Mount Rushmore is a national memorial in South Dakota featuring the four most iconic U.S. presidents. So, who should be on wrestling’s version of this historic landmark? There are only four spots that make almost any exclusion controversial. Personal preference, athletic skill, unforgettable moments, and overall impact on the industry are reasonable criteria for such a subjective topic.
Captivating, larger-than-life characters often overshadow the sound mat technicians of the squared circle. However, the golden age of our industry speaks to names like Lewis, Hackenschmidt, and Gotch, whose legitimate wrestling prowess ultimately paved the way for the sport’s modern-day incarnation.
We all love wrestling for different reasons. Some prefer the bell to bell action, others favor the soap opera aspect, and then you have those who crave everything this business offers. It’s through these lenses that we determine who the best of the best are.
It is only fitting we divide the subject into two categories—the industry’s Mount Rushmore and my personal Mount Rushmore.
– Wrestling’s Mount Rushmore
Hulk Hogan: This one’s a given. Hulk Hogan is synonymous with professional wrestling. No other wrestler has drawn more money or had more legendary nights. He will always get flak for his lack of mat prowess, but his body of work resonates beyond the confines of our industry.
Stone Cold Steve Austin: Austin 3:16 brought the industry to heights it had never been before. Even those who mocked wrestling’s cheesy prearranged shenanigans were captivated by this beer-drinking kingpin. Austin was the catalyst for the biggest boom period in wrestling history, The Attitude Era. Without it, today’s WWE would be a very different place.
Andre the Giant: Whether you’re talking about The Princess Bride or that fateful night inside the Pontiac Silverdome, André René Roussimoff was an attraction that transcended sports, movies, and pop culture. His influence is still felt today with the popular Obey clothing that has even trickled its way into the ‘Yes Movement.’
Lou Thesz: The former six-time world heavyweight champion bridges the gap between what wrestling was and what wrestling is today. Thesz was the biggest name of his time and arguably considered the greatest of all time. Not only did he have a lasting impact on American wrestling, but his influence in Japan left an indelible impression. If move for move, hold for hold, technical and realistic wrestling tickles your fancy, you need to say Thank you, Mr. Thesz!
– Personal Mount Rushmore
Hulk Hogan: The Hulkster got me into wrestling. As a child, I bled red and yellow, a Hulkamaniac through and through. I cheered like it was New Year’s Eve when he won the title back from Randy Savage, I cried for what seemed like the end of an era when he lost to the Ultimate Warrior, and he is the reason why I became a fan of WCW.
Bret “Hitman” Hart: The Hitman is responsible for my interest transitioning from the “What’cha gonna do” theatrics to the actual wrestling in the ring. Hart’s matches were my Kryptonite towards those who would often make that mundane “Wrestling is fake” comment because he brought legitimacy and style that would make even the harshest critics stumble for words. Bret Hart was also why I decided to go to wrestling school and become a wrestler.
Undertaker: I was always in awe of the giants of the squared circle, and none captivated me more than the dead man. The Undertaker was a dark force for good which spoke volumes to me because most big men were heels. His character represented the be-all-end-all of ass whippings a wrestler would receive if they crossed his path. Plus, the fact that he could go in the ring was a bonus.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger: This may seem like an odd choice, but it was this Power Ranger esque Cruiserweight that broadened my wrestling horizons. The big two were no longer the only games in town. Puroresu spoke to me with its more legitimate-looking version of my favorite pastime. Jushin Liger is still one of the few wrestlers I mark out for as to me, his in-ring ability coupled with his theatrical presence represents everything I love about this business.