The induction ceremony for the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame Class has come and gone; and with its conclusion brings speculation regarding the next set of inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame. There are several qualified professional wrestlers who deserve to be considered for the hall, but for some reason or another, they have either been passed over, or have just not been considered. Whatever the reason, for every person fortunate enough to be inducted, there is another who is waiting his, her or their (tag team) turn to hear their name called during WrestleMania weekend.
When creating a list of talents who, as the title states, NEED to be in the Hall of Fame, their careers have to be of a high caliber such that their inclusion would not be open to debate. The names on this list are talents who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, as opposed to being popular individuals who were liked but who were not very successful. These are individuals or teams who should already be in, but who haven’t gotten the call yet. As such, here is a list of 15 who NEED to be in the WWE Hall of Fame.
When Demolition first appeared in the WWF, they were looked upon by wrestling fans as rip-offs of Hawk and Animal, the Road Warriors, who were considered the best tag team in professional wrestling at the time. Between the poorly applied face paint and the spiked leather outfits, it seemed impossible for Demolition to be seen as anything other than copies of the Legion of Doom. However, the team of Ax and Smash established itself as one of the greatest tag teams of the Hulkamania era.
Ax was Bill Eadie, who had previously established himself as the Masked Superstar, and Smash was portrayed, first by Randy Colley (Moondog Rex), and then by Barry Darsow, who was previously known as Krusher Kruschev in Jim Crockett Promotions. The two men combined to win the WWE Tag titles three times, and dominated the tag team division against teams like The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The Brain Busters, and the team of Haku and Andre the Giant. Just as a specific group of Horsemen were inducted, Ax and Smash should be inducted, whether or not the powers-that-be wish to induct Crush (Brian Adams) in with the other two.
14 Andy Kaufman
The change from “professional wrestling” to “sports entertainment” has been traced to many different points in time, and some say that the Montreal Screwjob was the turning point for the business. However, some would argue that the storyline that blurred the lines the most, and started people wondering about the legitimacy of the business, was the feud between Andy Kaufman and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Kaufman, who was known to blur the lines between theater and reality in his own comedy acts, created a storyline that saw his feud with Lawler extend to late night talk shows, and had fans talking about it all over the country.
Many of the celebrity inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame are there because of a single appearance on WWE television, or because of brief appearances on more than one WrestleMania. The difference here is that Kaufman started his wrestling storyline in 1979, and he carried it until 1983. The feud helped to increase Lawler’s visibility, and made Kaufman a bigger star. Kaufman belongs in the celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame simply because he did more in wrestling that all of the other celebrities in the Hall combined.
13 Rick Martel
Rick Martel’s first run with the WWE saw him capture the tag titles on two occasions with Tony Garea as his partner. Martel left the WWF for the AWA, and Rick Martel came back to the WWF as a former AWA World Heavyweight Champion, with the third longest reign in the title’s history. Seemingly, that would qualify him for the WWE Hall of Fame, similar to Stan Hansen. However, Martel’s career includes one of the most memorable characters in WWE history.
Rick’s return to WWE included another tag title as a member of Strike Force, a tag team with Tito Santana. After losing the tag titles to Demolition, Martel turned on Santana, and reinvented himself as “The Model”. The Model came to the ring with a turquoise sweater tied around his neck, and an atomizer of cologne called Arrogance, which he sprayed into the eyes of his opponents to help him win matches. For a while, Martel was one of the top heels in the company, and combining this run with his AWA title run, Martel should already be in the Hall of Fame.
12 Ivan Koloff
Bruno Sammartino’s first WWWF Title reign was 2,803 days, which equates to seven years and six months. The first loss that Bruno sustained in a title match was against “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff. Koloff is viewed as a transitional champion, with the belief that the company did not want babyface Bruno Sammartino to face babyface Pedro Morales. So Koloff held the title for 21 days before losing it to Pedro Morales. In WWWF, Koloff was also the first wrestler to challenge for the WWWF/WWF/WWE World Title in a cage match.
When Koloff left WWE, he went to Jim Crockett Promotions and formed The Russians team with Krusher Kruschev (Barry Darsow/Demolition Smash) and Nikita Koloff. The Russians were one of the top teams in the company during the era that featured the Road Warriors, the Rock and Roll Express, and Dusty Rhodes with partners Ronnie Garvin and Magnum TA. Ivan captured numerous singles and tag titles in the Mid-Atlantic area, and in total, Koloff’s influence on the business cannot be questioned.
11 Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer has been referred to as “The Heart and Soul of ECW”. This was because in the original ECW, Tommy was one of the few talents who did not leave the company when talent was being poached by the WWF and WCW. He was also booked as a guy who could get close to the ECW title but would never win it, despite being one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster, until he was forced to because Mike Awesome left the company with the belt.
Tommy’s feud with Raven (more on him later) compares with Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer or the Von Erichs and the Freebirds as one of wrestling’s more legendary wars. The beauty of it was that Tommy never defeated Raven until the last battle when Raven left ECW for WCW. Tommy’s work in this war, plus Tommy’s 14 WWE Hardcore Title reigns makes him more Hall of Fame worthy than some individuals who are currently in the Hall.
The Tommy Dreamer/Raven war was the icing on the cake which was Raven’s career. Raven is considered one of the most decorated wrestlers in the history of the business, except for the fact that 27 of his title reigns were for the WWE Hardcore Title. However, Raven’s 27 reigns is the most of any person who held the title. In addition, Raven was the ECW Champion, the WCW US Champion (prior to the sale of WCW), the ECW Tag Champion four times, and the WCW Tag Champion prior to the sale. This is the blueprint for a Hall of Fame career.
Scott Levy accomplished all of this as Raven, but as Scotty Flamingo, he was the WCW Light Heavyweight Champion, and as Johnny Polo, he managed the Quebecers to three WWF Tag Titles and became one of the company’s best announcers. In addition to this, though WWE will not consider work for Impact Wrestling, Raven was also the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Raven has accomplished a lot in the business, including being the only person to have action figures created for them from WWE, WCW, ECW and TNA.
9 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko’s Hall of Fame worthiness can be described from a single accomplishment. In 1997, Pro Wrestling Illustrated named Dean Malenko the top wrestler in the PWI 500, ahead of DDP, Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Chris Benoit and others. Malenko earned this recognition on the basis of performing in WCW as the Cruiserweight Champion. With a few exceptions, every other person who gained the top spot on a 500 list was a top champion in WWE, or in the case of Sting, the top champion in WCW, which makes Malenko’s accomplishment truly remarkable.
As a member of the Horsemen, and a member of The Radicalz, The Man of 1,000 Holds was one of the best wrestlers in the business. Except for World Titles, Malenko held top titles in WCW, ECW and WWE, and became one of the great Light Heavyweight wrestlers around. Malenko showed that it was possible to be a successful Light Heavyweight/Cruiserweight wrestler with a mat-based style as a contrast to the aerial styles that many lighter-weight wrestlers employ.
8 Lex Luger
“The Total Package” Lex Luger went to Jim Crockett Promotions and joined the Four Horsemen after the group kicked out Ole Anderson. Luger went on to win the US Title five times, the tag titles three times with three different partners; and the World title twice. That taken alone is better than some current inductees, but Luger left WCW, went to the WWF, and became the top babyface in the company.
In the WWE, Luger was pushed as the top guy in the company, hoping to have him replace Hulk Hogan, who had just left the WWE for WCW. However, Luger became the first wrestler who won the Royal Rumble and was entitled a title shot at WrestleMania to not win the World Title, and Luger never captured any gold in the WWE. Back in WCW, Luger became the top guy and, alongside DDP, the main opponent of the New World Order. Luger’s career qualifies him for the Hall, but his life outside of the ring is probably what is keeping him out.
7 The Great Muta
Keiji Mutoh, The Great Muta, is one of the most legendary Japanese performers the business has ever seen. As a three-time All Japan Triple Crown Champion, a four-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and a former NWA World Champion (when the NWA was affiliated with WCW), Muta has accomplished as much or more than any other Japanese performer has. Muta also has eleven combined tag titles between All Japan and New Japan, and he also won New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament in 1995.
In addition to his accomplishments in Japan, Mutoh has a relationship with Jim Crocket Promotions and WCW. Muta feuded with Sting, and was partnered with Terry Funk while Sting helped Ric Flair stave off attacks from manager Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation. Muta defeated Sting for the NWA World Television Title, and helped Terry Fink in Funk’s attempts to wrest the World title from Ric Flair. Muta returned to WCW later and won the second WCW BattleBowl tournament/battle royal before returning to Japan to forge his legendary career.
6 Mike Rotunda
VK (Mr.) Wallstreet, Michael Wallstreet, Captain Mike and Irwin R. Shyster (IRS) are all names that Mike Rotunda is remembered by from his active wrestling days. Today, he is known as the father of Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt, or as the brother-in-law of Barry Windham (more on him later), and the son –in-law of Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan. However, Mike Rotunda, no matter which name he used, has had a career that is worthy of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Rotunda teamed with Barry Windham and won the WWF Tag titles twice, and appeared in one of the featured matches at the first WrestleMania event. He then went to Jim Crockett Promotions and became a three-time Television Champion before returning to the WWF and winning three more tag titles with partner Ted DiBiase. Aside from the title wins, Rotunda’s IRS character is one of the iconic characters of the 1990s, and simply on the basis of the character, Rotunda deserves a spot in the Hall.
5 Barry Windham
As mentioned, Barry Windham won two tag titles with Mike Rotunda in the WWF and appeared in a featured match at the first WrestleMania. However, that was just a part of Barry Windham’s career. Windham is in the Hall as a member of the Four Horsemen group with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson (who should also be in on his own) and Tully Blanchard, but Barry deserves his own induction. Barry is one of the best wrestlers that Ric Flair has ever faced, has been a champion everywhere that he has worked.
If there was something better than being a Triple Crown or a Grand Slam Champion, Barry would be that. In Jim Crockett Promotions, Barry won the NWA World Heavyweight Title, the US Title, the Television Title, the Western States Heritage Title, the World Tag Titles and the United States Tag Titles. Except for the Light Heavyweight title, Barry won every available title, and was also a member of the two best Horsemen groups put together (Flair/Arn/Tully and Flair/Arn/Sid). Barry Windham is a Hall of Famer, and his career accomplishments bear that out.
4 Michelle McCool
Michelle McCool’s list of accomplishments is without peer in terms of women in WWE. After a brand split, the WWE Divas Title was created, and McCool became the first ever Divas Champion. She then won the Women’s title, becoming the first female to have held both titles. Then the titles were combined, and McCool became the first Unified Divas Champion. She was then named as the number one wrestler in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Female 50, the female equivalent to the men’s PWI 500.
The one thing that might keep McCool out of the Hall of Fame is the fact that her career was very short. She debuted in 2004, and retired in 2011, but while she was active, she was one of the best woman wrestlers in the business, as evidenced by all of her history-making title victories. Without a 20+ year career, some might think that she is not worthy, but she accomplished more in seven years than most others do in a career.
Sable was not a wrestler. She was a character, but there are plenty of characters in the WWE Hall of Fame. JYD was more character than wrestler, and Sunny never actually competed in a match. Charles Wright started out as a wrestler, but as the Godfather, became more character than wrestler. Sable started out as a character, but was put into the ring as a wrestler and, despite her limited skills, became a champion.
Sable is a former Women’s Champion, but Sable also appeared in Playboy three times. It has been said that Chyna is not in the Hall because of her foray into adult entertainment, and if that is true, it may also be what is keeping Sable out, though Sunny is in despite her work in adult entertainment and her brushes with the law. WWE’s relationship with Brock Lesnar, Sable’s husband, might help Sable, as she deserves a spot as much as the other characters who were inducted deserved theirs.
2 Brian Pillman
Brian Pillman was the first holder of the original WCW Light Heavyweight Title. He was also the longest reigning champion and the only two-time champion in the title’s brief existence. Pillman’s athletic style helped to move pro wrestling forward, away from the mat-based style of the 70s and 80s. Pillman also, through his “Loose Cannon” gimmick, was a key contributor to the creation of the Attitude Era. Brian Pillman’s career helped to shape much of what pro wrestling would become and is today.
Some will look at the fact that Pillman, while in WWE, never won any titles, but that was more due to his short stay with the company than to his inability to get over because as a member of The Hart Foundation, he was destined for championship gold. His death prevented him from becoming the star in WWE that he was on his way to becoming. However, his contributions to the sport, as well as his performances prior to his death, should be enough to get him inducted into the Hall.
1 The Dudley Boyz
Bubba (Buh-Buh) Ray and Devon (D’Von) Dudley are one of the most honored tag teams in professional wrestling history. The New Age Outlaws are six-time WWE tag champions. Edge & Christian have seven reigns. Harlem Heat has ten WCW Tag Title reigns, but the Dudleys have them all beat. The Dudleys have nine WWE Tag Title reigns, plus one more as WCW Champions under the WWE banner, but that is only the beginning.
The team came to WWE with eight reigns as ECW World Tag Team Champions, so by the time they were done in WWE, they had 18 World Tag Title reigns as a unit in companies under the WWE banner. It would be easy to stop here and say that the boys should be in the next HOF class, and there would be no argument. However, the Dudleys also added two reigns as IWGP Tag Champions, and three as NWA/TNA World Tag Champions. Though WWE will not count these, no other wrestler has more World Tag Team title reigns than Bubba Ray and Devon Dudley.