Happy New Year Wrestling fans, and welcome back to Pounding 7’s. I hope you are are sobered up from last nights festivities, and are ready to countdown yet another Wrestling Countdown. This week, and actually for the forseeable future, we are going all the way back to 1980, and will be doing the top seven wrestlers from each year, all the way up to 1990 (at least). We will rank the wrestlers from all organizations, NWA, WWF, and AWA. Each week we will go on to the next year to see just who can repeat in the rankings. Let me know your list as well by simply commenting below. I would love to hear from you. So let’s get to it.
Many will remember Greg Valentine from his days in the mid to late 80’s with the WWE as the Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion, and one of the best workers in the business. However, before all that, Valentine was one of the best wrestlers in the business, challenging for the NWA World Championship, and holding the NWA United States Championship on multiple occasions. Valentine was a main challenger and superstar in 1980, taking the US title from Ric Flair in July, holding it until November.
7. Nick Bockwinkel
Nick Bockwinkel entered 1980 the AWA champion, and held the title until July, losing to Verne Gagne. Nick would be awarded the title in 1981, but was unsuccessful in rematches throughout 1980.
Flair won the US title on April 19th from Jimmy Snuka, Lost it to Greg Valentine on July 26th, regaining on November 24th, holding until 1981, defending it from Roddy Piper, Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel, among others.
5. Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes ruled Florida in 1980, but did short runs in other promotions, even getting a WWWF title shot at MSG, teaming with Pat Patterson. He did hold the Florida title for a week in November, as well as the Florida tag titles, but the big achievement was winning the NWA United States Tag Team Championship Tournament with Bugsy McGraw, but Dusty did have long feuds with Harley Race over the NWA heavyweight title, but never captured the gold in 1980.
Defeated Nick Bockwinkel on July and held the title until the end of the year. Verne actually would keep the belt until his retirement, defending against all comers in 1980, and as the face Champion, got to square off with Bobby Heenan and his AWA version of the Family, with Bockwinkel, Ken Patera among others including a masked Sgt Slaughter as Super Destroyer Mark II. Verne entered the year as Tag Team champion, dropping the title via forfeit on a no-show in July, but won the world title 6 days later.
No idea how the owner of a company no-shows a title match, but I guess it’s better than losing his smile.
3. Harley Race
Harley Race was a mainstay in the NWA, holding the NWA world championship pretty much throughout 1980. As many younger fans may remember Race as a manager in WCW, or going back to his days as the King Harley Race in WWE. Few in the younger generation of fans will remember how dominant he was as a wrestler in the early 80’s. Harley Race held the NWA title for the entire year, other than a 5 day streach where Giant Baba held it, I’m sure the Japan tour just happened to coincide with it, and had nothing to do with the loss.
2. Andre the Giant
The eighth wonder of the world. Andre the Giant was one of the most dominant superstars in all of wrestling. During his run in 1980, he was undefeated, holding victories over a heel Hulk Hogan before Hulkamania wasn’t born. Andre was well known not just in the United States, but all over the world.
1. Bob Backlund
Bob Backlund was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and his journey began in the late 70’s, when he won the WWF Championship off of Superstar Billy Graham. His run in 1980 was remarkable as he was the champion all throughout 1980, facing all challengers, and never having his shoulders pinned to the mat. Many younger fans will remember Backlunds return in the early 90’s as Mr. Bob Backlund, but his run in the eighties far surpasses his success in 1994.
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