The Royal Rumble isn’t just the start of the road to WrestleMania. It also kicks off the WWE Hall of Fame reveals and snubs. Now, there is so much wrong with the WWE HOF there’s no sense wasting words reading about it. Who is a WWE Hall of Famer? Someone who is in the WWE Hall of Fame. That’s the definition when you look at so many of the selections.
But what are the common denominators? Loyalty to the McMahons and time at / near the top of the WWE card seem the highest priority. The snubs of Backlund, Sammartino, Savage, and Warrior for so long demonstrated loyalty trumped anything else, but that seems to be waning. For a while, it seemed only people who starred in the WWE made it, but that too tipped with the folks like the Blackjacks and Four Horsemen who had no real WWE runs.
Another factor used to be the local angle: the Sheik inducted at Detroit WrestleMania, Abdullah the Butcher at Atlanta, and the Von Erichs in Houston, although saving them for Dallas would have made more sense. With the exception of very short run by Sheik in the 70s and Kerry Von Erich in the 90s, none of these wrestlers had a WWE connection. But if ever Wahoo McDaniel, Bull Curry, Johnny Valentine, or The Spoiler, all huge stars in Texas were to make it this year would be the year, if ever. When Ray Stevens didn’t make during last year’s Bay Area, it shows the local factor is fading. If The Crusher doesn’t get the call when the Hall comes to Minnesota, then we’ll know for sure the hometown hero has played out.
Why? These guys are all dead, there’s little video footage, and thus no money. While the WWE does corporate giving, the real bottom line is the bottom line. Money, more than time, seems to heel wounds as the induction of The Ultimate Warrior proved. C.M. Punk remains a question shoot.
Who might get the call in the next few years of talent not on the active roster? Let’s look at some of the possibilities, the pros and cons of each person (or tag team, counts as one slot).
15 Davey Boy Smith
The inductions of people like Inoki, Colon, and Mascaras seem to serve the purpose of proving that the WWE is a global company. With Great Britain in a wrestling renaissance, one might think the Fed would want to induct someone from the Isles. Regal makes sense, but Davy Boy did have a longer, more successful career. His main event Summer Slam 1992 against Bret Hart at Wembley remains one of the WWE’s largest crowds. That alone seems induction worthy. Add in his tag team gold, his singles success in various runs, and his connection to the Hart family, it seems the Bulldog should bark his way into the Hall of Fame in the next few years.
14 Beth Phoenix
Between the Attitude Era and the non Divas revolution, a plethora of female wrestlers worked in the WWE. Some would be hot for a year, but then cool off as the creative and / or crowds lost interest in them. Some like Gail Kim could work, while others like Maria had the look. With Tough Enough creating “stars” that never made it, most divas seemed interchangeable in their enhanced breasts and passable work. Beth Phoenix was one of the few that stood out. While she did comedy, her character focused on beating people up, not parading around the ring. In 2010, she became only the second woman to enter the Royal Rumble, even eliminating The Great Khali. Later that year, she’d participate in the first women’s’ TLC match. Glamazon indeed!
13 Eric Bischoff
He’s got no chance, no chance in hell, but think about. It was Nitro that made Raw watchable again; it was Nitro that launched the Monday Night Wars which spawned Stone Cold, The Rock, and Mr. McMahon. It was Nitro that created NWO which lead to DX. It was Nitro that forced WWE to adapt or die. Bischoff, as Raw GM, played that part great, and seems “in” the WWE family by being the first guest on JBL’s legends show. The human Ken Doll, especially when WrestleMania comes to Minnesota in 2017, home of the first Nitro, might get the nod. A Bischoff induction also gives Vince yet another chance to replay the Monday Night Wars which he seemed totally obsessed by as he ages.
12 Michael Hayes / Freebirds
Hayes appears on almost all the old Legends of Wrestling shows where he’s surrounded by Hall of Famers. Each introduction by Gene Okerlund teases him about “making it one day.” This might be the year since it was The Freebirds against the Von Erichs which set the old World Class promotion on fire for a few years. There’s plenty of Freebird footage from World Class, WCW, AWA, and Mid-South to fill a DVD, so there’s some monetization possible. Given the team’s success, history making role, and Hayes’ years working creative, the joke may no longer be on the leader of Freebirds. He’d be a Hall of Famer and a Freebird, so what is your excuse?
11 Hardy Boys
This seems a lock for their contribution to the elevation – pun intended – of tag team wrestling in the WWE. While it is doubtful with both Matt and Jeff’s addiction history that the WWE would risk hiring them as on-screen talent, a Hall of Fame spot seems justified. At the same time, it is unclear if there’s a statute of limitations for wellness violations, Jeff’s two strikes – and his behavior in TNA at times – might not be baggage the WWE wants hanging in the Hall of Fame, But still, Jeff was for a short period of time a hot main event babyface, while Matt always seemed in the mix for one of the secondary titles. Their feud against each failed, but they succeeded enough as a tag team to earn induction with Edge and Christian doing the honors.
10 Rob Van Dam
Speaking of wellness violations. Coming in as part of the 2001 invasion angle, RVD got over immediately with the WWE fans with his high spot style and laid back interviews. The first ever combined WWE / ECW champion – which he lost due to said wellness violation – RVD stayed near the top of the card for most of his early runs. Despite hurting HHH in an Elimination Chamber match, he seems to remain in good graces dropping in to the WWE every now and then. Honoring him puts the spotlight back on ECW and maybe results in a RVD DVD which would, if true to the man himself, should last exactly four hours and twenty minutes.
9 Kurt Angle
A no brainer, but like the Hardys and RVD carries the risk of company embarrassment or tragedy. In the ring, nobody seemed to have “gotten it” quicker than Mr. Three I’s. Outside the ring, while at first treated like a goof, he later brought a fire to his promos. A main eventer almost from day one, Angle drew money, ratings and rave reviews for his work. Workrate is, however, not a criteria for the WWE Hall. Exhibit one: Ivan Putski. It seems doubtful given Angle’s broken body he’ll ever set foot in the ring to wrestle, it seems right to hear his music when he stands behind the podium collecting a gold ring to go with his Olympic gold medal.
8 Rey Mysterio
While not leaving the company on great terms, one of the most unlikely WWE World Champions seems a likely induction into the Hall of Fame once his ring career ends. As with Angle and The Hardy connected to TNA, there’s no chance of Rey’s induction as long as he’s with Lucha Underground. But when he leaves or that promotion exits stage left, Rey should fit right into the WWE Hall. With the bulk of his US career captured on video in the WWE archives, it won’t be a mystery all of the 619 reasons that Mysterio is a Hall of Famer.
7 Vickie Guerrero
Some of the earliest WWE inductees were managers: Lou Albano, Grand Wizard, and Freddie Blassie, so it seems right that non-wrestlers continue to be represented. Vickie’s long heel run as Smackdown GM and manager to various love interests can be described in one word: heat. While that heat didn’t always equate to Benjamins or Nielsens, her segments normally made for great entertainment. Even when the creative sucked, Vickie almost always rocked despite any experience as an on-air talent. Somehow she managed to turn the wife of a beloved dead babyface into a hated heel, that almost in and of itself is a worthy Hall of Fame achievement. One can picture her starting her induction speech screeching “excuse me” but this time over thunderous cheers rather than deafening boos and catcalls.
6 Owen Hart
At first this seemed unlikely because of his tragic death, but with the release of the new DVD, money won out over any other concern. Like his brother in law Davy Boy, Owen had long runs in the WWE, mostly near the main event. His matches against his brother Bret in 1994 maybe helped save a stumbling company, while his role in the Hart Foundation vs. Austin feud kick started the turn around. His injuring Austin, however, remains a sore spot, and the relationship between the WWE and his widow Martha continues to rub raw. The WWE putting him in the Hall would by a cynical move, but how can they deny someone who won two slammy awards?
He’s up so high on the list not so much for his personal achievements – he was never a main eventer or even challenged for the heavyweight title – but his role in the NWO and DX. If DX doesn’t go in as a group, X-Pac connection to HHH seems to make him a sure bet. He’s got a Chyna blemish, the relationship with her, now over, and the sex tape with her, on the internet, so forever. If he goes in, and again given his Minnesota connection then 2017 makes sense, then it is truly not what you do, but who you know. Everybody else in the Clique is in, he’s overdue.
A long WWE career winning every title, many of them more than once, he’s another no brainer. Now that it seems likely because of brain injury / repeated concussions that he’ll ever return, it seems more a case of not if, but when. Like most everyone on the list so far, there never was a time he was “the guy” but he helped get those guys over, put together great matches, and could cut an entertaining promo. One only hopes that for his induction ceremony, the WWE will allow flash photography for a career that wasn’t anything but a flash in the pan.
Active as an announcer, not as a wrestler so he’s listed here. The anti-Christian: for one year he was the guy on Smackdown, but before and after, was not “the guy.” Putting Cena over strong in 2005 and acting as locker room leader (or rather bully, just ask the Blue Meanie) seems his strongest credentials as does his 20 plus years with the WWE. With his Texas roots and JR Ewing inspired gimmick, 2016 would seem to be his year. Perhaps Ron Simmons will induct him with just one word: damn. This allows ample time for JBL’s speech which will set a record for most 1970s pop culture references.
Due to her work as a manager and her work in the ring, Sable is fully deserving of a spot in the WWE's Hall of Fame. Sable came into prominence in the late 90s and fully embraced the ideologies of the Attitude Era. In an era where the WWE sought to push the lines, Sable was at the forefront of it all. Between exposing herself in the ring and in the pages of Playboy, Sable became completely over with the fans and one of the top performers in the company. Her being married to Brock Lesnar isn't hurting her cause either...
Unless Jim Cornette has a say, Batista is the number one pick now that he has become a crossover star. Listed as WWE alumni, it is doubtful with his movie career taking off that the Animal will ever return for a long run. His feud with HHH in 2005 remains a career highlight as do his many battles with the Undertaker. The first proved he could draw, the second showed that he could work. The former Deacon’s last return remains memorable for it’s failure, but the rest of his career shone bright like that spotlight in his high profile feud with Cena on his way out in 2010. The heat over his anti-PG13 remarks seems to have cooled, so Big Dave’s hand should be ready for the HOF ring.