Picking the Mount Rushmore for Active WWE Superstars
Picking four names for a definitive Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling is nearly impossible. Everyone has different perspectives on which Superstars should feature.
Your list may include any number of legends such as Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, The Rock, Lou Thesz, Hulk Hogan, John Cena and countless others. Some may argue "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's popularity means more than someone like Andre the Giant breaking the mold.
There's no definitive answer, but it's a fantastic topic to debate.
But what if you narrowed the focus to just the WWE Superstars who are active on the roster at this moment? How would that influence your decision and who would be worthy of one of the four spots?
Focusing on the active roster at the end of July 2020, let's pick our Mount Rushmore of WWE.
Everyone has a different approach to the Mount Rushmore concept, as well as how much weight is given to each aspect the Superstars are judged on.
For my own personal Mount Rushmore series, I tend to view it as a balance of wrestling and mic skills, someone's contributions to the business and their legacy.
With this particular focus of just the active roster, a few other factors come into play.
Anyone who is not actually active has to be disqualified, by default. That means no Roman Reigns, Pete Dunne, John Cena, Becky Lynch, Brock Lesnar or anyone who doesn't wrestle at least every other week or so.
Match quality is a major element, but it should be noted that this isn't the one and only category. Just because someone like Cesaro is a fantastic in-ring performer doesn't mean the overall package he presents is better than some other choices. If that were the case, this could be made up of four NXT rookies who pop up on 205 Live that no one cares to watch.
Promos and character work are incredibly important, but that also doesn't mean these four are necessarily the best talkers in the company today.
Legacy and contributions to the business are hard to determine for an active roster, but some are clearly above others.
For example, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross have tried to help hold down the fort for the women's division in the tag team scene and on SmackDown for months. They mean more to the system right now than Bianca Belair, who has been mostly used on Main Event.
Before making our picks for the monument, there are plenty of great Superstars who just missed out on selection.
One of those is AJ Styles, who is arguably the best in-ring performer at any given moment on the roster, including now. He and Daniel Bryan had an amazing match for the Intercontinental Championship and he continues to shine every Friday night.
Had there not been four Superstars who are treated as bigger focal points by WWE Creative, he would have easily taken one of our spots. It was a tough call to keep him off.
Braun Strowman has proved himself an essential part of SmackDown's fabric. He saved WWE from lacking a Goldberg match at WrestleMania 36 and has carried the Universal Championship with dignity since then.
MVP and Bobby Lashley have put The Hurt Business on the map and are helping keep Raw alive. They're doing some of their best work, and the show practically revolves around them at this point.
Andrade, Angel Garza and Zelina Vega have done a great job keeping Raw afloat, as has R-Truth for the comedic side of WWE.
Shotzi Blackheart has been a standout for the NXT women's division and deserves commendation, but it's not enough to be included here.
With all that out of the way, let's go to the Superstars who did make the cut.
First Pick: Randy Orton
Perhaps no one has been on fire in 2020 as much as Randy Orton.
His feud with Edge reignited a special passion within him that hasn't been seen in years, so much so that he's become one of the most interesting and consistently fantastic characters we've seen in months.
Every promo he cuts has an air of legitimacy that no one else's has. His words pierce differently than the overly scripted jargon most other Superstars spit out, and he backs up his bark with a considerable bite.
It was silly for WWE to market his fight at Backlash as "the greatest wrestling match ever," but he and Edge still managed to deliver an amazing performance.
Taking out Christian and Big Show while partnering with Ric Flair has been one of the highest-profile stories featured post-WrestleMania 36.
But The Viper has expanded beyond that. One of his best moments was when he teamed with Andrade and Angel Garza and further illustrated a renewed vigor and intensity in the way he shouted at Raw's resident lothario.
This year, Orton has been a better in-ring performer than in a while, cut some of his best promos ever, boosted his legacy considerably and become one of the big-name draws on the red brand.
He may even take that to another level by winning the WWE Championship at SummerSlam on August 23.
Second Pick: Drew McIntyre
It's disappointing that Drew McIntyre hasn't received a true crowd reaction since before winning the WWE Championship. As a result, he hasn't been able to fully enjoy his title reign the way he rightfully should.
However, few would be able to make as good of such a bad situation as the Scot has and arguably become the top star in the company at the moment.
With Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and other big names absent, McIntyre has stepped up and become one of the most legitimate champions in recent years. He looks a million bucks and has developed the clout to carry a top-dog bravado without looking foolish.
There has never been any other time in his career when he's looked more powerful and credible. He's been given the responsibility of being the flagship show's figurehead athlete and actually feels like he's in the right spot, rather than just filling a void.
Given the same task, many others would just seem like they're only champions because WWE has no other options, but McIntyre comes off as the guy because he will kick the head off anyone who wants to challenge him for that position.
He's had solid contests with Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley and Dolph Ziggler, and he is one of the most magnetic promos these days. He is going to be one of the most memorable names people associate with the current era.
Third Pick: Keith Lee
WWE isn't just about Raw and SmackDown. Its third brand, NXT, is a stabilizing feature that keeps the company from seeming hopeless at times.
As frustrating as the main roster product can be on occasion, it's always a joy to see what's happening in NXT.
Chief among all the talented players on Wednesday nights is Keith Lee: the black-and-gold brand's No. 1.
The Limitless One has been one of the most consistently wonderful in-ring performers on any WWE show over the past year, and it was great to see him make history as the first Superstar to hold two singles titles in NXT.
His status has grown considerably this year—particularly in recent weeks—to the point where he has to be considered a top-four success story of 2020.
Lee is such a natural fit as the feel-good leader of NXT right now that WWE can comfortably build around him for match quality, character work and progression.
Primary Fourth Pick: The Golden Role Models (Bayley and Sasha Banks)
It's impossible not to acknowledge how much WWE has entrusted Sasha Banks and Bayley to be a foundation for much of the entire women's division.
The Role Model has effectively held the SmackDown Women's Championship since Money in the Bank in May 2019, they're the WWE women's tag team champions, and The Legit Boss is now the Raw women's champion, too.
If one or both of them went down with an injury or something that would stop them from being on television, it would remove almost a full hour of programming each week and cause multiple titles to be shuffled around.
Theoretically, they stand so far above everyone else in the women's division that no one should take their spot as representing the women's roster.
However, a Mount Rushmore has four faces, not five, and there are three others who have just as much of a reason to be on the list.
This is your call. If The Golden Role Models are allowed to be counted as a single entity, they're on the monument. But if that's considered cheating by incorporating five names, there's someone else who could step up in their place.
Alternate Fourth Pick: Asuka
Asuka grabbed the Money in the Bank briefcase on May 10 and then discovered it meant so much more than a title opportunity.
Becky Lynch's absence from WWE due to her pregnancy could have caused plenty of damage to the women's division, but The Empress of Tomorrow has held down the fort expertly.
She's always been seriously talented, but WWE seemed to push her aside for a sizable chunk of her time on the main roster in favor of Lynch, Charlotte Flair and others.
The Empress was flourishing with the Raw women's belt around her waist, but she hit a snag on Monday when Sasha Banks won the title from her. But who's to say The Empress won't win it back at SummerSlam and add it to her resume?
No one else in the women's division comes close to matching The Golden Role Models, so Asuka is the best option for a single pick if that's needed for the fourth and final spot on our WWE Mount Rushmore.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.