The WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held the night before WrestleMania has come to be a celebration of wrestlers from recent generations. There are wrestlers who never saw time in modern-day WWE, like Stan Hansen and Japanese greats like Antonio Inoki inducted, so you can’t say that it’s not a fair representation of the best wrestling has had to offer all over the world.
Well, there are people who make you want to say it. The fact is, the WWE Hall of Fame could just as easily be called “Vince McMahon’s Hall of Fame” since he is the judge and jury over who gets to be inducted. Usually, the recipient is obvious and makes sense, like Sting or Randy Savage in recent years. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, like Rikishi or The Bushwackers, but we’re OK with it nonetheless. It’s not like it hurts us if a lesser wrestler is inducted.
What does get us is that there are dozens of wrestlers out there who have the kind of careers that are Hall of Fame worthy, but for whatever reason, Vince McMahon has decided not to give their career the stamp of immortality. It’s a shame because for many of the wrestler inducted, the Hall of Fame is their last major stop in their career and it exposes them to a younger audience who may not be familiar with their work.
If Tony Atlas, Koko B Ware and Nikolai Volkoff can be in the Hall of Fame than it’s hard to believe McMahon has any hard and fast criteria for admission. If we had the boss’ ear and it was time to pick inductees we have a list we’d share, but alas instead of being inductees, they’ll probably be left on the outside looking in and with that in mind, here are the top 15 wrestlers who will miss a Hall of Fame induction by a hair.
This isn’t Shawn Michaels-Marty Jannetty syndrome by a longshot, but when your best friend and tag team partner is probably one of the top 10 stars of the last 20 years, it’s easy to understand why you may be overlooked. Talentwise, if you can find two guys who are a real tag team (not one of these thrown together combinations of two singles wrestlers) better than Edge and Christian, let us know who they are because we can think of any. Christian has a good career. He was a world champion a couple of times, held a ton of tag team gold and basically carried the WWE’s version of ECW until it was brought behind the barn and shot in the head. Still, he always looked as if he was waiting for Edge to make the first move and it’s hard to think of any classic matches that involved Christian as a singles wrestler. It’s going to be close, and maybe he’ll be used as filler one day, but we think he’s not going to make it into the Hall of Fame
We hope we’re wrong on this one, but if they’re putting Jacqueline into the Hall of Fame in front of Victoria, we don’t have a lot of hope that the raven-haired beauty is going to be seeing the podium anytime soon. Even wrestlers like Candice Michelle are brought back for WWE Network shows, but you won’t see Victoria which makes us wonder if there’s any bad blood there. For her generation, only Trish and Lita were better wrestlers. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t remember who finishes third in anything and it’s doubly bad with divas of that era because there just simply aren’t many standout matches to remember unless they featured degrading stipulations. She could have a chance if the WWE sticks to its policy of putting in one woman every year, but we’re not holding our breath with Victoria. Too many divas have/will retire before her number comes up.
13 King Kong Bundy
Starting at the first Wrestlemania and moving forward, there are only two shows where a member of the main event isn’t already in the Hall of Fame. We’ll get to the other one shortly, but a name people have mentioned for a long time is King Kong Bundy as someone getting slighted year after year. Rumors are that he went against some of Vince McMahon’s wishes when it came to booking gigs back in the day, but it must be more since McMahon seems to be able to get over anything if it’s good for business. Bundy wasn’t Andre or Big John Studd, but he’s one of the most recognizable big men of his era and had two fairly successful runs with WWE, including being one of Undertaker’s first few Wrestlemania victims at Wrestlemania XI. There’s got to be more going on here because there is no plausible in-ring reason Bundy shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, but if he’s not in by now, he never will be.
Earthquake has the biggest strike of all going against him: He’s dead. The WWE never likes to honor more than one dead wrestler per year, kind of like their one woman and one Japanese wrestler per year rule. This spot has been taken up by the likes of Paul Bearer, Big John Studd, Curt Hennig and most recently, The Big Boss Man. Earthquake’s career just didn’t live up to theirs and unfortunately, there are just too many deceased wrestlers of a higher caliber from Earthquake’s era. The fact he went and made a joke of himself in WCW in the last few years of his career probably doesn’t help either. If Earthquake were still alive, we could see him taking the kind of midcarder spot that has gone to The Godfather and The Bushwackers at Hall of Fame inductions of the past, but that just won’t ever be the case.
11 Sid Vicious
You can also call him Sid Justice or Sycho Sid as he was known during his WWE runs, but what you’ll never call him is a Hall of Famer. Along with King Kong Bundy, he’s the only other wrestler to main event one of the first 10 Wrestlemanias who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was portrayed as a monster through most of his career and even had a quick world title reign ended by The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 13, but history has not been kind to Sid. The Internet (both YouTube and lists like this) remind us of two things in Sid’s career: First, the horrendous leg breaking incident in WCW that ended his full-time career; Second, that he was one of the biggest jokes on the microphone there ever was. A Top-10 greatest blown lines compilation features Sid at least three times. His WWE send-off will be the “legends” match he wrestled against Heath Slater a few years back. The fans’ long memory is what is keeping this guy out of the HOF.
10 Jeff Hardy
Here’s another one that we think is just, just going to miss induction. He hasn’t been seriously considered to this point because he’s spent the last chunk of his career in TNA where he’s been successful, but come on, it’s TNA. Hardy was one of the most groundbreaking tag teams in WWE history and was on a decent single runs, including a world title reign when his problems with drugs forced everything to come crashing down. It’s those well known issues with chemicals that we think are going to keep Jeff Hardy out of the Hall of Fame for a very long time, along with the fact he sucks at cutting promos and his induction speech would probably be boring to sit through. His best shot at seeing the HOF stage will be if WWE inducts the Hardy Boyz as a group and if Matt is told to do all of the talking.
9 Lilian Garcia
If she were a male ring announcer, she wouldn’t be missing the Hall of Fame by a hair, she wouldn’t even be in consideration. Until somebody very unique comes along, the WWE is not going to be recognizing any ring announcers beyond Howard Finkel in the Hall of Fame, although technically, Bob Uecker was a two-time Wrestlemania announcer and he’s in the Hall, but that’s the celebrity wing, which doesn’t count. With the exception of a couple of weeks, Garcia was never included in any storylines and aside from singing America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner to start pay-per-views, how much do you really know about this woman? The other thing working against her is that there have been plenty of women ring announcers since her, but just because you’re the first doesn’t mean you’re HOF worthy. Just ask Rita Chatterton, the first (and only) WWE/F female referee.
8 The British Bulldogs
This is a situation of neither the Bulldogs being fit to appear. Davey Boy Smith because he’s dead and The Dynamite Kid because he’s in a wheelchair and if he did appear, he’d probably just blame wrestling and the WWE for all of his problems. He’s been doing that on the shoot interview circuit for years. Smith’s son, Harry, rubbed the WWE the wrong way years ago when he was given a job, so they’re not going to be quick to put him on stage either. This points to one of the big problem’s of WWE’s Hall of Fame over others. This one has one voter, Vince McMahon. All of the others have hundreds of voters who can’t deny talent because of fear or personal vendettas. While videotape today can’t capture how special this tag team was, for those who grew up during the era, they are among the best ever.
7 Kevin Sullivan
Had Kevin Sullivan come along 10 years later, he’d already be in the Hall of Fame. He started as a mid-card wrestler for the WWF in the later 70s then traveled to Florida where he made his name in that territory with a Satan worshiping gimmick, although he never specifically used any words that mean “devil.” He worked some shows for ECW, but spent the bulk of his career in WCW, where the Satan thing was dropped and he was seen as either a scrappy brawler or as the leader of The Varsity Club. Behind the scenes, he was known to have one of the best minds for booking, although he accidentally booked his wife Nancy into the arms of Chris Benoit who, well, you know… If Sullivan is ever going to see the Hall of Fame, it probably will be in 2017 since Wrestlemania is coming from Orlando, the state Sullivan resides in and had some of his most memorable matches.
6 Shane Douglas
Here’s a guy who was smart, a good wrestler with a good look and nothing but a bright future for the first 10 years of his career, then it slowly fell apart and Shane Douglas is starting to become a “Who?” or “Oh yeah, I remember him” as new fans are made and older ones forget the past. He got through a dismal run with WCW as Johnny Ace’s tag team partner and a stint in WWF as Dean Douglas with too much career damage. He even won the Intercontinental title briefly, but was blackballed by the Kliq. He made his legacy in ECW where amid the violence and high-flying action, he was a solid wrestler with solid mic skills who didn’t need to bleed to put on a good show. After ECW imploded, so did Douglas who had a rough run in TNA and battled a painkiller addiction. Early in his career, when he still was a substitute teacher during the day to make end’s meet, he gave several interviews talking about wanting to wrestle for a few years to put away enough money and then become a full-time teacher or doctor. He passed on those dreams somewhere along the way. Hopefully they weren’t exchanged for a dream of being in the Hall of Fame.
5 The Great Muta
If the WWE isn’t going to recognize The Great Muta’s father, The Great Kabuki, at the Hall of Fame induction in Texas the day before Wrestlemania 32, it’s probably safe to say they’re not going to recognize Muta. Kabuki defined “evil foreigner” in Texas in the 1980s and was the originator of the green mist in the face, a tactic Muta and a handful of other Asian wrestlers have used. Isn’t it strange only Asian wrestlers do the green mist gimmick? It must be something in the water in Japan. Muta is arguably the Japanese wrestler who has had the most impact on American wrestling for the last 30 years, but he never stepped foot in a WWE ring, which never helps induction chances. As the WWE continues to remember Japanese greats, we know people like Jushin Liger are going to see the Hall of Fame stage far before The Great Muta ever will.
Once Randy Savage got into the Hall of Fame, the tag team of Demolition jumped up to first place on most people’s “Why aren’t they in the Hall?” list. This is another case of bad blood between the duo and the WWE which will probably keep the defining tag team of the 1980s out of the Hall. The duo have been involved with two lawsuits against WWE, the most recent being as two of the long list of people who are on the class action concussion list. Along with Mr. Fuji and, in the end, Crush, Demolition was the WWE’s answer to The Road Warriors, but in many people’s hearts, actually surpassed the Legion of Doom in popularity. We understand why Vince McMahon would not want to put anybody into the Hall of Fame who has sued him a couple of times, but if he can get over whatever kept him from inducting Savage, he can figure out a way to make a few bucks off Demolition. Hell, why not trade them HOF induction for dropping the lawsuit.
3 Rick Rude
If you ask today’s crop of wrestlers for a list of guys who influenced them and who haven’t got their fair recognition, you’re going to hear Rick Rude’s name come up a lot. One of the best bad guys of his generation, it was impossible to not hate Rude and exactly for the reason he wanted you to. He knew he was a great looking guy and a terrific wrestler and he reminded people every step of the way. If wrestlers are trying to find a way to get a crowd to hate them, Rick Rude is the template. After getting injured, he served as a second to groups like D-X and the NWO, but wasn’t given the spotlight he could have used to help other guys get over. Unfortunately, Rude died and that often is the biggest hurdle to getting into the Hall of Fame. If he were alive, he’d already be in and we’ve got to believe his name is part of the conversation every year, but it’s always left on the table and sadly, always will be.
2 Rob Van Dam
Here’s another guy who is getting easier to forget the longer his career is in the rear view mirror and we think we know why. Rob Van Dam was an incredible entertainer. He did moves in the ECW and WWE fans had never seen before and with his colorful singlet and thumbs pointing at himself while repeating “R-V-D” he was a fan favorite. He was also the only person to ever hold the WWE World Title and their version of the ECW title simultaneously. But, he sucked on the microphone. He also didn’t know how to work the political system backstage. Oh, and he was a huge advocate for marijuana legalization, appearing high in more than one promo. You just can’t carry this much baggage and essentially disappear in retirement and expect to see the Hall of Fame stage anytime in the near future. We loved to watch the guy, but when it comes to his legacy, he’s his own worst enemy.
1 Brutus Beefcake
It may seem silly to put him on this list, but just about every one of his contemporaries and wrestling buddies is in the Hall of Fame. He was a multi-time WWE tag team champion, briefly held the Intercontinental belt and with “The Barber” created one of the most well known characters ever. The problem was, he was only adequate in interviews and less-than-adequate in the ring, not to mention he had well-known issues with chemical abuse. His breaks came because Hulk Hogan was one of his best friends. He didn’t belong anywhere near WCW in the last few years of his career, switching gimmicks as frequent as the seasons passed. Nonetheless, if they’re going to recognize The Godfather, Koko B. Ware and Rikishi, Brutus Beefcake probably deserves a spot. Will he get it? Probably not. Hulk Hogan just doesn’t have the pull around Titan Tower that he once did.