Welcome to the second 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.
This time around we’ve got a couple of legends, a GOAT and a Four Corners Fatal Four Way battle that even Stephen Perlstein would have to admit would be pretty, pretty, pretty good.
45. MISSOURI – Harley Race
I’m starting here only because Jason Wayne Christian commented on my last post hoping I wouldn’t choose Randy Orton over THE Harley Race and I wanted to link to his Twitter so he can know the feeling of true shame.
Missouri should be one of those states like Texas, Florida or North Carolina where I know I’m going to have to do an article on the Top Five wrestlers just from that state to do it any real justice. There is just a staggering amount of talent to come out of The Show Me State: The Bockwinkels, Classy Freddy Blassie, Daizee Haze, Kay Noble, Randy Orton, Matt Sydal, Brooke Tessmacher (Just making sure you’re paying attention still).
But one man stands head and shoulders above the rest and that man is the one and only Harley Race. It’s as much of a no-brainer as the guy a few paragraphs down.
Harley Race is one of the few wrestlers to work at or near the top of the card for the NWA, the AWA, the WWF and WCW. He wrestled a Who’s Who of Hall of Famers. He was the first ever NWA United States Heavyweight Champion which is a title that is so old, Baron Corbin is currently holding that title which actually is depressing. Let’s move on.
Harley Race is in every single wrestling hall of fame, wildly respected by everyone from your grandfather to CM Punk (“What Would Harley Race Do?”) and has so much hardware that you’d need to pack a lunch just to read the list.
Honorable Mention: Randy Orton
44. UTAH – Wild Bill Longson
In the spirit of wrestling, Let’s do a Fatal Four Way with The 4 Corners!
Wild Bill Longson is credited with inventing the piledriver and was the prototype for the “arrogant heel” gimmick that is as synonymous with wrestling now as running the ropes and 50/50 booking. Losing his National Wrestling Association title to the immortal Lou Thesz was the match that led to all of the American world championships being united into one belt which is like saying Longson created the One True Ring. That’s a hell of an impressive thing.
Imagine a wrestler so tough the only thing that could end his in-ring career was a wild horse. Look it up. I shit you not.
Honorable Mention: Marty The Moth, The Sandman
Marty is doing a lot of interesting stuff in (the hopefully returning) Lucha Underground and The Sandman’s entrance music started 40 minutes ago and he still hasn’t made it to the ring yet.
43. ARIZONA – Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid. Mr. Wrestlemania. The GOAT.
If you had any serious doubt that this spot was going to be Shawn Michaels, you need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What have I become?”
Only the insanely good, Best Wrestler Ever could knock the inspiration for Hulk Hogan down to the Honorable Mention here.
Honorable Mention: Superstar Billy Graham
Whenever I think of Superstar Billy Graham, I think of this promo duel with Dusty Rhodes that looks like a Second City sketch from 1983 where it was still okay for white guys to dress and talk like black women and the Jewish guy could wear a turban and call himself The Grand Wizard. Interesting times.
42. NEW MEXICO – Black Jack Lanza
Ah, hell yeah, The Blackjacks! That’s what I’m talking about!
John Lanza is a road agent for the WWE now, but back in the day Black Jack Lanza and Black Jack Mulligan were a fearsome heel tag team that kicked ass and took names. This was a team eight year old BOC could get down with. They actually looked like cowboys in the same way that The Repo Man looked exactly zero like Harry Dean Stanton. They wrestled like they were in a bar fight that the Von Erichs lost. They had Bobby The Brain Heenan talking shit that they 100% could back up.
Oh, would you look at that? It’s The Blackjacks working as faces in a match with Missouri’s finest Nick Bockwinkel & Harley Race. Huh. How convenient for this article.
Bobby Heenan has clearly turned on them by this point and you know how it goes in wrestling: you’re nobody unless somebody turns on you. The Blackjacks were so successful they re-did this gimmick with Lanza’s nephew and Unfortunate Moustache Barry Windham and somehow it still kind of worked.
Honorable Mention: Brian Lee?
For some reason in doing my research for this, Underfaker keeps showing up in the search engine results which is weird because he’s, like, one of the billion wrestlers I’m going to have to sift through from Florida. He gets an Honorable Mention just because I don’t want the Harris twins to show up and threaten to wreck my shit like I’m the Arizona entry from above.
41. COLORADO – Vader
Speaking of someone who regularly worked a little stiff with Shawn Michaels, Vader is one of those wrestlers that made sports entertainment the larger-than-life spectacle that it is. Watching a man of that size absolutely truck dudes and perform a moonsault is just about one of the most mind blowing things I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s one of my main go-to’s when some pencil necked geek starts going off about how these men and women aren’t “real athletes.”
While technically Leon White was born in Lynwood, California, he played college football for the University of Colorado and currently makes his residence in Boulder, so I’d say he’s adopted the state as his own and if you’d like to disagree, then you tell him. Any man that straps the same piece of sweat stained cowhide to his face for 30 years and is still credible enough to take a “W” from Will Ospreay last year is going to receive zero argument from me.
But maybe take it a little easy and take care of that ticker, Big Van Vader. We want you around for a long, long time.
Honorable Mention: “Dr. Death” Steve Williams
Ah, man. Steve Williams was just one of those guys that was born to be a professional wrestler. He had the type of amatuer atheletic success that made him instantly credible in an era where kayfabe was of an utmost importance. That and his incredible charisma allowed him to work for everyone from Bill Watts to Jim Crockett to Vince McMahon. No matter the territory, he just seemed to belong there.
“Dr. Death” is also one of the coolest names ever. The alliteration. The double negative connotation. The implication of what kind of reputation a man has when that name is bestowed on him. It is one of wrestling’s great ironies that a man who was so legitimately feared for his toughness would have his wrestling career cut short by a real boxing match and his life cut short by a very real fight with throat cancer.
Varsity Club 4Eva.