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10 Great Male Wrestlers Under 5’10 (Past & Present)

TAJDB

Traditionally, the wrestling landscape has been perceived as “The Land Of The Giants”, with the larger-than-life, muscles and frames of mammoth men ruling the roost. This has made it harder for those wrestlers of lower stature. That said, a few stars of today and pioneers of yesteryear have flourished, being very credible and commendable workers even if at a height that may be scoffed at. These are 10 great male wrestlers under 5’10 who despite a smaller frame have managed to grasp acclaim to break the glass ceiling…even if they may have needed a ladder to reach it! 

Current: Bryan Danielson

Looking for a candidate for the performer of WWE’s lockdown era? Daniel Bryan would have to be in that conversation.  

From his battle with Drew Gulak and his AJ Styles Intercontinental title bout to the brilliant Universal title match Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania XXXVII main event, the 5’8 grappler was a highlight of programming during a time when WWE TV could have been much dourer. 

Since jumping to AEW in 2021, Bryan Danielson has had non-stop banger after banger in terms of quality matches.  

(Photo courtesy of Mandatory)

His very first was a 30-minute time limit draw against then-AEW champion Kenny Omega – talk about an introduction!  

He’s since had great matches with top names such as Minoru Suzuki, Eddie Kingston, and “Hangman” Adam Page. Not just that but he has also helped put over new and younger talents on various episodes of Dynamite.  

As of April 2022, Bryan is still tearing it up in The Blackpool Combat Club alongside Jon Moxley and Wheeler Yuta, under the tutelage of William Regal – where he is one of the hottest properties in wrestling as one of the finest technical wrestlers alive. 

Past: Dean Malenko

On the topic of brilliant technical wrestlers, we now move on to tremendous in-ring expert Dean Malenko. 

Bryan himself claimed: “Dean Malenko was my absolute favourite. He was the guy I watched and was like ‘wow.’…He was like 5’7″ and I saw the style he worked, I loved the submission stuff and he was so good at it.” “The Man Of 1,000 Holds”’s height has been described by WWE.com as “billed somewhat generously at 5-foot-10″. 

(Photo courtesy of Wrestlepedia Wiki)

Malenko has many accolades to his name, single-handedly adding prestige to the WWF’s Light Heavyweight title (winning it twice). Furthermore, he was a two ECW World Television title reigns, four WCW Cruiserweight titles, and a United States title reign. 

Perhaps “The Shooter” had his best work with fellow Radicalz member Eddy/Eddie Guerrero across ‘the big three’ (ECW, WCW, WWF). In addition, “The Crippler” Chris Benoit was 5’8. Speaking of “The Crippler”, the shared-nicknamed Ray Stevens was a potential addition to this list.  

A flawless worker through the ropes, leading anyone to a good match, Malenko has utilized his skills behind-the-skills to train the next line of performers. 

Current: Ricochet

Although the subject of some questionable booking in recent years, Ricochet remains one of the WWE’s most impressive athletes, taking away the breath of those watching with seemingly gravity-defying stunts. 

What he may lack in charisma is made up for in a plethora of flips and whirls that would make Jim Cornette a double-coronary. Ricochet’s superhuman agility makes him a very marketable wrestler to children, a strong market for the WWE. 

(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

Not only does he play the valiant role model role well and make fans happy when he wins but his selling makes those he is facing off against look like a million bucks. Those Ricochet has made look strong through his uniquely bombastic selling include Drew McIntyre’s Claymore and AJ Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm. 

Ricochet stands at just 5’9, a height which is not a hindrance as it allows him to fly around the ring and more easily gain empathy and support from adoring fans. The current Intercontinental champion’s unparalleled ‘wow-factor’ (for lack of a better term) makes him one of the most exciting stars of today. 

Past: Ronnie Garvin

In wrestling history, there are probably few more fitting nicknames than “Hands Of Stone” for Ronnie Garvin. 

At 5’8, the one-time NWA World Heavyweight champion was as tough as they come, demanding respect from everyone for his sheer toughness. The blonde bruiser was a prominent face during his most memorable stint: the NWA, specifically Jim Crockett Promotions, in the mid-late ‘80s. 

Garvin formed teams with stepson Jimmy Garvin and Barry Windham, feuding with high-calibre stars from stables such as The Four Horsemen, The Midnight Express, and The Varsity Club. The most famous was against Ric Flair, whom Garvin beat for the NWA title and would face in the headlining match of the NWA’s biggest annual event, Starrcade, in 1987. Even during his short WWF run, he had some great matches, namely against Greg Valentine.  

(Photo courtesy of TheSportster)

A legitimately intense and rough brawler, Garvin was a fine performer, managing to overcome his height with his rough and rugged (pun indented) approach. A reliable worker, Ronnie’s simple ‘tough guy’ moniker was a cool and confident character. Garvin made his height of little relevance as fans looked past his stature. 

Current: Chad Gable

Ever since his days starting out in American Alpha in NXT, Chad Gable has proved his technical acumen, signaling potential still to be fully tapped into. 

A great technician, Gable had a successful NXT tag team with Jason Jordan in NXT, going on to win the NXT and Raw Tag Team titles, having great matches with the likes of The Revival and The Usos. Gable formed subsequent teams with Bobby Roode and Shelton Benjamin. Although both dynamic duos failed to reach the success of American Alpha. 

At just 5’8, Gable’s height was exploited in the role of Shorty G in which he wore ironic basketball costumes. He played this to the best of his ability, getting the crowd’s backing and continuing his strong work rate. 

(Photo courtesy of WrestleTalk)

As of now, Gable has recently turned heel in the WWE for the first time. Alongside monster partner Otis, Gable plays a strong role as a pompous, oblivious educated heel. Coming off like an arrogant sportsman who is clearly very talented but does it in such a smug way. A great worker and a greatly-suited character. 

Past: Taz

Taz’s rise in ECW is unlike anyone else’s. 

Originally The Tazmaniac, Taz went from an indigenous slave of Kevin Sullivan’s to become the main eventing “Human Suplex Machine”. 

A dominant and imposing face, Taz was a badass anti-hero who specialized in brutality, doing so with a combination of martial arts, most notably the Kata ha jime (renamed the Tazmission). Taz’s range of suplexes always looked gnarly and stiff, rag dolling people around the ring with careless abandon, making him a fan favorite. 

(Photo courtesy of The Wrestling Estate)

Although 5’9, Taz was booked strongly, so heavily protected that he often won matches in just a matter of minutes after dumping his unfortunate opponent through some tables. Dressed in orange and black, Taz had big-time feuds with Shane Douglas, Sabu, and Bam Bam Bigelow amongst others.  

One of few triple crown champions, he was the only person to hold all titles on multiple occasions as a two-time ECW champion, three-time World Tag Team champion (only acknowledged as twice), and two-time Television champion. Annoyed at a lack of competition, he created his own FTW title. He now manages his own AEW faction, with current FTW champion Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, and son, Hook. 

Current: Jonathan Gresham

Replying to questions on Twitter about his height, Jonathan Gresham replied, “I was born this way. [smiling face emoji].” 

Although the current Ring Of Honor World champion, the 5’4 star has wrestled all across the world in various promotions within the last few years. This includes in ROH against Jay Lethal at ROH Final Battle 2021, in GCW against Lee Moriarty in October 2020, versus Chris Sabin in Impact in January 2022, Alex Shelley in PWG, and Dalton Castle in AEW, as well as everywhere in between. 

(Photo courtesy of WrestleTalk)

Gresham uses speed and submissions in order to get a win, using his size as an advantage in his wrestling style. Gresham, despite not being in what may count as a major wrestling organization, is regularly ranked favorably in awards such as those by Pro Wrestling Insider, such as ranking in the top 20 of the 2021 PWI 500 and year-on-year ranking third on the best technical wrestler award. 

A wrestler that would have likely failed at any other time, Gresham has overcome unjust prejudice with his in-ring work. Such has allowed him to flourish, as he should. 

Past: Yoshihiro Tajiri

Although still active at 51, it seems fair to say “The Japanese Buzzsaw” career is largely behind him. 

The Japanese native’s best days were in ECW. Here, he most famously had feuds with Super Crazy and Little Guido (Nunzio). A green mist-spitting, stiff-striking, and untrustworthy deviant – Tajiri was presented with legitimacy as a contender for any title, challenging for every ECW title. In both Cyrus The Virus’s (Don Callis’s) Network and The Sinister Minister’s (Father James Mitchell’s) Unholy Alliance, Tajiri was one of the promotion’s top and future stars just when the company folded. 

(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

Notably, Tajiri was also in the WWE. Whilst a comedy gimmick would normally kill legitimacy, Tajiri played it off well. The tarantula maneuver, unfriendly alliance with William Regal, and accidentally misting Jonathan Coachman all played to his more playful side. 

Taking aspects from Japanese wrestlers of the past, Tajiri crafted a strong character that has led to title wins in ECW, WWF/E, AJPW, CZW, and MLW. 

Current: Darby Allin

There are few more exciting prospects in AEW than Darby Allin. 

Perhaps due to some lackluster feuds and team with Sting, you could argue some of the shine has come off the apple but that does little to hinder what Allin can do in the ring. 

Since joining AEW, Allin has wowed audiences with his unbelievable stunts that go above and beyond the call of duty. These extreme stunts include taking a Coffin Drop back-first onto the apron, being powerbombed out of the ring whilst in a bodybag filled with thumbtacks, being thrown down a flight of concrete stairs, wrestling an entire match handcuffed, and every matter of other things. 

(Photo courtesy of Wrestling Inc.)

Allin is one of the very few talents whose win/loss record feels like it is irrelevant as his hardcore spots and dedication to entertainment – risking his body for anything, makes him the person you will likely leave the match thinking about. With his face half-painted, Allin seemingly rejects sanity and continues to enthrall the barbarian side of wrestling fans. 

The young career of Darby has just begun and it will be exciting to see where his professionally deluded mind can go next. As Jim Ross explained: “He’s a good kid and he’s learning early, the more input you can have in your creative, you increase your odds for success.”

Past: Kevin Sullivan

Kevin Sullivan from Massachusetts is not alone a strong wrestling persona and Sullivan knew this – and became “The Prince Of Darkness”. 

During his time in Championship Wrestling from Florida, Sullivan formed his own army. Comprised of occultist, Satanical followers – including wife, Woman – the group dressed in black and carried snakes. At the time, the world was captivated by the likes of Black Sabbath, with this social change aiding the sinister, ominous faction’s creation. Although not in this form full-time, it is the gimmick Sullivan is likely best known for. 

In Jim Crockett Promotions (later WCW) Sullivan formed both The Varsity Club and Sullivan’s Slaughterhouse, in which he was surrounded by talents such as Cactus Jack, Bam Bam Bigelow, Steve Williams, Rick Steiner, and Mike Rotundo. Here, he won the World Tag Team champions twice. 

(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

Even though he had abandoned the face paint, Sullivan retained a mysterious figure in ECW, teaming with The Tazmaniac and winning the ECW tag straps twice. 

A strong worker and even better character – perhaps the most underutilized, as it was never on a large stage – makes Sullivan’s 5’8 height irrelevant. Just don’t mention his later WCW run, that was (Dungeon of) doomed from the start! 

Griffin Says:

To conclude, these guys did not let size stand in the way. Although wrestling continues to favor those of extensive height, the world is further and further recognizing those with better talent rather than those of greater height. Now those who would never have a chance rightfully have an opportunity to be able to display their skills just as much as anyone else.  

Going forward, we can only hope that the bias gap is thinned further to the point of insignificant and talent is honored oversize.  

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