what the big deal is about how high a rank someone's been tossed by
I think there's something to be felt in getting thrown by the really experienced people in aikido. At times, there's quite a different feeling that you can get by being thrown by someone who has been doing this for decades and decades.
However, I do understand your point that just because someone is highly ranked doesn't make their aikido any more "special." I've felt aikido from people who have been in the art for over 20 years but seem to have just been repeating their first five years of practice over and over...