Since it was established in 1993, the WWE Hall of Fame has been one of the most controversial institutions in sports entertainment. On the surface this makes little sense, as with any Hall of Fame, the sole purpose WWE had in mind when creating theirs was to honor the past vanguards of the industry, who paved the way for the modern era. If that was what the HoF went on to accomplish, there would be little to complain about, but largely due to a highly mysterious selection, a large number of honored individuals have come under fire as not quite earning their induction.
Significantly worse than the inductees who didn’t quite affect wrestling history are the countless snubs in the direction of athletes who genuinely did change the business forever. Because there’s a limit to the number of people inducted each year, its understandable there are still people who should be Hall of Famers out there yet to earn the honor. However, it becomes less easy to comprehend these decisions when horrible sports entertainers who barely did anything noteworthy in their careers are given nods over trailblazers and innovators who WWE apparently wants fans to ignore and/or outright forget about. Keep reading to discover the 10 biggest snubs from the WWE Hall of Fame plus 10 inductees who didn’t deserve the honor.
24 UNDESERVING: “Bullet” Bob Armstrong
Fresh out the gate, we’ll admit that everyone to get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame obviously has someone out there who thinks they deserve it. “Bullet” Bob Armstrong was a legend in several southern territories, so he may come off as one of the more controversial names on the undeserving half of the list. The problem arises when you realize Armstrong almost never worked for WWE, nor did any of the work he did for various NWA territories transcend the business to the extent its still talked about today. While an older fan might have some memories of “Bullet” Bob that makes him deserving on sentimental value, modern fans really only know him as the father of Brad, Scott, Steve, and Road Dogg. Having four sons who all became wrestlers to varying degrees of success is kind of cool, but it’s hardly a Hall of Fame worthy achievement.
23 SNUBBED: Eric Bischoff
Ironically, the reason Eric Bischoff deserves to enter the WWE Hall of Fame is identical to the explanation for why many wrestling fans think he’ll never be given the honor. During his tenure as the Executive Vice President of WCW, Bischoff came closer than anyone else to putting Vince McMahon out of business. That he did so by creating brilliantly exciting and unpredictable wrestling storylines is just icing on the cake, although the specifics don’t really matter. Bischoff is also one of the most controversial people sports entertainment has ever known, and even after he gave up on putting the McMahon’s out of business and started working for them, things never seemed entirely smooth between them. Inducting Bischoff into the Hall of Fame would be a huge integrity move on McMahon’s part, admitting he wasn’t always perfect and had some competition that almost knocked him out. Obviously, that’s why we think it’ll never happen.
22 UNDESERVING: Jacqueline
As the old saying goes, being unique doesn’t necessarily make you useful. In certain respects, Jacqueline does deserve credit for being one of the few African American women to find a long-term role in an industry that notoriously hasn’t been great towards minorities in general. Jacqueline was the first black WWE Women’s Champion, and the only woman to win the WCW TV or WWE Cruiserweight Championships. Less notably, she was also the first regular black female referee in WWE. Regardless of all this, the fact of the matter is Jacqueline was actually pretty terrible in each of these roles, neither a good wrestler nor particularly great at giving interviews. How exactly she remained employed for so long is a mystery, and inducting her into the Hall of Fame merely shines the spotlight on how few minorities WWE has hired over the years.
20 SNUBBED: Davey Boy Smith
Despite a decent number of British stars passing through WWE over the years, no native Englishman has won a recognized World Championship. The closest anyone has come was Davey Boy Smith, who main evented a considerable number of WWE and WCW Pay-Per-Views without ever winning the belt. Included amongst these events was SummerSlam 1992, where Davey Boy did manage to win the Intercontinental title from Bret Hart in a decade defining match. Smith was also at least in part responsible for dozens of other classic encounters, both as a solo act and in tag teams with his relatives The Dynamite Kid and Owen Hart. Once a member of the Hart family through marriage, Davey Boy’s life was also marred with controversy, mostly related to his rampant drug use and erratic personal life. That said, there are far worse people than Davey Boy already in the Hall of Fame, so his accomplishments in the ring should far outweigh his unfortunate demise.
18 UNDESERVING: The Godfather
In all fairness to WWE, at least they choose the right gimmick when inducting Charles Wright, because The Godfather beat the hell out of Papa Shango. Not that it really matters either way, because the reality is that neither those two gimmicks nor Wright’s reformed Goodfather character were particularly Hall of Fame worthy ideas. Yes, The Godfather was extremely popular for a short while, and one of the more endearing jokes of the Attitude Era. Although fans were always happy to see The Godfather, his matches rarely lasted more than five minutes or so, and he wasn’t exactly a World Championship contender to say the least (with one exception). Twenty years down the line when the Hall is grasping for stars, maybe he deserves a nod, but with so many worthy names still omitted, it feels way too early for The Godfather to take the ho train to history.
17 SNUBBED: Rikidōzan
The WWE Hall of Fame mostly celebrates sports entertainment history as it directly relates to the McMahon family, and thus focuses mostly on American wrestling, the US being where WWE does the vast majority of it’s business. While handful of Japanese, Mexican, and other foreign stars have managed to achieve international fame, thus earning induction, none deserved it more than Rikidōzan, who is generally considered the father of puroresu. Through his matches with against American opponents, especially Lou Thesz, Rikidōzan became the most popular star in Japanese wrestling history, his matches earning some of the highest television ratings the country has ever seen. Virtually every Japanese star to come since Rikidōzan has been somehow influenced by him, and now that the HoF has created a “Legacy Wing” for the most important pre-WWE performers, it should have been a given that Rikidōzan was one of them.
16 UNDESERVING: Johnny Rodz
The least predictable moment of career jobber Johnny Rodz’s life was becoming one of the earliest WWE Hall of Fame inductions way back in 1996. The Hall was only around for three years at that point, and the first only saw one induction, meaning less than 15 men were inducted before Rodz. One would think an athlete honored so soon after the establishment was founded must have been highly influential, but like we just said, Rodz never ascended past the role of jobber to the stars. His tenure in WWE was notable, albeit due to its length, losing to actual superstars from 1965 to the mid ‘80s. That said, dozens of more memorable superstars have jobbed to legends over the years, and Rodz was almost completely forgettable. Though he would gradually redeem himself as a trainer, teaching future ECW stars like Tazz, The Dudley Boyz, and Tommy Dreamer, at the time he was inducted, Rodz had done almost nothing to earn it.
13 SNUBBED: Cyndi Lauper
For all the controversy surrounding the Celebrity Wing to the WWE Hall of Fame, there are a few non-wrestling entertainers who ingratiated themselves enough to the sports entertainment industry that fans completely understand when WWE honors them for doing so. Bizarrely, they’ve yet to acknowledge the woman responsible for taking the Rock and Wrestling Connection to MTV in the mid 1980s, pop singer Cyndi Lauper. As Wendi Richter’s manager during her feud with The Fabulous Moolah, Lauper was bringing WWE mainstream attention even Hulk Hogan wasn’t providing. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was also the perfect song to highlight Richter’s feud with Lou Albano, based on Lou being an outdated sexist who thought women shouldn’t wrestle. Lauper continued to exhibit a positive attitude towards wrestling for decades, especially her friends Albano and Roddy Piper, making it even more baffling why WWE has yet to honor her.
12 UNDESERVING: Chris Von Erich
Everything about Chris Von Erich’s life was unfair. His brothers David, Kerry, Kevin, and Mike were all wrestling superstars, working for their equally famous father Fritz to turn World Class Championship Wrestling into an extremely successful enterprise, at least for a short while. Unlike some of his brothers, Chris adored wrestling and wanted to emulate their fame, but his small frame and weak bones meant he could barely get in the ring without hurting himself. Saddened by his inability to live up to his family name, Chris took his own life less than one year after making his in-ring debut. There’s no denying this story is an absolute tragedy, and it’s understandable why WWE would induct Chris along with the rest of his family. Had the Warrior Award been around at the time, perhaps Chris would have been a worthy recipient, but as a regular wrestler he just didn’t have it.
11 SNUBBED: Miss Elizabeth
Gracefully leading her husband “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the ring during his bombastic matches throughout the 1980s, Miss Elizabeth was unlike any woman the wrestling industry had ever seen. Though there had been female wrestlers and managers before, Elizabeth was calm and reserved in every way her husband was not, earning sympathy like no other through her role as a long suffering wife. When they reconciled and became the match made in heaven once again, Elizabeth was one of the few women to be married in a wrestling ring without incident (at least as far as the wedding was concerned). Expressly due to the low level female talents that have been inducted in recent years, a true original like Miss Elizabeth needs to be honored for changing the business and giving women a chance to stand out from the men.
10 UNDESERVING: The Bushwhackers
Clubbing their arms around for no reason, licking young fans, and showing a bizarre love of sardines, The Bushwhackers are more notable for inventing brand new stereotypes about New Zealanders than anything they accomplished in the ring. Granted, had Butch Miller and Luke Williams entered the Hall of Fame as The Sheepherders, there might be less drama about their induction. Wrestling all over the world as outlandish madmen, the Sheepherders innovated hardcore brawling years before the style was mainstream. However, once they joined the WWE Universe and became blithering wackjobs, they also stopped trying in the ring and fast became unfunny jokes enjoyed only by young children and Vince McMahon. Inducting them as The Bushwhackers not only feels deserving, but it’s also an insult to their legacy as performers, highlighting the lowest point of their careers and ignoring when they were actually historic.
9 SNUBBED: Santo
More than simply a professional wrestler, Santo was a movie star, comic book superhero, and to many Mexican wrestling fans, an outright folk hero. From the early 1940’s to his retirement in 1982, Santo was by far the biggest star lucha libre had ever seen, with only his archrival Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras even coming close to his legend. Santo also has ties to the WWE Universe as a regular tag team partner of Gory Guerrero, the father of Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero. WWE has already honored Mil Máscaras, who to be fair does have more direct ties with the company by competing in a handful of WWE matches throughout his long career. Santo was always the bigger star, though, more important to lucha libre in general, and therefore to truly feel international WWE needs to honor his legendary status.
8 UNDESERVING: Beth Phoenix
Considering Beth Phoenix isn’t even officially in the Hall of Fame as of this writing (this being written the same day she was officially announced as the newest 2017 inductee), you can go ahead and call us reactionary on this one. That said, Phoenix has been rumored as entering for a few weeks now, and many fans were instantly in agreement she was one of the least deserving inductees in history. The general idea behind a Hall of Fame is that the earlier greats get honored before recent mid-level talents, and that’s pretty much how it should be. In addition to the female snubs we’ve mentioned throughout this list, there are also women like Ivory, Luna Vachon, Molly Holly, Debra, Sable, Mike McGuirk, and countless other females who were all far more important to wrestling history than Phoenix’s seven short years in the company.
7 SNUBBED: Ivan Koloff
Now more than ever, the Hall of Fame snub of Ivan Koloff stings particularly hard to his many remaining fans. The man who ended Bruno Sammartino’s seven years long WWE Championship reign heavily campaigned to get inducted the same year as Bruno only to literally get ignored, and in early 2017 the chance of the honor happening in his lifetime tragically came to a permanent end. His untimely demise notwithstanding, Uncle Ivan was the class of wrestling legend deserving of induction pretty much since day one. Granted, the championship reign that started when he beat Bruno didn’t last long, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most hated heels of the early ‘70s into the late ‘80s, both in WWE and throughout the NWA. In addition to his huge victory over Bruno, Koloff also won countless regional tag team championships with equally legendary partners like Nikolai Volkoff, Ole Anderson, and of course his “nephew” Nikita, making him a veritable jack of all trades.
6 UNDESERVING: Rikishi
Longevity, versatility, and adaptability are all important concepts for a WWE superstar, yet Rikishi stands as another example that the sum of these parts doesn’t necessarily a Hall of Famer make. Beginning his career in 1985 as half of the Samoan Swat Team, mimicking the success of his uncles The Wild Samoans, he later transitioned to a solo career as Fatu, The Sultan, and then finally Rikishi, the latter of which briefly making him one of the most popular stars of the Attitude Era. That success was brief, though, and a heel turn almost instantly killed his career, proving in definitive fashion Rikishi simply wasn’t a main event level talent. Although Rikishi won a respectable number of tag team championships with names like Scotty II Hotty, Rico, and his cousin Samu, and even earned some solo gold as Intercontinental Champion, it just isn’t enough to make him a true legend, and thus he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame before people who actually hold that status.
5 SNUBBED: Chyna
Unlike any other snub on this list, WWE has actually given a statement about why Chyna has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Company COO and HoF decision-maker Triple H, also Chyna’s ex-boyfriend before he cheated on her with current wife Stephanie McMahon, admits he’s worried that his daughters or other young fans might Google her and discover she made a handful of adult films. They’d also find out how their father ruined her career and perhaps life, which were trailblazing and wildly successful prior to his intervention, so we get why he’d come up with a non-explanation like that to justify hiding the skeletons in his closet. Even so, all it should take is a cursory glimpse at Chyna’s time in wrestling to understand why he needs to get over it, as she reached a level of fame no other woman in the company has ever come near.
4 UNDESERVING: James Dudley
Before this entry goes any further, let’s acknowledge that James Dudley was more than Vince McMahon, Sr.’s good friend and limo driver, which is what detractors often point to when calling him the least deserving inductee in history. In truth, Dudley isn’t without his noteworthy accomplishments, having also been the first African American to manage a major sports arena in the United States. It also isn’t fair to entirely discount whatever friendship he had with the McMahon family, as both Senior and Junior have called him one of the most “important cogs” in the company. Despite these considerable accolades, Dudley almost never stepped inside a wrestling ring, and was far from the most important person behind the scenes when he was the first non-wrestler inducted in 1994. Maybe if the trend of honored backstage officials had continued each year, Dudley’s induction would feel more appropriate, but as is, he feels out of place.
3 SNUBBED: Andy Kaufman
This list already accused the Celebrity Wing of being generally controversial, so let’s push that aside for a second. Even if WWE had no interest in mainstream attention, Andy Kaufman should have been one of the first names considered when discussing wrestling history. The standup comedian and co-star of Taxi entered sports entertainment in the late ‘70s, turning into the most hated man in Memphis within a few short years. Kaufman’s feud with Jerry Lawler predated WWE going national by appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, creating one of the most historic and widely viewed moments of the era. If there’s any downside to Kaufman’s legacy in wrestling, it’s that Vince McMahon, Sr. infamously passed on him when first pitched the idea of a bitter celebrity wrestler, meaning his greatest moments happened outside of the WWE Universe. Obviously, however, that hasn’t stopped other superstars from earning inductions, let alone celebrities, and so Kaufman should have been a lock for decades.
2 UNDESERVING: Koko B. Ware
At the rate WWE is inducting previous superstars, it won’t be long before practically anybody seems worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. That hasn’t happened yet, and until it does, Koko B. Ware will remain the warning sign it could. Koko earned his induction in 2009, despite being a career midcarder who never won a championship while working for the McMahon’s. While he was popular and energetic, Ware didn’t offer much in the ring to back up his personality, and that holds true both in kayfabe and a more technical sense. Not only did his career lack gold; The Birdman wasn’t much of a winner in general, losing far more high profile bouts than he won. Jobbers to the stars and small level talent have permeated through the HoF for years, but it never seemed appropriate when they did, and Koko was no different from the rest.
1 SNUBBED: Toots Mondt
It’s always an oversimplification to claim a given industry wouldn’t exist if not for the work of one person, and yet Toots Mondt comes pretty close to holding that honor so far as sports entertainment is concerned. Back in the 1930s, it was Mondt who decided scripted grappling needed to be more spectacular and extravagant than the slow paced technical bouts of yore, inventing what he called “Slam Bang Western Style Wrestling.” Years later, Mondt was also integral in the formation of WWE, teaming with Vince McMahon, Sr. when he broke the longstanding partnerships between his Capitol Wrestling Corporation and the NWA, thus forming the World Wide Wrestling Federation. On top of that, Mondt was responsible for booking Buddy Rogers and later made the choice to turn Bruno Sammartino into a main event star, essentially making him responsible for the output of the two greatest wrestlers of the 1960s. His legendary reputation notwithstanding, Mondt was basically ignored by the McMahon family for decades, leaving him penniless when he died in 1976. The first step to making it up to his legacy would be a Hall of Fame induction, and there’s absolutely no explanation why WWE hasn’t given him one yet.
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