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May 2016: My Wrestling Mount Rushmore: Best Overall Performer

I’ve dedicated this month’s blog to my choices for the best overall performers in the world of professional wrestling. My choices were based on those who have had a great deal of success in more than one facet of the wrestling business. For example, some may argue that The Undertaker is the best performer of all time. After all, he has the best entrance ever in wrestling, was able to reinvent himself many times in his career and was in many classic matches but he was not chosen for this particular piece because he has really only done one thing - wrestle. The individuals that I chose for this blog are performers who have had great success in many aspects of wrestling, for example as a wrestler, commentator, manager, booker, promoter, trainer, etc.

By the way, for those of you who have no idea what Mt. Rushmore is, it’s the faces of the “four best” presidents in US history carved into the side of a mountain.

1) Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Bobby Heenan HAS to top my list of best overall performers of all time. The man was perhaps the most entertaining performer in the history of the wrestling business. His quick wit, sense of humor and timing is unrivaled by anyone and, in the wrestling business, that’s saying a lot!


As a commentator myself, I have a ton of respect for Bobby Heenan, who sadly, I’ll never be anywhere near as good as. Arguably the best duo in the history of commentary, at least for my money, was Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon. The two had uncanny chemistry with Gorilla playing the straight man to the unpredictable and never-at-a-loss-for-words, Heenan. He later went on to host Monday Night Raw in the early episodes before leaving for WCW to be a part of the broadcast team there for over six years through the “Monday Night Wars”. His commentary during the 1992 Royal Rumble is maybe the best commentary I’ve ever heard in my life.


In the 80’s you simply cannot dispute the fact that Hulk Hogan was the biggest star there was, but every good guy has to have a bad guy to fight. Bobby Heenan and the “Heenan Family” provided the meat for Hogan to chop with a seemingly never-ending array of talent to feed the Hulkster.  Also, having an in-ring background, Heenan was probably the best manager of all time at taking bumps and selling. Not to mention the fact that he could cut one of the best promos in his day, far better than most of the talent he was managing. More often than not he was also way more over than the talent he was managing, and by just giving a turn of his head to the audience could evoke an incredible reaction.


Yes, a wrestler! Bobby Heenan, although undersized, even for his day, was an incredible worker in his own right. He was not often utilized as an in-ring wrestler in the WWE, but before the WWE he had a very successful run in the AWA. Maybe his most famous match was against The Ultimate Warrior in a “Weasel Suit Match” or his WrestleMania 5 match against The Red Rooster. Heenan was the epitome of a dirty, underhanded, lying, cheating little weasel and he knew the art of selling, cheating and taking an ass whooping - all very important traits for any wrestling heel.

In a cruel twist of fate, one of the most brilliant talkers ever in wrestling was stricken with throat cancer in 2002. Although it has taken a significant toll on his health, he still seems to be in good spirits and continues to make personal appearances to this day. Bobby was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

2) Dusty Rhodes


If you just looked at Dusty Rhodes and had no idea he was a wrestler, you might see an overweight, unattractive, “average Joe” with a speech impediment. However, “The Son of a Plumber” was so much more than that. As Tom Prichard put it on The FightBox Podcast, he was “an attraction”, sort of like Andre the Giant or Bruiser Brody was. He was in such high demand, due to his charisma, gift of gab and solid in ring work, that he was constantly travelling all over the world for close over 30 years. Even when he came to the WWE and infamously donned the yellow polka dots, nothing could stop Dusty Rhodes’ popularity. He is perhaps one of the most often-named inspirations of countless wrestlers.

Over the years he wrestled in nearly every territory in the world, had runs in all three versions of the WWE (WWWF under Vince McMahon Sr., WWF under Vince Jr. and WWE - the present day product), WCW, ECW, TNA, Japan, the indies and almost everywhere in-between.

Booker / Promoter / Writer

Having learned firsthand from one of the most creative and ingenious minds in wrestling, the legendary Eddie Graham, Dusty Rhodes was also heavily involved in the booking of many of the territories he had longer runs in, including Championship Wrestling from Florida, Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW. There are not many wrestlers throughout history who were equally as good behind the scenes as they were in the ring. Dusty also briefly ran his own independent promotion shortly after WCW folded called Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling.


Although Dusty Rhodes is not remembered too much for his commentary, I found him extremely entertaining. His distinctive voice and lisp and creative use of words like “whirly-bird” and “plunder” added a very unique flavor to the WCW commentary team, especially on WCW Saturday Night.


In his later years, Dusty Rhodes became the promo coach for the WWE developmental system which is now called NXT. The man who is known for the most famous promo ever, “Hard Times”, went on to inspire and teach the art of the promo to many current WWE and NXT stars and his legacy lives on through them.

Dusty Rhodes was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed away in June of 2015.

3) Paul Heyman

Promoter / Booker / Visionary

I remember “Paul E. Dangerously”, as he was known in ECW, for taking what was a fledgling little independent wrestling promotion in Philadelphia with relatively unknown talent and transforming it into the only independent organization to ever give WWE a serious run for their money. In the mid to late 90’s ECW pushed the limits of violence, sexuality and wrestling, forcing WWE and WCW to respond with “The Attitude Era”. Heyman had a keen eye for talent and such wrestlers as Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio Jr., Chris Jericho, Mick Foley and many more all passed through in ECW just before reaching fame in WWE. Paul Heyman developed a cult following of wrestlers and fans who were so passionate about his product that they would be willing to do almost anything to further its cause.


Before all of this ECW craziness, Paul E. Dangerously got his first big break in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a manger in WCW where he headed up the “Dangerous Alliance” consisting of, among others, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zybszko and Arn Anderson. He was also schooled by such greats as The Grand Wizard, Freddie Blassie and Lou Albano.

Commentator / Manager / Writer

Once ECW folded in 2001 Paul joined WWE full time for a few years as both an on-air talent and member of the creative team. Under his tutelage as head writer of Smackdown the show actually overtook WWE’s flagship show of Raw in terms of ratings and arguably had its most successful episodes during that era.

Heyman also served as a commentator during this run and was the color commentator for WrestleMania X7 alongside Jim Ross, calling the Steve Austin / Rock matchup. He also managed a young Brock Lesnar during this time when Lesnar first debuted and was involved in the WWE version of ECW, which failed miserably, not due to him, but did produce several memorable “One Night Stand” pay-per-views.


Returning to WWE in 2012, Paul Heyman once again proved why he is one of the best, if not the best promos ever, reinventing the managerial role in professional wrestling in the process. Alongside Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, Paul Heyman became a focal point of WWE. Many times, especially when Lesnar was away for extended periods of time due to his contract, Heyman could keep interest in Lesnar’s storylines until he returned months later. He also took a backseat very gracefully when CM Punk went on his long title reign in from 2012 - 2013, only enhancing him in the process.

Paul Heyman is without a doubt one of the most creative, hard-working, geniuses pro wrestling has ever seen and is talented in so many ways. He has made wrestling better in just about every possible form besides being a wrestler and, although he admittedly has a shady side (who doesn’t?), will undoubtedly be induced into the WWE Hall of Fame one day.

4) Jerry “The King” Lawler


How popular would you have to be to sell out a 10,000 seat arena every single Monday night for over 20 years? You have to be “Jerry Lawler” popular. In Memphis, Tennessee Jerry Lawler really is “The King”, forget Elvis! Before joining the WWE in the early 90’s Lawler was the biggest attraction in Memphis, wrestling the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Superstar Billy Graham and Rick Rude, not to mention Steve Austin and The Rock. In fact, he sold out the Mid-South Coliseum so many times that, for a change, he did the first ever “Empty Arena Match” with Terry Funk. The crowds in Memphis never seemed to get tired of Lawler’s big right hand, his strap being pulled down, the piledriver and the occasional fireball. He also, most famously, had a long feud with American comedian and actor Andy Kaufman.

TV / Movies

Speaking of Andy Kaufman, Lawler’s most famous incident occurred on the “Late Night with David Letterman” talk show, one of the most popular shows on American TV when he slapped Andy Kaufman. He later played himself in the 1999 feature film “Man on the Moon”, about Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carrey.


Lawler is best known by several generations as being the color commentator alongside Jim Ross during the Attitude Era in the 90’s. His love of “puppies” and his occasional in-ring matches with the likes of Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan set Lawler apart from nearly all other commentators. He was also heavily involved in the angle between ECW and WWF in the mid 90’s, calling it “Extremely Crappy Wrestling”.  Lawler had a quick wit, was able to think on his feet and spontaneously improvise and had a seemingly limitless amount of one-liners. In September of 2012 Lawler went into cardiac arrest while Raw was live on the air and was legally dead for several minutes before being revived by medical staff on site.

Promoter / Booker / Owner

The Memphis territory lasted longer than any other territory because the WWF could never take its top star, since that top star was also part owner of the territory. Lawler was not only the main draw in Memphis, but more often than not the one who was writing the storylines, booking the matches and coming up with different gimmicks / characters and even though Memphis had perhaps a reputation as being the worst-paid territory in the country, I guess when you’re the one making the payoffs, you never underpay yourself. That’s probably why it took so long for Lawler to finally join the WWF.

Lawler is still active as a WWE commentator on Smackdown. 2016 is his 46th year in professional wrestling. He has also stayed active in the ring outside of WWE during his entire tenure with the company taking regular independent bookings because of his love for the business. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.


So, what’s your Mt. Rushmore of “Best Overall Performers” in wrestling? I realize that everyone’s Mt. Rushmore is going to be different, so please feel free to leave your own personal choices in the comments section on Facebook or send me an email at

See you next month,

- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)

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