Each year, one of the centerpieces of Wrestlemania week is the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Typically, the year’s honorees begin to be revealed weekly just after the Royal Rumble, the event which kicks off the “Road to Wrestlemania” officially. Thanks to the WWE’s status in sports and entertainment, coverage of and reaction to the announced names extends from not just WWE.com and the traditional WWE programs to mainstream outlets like ESPN.com, USA Today, and E! Entertainment News.
Though there is no physical structure members of the WWE Universe can visit to learn more about these heroes of the squared circle as there is for other sports greatest athletes, membership into this hallowed Hall is just as revered. Upon his induction into the WWE HOF in 2015, Kevin Nash equivocated the honor with winning his first championship. In a sport where kingdoms are built and legends are made by championship reigns, this is quite a claim. In number, there are only 164 total members and of those, 105 have been inducted as individual honorees (excluding those inducted under the Legends banner). Quite impressive considering the number of wrestlers, federations, and territories that have run across the globe over the course of the last 100 years.
Because of the exclusivity associated with the invitation to join these hallowed ranks, there is much controversy and discussion concerning past, present, and future honorees. Generally, the arguments are broken into four general questions:
Who is in the hall that shouldn’t be?
Who are locks as future honorees?
Who isn’t a mortal lock but is deserving nonetheless?
Who is NEVER getting in (or why it doesn’t seem like they ever will)?
So which ten wrestlers (or sports-entertainers) serve as answers to each of these questions? For the purposes of finding answers, I’m only going to consider singles performers inducted individually. There is no need to debate whether or not Chris Von Erich (most notable for tragedy), Donald Trump (eww), or Lou Thesz (absolutely) belongs, as all were elected as part of a group or as a celebrity or legend. Also, placement on any list isn’t indicative of most/least deserving, only that the listed falls into that category.
Now then, at the risk of finding myself on the receiving end of a stink face, let’s start with the members that maybe shouldn’t be…
“Really? They’re in?” or “The Hall of Very Good”
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
Koko B. Ware
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
The Big Bossman
Don “The Rock” Muraco
Now, there are some fantastic workers on this list who compiled quite a list of accomplishments over the course of their long careers. In fact, most of these performers held titles in multiple territories throughout that era. Their inclusion on this list is not meant to demean or degrade their legacy. In fact, their very presence in this category only exists because they have already achieved Hall of Fame status. In short, their legend is already written and the opinions of a mark, keyboard jockey changes nothing.
It’s that it is called the “WWE Hall of Fame” not the “WWE Hall of Very Good” (h/t to my friend Scott for introducing me to that phrasing in regards to the baseball HOF about 15 years ago, though there is little chance he ever reads this).
When looking over the list of members, there should be feeling of awe and reverence, not confusion and wonderment. That these 10 names comprise 10 percent of individually inducted wrestlers is astounding. Even in a sport which is openly subject to storylines, there is little tangible evidence to support those listed being included in the pantheon of wrestling’s greatest ever.
The standard for inclusion into a given sport’s hall of fame was once described to me as this: the sport’s history could not be fully written without including this athlete. Ask yourself how many of these names fill that criteria.
Sure, Greg Valentine had one of the most bloody matches EVER versus Roddy Piper at Starrcade ‘83 (Piper experienced permanent hearing loss as a result) and had brief runs as WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team champion, but he was never in the upper echelon of superstars during the Rock N Wrestling era.
Tito Santana is much the same. Santana is the only man not named Hulk Hogan to appear in matches at each of the first nine Wrestlemanias, a two-time Intercontinental and Tag Team champion but did anyone ever buy a PPV to see Tito wrestle?
Wendi Richter was a huge part of the “Rock N Wrestling” era, but the women’s division wasn’t exactly deep at the time. Truthfully, it was Cyndi Lauper and Moolah who were the stars of the program, Wendi was more of the wrestling stand-in for Cyndi. Considering she was the victim of the “Original Screwjob”, it’s almost incredible that she was inducted at all.
Rikishi? Really? He’s more famous for his ass than anything else, including a storyline where he ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin. Over the course of his WWE run, Rikishi played so many characters (much like fellow list-mate The Godfather) that all floated near the mid-card, it’s very hard to consider any of them long-term successes (except for when The Godfather was known as Papa Shango and he made the Ultimate Warrior sweat blood. That was pretty dope.)
Duggan? He won the inaugural Royal Rumble but is still more known for yelling than anything in-ring. He also possessed the absolutely most boring signature move ever: the three point stance into shoulder tackle.
Bossman? A racist, Southern cop character who handcuffs guys to the ring ropes and hits them with a nightstick and was later hung to death by the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XV inside Hell in a Cell only to return as fully alive? Blah (and absolutely ridiculous, btw).
Don Muraco? No, despite being an IC champ. (but please watch Fuji Vice on the WWE Network)
Nikolai Volkoff? The first thing anyone thinks of is the USSR’s national anthem, not his time as Tag Team champ with the Iron Sheik.
And then there is Koko B. Ware. I don’t care how “over” he was in Memphis, the Frankie the Bird was more “over” than him during his time in WWE.
Again, these are inductees of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Combined WWE championships between them? 2, both by Wendi Richter.
Lots of good, just not great.
Next: Part 2: Who are the locks to be inducted soon?