One of my Facebook friends hit me up after seeing a social media post by one of WWE’s accounts asking people to name their picks for a women’s wrestling Mount Rushmore.
If, for some reason, you are completely unaware of the reference, Mount Rushmore is a national memorial in the United States. In the Black Hills of South Dakota sits Mount Rushmore, with its famous carving of the heads of four U.S. Presidents, each being 60-feet-tall. The original sculptor chose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the country’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively.
However, these days, the term “Mount Rushmore” usually refers to someone’s picks for the four best of something. Four best basketball players of all-time, four best movies, four best love songs, four best fast food burgers, and so on and so forth. Sure, you can use the “birth, growth, development, and preservation” criteria for other Rushmore topics, but far more often than not, it’s just about who/what you think is “best,” and sometimes, even who/what your “favorite” is.
The initial request was to give my picks for what the WWE social media account was asking for, listing who would be on my Mount Rushmore of WWE women. That’s fine and all, but I wanted to have more fun with the topic. After some back-and-forth messaging, it was agreed that I should absolutely bombard you with Mount Rushmore rankings. Current stuff, older stuff, men, women, in-ring work, promo ability, different countries, different promotions… just about everything I could think of and fit in here.
We’ll start things off with some lighthearted lists and work from there. Sound like a plan? Good.
AEW Mount Rushmore (Jon Moxley, Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, MJF): I want to address two things right off the bat. One, I already mentioned that this is a lighthearted start, so I don’t want to hear from WWE dorks bitching and whining about AEW not deserving a Mount Rushmore because the company is only four years old. This is an opinion piece on WrestlingHeadlines.com, not a comprehensive historical guide to add to a Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame. Two, yes, I included MJF here. I don’t think there’s much argument that can be made against the first three names I listed here. Like them or not, it was the star power and leadership of Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho that really helped AEW get off the ground. Kenny Omega, on the other hand, was coming off of having the biggest buzz on the internet because of his work for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and a larger North American audience was getting their chance to see what the hubbub was about. It’s not a coincidence that Jericho, Moxley, and Omega were the first three World Champions in company history, covering the first 805 days of the title’s existence. Beyond that, there are definitely some people you could make arguments for, and to varying degrees, I wouldn’t fight you. The Young Bucks? FTR? Britt Baker? Orange Cassidy? CM Punk? “Hangman” Adam Page? Jade Cargill? Brodie Lee? I would listen to arguments made for all of them, and more, but I wouldn’t change my pick. If you have to pick the best, and most memorable, feuds in AEW history, you’re going to see MJF involved in a good chunk of them. To go through the best, and most memorable, promos in AEW history would probably feature MJF in every single spot. He went from being someone that a portion of fans viewed as “all character, no in-ring work” to someone that is putting out the best matches of his career whenever he steps in the ring now. If you were to ask 100 AEW fans who they think of when they think about the promotion, you’re going to hear MJF come up a lot. He belongs here.
2020’s Mount Rushmore (Roman Reigns, Jon Moxley, The Usos, Kenny Omega): Like the last list, this is all about fun. I’m well aware that we’re not even halfway through the 2020’s yet. This is just about getting a reaction. If you disagree with Roman Reigns being listed here, you might need a full psychiatric evaluation and are a complete and total danger to yourself and society around you. We’ve already talked about how important Moxley and Omega have been to the pro wrestling scene over the last few years. The Usos might be a surprise inclusion here, but they shouldn’t be. At 11:59pm on December 31st, 2019, as the new decade was ready to begin, The Usos were largely viewed as a great tag team, but not quite at the top level. In 2021, WWE released their list of the best tag teams in company history, and The Usos were in seventh place, just behind The Legion Of Doom and just ahead of The New Age Outlaws. One month after the list came out, The Usos defeated Rey and Dominik Mysterio to become the Smackdown Tag Team Champions for the fifth time, and they would go on to hold those titles for a whopping 622 days, easily the longest tag reign in company history. As icing on the cake, they also won the Raw Tag Team Titles during that period, holding those belts for 316 days. Pure domination of the tag wrestling world. That’s why they’re listed here.
2010’s Mount Rushmore (John Cena, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Kazuchika Okada): Cena? Eight WWE Title reigns, one World Heavyweight Title reign, two United States Title reigns, two WWE Tag Team Title reigns (with David Otunga & The Miz), one Money In The Bank victory, and one Royal Rumble victory during the decade. That’s more than enough to land him here. Styles? Two TNA World Title reigns (including entering the decade as the champion), one TNA Global/Television Title reign, one TNA Tag Team Title reign (with Kurt Angle), two IWGP (New Japan Pro Wrestling) Heavyweight Title reigns, two WWE Title reigns, and three United States Title reigns during the decade. He reached the top of the card everywhere. Orton? Four WWE Title reigns, three World Heavyweight Title reigns, one United States Title reign, one Smackdown Tag Team Title reign (with Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper under the Freebird Rule), one Money In The Bank victory, and one Royal Rumble victory during the decade. Lots of dominance there. Okada? Five IWGP Heavyweight Title reigns, two G1 Climax Tournament victories, two New Japan Cup Tournament victories, and helped to change the way people rate matches forever because of “breaking” Dave Meltzer’s star-ratings. While he didn’t have the same type of spotlight as the other names mentioned here, he dominated the New Japan scene and became one of the best in-ring performers in the history of the sport.
2000’s Mount Rushmore (John Cena, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Bryan Danielson): Let’s look at the tale of the tape again. Cena? Five WWE Title reigns, two World Heavyweight Title reigns, three United States Title reigns, two World Tag Team Title reigns (with Shawn Michaels & Batista), and one Royal Rumble victory during the decade. This, of course, is when he had the rocket strapped to his back and became a megastar. Angle? One WCW Title reign, two WWF Title reigns, two WWE Title reigns, one World Heavyweight Title reign, one Intercontinental Title reign, one United States Title reign, one European Title reign, one Hardcore Title reign, one WWE Tag Team Title reign (with Chris Benoit), one IWGP Heavyweight Title reign, four TNA World Title reigns, one TNA X-Division Title reign, and one TNA Tag Team Title reign (as a singles wrestler, but later, with Sting). He was dominant everywhere, and at one point, held TNA’s World Title, X-Division Title, and Tag Team Titles at the same time. Michaels? One World Heavyweight Title reign, one Unified WWE Tag Team Title reign (with Triple H), and one World Tag Team Title reign (with John Cena). It wasn’t a ton of titles, but he went from being retired to returning to the ring, showing that he hadn’t missed a beat, and had six all-time classic WrestleMania matches in the decade. Danielson? One RoH World Title reign, one RoH Pure Title reign, two PWG World Title reigns, one FIP Heavyweight Title reign, one GHC (Pro Wrestling NOAH) Junior Heavyweight Title reign, and one IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title reign. That’s not even counting the titles he won in smaller independent companies during the decade. He landed squarely on the map as someone who could go down as one of the all-time greatest in-ring performers to ever live, and sure enough, that’s what he would become as time went on.
1990’s Mount Rushmore (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Bret “The Hitman” Hart): Austin? Four WWF Title reigns, two Intercontinental Title reigns, three WWF Tag Team Title reigns (with Shawn Michaels, Dude Love & The Undertaker), one Million Dollar Title reign, one King Of The Ring victory, two Royal Rumble victories, two WCW United States Title reigns, two WCW Television Title reigns, one NWA Tag Team Title reign (with Brian Pillman), and one WCW Tag Team Title reign (with Brian Pillman). Let’s be honest, though… his WWF run was so good that he’d probably be listed here even if he didn’t win any titles with the company. Rock? Three WWF Title reigns, two Intercontinental Title reigns, and three WWF Tag Team Title reigns (with Mankind). Like Austin, Rock’s popularity was so strong during the last few years of the decade that he would warrant a spot here without any titles won. Hogan? Four WWF Title reigns, two Royal Rumble victories, and six WCW Title reigns. On top of that, he had what could very well be the greatest heel turn in wrestling history, changing the entire landscape of the sport for years to come. Like Austin and Rock, his insane level of popularity, as a face and as a heel, would probably have him included here with no titles won. Hart? Five WWF Title reigns, two Intercontinental Title reigns, one WWF Tag Team Title reign (with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart), two King Of The Ring victories, one Royal Rumble victory, two WCW Title reigns, four WCW United States Title reigns, and one WCW Tag Team Title reign (with Goldberg). Even though he still made the list, you have to wonder what Bret’s career could’ve been if the Montreal Screwjob didn’t happen, and even after it happened, if WCW had any idea what to do with him.
1980’s Mount Rushmore (Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper): Now we’re reaching the eras where titles didn’t change hands as often, so the sheer number of accolades might not be as high for the wrestlers listed here. Flair? Six NWA World Title reigns and one NWA Mid-Atlantic United States Title reign. He would continue being one of the greatest champions the sport has ever seen, and would also help to carry the industry on his back as Vince McMahon’s global vision for the WWF threatened to put everyone else out of business entirely. Hogan? Two WWF Title reigns and one IWGP Heavyweight Title reign. If there’s one name synonymous with pro wrestling in the 1980’s, it would be Hulk Hogan. The aforementioned global vision for the WWF was able to be carried out largely because of Hogan’s popularity, which transcended the business. Rhodes? Two NWA World Title reigns, three NWA Television Title reigns, one NWA Tag Team Title reign (with Manny Fernandez), two NWA Six-Man Tag Team Title reigns (with The Road Warriors), and one NWA United States Title reign. If I were to include all of the various titles Dusty won throughout the various NWA territories, that might end up taking up multiple paragraphs all by itself. Piper? Two NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title reigns, two NWA Television Title reigns, and two NWA United States Title reigns. Like Dusty, including his various NWA territory title victories would make this column balloon into novel range. Even though Piper didn’t win any title with the WWF during the decade, the company’s rise to become a global phenomenon wouldn’t have been possible without his heel work to counter Hulk Hogan’s face act.
RoH Mount Rushmore (Bryan Danielson, The Briscoe Brothers, Samoa Joe, Nigel McGuinness): I went a little “old school” with my picks here. Adam Cole has won the RoH World Title three times, more than anyone else in company history. Jay Lethal has been RoH World Champion for a combined 707 days, more than anyone else in company history. There are a lot of important names that can be discussed, but without the ones I have listed here, none of the others even matter. Danielson’s World Title reign was legendary, both because of the length and the title defenses he had, but also because he spent the last four months of it wrestling through a separated shoulder that tore two tendons in said shoulder, as well as another torn tendon in his chest. Jay and Mark Briscoe changed tag team wrestling on the independent scene forever, and had as many legendary matches and feuds as any “major” team you can think of. Samoa Joe was the definition of unstoppable during his 645-day World Title reign, which is still the longest in that belt’s history. Nigel McGuinness went from an extremely solid midcard talent to someone who proved he could carry the company on his back as its World Champion during some trying and complicated times.
TNA/Impact Mount Rushmore (Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, Gail Kim): I think it would be very difficult to form any sort of argument against the first three names listed here. Say whatever you want about Jeff Jarrett booking himself the way he did in the early years of the company, but there wouldn’t even be a company without him. Styles would work up and down the card, and be successful every step of the way, accumulating 19 title reigns with the company, becoming their first Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion in doing so. Angle was one of the biggest free agent signings in company history, and it paid off, both for him and for the company. He has the more TNA World Title reigns than anyone else. Gail Kim is the name that probably jumps out at a lot of you, though. If it does, you might be forgetting that TNA was miles ahead of WWE when it comes to any sort of “women’s revolution” and changing the way women are portrayed in wrestling. When Gail women like Awesome Kong were busting their asses to have really good matches, WWE was having a Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjill Match at WrestleMania 24. As the winningest Knockouts Champion in company history, Gail Kim deserves her flowers for what she helped to achieve and accomplish.
ECW Mount Rushmore (Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Raven, Shane Douglas): Tommy Dreamer has always been the heart and soul of ECW, even today, more than 22 years after the original ECW closed its doors. It was never about winning titles for him, although he did win the ECW Title once and is a three-time (with Johnny Gunn, Raven & Masato Tanaka) ECW Tag Team Champion. With Dreamer, it was more about how he was the true representation of what ECW was all about, and his connection with the wild ECW fans. RVD gets the nod because he was able to take the popularity he had in ECW and use it to become one of the most popular wrestlers, period, once he left. He never won the ECW Title (the original version, that is), but he would go on to become the WWE Champion and the TNA World Champion, and it’s all because of his work in ECW. Raven is one of the best wrestling characters ever created, and that led to him being involved in some of the best matches and storylines in ECW history. Shane Douglas might not immediately come to mind when you think about an ECW Mount Rushmore, but he should. He held the company’s top title for more days than anyone else, nearly doubling the amount of days that The Sandman held it for. He also held the ECW Television Title on two occasions. Most importantly, though, it was his NWA World Title victory in 1994 that helped create Extreme Championship Wrestling in the first place. This was when he threw the newly-won NWA World Title belt on the mat, declaring that the ECW (Eastern Championship Wrestling) Heavyweight Title (that he already had) was a real World Title. ECW would then withdraw from the NWA, change from Eastern to Extreme, and the rest is history.
WCW Mount Rushmore (Ric Flair, Sting, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg): You’re not doing it right if you create a WCW Mount Rushmore without Ric Flair or Sting on it. Realistically, the same should be said for Hulk Hogan. When he first signed with WCW, he was the catalyst for a true shift in momentum, helping to create the “Monday Night War” and show that WCW was a legitimate threat to the WWF’s stranglehold on the industry. Then he turned heel and changed the game yet again, helping to make the nWo one of the hottest storylines the business has ever seen. Goldberg… well… this is where things get a bit cloudy. At his peak, there is no denying how popular Goldberg was. He came along at the perfect time, as WCW was looking for someone to become a new face superstar and go up against the nWo. Goldberg did that and more, but his peak didn’t really last long. Like almost everything else in WCW, he started being booked poorly and headed downhill. After a legendary 1998, his 1999 is best known for him nearly killing himself during a backstage segment on Thunder when he sliced an artery in his arm after he punched through a limousine window, causing him to spray and gush blood everywhere. His 2000 is best known for a nonsensical heel turn that lasted a whole two months, and his 2001 was barely anything because WCW was sold in March. It’s still hard for me to ignore that peak, though. I look at it as one of the real “you had to be there” things. If you weren’t watching wrestling in 1998, you really wouldn’t understand just how big Goldberg was. If you want to replace him here with Diamond Dallas Page, Lex Luger, Vader, Kevin Nash, Booker T, Scott Steiner, or even the entire nWo (although your Mount Rushmore would have to be approximately 17 miles wide if you’re going to include all the group’s members), I get it. I just think Goldberg’s popularity was enough to help him get the nod.
WWF/WWE Mount Rushmore (Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker, John Cena): Here’s another instance where the top two names cannot be argued whatsoever. From there, though, things aren’t quite as clear. Do you go with The Undertaker’s longevity, loyalty to the company, and ability to change and tweak his gimmick to adapt with changing times? What about The Rock’s ultra popularity in the time of booming business? Do you go with Bruno Sammartino’s record-breaking dominance at the top of the card? How about John Cena’s death grip on the main event scene, great representation of the company through charity work, and money made while at the top? Do you go with Andre The Giant’s one-of-a-kind “special attraction” ability? What about Triple H’s versatility and title reigns? You get the point. I went with The Undertaker because of that 30-year run that saw him as one of the most important people on the roster, year in and year out. There were stretches where he wasn’t in World Title contention, sure, but he wasn’t relegated to opening matches against the lowest members of the card. He was involved in prime real estate, no matter what he was doing and who he was feuding with, even as his career was winding down. Who else in the entire history of the company can say they did that for 30 years? I also went with John Cena because of the representation that I mentioned earlier. Him winning titles allowed him to travel the world and be an ambassador for the company, either through media appearances, endless charity work, or entering the worlds of music, television, and movies. I’m pretty sure he slept a total of five hours from 2005 to 2019, and he probably hasn’t slept much more than that since.
Manager Mount Rushmore (Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette, “Classy” Freddie Blassie): Another one that is pretty easy at the top. In whatever order you want to place them, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Bobby Heenan, Paul Heyman, and Jim Cornette are the three best managers in pro wrestling history. That fourth spot could be a few different people, but I can’t go against Freddie Blassie. The list of names he has managed at one time or another is ridiculous… Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Jesse Ventura, Peter Maivia, Stan Hansen, Ray Stevens, George “The Animal” Steele, Lou Albano, Dick Murdoch, Kamala, Mr. Fuji, Adrian Adonis, Ivan Koloff, and many, many more. All of those men are either in the WWE Hall Of Fame now or will undoubtedly be inducted at some point in the future. Blassie was even the manager for none other than Muhammad Ali for Ali’s legendary “Boxer vs Wrestler” match against Antonio Inoki in 1976. Just managing all of these men is one thing. Doing it and becoming one of the most hated men in the business is another. That’s what he was able to do, often working with whatever “dastardly foreign heel” was big at the moment and combining to make insane levels of heat. I’ll take that any day.
Announcer/Commentator Mount Rushmore (Jim Ross, Gordon Solie, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Michael Cole): JR and Solie should have zero arguments against their work as play-by-play guys. The same goes for Heenan and his color commentary work. Michael Cole gets a lot of mixed reactions, though. His supporters point at how long he has been at the top of WWE’s announce team. WrestleMania 39 saw him pass Jerry Lawler for most English-language Mania calls, although he’s still seven years behind Carlos Cabrera’s overall mark on the Spanish-language side of things. Cole’s detractors will point at the lows of his career. The common thinking is that Cole’s best work doesn’t quite match up to the best work of Ross and Solie, but that his worst work is far worse than the worst work of Ross and Solie. There’s a lot of truth in that. Cole’s heel work was obnoxious and annoying far beyond the “heels gonna heel” point. His heel work made Raw impossible to listen to, week in and week out, almost ruining the product entirely. I can’t ignore his consistent work outside of that heel run, though. He’s been on the call for WWE shows since 1997 and is still going strong. Multiple generations of wrestling fans have now gotten some great calls from Cole, and he deserves praise for that.
Mic Work Mount Rushmore (Mick Foley, The Rock, Dusty Rhodes, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper): When it comes to people like Mick Foley and Dusty Rhodes, their promos are best remembered because of their versatility. They could make you feel whatever emotion they wanted. If they wanted you to laugh, they were able to do it. Same goes for making you emotional. Foley gets my nod as the best “talker” in wrestling history because he had the added ability to scare the shit out of you. The Rock was definitely more one-dimensional on the mic, but to say he excelled at that one dimension would be an understatement. Nobody in the history of the business has ever been able to have live crowds eating out of the palm of their hand like The Rock. He can come up with some of the dumbest catchphrases ever and still have fans chanting said catchphrase in a millisecond, leading to that catchphrase trending on social media moments later. Piper built up quite the reputation for himself by cutting the type of prickish heel promos that made people happy to spend their hard-earned money on tickets in an attempt to watch him get his comeuppance. I think Piper’s work as a face is underrated, though. It doesn’t get talked about enough, probably because his heel work was so good, but he was great at building sympathy, especially as he got older. These are the four men, above all else, that I could watch YouTube promo compilations for and enjoy every moment of it.
Women’s Mount Rushmore (Mildred Burke, The Fabulous Moolah, Trish Stratus, Chyna): If it wasn’t for Mildred Burke, it could be argued that there wouldn’t be any women’s wrestling. She made her debut in 1935, and to show you how far back that was, women only won the right to legally vote in the United States 15 years earlier. Having to largely wrestle men in the early stages of her career, she proved herself to be one of the toughest people in the business, but it all boils down to her influence and the legacy she still has to this day. She helped to introduce women’s wrestling to almost every state in America, but also to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Cuba, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Macao, and other countries. Moolah, who was trained by Burke, took the ball from Burke and ran with it, helping to expand the popularity of women’s wrestling. Her dominance over the sport was almost unbelievable. She travelled the world, beating any and everybody who got in her way. Yes, the divisions weren’t exactly loaded like the men’s divisions were, but her reigns speak for themselves. A ten-year NWA Women’s Title reign, a year-and-a-half long NWA Women’s Title reign, a ten-and-a-half year NWA Women’s Title reign, a five-year NWA Women’s Title reign, and that all added to a (officially recognized) 28-year NWA Women’s Title/WWF Women’s Title (the title was sold to the WWF and renamed during that time frame) reign because WWE has never recognized those aforementioned losses actually counting. When Moolah is discussed, you have to mention the behind-the-scenes controversies that she has been involved in, and trust me, I totally understand why people choose to erase her from history. If this were a Nice Person Mount Rushmore, perhaps she would be one of the last choices to be selected, but as it is, I’m still including her because of the good that she did achieve. Trish is someone who defied all the odds to have a Hall Of Fame career. Go back and take a look at pictures and videos of Trish Stratus from the late-1990’s. You’d be lying to yourself if you saw her at the time and thought she could be anything other than “eye candy” in the business. Call that sexist if you want, but I stand by it. She was a model (albeit a fitness model) through and through, looking more like a human Barbie doll than a pro wrestler. She fought and fought, busting her ass to improve and be respected, and it led to seven WWF/WWE Women’s Title reigns. Chyna, like Trish, changed the way people viewed what a women’s wrestler could or should look like. She dealt with the bullying and the harassment, before and after her plastic surgeries to alter her looks, and she went on to become one of the biggest stars, and draws, in the entire business. Using her popularity, she would even pose nude for Playboy on two occasions, with both being among the best-selling issues in Playboy history. For the 26 years (and counting) since Chyna’s WWF debut, she has been able to show girls and women all over the world that they can be successful in the world of wrestling without looking a certain way.
Tag Team Mount Rushmore (The Road Warriors, The Usos, The Dudley Boyz, Rock-N-Roll Express): The term “Road Warrior Pop” is damn near enough for Hawk and Animal to be included here. They were never going to win any beauty contests with their work, but they were special attractions all over the world, main eventing and making millions with a simple, yet effective, formula. Over the last two-plus years, The Usos have taken tag team wrestling to an entirely new level. If WWE wanted to, they could make both Jimmy and Jey main event singles wrestlers, and both men are cutting some of the best promos in all of wrestling every week. Then they get in the ring as a tag team and deliver art to the masses. After all these years, and all the titles they’ve won, they’ve proven that they belong here. While we’re talking about titles won, The Dudleys are here largely because of the impressive 25 overall Tag Team Title reigns they’ve had together. WWF, WWE, ECW, WCW, NWA, TNA, and IWGP Tag Team Title reigns, through multiple decades, is an insane career to look back on. As for Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, they’ve had a total of 41 Tag Team Title reigns together, but what really stands out about them, other than the fact that they’re still wrestling to this day, is just how over they were in their primes. Fans… specifically women and teen girls… went absolutely, positively banana for these guys, and that was amplified during their matches, when they perfected the “hot tag” with Morton taking a perfect ass whooping until he was finally able to tag his partner in, and Gibson would tear the house down and change a match instantly. You could probably make arguments for a lot of teams in the fourth spot here, but when I watch old R-n-R matches, I really feel like they belong here.
Japan Mount Rushmore (Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba, Jushin Thunder Liger): Without Rikidozan, we might not even be talking about professional wrestling in Japan. That’s how much he meant to the sport in the country. After some success in the world of sumo wrestling, he would make the switch to pro wrestling, starting off with tours in Hawaii and California. Seeing how things were done with American wrestling, he brought a lot of those ideas back to Japan with him, including the idea of airing shows on television and using the “evil foreign heel” trope, this time with evil American heels in the immediate aftermath of World War 2 and how a large portion of Japanese people felt about America. Honestly, I could go on for multiple paragraphs when it comes to how important Rikidozan is to pro wrestling in Japan. He might be the biggest “lock” for any of the Mount Rushmore lists you’re seeing here. Inoki continues the growth of wrestling in Japan wonderfully, going from being trained by Rikidozan himself to becoming the founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling. He had a legendary match with Muhammad Ali that many feel is the predecessor to what would go on to become modern-day Mixed Martial Arts. Later in his career, he would main event the second night of Collision Of Korea, facing Ric Flair in front of 190,000 fans in North Korea. Giant Baba has a similar rise to fame as Inoki. In 1972 (the same year Inoki founded New Japan), Baba founded All Japan Pro Wrestling, along with Yoshihiro Momota and Mitsuo Momota, the sons of Baba’s mentor and trainer… Rikidozan. While Inoki was building legendary popularity in Japan, Baba was doing the same, eventually leading to him booking and promoting AJPW during its boom period of the 1990’s, when names like Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama, as well as gaijin like “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Vader, were becoming household names. Liger wasn’t the man who created the junior heavyweight style of wrestling, but he took it to new levels, becoming one of the most successful, influential, and popular wrestlers in the history of puroresu. He was able to find plenty of success in Mexico and the United States because of what he was able to do in Japan, and his work with WCW opened the eyes of multiple generations of wrestlers who witnessed things in his matches that they simply weren’t able to see before.
Mexico Mount Rushmore (El Santo, Blue Demon, Rey Mysterio Jr, Mil Mascaras): You’ll often hear about Wrestler A being a “national hero” because of his wrestling character. El Santo was a legitimate national hero in Mexico, appearing in dozens and dozens of movies and comic books that portrayed him as a real hero and icon for truth and justice. His popularity helped take the sport to new levels in Mexico. When he passed away in 1984, at the age of 66, his funeral was attended by over 10,000 people, making it one of the largest in Mexican history. Blue Demon will always be connected with El Santo. Not only were they huge in-ring rivals, but they starred in many movies together. They helped to make each other better, as well as bigger, stars. Some might find Mysterio’s inclusion a bit strange, only because he has spent way, way, way more of his in-ring career wrestling for promotions in the United States than he did in Mexico, but I think his career speaks for itself. He helped to take the Lucha Libre style and popularize it in America, eventually becoming one of the greatest cruiserweight (or whatever name you use for the lower weight class in wrestling) wrestlers of all-time before transcending all size and weight and being viewed as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all-time, period. Rey has influenced multiple generations of wrestlers who realized they could succeed in the business even though they weren’t a certain height or didn’t look a certain way. Mascaras has been credited for taking Lucha wrestling and helping to introduce it to other parts of the world, wrestling in countries like Japan and Puerto Rico early on. His work in the WWF was revolutionary, as well, feuding with the likes of “Superstar” Billy Graham over the WWF Championship.
Babyface Mount Rushmore (Hulk Hogan, El Santo, Bruno Sammartino, John Cena): For about a decade, Hogan’s popularity reached levels that surpassed the business itself. He WAS pro wrestling, making appearances outside of the sport that were almost unheard of. He was so beloved that he was able to spend six-something years as one of the most hated heels in the business, only to be welcomed by a 15-minute long standing ovation in Montreal when he turned face again. El Santo, as I already mentioned, was viewed as far more than a professional wrestler, becoming a true icon representing an entire country of people. When it comes to representing an entire group of people, Bruno Sammartino is someone who was a heroic figure to the Italian people in the northeastern United States. He would sell out show after show after show while having two of the most legendary World Title reigns in wrestling history (the first was just over seven-and-a-half years long, and the second was just under three-and-a-half years long). His popularity would help to open the door for people like Hulk Hogan to come in and take the WWF to new levels. Cena’s inclusion here is because of his face work helping to carry him to those record-breaking numbers for charities like Make-A-Wish. He isn’t just someone that people watch and TV, think is cool, and they cheer for. Instead, he has gone on to become a beacon of positivity and resilience for people all over the world. Children fighting through unthinkable suffering look to him for hope. Families rally around his catchphrases and find the will to continue fighting through the toughest moments of their lives. For everything that is said about Cena’s in-ring abilities, this is something that goes far beyond the on-screen pro wrestling product.
Heel Mount Rushmore (“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair): As I said earlier, Piper was one of the all-time best at getting under people’s skin. He was a tremendous asshole that had people of all walks of life, in all corners of the world, hating his guts. Vince McMahon’s heel work was able to go from a work to a shoot, as the years would see people finding more and more about his personal life and the decisions he made behind-the-scenes. There’s plenty to dislike Vince for now, and it isn’t just about his strut to the ring and having Dude Love do his dirty work for him against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. There were a lot of questions about whether or not Hulk Hogan could make his nWo heel turn work, after spending so many years as one of the most beloved figures in wrestling. He answered those questions right away and had fans hating him. Honestly, if the rest of the nWo (in the early days of the group, before they added 900 members) wasn’t so cool, it’s easy to say that Hogan’s heel heat would’ve been even more intense. Flair, perhaps more than anyone that wrestling has ever seen, was able to get people all over the world hating him because he was authentic. All that stuff he said about himself in his promos? All true. He had the money, the limos, the big houses, the jewelry, and he was going to steal your woman if he made eye contact with her. Then he turned around and cheated to win in his matches? People couldn’t wait to see him get his ass kicked. Some tried to do it themselves.
I probably could’ve done a lot more lists, but we’re already running long with this column. Now, it’s your turn. What do you think of my Mount Rushmore lists? If you disagree with some of the selections, who would you choose as the replacements? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
Seth Rollins vs The Miz: I’d have to go through the archives to find an exact date, but this was my favorite Miz match in a long, long time. All it took was for him to crank up the levels of aggression and physicality instead of looking like he’s taking things easy like he usually does. Go figure.
Matt Riddle vs Solo Sikoa: Really good, physical brawl. These days, it doesn’t matter what the result of his matches are, but you can really see that WWE is building Solo Sikoa up for something big. “Defeating Roman Reigns” big? We shall see.
Apollo Crews vs Dijak: This NXT run for Apollo has been so weird. He’s putting on the best in-ring work of his WWE career, no matter who he’s facing, but it hasn’t exactly led to many victories. He hasn’t won a match on NXT television in a little over three months now. If you want to find his last singles victory on NXT television, you have to go back five months. It’s really weird.
El Hijo del Vikingo vs Dralistico: Vikingo is less than a week away from his 26th birthday. Am I crazy for worrying about his long-term health? According to Konnan, Vikingo is already dealing with health issues. Konnan says that he and Rey Mysterio have already reached out to Vikingo to tell him to slow things down because they’re worried about him, too. You can argue that Vikingo slowing things down takes away a lot of what makes him special, but I guess that’s better than the man having to retire at 30 because his body is completely broken down.
Gunther vs Xavier Woods: At this point, I’m almost 100% sure that Gunther could carry me to at least a decent match. Well, other than the fact that one chop from him would have my chest looking like the scene from last week’s episode of 911: Lone Star when Captain Strand attempted CPR on the man who was frozen in a cryogenic chamber. Look it up if you don’t get the reference.
Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & Matt Riddle vs The Judgment Day: The whole thing with The Bloodline and The Judgment Day attempting to help get rid of each other’s enemies is weird, but hey, if it’s going to lead to more entertaining matches and some fresher matchups, I’m for it.
Rey Mysterio vs Solo Sikoa: As I said earlier, and have been saying for a while now, Solo is being built up for something big. He looks like a monster against anyone he faces, no matter their size, position on the card, or history in the business. I dig it.
Komander vs Jay White: This is another one of those matches where both competitors needed a win, but only one of them could walk out with a win. Those are unfortunate booking decisions that don’t need to happen as often as they do. It’s unfortunate.
Wes Lee vs Charlie Dempsey: Lee’s great NXT North American Title reign continues, as he had another really good match, helping to make William Regal’s son look close to a million bucks. Dempsey, to his credit, looks like he has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.
Braun Strowman & Ricochet vs The Viking Raiders: There were a couple of clunky moments, sure, but this was still a lot of fun. If the plan is for Braun and Ricochet to remain a team when the Draft is over, they’re looking like really strong Tag Team Title contenders. Especially since… you know… someone has to defeat Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn before Night Of Champions since they won’t be making the trip to Saudi Arabia. If The Usos don’t do it, perhaps it will be these guys.
Roxanne Perez vs Zoey Stark: I believe Zoey Stark is main roster ready. I’m not quite sure what her ceiling on Raw or Smackdown is, but she’s ready to be there. She has shown her ability to have some really good matches with the women of NXT since she made her debut a little over two years ago.
Rey Mysterio & Santos Escobar vs Finn Balor & Damian Priest: I’ll say it again… I’m really glad we didn’t get the super lazy swerve of Santos Escobar and Legado Del Fantasma turning on Rey Mysterio after pretending to be his allies. We still might get the turn at some point, but so far, they work really well together, and I’ve been enjoying the grouping.
Gallus vs The Dyad vs The Creed Brothers: A good match, sure, but I’m really not sure that this NXT Tag Team Title reign is working for Gallus. There’s nothing wrong with their ring work. I just don’t see that there’s enough of a connection with the NXT fans for things to matter as much as they should. A lot of that is because of that rapid fire influx of NXT: UK talent in America when WWE decided to shut the UK brand down. It seemed like half the UK roster showed up on NXT television over a couple-week span with no real introductions.
Jamie Hayter & Britt Baker vs Ruby Soho & Toni Storm: This Outcast shit isn’t working. At all. Toni Storm deserves so much better than this. Ruby Soho deserves better. Saraya is also on the AEW roster. The group can have good matches, and that’s fine, but there’s just nothing beyond that working out.
Wardlow: Oh, joy, yet another TNT Title change. That makes 19 total reigns (counting one interim reign) in 35 months of the title’s existence. Nine reigns in the last year. That’s ridiculous. Not every title needs a 1000-day reign every single time. I totally get that. I’m just saying it would be nice if we could get some TNT Championship reigns that were worth a damn. Is that asking for too much?
This Week’s Playlist: “Double Fantasy” by The Weeknd & Future… “Like Rain” by Krayzie Bone… “101 Razors” by Lloyd Banks & Method Man… “Damn” by DEVILOOF… “Violence” by Bad/Love… “Vore” by Sleep Token… “Aqua Regia” by Sleep Token… “Granite” by Sleep Token… “The Summoning” by Sleep Token… “Chokehold” by Sleep Token… “Let It Burn” by Playa Poncho… “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses… “Keemy Casanova” by Akeem Ali… “How Can I Ease The Pain” by Lisa Fischer… “Ralph Wiggum” by Bloodhound Gang… “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” by Bowling For Soup… “Right Now” by SR-71… “My Friends Over You” by New Found Glory… “High Five” by Rittz… “For Real” by Rittz… “In My Zone” by Rittz, B.o.B & Mike Posner… “Still Not Over You” by Mike Posner & Eric Holljes… “Losing My Mind” by Mike Posner… “Red Room” by Offset… “Foolish Heart” by Steve Perry