The 10 Greatest Irish Wrestlers of all Time
Last updated on May 8th, 2022 at 11:11 am
Widely known for their fierceness and fearlessness, wrestling fans have got to see some amazing Irish-born wrestlers in action.
While we cannot deny the fact that the wrestling market in Ireland is smaller compared to other territories such as the US, Canada, Japan and Mexico, Irish wrestlers continue to make a name for themselves in a highly competitive industry.
Right from the 1930s when the first true ethnic super-draw Danno O’Mahony was dominating competitors in the USA. In the ’60s and ’70s, Pat Barrett continued to hold the torch for Irish wrestlers.
All the way to the ’80s and ’90s when Finlay was a towering figure and down the turn of the millennia into the era of the WWE where names such as Sheamus and Lynch became household names.
It is safe to say the future looks promising with the exploits of Jordan Devlin and Aoife Valkyrie. While coming up with this list, we looked mainly at wrestlers who were born in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
We overlooked wrestlers with Irish descent born outside these two territories such as Vince McMahon. That said, these are the 10 greatest Irish wrestlers of all time.
10. Aoife Valkyrie
The first and youngest on the list of best Irish Wrestlers of all time is Aoife Valkyrie. Born Aoife Cusack in Dublin, Ireland is currently signed with the WWE, where she features for the NXT UK and NXT brands.
Valkyrie began her pro wrestling training at Fight Factory Pro Wrestling under the moniker Valkyrie Cain. She later made her debut for the same promotion. With the Irish based promotion Valkyrie and Debbie Kittel teamed up to win the Pro Wrestling EVE Tag Team Championship under the moniker, The Woke Queens.
In 2018, Valkyrie became the first woman to win the male Irish Junior Heavyweight Championship. Two years later, Valkyrie signed to the WWE in January 2020. She competed in her first match under the NXT UK brand and won.
Ever since making her WWE, Valkyrie has become a regular with the NXT US and UK brands.
Under the NXT brand, Valkyrie went on a winning streak until Meiko Satomura defeated her. As one for the future with a lot of promise to make it to the top, she enters this list as number 10.
9. Killian Dain
One of the fastest rising wrestling stars, Killian Dain, was born as Damian Mackle in Belfast. Dain began his professional career at 20 for the Scottish Wrestling Alliance under the ring name Damien O’Connor.
He won the SWA Tag Team Championship 6 times, 4 times with Scott Fenwick. Dain also won the SWA Laird of the Ring Championship once and won the Heavyweight Championships in Scottish Wrestling Entertainment (SWE), Worldwide Wrestling League (W3L), and Xtreme Wrestling Alliance (XWA).
In 2013, Dain moved to Insane Championship Wrestling. A few years down the line, Dain ultimately won the Heavyweight Championship in February 2016. in June the same year, Dain signed to the WWE 2016 and was drafted to the NXT brand.
Dain would compete for the NXT Championship unsuccessfully.
After being promoted to the main roaster, Dain would partake at the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship tournament with Alexander Wolfe as part of SAnitY. The New Day would eliminate them in the first round.
Killian Dain is a firm believer in the power of wrestling to unite people in Belfast. He is a shining light for wrestlers from Northern Ireland.
8. Jordan Devlin
Born in Bray County Wicklow, Jordan Devlin began his pro-wrestling training at 12 years under the tutelage of Finn Balor and Paul Tracy. At 21, Devlin moved to Japan where he spent 6 months.
For a bigger part of his pro-wrestling career, Devlin remained in the indie scenes. In the independent circuits, Devlin became the first Over the Top Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion and the ICW World Heavyweight Champion.
Other titles that Devlin managed to win include the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Championship and the TNT World Championship one time each.
In 2016, Devlin signed to the WWE and became one of the prominent names in the NXT.
Under the NXT brand, Devlin would win the Cruiserweight Championship, defeating three other competitors in a fatal four-way match.
Devlin would ultimately lose the title to Santos Escobar after 438 days as Champion. Devlin has huge potential and is touted as one of the greatest Irish wrestlers of all time.
7. Pat Barrett
One of the earliest Irish wrestlers, Pat Barrett is a wrestler who needs no introduction. Barrett began his pro wrestling career in the 1960s, in his home country of Ireland. Ultimately in 1963, Barrett signed with the National Wrestling Alliance, a United States based wrestling promotion.
Together with Leo Jonathan, he toured various countries including Canada. It did not take them long before they won the NWA Tag Team Championship after an impressive defeat over Abdullah the Butcher and Armand Hussain.
Barrett ultimately toured Australia, where he won the NWA Austria-Asian Tag Team Championship with Tony Kontellis.
In 1975, Barrett joined the WWWF and in June, Dominic De Nucci selected him to replace his Tag Team Championship partner, Victor Rivera, who had just left the WWWF. Ultimately, Barrett returned to the NWA and won the Mid-America Tag Team Championship, with Norvell Austin, twice defeating Jerry Brown and Buddy Roberts.
After a brief stint with the WWE, Barrett joined the NWA Hollywood Wrestling and won the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship. By the end of his wrestling career, Barrett had won various titles including the Pacific Area Heavyweight Championship, Irish Heavyweight Championship and the New Zealand Tag Team Championship.
In 1985, Barrett called it quits to become a pro-wrestling trainer.
Widely known for his stint with the WWE, Finlay is a third-generation wrestler WHO began his pro wrestling under his father’s promotion. Born David Finlay Jr. in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, Finlay comes from a family that is dominantly wrestling inclined.
Finlay made his professional wrestling career by filling for a wrestler who never showed up. For the next four years, Finlay wrestled in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland territories.
In 1978, Finlay ultimately relocated to England where he wrestled for various promotions under the Joint Promotions banner.
Four years down the line, Finaly defeated Alan Kilby to win his first ever title the Joint Promotions British Heavy Middleweight Championship.
Finlay would go ahead and win three more titles, the British Light Heavyweight Championship, the World Mid-Heavyweight Championship and the British Heavy Middleweight Championship.
In 1990, Finlay became the All Star’s British Heavyweight Championship before deciding to wrestle in other countries such as Germany and Japan.
Finlay ultimately debuted to the WCW in 1996 and won the World Television Championship in May 1998, defeating Booker T and Chris Benoit. Finlay joined the WWE when it purchased WCW and trained several superstars such as John Cena and Randy Orton, Trish Stratus, Sasha Banks among others.
He competed for many years in the WWE, winning the WWE United States Championship, before retiring and joining the backstage team as a producer.
5. Danno O’Mahony
Although he had a rather brief career, Danno O’Mahony enjoyed an astronomical rise to fame. He began his career as a wrestler and a boxer in the Irish army, where he was discovered by the promoter Paul Bowser.
He was known as Danno O’Mahoney in the ring and soon became the National Wrestling Association’s World Heavyweight Champion. During his career, the Irish Whip was his signature move.
Danno won 49 consecutive matches in a build-up to his brawl with Jim Londos. He defeated Londos to become the New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Championship.
Danno won the American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Ed George, and defended his title two months after making him the winner of the three major titles back then.
He was the first Irish wrestling world champion. Danno was involved in a road accident and died from injuries suffered on the 3rd of November, 1950.
4. Velvet McIntyre
Velvet McIntyre is one name that comes to mind when you are describing the diva superstar era of WWE history. McIntyre began her career in 1980 and signed into the WWF (World Wrestling Federation, now WWE) in 1982.
In 1983, McIntyre would return to stampede Wrestling, where she won the NWA Women’s World Tag Team Championship with Princess Victoria. McIntyre would ultimately return to the WWE, where she won the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship twice, once with Princess Victoria and another with Desiree Petersen.
Four years after making her WWF debut, McIntyre would win the highly coveted WWF Championship. However, she would ultimately drop the title 6 days later.
After her long stint with the WWE, Mcintyre would sign with the Canadaian Wrestling Alliance. She won the Canadian Wrestling Alliance’s Women’s Championship, the Extreme Canadian Championship, and the WWWA Women’s Championship.
For being one of the foremost female wrestling superstars, Velvet has earned a spot on our list of the greatest Irish wrestlers of all time.
3. Becky Lynch
One of the greatest female wrestlers of all time, Becky Lynch (Born Rebecca Quinn) is undeniably the greatest female Irish wrestler of all time. Her professional career began in 2002 in Ireland under the ring name Rebecca Knox. She competed in the Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling and won to become the premier SuperGirls Champion.
In 2013 Lynch signed with the WWE and was assigned to its development program, NXT. A four-time WWE women champion, Lynch made history by not only becoming the inaugural SmackDown women’s champion. She also made history by becoming the first wrestler to hold both the Raw and SmackDown women’s championships.
A dominant figure, The Man also holds the record for the longest reign as Raw women’s champion for 398 days. Although her reign would have continued, Lynch had to relinquish it after going on a break because of pregnancy.
Upon coming back from her break, Lynch continued with her sheer dominance by defeating the SmackDown women’s championship holder in under one minute.
Becky Lynch has a degree in acting and has featured in a few movies and tv shows.
2. Finn Balor
Born Fergal Devitt, Finn Balor is arguably one of the greatest Irish wrestlers of all time. Devitt made his wrestling debut back in 2001.
It did not take long for Devitt to win the NWA British Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship.
Along with Paul Tracey, Devitt started the NWA Ireland where renowned wrestlers such as Becky Lynch trained. Devitt would ultimately move to Japan to further his career.
In Japan, Devitt teamed up with Minoru (Black Prince) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
During his rather long stint in Japan, Balor won the title an additional five times. Once with Minoru and four other times with Ryusuke Taguchi. Balor went ahead to also win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on three separate times.
Other titles that Balor held include NWA World Historic Middleweight Championship, the ICW Zero-G Championship, and the RPW British Cruiserweight Championship once and the Best of the Super Juniors tournament two times. In 2014, Balor signed with the WWE, where he was assigned to its development program NXT.
With the WWE, Devitt adopted the moniker Finn Balor. With the WWE, Balor would become one of the fastest rising stars. By winning both the NXT Championship and the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Balor became one of the biggest draws.
This win made him the second ever Irish world champion in the WWE. Balor is also one of the highest paid WWE wrestlers.
A four time WWE world champion and the first ever Irish world champion, Sheamus is the greatest Irish wrestler of all time. Sheamus started his wrestling career in 2002 as Sheamus O’Shaunessy in the Irish wrestling circuits.
After spending some considerable amount of time in the Irish circuit Sheamus signed with WWE in 2007.
In 2009, Sheamus defeated John Cena in a TLC match to become the first Irish WWE World Champion.
He later won the WWE Championship for the second time on June 20, 2010. By winning the titles, Sheamus became the 100th WWE Champion in history. He would later win the title for the third time.
Sheamus would also win his first-ever United States Championship after defeating Daniel Bryan in an epic bout.
A few months later, Sheamus teamed up with Cesaro to defeat The New Day to become Raw Tag Team Champions. The duo became quite dominant and won the tag team titles an additional three times. By winning the title on four separate occasions, Sheamus set the record for the highest number of reigns.
A force to reckon with, Sheamus is notable for his brutal moves, the Brogue Kick and the 10 Beats of the Bodhran. Like many pro-wrestlers, Sheamus has also made appearances in numerous movies and TV shows.