WWE and the Hall of Fame: Part 4: The Next Tier

You can find Parts 1 through 3 here, here, and here

Now that the questionable inductees, the future slam dunks, and the noticeably absent have been covered, there is one more group that needs to be addressed. The names on this particular list are well-regarded, influential, and deserving of recognition. Why some of these stars aren’t in already is astounding, while others aren’t simply because they are still technically active, but in the twilight of their careers. Truthfully, this list of 10 workers is responsible for this entire series. One last time, placement on the list is not indicative of ordered importance.

“The Jannetty Ten” or “We Play Second Fiddle to No One!”

Christian

Goldust

Mark Henry

JBL

Rob Van Dam

Rey Mysterio, Jr

Victoria

Kane

Molly Holly

Batista

To many fans, the names on this list are likely to elicit the same response as those on the “Duh List” from Part 2. Everyone on this list has been a world champion or women’s champion (except one). All of them have headlined PPVs or had key storylines in their respective divisions and helped build Hall of Fame resumes for many current and future members. All of them may have had their candidacy hurt because of the depth of roster during their tenure or that they began their careers as partners of wrestlers who went on to have even more high-profile careers than theirs. In any regard, they too are worthy of enshrinement as a byproduct of their own excellence.

Christian is a unique case in that he was hugely successful as half of a legendary tag team with WWE Hall of Famer Edge, got a nice push as Intercontinental champ after the two were split up, but ultimately left the company to work for a competitor after falling down the mid-card thereafter. While working for the competition as Christian Cage, Christian re-invented his persona and became TNA’s World Champion, showing the world that he was more than just the other guy in the “Edge and Christian” tag team. When the WWE brought Christian back, he was a bigger deal than ever before, having great matches and engaging in a very memorable feud with Randy Orton which saw him become the World Heavyweight Champion. Unfortunately, Christian’s career was cut short by injury and concussion, but few wrestlers have ever broken out of the shadow of their higher profile with quite so much success as Christian.

Likewise, Kane, though a multi-time world champion of his own, seems to live in the larger than life shadow of his kayfabe brother The Undertaker. “The Big Red Machine” was the third “Grand Slam” champion in WWE history and has had many memorable matches over the last 20 years. Kane’s imposing blend of size and athletic ability is almost unmatched and his ability to easily move his character between babyface and heel has helped keep him near the top of the card. Through partnerships and feuds, Kane has helped to make stars of Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, and Seth Rollins along the way. When Kane gets the call to the hall, it will be well deserved.

Living in the shadow of an all-time great and trying to break out on your own is something that was a real-life concern for Dustin Rhodes. A well regarded performer, Dustin found himself compared to his legendary father Dusty Rhodes early on in his career, for better or worse. Once he transformed into the eccentric Goldust character, he blossomed into a compelling character who commanded the audience’s attention. The sexually androgynous character was a huge hit in the mid 90’s and Goldust was involved in some very memorable storylines and matches, including the Hollywood Backlot Brawl at Wrestlemania 12 versus Rowdy Roddy Piper. While Goldust never held the world championship, he is a multi-time Intercontinental, Hardcore, and Tag Team champion and should eventually be honored with a HOF plaque of his own.

JBL, then known as Bradshaw, also was primarily a tag team specialist early in his career, most famously teaming with WWE Hall of Famer Ron Simmons (a.k.a. Farooq) as the APA. When Farooq retired early in the 2000’s, it was assumed that Bradshaw would either find a new partner or fall down the card. Injuries however offered Bradshaw the opportunity to breakout as a singles performer, and he transformed from the beer drinking Bradshaw into the limousine-riding JBL. Only the out of ring appearance had changed it seemed, as JBL retained the same tough, relentless attitude of Bradshaw, but with the arrogance afforded to a millionaire.

The JBL character caught major heat with fans and he found himself in memorable feuds with Eddie Guerrero, John Cena, and Batista for the United States and World Championship titles. Somewhat surprisingly, JBL eventually had what was billed as the longest World title reign in a decade at 281 days before losing the title to John Cena at Wrestlemania 21. Despite allegations of backstage bullying throughout his career, JBL is without question worthy of inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Another well-decorated, long-tenured wrestler who should one day find themselves on a stage giving a speech the Friday night before Wrestlemania is Mark Henry. Despite coming to the WWE with little skill beyond brute strength and a great look, Henry worked on his craft, developed a great character and evolved from a support character into a main event player. While “The World’s Strongest Man” may never be known for his technical expertise, Henry has expertly deployed an arsenal of devastating power moves in pursuit of world championships, becoming champion multiple times. Henry also evolved his character from the goofy “Sexual Chocolate” who fathered a rubber hand with septuagenarian Mae Young to the latter-day curator of the Hall of Pain. Henry’s time in the ring may be drawing to a close, but he has done more than enough to find his name among the immortals soon enough.

Batista came to wrestling a little later in life than is typical and had a comparatively short career to some of the others on this list, but he maximized his time in the squared circle. After debuting as Deacon Batista, he soon left Brother Devon and found himself in Triple H’s Evolution faction along with Ric Flair and Randy Orton. As the mauler of the group, Batista would later break away and in the world championship picture. Over the course of his career, Batista was world champion six times, eventually holding the World Heavyweight Championship for a record 282 days. After a relatively short 8 years with the WWE, Batista retired to pursue a short-lived MMA career and acting roles, though he did return for a few months in 2015, during which time he won the Royal Rumble match and main evented Wrestlemania 30. Batista is now perhaps better known for his role as “Drax” in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series than for his wrestling career, but as with The Rock and John Cena, his mainstream success only stands to enhance his candidacy for the WWE Hall of Fame.

Rob Van Dam also has a fairly short history with the WWE at a combined 8 years when considering his career as a whole but RVD nonetheless had great runs featuring multiple championships, including a time where he held both the WWE and ECW championships. Van Dam arrived in the WWE in 2001 and found himself immediately inserted into the title picture, and he remained near the top of the card. Most importantly, although his on mic work may have been a bit cheesy and fans could call RVD’s spots as they were about to be performed, his matches were always entertaining and commanded attention. Van Dam’s invite may be the most tenuous on this list, but since the WWE clearly considers careers as a whole, his WWE and ECW time should be more than enough to get him a spot in the HOF.

Victoria and Molly Holly are two women whose influence and contribution to the past and current incarnations of the WWE’s women’s division should not be understated. Victoria brought a combination of size and beauty to a division that desperately needed a real, crazy heel to battle Trish and Lita, in order for them to establish themselves as the queen babyfaces. Molly brought with her perhaps the most extensive move set possessed by a female competitor ever. Both Molly and Victoria were capable of getting more out of the other women on the roster than most and pushed the entire division forward by helping to change the perception of what women’s wrestling could be. The two eventually collided at Wrestlemania 20 in a hair versus title match, which saw Holly get her head shaved after her loss to Victoria.

For some reason, the WWE seems to credit Lita and Trish with redefining women’s wrestling, seemingly ignoring Victoria and Molly. Even more confusing is the induction of Beth Phoenix into the HOF before either Victoria or Molly. Hopefully the WWE’s current focus on featuring their female superstars will bring their careers back to the forefront and both find HOF inductions in their futures.

Finally, Rey Mysterio, Jr. Though injuries shortened his career in the WWE and caused long absences from the ring, one could say that the current cruiserweight division as a whole might not exist in the WWE if Rey Mysterio didn’t prove to Vince McMahon that fans like to watch smaller, fast guys wrestle, too. Over the course of his multi-time championship winning career, Rey was involved in memorable storylines, with the ones had with Eddie Guerrero and Batista being the most prominent. Guerrero also had one of the most memorable entrances, shooting up from below the stage when his music hit, and became a huge hit among the younger members of the WWE Universe, who wore masks like his while they cheered wildly. The ultimate David, Mysterio shone brightest in matches where there was a size disparity to overcome on the road to victory. The best of the little guys should join the giants of sports entertainment in the Hall of Fame very soon.

The wrestlers on this list may not have the notoriety as some others, but nonetheless are bankable Hall of Fame inductees when considering their breadth of their accomplishments and influence. Hopefully the powers that be recognize their numerous achievements and extend them invitations over the next few classes.

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