The Best Wrestler Born In Every State In The USA

Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a column just like this for a different site. I had forgotten all about it until a few days ago when I got a “recommended” video on YouTube of someone doing a list just like it. No, I’m not saying the person ripped me off or anything. I’m merely saying that seeing the video title made me think back to my own list.

I decided to give the YouTube video a watch, just for fun. It was not a decision I am happy about. There were so many weird errors in the video. The entire state of Illinois wasn’t included. Kurt Angle was listed as being from the state, not city, of Pittsburgh. John Cena was listed as being from the state of “Massatusus.” You get the point.

It made me want to go and read my original column. It was not a decision I am happy about. I am somebody that prides myself in the time and effort I put into researching the things I write about. That column was written by someone who didn’t seem to put much effort into their research at all. I made a couple of glaring omissions from different states, and I also had a handful of wrestlers listed in the wrong states because I went against my own criteria of using where a wrestler was born, not where they were billed from in the world of kayfabe.

It was brutal. So… I decided I wanted a do-over. Partially because I’m always looking for content, but also because I wanted a chance to redeem myself and put out a better version of the list.

This column will be taking a look at all 50 United States, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, and choosing who I feel is the best professional wrestler to be born there. Again, that’s the key. For example, Randy Orton has been connected to the state of Missouri for his entire career because he was raised there, and it’s where his father was born and raised. However, Randy was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, which means he would be eligible to be included for Tennessee, but not for Missouri. There are a couple states that I needed to tweak that rule for, based on a complete lack of candidates, but I make mention of it when I do change the rules.

Another rule is that I’m going with strictly wrestlers here. Anyone else, from announcers to managers to promoters, aren’t going to be included, unless they spent a large majority of their career as a wrestler.

Finally, what constitutes the word “best” when it comes to how I’m choosing people? It’s a mix of everything you could look at for someone’s wrestling career. Titles won, longevity, technical skills, legacy, and so on. If Wrestler A is a really great performer, but they didn’t make it to the top, they probably aren’t going to be chosen over Wrestler B, who won several World Titles and is in the Hall Of Fame, even if Wrestler B wasn’t on Wrestler A’s level when it comes to a move-for-move basis. We’re looking at the total package here, no Lex Luger.

Let’s rock.

 

Alabama (“Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, Born in Huntsville): When it comes to Bobby Eaton, the term “wrestler’s wrestler” can be used. He is one of the most underrated in-ring performers of all-time, but he has always been someone that has been cherished and adored by his fellow wrestlers. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin referred to Eaton as a “night off,” meaning that wrestlers who were facing Eaton on any given night knew that they were going to have it easy because he was so good at what he did. He was largely considered a “tag team specialist,” winning tag titles in numerous NWA territories (generally as a member of the Midnight Express with Dennis Condrey, and later, Stan Lane), but he had his fair share of singles success, as well. He won the WCW Television Title once, the NWA Georgia Television Title once, the CWA World Heavyweight Title once, and many more.

Alaska (Kenny Kaos, Born in Anchorage): As you can see, the pickings for Alaska are pretty slim. However, it’s not like Kenny Kaos was an absolute nobody. He may not have been a multiple-time World Champion, but he did have a reign (with Rick Steiner) as a WCW Tag Team Champion for a couple months at the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999. There are a lot of people who wrestled for WCW that never even reached that level, so that’s something that can never be taken away from him.

Arizona (Shawn Michaels, Born in Chandler): Here is the first instance of the “where a wrestler is born, not where a wrestler is famously from” rule making things fun. Obviously, “The Heartbreak Kid” has been known as a famous Texan for his entire career, and for good reason. He spent much of his formative years in San Antonio, Texas and has been billed from San Antonio for damn near his entire time in the business. However, as a member of a military family, he moved around a lot. After being born in Chandler, Arizona, he and his family would move to England two months later, and would bounce around a few more times. Being born in Arizona gave his in-ring retirement at WrestleMania 26 in Glendale, Arizona a nice additional layer to the story. You know, until he came out of retirement for that dogshit match at Crown Jewel 2018 when he teamed with Triple H to face The Undertaker and Kane.

Arkansas (Sid Vicious, Born in West Memphis): Sid seems to get made fun of a lot, and a lot of it is for good reason. His promo flubs are legendary. He left wrestling high and dry to play softball, of all things, on multiple occasions. His desire to fight Brian Pillman with a squeegee. With all that said, you can’t take away from the fact that he had a very successful career. He is a two-time WCW World Champion, a two-time WWF Champion, a two-time WCW United States Champion, and has also won titles in multiple territories through the years. On top of that, the man was OVER. Once his music hit, fans went crazy for him, and when Sid began to adopt the fist bumps for fans in the front row, it got even crazier. He’s someone that should already be in the WWE Hall Of Fame.

California (The Rock, Born in Hayward): There are a lot of places Dwayne Johnson can call “home” for one reason or another. Moving around a lot, he got to spend time in Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Connecticut, North Carolina, and even New Zealand. However, California is the spot that gets to claim his place of birth. In the years since his birth, he has accomplished one or two things during his life, both in and out of the ring. He won a couple of wrestling matches, made a business deal or two, and even spent a little bit of time in front of movie cameras. Real blend-into-the-background stuff. I’m not sure what he’s up to these days, but it’s probably something pretty neat that nobody knows about.

Colorado (“Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Born in Lakewood): Here’s someone who has long been associated with the state of Oklahoma because it’s where he went to college, but he was born and raised ten hours northwest of the University of Oklahoma campus. The career of “Dr. Death” is a very interesting one. He’s a man who was very accomplished as a wrestler, both of the amateur and professional variety. He dominated the tag team scene for All Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1990’s, winning their Tag Team Titles seven times (five with Terry Gordy, one with Gary Albright, and one with Johnny Ace) during the decade, and won them again in February of 2000 (with Vader) for good measure. He even won AJPW’s top singles championship, the Triple Crown Heavyweight Title, once. The man also had championship success for the NWA/WCW, as well as Mid-South and other territories. However, the one thing that most people think about when it comes to his career is that he was the “chosen one” that the infamous Brawl For All tournament was built around. Instead of winning it, he was beaten and humiliated by Bart Gunn in the second round, getting knocked out and also tearing his quad during the fight. Now, if things went the way that Vince McMahon wanted, would Steve Williams have defeated Butterbean at WrestleMania 14? Who knows? What we do “know” is that he was on the verge of, perhaps, the biggest push of his entire career, and it flamed out in spectacular fashion.

Connecticut (Mercedes Martinez, Born in Waterbury): What? Not Shane McMahon? I know, I’m as shocked as you are. Unfortunately for all of you Shane-o main-o’s out there, he was born in Maryland, and that’s a state that has someone just a bit better to represent it. More on that later. A lot of fans might not really know about Mercedes Martinez because they’ve only seen her as a member of WWE’s Retribution stable, a so-so run in NXT, or a stint with AEW/RoH where she won the RoH Women’s Title and then… nothing, as she hasn’t appeared anywhere in over three months. However, she is women’s wrestling royalty in the United States, having incredibly successful runs for Shimmer, Shine, and Women Superstars Uncensored, all considered the biggest and best women’s wrestling promotions this country has to offer. Don’t let the last couple years of weirdness fool you. This is a badass woman who has left a path of destruction all over women’s wrestling for two decades.

Delaware (Jay Briscoe, Born in Laurel): If you prefer to list the Briscoe Brothers here together, I wouldn’t fight you on that. However, in keeping with the theme of picking one wrestler for each state, I went with Jay Briscoe alone. He has a ton of singles success to go with his legendary tag run with his brother, so he gets the nod here. When you’ve won Tag Team Titles nearly 30 times in different promotions all over the world, but also have multiple RoH World Title reigns, you’re going to be a candidate for a lot of states. For one that is as small as Delaware, though, you’re about as sure a thing as there is.

Florida (Roman Reigns, Born in Pensacola): In recent years, Florida has become the biggest state for pro wrestling residents. NXT and the WWE Performance Center are in Orlando. AEW is based in Jacksonville. The state itself is huge for retirees and over-50 communities. It’s also one of eight states that doesn’t have an income tax, which means you keep more of your money when you live there. You can go up and down wrestling rosters in America and find an endless amount of people who currently live in Florida. When it comes to those who were actually born in the state, though, the number of candidates for something like this is nowhere near as high as you might think. You have successful names such as Michael “PS” Hayes, Robert Gibson of the Rock-N-Roll Express, Michelle McCool, Mike Awesome, and Bray Wyatt around the top of the list, but as good and as decorated as those people have been, they simply aren’t Roman Reigns. We’re only a couple weeks away from the ten-year anniversary of Roman’s WWE main roster debut with the rest of The Shield, and he has gone on to have one of the best, and most dominant, decades the sport has seen in a long, long time.

Georgia (Hulk Hogan, Born in Augusta): The man was billed from California for pretty much his entire career, and Florida has been his real-life home for the majority of his life, but Georgia gets the nod here as his birthplace and home for the first year-and-a-half of his life. When it comes to wrestlers born in Georgia, there was a nice, eclectic mix. You have the Armstrong clan, from “Bullet” Bob down to the Road Dogg. There’s the likes of Arn Anderson, Big Boss Man, Buff Bagwell, Ron Simmons, Xavier Woods, Ken Shamrock, Marty Jannetty, and Bron Breakker. That’s fine and all, but they aren’t going to come close to matching Hulk Hogan when it comes to accomplishments, legacy, and influence in the world of wrestling.

Hawaii (Don “The Rock” Muraco, Born in Pupukea): Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat? He was only billed as being from Hawaii, but was not from there, nor is he of Hawaiian heritage. Brian “Crush” Adams? While he enjoyed a pretty lengthy career working for the WWF, WCW, and All Japan Pro Wrestling, among other places, he simply didn’t make enough happen for himself. Mr. Fuji? He was pretty successful during the territory days, especially as a tag team wrestler, but what do most people know him as? A manager. In the end, I had to go with the original “Rock” of the wrestling business. Muraco has been successful everywhere he has been, including being a two-time ECW (Eastern, before the company became Extreme) Champion, a two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, the very first King Of The Ring winner, as well as titles won in Championship Wrestling From Florida, Stampede Wrestling, and multiple NWA territories. He had legendary feuds with Tito Santana, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, and especially “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. He’s a very good choice to represent a state that he has always been proud to be from.

Idaho (Torrie Wilson, Born in Boise): Did you know that the list of tag team partners Torrie Wilson has had during her career includes Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Billy Kidman, Shane Douglas, The Hurricane, Tajiri, Lita, Rikishi, Brian Kendrick, Rob Van Dam, Trish Stratus, Billy Gun, The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Mickie James, and Ric Flair? In case you couldn’t tell, there weren’t a lot of options to go with for the state of Idaho, but Torrie, to her credit, managed to stay employed for years, and was even able to use her time in wrestling to get her the cover of Playboy magazine on two occasions. Works for me.

Illinois (CM Punk, Born in Chicago): If I were to ask you who immediately comes to mind when I say “pro wrestling in Illinois,” your answer would probably be either the Road Warriors/Legion Of Doom or CM Punk, depending on your age, and maybe even Bobby “The Brain” Heenan if you’re of an older age bracket. Well… not only were Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal NOT born in Illinois, their only connection to the city of Chicago was kayfabed. On top of that, Bobby Heenan was far more famous for being a manager and a color commentator than an actual wrestler. That brings us right back to Mr. Congeniality himself. Punk is Chicago through and through, and is the overwhelming choice to represent Illinois here.

Indiana (Terry Funk, Born in Hammond): Yes, you’re reading it correctly. Terry Funk, one of the most famous Texans in wrestling history, was born in Indiana. It is also worth pointing out that Terry’s brother, Dory Jr., was also born in Indiana, and therefore, some controversy is going to go with this pick. Is Terry “better” than Dory Jr.? Or is Dory Jr. “better” than Terry? Dory is one of the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Champions ever, holding the title for over four years from February 1969 to May 1973. Many of your favorite wrestlers include Dory on their own personal all-time favorite lists. Nothing against him at all, but I had to pick his younger brother here. Not only was Terry Funk able to compete in more styles of matches against a much larger variety of opponents, but he was able to easily slide from being the top face in a promotion to being the most hated heel in a promotion. He was also better on the mic, cutting some of the more captivating promos of his time. Sorry, Dory, and sorry, Ultimate Warrior, who was next-in-line for this spot after the Funk brothers, but I think Terry is the easy choice.

Iowa (Frank Gotch, Born in Humboldt): I’m not sure how many people out there are going to feel this way, but I can imagine there will be a few people out there who feel Seth Rollins deserves the nod here. If I’m being honest, I can somewhat understand that line of thinking. Gotch’s professional career lasted about 14 years. Rollins is now 17 years deep in his own career. Gotch won a grand total of six titles in his career, with two of them being in the world of catch wrestling. Rollins has six Tag Team Title reigns in WWE alone, to go with the other 12 titles he’s won since signing with WWE, as well as the other titles he won in Ring Of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Full Impact Pro, and other places. Gotch was never the cover athlete for a pro wrestling video game. Rollins was on the cover of WWE 2K18. Gotch has never competed at WrestleMania. Rollins has wrestled on nine different WrestleMania shows. You get the point. My argument for Gotch being the pick here is simple… his legacy IS pro wrestling. Without the popularity and skills of Frank Gotch (and his biggest rival, George Hackenschmidt), I might not be writing columns about wrestling because there might not be a wrestling as we know it. We’ve seen wrestlers that are popular over the last few decades, and even some who were able to find varying levels of popularity outside of wrestling, too, but Gotch was there before any of them. He helped to take pro wrestling mainstream. When I say mainstream, I mean it. His wrestling appearances were front page stories in newspapers all over the country. Not front page of the sports section. Front page, period. His second match with Hackenschmidt took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, drawing 30,000 fans and a record gate of $87,000. Those were completely unheard of numbers at the time. He also helped to propel the growth and the popularity of amateur wrestling in America. Most of the biggest, best, and most prolific high school and college amateur wrestling programs in the country were birthed in the years where Gotch was one of the most popular athletes alive, and even in the years that followed after he was no longer alive. As much as I love Seth Rollins and his work, that’s a level that he’s never going to see. That’s not his fault, of course, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Kansas (Mildred Burke, Born in Coffeyville): This is a similar entry to the previous one in a lot of ways. Someone like Bobby Lashley could’ve been the choice here, because he has had a pretty successful career in WWE and Impact Wrestling, becoming an eight-time World Champion at this point. He would be a perfectly fine choice here, but when it comes to Mildred Burke, I’ll use a similar line that I used for Frank Gotch… Burke’s legacy IS women’s wrestling. She became a huge star at a time when she didn’t exactly have an entire army of women to compete against, so many of her matches saw her facing men… that she would go on to defeat. Her “star” reached such a level that she was able to either introduce, solidify, or popularize women’s wrestling in America, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Cuba, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Think about how big women’s wrestling is now, all over the map. That is largely on her shoulders. You can like Bobby Lashley all you want… and you should, because he is amazing… but how can he compete with that?

Kentucky (Hillbilly Jim, Born in Scottsville): If this was open to managers, then Miss Elizabeth would definitely be the choice. Rob Conway and Eric Embry were both up for consideration here. They certainly have more longevity and titles won than Hillbilly Jim. Hell, Jim never won a title at all. However, I had to go with Hillbilly Jim because he was quite easily one of the most popular performers in what was quite easily one of the most popular times in wrestling history. Yes, he was a “silly” character, but it was a time full of them, and most of them can’t hold a candle to how over Jim was.

Louisiana (“Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Born in Rayville): The story of Ernie Ladd becoming a pro wrestler is pretty amazing. He was an all-star pro football player for the San Diego Chargers, and one of the biggest (literally and figuratively) stars in the sport. He was challenged to come and attend a wrestling tryout by some wrestlers in San Diego, so he did… and that’s all it took for him to become a part-time wrestler. He would wrestle during the football offseason, before eventually making the jump to wrestling full-time after dealing with knee injuries. It’s just amazing that a publicity stunt that was probably something of a joke to begin with ended up with Ernie Ladd becoming a megastar and a member of numerous wrestling Halls Of Fame. As a pre-wrestling celebrity, and with size measurements of 6’9″ tall and weighing 300+ pounds, he was a “special attraction” everywhere he went, from the WWWF to the NWA, and everywhere in between. He was never out of place, even when facing someone like Andre The Giant or challenging Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Title at Madison Square Garden.

Maine (Scotty 2 Hotty, Born in Westbrook): Not a lot to choose from for one of the least populated states in America. If you wanted to make a case for Fandango in this spot, I’d hear you out, but I’d still stick with Scotty. All of Fandango’s biggest successes in the business came in “developmental” territories for WWE. Meanwhile, Scotty 2 Hotty won three different titles (one Light Heavyweight Title reign, one WWF Tag Team Title reign with Grandmaster Sexay, and one WWE Tag Team Title reign with Rikishi) on the main stage, and was one of the most popular acts during the Attitude Era, which was loaded with some of the most over performers the sport has ever seen. If you can stand out on that roster, you’re doing something right.

Maryland (Scott Hall, Born in St. Mary’s County): Another “military brat” that moved around a lot growing up, “The Bad Guy” lands on this list in Maryland instead of somewhere like Florida, where he lived when he entered the wrestling business and was billed from for a chunk of his career. Here’s a guy who is always in the conversation when it comes to the greatest professional wrestlers that never won a major World Title. He was one of the best Intercontinental Champions in WWF history, where his four reigns with the title combine to give him the sixth-most days as champion, even after all these years. In WCW, he won the Television Title and the United States Title once each, but he was more of a tag team specialist in the nWo days, racking up seven reigns as a Tag Team Champion. In the history of the NWA/WCW Tag Team Titles, only three men (Ole Anderson, Gene Anderson, Rick Steiner) have held the belts for more days than Scott Hall. He even had a reign (with Kevin Nash and Eric Young under “Freebird Rule”) as a TNA Tag Team Champion for good measure. From the Razor Ramon days of the early 90’s and lasting pretty much until the end of his career, he was always one of the most high-profile guys wherever he worked.

Massachusetts (John Cena, Born in West Newbury): This might be the easiest selection of the entire list. Cena was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Massachusetts, represented Massachusetts as he became one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history, and he has lapped any other candidate from the state several times over. Kevin Sullivan is in second-place for the state, but it’s about as distant a second-place as there is. If you’ve read my work, you know my thoughts on where Cena ranks in WWF/WWE history, but his results speak for themselves. As a 16-time World Champion, two-time Royal Rumble winner, one-time Money In The Bank winner, five-time United States Champion, and four-time Tag Team Champion, where else was he going to be in the history of wrestlers from this state?

Michigan (Lou Thesz, Born in Banat): This was a fun one to look at, as there were a lot of deserving candidates. Rick and Scott Steiner, Rob Van Dam, Kevin Nash, The (Original) Sheik, and even Christopher Daniels have put together careers that warranted a look, at the very least. In the end, though, I don’t see how this entry couldn’t be Lou Thesz. We’re talking about, arguably, the greatest World Champion that has ever stepped foot in a wrestling ring. In the long and storied history of the NWA World Heavyweight Title, nobody has been the champion for more days than Thesz at 3,749 days, and he only needed three reigns to achieve that. His series of matches with Rikidōzan were largely credited with making pro wrestling accepted in the Japanese mainstream. He is credited as being the inventor of several different wrestling moves such as the belly-to-back waistlock suplex (later named the German suplex due to it being popularized by Karl Gotch), the powerbomb, the STF (stepover toehold facelock), and of course, the Thesz Press. He is also one of the only people in the history of the business to have successfully wrestled in seven different decades. If you go up and down the list of people who you feel are the best of all-time in this great sport, chances are that many of them are going to name Thesz as their own picks for that crown.

Minnesota (Curt Hennig, Born in Robbinsdale): Ahh, Minnesota. There have been so many great wrestlers connected to the state of Minnesota in one way or another through the years. If you were to round up a bunch of people to make a column like this, Minnesota’s representative might be different time and time again. What about “Ravishing” Rick Rude? He was widely known for being one of the greatest heels in the “Hogan Era” WWF, but he was very accomplished outside of the company, winning the WCW International World Title three times to go along with titles won in World Class Championship Wrestling, Championship Wrestling From Florida, and the Continental Wrestling Association. What about Sean Waltman? He’s a two-time WWE Hall Of Famer because of his contributions to the nWo and Degeneration X, but he is also one of the greatest, and most influential, Light Heavyweight wrestlers of all-time. What about Road Warrior Hawk? He terrorized the business, from territory to territory and from country to country, as a member of the Road Warriors (later Legion Of Doom) and The Hell Raisers in Japan, winning Tag Team Titles everywhere he went. What about the kayfabe Anderson brothers (Lars, Gene, and Ole)? They were all successful in the territory days, with Ole specifically winning nearly 40 Tag Team Titles during his lengthy career. What about Verne Gagne? He saw some success in the early days of his career in the NWA, but his time in the AWA, both as the owner and an in-ring competitor, are what made him famous. What about Bob Backlund? He had a reign as the WWWF/WWF Heavyweight Champion that was recognized as lasting nearly six years before dropping it to The Iron Sheik in 1983, and then shocked the wrestling world by coming out of retirement and returning to the WWF in 1992 and eventually winning the WWF Title again in 1994. All great choices that you probably can’t go wrong with, but in the end, I had to go with Curt Hennig. He may not have won the overall amount of titles that some of the names on this list were able to, but he was still very successful, whether it was the AWA (one-time World Champion and one-time Tag Team Champion with Scott Hall), WWF (two-time Intercontinental Champion), WCW (one-time United States Champion and one-time Tag Team Champion with Barry Windham), and other territories in multiple countries. When it comes to overall skill in the ring, though, I would rank Hennig up there with many of the all-time greats, Minnesota or otherwise. He got the “Mr. Perfect” gimmick for a reason. He made everything look so good, yet so easy, in the ring. Throw in the fact that he was one of the better “talkers” of his day, and you have someone that could do it all.

Mississippi (Kamala, Born in Senatobia): While he saw some minor territory success as “Sugar Bear” Harris, it wasn’t until he debuted as Kamala in 1982 for Jerry Jarrett’s Continental Wrestling Association (aka “The Memphis Territory”) that his career really took off. While he wasn’t out winning World Titles, his dedication to the Kamala character really helped him to stand out. In the era of protecting kayfabe, he would stay in character while out in public in Memphis, never once speaking English and always being paraded around by a “handler” and wearing the robes and gowns that he would wear on television. He had people really thinking that he was a headhunter from Uganda that was incredibly violent and dangerous. Meanwhile, his real-life persona couldn’t be any more different than Kamala, as he was largely viewed as one of the nicest, sweetest men in the business. No matter the era, I greatly appreciate it when someone can put so much effort and dedication into their wrestling characters.

Missouri (Nick Bockwinkel, Born in St. Louis): I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering where Randy Orton is. Well, even though Orton grew up in Missouri and has been billed from there for his entire career, he was actually born in Tennessee. With Orton out of the way, I still know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering where Harley Race is. Unlike Randy Orton, Race was billed from Missouri and was actually born there. How can I not have one of the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Champions of all-time as the selection here? Versatility. Nick Bockwinkel was someone who saw a lot of success as a face, but also as a heel, where he was able to do a lot of his best work. Bockwinkel is still viewed as one of the best ring psychologists ever, a master of being able to get the wrestling audience truly invested in his matches and everything he did. On the mic, he still remains one of the best to ever do it. His heel work saw his promos consist of as many “big words” as he could use, because he knew it would piss the fans off. He would carry a dictionary with him wherever he went so that he could learn about new words that he came across on a day-to-day basis. Famously, Chris Jericho’s rebranding in 2008 was completely based on Bockwinkel, with the fancy suits, the overly articulate promos, and the cocky “I’m better than you” demeanor. In my opinion, Bockwinkel continues to remain as one of the most underrated performers in wrestling history. He hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves, maybe because other names were “flashier” or because he was rising through the ranks at a similar time in history as Hulk Hogan and the “Rock N Wrestling Era” in the WWF.

Montana (Gary Albright, Grew Up in Billings): No, that isn’t a typo. This is our first technicality. Montana doesn’t exactly have a long, rich history when it comes to producing professional wrestlers. After searching for a bit, I had to go with Albright, who was born in Rhode Island, but grew up in Montana, where he was a successful amateur wrestler in high school. Albright would see some minor success in Stampede Wrestling, but his biggest successes would come for All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he is a two-time Tag Team Champion (one with Stan Hansen and one with Steve Williams) for the promotion. In some circles, he is also known for marrying into the famous Anoa’i family, as his widow, Monica, is the daughter of Afa Anoa’i aka Afa of The Wild Samoans.

Nebraska (Sting, Born in Omaha): Nothing you’ve ever known or seen of Sting would indicate anything about being born in Nebraska, but facts are facts. He was raised in California, though, and that’s where everything began for him in his wrestling career. You know the deal by now. He worked his way up to Jim Crockett Productions, and became the promotion’s top face. The face paint and the neon colors in his ring gear were quintessential late-1980’s and early-1990’s fare. “Surfer” Sting rode the wave (lol) of success to five World Title reigns before a major character shift. As “Crow” Sting, he answered the “caw” (lol) and won four more World Titles before switching to a different WWE competitor after WCW folded. In TNA, he made an impact (lol) by winning another five World Titles. Here we are, a whopping 37 years after he made his in-ring debut, and the man is still working for WWE’s competition. I kid, of course, but it’s still amazing to me that, only a few months away from his 64th birthday, Sting is not only still working on a part-time basis, but jumping off of balconies and doing all kinds of crazy things in his matches. Even with an AEW fan base that can often lean to liking the “independent darlings” and being anti-establishment when it comes to their preferences, Sting remains one of the most over people on AEW’s roster.

Nevada (“Playboy” Buddy Rose, Born in Las Vegas): The pickings are surprisingly slim for Nevada. Although Buddy Rose saw some success as a territorial worker, he is most known for his third stint with the WWF, starting in February 1990 and ending in January 1991. After gaining some weight since his previous run with the company, that weight gain would be turned into a comedy heel character for him. This would lead to the “Buddy Rose Blow Away Diet” infomercial, where he would dump powder all over himself and then blow it all away with a fan, exclaiming the results even though he looked exactly the same before and after. It wasn’t much, but to be a part of such a memorable comedic moment in wrestling history is more than many wrestlers can ever claim to have done in their careers.

New Hampshire (Triple H, Born in Nashua): Here’s another choice that was about as easy to make as can be. Even if Triple H had been a so-so midcard guy for his career, he would be the pick here. The fact that he’s a 14-time World Champion only means that he won the race in dominant fashion like Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes. Sometimes, when I think back on his career, I get to thinking about his role in the “Curtain Call” at Madison Square Garden and how he was directly, and indirectly, responsible for changing the course of wrestling history multiple times over. Triple H was initially going to be the winner of the 1996 King Of The Ring tournament. It was supposed to help solidify him as a top talent. After the “Curtain Call” took place, Vince McMahon had to hand down some sort of punishment. He couldn’t punish Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, because they were no longer his employees, and he couldn’t punish Shawn Michaels, because Michaels was the WWF Champion… and because Michaels could literally get away with any and everything back in those days, which sparked all sorts of wild and crazy rumors about why Vince allowed all of his antics. That meant Triple H was the only one who could be punished, and what better place to start than by changing the King Of The Ring plans? The tournament was held a month later, so the WWF had to scramble to find someone else who could win. Of course, they settled on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who won and debuted the “Austin 3:16” line, which set the world on fire. What would’ve happened if the “Curtain Call” didn’t take place? Triple H ends up being the 1996 King Of The Ring winner, but then, what happens with Austin? That probably means we don’t get “Austin 3:16” at any point, right? Imagine how different 1996 would’ve been without Austin’s KOTR victory. Then imagine how different 1997, 1998, 1999, and so on would’ve been. It’s crazy to hop down that rabbit hole and play the “what if” game.

New Jersey (“Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, Born in Camden): I think it’s pretty safe to say that Ric Flair is one of the greatest of all-time, right? If that’s the case, it should say a lot that Flair thought so much of Buddy Rogers that he basically pulled a jack move and took Buddy’s nickname, look, attitude, and finishing move. I mean, it obviously worked out pretty well for Flair, but the whole “Nature Boy” thing did a lot of good for Rogers, too. He’s a 13-time World Champion, and is one of only three (Ric Flair and AJ Styles being the others) men to hold both the NWA World Title and the WWWF/WWF/WWE Title. His promos changed the game forever, as he helped introduce a bombastic (Wikipedia’s word) promo style, bragging and boasting, using catchphrases, and being able to draw a ton of heat with nothing but his words. He was truly ahead of his time when it comes to promos, and as I said, he really did change the game forever. The man retired nearly 40 years ago, but wrestlers all over the globe continue to use bits and pieces of his promo style to this very day.

New Mexico (Mick Foley, Billed from Truth Or Consequences): Here’s our second of three technicalities. The first one involved a wrestler who wasn’t born in a state, but grew up there. This one is going to be the biggest technicality of all. Mick Foley was not born in New Mexico. He didn’t grow up in New Mexico. The man didn’t go to college in New Mexico. He didn’t start his wrestling career at a school in New Mexico. The only connection he has to the state is that, as Cactus Jack, he was billed as being from Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico. That’s it. He probably chose the name just because of how crazy it sounded, which was fitting for a character in Cactus Jack that was bordering on being insane at all times. It wasn’t until years after I first saw Cactus Jack that I found out Truth Or Consequences is an actual place. It sounds made up, but it isn’t. Even weirder is the fact that the town used to be called Hot Springs, New Mexico. Then, in 1950, the radio show Truth Or Consequences announced that they would air the show from the first town to rename itself after the show. Hot Springs jumped at the opportunity, and the rest, as they say, was history. Cactus Jack’s hometown doesn’t sound so ominous now, does it?

New York (Chris Jericho, Born in Manhasset): With all of the great talent who have New York listed as their place of birth… Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Lex Luger, Kerry Von Erich, Gorilla Monsoon, Beth Phoenix, Taz, Bubba Ray Dudley, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and much more… the choice here is one of the most well-known Canadian wrestlers ever. Of course, most people know the story that Chris’ father, Ted Irvine, played hockey for the NHL’s New York Rangers at the time, so it all begins to make sense. I know that a good chunk of internet fans are down on Jericho’s in-ring work these days, feeling that the turning-52-years-old-in-a-week has lost multiple steps, but it’s worth pointing out and respecting that he has been doing his thing for so long. A big deal was made about him celebrating the 30th anniversary of his wrestling debut, and that was over two years ago now. I gave a second or two to think about having Steamboat as the pick here, but I had to go back to one word, like I did earlier… versatility. Steamboat was one of the best in-ring performers ever, and was an incredibly good babyface in an era that saw him play off of some of the sport’s best heels. That’s the end of his story, though. Jericho has been able to excel as a face, but also as a heel. His in-ring work and promos work on either side of that fence. His career has also lasted a lot longer than Steamboat’s did, and again, Jericho deserves the credit for that.

North Carolina (AJ Styles, Born in Jacksonville): First and foremost, I am not confused. There is, indeed, a city in North Carolina named Jacksonville. There were a lot of good options for this state. Charlotte Flair, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Junkyard Dog, “Sweet” Stan Lane, Cody Rhodes, R-Truth, and many more. If this was going to be opened up to anyone in the wrestling business, and not just people who were wrestlers for a majority of their career, then Vince McMahon gets the nod here, and it wouldn’t even be close. If this column were to happen, say, ten years from now, I think there’s a good chance you might end up seeing Charlotte Flair here. By then, she’ll probably be at 159 Women’s Titles won, give or take, and she will always get credit for the role she has played to help women’s wrestling explode in North America. Right now, though, I think AJ is the clear choice. He is a nine-time World Champion (ten if you count the PWG World Title as an official one), and is a Grand Slam Champion in both TNA/Impact and WWE, making him the only person to accomplish that. He has been a top-level talent for the last two decades, and continues to be someone capable of having great matches today at the age of 45.

North Dakota (Red Bastien, Born in Bottineau): Here’s another state with very little to choose from, but Red Bastien is no sympathy pick. He is one of the more accomplished tag team wrestlers of the 1960’s, winning titles in the AWA, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (before they rebranded as the WWWF), and several NWA territories with a wide variety of partners. While wrestling for Championship Wrestling From Florida, he even saw some singles success, winning the NWA Florida Heavyweight Title and the NWA Southern Heavyweight Title. After he retired, his biggest claim to fame is that he discovered Steve Borden (Sting) and Jim Hellwig (The Ultimate Warrior) working out at a Gold’s Gym and talked them into becoming wrestlers, training them for a while. So, thanks a lot, Red Bastien… or is it thanks a lot, Red Bastien?

Ohio (“Macho Man” Randy Savage, Born in Columbus): You might be huge fans of people like Brian Pillman, The Miz, Jon Moxley, Chris Hero, Dolph Ziggler, or Johnny Gargano. Even if you’re wearing a t-shirt right this moment that features a picture of one of their faces on it, you can’t deny that Randy Savage is the right choice here. Those wrestlers themselves would say that Randy Savage is the right choice here. He’s a six-time World Champion that remains one of the most colorful characters the sport has ever seen. It’s not like he was just a great character, though. You want quality promos? He delivered some of the best, and most memorable, of his time. You want quality matches? He delivered some of the best, and most memorable, of his time. You want quality moments? He delivered some of the best, and most memorable, of his time. He excelled in everything he did, and his legacy remains strong today because of it.

Oklahoma (Jack Brisco, Born in Seminole): Yes, Jim Ross would’ve been the pick here if the field was expanded, but Jack Brisco is not, nor has he ever been, a consolation prize. He was one of the greatest amateur wrestlers this country has ever seen, and then turned that into an incredibly successful pro career. As a singles competitor, he won the NWA World Title twice, the NWA Florida Heavyweight Title eight times, several titles throughout multiple NWA territories, and even won the World Wrestling Council Caribbean Heavyweight Title in Puerto Rico. When he in a tag team, he had 17 total reigns (three different titles) in Championship Wrestling From Florida, more titles throughout those same NWA territories, and also for the WWC. After Lou Thesz, he became the second person to win the NWA World Title on more than one occasion. With all of those accomplishments, perhaps the two biggest things Jack Brisco did for the business had nothing to do with him being in the ring. First, Jack, along with his brother, Gerry, discovered a bassist in a rock band named Terry Bollea and were able to convince him to try and become a pro wrestler, which was already a dream of his. I’m not sure if anyone lacks this knowledge, but Bollea would go on to become Hulk Hogan and change the wrestling business forever. Speaking of changing the business forever, Jack and Gerry were minority owners of Georgia Championship Wrestling in the early 1980’s, and they were able to put a deal together with shareholders to sell the promotion to Vince McMahon. This led to Vince taking the GCW timeslot on TBS and using it to air WWF programming. This would be the start of the feud between Vince and Ted Turner, as Turner grew tired of Vince “breaking the rules” and airing a product that was “sports entertainment” before that was ever a term. Vince would go on to sell the time slot to Jim Crockett Productions, and use the money from that sale to fund a little show he would put on the next year called WrestleMania. Turner, of course, would carry that grudge with McMahon into the 90’s, where he would eventually put his money where his mouth is, purchase JCP, turn it in to WCW, and start the Monday Night War. Wild.

Oregon (Ken Patera, Born in Portland): Patera is, without question, one of the strongest wrestlers that ever lived. Before becoming a wrestler, he was a decorated weightlifter, winning a gold medal at the 1971 Pan American Games and a silver medal at the World Weightlifting Championships the same year, before qualifying for the 1972 Olympic Games. Once he joined the wrestling business, he made a name for himself in all the biggest promotions at the time. Almost immediately after arriving at Mid-Atlantic, he was a contender for the United States Title, and would later go on to win the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title twice and the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles (with Big John Studd). In the WWWF, he was a dangerous challenger for Bruno Sammartino’s WWWF Title, and later for the same title when Bob Backlund was the champion. While he was unsuccessful in those title matches, he did win the Intercontinental Title in 1980, making him just the second man to hold that belt. He is a two-time AWA Tag Team Champion, once winning the belts with Brad Rheingans and once with Jerry Blackwell. Hulk Hogan couldn’t get away from Patera, feuding with him in the AWA and then again in the WWF. He enjoyed a lot of success, even if he was never quite able to get over the hump in the biggest matches of his career.

Pennsylvania (Kurt Angle, Born in Mt. Lebanon): I’ve seen similar lists to this have Bruno Sammartino as the selection for Pennsylvania. That makes a ton of sense, other than the fact that Bruno was born in Italy and moved to Pennsylvania when he was four years old. That clears the way for Kurt Angle to be the clear choice. A state champion in high school as an amateur wrestler, Angle went on to college and won two NCAA titles and was a three-time All-American. After college, he won a gold medal at the Wrestling World Championships in 1995, then qualified for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. You may or may not have heard this, but he won a gold medal at the Olympics with a broken freakin’ neck. After a Hall Of Fame career as an amateur, he would set his sights on the pro game. He would pick the sport up quicker than, arguably, any newcomer to pro wrestling, made especially amazing because he wasn’t a fan of pro wrestling whatsoever growing up. From there, his list of achievements is quite lengthy. 13 World Title reigns (spread throughout WWF/WWE, TNA, and the IGF in Japan), one WCW United States Title reign, one WWF European Title reign, one WWF Intercontinental Title reign, one WWF Hardcore Title reign, one King Of The Ring tournament win, one WWE Tag Team Title reign (with Chris Benoit), two TNA Tag Team Title reigns (one with Sting and one with AJ Styles), one TNA X-Division Title reign, and even one reign as the Power Pro Wrestling Heavyweight Champion when PPW was a developmental territory for the WWF. For well over 30 years, Kurt was a champion in every possible part of wrestling, both in the amateur and professional worlds. That’s almost unheard of.

Rhode Island (Spike Dudley, Born in Providence): It’s almost fitting that the smallest state in the country is represented by someone who made a career out of being the smallest guy in the building. You could definitely make an argument for Chuck Palumbo here, but I think Spike has been a part of bigger moments, and has won more overall titles, so he gets the nod here. Spike’s ECW career was full of overachievement. He was the “runt” of the Dudley family, and I’m not sure he was ever supposed to amount to anything, but he turned his never-say-die attitude and popularity into two ECW Tag Team Title reigns with Balls Mahoney, an entertaining feud with Bam Bam Bigelow, and even a pay-per-view main event at Guilty As Charged 2000, when he unsuccessfully challenged Mike Awesome for the ECW World Title. Spike then moved on to the WWF and did well with whatever he was given there. His on-screen relationship with Molly Holly was adorable, and it even led to a WWF Title match against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after Austin repeatedly disrespected Molly in front of Spike. With the company, he would win the European Title once, the Cruiserweight Title once, the Hardcore Title eight times, and would team with Tazz to win the WWF Tag Team Titles once. Again, I’m not sure he was ever really supposed to be much of anything, but he turned that into a pretty successful career, all things considered, and was able to stay employed and busy on television and pay-per-view for over a decade-and-a-half.

South Carolina (Big Show, Born in Aiken): Remember when Big Show made his debut in WCW as The Giant and was the kayfabe son of Andre The Giant for a brief minute before that part of his character was dropped? Fun times. The Giant would go on to win the WCW World Title in his first match with the company, and only his second match ever, which is pretty crazy to think about. In the years since, he would become one of the most successful “big man” wrestlers of all-time. He is a seven-time World Champion, a three-time WCW Tag Team Champion (one reign with Lex Luger, one with Sting, and one with Scott Hall), a three-time WWF Hardcore Champion, a one-time WWE United States Champion, a one-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion (one reign with Chris Jericho, one with The Miz, and one with Kane), a five-time WWF/World Tag Team Champion (two reigns with The Undertaker, one with Chris Jericho, one with The Miz, and one with Kane), a one-time WCW World War 3 Battle Royal winner, and a one-time WWE Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner. He also has the all-time record for face and heel turns with a whopping 27,381. Actually, I stand corrected. As I typed that out, he punched Tony Schiavone in the face at a barbecue, and his total for turns now stands at 27,382. He has done so much. Andre would be proud.

South Dakota (Brock Lesnar, Born in Webster): Like Kurt Angle, Brock had an outstanding career as an amateur wrestler before turning pro. He won the National Junior College Athletic Association heavyweight title while in… you guessed it… Junior College. After transferring to the University of Minnesota, where he was the national runner-up in his first year there before winning the championship in his final year. Four consecutive years as an All-American and two national titles are a pretty good way to close things out in that chapter. From the minute he began his pro career, he was marked for greatness, and that’s exactly what he has achieved. He is an 11-time World Champion, a two-time Royal Rumble winner, a King Of The Ring winner, and a Money In The Bank winner. Regardless of whether or not you feel he should’ve done it, he was also the person to end The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, succeeding where 19 other men in 21 other matches failed before him. He has gone on to become one of the most dominant, and feared, competitors of the last 20 years, and for good reason. Look at him. He makes other very well put together professional wrestlers look like dudes that just got off of their couch.

Tennessee (“Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Born in Memphis): North Carolina and Minnesota are forever connected to Ric Flair, but Tennessee gets to claim that they’re his birth state. Tennessee has had a TON of all-time greats born there. Jerry “The King” Lawler is probably the first name you think of when it comes to Tennessee, but there’s also names like Terry Gordy, “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, Jeff Jarrett, Bianca Belair, The Honky Tonk Man, Ricky Morton, “Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, Randy Orton, Tracy Smothers, James Storm, “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant, Koko B. Ware, “Wildfire” Tommy Rich, and more. That’s a crazy good list, with several names being great enough that they would make this list in just about any state listed. However, none of them are Ric Flair. He’s a (recognized) 16-time World Champion that took the term “traveling champion” and brought it to an entirely different level. If there was a country that had any sort of pro wrestling scene, there’s a good chance Ric Flair defended the NWA World Title there on at least one occasion. His list of classic moments, promos, and matches is longer than I care to list in a column that already features too many words. If you were to round up an entire room of pro wrestlers and ask them who the sport’s greatest of all-time is, you’re going to hear Ric Flair’s name more often than anyone else.

Texas (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Born in Austin): They say that everything is bigger in Texas. Well, take a look at the names that didn’t make the cut for Texas in this column… Eddie Guerrero, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen, The Undertaker, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Tito Santana, most of the Von Erich family, Blackjack Mulligan, Barry Windham, “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, JBL, Mark Henry, Gino Hernandez, and on and on and on. There is about a million World Title reigns in there, and Hall Of Fame career after Hall Of Fame career, but… none of them are “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. His career is so interesting when you compare it to some of the previous names on that list for Texas. The Undertaker was a top-tier name in the WWF/WWE for 30 years. Austin was a top-tier name in the WWF/WWE for seven years. However, Austin’s seven years directly helped Taker to have the final 20-plus years of his career. That’s not hyperbole. Yes, Taker played a part in the WWF’s success during the Attitude Era, but without Austin and his meteoric rise to superstardom, WCW wins the Monday Night War, and then what? There goes Taker’s WrestleMania streak before it ever becomes a thing. When you really look at the numbers, it really is mind blowing to see just how successful the “Stone Cold” character was in those seven years. The pay-per-view buys, the live tickets sold, the merchandise sales, the mainstream appeal… all at a time when the WWF needed every single bit of it to survive.

Utah (Don Leo Jonathan, Born in Hurricane): Not a lot to choose from here, but Don Leo Jonathan was a big name in the pro wrestling scene in Canada in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. If there was a territory in Canada, you could bet that he was somewhere at the top of the card. He had some success in America, too, but it didn’t come close to matching what he accomplished in Canada. At 6’6″ and 300+ pounds, he was a big (pun intended) marquee name, and had two huge matches against Andre The Giant in 1972 that were huge box office smashes. He was always someone that the NWA and the WWWF would use as a “monster” challenger for their World Titles, having title shots against the likes of Pedro Morales, Jack Brisco, Gene Kiniski, and Dory Funk Jr. through the years. That’s not bad work if you can get it.

Vermont (Vivian Vachon, Born in Newport): Another state that doesn’t have a lot to choose from, but Vivian Vachon, of the famous Vachon wrestling family, gets the nod because she was one of the better in-ring performers in all of women’s wrestling for the entire decade of the 1970’s. That came with a little bit of championship glory, as well. She was the fourth-ever AWA World Women’s Champion, holding the title for nearly two full years, and she also has a reign as the NWA Texas Women’s Champion. There’s even a reign as the plainly-named California Women’s Champion thrown in, too.

Virginia (Mickie James, Born in Richmond): Had Magnum T.A. not crashed his car on that rainy night in 1986, ending his in-ring career instantly, I think he would be the choice here. He had already seen success for Mid-South Wrestling, Championship Wrestling From Florida, and Jim Crockett Productions, but he was being groomed to become JCP’s next massive babyface star and their next World Champion when the crash happened. In a decade or so from now, and maybe less, “Hangman” Adam Page could end up being the choice here. Right now, this is Mickie James’ spot, and she is well-deserving. She seemed to win everywhere she went, but of course, it is her time with WWE and with TNA/Impact that stands out the most. Between those two companies, she is a ten-time World Champion, making her one of the most decorated women’s wrestlers in mainstream wrestling history. Mickie’s match against Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 remains one of my favorite women’s matches ever, with Mickie playing her role as an obsessed Trish stalker to pure perfection. She was having really good and entertaining matches in an era where WWE clearly didn’t care about their women doing anything beyond showing off their bodies, and I don’t think she gets the credit she deserves for that.

Washington (Bryan Danielson, Born in Aberdeen): No disrespect to Greg “The Hammer” Valentine or Masahiro Chono (!!!), but Bryan Danielson is the pick here, and I don’t think it is really close. From a pure in-ring skills standpoint, Danielson is one of the best to ever do it, and has proven that time and time again. He is a five-time World Champion in WWE, to go with an all-time great reign as the Ring Of Honor World Champion and two reigns as the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Champion. For the rest of his life, he will largely be remembered for his part in the “Yes Movement” that not only took the pro wrestling world by storm, but spilled out and became a mainstream success in just about all walks of life, as well. In all my years of watching this fine sport, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone gain such a fervent, passionate response from fans all over the world, and I don’t care what anybody says, it was never supposed to happen. Wrestling fans fell in love with the guy and were ready to go to war for him, hijacking show after show after show until they got what they wanted, and that’s “their” guy at the top of the wrestling world. His current run in AEW has been an interesting one, as he remains one of their top stars, but has yet to win a title 14 months into his time there. I’m not saying he’s being wasted there or anything, but I just don’t think his AEW career has gone the way many of us thought it would. I’m sure he’ll win the AEW World Title at some point, and then he’ll only make his reign as the best from Washington even stronger.

West Virginia (Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, Born in Point Pleasant): If you want titles, “The Crippler” won his fair share of them. He defeated Bobo Brazil in 1967 to become the new WWWF United States Heavyweight Champion, ending Brazil’s 1,335-day reign with the title. The man was also successful throughout the NWA, as well as the AWA, Mid-Atlantic, Championship Wrestling From Florida, and Big Time Wrestling out of San Francisco, California. Stevens was probably best known for the angle that gave him the “Crippler” nickname, though. In 1972, he would hit a masked wrestler named Doctor X with his Bombs Away finisher (a diving knee drop from the top rope) while Doctor X’s leg was tied up in the ropes, kayfabe breaking the leg. Already a despised heel, this only added more gasoline to that fire. The AWA would ban the move, and just like that, “The Blonde Bomber” Ray Stevens had a new nickname and persona.

Wisconsin (Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Born in Nekoosa): The “Gold Dust Trio” has always been one of my favorite old-school groups and stories, and I’ve written about them multiple times in the past. Promoters Toots Mondt and Billy Sandow teamed up with Ed “Strangler” Lewis to revolutionize professional wrestling in the 1920’s. They created a travelling road show that would become a precursor, of sorts, to modern wrestling tours, and would create undercards that would allow them to promote entire shows instead of just one match. Storylines? Worked feuds? Scripted finishes? Time-limit draws? Double countouts? Exclusive contracts for wrestlers? Paying wrestlers on-time in those contracts? The group was either credited for creating those things, or at least perfecting them. They would also notice that wrestling fans were growing tired of the slow-paced mat-based style that had dominated the sport until that point. Their answer was to take bits and pieces of boxing, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, lumbercamp fighting, and theater, combining them into what they called “slam bang Western-style wrestling.” Fans fell in love with it immediately, and it is the direct forefather to the pro wrestling that we know today. Ed Lewis’ job in the group was to be the “shooter” and to make sure that things went the way the group wanted them to. He was one of the most feared pro wrestlers of his era, capable to take any match and turn it into a shoot that he would easily win if his opponent didn’t cooperate. During his career, Lewis was a four-time World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion (the first recognized title of its kind that was created in 1905), a one-time NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion, a two-time AWA (Boston version) World Heavyweight Champion, and also won multiple Heavyweight Titles for the Midwest Wrestling Association. Even now, nearly 60 years after Lewis passed away, he remains one of the most dominant and respected wrestlers to ever compete.

Wyoming (Eric Bischoff, Lives in Cody): Hey, it’s our third and final technicality, but it’s a doozy. It’s a technicality within a technicality… it’s technicalityception! Not only was Eric Bischoff not born in Wyoming, but he also wasn’t a wrestler for the majority of his career. Without him, though, I’d probably have to just create a wrestler on WWE 2K22 and use him here. There just isn’t much to work with with a state that probably has more cows living there than human beings. Bischoff is difficult to “grade” as a booker and a wrestling executive. He made a lot of decisions that really helped WCW skyrocket in popularity, partly (largely? mostly? completely?) due to Ted Turner’s bottomless bank account, but he also made a lot of decisions that really helped WCW fade into bolivian. The next time we saw him with any real power was his time as a producer for TNA, where a lot of the same stupid, archaic ideas that pushed WCW to death’s door were implemented for seemingly no reason at all. More than 21 years after WCW’s demise, and more than 26 years after the group’s inception, Bischoff continues to coast on what the nWo did, and yet, he’s still the representative for Wyoming here. Yikes.

 

Jesus Herbert Christ, that was a long column. How did I do? As always, I turn things over to you fine folks. Did I get any of these picks wrong? If so, who would you replace my picks with? Do I get any special credit for really nailing any of the selections? 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 Austin Theory: I’ve been saying this for a long time now, but I’ll say it again here… a lot of you have been unable to tell “I dislike Austin Theory’s character” and “Austin Theory can’t wrestle” apart. He isn’t prime Dean Malenko or anything, but Theory has proven time and time and time again that he can have good matches. Yes, his character has sucked, but that’s where the line is drawn. He has proven he can “go” in the ring, and I believe this was the best match he’s had thus far. Great stuff from both he and Rollins here. Theory was able to be a lot more serious, and amazingly enough, that seems to have been a good idea. Vince McMahon was the worst, folks.

Sami Zayn Strikes Again: Every single time Sami Zayn does any sort of talking segment with The Bloodline, he is able to make them break character. Every. Single. Time. On Smackdown, he was able to make the entire fucking group break character on multiple occasions. They can’t even fight it anymore, and it makes for some really fun television.

Jon Moxley vs Penta El Zero Miedo: Take Jon Moxley, pick a random name out of a hat to be his opponent, and give them at least ten minutes to work with. That seems to be a winning formula for AEW. This match was example #4092 of that. There was zero chance Penta was going to win the AEW World Title here, and that does take a bit away from matches for me, but both Mox and Penta are skilled enough to keep fans involved and retain their attention. I could do without the post-match stuff with The Firm attacking Mox and MJF, though. It’s too much for The Firm right now.

Bryan Danielson vs Sammy Guevara: As I said in the main portion of this week’s column, Danielson’s AEW run hasn’t really gone the way people thought it would when he signed. The AEW roster has been overloaded from the start, yes, but it’s weird that, for most of his 14 months with the company, Bryan Fucking Danielson has almost been just another guy. It’s so ho-hum for him to have good matches, but he needs something juicier that he can sink his teeth into. Although, for him, that would be tree bark or fricasseed sunflower vagina or whatever the hell vegans eat.

Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta vs Chris Jericho & Daniel Garcia: The entire Blackpool Combat Club roster has hit something of a lull recently. I’m sure it’s only temporary, but it’s still worth mentioning. William Regal’s promo battle with MJF is the best thing the group has been involved in since… I don’t know. That’s unfortunate. This was a good match, but it’s not something that is going to fix that lull by itself.

Butch & Ridge Holland vs Sami Zayn & Solo Sikoa: Without Sheamus around (more on that in a bit), I think most people wrote Butch and Ridge Holland off pretty quickly, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them pick up the win here, no matter how it happened. Everyone benefits here. The Brawling Brutes pick up some much needed momentum, especially without Sheamus around, and The Bloodline gets to continue their multi-layered story. Works for me.

Syuri: She has claimed the top spot in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s annual Women’s 150 list. The current World Of Stardom Champion has had a great year, so I don’t have any issues with that. It’s a big year for Stardom, as a whole, producing three of the top ten, and five of the top 20, in this year’s rankings. Spare me the “Who??” bullshit, folks.

FTR vs Swerve In Our Glory: Swerve Strickland is apparently morphing into a horror movie villain. Seems like Keith Lee would be better suited for that type of role, but hey, whatever works. Swerve In Our Glory won this match to become the new #1 contenders for the AEW Tag Team Titles, currently held by the team that defeated them to win the belts in the first place, The Acclaimed. I guess it makes sense, but I was looking forward to seeing what the crowd would’ve done if The Acclaimed had to defend their titles against FTR.

Shinsuke Nakamura Getting To Face The Great Muta: In a surprise announcement, it was revealed that Shinsuke Nakamura will be returning to Japan to face The Great Muta at Pro Wrestling NOAH’s New Year event on January 1st. It will be Nakamura’s first match for NOAH in over nine years and the first time he has been in a match with Keiji Muto in over 14 years. This will, however, be the first time Nakamura has faced Muto in the Great Muta gimmick. Muto’s newsworthy retirement tour continues on strong. First it was announced that he would be teaming with Sting during the farewell tour, and now he gets a match with a current WWE Superstar that just so happens to be one of Japan’s all-time greats.

Bray Wyatt: It was another intriguing promo segment, and we still have zero idea where all of it is going. There are a lot of questions that need answers. Who, or what, is Uncle Howdy? Is Bray Wyatt going to end up facing Bray Wyatt at some point? Why is Jadakiss as hard as it gets? Hopefully we start getting some of those questions answered soon.

Dakota Kai & Iyo Sky vs Asuka & Alexa Bliss: The match itself was decent, if not slightly disappointing. Maybe I had my expectations set a bit too high. We have new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, though, continuing the streak of the previous champions doing little to nothing with the titles. Damn shame. Expect Asuka and Alexa to drop the titles no later than the last episode of Smackdown in 2022, which airs on December 30th, just to keep that streak going.

Pretty Deadly vs Bron Breakker & Wes Lee: The match itself was decent, if not slightly disappointing. Maybe I had my expectations set a bit too high. Bron and Wes didn’t have the level of in-ring chemistry that I hoped they would. That’s fine. They’re not full-time tag partners, so they don’t need to connect like full-time tag partners. I don’t want to talk about what happened after the match, either. Not even Von Wagner’s dad wants to see him next-in-line for a shot at the NXT Title. Yuck.

Emma: Now that was a random return. It has been a long time since Emma/Tenille Dashwood had any real momentum, and will that change now that she has returned to WWE after being gone for five years? I just don’t see it. Not with the insane level of talent that is at the top of the WWE women’s division. She can definitely add some depth, and in the right situation, could be one-half of the next tag team to be booked horrendously after winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles, but that might be it.

Sheamus: Kudos to this fella for getting married last week. Now we see if the happiness in his personal life carries over into his professional life and can make him the new Intercontinental Champion. The WWE Universe is ready for it.

Chelsea Green & Tegan Nox: Word outchea on these streets is that these two are the next returns that we’ll see on WWE programming. Okay, I guess. Hey, Trips, I know you have your favorites and all, but you don’t have to run out and re-sign everyone that has been released over the last few years, my man. Take everything I said about Emma a little while ago and apply it here to both of these women. They can add some depth to the division, sure, but do you see Chelsea Green defeating Ronda Rousey to win the Smackdown Women’s Title? Can you picture Tegan Nox in the main event of WrestleMania, fulfilling a lifelong dream by defeating Bianca Belair to become the Raw Women’s Champion? Be honest with yourselves.

 

 

This Week’s Playlist: “Shirt” by SZA… “Letter To Myself” by Morray… “TALK’N THAT SHIT!” by Killer Mike… “DEUCIFER” by Duke Deuce & Opera Memphis… “MR MEMPHIS MASSACRE” by Duke Deuce… “ANNA” by Duke Deuce… “WHAT YOU REP” by Duke Deuce & DJ Paul… “BUCK THE SYSTEM” by Duke Deuce & ATM Richbaby… “RESPECT” by Duke Deuce, Lil Thad, Dubba G & Glockianna… “Divide” by The Plot In You… “All That Is Flesh Shall Suffer” by Ten Thousand Crows… “Good Times” by Styles P… “Versace” by Migos… “Bad and Boujee” by Migos & Lil Uzi Vert… “Walk It Talk It” by Migos & Drake… “Stir Fry” by Migos… “Shabba” by A$AP Ferg & A$AP Rocky… “Ric Flair Drip” by Offset & Metro Boomin… “Efecto” by Bad Bunny… “Ave Satani” by The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra… “Dragula” by Rob Zombie… “Thunder Kiss ’65” by White Zombie… “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie… “You Are My Sunshine” by Jamey Johnson, Twiggy Ramirez & Shooter Jennings… “Don’t Stop The Rock” by Freestyle… “Ride” by Twenty One Pilots… “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth… “Award Tour” by A Tribe Called Quest… “Teenage Love” by Slick Rick… “Off The Books” by The Beatnuts, Big Pun & Cuban Link… “Woo Hah! Got You All In Check” by Busta Rhymes… “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” by Busta Rhymes… “Come and See Me” by PARTYNEXTDOOR & Drake… “I Mean It” by G-Eazy & Remo… “Rock Box” by Run-DMC… “It’s Tricky” by Run-DMC… “How I Could Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill… “Hand On The Pump” by Cypress Hill… “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” by Cypress Hill… “Insane In The Brain” by Cypress Hill… “Starboy” by The Weeknd… “Everything About You” by Ugly Kid Joe… “Down” by 311… “All Mixed Up” by 311… “Amber” by 311… “I’ll Be Here Awhile” by 311… “Love Song” by 311… “Want You Bad” by The Offspring… “My Friends Over You” by New Found Glory… “Silhouettes” by Smile Empty Soul

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