"Hit Man" and "Iceman" take sides in "battle of the bests"

"Hit Man" and "Iceman" take sides in "battle of the bests"

In gathering perspectives in the “best” debate currently raging as Chris Jericho and CM Punk prepare to lock up at WWE Payback, WWE.com touched base with two second-generation Legends, each of whom has, at one point or another, been labeled in terms as lofty as those currently being applied to Y2J and The Second City Saint. Opinions were split between WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart (“The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”) and the legendary Dean Malenko (who, in 1997, was named the best wrestler in the world by “Pro Wrestling Illustrated”).

Perhaps surprisingly, Hart voted against his fellow countryman, Jericho, and described Punk as a “details man” and the better tactician — high praise from the man nicknamed “The Excellence of Execution.”

“They’re both very good, but Punk is more of an innovator,” Hart said. “For that reason, I think he’s hard to touch. He’s maybe the best in the world right now, as far as coming up with new and different concepts in wrestling.”

What did contemporary Superstars say about Punk and Jericho's rivalry?

Unthinkable though it may be, The Second City Saint even seemingly ingratiated himself to “Hit Man” by paying homage to the five-time WWE Champion. “The fact that he has the class to wear the stripe down the side of his trunks in tribute to me – and I’ve seen him jump off the second rope sometimes with the big elbow –  I take that as a sign of respect.”

Malenko, on the other hand, narrowly chose the more experienced Jericho — who he faced many times in WCW — over Punk. Although he never had the fortune of competing against Punk, “The Iceman” nonetheless considers himself “a big fan” … and even sees glimmers of Jericho’s influence in The Second City Saint.

“I think there are some similarities — the way Punk wrestles, his mic work, his confidence, and the way he believes in himself and he believes in his style of wrestling,” Malenko says. “It’s a very close call. You can look at the tale of the tape all day, and still keep going back and forth picking either one of these guys.”

All bets are off Sunday, June 16, when WWE’s “best” square off in what’s sure to be a memorable contest at WWE Payback.

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