The Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious honors that anyone can receive after a career in the wrestling industry, and although it has been devalued by the amount of people inducted each year, it is still a huge honor. Being the headline act is always the biggest honor, with people like Shawn Michaels, Edge, and most recently Kurt Angle receiving that honor in recent years, so today, we are going to look to the future a little. I’d love to see the ceremony honor a selected two or three each year, as opposed to the nearly 10 that go in each year, but that’s an article for another day, as this one will look at who should headline each of the next 15 WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies.
Author's note: I realize that the WWE may look to cram two or more of these performers onto the same show, to save them from waiting so long to enter the Hall (people will point to the likes of Edge and Eddie Guerrero and how quick they entered, but their careers ended in such quick and shocking fashion), but I believe they should be patient and wait until the performers have been gone from being regular performers for some time, hence some of the entries in the later years.
15 2018 – The Undertaker
This one is obvious, as The Undertaker has reportedly wrestled his last match in the WWE (and hopefully so, as that was the perfect send-off for the Deadman), and after a legendary 27-year WWE career, he can be considered one of the top five performers in the history of such an illustrious business. The ceremony will be a unique sight indeed, as ‘Taker has maintained a dedication to keeping kayfabe over that time, so it would be interesting to see which side of the legendary character we see on the night.
No matter what approach Mark Calaway takes on the night, whether he chooses to reflect on his career from an insider perspective, breaking the kayfabe he fought so valiantly to keep alive since his debut in 1990, or whether he sticks to his guns and gives nothing but a short, Deadman-like speech, it will be an incredible night, and one that ‘Taker deserves more than any other performer in recent memory.
14 2019 – The Rock
It’s surprising that The Rock hasn’t been inducted into the Hall yet, considering guys like Edge, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold have all received that call, and it probably would have happened in 2018 if not for The Undertaker, but The Rock is worthy of this position, so expect it to happen in 2019. The People’s Champ still makes regular appearances for the company when on break from Hollywood, and he’s still as big of a draw today as he was at his peak, so his speech alone could bring in quite possibly the biggest audience for a Hall of Fame ceremony ever. The Brahma Bull will go down as one of the biggest stars in the history of the industry, and an induction into the Hall while he still remains at peak popularity in Hollywood would be a great idea from the WWE’s point of view. Of course, it would also be a very well-deserved accolade for him.
13 2020 – Big Show
Big Show has been a big part of wrestling ever since the days of WCW, and for someone of his size whom people expected to be nothing more than a novelty act, it’s amazing that he has survived and thrived this long. He may not have the Championship pedigree of some of the others on this list, but his influence on the wrestling business is more than title belts, as he has played key roles in ECW, WCW and the WWE, as both a heel and a face. Given he has switched between face and heel over 20 times in his career, the fans tend to make fun of him, and he has been booked terribly at times. Despite all of that, he has maintained the respect of everyone in the industry, and this would be the perfect way to thank him for those incredible years of service.
12 2021 – Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has had an incredibly storied career, all the way from Japan to Mexico, and then returning to North America for journeys in ECW, WCW and the WWE. After all that time, he has managed to reinvent himself time and time again, to the point where the work he put in for the company since last year could be considered the best work of his career, even in his mid-to-late-40s. Eventually though, the creative talent that Y2J possesses won’t allow him to stay at the top of the game, and he will have to retire from active competition, and that will be one of the saddest days in recent wrestling memory. He should be a first ballot Hall of Famer when that time does come, and when that illustrious run does come to an end, he could deliver an entertaining Hall of Fame speech that will be as exciting and thrilling as it is a fitting, emotional tribute to each of the amazing characters he has played over his three decade-long career.
11 2022 – Mickie James
We all know that there is a fantastic women’s revolution happening in the WWE today, and with Trish Stratus and Lita already in the Hall of Fame, it seems only natural that a woman should headline a Hall of Fame ceremony. Once her current run ends, it only makes sense that Mickie James be that trail blazer.
With her in-ring work still as good as ever, James may rise to the top of the RAW Women’s division, and that will make her a historic performer in the WWE realm, and one definitely worthy of the headline position. This only makes sense due to the rising expectation and level of work rate that the women put in, and expect at least five or six of the current key performers in WWE to be following James into the Hall in the very near future.
10 2023 – John Cena
If ever there was the definition of a Hall of Fame headliner, it would be John Cena, who has been the face of the WWE for the better part of the last 13 years, putting him up with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Stone Cold and Ric Flair in the history books of the wrestling business. By this time, Cena should be completely retired (he is already verging on part-timer status as of writing), and when we look back on his career, we see one of the most polarizing and entertaining performers in history, as well as one who has put together a plethora of amazing matches with a variety of opponents. Like others, you shouldn’t expect a Hall of Fame induction to stop Cena from coming back occasionally in any form, similar to the Rock, but he definitely deserves to receive such recognition as soon as he is retired from full-time, active competition, just like The Undertaker, assuming he is inducted in 2018.
9 2024 – Randy Orton
If John Cena is inducted in 2023, then it only makes sense for his longtime nemesis Randy Orton to follow suit, as they have had equally amazing careers spanning well over a decade now. As we know, those careers must come to an end soon, and those amazing careers need to be recognized. The Viper has played a loveable babyface as well as the biggest, most hated villain in the game at different times throughout his career, and he is currently in the midst of his 13th WWE Championship reign. Aside from his singles titles, he also won several Tag Team Championships throughout his time, making him one of the most illustrious superstars in this era. Orton was bred for this business, and an induction as the headline act into the Hall of Fame would be just right for a person of his pedigree. If he is retired by this point, he should be similar to the Undertaker, John Cena and others who are inducted soon after retirement.
8 2025 – Goldberg
Goldberg recently returned to the WWE, and the WCW legend managed to win the Universal Championship and have a key bout at WrestleMania, and after becoming the biggest star that WCW ever had, it’s safe to say that he has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Hardcore fans will always point to his lack of in-ring ability, as he rarely worked a match longer than 5 minutes long, but he became a marquee star for whichever company he worked with, and he captivated fans whenever he came through that famous pyro. The fans eventually turned on him during the latest run, as the wrestling industry has become more focused on work rate, but looking back, he is one of the biggest stars the wrestling industry has ever had, as he transcended the business. He is definitely worthy of the headline spot.
7 2026 – Brock Lesnar
Following Goldberg has to be one of the biggest rivals of his career, and that’s the Beast, Brock Lesnar, who is quite possibly the most legit badass in the history of the wrestling industry, as he has succeeded in both the wrestling and the mixed martial arts scenes. He is quite possibly the last headline star in a fading industry (from a mainstream entertainment perspective, the wrestling business to hardcore fans is probably better than ever), and he still has quite a lot to offer the WWE, with at least two or three years left of big, marquee bouts. The speech would be quite an interesting one, as Lesnar is a very private person who uses Paul Heyman as a mouthpiece in the WWE. As such, it would be good to see whether it’s Lesnar or Heyman to deliver the speech.
6 2027 – Triple H
When it’s all said and done, there’s no one in the WWE today who has had the impact on the company that Triple H has, as he has created NXT as we know it today, and influenced a change in the WWE’s hiring policy and on-screen product. He also achieved a great deal as an in-ring performer for 13 years; he still does well today, but is definitely a part-timer. He is more than deserving of being a headline act, and although it may be difficult to make himself a headliner, due to his no doubt increased role and power by this time (assuming Vince McMahon is done by this time, as he will be in his early-80s), but he deserves a spot for his in-ring work alone.
It’s hard to see if the company will recognize his influence as a creator of NXT, but as the Game and the King of Kings, he was the top heel in the company for quite some time. You also can't neglect his influence as a member of D-Generation-X, making him an all-round star for a long time in the wrestling business.
5 2028 – Kane
Kane is one of the longest-serving and most unique characters in the history of the wrestling industry, and although his last few years with the company have been average at best, he was one of the key performers during the Attitude Era, and is well-deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame. He is currently running for Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, so he will be away from the company for the foreseeable future. Still, he will eventually return for a final run, and after that, he will be free to enter the Hall of Fame, following his kayfabe brother, The Undertaker. That accolade will have to wait, as he never ascended to the legendary status that ‘Taker did, but in a decade or so, he will be primed to enter the Hall,. Although his status as a headliner is probably the most questionable of anyone on the list, I can definitely see the company honoring him in this way.
4 2029 – AJ Styles
For someone who spent 17 years in the wrestling industry without stepping foot in the WWE, AJ Styles has made a huge impact with the company, and despite nearing his 40s, he is still putting on consistently great bouts with anyone he steps foot in the ring with. If he can keep it up for at least 5 more years, he should be considered for this spot for his work in and out of the WWE. Styles has already made it known that he wants to work for the Performance Center to help the young up-and-comers succeed in the industry he has perfected, and his prospective work there combined with his stellar work as a wrestler so far should make him a surefire Hall of Famer. The Phenomenal One is as deserving as anyone in the company today, and it would be great to see him reflect on his entire, amazing career during his speech, as quite arguably the best professional wrestler to have ever lived.
3 2030 – Batista
Batista emerged from WWE’s developmental system at the same time as Randy Orton, John Cena and even Brock Lesnar, but unlike the others, Batista has taken his talents to Hollywood full-time, following in the steps of The Rock, as he accomplished everything he wanted in the WWE, and wasn’t interested in being a part of the PG Era the company was pushing. Despite how he was treated since his return, and the ill will that exists between the two parties, the WWE can’t deny the impact he had, and the accomplishments he achieved during an almost decade-long run.
Similar to the people mentioned above, Batista will be a perfect headline attraction, and it may happen sooner, while he is still at his peak in Hollywood, but before he hits 60 years old. Dave Batista will definitely be a featured member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
2 2031 – The Hardy Boyz
The Hardy Boyz are quite possibly one of the most influential and impressive tag teams in wrestling history, as brothers Jeff and Matt have had amazing success, as a team and as individuals,not only in WWE, but also in the independent scene, and most notably in TNA/Impact Wrestling. Along with Edge and Christian and The Dudley Boyz, the brothers innovated the TLC match, which defined tag team wrestling for a whole generation of fans. Following their breakup, the two went on to both win minor and major singles championships within the company, making them both incredibly successful. The two have returned and won the RAW Tag Team Championships, and it looks like they are set for big things as solo competitors, should they disband. When the time comes that they eventually step away from wrestling, they will be no doubt first ballot Hall of Famers, and they should definitely be inducted together.
1 2032 – CM Punk
Finally we get to the elephant in the room, and lots of fans will question whether this will ever happen, but the WWE will no doubt have reunited with Hulk Hogan a decade before this point, and after the Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart and the likes came back to the company, it seems automatic that CM Punk will return at some point. Despite being adamant to the opposite, I believe Punk will return for a run sometime in the future, and after a few years following that, Punk will be one of the best headline Hall of Famers in history, as he can be credited for the change in the WWE that we have seen today.
This will be a popular decision with fans, as he is still beloved among the majority of WWE audiences today, and it will be another well-deserved accolade for an incredibly influential performer, who was as talented an all around performer as there has ever been. Who knows, maybe a Hall of Fame headliner will make up for his missed WrestleMania main event.