Michael vs Rudolph..... I could agree with you on that on any given day, but I have a soft spot for Rudolph. Got to meet the Scorpions a few years back (07)and he kinda went out of his way to hand my wife a pick. :) (Now,the long story) Klaus was going through drumsticks on the cowbell like a chubby kid through cheeseburgers. One of them broke and he tossed 1/2 of it in our direction, Rudolph, playing goalie directed it to me. :) (We had won a meet & greet & front row tix). The second half Klaus picked up and tossed further stage right and some dude got it. (Now the bizarre part) 2 months ago my wife started a new job, coffee room chat leads to the discovery that the guy with the other 1/2 is a co-worker. I called BS and asked for a meeting of the halfs. Be dammed if it didn't fit!! But I'm drifting..... Is Nancy a better guitarist than SRV, Blackmore, Beck or any of the list you mentioned? No of course not, but 2 reasons and one is another story! #1 On a list of my top 5, she gets in cuz she is the only female I can think of that plays balls to the walls, flat out, kick ass guitar. I stopped at 15 in #5 cuz I figured that I was already kinda rambling. Top 5 is SO hard to pick. I would bet your top 5 changes on any given day. Hold King Page at the top! #2.... The year is 73 or 74, I am a little kid living in the lower mainland of British Columbia. I would ride my bike about 3 miles to the pool. After swimming it was about 1/2 mile to the corner store for a $0.15 chocolate bar and a $0.10 pop (remember those prices?) On the way we would go by "The Birdcage Cabaret" and quite often we would sit out around the back with our store goodies and listen to the bands practice. There was one band we would hear that played Zeppelin and had a girl singing. My older brother worked as a booking agent for studio city music and told us the band was Heart. They were still a bar band. Flash ahead to 1986, my girlfriend (now wife) and I moved from Alberta back to the lower mainland and oddly enough we rented a duplex next door to the old Cabaret. (Which had become an autobody shop) She had never been to a big concert so I scored a pair of tix to see Heart in the Pacific Coliseum. This is when their 9th. album "Heart" was charting (Never, Nothing at all, What about love and more). It was a good show and the girls made reference to "We got our start up here in Canada". The next day we are hangin outside and a big black limo slows and pulls over. The window rolls down and Nancy sticks her head out to have a look at the old cabaret turned bodyshop. We wave, she waves and the limo drives off towards the Canada/US border. (My bucket list contains having a coffee with them and sharing this story) And so now you see why I HAD to put her on the list. But really, there are SO many amazing guitar players all with different reasons we love them how can ya pick just 5? Kinda like asking "all time best artist". My oldest brother would say Johnny Cash, and come to think of it, while he wasn't GREAT in my mind he probably deserves some mention as a formidable artist. Where does it stop?!! Here and now... 51 minutes to type this, my fingers are done!
Edit - Wow, did I ever drift away from the question and ramble.!!! Ooops me bad!
It surprises me I've never heard once the name "Steve Morse" in any of these best of conversations.
Morse is currently touring with Deep Purple. You should check out his wiki but this is the part people miss...
Morse is considered one of the hardest working guitarists in the world. He is widely known for his stylistically diverse compositional skills and guitaristically encyclopedic virtuosic abilities, and was voted "Best Overall Guitarist" by Guitar Player magazine for five years in a row, qualifying him for their "Guitar Player Hall of Fame", the only other members being Steve Howe of Yes and Eric Johnson. He is regularly cited by John Petrucci as a major influence. Guitarist Shawn Lane regarded Steve Morse as one of the most talented guitarist of his time,  Morse has proven himself throughout his career as capable of playing highly complex chord structures in classical sequences, as well as being able to play fast, alternate picked arpeggios.
Steve Morse on lead guitar with the group he founded... The Dixie Dregs.
Tonight show... 1993
Peter Frampton, Joe Santriani, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn
My favourite top 5 are:
1. Jimmy Page
2. Jeff Beck
3. Roy Buchanan
5. Kieth Richards
3. David Gilmour
4. Brian May
5. tommy iomi
There are SO many greats, it's hard to pick only 5
Eddie Van Halen
I could go on, LOL........
no george harrison??!! come on man
Note: IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.
Steve Hackett (unfortunately, he didn't get many opportunities to solo in his 4+ years with Genesis, but when he did watch out!)
1. Jimmy Page
2. Eric Clapton
3. Dave Gilmour
4. Carlos Santana
5. Jeff Beck