No.8: Nigel McGuinness
The greatest wrestler never to grace a WWF/E ring, Nigel McGuinness. Nigel McGuinness began wrestling in the late ’90s in Ohio and from that moment on did not look back. He learned the craft of professional wrestling and made headlines very quickly.
During the early 2000s, he was signed by the upstart promotion Ring Of Honor. Nigel played a pivotal role in putting ROH on the map. His technical style was second to none. Nigel was hands down one of the most technically sound wrestlers in history.
Nigel during his time with ROH created some of the best matches of the promotion’s history with wrestlers of the likes of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero, Jimmy Rave and many others. Nigel was the most sought out wrestler on the independent circuit. After winning the ROH Pure and World Championship, WWE knew they wanted Nigel.
Nigel was set to sign with WWE, but after failing a physical due to an apparent injury, Nigel was not allowed to compete in the company. Nigel continued to do anything it took to pursue his dream of competing for the WWE, but it was to no avail.
Nigel would then sign with TNA Wrestling with a new name, Desmond Wolfe. This was a fresh beginning for Nigel. TNA knew they had an incredible talent just by his debut match with the company. He faced off with arguably one of the performers in professional wrestling history, Kurt Angle. The two absolutely stole the show from the very beginning. Desmond looked to be the future of TNA.
However, an unfortunate illness sidelined Nigel, ultimately leading to his eventual release from the company.
Through thinking and searching, Nigel ultimately decided to continue wrestling the indy circuits leading to his retirement in 2011. The story of Nigel never had a chance to be lived to its fullest culminating with being in WWE. However, the road eventually led to WWE as a commentator with NXT in 2017.
Nigel’s performances in ROH and TNA are second to none. There is no one who had more grit and determination, with at the same time having an immense amount of respect from every locker room he stepped in than Nigel McGuinness.
No.7: CM Punk
CM Punk. A man who loved surrounding himself around controversy and defying any authority that stood in his way. CM Punk was a wrestler who was either loved or hated by wrestling fans for his antics and personality that he brought into professional wrestling.
CM Punk started his career in the new millennium, running through different independent promotions all across the Midwest. During his beginning years, he began a feud with Chris Hero that put him on the map. The two would have amazing matches that surpassed 60 minutes and even 90-minute time limits. CM Punk’s feud with Hero showed his talent to a high degree.
CM Punk used abilities and talents to get to Ring of Honor. Alongside friend Colt Cabana, the two would use Ring of Honor on a slightly bigger platform and from the start gained even more attention across the world. He also had a short stint in TNA Wrestling.
During his time with Ring of Honor, CM Punk would develop an intense rivalry with Raven which ultimately ended in a bloody and hellacious dog collar match. Punk used his straight-edge lifestyle to develop his persona in the ring.
Punk bringing his real lifestyle into his in-ring persona was something never heard of in professional wrestling. But, it instantly gained attention from people from all over. His persona also led to huge success.
Punk went on to win the ROH World Championship, faking out the entire world. Punk signed a contract with WWE in 2005 and it was thought that he would lose his final match for the ROH Championship.
However, he defeated then-Champion Austin Aries and would create a moment that no one saw coming. He turned his back on the ROH fans and would sign his WWE contract on the ROH Championship. This is known as “The Summer of Punk.”
In his time at ROH, Punk developed memorable feuds with the lights of Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and Colt Cabana. Punk would end his time with ROH against his longtime friend Colt Cabana in their hometown of Chicago.
Punk would begin training at Ohio Valley Wrestling where he would gain influence from Paul Heyman. Paul Heyman became his mentor because Paul saw the amount of talent in him that not many others saw.
Paul brought Punk to the resurrected ECW where Punk finally was able to grow and finally get a platform to show his talents on a worldwide network. Punk had finally made it to WWE.
While in ECW, Punk became an instant favorite with his unique wrestling style and rebellious demeanor. Punk would take the popularity and win to the ECW World Championship, his first major championship in WWE.
Punk would then make history by becoming the first man to win back to back Money in the Bank ladder matches at WrestleManias 24 & 25. He successfully cashed in both of the briefcases to become World Heavyweight Champion.
He would also go on to win the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships all within a single year, becoming one of the few to become a Grand Slam Champion within a short amount of time. The popularity of CM Punk was quickly soaring to the sky.
However, with that popularity, there had to be controversy and deception. During his second cash in, the WWE Universe saw a new side to CM Punk. CM Punk was able to bring his Straight Edge persona into the big stage of WWE, which created a big rivalry with Jeff Hardy. The two lifestyles were polar opposites which created excellent chemistry.
Punk was able to use his clean-cut lifestyle against the personal demons of Hardy. The story was very personal which created some remarkable matches between the two.
However, once Hardy left the company, it led Puck to face his biggest opponent to date, The Undertaker. Taker was able to get the better of Punk inside Hell in a Cell, but WWE knew they had a star for the future.
In the 2000’s Punk always made sure that his name was the buzz of the wrestling world. Punk made sure to do what it took to get his name in the news. If Punk did not take risks and put in the time in the indy circuit, he would have never had a chance to make it to WWE. Punk has the success and stat sheet to stake a claim as one of the greatest of the 2000s.