The WWE Hall of Fame is a tricky institution in the world of professional wrestling. On one hand, it’s widely regarded as arbitrary. After all, if the Hall of Fame were based purely on merit or scientific methods, how could Koko B. Ware have gone in years before Bruno Sammartino? No, it’s clear that the Hall is about marketing and about putting on an annual show, complete with individual annual inductees from the main event scene, tag ranks, and women’s division, plus a celebrity inductee, and often as not one non-wrestling manager or backstage power broker. Moreover, as Bruce Prichard has openly discussed in podcast interviews, who gets inducted when ultimately comes down to Vince McMahon’s opinion alone.
For all the knocks on the WWE Hall of Fame and its legitimacy, there are nonetheless so many wrestling personalities who describe their inductions as the greatest accomplishments of their careers. There are other wrestling halls of fame with more transparent selection methodology and more exact processes, but none of them broadcast inductions from arenas filled with thousands of wrestling fans, nor do they broadcast the show out to a million more onlookers. Bruno Sammartino was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Wichita, Texas in 2002, but how many fans actually knew about it? No, his 2013 induction to WWE’s Hall, as overdue as it may have been, gave the Living Legend the proper tribute and proper opportunity to say thank you and farewell to his legions of fans.
This article looks at eight wrestling personalities who are surefire picks to wind up in the WWE Hall of Fame one day, plus seven others whom you shouldn’t hold your breath on.
17 Will Be: John Cena
While he’s been transitioning out of the role for the last couple years, there’s little doubt that John Cena was the face of WWE for over a decade. His longevity, reliability, and volume of high profile (and deceptively high quality performances) make him easily qualified to headline a Hall of Fame class. No, he never got as white hot as Stone Cold Steve Austin, he didn’t preside over as prosperous a period for the business as Hulk Hogan, and didn’t have a sustained seven-year-plus reign as champ like Bruno Sammartino. Just the same, when it comes to most important wrestlers in WWE history to date, you’d be hard pressed to leave Cena out of the top five.
You can add onto all of these factors that Cena is the ultimate company man who has represented WWE well in the media, never been had Wellness Policy violation, and appealed to children like few other wrestling stars have ever been able to. As he transitions into what looks like more and more of a part time role, WWE could probably justify inducting him ahead of his retirement. More likely, though, the company will wait until he’s more fully inactive, a year when WWE really needs a headliner, or perhaps if or when ‘Mania returns closer to Cena’ home turf in New England.
16 Never: Chyna
In terms of historical importance to pro wrestling, there’s very little question that Chyna deserves a Hall of Fame induction. She’s the only female Intercontinental Champion, the first woman to ever work a Royal Rumble, the only woman to ever make a regular practice of wrestling in the male ranks for WWE, an alum of the wildly popular D-Generation X stable, and a former Women’s Champion to boot.
For most big names for whom fans have questions, requests or demands about Hall of Fame inductions, there’s a shroud of mystery. This makes sense enough, given that if Vince McMahon holds the keys to the castle, then no one but him would really know why someone hasn’t gone in yet, or when he or she might. For Chyna, however, we do have some insight. Triple H—her former on screen ally and real life boyfriend—has commented in multiple interviews that, despite her worthy credentials, there’s concern about what Chyna did outside the wrestling business. Helmsley has referenced it being problematic if kids Google Chyna’s name. Surely, Chyna’s history in pornography is unsavory to WWE, particularly with its current PG style. Her history of legal troubles related to drug abuse and domestic violence don’t help matters, nor does the fact that she was a vocal critic of WWE for some time before her passing.
14 Will Be Inducted: Owen Hart
Since Randy Savage was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, Owen Hart stands alone as the most requested inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame. He was a super-talented aerial artist and technical wrestler, great on the mic, a main eventer for a time, and was near-universally well-liked by his colleagues.
There questions as to WWE’s legal or ethical obligations would be to involve Owen’s widow Martha in a posthumous induction. Martha has been a vocal opponent to WWE since Owen passed, and it’s unlikely she would be a pleasant partner, whether WWE aimed to involve her or not.
For all of the reasons Owen’s induction would be problematic, he’s nonetheless a well-loved legend. If WrestleMania returns to Canada, he could be slam dunk inductee with his brother Bret either inducting him, or accepting the induction on his behalf. Alternatively, to skirt issues with Martha, there’s always the possibility of indirectly inducting him as part of the Hart Foundation stable, much the way Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and Barry Windham went in with the Horsemen. Bret would wouldn’t look out of place following in Ric Flair’s footsteps as a duel inductee.
13 Never: Vince Russo
Vince Russo is known to hardcore fans for his creative input that helped shape the Attitude Era, and for both working creatively and playing an on-air authority figure role in WCW and later TNA. Despite Russo’s talents for coming up with interesting storylines and giving everyone on the card something to do, the general consensus was that he needed a Vince McMahon figure to channel and filter that creativity. The suggestion, in short, is that Russo had a lot of ideas, and couldn’t discern his good ones from his bad ones.
History hasn’t been kind to Russo as a lot of his critics blame him for ultimately ruining WCW once and for all, and a lot of individuals stars have beefs with him. Add onto all of that that Russo left WWE hanging in the heat of the Monday Night War to work with WCW, and you may be hard pressed to find a guy with more heat coming at him from more directions.
The final strike against Russo? He never meaningfully appeared on WWE TV, and appeared in WCW when the company was already past its prime. In short, if you ask the more casual fan, there’s every chance they don’t remember or never really knew of Russo. That’s a tough sell, in and of itself, for a non-wrestler to get inducted.
12 Will Be Inducted: Sean Waltman
The Hall of Fame already includes Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. It’s only a matter of time before Triple H goes in (more on that to follow). Sean Waltman would be the only member of the infamous backstage Kliq left. On nepotism alone, you’d have to assume he’ll get an induction eventually. The reality is that is that he deserves it, too. He was a genre-bending cruiserweight before WWE had a name for talents like him, and a memorable mid-card act who thrived in WWE and WCW over the course of the 1990s.
The bigger question now is if Waltman will go into the Hall on his own, or if WWE might induct has part of a group—most likely The Kliq, though potentially as part of Degeneration X, or even, perhaps as part of the nWo. One way or another, Waltman was too involved in too many high profile things in the 1990s for the Hall to ignore him for too long.
10 Never: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner was a WCW World Champion and one of the few stars the company really built up, independently, from a tag guy to a bona fide main event superstar. Earlier in his career, he was half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time with his brother Rick, and they won championships in both WCW and WWE. Finally, he did have a singles run in WWE later in his career, during which time headlined for a period opposite Triple H.
A guy with Steiner’s resume may be a tough sell for the main event spot in the Hall of Fame, but he’d stand head and shoulders above most mid-card picks. Moreover, given his WCW popularity and his memorable promo style, you could even argue that he’d be a big draw for the Hall of Fame ceremony.
The trouble with Steiner is that he’s a little too outspoken, to the point he has a reputation as a loose cannon. He’s been vocal in his criticism of WWE and really crossed the line in reportedly threatening Hulk Hogan via his wife at an airport. You can argue that Steiner was justified in each of these cases, and has a legitimate gripe against the people he’s gone after. Just the same, WWE is currently a family friendly company and a company does all it can to portray the induction ceremony as a classy affair. While we can never say never, for now, Steiner just doesn’t fit into that mold.
9 Will Be Inducted: The New Age Outlaws
The New Age Outlaws are the definitive tag team of the early Attitude Era, before Edge and Christian, The Hardys, and The Dudley Boyz ascended. While Billy Gunn and The Road Dogg weren’t necessarily a world class working team, but they were iconic if for nothing other than their memorable intro, the Dogg’s gift of gab, and Gunn’s physique.
There was a period when The Outlaws didn’t look like locks for the Hall of Fame. Working for TNA, they were rebranded as the Voodoo Kin Mafia, which conspicuously shared initials with Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and they ran down McMahon and Triple H in worked shoots. The pair eventually returned to WWE, though, for one last run as tag team champions (for which they looked great for their age) and to take on behind the scenes roles mentoring talent.
Gunn reportedly lost his job with WWE because he took performance enhancing drugs to assist with his outside pursuits in weightlifting. While WWE may want to stay separated from him for a bit longer, if he keeps his nose clean, there’s little to reason to think WWE wouldn’t welcome him back for at least a Hall of Fame induction.
Add onto all of this how instrumental The Outlaws were in taking DX from over with the fans, up in to the stratosphere, and they seem like a lock to eventually get inducted.
8 Never: Jeff Jarrett
There are those big stars who burned bridges with WWE, then rebuilt them years later. In his final WWE stint, Jarrett burned a bridge, then, to continue the metaphor, broke out a shovel to little-by-little widen the rift between himself and the company as far as he could.
Jarrett notoriously played WWE and WCW off of each other during the Monday Night War to hop between companies and earn more money and a better spot on the card with each new contract. He purportedly held up Vince McMahon for money on his last jump—one of the biggest no-nos there is. To make Jarrett’s case worse, he wasn’t main event guy like Randy Savage for whom faithful fans would demand a Hall of Fame induction, but rather a talented mid-carder who WWE could sweep under the rug.
Jarrett went down with the ship in WCW, and then launched TNA. While TNA has never been a serious threat to WWE, they have been the closest thing WWE’s had to a competitor in the last fifteen years, and have occasionally taken shots at them with various parody angles, or their ill-fated attempt to rekindle a Monday Night War.
There’s a sliver of a chance that if WWE bought TNA, Jarrett could come along for the ride and get inducted if purely for shock value, but it just doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for Double J.
7 Will Be Inducted: Triple H
In terms of kayfabe accomplishments, longevity, legitimate all around talent, and work behind the scenes, Triple H is in rarefied air as one of the most deserving people to go into the Hall of Fame who hasn’t already. The only thing that could keep a fourteen-time world champion who is now the mastermind behind white hot NXT out of the Hall would be major political issues. Given that he has not only kept his nose clean but married into the McMahon family, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Conceivably, Triple H would defer an induction to avoid an appearance of nepotism, but given he’s so overtly deserving, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to justify doing that for long. Rather than it being a question of if, it’s more likely a question of when he’s going to be inducted, and that time will probably come when he more fully retires from the active performance in the ring.
6 Never: Jim Neidhart
Jim Neidhart was half of the most iconic tag teams in WWE—the Hart Foundation. Later, he was a key player in getting Owen Hart over as a main event player.
The trouble with Neidhart is that he doesn’t quite fit as a WWE Hall of Famer. All of his most famous work is linked to one or more other guys who were the better workers and turned out to be the bigger stars. His most obvious point of entry is as half of the Hart Foundation tag team, but Bret Hart is already in the Hall and if WWE were to double-induct him, I have to assume it would be as part of the Hart Foundation stable. The stable would probably be Neidhart’s best shot, and it is a possibility to work around inducting Owen without putting too much of a spotlight on his death and causing legal issues with his widow. Just the same, that group only got a few-month run together, and three out of five its core members (Owen, Davey Boy Smith, and Brian Pillman) are deceased, which makes it a bit of a sad crew to pay tribute to.
On top of all of that, Neidhart gave a brief shoot interview for Hannibal TV from WrestleCon this year in which he was both poorly spoken and came across as tremendously bitter about not being in the Hall of Fame, which isn’t exactly the best way to campaign for a spot.
5 Will Be Inducted: Rick Martel
When you think about former world champions from the 1980s and 1990s who are fully retired, worked for a spell with WWE, would be recognizable to fans, don’t have major stigmas attached to them, and aren’t yet in the Hall of Fame, you wind up with a very short list of names. One of the first ones to come to my mind is Rick Martel.
While it tends to get overlooked now, Martel had a year and a half long reign as world champion in the AWA from 1984 to 1985. From there, he’d have a respectable career as a face tag team guy in WWE, before transitioning to a mid-card heel with his memorable gimmick as The Model. His run under that role included singles matches at WrestleMania with Tatanka and Jake Roberts. He also offered Shawn Michaels a fun heel vs. heel program early in his singles run, culmination in a match at SummerSlam 1992.
The lone black mark against Martel may be that purportedly argued about money with Vince McMahon toward the end of his time with the company, before defecting to WCW in 1997. McMahon has forgiven far graver sins, though, so one would think that Martel will eventually get in.
4 Never: Dynamite Kid
When it comes to discussing great in-ring workers, particularly from the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dynamite Kid’s name always comes up. His peers cite his efforts in Canada and Japan before he came to WWE as some of the best work they’ve seen, and way ahead of its time. No lesser workers than Bret Hart and Chris Benoit listed him as someone they looked up to early in their careers.
To fans who follow only follow WWE, however, Dynamite was exclusively a tag team wrestler, paired with Davey Boy Smith. While The British Bulldogs certainly had their share of solid matches, they were working in an era when WWE didn’t care so much about work rate, not to mention that the business model of the day meant their best work at unrecorded house shows, and is thus lost to the sands of time. From there, Dynamite would wrestle hurt, a shell of his former self toward the end of his time with the company. Meanwhile, Smith would become more famous working as a singles star over the decade to follow.
Hart and others have suggested that Dynamite has become a bitter old man. He’s purported to have never been the nicest of people, but losing his career and legacy, and facing mounting health issues has allegedly made him all the more unpleasant and mean. That’s not the kind of guy WWE goes out on a limb to bring back for the Hall of Fame.
3 Will Be Inducted: IRS
At first blush, it might seem easy to dismiss Irwin R. Schyster as a silly gimmick of the 1990s, built generate cheap heat because no one likes taxes. If you look more carefully, however, the man beneath the gimmick was a tremendously talented worker with good longevity. He defended the Tag Team Championships in three out of the first ten WrestleManias (twice, successfully), and if for no other reason than his absurd wrestling garb, he’s one of the most memorable mid-card heels of the 1990s.
In addition to IRS’s in-ring merits, he’s gone on to a backstage role with WWE, proving himself a great wrestling mind and surely only ingratiating himself more to management. You can add onto all of that that he now has two sons working for WWE. While Bo Dallas has had an uneven run on the main roster, Bray Wyatt is now a former world champion, and one of WWE’s most unique attraction. WWE may want to continue cultivating Wyatt as his own character for a while yet, but it doesn’t seem unrealistic he may one day apply his considerable skills as an orator to inducting his old man into the Hall of Fame.
2 *Never: Vince McMahon
Make no mistake about it—Vince McMahon deserves to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. He’s the most important promoter in wrestling history who revolutionized the business when he expanded nationally, has been responsible for wave after wave of boom periods in the business, and oversaw the transition to the WWE Network that, in a number of ways, reinvented the wrestling business and how fans watch it all over again. As if his work behind the scenes weren’t enough, there’s an argument to be made that he could go in based on his work as play-by-play man from the 1980s to 1990s. On top of that, there’s little question he deserves a spot as the greatest heel authority figure in wrestling history, not to mention a wrestler willing to take a high profile beating to entertain the fans.
By all accounts, though, McMahon is not interested in an induction. There is, to be fair, a degree absurdity to the man who decides who goes in the Hall of Fame inducting himself. Moreover, he seems to legitimately have a degree of humility on this point. Add onto that that it seems most likely he’ll die before he retires, and you have a guy who doesn’t look Hall of Fame bound anytime soon. Maybe McMahon gets in eventually on a posthumous induction, when he can’t fight it anymore, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he specifically requests that it does not happen.
1 Will Be Inducted: The Undertaker
There are few WWE talents more deserving of Hall of Fame induction than The Undertaker. Heck, if he’d retired 25 years ago, there’d be an argument that he was Hall of Fame-worthy—already a world champion who’d defeated Hulk Hogan and transitioned from great monster heel to great big man face. Add in winning 23 WrestleMania matches, seven world title victories, his consistent evolution to match the times, and arriving at his prime as a worker about a decade ago, and you have one of the most remarkable WWE careers ever.
While The Undertaker has generally been deeply protective of his character and reticent to break kayfabe, he has done it a bit in recent years, appearing and talking briefly with media at MMA events, and for a small handful of WWE documentary projects. Assuming he really is retired, it only makes sense that he’d crack the kayfabe shell once and for all and give one hell of an induction speech whenever WWE is ready for him to. Maybe it’ll be next year, with a New Orleans-style funeral procession to lead him to the stage. Maybe it’ll be at a good round number like WrestleMania 35, or the next time the ‘Mania comes to Texas. Regardless, it would be shocking if we don’t see The Undertaker inducted soon.