Thoughts from the Top Rope 3.17.14: WWE Hall of Fame Omissions
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.17.2014
In this weeks Thoughts from the Top Rope, Daniel Wilcox looks at the merits of WWE's Hall of Fame and counts down it's biggest omissions!
Good morning ladies and gentleman and welcome to another edition of Thoughts from the Top Rope with your host, yours truly Daniel Wilcox. It's been two weeks since we were last all together, when you may or may not remember we discussed the departure of CM Punk and the trend of crowds attempting to "hijack" Raw, and whether or not it's become a good thing for the product. Two weeks ago on Raw, WWE took the Chicago crowd and played them like a fiddle, and this week they gave us the scenario we've been asking for weeks. If Daniel Bryan wins his one on one match with Triple H at WrestleMania XXX, he will become the third participant in a Triple Threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship also featuring reigning champion Randy Orton and returning Royal Rumble winner Batista. This has been the plan since CM Punk left the company the night after the Rumble and it is the right way go. Personally, I would have put the Bryan/Triple H match on the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, but I guess the plan was to wait to see if CM Punk would come back or not.
Alas, the fans have their way regardless, and it's unquestionably the right move.
And yet, there's already people complaining about predictability.
WWE gives the internet fans what they want, and then they complain about it anyway. Who'd have thought it?
Last Week's Feedback
There were two main issues coming out of the previous column.
Firstly, lots of you picked up on my use of comic sans. Yes, it looked awful in hindsight. Put I'm experimenting with little things to make my writing stand out from the crowd so expect a few different ones in the coming weeks and please leave your thoughts on them, good or bad.
The second was the origins of the "hijacking" crowds. People went as far back as 1996 as when this trend started, and that's just wrong. I stated New Jersey's post-WrestleMania crowd as the first major example, but that was also inaccurate. The night following Daniel Bryan's 18-second loss to Sheamus in Miami was probably the first major example of fans taking over a show in the manner that we've seen in recent months. Fans chanted "yes" throughout that night, not just when Daniel Bryan was in the ring. But it was Jersey's crowd that took things to whole other level. Examples such as Survivor Series 1996, Summerslam 2002 (Rock vs. Brock) and WrestleMania XX (Lesnar vs. Goldberg) were one-offs and didn't start any kind of movement, nor were the effects heard outside of one particular match.
Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels [WWE Raw, 5/02/05]
This is a match that is remembered predominantly for it's amazing finish. After quarter of an hour of not being able to put their opponent away, Shawn Michaels and Shelton Benjamin had to begin taking bigger and more elaborate risks to try to advance in the Gold Rush tournament where the winner would receive a championship opportunity. Benjamin took a big risk at the bottom of the ninth, springboarding from the apron, into the ring, with disastrous results. What followed was one of the most memorable Sweet Chin Musics of all time as Michaels caught Benjamin square in the jaw with the super kick to score the pinfall victory. As outstandingly executed as the finish was, it's worth remembering that the entire match was a phenomenal showpiece. Shelton Benjamin had another standout performance, gaining several big near falls on the Heartbreak Kid, but it was that devastating kick that sent Michaels onto the next round of the tournament.
This Week's Feature
It's WrestleMania season. WrestleMania is the wrestling fans' Super Bowl, it's the biggest night of the year. But part of the tradition of WrestleMania weekend is the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. The Hall of Fame is gives the wrestling world a chance to honour some of its most important, most colourful and most cherished stars of the past. Many WWE performers have listed it's importance as on the same level, if not higher, than the night of WrestleMania itself. In this week's Thoughts From the Top Rope we take a look at this year's class, examine the importance of the Hall and look to its future in the form of a Question and Answer segment.
The Merits of the WWE Hall of Fame
Q. The WWE Hall of Fame hosts over 100 names from the history of professional wrestling, and is often criticized for the "worthiness" of some of it's inductees. Does this detract from the Hall's validity?
A. Absolutely not. I think the two names people most criticize are James Dudley and Koko B. Ware. The former is often mocked as being nothing more than Vince McMahon Sr's limo driver. The truth of the matter is that Dudley was a close friend of the McMahon family who had worked with them for the best part of four decades before his induction. His induction is scrutinised because of his closeness to the family, and because the vast majority of Dudley's work was behind the scenes and not on television. We don't really know how valuable an asset the guy was to the McMahons, but if the family has gone on record at the time and said the company may not exist as it is without the input of James Dudley, then who am I to argue? In the case of Koko, he guy was one of the most colourful characters during the first real boom period of what we've come to know as sports entertainment. He didn't have a plethora of title reigns, but he was one of the more popular wrestlers of the time. Crowds loved him. The truth is, wrestling fans should worry less about scrutinising the inductions every year and instead take the chance to honour the performers, whether they're a popular mid-card act or one of the all-time greats. It's much more enjoyable that way.
Q. How is this year's class shaping up?
A. It seems like we say this every year, but this seems like one of the best ever classes. Ultimate Warrior is without doubt a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy and much like Bruno Sammartino last year, it's good to see the man behind the performer has burried the hatchet with the company to be able to have his moment in the limelight and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And of course, there's a hell of a lot of potential for one crazy induction speak when Warrior goes in the Hall in New Orleans. Speaking of potential great speeches, it's going to be a hell of a moment when DDP inducts Jake "the Snake" Roberts into the Hall. Most of us are familiar with Roberts' troubled past, but it seems with the help of Page, the guy has been able to turn a corner and make a better life for himself. I get the impression more than most, the hardcore WWE fans cannot wait to honour Jake. He's another guy that could arguably have led a Hall of Fame class. Paul Bearer is one of the greatest managers in wrestling's history and he's certainly the most iconic. It's just a shame the man passed before this moment came. It will be interesting to see what role the Undertaker plays in his induction, if any, as he's never appeared on television at any of the Hall of Fame shows in the past. WWE likes to include one female in its recent induction classes and Lita is one of the best choices. At her peak, her popularity rivalled that of the company's top stars of either gender. She undoubtedly drew a big female audience to the company and helped inspire a generation of Divas. Lita was always a personal favourite of mine so it'll be great to see her go in. It'll be interesting to see who inducts her, but I'd have thought it would have to be Trish. And most recently, Carlos Colon has been announced. Colon will become the third Puerto Rican to enter the Hall, and is undoubtedly deserving. He may not be all that well known to today's WWE audience, but as a performer and a promoter and even a trainer, there's no denying the man's influence.
Q. Who are the notable omissions?
A. There are still plenty of people not in the Hall of Fame that are worthy of induction, and that list only grows with time. WWE usually has a structured class each year, with one all-time great to lead the class, one top-tier individual supporting, a female, a manager or non-wrestler, a group or tag team, and one individual not well known to the modern day audience. There's not usually more than one deceased performer either. So on that basis, there's bound to be plenty of people missing out. People regularly point to Randy Savage as the obvious omission, but I'd argue Lou Thesz is just as deserving, if not more so. Sting is a guy who will lead a ballot in the next two or three years. The Rock is another. Then you have the likes of The Undertaker and Triple H who's in-ring careers are coming to end and will likely be inducted as soon as it's clear the boots have been hung up for good. Of course, the most deserving omission is Vince McMahon, but something tells me he won't go in until he's either relinquished control of the company or he's dead. Then there are literally hundreds of other guys that should be in, and some of them may never get in because the modern audience has no idea who they are. Unless WWE expands the number of inductees each year, people will inevitably miss out. Do you think guys like Sputnik Monroe or Danny Hodge are likely to get in? Seems unlikely. With the launch of the WWE Network, WWE has an opportunity to educate their audience not just on the history of the company, but of the history of the sport and therefore make such inductions more liable. None of these omissions invalidate the Hall, they merely pro-long it's existence as a marketable platform for the company.
Q. Who on the current roster has a Hall of Fame worthy career?
A. There's actually quite a few, many of whom could be first-ballot inductees depending on how soon after they finish their careers they are inducted. Outside of the aforementioned semi-retired guys like Taker and the Game, you have John Cena as the most obvious example. From there, going alphabetically through the roster, Alberto del Rio will likely get in due to his achievements in Mexico combined with his high profile WWE run. Batista and Big Show are certainties, Billy Gunn should go in with Road Dogg, Brock Lesnar's a certainty, and Christian's deserving as well, whether that's part of Edge and Christian or not. Personal issues pending, CM Punk has done more than enough, and could be a first ballot guy depending on what his near future holds. He's an influential figure as well as a highly successful performer. Daniel Bryan may have done enough by now, but clearly he'll have had a Hall of Fame worthy career by the time he's done. Goldust has to go in at some point, and that's highly deserved. Kane's another iconic character, he's in. I think Mark Henry will get in down the line – he turned into a good big man and he's been with the company a hell of a long time. The Miz might end up being the only WWE Champion who doesn't deserve an induction, but he may well get in anyway. Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio are both first-ballot guys. If Sheamus has done enough already to get in, he will have by the time he's done, and William Regal is going in at some point too. Paul Heyman, JBL and Michael Cole will eventually go in, as could Teddy Long in time, for longevity if nothing else.
Q. What other currently active performers outside of WWE have had Hall of Fame careers?
A. Don't expect anyone to get in based solely on their TNA body of work, including AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Abyss etc. Kurt Angle will likely return to WWE at some point in the next few years and cement his status as a guy to lead a class. Chris Jericho is another one who could and probably should lead a class some day. Jeff Hardy has done more than enough to go in individually, but the Hardy Boys deserve to go in as a team as well. Outside of those few, there's numerous semi-retired guys who should go in. ECW icons like Sandman, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Tazz et all should get in, but you wonder if they will. Bubba's active, while I think D-Von is not, but the Dudleyz have to go in at some point.
And this leads us on to...
This Week's List
This Week's List continues our Hall of Fame theme as well look at the biggest omissions from the Hall. For the purposes of the list, we are excluding anyone still actively performing with WWE, including Vince McMahon himself.
Top 5 WWE Hall of Fame Omissions
V. Ivan Koloff
Koloff ended Bruno Sammartino's historic reign as WWWF Champion and could be entered into the Hall of Fame on that accomplishment alone. But even looking past that, the man has unquestionably had a Hall of Fame career. Wrestling for three decades, the man secured a plethora of championships in the NWA, and had successful runs in WWE, AWA and Peurto Rico. In addition to these incredible credentials, Koloff was one of the most convincing and innovative "foreign" performers of all time. Born in Canada but billed as a Russian, Koloff riled up many sold out crowds throughout out his years and such antics have made him a well-respected and truly pioneering performer in professional wrestling history.
IV. The Rock
The Rock would be listed higher if it weren't for the fact that he could still be classed as a semi-active performer, and that he's merely a decade removed from stepping away (more or less) from the wrestling world to become a movie star. But undeniably, of all the names on this list, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the biggest star of all. You'd be hard-pressed to name anyone who has crossed over from the wrestling world to the extent that The Rock has. Hulk Hogan is the nearest rival, and while Hogan's mainstream appeal is undeniable, The Rock was the highest grossing actor of 2013. That's crossover appeal. Rock built a career not out of what he was able to do in the ring, but what he could do on the microphone. And Rock was no slouch in the ring, he was just quite simply that entertaining and charismatic in every single thing he did.
The only reason Sting is currently a member of the WWE Hall of Fame is because he's been working with TNA for the majority of the past decade. Having now parted ways with the company and it seemingly only being a matter of time before Sting appears on WWE television, it's inevitable that the Stinger will be heading into the Hall of Fame in the next few years. WWE has recognized Sting's accomplishments by naming him both the greatest WCW performer of all time as well as the greatest performer to never work for WWE, and it's extremely difficult to argue either of those points. Sting is a 6-time WCW Champion as well as a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion who has a plethora of legendary matches under his belt. The fact that even at Sting's advanced years, people are still clamouring to see him make the move to WWE is a testament to his legacy and his ability.
II. Randy Savage
This is the one everybody talks about and this is the one everybody loves to speculate about. The late great Randy Savage was a pioneer, as charismatic as they come and able to pull off stunning performances inside and outside of the ring whether he was playing the role of a heel or a babyface. Hulk Hogan said it himself – Randy Savage was the only guy they could move the WWF Championship to without harming business. Savage was a proven major draw during the WWF's first major boom period and proved a draw throughout the 1990s in both the WWF and WCW. Savage won numerous world titles and proved himself one of the greatest Intercontinental champions of all time. His legacy is undeniable – Randy Savage has to be considered one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, and surely, it's only a matter of time before he makes it into the WWE Hall of Fame.
I. Lou Thesz
How Lou Thesz is yet to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame is beyond me, considering he's frequently mentioned on WWE TV. I could reel off a mammoth list of statistics that support Thesz's deservingness o get into the Hall, but it's such a moot point. What made Thesz so great was his innovation. Not only is he credited for coming up with a whole host of moves including various suplex variations and the powerbomb, he was also the first NWA Champion to defend the strap in Japan. His series of title bouts with Rikidozan had a profound effect on the sport of professional wrestling in Japan. He then became one of the first to tour Europe and Asia and made a hell of a lot of money from it. Thesz wrestled in seven different decades, held a ridiculous amount of titles and changed the sport forever in many different ways. He's long overdue.
This Week's Diva
In honour of her much-deserved Hall of Fame induction, this week's Diva has to be Lita. A pioneer, a wrestling icon, and a smoking hot babe.
This Week's Farewell
That'll do us for another week. Leave all your feedback for me below and we will see you back here next week. Thanks for reading.