By Dan Marsiglia @DanSigs on April 29, 2014
It's difficult to rank the greatest U.S. pro wrestlers of all time. Comparing and contrasting performers from completely different eras can be tricky. Therefor, instead of ranking the greatest to ever lace up their boots, I have created something altogether more patriotic – a Mount Rushmore!
Without further ado, here are the four most important wrestlers in the history of the United States.
The greatest wrestler of the 1920s, Ed "Strangler" Lewis was the top "shooter" of his day, able to legitimately wrestle anyone who "strayed from the plan."
Wrestling's current business model sprang from the Gold Dust Trio, which consisted of Lewis, manager Barry Sandow and promoter "Toots" Mondt. They took wrestling into major arenas, "worked" angles for the first time and began promoting full wrestling cards; with Lewis as champion, of course.
Ric Flair was the last great NWA World's Heavyweight Champion and arguably the greatest in-ring performer of all time. A significant draw in the Southeast, Flair has become one of the most well-known (and oft imitated) pro wrestlers in history. His later runs in both WWE and especially TNA haven't done him any favors, but there's no denying that in the pantheon of great workers, Flair will always be "The Man."
George Wagner, better known as Gorgeous George, was pro wrestling's first major television star. Every flamboyant, bleach blonde wrestler (including Ric Flair) who donned a pair of tights owes a debt to this man. George still doesn't get the credit he deserves because of his controversial gimmick (especially for its time), but nobody was more innovative or influential. George was a true original in every sense.
If Ric Flair was the greatest worker of time, Lou Thesz was the greatest wrestler. Thesz was so good that even the amateur wrestling community believed and accepted that his matches were legitimate (they weren't). But Thesz was a real hooker, and if you tried to get too cute with him in the ring, he could twist you into a pretzel and make you cry at will. Without him, the NWA would never have survived.
As if there was ever any doubt. Whether you love him or hate him (and there are plenty in both camps), the goal in wrestling is to make money and nobody drew more money in the history of the business than Hogan. He was the key player behind Vince McMahon's national expansion in 1984, which forever changed the landscape of professional wrestling. The effect that Hogan had on the industry is still relevant to this day.
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