EXCLUSIVE: The Last Real Professional; Dixie, Meet Dusty

Mark Madden

THE LAST REAL PROFESSIONAL
 
In my daily guise as highly-paid sports-talk radio “Super Genius,” I hate sports halls of fame. HATE ‘EM. Halls of fame are a subjective way of reclassifying what happened objectively. Numbers speak for themselves. Voters are human, and thus indulge agendas.
 
Pro wrestling halls of fame are no less silly. It’s a phony sport. What do you recognize, who won the most fake matches?
 
If pro wrestling has one hall of fame hovering close to legit, however, it’s the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. Dave Meltzer has been wrestling’s journalist of record for 30 years. He’s human, but serves less agendas than most.
 
The WWE Hall of Fame? Don’t make me laugh. Bruno Sammartino should be in, whether he wants to or not. Meanwhile, Johnny Rodz is in. It’s a joke.
 
I vote for Meltzer’s Hall of Fame. I try to not serve agendas. For example, I voted for the Midnight Express last year (they got in). I would rather have a banana shoved up my rectum than further honor Jim Cornette, but right is right. Besides, I like Bobby.
 
This year, I’m voting for three guys I voted for last year: Chris Jericho, Ivan Koloff and Rey Mysterio. Swayed by a recent Bruce Mitchell screed in Pro Wrestling Torch, I’m also voting for The Assassins. Great promos, legitimate long-term main-event tag team, made lesser foes and, most intriguingly, did it all while wearing masks, no small feat in United States wrestling.

Mysterio’s qualifications are obvious, especially given his salad days in Mexico. Koloff was the best Russian ever. As bent as the Soviet sickle, as hard as the hammer that crossed it. The fact that Vince McMahon Sr. picked Koloff to beat Sammartino for the WWWF title in 1971 shows how much respect Koloff had in his prime. As Nikita Koloff’s uncle, he made the largely useless Nikita seem much better than he was, although Ivan’s rep may have suffered because he did mucho jobs on behalf of Nikita.
 
As for Jericho, he has spent a decent portion of his career being the best performer in the world’s biggest company. He got off steroids and remained a star. Could Cena? Could Hunter?
 
But rather than list all of Jericho’s qualifications, then pontificate thereof, I’d rather point out his historical significance: Jericho is the last of the true professional wrestlers. The last guy who truly learned the craft properly, expanded upon his repertoire by working in a host of promotions and genres, then used what he had learned to develop (and protect) his character and drawing power once he finally hit the big time for an extended stay.
 
These days a WWE or TNA wrestler is considered to have a long resume if he worked in WCW, ECW or Smoky Mountain. Jericho worked in all three, starred in all three, and worked in Calgary, Germany, Japan and Mexico besides. Jericho WATCHED. He LISTENED. He LEARNED. He incorporates nuances from everywhere he’s worked into his current style. When Jericho is a heel, he’s a REAL HEEL. No cool catchphrases. No trying to divide the crowd.
 
Jericho understands, respects and executes the business on a consistent basis better than anyone in wrestling today.
 
Jericho is not only worthy of THIS honor – when his career ends, there’s every chance he’ll be remembered among the very best.
 
Of course, credit for a lot of that goes to Ralphus.

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