As is the case with other sports Halls of Fame, there are some names missing from the roster of inductees. In traditional sports, there are usually reasons, real or perceived by the voting membership committee (usually comprised of journalists and HOF members), which keep these seemingly well-qualified athletes from gaining admission into the hall (for example: Pete Rose’s gambling ban or Roger Clemens performance enhancing drug suspicions). Over the course of a player’s eligibility term, someone who had gained little support might eventually receive enough support for election, while others remain blackballed, forever outside the gates.
The WWE Hall of Fame is a unique case in that the election committee seems to be Vince McMahon and perhaps his inner circle. On the “Ravishing Rick Rude” episode of his amazing podcast Something to Wrestle With, longtime WWE producer (and former Brother Love) Bruce Prichard mentions that ballots are submitted by company officials each year, but those ballots are taken more as suggestions than votes towards honorees. Regardless, since no formal criteria or voting standard exists, there is much room for speculation in regards to why certain high profile talent are noticeably absent from the roster of HOF members, despite evidence which speaks favorably for their inclusion. As with other lists, position does not indicate or reflect most/least importance. Without further adieu, here are the names:
“It’s Complicated” or “Vince McMahon Hates Me”
The British Bulldog
Not all of the names on this list are there directly due to issues they might have had with Vince and or the McMahon family. Some of them are there of their own volition. Some are there because of some event that turned their fame into infamy. In any case, they are performers who had a impact on the WWE during their time with the company but for one reason or another, haven’t garnered an invite.
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Chris Benoit will never EVER get into the WWE HOF. Never. The company has gone to never-before-seen lengths to distance itself from Benoit and the horrific end to his family’s lives and that will never change. After no amount of time will searching “Chris Benoit” ever return any results on the WWE Network. The only lasting remnant of Benoit is the concussion policy adopted by the WWE and even then he will never be referenced. His legacy is a specter that hangs over the WWE forever. His is the only NEVER in the world of “Never say never”.
Two other all-time greats who might never see HOF invites come their way at least partly due to their out of ring exploits are Chyna and X-Pac. Both left the company under strained circumstances and seemed stonewalled thereafter. Once gone, both seemed to go out of their way to criticize both the company and Triple H and Stephanie. Complicating things further is the sex tape that the two made together and released, along with some pornographic films made by Chyna. Triple H has gone on record as saying that Chyna’s porn career has been a big consideration because of worries that the company has in regards to their PG age fans Googling Chyna and finding explicit results instead of her many wrestling accomplishments (which is a bit hypocritical given that some of those results are from Playboy shoots done while she was a WWE talent at the encouragement and promotion of the company).
Though X-Pac has been somewhat brought back “into the fold” in recent years, Chyna never found any such bridges rebuilt. At best, they may find themselves as part of a Degeneration-X faction induction some time down the road, but individual inductions in the near future seem to be somewhat doubtful at best. Either way, it’s almost inconceivable that one of the most influential male or female competitors of all time, someone who actually changed the game over the course of her career, may never be enshrined.
Lex Luger also has a bad combination of wrestling and non-wrestling related issues working against his candidacy. Luger did himself no favors by leaving the WWE and appearing on the first episode of Nitro back in 1995. While changing companies in and of itself wasn’t out of the ordinary during this time, especially considering that Luger’s contract with the WWE had expired after Summerslam, that Luger had appeared at a WWE house show the night before and didn’t tell McMahon that he was leaving caught the WWE on its heels and really left a bad taste in Vince’s mouth. So bad in fact that it’s rumored that when the WWE purchased WCW and talent was being reviewed for potential WWE use, Luger wasn’t even considered. Factor in that Luger was in a relationship with former WWE manager Miss Elizabeth at the time of her controversial drug-aided death along with these other events and it doesn’t seem like “The Total Package” will be able to add the WWE Hall of Fame to his list of career achievements anytime soon.
Three legendary performers who had successful but truncated runs which ended under somewhat controversial circumstances yet are considered among the best ever for their bodies of work are Vader, Psycho Sid (a.k.a. Sid Vicious, a.k.a. Sid Justice), and Scott Steiner. All three headlined PPVs and competed in championship matches during their time with WWE, with Sid main eventing two Wrestlemanias (8 with Hogan and 13 with The Undertaker) and being a two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Unfortunately, all three had issues either during or after their tenure. Working against Sid seems to be an incident with current WWE official Arn Anderson while both were in WCW. Allegedly, Sid stabbed Anderson with a pair of scissors after an altercation. Steiner has been very critical of Triple H since his run ended, which can only be a detriment to his candidacy. As far as Vader is concerned, it seems that the perception that he was a bit of a disappointment during his time in WWE is holding him back. On the “Vader in the WWF” episode of his podcast, Bruce Prichard references multiple times that Vader was to have won the championship only to have those plans scrapped at the last minute due to injury. Unlike the other two, Vader doesn’t seem to have any bad blood with the company, having been brought back for one-off’s since, so he seems to be the most likely of this group to be honored by induction sooner rather than later.
CM Punk is the odd wrestler who not only has burned bridges with the WWE but both he and the WWE continue to throw gasoline on the fire in order to keep it burning. Since Punk decided to leave the WWE unexpectedly and the WWE in-turn fired him on his wedding day, there has been a lot of dirty laundry aired publicly by both sides. Punk laid out his grievances with the WWE during an appearance on Colt Cabana’s podcast “The Art of Wrestling”, going as far as alleging that the WWE medical staff may have mishandled some of his injuries. In light of this, the doctor identified by Punk, Dr. Chris Amann, has sued Punk for defamation and that litigation has yet to be resolved.
On air, Punk (whose name is used as a derisive chant by the crowd these days) has been ridiculed for the lack of success he had in his subsequent UFC career, where he lost his first fight to Mickey Gall in just over 2 minutes. Predictably, despite Punk having the longest continuous world championship reign in the last 25 years (434 days) and being one of the most popular and controversial stars ever, it seems that neither Punk nor the WWE have any interest in adding him to the list of WWE Hall of Fame members.
The last two names on the list are linked by both family and tragedy and are very conspicuous by their absence: Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith a.k.a. The British Bulldog. Both are among the most beloved wrestlers ever despite never holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Both are members of the legendary Hart family. Unfortunately, both died very young and under dubious circumstances. Smith passed away at 39 after a heart attack and Owen died tragically in a WWE ring at the age of 34 as the result of a body harness rigging failure that occurred while Hart was being lowered from the ceiling.
For a long time, Owen and Smith’s absence was assumed to be tied to Bret Hart’s controversial exit from the WWE. However, even after things with Bret were smoothed over and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Owen and Smith continue to be overlooked. There is some thought that Smith hasn’t been honored because of the allegations that perhaps the circumstances that caused his premature death are too similar to some other wrestlers of the same era who died young. Causes of those deaths have been tied to steroid and drug abuse while they were active performers and the thought is that the WWE might not want churn up any old, bad press related to these deaths by honoring Smith.
Owen’s exclusion is also somewhat complicated. While the wrongful death suit filed by Hart’s widow Martha Hart has long-since been settled and a tribute DVD honoring Owen’s life has been released, it seems that something is delaying Owen’s induction. Allegedly, Martha Hart is not interested in allowing the WWE to honor her late husband and because there was a lot of tension between Martha and the rest of the Hart family after Owen’s death, there was little good will gained in regard to Owen when Bret’s issues with the WWE were resolved. For the time being, Owen Hart, one of the most popular and influential wrestlers of all time (he’s probably your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler) has yet to take his place among the greats but maybe one day both he and the Bulldog will find their way in their rightful place in the WWE HOF.
All of these performers have HOF credentials but circumstances which are preventing them from induction. Seemingly, only one man holds the keys to the Hall of Fame. Will Vince let them in? Only time will tell.
Next: Part 4: The Not-So-Obvious 10 (ok, some ARE obvious)