I know I know. This topic is as subjective as it gets. There really is no right or wrong answer. In fact, feel free to send me what your WWE Mount Rushmore is and why. It’s fun to read what others feel. Let me first begin saying that this list is from the modern wrestling era. 1970’s to 2016. I was born in the 80’s, and there just isn’t a lot of video from before then. Without any of these icons, the wrestling world wouldn’t be what it is today. Let’s kick off this celebration of with number 4.
- STEVE AUSTIN
There has never been any man in the history of wrestling that ignited faster and soared higher than Stone Cold Steve Austin. If you watched WCW in the early 1990’s, you knew who Stunning Steve Austin was. He would be the first to tell you that he was a helluva hand during his time “down south”. This “Hollywood Blond” was as rough and tough as it comes. His work wouldn’t go unnoticed, as he became the WCW United States Champion. Regardless of the how’s and whys of his departure, he marinated his craft in WCW, and not before long became one of their best wrestlers. Without his WCW experience, he wouldn’t be where he is today. That became apparent when his former Dangerous Alliance manager in WCW Paul Heyman guided him into his next direction. ECW.
ECW was essential for Austin. Mr. Heyman helped Austin believe in himself again. Not that Steve Austin didn’t believe in himself already, he probably was frustrated. Here’s a guy that is one the best on the WCW roster, yet they see fit to give him the “strap” and a title run. This isn’t former WCW executive Eric Bischoff’s fault. It was probably a mix of lack of genuine personality, bad booking and less than spectacular mic skills. Paul Heyman not only helped Steve Austin find these skills within himself, but let him practice and harness the craft. The tools were ready, he was ready, and the WWE was ready. The WWE wasn’t ready for his arrival per say, they were ready for a change. After a short stint as the “Ringmaster”, Steve Austin became that change. “Stone Cold Steve Austin” was born, and WWE soared to historic heights. Shattering records, sales, and eventually taking over WCW in the Monday Night Wars. This would not be the case without Steve Austin, “Cuz Stone Cold Said So”.
- RIC FLAIR
WOOOOOOOOOOOO! A phrase you can still hear at every venue, and after every chop. The “Rolex, wearin’, diamond ring wearin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’, limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, son of a gun” The 16 time worlds heavyweight champion, which still holds as the most title reigns in history, was as illuminating as any human “walkin god’s green earth”. Spanning over 5 decades (5 F’N DECADES!), no star shined brighter longer. He is the epitome of what a professional wrestler should embody. His legacy will last forever as the greatest champion of all time (Even if Cena passes it). From Bob Orton to Randy Orton, from Harley Race to The Rock, to Ricky Steamboat to Rey Mysterio, to Bruiser Brody to Brock Lesnar, he’s wrestled them all, he’s beaten them all, and he’s impacted them all. The two time WWE Hall of Famer loves this business and this business has loved him back. Awfully tough to surpass this legend on any list. “To be the man, you gotta beat the man”. Timeless matches and feuds, unforgettable wardrobes, interviews, and moments, Ric flair is indeed THE MAN.
- Shawn Michaels
“The Icon, The Showstopper, The Main Event”. The Heart Break Kid Shawn Michaels isn’t the greatest “in ring performer”. No. Shawn Michaels is the greatest professional wrestler of all time. Don’t misunderstand that. The GREATEST. He was not only ahead of his time in the ring, but he was the bridge between old and new. If you took a poll on the top 20 wrestlers in the industry today, I would guess that 90 percent of them were inspired by HBK. He knows it, and how he remains humble is a testament to his faith. The 1990s were home to the cream of the crop. Every man on this list included. HBK was on the top of that list. With most wrestlers today, it’s hard to think off the top of your head, a top 5 match list. Shawn Michaels matches however; I could name 3 times that. Michaels was so good in the ring, He rarely ever made a mistake in it. He adapted to every wrestler’s styles, speed, and pace.
Yet, he always made them look like a billion bucks. Everyone. I recently re watched his WWE title match with Mankind (Mick Foley) at the 1996 Mind Games IYH PPV. BLOWN AWAY. His attire was always badass (admit it), his theme song “drove the girls wild”, and the band was always ready to tune up for some sweet chin music. His friendships and formation of the “kliq” was the foundation that changed the wrestling world forever. The formation of DX gave birth to HHH and Chyna. While his feud with Bret Hart changed the WWE landscape. After 4 years of being away he came back to the WWE for another “run”. Well, not only did he come back, he did it better than ever. Take a look at the WWE roster in 2002, and for him to come back after being away for 4 years, and do what he did…. Well, its phenomenal (sorry Styles). Did someone say WrestleMania? “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels, stole more shows, more ppvs and more WrestleMania than any wrester, ever. At the time, The Iron Man match in 1996, I felt could never be topped. And then 13 years later he and the Undertaker put on the greatest wrestling match of all time. ALL TIME. Wow. I could sit here and name off HBK matches all day long. I strongly believe he could steal WrestleMania 33 if he wanted to. (HBK vs Daniel Bryan, WM 33, make it happen WWE). If Shawn Michaels is the Greatest Pro Wrestler ever, who could possibly be left to add to Pro Wrestling’s Mount Rushmore?
- HULK HOGAN
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan is the Babe Ruth of wrestling. There’s no debate. Hulkamania was born in the 80’s and has ran wild ever since. The guy could literally blow the roof off the building with just an appearance. I was in attendance for the first ever bout between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. It was 1991, Oakland, California. Ric Flair came out to a thunderous roar. I was truly captivated by how loud the coliseum was (Now known as the Golden State Warriors “Roaracle”). But when Hulk Hogan’s music hit, I couldn’t even feel my body. A true out of body experience had taken place in my life. Sorry JBL, but Hulk Hogan was wrestling’s god. He transcended pro wrestling in the WWE. He reinvented the industry with the NWO as Hollywood Hulk Hogan in WCW. His slam to Andre the Giant is what legends are literally made of. His WrestleMania match with the Ultimate Warrior at Toronto’s Sky Dome in 1990 was larger than life. 12 years later, 2002, at THE SAME Toronto Sky Dome, his WrestleMania match with The Rock gave me that same out of body experience I felt 11 years prior. In fact, I bet no wrestling fan past, present or future, could watch that match (nice and loud) and not experience electricity run up and down their spine. Without Hulk Hogan (and Vince) you would not even be reading this article nor I writing it.
When you’re at the top of the mountain it can become difficult. As all of these 4 have experienced tremendous sacrifices in their lives both personally and professionally. All for us. They loved what they did, and it wrote their history. Many wrestlers come and go, but these 4, are Pro Wrestling’s Mount Rushmore.
It wasn’t difficult to choose these 4. It came down to this simple question. Which 4 pro wrestlers could wrestling not survive without. You could make many cases. The Rock, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, etc. Or my personal favorite Mt Rushmore. Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, RVD. Every list is different and every list is subjective. Again, I’d love to hear about your Pro Wrestling’s Mount Rushmore. Thanks for reading.