The Naturals – Making Wrestling Look Easy

If you’ve watched wrestling for a number of years you can really start to tell the difference between great workers as opposed to your run-of-the-mill wrestlers.

That’s a bit of a stupid statement, I know, but when watching performers ply their trade, whether live or on television, there are some that just look as though they were born to wrestle. Their moves look effortless, their timing is perfect, and the way they can hold a match together makes things seem seamless.

To further illustrate this point, on the flip side, you have wrestlers who seem wooden in the ring. Look at someone like like Lex Luger – there’s more wood about some of his matches than there is on pornhub. He was popular for an eternity and built like a brick shithouse, but Luger’s stilted, clunky wrestling style made him a performer that was best viewed in magazines. Lex certainly knew how to strike a pose, and I remember wondering how incredible he would be in the ring when I first viewed him in Apter mags around 1986/87.

To say I was let down would be an understatement. Lex looked like a million bucks and wrestled like ten cents. He is the exact opposite of what I’d like to highlight in this article.

Throw in someone like Steve McMichael as well – he looked as though he was ready to botch a move more often than execute one properly at times in WCW. I know he’s not well and I wish him all the absolute best, but he was painful to watch. Sid Vicious was another who looked disjointed. All of them seemed top-heavy and all delivered clotheslines like convertible cars – with plenty of headroom.

But back to the top at hand – there are some that just make it look as though they were born to wrestle. Whether it is the simpler moves like hitting an armdrag and making it look as though meant something, or floating over an attempted body slam to roll an opponent up for a pin attempt, these guys were, to quote the late, great Gorilla Moonsoon – “poetry in motion”.



A strange one to start with, the subdued Malenko is a wrestling machine. Everything he did, he did well. Whether it was mixing it up with luchadores or your traditional US-style match, Malenko was able to adapt to any situation and look like a million bucks in the process.

Never overly big, quick or strong, Malenko had the perfect temperament to perform in the ring. In control, relaxed and able to bring out the best in an opponent.

I watched Malenko and his brother, Joe wrestle as part of a rare tour to Australia in around 92/93. The way Dean was able to work the crowd as a heel was unbelievably good. Slight gestures, a look out into the stands as the crowd bellowed for his blood… he was working brilliantly. On a card that featured Chris Benoit v Jushin Liger, my main takeaway was that the Malenko Brothers were fantastic workers.

When given the opportunity to shine in a more prominent setting, Malenko had a great feud with Chris Jericho which aided both guys at the time and culminated with the sedate Malenko being permitted to show a little fire.

As much as I enjoyed Malenko’s expansive work, it will always be his ability to work well with whoever was across the ring from him that I remember. Just a class act inside the ring.



I gave this one away a little above when I wrote about executing an armdrag and making it look like it meant something, didn’t I?

Ricky Steamboat was the first wrestler I saw that looked genuinely athletic. I was a child of the eighties and my first real show was WrestleMania, so seeing Steamboat completely bamboozle Matt Borne by backflipping out of his attempted atomic drops had me hooked.

The Dragon managed to hit the ropes hard, rebound and never miss a step as he went into routine after routine of reversals and counters. His selling of his opponent’s big moves was excellent – I am not sure anyone ever did a better job of that pained grimace than Steamboat.

One just has to look at Steamboat’s body of work to truly appreciate his greatness. The match against Randy Savage at WM3 was his crowning achievement, but multiple classics against Ric Flair, a belter against Terry Funk, a couple of rippers against Ravishing Rick Rude, a great little bout against Steve Austin and even managed to carry Luger’s wooden ass to an exciting contest.

Majestic.. almost graceful, Steamboat was a workhorse and his smooth work in the ring made him an absolute joy to watch.



Was it over-selling? Or was it Mr Perfect making every little thing his opponent did look like it was destroying him?

Curt Hennig lived up to his moniker when he was in the WWF, often making matches hum along with his ability to execute… well, perfectly and then sell for his opponent on the comeback.

To those who followed his entire WWF tenure, it may have seemed as though Hennig spent more time on the sidelines than he did in the ring, but whilst he was able to go, Hennig pulled out a few absolute pearlers against Bret Hart as The Hitman started to make a name for himself as a singles competitor in 1989.

Hart would have to go down as Hennig’s greatest opponent. The two had several high-profile matches that were excellent (Summerslam 91 and King of the Ring 93 leap to mind) and Mr perfect was the one given the honours of sending Ric Flair back to WCW with a pretty handy Loser Leaves Town match on a 1993 episode of Raw.

Hennig’s back injury provides one of the big “what ifs…” in wrestling. What if Hennig had not injured himself? Could a world title run have been on the cards? In his later years, a noticeably heavier Hennig returned in WCW  and though he was much more limited in terms of his entire repertoire, Hennig could still make an opponent look fantastic.



The first time I saw Windham wrestle, he just looked like he did everything well. At 6’ 7” he was about as tall as Hulk Hogan, yet he moves with the grace of a dancer and those punches… wow! When Windham laid one of those big right hands in there, right then, wrestling looked at its most real.

I never quite understood why Windham never got completely over. He had a great look and he definitely wasn’t lazy in the ring – remember those 90-minute draws he was having against Flair when it was deemed their 60-minute matches were just not long enough to determine a winner/

I thought we may have seen Windham finally get a great run and a push to go with it when he showed up in the WWF as ‘The Widowmaker’. Great name, and given the ability of Windham, he could have made it work, but it seemed as though as soon as he arrived, he was gone again.

My first glimpse of Windham was at Wrestlemania, with a second look of significance coming in the following Saturday Night’s Main Event as he, Mike Rotunda/Rotundo and Ricky Steamboat took on the Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff and George Steele. Though the match was a quickie and designed as a vehicle to turn Steele babyface, Windham’s athleticism seemed to be on par with that of Steamboat.

That was impressive.

A Barry Windham with a bit more drive may have been a multiple-time world champion. As it stands, he will be remembered as a great worker who just never put it all together.



I’ve thrown AJ in here as he has been able to work so consistently for so long across so many promotions and styles that nothing fazes him. He has become a more-rounded wrestler the long her has toiled and after making a name for himself in the indies for a while, Styles became the centrepiece of the TNA promotion.

Looked at by some as “too small” (just like Shawn Michaels was too small, huh?), Styles worked tirelessly, graduating from “X-Division” competitor to legitimate main event talent. He also frequented Ring of Honour and even made the jump to Japan to win the IWGP title in 2014.

Of course, all this led to his first crack at the WWE, and what a run it was.

Styles is one of the rare specimens in modern wrestling that basically force the WWE to come knocking. His presence in TNA basically gave the promotion legitimacy, and following his IWGP run, it seemed as though he would head back there. The WWE, however, swooped in to make Styles an offer he could not refuse.

Styles has made good on every opportunity he’s earned. Brilliant in the air, he has been able to create a repertoire that is convincing whether in the air or on the mat, and his continued brilliance in the ring has seen him rewarded by both casual and hardcore fans with love for his work in both the wrestling mainstream and underground.



I was thinking about this today – could Arn Anderson be the best tag team wrestler of all time? That might be a column for another day, but in terms of workers that make everything look as though it was lethal, Arn Anderson was legitimate.

With the kind of physique ideal for playing the “power man” of a team, Arn’s crispness in his moves worked wonders for both him and his opponents. The owner of the best and best-executed spinebuster in the history of the business (prove me wrong), Anderson was an absolute professional in every sense of the word.

Relatively content playing third fiddle in the Four Horseman stable, Anderson looked like everyone’s surly uncle at the Xmas barbecue; quiet and serene, yet ready to explode the second someone says something a little out of line.

Anderson’s best work was done in the tag divisions, with Tully Blanchard his most celebrated partner, but he also did some amazing work with Larry Zybszko as part of The Enforcers team.

Anderson may be remembered as a workmanlike figure. Never too flashy, he did everything he was capable of doing exceptionally well. From great facial expressions to short, sharply-delivered blows to some of the most under-appreciated mic work you’ll ever hear, Arn Anderson was an absolute gem.



Did anyone ever do that bump where you land on your back/shoulders and flip right over to land on your stomach as well as Ted DiBiase?

Curt Hennig aside, there was really nobody in the WWF through the late 1980s that made their opponent look as good as DiBiase. With a character you absolutely loved to hate, his ability to control a match and roll from one sequence to the next was brilliant. The fact that he had a character and gimmick that was so over added to his matches as well. The crowd was always invested when DiBiase wrestled, and if they weren’t, a few choice words would get them interested pretty quickly.

I was lucky enough to procure one of DiBiase’s greatest matches later in life – his 1985 clash against Ric Flair was a belter. Aired on Mid-South television, it lacked the glitz and glamour that I would become accustomed to as a WWF fan, but in terms of genuine emotion, a ripping face turn and blood aplenty, DiBiase was probably at his peak right here.

Character-wise, the WWF saw him take off, but if you want his best in-ring work, you’ll have to dig up some of his stuff against guys like Jim Duggan before he headed to New York.



The biggest ‘natural’ I’ve seen watching the business for years. Kurt Angle had a wrestling pedigree – we all know the stories, right?

Broken neck, Olympic Gold Medal, amazingly funny and yet incredibly serious character and it all combined to create one of the greatest all-round wrestling packages the game has ever seen.

You could see Angle was something special right away – how long did it take him to go from this insistent world class performer to realising that he had to have a lot of strings to his bow to get over in the WWF? Not long, right?

Angle’s ability to both come across as a legitimate bad-ass as well as allow himself to appear vulnerable made for the perfect combination as a wrestler. He could work on the mat, exchange blows, go to the air or exchange a rapid-fire series of moves without looking uncomfortable doing any of them. Of the others I have listed here, they’ve all got a shortcoming.

Not Angle.

Whether it was attempting a moonsault or going the “ground and pound” route, Angle quickly established himself as one of the absolute elite performers not just during the late 90s and early 2000s, but of all time.


So, there are my most natural workers I’ve seen. A few probably unlucky to miss out – Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart probably the most obvious ones, but I’d be interested as to who you thought was the most naturally gifted wrestlers you’ve seen. And whether I may have made an error with my selections as well.


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