The Universe of WWE has encompassed several decades and there have been many changes along the way. Although the sport has evolved through the years, the basics have remained the same. The stars have risen and fallen and some remained for several decades, reigning with hard won titles, until they were unseated by the talented newcomers, or retired from the sport altogether. It's a big entertainment business and there are disagreements who are the "best" among the top contenders. Of course, identifying the best, depends on who you're talking to and fans seemed to always have conflicting opinions, for which they had brilliant answers.
Each of the WWE wrestlers who made our collection made some type of significant contribution to the world of wrestling and a fan base out there somewhere who will back this accounting up. Others may disagree with the ranking, but that is the nature of fandoms. To honor those who have more recently arrived on the scene, we've put together a list of the top 20 WWE stars of the 2000s. Just an FYI, John Cena will not be on this list since he's really post 2010 with regard to super fame. Plus Triple H is debatable so we left him off to be safe:
John "Bradshaw" Layfield
Arguably, among the top 20 WWE stars of the 2000s is John "Bradshaw" Layfield. The Intercontinental Champion also took the World Tag Team Championship with Faarooq, in addition to 18 other victorious wins to his credit. Layfield switched his gimmick but didn't quite attract the attention that many of his contemporaries had. He's performed well, but still has some ground to make up when it comes to credibility. While not the brightest shining star in the company, he's worth an honorable mention at number 20.
MVP, the two time United States Champion is the nineteenth most popular WWE star of the 2000s. He did a decent job in the WWE Tag Team event with Matt Hardy. Also know as Montel Vontavious Porter, the free agent joined the company in 2006 and is known as the highest paid male in the history of Smackdown. He brought in a moderate draw of fans to the WWE during his tenure and was a top pick of fans in his corner for making it to the main event. He will remain a fan favorite in some circles, but his departure from the WWE left his following feeling a little disturbed over the exodus.
John Morrison earned the distinction of becoming the only male in the WWE to actually compete in the Touch Enough competition, still in the WWE, and the only to emerge as the single winner of the MNM team. He first entered into the company with the ring name Johnny Nitro. He's a three time Tag Team Championship winner with an ECW Champion win under his belt. He's considered to be one of the greatest mid-card wrestlers of the 2000s. With multiple wins to his credit, he's one of the younger wrestlers with the company. He's another rising star in the business that deserves recognition beyond being a fan favorite.
Lita is the Women's Champion times four that took the innocent "girl next door" persona and turned it into a sexy delivery of wrestling frenzy. She was daring and didn't mind doing things her own way. She chose paths in technique that very few were willing to follow. The woman was a damned fine wrestler who looked good both in and out of the ring. Lita had the ability to put on a great show when she was in the ring, and when she was just on the sidelines as well. She made a big and lasting impression on fans in her tenure with the WWE as a Diva.
With three Intercontinental Championships and a few other decent victories, Shelton Benjamin is one of the better rated WWE wrestlers who has made it to the elite status of star. He came on board with the Team Angle and caught the heat immediately. He was an innovative wrestler who wasn't afraid to try something different just to find out if it worked. This was great press for the company because it wasn't long until fans would look forward to watching his matches, just to see what he had up his sleeve next. For a period of time, he dominated in the ring and a finer wrestler, there probably was not. The issue with Shelton Benjamin was that he sucked at building rapport with the fandom. He wasn't a good talker and his charisma level was fairly flatlined. His finer moments were not always spotlighted and there was a lot more attention that could have been paid to him, but it was his invisibility as a wrestler, that ultimately ended his career with the company. He was released because he just didn't have the charisma to produce a draw, so he was wasting his and everyone else's time, but nobody can ever blame this on a skill deficiency. He was one of the best in his own way.
Three time World Tag Team Champion and one vitory in the ECW Championship event wrestler Big Show is high on the list of favorites for the 2000s era in WWE. He went on to win multiple victories during his stint with the WWE. The oversized giant stood more than seven feet tall, weighing more than four hundred pounds. He wasn't a long timer with the company, but he came into the ring with a menacing appearance and dominated for a period of time. Although he lost the majority of his matches, he won enough victories to prove his mettle. The former sumo wrestler and boxer was a professional in each of the sports and although some believe that his talents would have better been used in these venues, he took the WWE by storm if nothing more than for his gigantic presence. He didn't even make it a decade with the company, nor could he boast of being a consistent winner, but when he was on a hot streak, the man was phenomenal.
Booker T was another big name in the millennium with three World Tag Team Championship wins with Rob Van Dam, Test and Goldust, a WCW Championship and a WCW Tag Team Championship with Test on his side. He was right up there with Van Dam in bringing in the WCW invasion and won the distinction of two times Hardcore Champion in 2006. He was King of the Ring during his heyday. Booker T was a fan favorite who gave a tight performance and seemed to be among the more steady wrestlers in the ring. He had a run of consistency and was instrumental in shaping the next gen of wrestlers in the WWE. With a long list of accomplishments, he was a sure thing for making the top twenty list for the 2000s and beyond.
We couldn't leave Chris Benoit of the lists of the top WWE stars of the 2000s. He wasn't known for his wild antics or annoying gimmicks, he didn't even have to do a lot of talking, unlike many of the bigger and brighter wrestling stars. He didn't spill forth with a crazy storyline but he was a solid wrestler who was a one time winner of the World heavyweight Championship, along with a win with partner Kurt Angle in a WWE Tag Team event. Some ten additional wins, not counting the Royal Rumble win in 2004, he's had his share of victories during his time with the WWE. He may not have been a big talker or braggert, but he got into the ring and did his job well. It was a great day for Benoit and all his fans when he took the gold belt. He may not have let everyone in on his personal life, but he didn't need to. He was a wrestler who had the skills to put on a hell of a show and he showed it in multiple beat downs throughout his career. He didn't need a stinking gimmick because he was Chris Benoit.
Eddie had a bright career with the WWE and he worked hard to get where he landed. He won the WWE Championship event once and was a four time WWE Tag team champion with Rey Mysterio, Tajiri and Chavo Guerrero on two occasions. He was a two time European Champion and won the United States Championship once. With two more wins in the Intercontinental Championship event, he entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Guerrero had an uphill battle with alcohol and drugs. This was common knowledge, but nobody was aware of the other health issues that he contended with. His heart was in poor condition. Despite his personal issues, his career was on fire and he performed right on the mark. The Hall of famer was believed to be heading towards the World Heavyweight Championship, but his illustrious career was tragically cut short as his health issues compounded by substance abuse claimed his life all too early.
Rey Mysterio is credited with changing the landscape of the WWE. The controversial figure was an amazing wrestler who was a friend to the late Eddie Guerrero, as colleague and occasional ring mate for tag team events. He's a two time World Heavyweight Champion with multiple WWE Tag Team wins, two Intercontinental event wins, a Royal Rumble win in 2006 and multiple other victories. Rey Mysterio came into the business a a serious underdog and there were many fans who believed him to be little more than an over inflated and overrated wrestler who had an attitude that helped him achieve his posturing in the company. It was after the passing of his friend Guerrero,that Rey shined the brightest. He managed to win World Champion and there were many who though this was a travesty, but the man was an amazing wrestler, and there is no denying this, regardless of how you felt about him. He's high on the list of the best of the best in the 2000s.
Jeff Hardy is a name that carries a lot of weight in the WWE and with fans. He is a two time winner of the World Heavyweight Championship along with several other major wins including World Tag Team victories along with Matt Hardy, and many other forms of recognition both within and outside of the WWE. He didn't make a habit of bragging about his elevated status or accomplishments, but stood hard and fast for the time that he was at his peak with the company. He was a solid wrestler, but left the WWE with some heavy personal issues that tarnished his reputation. His drug use became widely known, and he wasn't the greatest orator when given a microphone, but a fine wrestler indeed, Jeff Hardy was.
Brock Lesnar had a few amazing years in the early 2000s with three WWE Champion victories and King of the Ring in 2003. He joined the elite stars of the WWE as one of only five male wrestlers with the company to earn the title King of the Ring as well as a Royal Rumble victory. His billing said a lot about him as a newcomer, as he was commonly referred to as "The Next Big Thing." That, he definitely was. He was an amazing wrestler with the skill and agility that it took to make it to the top of the dog pile. Lesnar was a clean wrestler who took his role seriously and did his job with finesse. It was after losing his WWE Championship belt to Guerrero that he made a decision to change the direction of his career. He left the WWE to join the National Football League. Although there were numerous rumors of his impending return to the ring, the leap he made was final and he won't be back, regardless of the hopes and wishes of his fans.
Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam achieved star status in the 2000s with an ECW Championship, two wins in the World Tag Team Championship with Booker T and Kane and multiple other wins. Also known as RVD, he came in during the Invasion story era and was a pleasant surprise for fans. The unknown came in as an immediate threat for taking titles from longstanding champs and was quickly elevated to the status of fan favorite from day one. He infused new life into the ECW. He came to be one of the most beloved wrestling stars of the era and in his early days, he experienced a heyday that will not be forgotten.
CM Punk was known for a single gimmick and sticking with it consistently throughout his tenure with the WWE. He won a victory in a ECW Championship match, three World heavyweight Championships ad a World Tag Team Championship win. He was charismatic figure who won quite a few other awards and championships, but he had the ambiance of a really cool drug dealer. This was his gimmick and it worked in attracting a certain fan base that would elevate him into the position as WWE star. He was one of the few pro wrestlers with the company whose gimmick wasn't over worn and the crowd seemed to never grow tired of his persona in the ring. He was well loved and respected during his time in the business which has earned him a spot among the top WWE stars of the 2000s.
Kane with all his charisma of course would be closer to the top position than many of the other impressive WWE stars we've mentioned. The World Heavyweight Champion of today has fought his way through to multiple victories in several different categories. Kane is one of the most highly respected WWE wrestlers of the decade. It's really cool that he and his brother, the Undertaker are in this thing together. Kane has a large following of fans and he's one of the hottest things going in the WWE today. There are few WWE fans that won't give him a round of cheers and applause. He's the right stuff for making an amazing show and leaving fans feeling somewhat satisfied. He's the wrestler that comes out strong in Royal Rumble, but seems to tap out early in the contest. When Kane was unmasked it game him a shove, but he knows what it is to reign as World Champion. Kane is loved for his appearance in the movie "See No Evil." He's taken on a few sketchy storylines in the company, that aren't very flattering, but he's made it to a pinnacle of greatness that can never be taken from him.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took his share of the spoils with 4 WWE championships and two World Tag Team championships. He had a good working chemistry with Chris Jericho and The Undertaker. He was the winner of the 2000 Royal Rumble. He was such a popular wrestler that people were rooting for him over some of the other favorites. The Rock left the ring after the first half of 2002, then returned on and off, semi-retiring in 2004. By far, one of the more popular WWE wrestlers with the skill and stamina, and a face that the ladies couldn't seem to get enough of. Johnson turned to an acting career in Hollywood where his has also achieved the status of superstar. He's phenomenal in whatever he puts his hand to.
Batista took the WWE Champion twice and the World Tag Team Championship on two occasions with John Cena and again with Ric Flair. He also thrilled his fans by winning the World heavyweight Championship on four occasions. In 2005 he was the winner of Royal Rumble and it seemed like the pro wrestler was truly invincible. He made his mark in the WWE and was satisfied with how he left it upon retiring to pursue other interests. Still, he was one of the most popular and talented Wrestlers in the WWE of the 2000s competitors.
Enter Shawn Michaels who was a two time world champion during the early 2000s. He joined the tag team competition with Triple H and also with John Cena. After winning the World Heavyweight Championship it appeared that his career had reached its zenith and it was time for him to tend to his wounds and focus on taking care of those injuries he sustained. Just when the world thought he had hung it all up, he came back for a cage match and placed in the first elimination. He put on a good show, but Michaels wouldn't be the same after this, still, he remains one of the best WWE wrestling stars of the 2000s. Michaels was also prominent in the 90s as well.
Trish Stratus is a phenomenal WWE star who holds the distinction of being the seven times Women's Champion which is a record in the world of WWE. She was also Diva of the Decade. She's the bright and talented female that came in just at the right time to keep the Diva division intact for a little longer. She infused new excitement into the shows and gave them a bit of the revival that was needed from 2000 through 2006. She was a star in the ring and she made fans holler for more, which was the mark of success during the era. Trish Stratus was a real gem and shining star in the world of Women's WWE wrestling.
Edge made the top 20 list of the top WWE stars from the 2000s era with a 12 world tag team championship record. He won the honors on teams with Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Hulk Hogan, but an impressive 7 times with Christian. He also nailed the World Heavyweight Championship five times and secured the title of WWE champion on four occasions. These were just a few of the many that helped to catapult to WWE star wrestler to heights of fame and popularity. It's hard to tell just how high on the list he may have gone if he wouldn't have lost his title because of an injury. Medical problems have been a thorn in the side of the champion who shined the brightest from 2005 through 2010.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker