion.