Welcome to the first installment of our newest recurring feature, where we will attempt to identify the very best professional wrestler ever to come out of every state in the union. (And the District of Columbia as well, why the hell not?) As you’ll soon see, some of these decisions will be clear no-brainers, while others will be much more difficult. By the time we get to the end of the road, you’ll be seeing just how difficult it is to declare one pro wrestler the ultimate representative for a given birth state.
There’s a lot of criteria, as you can imagine, that goes into determining what constitutes the “best” wrestler from each state. It’s about popularity, notoriety, the performer’s place in wrestling history, and of course, all of the intangibles. Ultimately, “best” is a subjective opinion in most cases, but we attempted to look at every wrestler’s career as a whole.
And yes, sometimes there will be slim pickings for a state, and trying to comb through the names in a given territory might read like like Tony “The Creamster” Pensacola remembering all the brothers and sisters from the Cagefest of ‘09. But we’ll do the best we can.
So come along with us, because this is promising to be an extremely fun and illuminating journey through wrestling history, and across our great nation.
50. MAINE – Fandango
I present to you Exhibit A, Your Honor. I rest my case.
If it was only “Fandangoing” and nothing else, Johnny Curtis would still have this spot completely sewn up. This is called “getting over against all odds.” Just take a moment and think about how long this man has been in this company. How incredibly ridiculous and shortsighted a Dancing With The Stars gimmick would be for anyone to pull off. How he got over but not in the way the office wanted him to get over, buried it, tried to turn him heel, tried to bury him on Superstars, made him part of a comedy tag team featuring the other guy in a gimmick that was five to ten years old the moment it was pitched and still he rises. Still he rises.
Like his fellow Maine native Stephen King, it is completely natural that Fandango would find himself drawn to mysteries and their twisting turns. As Breezango continues to be the best thing on Raw week in and week out, in a few years the only mystery will be how we took this long to get here.
(The film they are referencing is over 20 years old and they are pulling it off successfully with a gluten reference. Please let that sink in.)
Honorable Mention: Scotty 2 Hotty, because ballroom dancing trumps The Worm every damn time.
49. NORTH DAKOTA – Red Bastien
Just like running off to join the circus, a young wrestler with hopes of fame who grew up in the far corners of the country needed to leave the comforts of home and hearth to make their fortune. Hence, The Territories
Topping the scale at little over a meager 13 stone (185lbs) nonetheless, Red Bastien was quick and agile. He moved at a breakneck pace and performed acrobatic moves; a prototype that would serve as an example to everyone from Daniel Bryan to The Amazing Red.
From tough man contests in carnivals, Red Bastien finally made it from Bottineu to Bruno Sammartino in Madison Square Garden as he tagged with the greatest champion of his time. That’s not just running away to join the circus. That’s becoming the circus.
Oh, and he also discovered Sting and The Ultimate Warrior. Have you heard of them?
Red Bastien is so secure in his place in wrestling history that it is easy to rank him as the pride of North Dakota.
Honorable Mention: Absolutely no one.
48. SOUTH DAKOTA – Brock Lesnar
Probably the biggest no-brainer on the entire list. Brock Lesnar just left an entire state in the dust. He tends to do that.
Soon To Be Honorable Mention: Shayna Baszler
Great Caesar’s Ghost man, what are they putting in the pools and streams of South Dakota? Is it just pure viking blood? I believe that if Shayna Baszler leveled an eye at me, I would shit myself out of fear or respect … or both. /shudder
47. VERMONT – John McMahon
Perchance you thought we could make such a list without a scion of the McMahon Family? I jest, I jest.
I truly believe with all my heart that professional wrestling is the last great original successful American Folk Art. There are jazz and bluegrass festivals as far as the eye can see but you would be hard pressed to find World Jazz Entertainment being traded on the NASDAQ.
Professional wrestling’s roots spread so deep, far and wide that someone like John Cena can share the same rarefied air space as a man who once had to wrestle under “Cornwall and Devon rules” simply because he outweighed his opponent by over 4 stone (60lbs). By the by, those rules required both combatants to wear short jackets.
McMahon had an undefeated streak for 17 years, won the Collar And Elbow Championship twice and was once in a match that lasted nearly six hours without a pinfall and was ultimately called a draw at 2:45 a.m., because the lease on the hall had expired. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, indeed.
Honorable Mention: Vivian Vachon. I struggled with this one, but she’s technically Canadian, so …
46. WASHINGTON STATE – Daniel Bryan
Much like Brock Lesnar, this one isn’t much of a contest.
Honorable Mention: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
Wrestling is generational. Sons and daughters learn it at their father’s and mother’s knees. Sometimes with the same shared enflamed passion. Sometimes with the rolled eye and the hidden smirk so as to not allow the child the whisper of a thought that perhaps The Undertaker Has No Clothes.
Sometimes wrestling is passed from father to son or daughter as a profession. Initially, the father Johnny Valentine was reluctant to encourage his son to follow in his footsteps. Once he had seen the boy was set in his ways, the elder sent the youth to The Great White North to be trained in a Dungeon by the one man he trusted to take care of his son as if he were his (many) own.
Upon completion of his training, Greg was hesitant at first to take on the father’s name lest he trade on a reputation not borne from his own deeds but the deeds of the past. Fathers and sons can be like that. Fathers worry that the famous name may bring undue expectations to their progeny. Sons worry about letting slip from the long shadows that fathers can cast from suns that somehow never seem will set. Fathers also worry that the name may bring the old slings and arrows bearing down on their sons anew.
My father’s name is Malachy; it’s old, Gaelic, biblical. For being Irish, It’s a name that is certainly older than John McMahon’s and he’s ancient enough to have wrestled in short coats. My father did not name his firstborn son (cheers!) after himself due to what he felt would simply be a repeat of the teasing he endured as a child. It is a peculiar name after all.
Instead, he chose “Brian”. Boru. Piccolo. Wilson. Strong name, good name. Three years later, his younger sister named her own first born “Malachy” which lead my father to sigh exasperatedly and say, “If I didn’t think to name my own son after me, why did you think it was wise to not do the same?”
And that is what wrestling like. It’s in the stories wrestling tells, by those who tell them and those who need to hear them told again and again. Family. Blood. Home.
Every state of the union is someone’s home. For these first five states, I hope I did right by yours.