The Wrestling Genius: Submission One in the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling
Last week I tasked you my faithful readers to send me your Mount Rushmore of wrestling. You guys and gals did not disappoint. I got a ton of responses, some really good ones, and by really good I mean ones that agreed with me. I got some really way out there submissions, like Jake the Snake Roberts and someone said John Cena. Cena? Really? Really? Come on man, are you serious bro? There got that out of my system, but seriously to the person who said John Cena, I fear for your sanity. I also got some interesting but out there submissions. I really liked and I’m sorry I can’t remember who sent it to me and I can’t find it but someone made a great case for Vince McMahon. While I can’t argue Vince’s credentials and how much he changed wrestling I want to keep this strictly about full time wrestlers. Mount Rushmore has only presidents so my Mount Rushmore of wrestling will only have wrestlers. However if you twisted my arm on it here’s my non-wrestler Mount Rushmore:
Vince McMahon: Wrestling is not the main stream money maker that it is today without this evil genius. He took wrestling (for better or worse) out of the territories and into a national business that covered every corner of America. He made a lot of wrestlers very rich and made wrestling a main stream viable global product.
Jim Ross: The greatest play by play guy to ever exist in wrestling. JR’s extensive knowledge wasn’t what made him unique. It was his knowledge mixed with a home spun personality that made you instantly like him and his ability to say what seemed like the perfect thing in big moments. “As God as my witness he’s been broken in half” was one of those calls you’ll never forget. JR is and probably will always hold the title as the best announcer in wrestling history. He was also crucial in the careers of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mick Foley. Without JR I’m not sure Foley gets to the WWE, and he went on to become a future Hall of Famer and a beloved icon.
Bobby Heenan: it didn’t matter what he was doing, managing or announcing he was the most hated man in wrestling. He had a talent for getting anyone from any walk of life to instantly detest him. He was one of the best talkers the business had or has seen. He could manage anyone, good talkers or stiffs; he brought everything to the table and didn’t take anything off of it. He could have made a lot of boring but super talented wrestlers (looking at you John Morrison) from the last decade into stars. Not to mention in a business where guys will cut you down in interviews left and right I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about Heenan’s work, and that has to count for something.
Paul Heyman: The most controversial man in wrestling history is also one of the smartest minds the business has ever seen. Love him or hate him Paul Heyman changed wrestling forever and shaped countless careers. Without Paul there is no ECW, and without ECW there is no Attitude Era in the WWE. The Attitude Era saved the WWE from WCW and allowed stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock to become humongous stars. I’ve written about Heyman’s impact on wrestling before so I won’t bore you with anymore, but just know this in my opinion no one outside of Vince McMahon shaped the last fifteen years of wrestling as much as Paul Heyman did.
So where should I put this fictional Mount Rushmore of Wrestling? It has to be in the heart of wrestling, the south. I’m putting our Mount Rushmore in the home state of our first submission, in the majestic Mount Mitchell North Carolina. Beautiful scenery accents the tallest mountain in North Carolina and would make the trip to it as fun and aesthetically pleasing as going to Mount Rushmore in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. It isn’t easy to get to and it’s not supposed to be, it’s supposed to be an adventure. Plus we’ll pump some money into the local North Carolina economy as well.
Alright I unveil the first face on the Wrestling Mount Rushmore and he is the only guy who 99% of you picked to be on the mountain. Out of all the submissions I got, no matter how out there the rest of the picks were; only one person didn’t have this guy on their list. He has had one of the longest and most successful careers in wrestling history. Ladies and gentleman, he’s jet flying, he’s a wheelin’ dealin’, limousine ridin’, kiss stealin’, wooo son of a gun. The Nature Boy Ric Flair woooooooooooo.
There has never been a harder worker in wrestling history than Ric
Flair. No one has more world titles and quite frankly very few when come within shouting distance. Whether he was dominating the NWA or traveling territory to territory defending his NWA world heavy weight title; the young Ric Flair was a non-stop wrestling machine. The travel schedule back in the 70’s and 80’s was much more grueling than today’s schedule. There were years where Ric was only home for 8 days, the whole year. The ring was never the same, night to night the ropes were always different and the matt either gave too much or was too stiff. It was a much tougher world than the world we see today. Ric Flair also came back in just six months after breaking his back in a plane crash. A doctor told Ric he’d never be able to wrestle again and all Ric did is wrestle another 30+ years. Nothing was stopping Ric from becoming a wrestling god, not even a broken back.
Ric Flair woooo took his moniker “The Nature Boy” and his look from WWE Hall of Famer Buddy Rogers. From the big, long, flowing blond hair; to the elaborate robes that cost anywhere from 2,000 to 9,000 dollars Ric’s looks was a louder version of Buddy Rogers. Now, I’m not taking anything away from Buddy, but Ric Flair was a much better version of Buddy. Ric was the top heel of the late 70s and all of the 80s. Ric’s status as the best heel in world was solidified when he was made the front man for the greatest stable of all time; The Four Horsemen. Ric Flair led a stable that featured Ole and Arn Anderson two bruisers who were technical masters in the ring. The group also featured Tully Blanchard a physical marvel who could wrestle with the best of them. All of them were good/very good on the mic but they knew to hand the mic to Ric when they had to sell an angle. Ric was the alpha dog in a pack of alpha dogs and that certainly counts in the grand scheme of things. There was no Kobe/Shaq, no LeBron/Wade conundrum. Ric was the unquestioned leader of the group. It takes a rare talent to get guys like that, guys with big talent and big egos, to hand over leadership. Ric was that good at what he did and no one came close in the 80s.
No one had more battles with the top guys in wrestling history than Ric Flair. He wrestled in title matches against: Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, The Von Erichs, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Jay Youngblood, Sting, Macho Man Randy Savage, Terry Funk, Hulk Hogan, HHH, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. No one, absolutely no one has that kind of resume. If you were anybody in wrestling the last 40 years you had to wrestle Ric Flair to prove it. Ultimately there will never be another Ric Flair. His legacy will be that no one did it for as long or as well as Ric. No one was louder; no one was more hated, or more loved. That is why Ric was picked first for the Mount Rushmore of Wrestling. One last thing, in my mind at his peak Shawn Michaels was the best in ring performer of all time. However, his peak wasn’t as long as Ric’s peak. Ric gave us everything he possibly could over the course of five decades, FIVE DECADES…WOOOOOOOOOO.
There it is the first submission into the Mountain, but there is still time to change my mind on the other three submissions. Also like I did in this column I’ll be doing other smaller Mount Rushmore’s of wrestling for other categories. Next week it’ll be stars of the pre-modern era, so think 70’s and earlier. If you want to get a hold me with your submissions you can do so either on twitter @JaredGebhardt or via email at email@example.com. You can also read my entertainment column on filmonair.com.