January, for some it means making resolutions of how to change our lives for the better. For others, January signals something of more significance, what wrestling fans refer to as “The road to WrestleMania”. In recent years the WWE Hall of Fame inductees is as big a deal as the WrestleMania event itself and the January-March time frame consists of a slow burn of unveiling of each years candidates.
As a big wrestling fan in the 80’s and someone who still keeps tab on the product thanks to the beauty of internet recaps, its always fun to scour the memory banks and try to predict who should get into the Hall of Fame each year. The WWE Hall of Fame is a veritable who’s who of the wrestling industry, or at least a who’s who of past performers that got in the good graces of Vince McMahon just long enough to get inducted. Looking at the list you see the legends;Andre The Giant, Billy Graham, Bret Hart, Curt Henning, Dusty Rhodes, Bobby Heenan, Gene Okerlund, Hulk Hogan, Harly Race, the Briscos, Jesse Ventura, Jim Ross, Pat Patterson, Nick Bockwinkel, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Terry Funk, The Von Erichs, The Road Warriors, Verne Gagne the list goes on and on.
For the most part, every inductee is memorable, their mark on the sport undeniable, their resume for induction undeniable. But for others…well how can I say this…well Koko B Ware is in the freaking hall of fame…the guy whose only claims to fame are Frankie the Parrot and his singing performance in Piledriver is in the hall of fame.
So with that in mind I’ve come up with my “Top 15 wrestlers that should be inducted into the Hall of Fame long before Koko B Ware” or TFWTSBIITHOFLBKBW for short…
As with any list, I have some self imposed criteria for my list that I may or may not follow depending on what I feel like. Hey its my list I can do what I want but here are few points I want to make clear on the selection criteria I tried to follow:
- Most pro sports claim a grace period between when an athlete “retires” and when they are eligible for the Hall of Fame. Pro Wrestling however has more comebacks and re-retires than you can shake a stick at so this becomes a little more difficult. So I’m attempting to apply a 5 year retirement rule to my nominees and wrestling in your 60’s at an indy show doesn’t count. That’s 5 years since they last had main stream exposure.
- While I know the WWE HOF houses many wrestlers who never graced the WWF/E my fandom in the 80’s was purely WWF based so my list likely will be a bit 80’s WWF focused. Many wrestlers from pre-1980’s probably deserve to be in but I just don’t know enough about them to put them on the list. Again its my list.
- This year the nominees so far are Edge (who the WWE must be really confident is never coming back since he hasn’t even been retired for a year) and the 4 Horseman. This is notable because it marks the second time Ric Flair will be inducted. For that reason I am making eligible tag teams that may may already be in as singles.
- We all know Bruno Samartino isn’t in the HOF and we all know why. So I’m not counting him as one of my 15 but he and Bob Backlund should definitely be in. The Hall of Fame should be named after Bruno. He held the World Heavyweight title for a combined 4040 days. That’s 11 years people, longer than most careers.
- No celebs or non wrestler athletes on my list. So no David Arquettes or Bob Barkers here.
- Last but not least, there are way more than 15 wrestlers who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame before Koko but there just isn’t enough time to list them all.
Claim To Fame: Cut peoples hair with gardening shears
Finishing Hold: The sleeper hold.
Titles Held: 1 – Tag Team Championship with Greg Valentine
Peak: 88-90: Fued with Honky Tonk Man for IC title. Main eventing SummerSlam 89 with Hogan vs Savage and Zeus. Becoming the first person to pin Mr. Perfect at WrestleMania VI
Memorable Because: Turned on the Dream Team at WrestleMania III to become the barber and turn face. After being attached by Outlaw Ron Bass and his spurs (including some of the first blood shown on WWF TV in the 80’s) missed his IC title match at SummerSlam vs Honky Tonk Man and launched the carreer of the Ultimate Warrior. Missed a year due to a serious parasailing accident and returned briefly with a furry mask. Hosted the Barber Shop talk segment in 91-92, known for moments like Shawn Michaels throwing Marty Jannetty through the plate glass window. Being best buds with Hogan and following him wherever he went.
Why isn’t he in? Impact on the sport has been minimized over the years. Probably won’t get in unless Hogan gets back in Vince’s good graces and pushes for his friends to get in.
Claim To Fame: He was really fat
Finishing Move: The Avalanche
Titles Held: None
Peak: 85-87: Shortest match in WrestleMania history beating SD Jones in 9 seconds at WresteMania. Main evented WrestleMania 2 in a steel cage with Hogan. Squashed Little Beaver at WrestleMania III
Memorable because: Key member of the Heenan family. Would tag with Big John Studd in matched vs Andre The Giant. Broke Andre’s sternum and Hogan’s ribs with his splashes and Avalanches.
Why isn’t he in? His body of work is too short but he was a monster.
Claim To Fame: His abs
Finishing Move: The Rude Awakening
Titles Held: 1- WWF IC Championship, 1 WCW US Championship, 3 WCW International World Championships, 1 NWA Tag Team Championship.
Peak: 87-93: Feud with Jake Roberts over his wife, Feud with Ultimate Warrior in 1989-90 over IC and World titles. Holding the WCW US Championship for 14 months, Defeating Ric Flair and Sting for the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship
Memorable Because: His airbrushed tights, winning the Jessie the Body award slammy. Participating in a “Super Posedown” with the Ultimate Warrior at the 89 Royal Rumble.
Why isn’t he in? I’m guessing his little jump to WCW during the Monday night wars rubbed Vince the wrong way but you would think his death would have eventually smoothed that over. He’ll get in eventually.
Claim To Fame: The Model
Finishing Move: The Boston Crab…or Quebec Crab as I think he called it in WCW
Titles Held: 1 AWA World Heavyweight Championship, 1 WCW TV Championship, 3 WWF Tag Team Championship (2 times with Tony Garea and once with Tito Santana
Peak: 85-89: Winning the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. The Can-Am Connection. Beating the Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team Championship with Strike Force. Heel turn to The Model.
Memorable Because: Tag Team specialist with the Can Am Connection and Strike Force. Had his own brand of cologne as The Model called Arrogance which he would spray in opponents faces. This led to the infamous blindfold match with Jake Roberts at WrestleMania VII. Fought in a “No punching in the face” match with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 92.
Why isn’t he in? No idea actually, seems like a perfect fit for one of the filler bids.
Claim To Fame: Sadly the squeegee incident and his softball career which I realize doesn’t make him sound like a great candidate for the HOF.
Finishing Move: Powerbomb
Titles Held: 1 WCW US Championship, 2 WCW World Heavyweight Championship, 2 WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
Peak: Hard to say in a carreer full of ups and downs but 96-98 featured his two WWF Championship runs and main eventing WrestleMania 13
Memorable Because: had a run in WCW as one of the four horseman. Main evented WrestleMania VIII vs Hogan in what was billed as Hogan’s last match in the WWF. Got into a real life fight with Arn Anderson in 1993 where both men supposedly stabbed each other with scissors. Had a sad near career ending leg injury with WCW in 2001 in what was seemingly one of the final nails in the coffin for the failing promotion.
Why isn’t he in? I doubt he cares enough to suck up to Vince for the invite.
10. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Claim To Fame: The snakes
Finishing Move: DDT
Titles Held: None
Peak: 88-92: Fueds with Honky Tonk Man, Ravishing Rick Rude over his wife, Andre the Giant, Ted Dibiase, The Model, and attacking Randy Savage with a Cobra.
Memorable Because: Well his snakes first and foremost. Having the best short arm clothesline and knee lifts in the biz. Master of mind games. Always found himself in memorable feuds although rarely challenging for a title, a feat that would be near impossible today.
Why isn’t he in? His life has been in shambles in recent years. Vince probably wants to avoid any potential bad press.
Claim To Fame: The greatest Intercontinental champion of all time
Finishing Move: Shake, Rattle and Roll
Titles Held: 1 WWF IC Championship
Peak: 87-88: Wins a fluke victory over Ricky Steamboat to capture the IC title and held it through DQ’s and count outs for 1 year and 3 months.
Memorable Because: Elvis impersonator gimmick that was surprisingly successful. Had a memorable fued with Jake Roberts where Roberts became victim to one of the first guitar shots in the WWF. Memorable fued with Macho Man over the IC title led to the formation of the Mega Powers. Honky indirectly caused Macho’s first WWF World Title reign when he famously refused to drop the IC title to Savage causing a reshuffling of plans that led to Savage getting the World Title at WrestleMania IV. Great theme songs.
Why isn’t he in? I heard a few years back that he was a lock for the HOF but Honky always speaks his mind and drives a hard bargain, two things Vince isn’t fond of.
Claim To Fame: Being WWF’s answer to the Road Warriors
Finishing Move: Demolition Decapitation
Titles Held: 3 time WWF Tag Team Champions
Peak: 88-90: Ended the reign of Strike Force for their first WWF Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania IV. Memorable fueds with Powers of Pain and the Brain Busters. Feud with Powers of Pain and Brain Busters. 3 WWF Tag Team Championship reigns.
Memorable Because: While nobody will ever admit it, they started as WWF’s version of the Road Warriors before becoming very successful in their own right. Have the record for longest Tag Team Championship reign in WWF/E history at 478 days before losing to the Brain Busters in a shady 2/3 falls match where one fall ended in a DQ. Also held the titles for a record number of 698 days. Added Crush as a third member in the later years where they defended the titles under “Freebird” rules. Had an awesome theme song which declared, “Here comes the Ax, Here comes the Smasher, Demolition is a walking disaster, pain and destruction are their middle names!
Why aren’t they in? It seems like Vince wants us all to pretend Demolition never happened and he’s content to have the Warriors in.
Claims To Fame: Horsemen, Being the heir apparent to Hogan and the first big surprise of the Monday night wars.
Finishing Move: Torture Rack and Running forearm Smash
Titles Held: 5 NWA/WCW United States Championships, 2 WCW World Heavyweight Championship, 3 NWA/WCW World Tag Team Championship, 2 WCW TV Championships, winner of the 94 Royal Rumble.
Peak: 88-91: Run with the horseman, 1st World Championship & 95-97: Jump to WCW and feuding with NWO.
Memorable Because: Membership and fued with the Horseman when that meant something. Was the only person anyone remembers with ties to Vince’s WBF in 92. The Narcissist gimmick and his push as the mega face to replace hogan. The Lex Express. The famous urban legend that he was booked to win the title at WrestleMania X before he blabbed and Vince changed his plan altering his path to become the next Hogan. The Allied Powers. Becoming the first bombshell of the Monday night wars that signified that Nitro was must see TV.
Why isn’t he in? Had some legal issues throughout the late 2000’s but that seems to be cleared up and hes in good graces with the WWE so I would imagine sooner than later he’ll be in.
6. Owen Hart
Claim To Fame: Being a member of the Hart family.
Finishing Move: Sharpshooter
Titles Held: 1 WWF Euro Championship, 2 WWF IC Championship, 4 WWF World Tag Team Championship ( 2 with Yokozuna, 1 with The British Bulldog and 1 with Jeff Jarrett.
Peak: 93-97: Feud with Bret, winning the tag titles with Yokozuna and Bulldog. The Hart Foundation stable.
Memorable Because: Tragically because of his death. Being Bret’s little brother and being one time where the matches in a feud delivered everything they should have with Bret. Won the USWA World Heavyweight championship during an invasion from the WWF. Being the King of Harts winning the King of the Ring. Of course being the Slammy Award winning Owen Hart. Not being a nugget and breaking Steve Austins neck and very nearly altering the course of all Pro Wrestling in the process.
Why isn’t he in? With Bret back in the WWE fold you would think it would be a surefire bet to put Owen in but rumors suggest his wife won’t allow it and hates Vince McMahon.
Claim To Fame: Feud with the British Bulldogs and launching the career of Bret Hart.
Finishing Move: Hart Attack
Titles Held: 2 WWF Tag Team Championships
Memorable Because: Being my most hated team when they robbed the Bulldogs of the title. Led to some of the greatest tag team matches ever. Brutalized the Bulldogs in a steel cage at a house show I attended in 87 where I legitimately thought they killed Davey Boy by slamming his head in the cage door. Their two reigns put them on third of the longest period of time as Tag Team champions in WWF history at 483 days. And come on, they were the Hart Foundation, they had great matches with everyone.
Why aren’t they in? Well Bret already is and chances are everyone just forgot about the Anvil.
*He’s rumored to be getting into the HOF this year so he may need to be removed from this list soon.
Claim to fame: sitting on people and “ending” Hulkamania
Finishing move: The Banzai Drop
Titles Held: 2 WWF World Heavyweight Championship, 2 WWF World Tag Team Championship
Peak: 93-94, Main eventing WrestleMania IX & X. Ending Hulkamania in the WWF for 9 years.
Memorable Because: He was perhaps the heaviest wrestler ever topping out around 700lbs during his WWF run. Involved in one of the shortest reigns ever at WrestleMania IX. Took out Hogan at King of the Ring after Hogan “supposedly” vetoed dropping the belt to Bret Hart. Also took out the Undertaker in a casket match where the Undertaker made a double wide casket for Yokozuna. Also had memorable tag title reigns with Owen Hart. Was the first long term heel champion in the WWF since the 70’s signaling a shift in booking style from the Hogan dominated 80’s.
Why isn’t he in? Guessing its just timing, he’s rumored to be part of the upcoming 2012 class.
Claim to fame: being absolutely insane…that or WrestleMania VI
Finishing Move: Big Splash
Titles Held: 2 WWF IC Championship, 1 WWF World Heavyweight Championship
Peak: 90-91: Winning the title from Hogan at WrestleMania VI, feud with Randy Savage and winning a career ending match at WrestleMania VII
Memorable Because: Was completely roided out beyond belief at all times. Beat the Honky Tonk Man in 13 seconds at SummerSlam for his first IC title. Was pushed as Hogan’s replacement and faced him at the Ultimate Challenge at WrestleMania VI in what may have been both men’s best match ever. Pinned hogan to hold both the IC and World championships at the same time. Started the trend of color matching title belts. Also gave the most insane interviews ever..no really check this out:
Why isn’t he in? Legal issues with the WWE and burned bridges galore make this unlikely but maybe someday.
Claim To Fame: being the best tag team ever…
Finishing Moves: Combinations of slams and diving headbutts.
Titles Held: 1 WWF World Tag Team Championship
Peak: 85-87: Winning the Tag Team titles from the Dream Team at WrestleMania 2 and fueding with the Hart Foundation.
Memorable Because: The most underrated team ever. One of the most innovative teams of the 80’s they wrestled a style years ahead of its time. Title run was abruptly ended when Dynamite Kid severely injured his back. They then fought the Hart Foundation where Dynamite took a megaphone shot before the match started to hide his injury and get the titles off of the Bulldogs. Every match with the Hart Foundation was a gem. Had a mascot named Matilda who was then kidanapped in story by the Islanders. After they got her back the WWF launched the “Get Well Matilda” campaign where fans could send letters to Matilda wishing her well, in reality this was just a clever ploy by the WWF to fill out their mailing lists for the WWF catalog. Injuries and legitimate issues between Dynamite Kid and the Rougeau Brothers cut short a promising tag team.
Why aren’t they in? Dynamite has been critical of the WWE and pro wrestling in general for years and I doubt he wants anything to do with it. I’m guessing Davey Boy will get in someday as its hard to piss McMahon off when you aren’t alive but maybe there is something there I’m not aware of since it seems like he has the resume to already be in.
Claim To Fame: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH YEAH!!! DIG IT!
Finishing Move: Flying Elbow Drop
Titles Held: 1 WWF Intercontinental Championship, 2 WWF World Heavyweight Championship, 4 WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Peaks: 87-92: WrestleMania III with Steamboat, winning the World title tourney at WrestleMania IV, explosions of the Mega Powers at WrestleMania V, Macho King and fueds with Warrior, Jake Roberts, and Ric Flair.
Memorable Because: He was the greatest wrestler of all time. Nearly every fued he was in was memorable. Perhaps the greatest combination of in ring ability, mic skills and charisma ever. Too many memorable moments to name.
Why isn’t he in? Depends on who you believe. Whether its just some long seeded anger regarding money and McMahon or a more dubious wrestling urban legend many thought with Macho’s untimely passing last year and the WWE’s willingness to get back in the Macho fold that this might be his year. Who knows.