In the United States, there are several areas that are considered wrestling “hotbeds”, where it seems like a significant portion of wrestlers just seem to constantly pour from, many of whom go on to become some of the industry’s biggest stars. For example, Minnesota produced such stars as Curt “Mr Perfect” Hennig, Brock Lesnar, and yes, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair (although he would more famously be associated with the Carolinas thanks to his long WCW career). Florida, meanwhile, offers up Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and current top star Roman Reigns. However, if you’re looking for the state that seems to constantly be providing some of the best wrestlers in history, look no further than the great state of Texas. Here are just a few examples of the incredible wrestling talent that comes straight from the Lone Star state.
10. Mark Henry
The native of Silsbee, Texas rose to prominence as a powerlifter, setting records at state and national levels, becoming a member of the US Olympic Team in the process and attending the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. While he failed to medal at either event, Henry national profile as a record-setting weightlifter drew the eye of WWE, which was in desperate need of new talent in the burgeoning Monday Night War with WCW. Henry was signed to an infamous 10-year ironclad contract without having a shred of wrestling experience, and initially failed to live up to ridiculously high expectations. In fact, it was rumored that Henry’s “Sexual Chocolate” persona and subsequent pairing with Mae Young was an attempt by Vince McMahon to get Henry to quit, so that WWE would no longer be on the hook for his lucrative contract. Henry persevered, however, and over time improved to become one of the company’s better big men. Along the way, Henry participated in strongman competitions, and won the right to call himself “The World’s Strongest Man”. Henry ascended through the ranks to become a perennial World title contender during the Brand Split era, and finally broke through in 2008 by becoming ECW Champion. Three years later, Henry rode a hot heel character to his very first World Heavyweight Title reign, earning rave reviews for his ring work and “Hall of Pain” Character.
9. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Although he was billed from Stone Mountain, Georgia for most of his wrestling career, the legendary Jake “The Snake” actually hailed from Gainesville, Texas. Born the son of a wrestler into a family of wrestlers, Jake made his name in the southern US territories before making a big jump to WWE in the 80s. Once there, Jake used his incredible charisma and high level of intellect to become one of the company’s hottest properties. As the story goes, Roberts was so popular with the fanbase that it actually cost him a feud with Hulk Hogan, as crowds would cheer the dastardly Snake over WWE’s top face. Roberts’ intelligence and knowledge of the business was so great, in fact, that he was given a spot on WWE’s booking committee during his comeback in the mid-90’s. Sadly, substance abuse issues would rear their ugly head time and time again for Roberts, leading to a career spent bouncing from promotion to promotion before ending up a broken man who was no longer welcome in the top wrestling companies. Thankfully, with the help of Diamond Dallas Page’s rehabilitation program, Roberts has managed to turn his life around, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
8. John Bradshaw Layfield
If you didn’t know JBL was from Texas, you clearly didn’t pay attention to his career. Making his WWE debut as the mostly forgettable Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, JBL managed to hang around long enough to become an entrenched WWE veteran, eventually leading to a successful run as one-half of the Acolyte Protection Agency alongside Ron Simmons. When the team finally broke up, Bradshaw turned his real-life knowledge of the stock market and investing into a new take on the “evil rich guy” character, which was instantly a favorite of Vince McMahon. Claiming to now hail from New York City (although he retained a cowboy hat and giant bull horns on his limosine in a nod to his Texas roots), JBL was thrust into the main event, quickly winning the WWE Championship and holding it for nearly an entire year. JBL would hold several other titles in his long career, and once he retired from the ring, he made a successful transition into the broadcast booth, doing color commentary on Smackdown for several years before becoming a member of the Raw announce table, where he remains to this day.
7. Eddie Guerrero
Born in El Paso, Texas, the youngest son of the legendary Gory Guerrero, Eddie Guerrero’s journey through professional wrestling was long and eventful. His early wrestling career consisted of appearances in Mexico (as one half of Los Gringos Locos), Japan (under a mask as Black Tiger), and ECW, which brought him to the attention of the major North American promotions. Eddie signed with WCW in the mid-90’s and became one of the biggest stars of the company’s acclaimed Cruiserweight division. In 2000, frustrated with his direction, Guerrero joined several other WCW wrestlers in jumping ship to WWE, in what is considered the biggest talent acquisition of the Monday Night War. In WWE, Guerrero refined his “Latino Heat” character and, after successfully battling issues with painkiller and alcohol addiction, became one of the company’s biggest stars, eventually winning his first WWE Championship in February of 2004, defeating Brock Lesnar to win the title and becoming the sixth Grand Slam champion in WWE history. At the height of his popularity, Eddie was considered one of the very best wrestlers in the world, and has been named as an inspiration by several future wrestling stars, including CM Punk and Sasha Banks, which made his sudden death from an acute heart attack in November of 2005 all the more tragic. WWE would honor the memory of Eddie Guerrero by inducting him into their Hall of Fame in 2006.
6. The Von Erichs
If you were talking about wrestling in Texas in the 70’s and 80’s, you were talking about World Class Championship Wrestling and its stars, the Von Erich family. Led by patriarch Fritz, who was also the owner of WCCW, the Von Erich family was the biggest stars in the Texas wrestling territory by a large margin, combining dazzling good looks with flashy wrestling skills to rise to the level of rock stars and legends in their home state, and much of the southern United States. Their battles with the Fabulous Freebirds were legendary, and that long-running feud is considered one of the best in wrestling history. Unfortunately, the hardships of professional wrestling slowly destroyed the Von Erich family, with all but one of Fritz’s sons passing away at very young ages, often from issues related to substance abuse, with three of them committing suicide. However, there are still Von Erichs involved in wrestling, as several Von Erich children grew up to become part of the next generation of wrestlers. The story of the Von Erich family is simultaneously one of the biggest success stories, and most tragic tales in the history of professional wrestling. In recognition of their massive effect on the early days of the sport, WWE inducted the entire Von Erich family into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
5. Booker T
Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, Booker T was synonymous with WCW for most of his career. Initially, he was best known for being one-half of the Harlem Heat tag team, alongside his real-life brother Stevie Ray, as the pair won an unprecedented 10 WCW Tag Team Championships over their existence, becoming a cornerstone of WCW in the process. Booker also found success in his singles career, winning multiple WCW United States and TV Titles, and eventually rising through the ranks to become a 5-time WCW World Champion. Booker was also the final WCW Champion when the company folded, and was one of the first former WCW wrestlers to make his way into WWE. While Booker was forced to fight against the stigma of being part of the failed WCW for much of his WWE career, he still found massive success and became a main event talent in his own right, winning the World Heavyweight Championship in 2006, and also becoming a WWE Grand Slam champion, the ninth wrestler to accomplish that feat. Overall, Booker T won 35 championships between WCW and WWE. Following his retirement, Booker has worked as a color commentator and on-screen GM, and currently acts as an analyst during WWE Pay Per Views.
4. Dusty Rhodes
Born the son of a plumber, The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, was one of the biggest stars in the history of professional wrestling. His blue-collar character and absolutely massive charisma made him the idol of thousands of wrestling fans, which he used to become a multiple time World Champion in the 80s, while working first in the southern US territories, and then in WCW. Rhodes would ride his popularity and creativity into positions of power backstage almost everywhere he worked, and is responsible for both some of the best and worst ideas in wrestling, including the infamous War Games gimmick that was incredibly popular in WCW. Rhodes had a short stint as a wrestler in WWE in the late 80’s, and despite being given a humiliating gimmick where he dressed in yellow polka dots, still managed to win over the crowd. Following his in-ring career, Rhodes settled into a mentorship role in wrestling, first working backstage in the fledgling TNA promotion, then returning to WWE, where he became one of the driving forces behind the NXT developmental promotion, before his sudden death in 2015. Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, and in his memory, NXT created the annual Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Classic, a tournament held in his memory every fall.
3. Shawn Michaels
The irrepressible Heartbreak Kid had a career split into two very distinct halves. During his younger days, Shawn Michaels was an incredibly talented wrestler who rose through the ranks of WWE from an opening match tag team to a multiple time WWE Champion, through a combination of great skill in the ring, and amassing political power backstage. While he was considered one of the best wrestlers in the world at the time (if not the best), HBK was not spoken of quite as highly by his contemporaries on a personal level. This combined with some severe substance abuse issues and his participation in the infamous Montreal Screwjob to turn Michaels into a truly unsympathetic figure, and his forced retirement due to a back injury in 1998 was seen as karmic justice by more than a few. However, during his time away from the ring, Michaels turned his life completely around, found religion along the way, and when he was miraculously able to return to wrestling in 2002, he showed that his skills had only gotten better with age. Michaels’ second significant run in WWE featured him putting on a seemingly unending string of incredible matches up and down the card, which mending bridges with many people behind the scenes. His legendary career culminated in some of the best matches in WrestleMania history, capped off by an unforgettable retirement match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVII.
2. The Undertaker
Speaking of The Undertaker, few are as synonymous with WWE as the legendary Phenom. Since his unforgettable debut at Survivor Series in 1990, no wrestler has come close to matching the accomplishments of the Dead Man, who boasts multiple World title reigns, some of the most memorable moments and matches in WWE history, and of course, the incredible undefeated Streak, amassing a ridiculous 21-0 record at WrestleMania before finally falling to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX. It’s hard to imagine WWE without the looming presence of The Undertaker, something which creeps closer to reality each and every year. For over twenty five years, The Undertaker has been a near-constant factor in WWE, having survived through every era of an ever-changing business without missing a beat. The day that he ultimately hangs up the tights will be one of the biggest losses to professional wrestling in the history of the sport.
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Shawn Michaels may be a better wrestler, and The Undertaker may have the longer WWE career, but Steve Austin was, quite frankly, the biggest star in the history of professional wrestling. When “Stone Cold” burst onto the scene, he rode an incredible wave of popularity and a catchphrase that sold millions of t-shirts to become the biggest draw that wrestling had ever seen, turning WWE from a struggling national promotion that had been getting its ass handed to it by WCW on a weekly basis, into a billion-dollar publicly traded international juggernaut. Along the way, Austin won the WWE Title several times, engaged in the hottest feud in WWE history in his war with WWE CEO Vince McMahon, and even changed the main event “style” of WWE from a slower, more deliberate pace into the high-energy brawling action that would come to define The Attitude Era, the biggest boom period in pro wrestling’s very existence. If a severe neck injury hadn’t drastically shortened Austin’s career, there’s no telling how much more he could have contributed to the industry, but as it is, he is by far the very best of a long list of accomplished wrestlers to come out of the state of Texas.