Craig Wilson, Brian Damage & Jamie Lithgow
Premise is simple. There’s a Mount Rushmore dedicated to wrestling, featuring sculptures of heads of the four superstars that have had the biggest impact on wrestling – or sports entertainment. Last week we discussed the first two entrants and today we decide the other two heads to join them.
Craig: So now it is time for numbers 3 and 4 of our wrestling Mount Rushmore. I’m thinking Stone Cold Steve Austin as my number 3. The Attitude Era got me back into wrestling and Austin’s anti-hero character had a massive connection on the WWE fanbase at the time and played a significant part in the WWE winning the Monday Night Wars. His spark may not have burnt for that long as an in-ring performer in the WWE but Wrestlemania 31, and the constant clamour for ‘one more match’, shows that he has retained his relevance in the world of wrestling.
Is he a lock as a part of the wrestling Mount Rushmore or is there someone more deserving?
Brian: While Steve Austin makes sense from the standpoint of a huge star during the highest point in pro wrestling popularity. I think he sold more merchandise than any star before or since him. He certainly was at the right place at the right time. A huge star no doubt…who was really instrumental in blurring the lines of babyface and heel and changed people’s perceptions of who to vote cheer and who to boo. We are talking real game changers in pro wrestling…Austin would most certainly be a candidate. Is he 100% worthy…I don’t know….perhaps. My choice before Austin though…goes to Gorgeous George.
No, I am not talking about Randy Savage’s ex girlfriend…I am referring to the wrestler of the 50’s and 60’s who truly changed the way fans watched pro wrestling. The first real “entertainer” of the squared circle with his bleached blonde hair and sequined robes. A real game changer ffrom the days of strictly catch as catch can style wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Denny Hodge.
Jamie: Tough call. The guy who introduced the showbiz element to pro wrestling, or – probably – the most universally popular wrestler of all time. I’m going to agree with Brian and say Gorgeous George though. Granted, I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen him wrestle, but the fact that he was the first ‘sports entertainer’ is enough for me. Gorgeous George was the blueprint, I just can’t see beyond that.
That’s not to say I don’t want Stone Cold on our fictional mountain though. Problem is, I also think The Undertaker should be featured. The Deadman is the gimmick wrestler, he is also a blueprint in that respect. One that has yet to be bettered in my opinion. This also means that I’m overlooking The Rock and Shawn Michaels, which I don’t want to do…
Craig: It’s hugely difficult. The first two: Hogan and Flair were quite obvious but it’s the other two that is the hard bit. What about Bruno Sammartino?
Brian: I like Bruno a lot….but just playing devil’s advocate for a second…if you add Bruno Sammartino…why not add Lou Thesz or Harley Race? My fourth choice would be Verne Gagne. He, like Vince McMahon Sr, had the courage to break away from the iron grasp of the National Wrestling Alliance at the time and form the AWA. The AWA became at one point one of the strongest promotions outside of the WWWF and the NWA territories. Not only that, but Verne was instrumental in training some of the greatest wrestling legends of all time including Ric Flair, Curt Hennig, Ricky Steamboat, Vader, The Iron Sheik, Ole Anderson and countless others. Oh yeah, he was a 16 time World Heavyweight champion as well.
Craig: if it’s dedicated to those that have had a huge impact on wrestling then isn’t there an argument for Vince McMahon Jr being included?
Brian: I think there certainly is an argument for Vince Jr and his contributions and he has many accolades to back it up. I still say Verne Gagne beats out Vince Jr. simply because of his other achievements inside and outside the ring.
Jamie: Shall we keep it to just wrestlers? My first thought for the first spot was Vince, until we concentrated on the in-ring side of things.
I do take Brian’s point though. I’d have people who made a massive impact upon pro-wrestling before those who achieved great success within it. Lou Thesz and Bruno Sammartino did some great things within pro-wrestling, but how much did the industry change as a result of them? Gorgeous George and Hulk Hogan were game changers but – and this is going to sound really harsh – if not Lou Thesz then it would have been someone else. Somebody always has to be the top guy, but your Hulk Hogans and Verne Gagnes are above and beyond that.
Craig: happy for Verne Gagne to go in. So who is number four, we going with Gorgeous George?
Jamie: I think Gorgeous George should be in there, but I am at odds over Verne Gagne and Stone Cold Steve Austin. To me It would be odd if there were a wrestling Mount Rushmore and Austin was not part of it, but that would mean removing Verne Gagne.
If we’re basing this on their careers as wrestlers, rather than promoters or anything else, then I am going to name Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Gorgeous George and Stone Cold Steve Austin as my picks for a wrestling Mount Rushmore. I’m happy to bow to democracy if out voted though…
Craig: I think there’s a very strong case for all three’s entry however, we can obviously only have two of them. Think Gagne is a stick on and I’m edging more towards Austin rather than Gorgeous George… Over to you Brian, for the casting vote. As it stands: Austin has two votes and Verne and George one each.
Brian: Gorgeous George should be in there definitely…Verne Gagne is my choice simply for his total contributions to the industry as a wrestler, promoter and trainer. I’m not knocking Austin in anyway…but there are only four slots and somebody has to be left off. I’m cool with Austin too…but then that raises the question…Why not Bruno Sammartino? Why not Bobo Brazil? Just my opinion.
Craig: Ha. So, now all three are tied on two votes.
I guess I’ll have to take an editorial decision here…
Therefore, our Mount Rushmore of Wrestling features Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Verne Gagne and Gorgeous George.
What do you think of the four we’ve chosen? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.