One of the most prestigious awards that an artist and/or performer can win is the Kennedy Center Honors award. Since 1978, 5 artists/groups/duos in a number of formats of the performing arts have been chosen to receive the award each year. The honorees are honored over a weekend in Washington D.C., usually in December in a series of events. The honorees participate in a dinner and reception which is presided over by the Secretary of State, then a reception hosted by the President and First Lady, and then a celebration/dinner/concert at the Kennedy Center opera house, in which guest artists and performers will give speeches about the honorees and perform in tribute to them, with the President and First Lady usually sitting with the honorees. Generally artists/performers in the fields of music, films, theater, opera, dance/ballet, and television are chosen. Performers in those fields who were among the best of their craft and were massively influential on American art and culture are selected. Honorees do not have to be strictly American and can be from other countries, as long as their work was popular/notable in America and had an influence on American art and culture. Artists/Performers whom are deceased cannot be honored, as in order to receive the award, the honoree must be in attendance. The only exception to this was Glenn Frey of the Eagles, as the Eagles were selected for the award in 2015, but Frey had health issues which prevented the group from accepting the award and postponing their award to 2016. Unfortunately, Frey passed away in January of 2016, and the Kennedy Center Honors decided to go ahead and award the group in 2016, with the other three members being there to accept (Frey received the award posthumously making him the only posthumous recipient in the history of the Kennedy Center Honors). The most recent group of honorees included musicians Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, and LL Cool J (the first rap artist to ever receive the award), television producer and writer Norman Lear (who created classic shows like All in the Family, Sanford and Son, the Jeffersons, etc.), and dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade. There has been a few fields in performing arts that have yet to have an honoree including stand-up comedy, and most notably for the purposes of this thread and website, professional wrestling. Now athletes do not receive this award. This is an award for performance artists, not athletes or sports figures. However, as we all know professional wrestling is not strictly a legitimate sport. Professional wrestling is in reality just as much performance art as music, films, opera, television, theater, dance, etc. In fact, professional wrestling is in reality a combination of all those formats (well except music in a literal sense, wrestling is a visual art, not an art for the ears, like music). But wrestling is choreography/dance, tells stories like movies and television (both in the characters and feuds the wrestlers portray, and the matches themselves), and takes it's viewers on an emotional roller coaster, just like an opera, or a movie, or a tv show, or a play at the theater. Wrestlers at their very best are all of those things. They're athletes of course, but they're also great choreographers (see a Rey Mysterio match for example), great actors, very good at improvisation and live theater (well not so much in recent times with the heavily scripted promos and matches) like a broadway or stage performer, and of course great storytellers. When wrestling is at it's best, it's all of those things, and very much belongs in the club of great forms of performance art with music, film, tv, dance, theater, and opera. But of course, professional wrestling, has always been considered "low-brow" by the mainstream of American culture and most critics of art have always looked down on wrestling. So it's no surprise that a professional wrestler has yet to win a prestigious award like this. But today in 2018, professional wrestling has become ingrained in American pop culture. Mainstream media in all forms covers professional wrestling. From Rolling Stone magazine, to Yahoo!, to the Associated Press, to ESPN, to the millions of internet blogs and sites, pro wrestling coverage is everywhere. It gets as much mainstream press and coverage as any other tv show or sporting event. I think the biggest reason for this is because everyone that makes up the press, and journalism today are people in their 20's, 30's, and 40's, basically people born from 1975-1995, a time when wrestling became more massively popular among the children of that era than it had ever been. People my age (I'm 33) that grew up as wrestling fans in the 80's and 90's now run the media, so it's no surprise that wrestling has found it's way to normalcy in American pop culture like sports, tv shows, music, films, etc. So I think the time has come for the Kennedy Center Honors to finally honor a professional wrestler (or a couple), and award one (or a couple). Each year, the general public can suggest names for the Kennedy Center Honors Board of Trustees to consider, so if enough public demand calls for it and the public can make an excellent case for a wrestler to be honored, it could happen (a longshot yes, but how many of us ever thought Rolling Stone magazine would be covering pro wrestling on a regular basis? 5 years ago that seemed about as likely as Donald Trump becoming President lol, and of course both ended up happening, so it's not as much of a longshot as it would seem). So let's say it happens. The Kennedy Center Honors decides to consider a pro wrestler to honor and receive the award. Here's the question for everyone reading this, who should it be? Which wrestler is an iconic enough name, but also a really great performer and artist, to break through the glass ceiling and become the first professional wrestler to win the Kennedy Center Honors award? I pose that question to all of you. Pick your top 5 choices and explain why you think they are special enough to receive this prestigious award. A couple of ground rules. One, the wrestler has to be alive and living to be able to attend the ceremony and accept the award. So that eliminates candidates like Andre the Giant, Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Macho Man Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, etc. Two, the wrestler has to be an amazing pro wrestler in the performance sense. And I don't mean a tremendous draw, like they drew a ton of money. That absolutely cannot be the sole criteria here. They have to be a pro wrestler that you would consider to be and think of as a great artist and performer. People that drew a lot of money or sold a lot of records or had blockbuster movies, but churned out artistic crap don't get this award. This is for the elite in artistry and performance. You're not gonna see New Kids on the Block or Justin Bieber or Michael Bay or Nicolas Cage winning this award anytime soon. Sure they've sold a ton of records, and made movies that sold a ton of tickets and made tons of money, but not they're not brilliant artists by the stretch of the imagination (well Cage was pretty good for awhile, but you get my drift lol). Some examples in wrestling might be like the Ultimate Warrior or Goldberg, yes they drew a ton of money, yes they were memorable, but where they great artists in the ring and in their craft? Not by a longshot. This is about artistry, now how much money you drew. Three, yet at the same time, they have to be an iconic enough name in wrestling to "represent wrestling on the grand stage." The winner here is going on uncharted territory. A wrestler is entering the world of world class musicians, theater actors, movie stars, ballet dancers, etc. It can't be some obscure indy guy that puts on 5 star matches, but that few people other than die-hard wrestling fans know. Examples of this might be someone like Dean Malenko, Kenny Omega, or CM Punk. Absolutely amazing performers in the ring or on the mic (in Punk's case), but no one other than die-hard fans know of (in Malenko's case), or weren't around long enough to truly became a major icon in the business (in Punk's case). Four, it can't be someone that's only been in the business for a few years. People that receive this award are usually at least older than 50 years old, if not closer to 60 or 70. LL Cool J was 49 when he got this award a few months ago, and I think he's now the youngest performer to ever receive this award. This isn't an award given to the latest "hot thing" in performance art. Taylor Swift or Kendrick Lamar or Jennifer Lawrence aren't getting this award anytime soon. This award is reserved for legends and icons that have been in their respective field for a long time. So sorry, no Kenny Omega, Seth Rollins, or Braun Strowman. So your selections have to be someone that is living, someone iconic enough to be a true representative of pro-wrestling, someone that has been in the wrestling business for a long time and is a bonafide legend/icon, and someone that was incredible in the ring, with their character portrayal, their mic skills, and who was just an amazing performer, someone that was truly an artist in the world of wrestling. When it comes down to it, it was pretty tough for me to decide 5 people that truly fit the bill here. My top 2 choices are no-brainers to me, after that it gets more tricky. Here are the 5 wrestlers I feel should win the Kennedy Center Honors award. Ric Flair: To me there is no other wrestler that perfectly captures the four forms of criteria I set than Ric Flair. For 30 years, Ric Flair was the perfect combination of in-ring ability, storytelling in the ring, character portrayal, living his gimmick, mic skills, etc. Ric Flair is the greatest pro wrestler of the modern era, as no one had his all around-talent and yet had so much success and consistency over such a long period of time. And as recent years have come to reveal, Flair has truly become ingrained in American pop culture. Flair is an icon to the hip-hop community with many of it's biggest stars growing up on Flairs character and promos and idolizing the "playboy" mythology of his character and gimmick. Flair is the only wrestler to have a 30 for 30 ESPN documentary done on him (the Von Erich family got their own shorter documentary). No one better epitomizes the combination of a truly iconic artist in the world of wrestling and impact on American pop culture and art than Ric Flair. He should undoubtedly be the first wrestler to win this award. No one else comes close. Bret Hart Bret Hart is not quite as iconic as Ric Flair, nor has he had an ESPN documentary on him, nor has become as beloved among a certain subset of American culture like Flair has become with the hip-hop community, but when it comes to pure artistry, and storytelling in matches, Bret Hart is the greatest artist in the history of pro wrestling, IMO. Bret Hart is the Martin Scorsese of pro wrestling. Scorsese was the greatest film director from the 1970's to present time, and Bret Hart was very much like a film director in the ring and the way he envisioned his matches. Bret envisioned his matches like movies, more than anyone else, and thus his matches and stories became masterful works of art. See the match with Owen Hart at Wrestlemania X, and his match with Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13, IMO the greatest match in WWE history, if not pro wrestling history, as a work of art and storytelling. Bret is a huge name in the business, and I think after Flair were to win first, I think Bret would be a top choice to become the second one purely for the high level of artistry in his craft. Hulk Hogan Now obviously Hogan, wasn't a master in-ring worker on the level of Flair or Bret, from an athletic standpoint, but when it comes to working a crowd, Hogan is the absolute master of this craft. No wrestler in the history of wrestling could hold a crowd in the palm of their hand like Hogan could. Being able to work off a crowd is one of the essential components of the artistry that is pro wrestling, and again no one ever mastered that component as well as Hogan did. Hogan is also of course the most important wrestler of the modern era, paving the way for it to become as huge as it's become. He was a huge television star and draw in the 1980's and 1990's helping to spawn too boom periods which led to pro wrestling becoming so ingrained in modern pop culture today. So as far as impacting and influencing American pop culture, Hogan is the standard bearer for pro wrestling, even today. It's because of him that so many people my age grew up loving wrestling, the people that have made pro wrestling such a normal part of pop culture today. Without Hogan, wrestling would still be "underground" most likely. I could see the argument against him here because he didn't do very much athletically in the ring compared to Flair or Bret, but unlike Warrior and Goldberg who also didn't do much physical activity in the ring, Hogan had amazing psychology and ability to control a crowd, which is a true art form. Shawn Michaels Many consider him to be the greatest in-ring performer of all-time, and I certainly include him in the discussion for it. Bret, to me, was the better storyteller and psychologist, but Shawn was the more gifted athlete, and Shawn was definitely no slouch when it came to storytelling in the ring. He's easily a top 5 candidate at that level if not No. 2 to Hart. Shawn was truly an artist in the ring, and his list of all-time great matches is testament to that. Most of the arguments I made for Bret and Flair, apply to Shawn here as well, just on a bit smaller scale. Shawn is definitely a good candidate for this award. He's probably the least iconic of the 5 choices (or neck in neck with Bret), but his artistry as a performer brings him to the finish line of being one of the few wrestlers worthy of this award. Bruno Sammartino I wanted to go with one old-school wrestler for this award, as I wanted to make sure wrestlers from the pre-"sports entertainment era" would get it's due. I always get tired of people making greatest wrestlers lists and it has only like 1-3 wrestlers from before 1980 on it, like wrestling was invented in 1985 with Wrestlemania. But in this case, it's really hard not to just put modern wrestlers on it, because sadly most of the pre-1980 wrestlers that would be great candidates for this award have sadly passed away (see Lou Thesz, Verne Gagne, Buddy Rogers, Gorgeous George, Dusty Rhodes, Nick Bockwinkel, the original Sheik, etc), and thus would be ineligible for this award. Bruno however is one of the few left that was truly iconic enough even to modern pop culture to get this award (Heck Bruno Mars, one of the biggest artists in music today was named after him for crying out loud!). Obviously in his era there wasn't the media forms like ppv, the internet, or even cable television to help his level of starpower, so Bruno would be more similar to less popular forms of popular art in today's society like ballet/dance, opera, theater, etc that get honored for this award. Music, tv, and films get all the love in today's society, and when it comes to wrestlers, wrestlers that were around in the era of cable tv, ppv, and the internet will benefit more. But Bruno was "the man" of his era and drew the most sell outs in Madison Square Garden history. He was the hottest ticket in the north east in his era and was, like Hogan, a master of working the crowd. He epitomized that crucial part of the art that is pro wrestling, like Hogan, and thus he is as good a candidate as any. So my five picks for being the first wrestlers to receive the Kennedy Center Honors award are Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, and Bruno Sammartino. I also heavily considered the Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Vader, Antonio Inoki, Rey Mysterio, Steve Austin, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. If Macho Man Randy Savage was still alive today, he would've taken my third spot behind Flair and Bret, pushing Bruno or Shawn out. So who would be your top 5 picks of who should be the first pro wrestlers to win the Kennedy Center Honors award?