The Unpopular Opinion: The Top 10 Wrestlers of the 2000’s (Part 9)

Source: YouTube

No. 3:  The Undertaker

The Undertaker during a Monday Night Raw event on March, 10 2008. (Wikimedia Commons)

In wrestling, many performers go under a character change to fit with the times and persona. One in particular is one of the greatest of all time, The Undertaker. The Undertaker was the dark, mysterious character that inflicted pain on his opponents and made them rest in peace with a tombstone piledriver.

However, in the beginning of the new millennium, The Undertaker debuted a new persona that no one saw coming. At Judgement Day 2000, The Undertaker returned to the WWF with a new biker persona. He started coming down to the ring with a motorcycle. He also changed his attire from all black to wearing more denim and bandanas.

The Undertaker also changed his music from the bells and dark tone to “American Badass” by Kid Rock. Definitely a shock to the wrestling world. However, with the change, The Undertaker was still the tough as nails competitor that took no prisoners.

His new character connected with the demographic and the culture of the time during the early 2000’s. However, The Undertaker had a difficult time finding tons of success since returning to the WWF.

The “American Badass” version of The Undertaker. (AttitudePOP II / YouTube)

He feuded with the lights of Kane, Kurt Angle and other stars. However, it took nearly a year for The Undertaker to solidify his return. He solidified his return in a big way against Triple H at WrestleMania 17. Two of the toughest and rugged superstars in WWF squaring off on the biggest stage in a bloody and brutal fight.

The match with Triple H put The Undertaker back on the map as one of the big stars of the WWF. The Undertaker would then go on to defend the WWF during the Alliance angle.

The Undertaker was one of the only stars to stand by the side of the WWF. Through the dark times and the mainstream success. The Undertaker lived WWF through and through. However, he was not getting the respect he truly deserved.

 The Undertaker changed his persona to be against the world because he feels he deserves the respect for his dedication to the WWF. He would go on to cut his hair and would change his look and attitude.

With the change, he would attack and takeout anyone in his path. Which led to his feud with Ric Flair at WrestleMania 18.  Undertaker knew that the only way to get his respect is by taking out one of the most respected wrestlers in history.

Highlights from WrestleMania 18’s match featuring The Undertaker and Ric Flair. (Highlights Only / YouTube)

The Undertaker would keep his streak at WrestleMania alive. The win led him to facing off against Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship. The Undertaker was able to beat Hogan and fulfill his message as the top bad guy of the company.

The time at the top did not last long as he lost the Championship to The Rock at the next pay per view. However, The Undertaker went back to being loved and respected by the WWE. He would then be traded to SmackDown.

The Undertaker would call SmackDown a home for the rest of the decade. The Undertaker on SmackDown would feud the biggest and brightest of the brand like: Brock Lesnar, The Big Show, and John Cena. The Undertaker brought the best out of the future of the WWE. However, there was something that was missing regarding The Undertaker.

The Undertaker needed to change who he was because the biker American Badass was not who he truly was. So, at WrestleMania 20, The Undertaker returned to his roots and returned at The Deadman.

The rebirth of the “Deadman” persona debuted at WrestleMania 20. (Jeffreys WWE Themes Channel / YouTube)

From the moment, The Undertaker became instantly popular on the SmackDown brand. The Undertaker dug holes and took souls to whoever got in his way. Whether it be the soul of: Randy Orton, JBL, Mark Henry, Batista, or Edge.

The Undertaker was the big dog of the yard, but there was one thing missing, The World Championship. He got that opportunity by winning the Royal Rumble. He faced off against Batista at WrestleMania 23 is one of the most hyped matches in quite sometime at WrestleMania. The Undertaker was able to defeat Batista and win the World Championship.

The Undertaker would take the momentum to WrestleMania next year and battled Edge in the main event. This was Taker’s first main event at WrestleMania in 11 years. Well deserved for a legend.

The Undertaker would then steer away from the World Championship scene in 2009.  He would focus on another legend, Shawn Michaels. He would face him at WrestleMania 25. The two had an instant classic that many people talk about today. The Undertaker would defeat Shawn and would take his undefeated streak into the 2010’s.

The Undertaker’s 20 Greatest Moments. (WWE / YouTube)

The Undertaker is a legend of the business. He has stayed alongside the WWF/E through the thick and thin. The Undertaker is the most respected member of the WWF/E roster. The Undertaker has resurrected his career with the turn of the millenium and solidifying his legendary career.

No. 2: John Cena

John Cena during a Monday Night Raw “House Show” in Australia on July, 4, 2011. (Krystal Bogner / Flickr)

The face of the WWE for over a decade, John Cena. Hard to believe that at the beginning of the new millennium,  he was not even with the WWE.

John was developing at WWE’s then developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling. While he was there, he developed alongside future stars of the WWE, Batista, Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. The future of WWE’s next decade was under one roof.

In 2002, there was a new era that was dawning in the WWE.  The future of WWE was being brought into the mainstream. The Ruthless Aggression Era was in full effect but, in all eras there is usually a face and there were several wrestlers striving to get to the top.

Then, there was a guy who debuted and instantly made an impact. On June 27, 2002, Kurt Angle opened a challenge to anyone on the SmackDown roster. Outcame John Cena and with the two words, Ruthless Aggression, a superstar was born. Even though he did not upset Angle, he impressed the entire world, even earning the respect of The Undertaker.

John Cena’s WWE debut against Kurt Angle. (WWE / YouTube)

From that moment on, John Cena sought out improve each time he stepped in the ring. Such an impressive debut, but the WWE was not seeing the impactful stature to stay in the company. Until a Halloween costume brought out the charisma and character in John Cena.

John Cena was dressed as Vanilla Ice and started spitting rhymes to fellow wrestlers. Which caught the eye of WWE officials. Since that Halloween episode of SmackDown, John Cena became a rapping wrestler. Which sounds goofy, but Cena’s raps showed that he had mic skills unlike many. Cena’s mic skills got over with the WWE Universe and made Cena one of the most popular superstars on SmackDown.

Cena as Vanilla Ice during SmackDown’s Halloween party in 2002.

Cena was able to show his rise by battling Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and other top stars of SmackDown. Cena used the rocket ship to winning the United States Championship against The Big Show at WrestleMania 20. John Cena had finally achieved the ticket to the main event.

Cena the very next year won the WWE Championship from John Bradshaw Layfield at WrestleMania 21.  Cena finally reached the top of the world and had the biggest prize in professional wrestling. However, the change was not complete.

Going back to the previous year, John Cena debuted a custom United States Championship which was either hated or liked. After winning the WWE Championship, he would do the same. John Cena created a custom WWE Championship, which would be the Championship for nearly a decade. Again, the Championship was either hated or liked by wrestling fans.

A replica of the spinning version of the WWE Championship belt that Cena’s championship reign ushered in. (imranbecks / Flickr)

Cena showed his main event ability on SmackDown, which led him to the flagship show, Monday Night Raw during the 2005 WWE Draft.  John Cena completely dominated the Raw roster. Which was dividing the WWE Universe.

The WWE Universe began turning their back on John Cena because they did not like Cena’s rise to become the face of the WWE. While Cena was Champion, he would go on to battle stars like: Edge, Triple H, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. Cena would go on to be a main event WrestleMania 22 & 23 against Triple H(22) and Shawn Michaels(23). He would also be involved in World Championship matches at the next 4 WrestleManias.

Cena was dominating the main event scene of the big events on the calendar. The hatred from the WWE Universe was still there and evidence showed at WrestleMania 22 and ECW One Night Stand against Rob Van Dam.

However outside the ring, John Cena became a true superhero. John Cena continuously donated his time with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He granted wish after wish to children all around the country. He wanted to give them a small distraction from their life and spend time with them and inviting families to events. John Cena’s selfless donations is remarkable and respected. To this day, there has not been another celebrity or athlete that has granted more wishes to Make-A-Wish, than John Cena. A truly remarkable accomplishment.

Whether you like or hate John Cena, you should at least respect him for his hard work and grit to find better in not only himself, but for others around the world. He is a positive role model to the younger generation all around the world. With the 3 words, Never Give Up, he sends a positive message to the WWE Universe to think positively and push to never give up and continue to strive for better. He also uses Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect to show dedication and honesty.

The character that we saw every Monday Night was the same man we see outside the ring. He not only promotes the message, he lives by it. He strives to make this world a better place and stating the messages has done it.

John Cena’s 16 World Championship victories. (WWE / YouTube

John Cena has been the face for over a decade. Many of today’s wrestling fans saw his rise and his placement to the top of the WWE. From Championships, to albums, to video game covers, to WrestleMania main events, to Royal Rumble surprises, to overcoming injuries, to becoming the face of the WWE, John Cena arrived in the 2000’s. John Cena was building the frame in the 2000’s to cement himself as arguably the greatest of all time in the 2010’s.

No.1: Triple H

(Credit: PJ Photo Studio / Flickr)

It is now time to play the game. Triple H, The Game, The Cerebral Assassin, The King of Kings, whatever you want to call him, he was the greatest wrestler of the 2000’s.  It all started a matter fact on the first day of the new millennium. On the New Year’s episode of Raw, Triple H defeated The Big Show and won the WWF Championship.

A Championship that he would take to the main event of WrestleMania and successfully defend against The Rock, Mick Foley, and The Big Show. Being that Stone Cold was on the sidelines, Triple H took the top spot of the WWF. Triple H would main event nearly every pay per view in the year 2000 and predominantly was surrounded the top story all year long.

Once he was unsuccessful in capturing the WWF Championship, he set his focus on his biggest rival over the past 2 years, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The two would battle from the end of 2000 and into early 2001. The rivalry culminated in a hellacious 3 Stages of Hell match at No Way Out. No matter the outcome, Stone Cold was main eventing that year’s WrestleMania.  However, Triple H needed to make his WrestleMania opportunity. So, he turned his focus to the biggest dog in the yard, The Undertaker.

Triple H and The Undertaker face-to-face on SmackDown on March 8, 2001

The 2 brawled all the way to WrestleMania. Triple H did not pick up the win, but Triple H proved that he still is capable of the main event. The very next night, he aligned himself with his storyline father-in-law, Vince McMahon and in the biggest swerve that no one saw coming. Triple H aligned himself with his archrival, Stone Cold Steve Austin. The two would use their dominance to win the Tag Team Championships. Triple H would also become the Intercontinental Champion.

The Two-Man Power Trip was tearing through the WWF leaving superstars in their path. The two were unstoppable until it was gone in a flash. During a tag team match, Triple H tore his quadricep in his knee. He was sidelined for the next 8 months rehabilitating and recovering from the injury.

Triple H, after months of agony and intense rehab, was ready to return. On the Raw before the Royal Rumble from a sold out Madison Square Garden, Triple H made his triumphant return with one of the loudest roars in wrestling history. Triple H made his way back and made sure to everyone that he was taking back his spot. Triple H would go on to win the Royal Rumble and would go on to main event WrestleMania 18 and win the WWF Undisputed Championship from Chris Jericho.

The WrestleMania that saw the Undisputed Championship change hands from Chris Jericho to Triple H. (WWE / YouTube)

Triple H’s return to the top did not last long as Hulk Hogan won the Championship at the next pay per view in a dream match. However, after losing the Championship, he did not have a show to call home, Raw or SmackDown. Triple H was not drafted in the first WWF/E Draft.

Triple H made the decision to go to the flagship show, Raw.  However, Raw was without a World Champion because Brock Lesnar took the WWE Championship to SmackDown. Triple H was awarded the World Heavyweight Championship being that he was the last person to hold the Championship. Thus started to what many call “The Reign of Terror.”

Triple H for the next 3 years would have a stranglehold over the World Heavyweight Championship and the main event. Triple H would battle upcoming stars like: Rob Van Dam, Kane, Booker T and others, but none was able to dethrone Triple H.

During his time as Champion, Triple H created an assembly of men that would dominate Raw and would change the entire landscape of the WWE. Himself, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista formed Evolution. These men dominated Raw, even holding every Championship in 2003.  The name said it all, “Evolution.” Ric Flair was the past. Triple H was the present. While Batista and Randy Orton was the future of the business. 

The debut of the “Evolution” stable. (WWFWWEDebuts / YouTube)

However, Evolution at some point had to take over. Randy defected from the group and became successful. Batista did the same and ended  the “Reign of Terror,” defeating Triple H at WrestleMania 21 for the World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H’s reign over Raw was over.

However, that did not stop Triple H’s pursuit for Championships. He would chase down the new face to Raw, John Cena. Triple H would go on to battle Cena in the Main Event of WrestleMania 22. However, his chase was unsuccessful. 

Triple H turned his attention to taking down Vince McMahon. At the time, Vince was feuding with Shawn Michaels and Triple H was the next target. However, Shawn and Triple H reunited the rebellious group, D-Generation X. The two made Vince’s life miserable with their wild antics on a week to week basis.

Triple H was prime to have another classic at WrestleMania until an eerie scene returned. At New Years Revolution in 2006, Triple H blew out his knee. Triple H would miss WrestleMania and the next 7 months.

Triple H made his return at that year’s SummerSlam and soon after that would win the WWE Championship at No Mercy. While he didn’t hold the title for long, a few hours, Triple H was ready to compete for the Championship.

Triple H would take his momentum to 2008 by being in the WWE Championship match against Randy Orton and John Cena at WrestleMania 24. Triple H was unsuccessful that night but would win back the WWE Championship at the next pay per view.

Triple H would take the Championship to SmackDown where he would wrestle some of the future main event stars like Edge and Jeff Hardy. Triple H would return to Raw the next year to renew his rivalry with Randy Orton. The tension was so high that it led to the main event of WrestleMania 25. Triple H was successful but the success was short lived as he lost the Championship to Orton at the next pay per view. Triple H would continue to chase Randy but was unsuccessful. Triple H needed help taking down Randy’s Legacy faction.

Triple H made the call to his friend Shawn Michaels and reformed D-Generation X to takedown Legacy. DX would battle and end Legacy’s dominance on Raw. DX used that momentum to the TLC pay per view where they became the new WWE Tag Team Champions. It was the first and only time the two won the Tag Team Championships together. What a way to end the decade.

DX winning the Tag Team Championships at 2009’s TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs) pay-per-view. (Mj Noor / YouTube)

Triple H started and ended the millenium winning  Championship gold. He won multiple World Championships, Tag Team Championships, the Royal Rumble, main evented WrestleManias, and had numerous historic rivalries and matches all along the way. Feuds with Shawn Michaels, John Cena, The Undertaker, Randy Orton, Batista, Edge, Vince McMahon, Stone Cold, Chris Jericho and many more.

Triple H in his time during his time in the wrestling business would also find his true love along the way. Triple H married (for real this time) Stephanie McMahon in 2003. Along the way, he would become the father of three daughters.

Triple H eats, sleeps and breathes the professional wrestling business. He has dominated the business in the ring. Not many have a stat sheet like Triple H. There is a reason he is The King of Kings, The Cerebral Assassin, The Game. Because he is just that, The Game. During the 2000’s if you wanted to be on top, you had to top him. If you were able to dethrone The King, you damn sure better guard it because he will in a flash take his throne back.

David Jacobus
Contributing Writer

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