Being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious honors a wrestler/entertainer can receive. Whether its from a certain wrestling style, their impact on fans/Superstars, their performances in the ring, their promos, how many championships they won, or just the way they carried themselves, these are the best of the best to ever step foot in a wrestling ring.
Superstars like Ric Flair, who still holds the record for most championships belts at 16, or Jimmy Hart who is one of the best WWE managers in history. Mick Foley, Mankind was one of the most unique, different, controversial, and dare-devil-like Superstars you will ever see perform in a WWE ring, which earned him a place in the WWE Hall of Fame. People like Jim Ross earned a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame by his commentating on epic matches and his enthusiasm when he announces matches. Stone Cold Steve Austin earned his spot by being a fan-favorite forever in the WWE along with his personality and quotable sayings, that are still used in today’s matches.
Then there is Andre the Giant, not only the first inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame, but also one of the main reason for the creation. The WWE Hall of Fame was introduced in 1993 just two months after Andre the Giant had passed away, with him being the only inductee that year. The Hall of Fame when ghost in 1996 but returned in 2004 and has been a main attraction during WrestleMania weekend ever since.
Everybody knows about the popular entertainers that are enlisted in the WWE Hall of Fame, but what about the unknown Superstars?
Here is a look at 15 wrestlers you may not have realized were in the WWE Hall of Fame.
15. Tony Atlas
Tont Atlas, a.k.a Mr. U.S.A., was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. During his time in the WWE, Atlas was a World Tag Team Champion with partner Rocky Johnson, with the team becoming the first African-American tag team to win the tag titles. A little known fact about Atlas is that he was the first person to pin Hulk Hogan, although Hogan’s leg was on the rope that the referee missed.
Atlas also was a ring announcer for certain matches and later on in his career, was Mark Henry’s right hand man in ECW, including helping him win the ECW Championship and retain it by interfering in matches.
14. Bill Watts
Cowboy Bill Watts from Oklahoma City was mostly known for his in-ring feud with WWE Champion Bruno Sammartino, although he could never obtain the title from him. After wrestling, Watts became a renowned promoter, working with wrestlers such as “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, The Junkyard Dog, Ted DiBiase, Jim Duggan, and Ron Simmons. Watts was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
13. Ernie Ladd
WWE Hall of Famer Ernie Ladd did not start his career in the ring. he actually started it on the field. Ladd was drafted in 1961 by the Chicago Bears, but ended up with the American Football League San Diego Chargers. With the Chargers, Ladd played in four AFL Championship games, including leading the Chargers to a AFL title in 1963. After his 7 years in the AFL, Laddwent to wrestling full time.
In the WWE, Ladd was one of the most hated heels in the industry, with his cocky and arrogant demeanor. Ladd was one of the first wrestler to walk out of matches when he was in trouble, accepting count-out losses instead of finishing the match. Ladd had matches with Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant, The Junkyard Dog, and Paul Ordnoff. Ladd was also the manager to The Wild Samoans Afa and Sika and served as a commentator for awhile as well. Ladd was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
12. Nick Bockwinkel
In 1970, Nick Bockwinkel joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA), where he had a very successful career. During his early days in AWA, Bockwinkel started off in the tag-team division with Ray Stevens, where they won the AWA Tag Team Championships on three different occasions.
With Bobby Heenan as his manager, Bockwinkel went to singles competition, where he won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship 4 times. Winning the belt caused feuds with Superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Tito Santana, Mad Dog Vachon, and Verne Gagne. Bockwinkel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.
11. Arnold Skaaland
Skaaland stepped onto the scene in 1963 when the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) was just starting. Skaaland only held one title there, the WWWF United States Tag Team Championship, which he actually did not win. Tony Parisi and Spiros Arion were the actual champions, but Parisi gave his title to Skaaland.
Skaaland gained his recognition and popularity from being one the best managers in history. Skaaland managed both Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund, both of whom won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Pro Wrestling Illustrated declared Skaaland Manager of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Skaaland was a 1994 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee.
10. Killer Kowalski
When Killer Kowalski started his career in the WWWF, he was the adversary of Bruno Sammartino. Kowalski went on to tag with Gorilla Monsoon to win his first title as the WWWF United States Tag Team Championship. Later on in the mid ’70s, Kowalski teamed up with Big John Studd to form the team “The Executioners” and win the WWF World Tag Team Championships.
After retiring from the WWF in 1977, Kowalski would open his own school for professiona wrestling in Malden, Massachusetts that included alumni Triple H, Perry Saturn, Chyna, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. Kowalski was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
9. Bob Armstrong
Bob Armstrong started his career in the National Wrestling Alliance, where he won 12 different titles, including the NWA Columbus World Heavyweight Championship four times. Armstrong then went to TNA Wrestling, where he had a successful career but never won any major titles. Bob Armstrong is the older brother of Attitude Era Superstar “Road Dogg” Jess James who was on hand to induct Armstrong into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
8. Pat Patterson
Pat Patterson debuted in the WWWF in 1979, where he started feuds with then-champions Ted DiBiase and Bob Backlund. Patterson defeated DiBiase for the WWF North American Championship by cheating, using a pair of brass knuckles. He never beat Backlund for his tile though. Through a lot of controversy and fabrication, Patterson became the WWW’s first Intercontinental Champion in 1979.
After retiring in 1984, Patterson took on commentating, refereeing, and is also credited for thinking of the very first Royal Rumble match. Patterson was the in-ring referee for the main event at the first Wrestlemaina, which was a tag team match between WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and actor Mr T against the team of Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
7. Antonino Rocca
Antonino Rocca was one of the most popular wrestlers of the ’40s when he first started in the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, which is now the WWE. Alongside tag team partner Miguel Perez, they were in the main event every night and sold out seats at Madison Square Garden. They won the NWA Capitol World Tag Team Championship titles and held on to them for five years until they were abandoned. Rocca was also a CWC/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion as well. In 1977, Rocca had the honor of officiating a boxing match between Hall of Famers Gorilla Monsoon and Andre the Giant. Rocca was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
6. Gorilla Monsoon
Gorilla Monsoon started his career like most, coming after WWWF World Champion Bruno Sammartino. Monsoon started a rivalry, having many matches after that. After that feud, Monsoon went to the tag team division, teaming up with another Hall of Famer in Killer Kowalski to win the U.S. Tag Team Championships. .
After his in-ring career, Monsoon went to commentating, including calling the first eight WrestleMania events. Monsoon went on to becomed the scripted WWE President, where he had all of the roles of a General Manager. Monsoon was enlisted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.
5. Freddie Blassie
Freddie Blassie started his career in the World Wrestling Association, where he won a number of different titles. Blassie made his way to the WWWF with his own title, claiming himself as Pacific World Champion. Blassie came after none other than Bruno Sammartino, who was the man to beat. After wrestling, Blassie became a successful manager.
As a manager, Blassie managed superstars such as Nikolai Volkoff, Ray Stevens, Dirk Murdoch, The Iron Sheik, Mr. Fuji, Hercules Hernandez, Hulk Hogan, and even Muhammad Ali in a boxing match against Antonio Inoki.
4. Eddie Graham
Eddie Graham started wrestling at the age of 17 and in 1958 arrived in the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC), which is now the WWE. Graham had a very successful career with tag team partner Dr. Jerry Graham. Together they were a 4-time NWA United States Tag Team Champions.
In 1976, Graham became the NWA President. Graham was not the NWA active President in 1977 and 1978 due to health problems, causing him to eventually step down. Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
3. Gorgeous George
Gorgeous George was kind of a Ric Flair wrestler, except for the all accomplishments Flair had. George’s ring entrance music was “Pomp and Circumstance.” George would enter with a purple spotlight, his robe dragging across the floor as he strolled across a red carpet. and was accompanied to the ring by his ring valet Jefferies, who carried a mirror for him and threw rose pedals at his feet. In 1950, George won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and went on to win the NWA Heavyweight Championship later in his career as well.
George influenced celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and James Brown due to this style and the way he carried himself. George was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.
2. Bobo Brazil
On October 18, 1962, Bobo Brazil made history after becoming the first African-American wrestler to win the NWA World Heavyweight Champion by defeating Buddy Rogers. There was a lot of controversy to this match because Brazil at first refused to take that title because he felt that Rogers was hurt and wanted to beat him at full strength, Although Brazil initially refused the title (because of an “injury” that Rogers had claimed to have), Brazil was awarded the title the next day after doctors had found nothing wrong with Rogers. However, this title change is not recognized by the NWA. Brazil was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994 by Ernie Ladd. The following year, Brazil inducted Ladd.
1. Buddy Rogers
Buddy Rogers made an immediate impact in the National Wrestling Alliance, after defeating Pat O’Connor for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Rogers also went on to be the co-holder of the U.S. Tag Team Championship with tag partner Handsome Johnny Barend. When the NWA switched over to the WWWF, Rogers was named the very first WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, which is now known as the WWE World Hevyweight Championship. Rogers became the first wrestler to ever hold the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
After wrestling, Rogers moved on to managing under Jim Crockett Promotion, where he managed wrestler such as Jimmy Snuka and Big John Studd. Rogers was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.
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