The World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame induction ceremony has grown into a full-scale production always taking place on the eve of Wrestlemania. Tens of thousands of fans pack arenas to see kayfabe dropped and some of the industry’s greatest stars honored. Running down the list of inductees, it’s a who’s who of wrestling history: Gorgeous George, Antonio Inoki, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, The Road Warriors, Koko B. Ware, Johnny Rodz. Hold up. Koko B. Ware? The guy with the bird? Johnny Rodz. The guy with the....who the hell is Johnny Rodz?
There are some problems with the WWE’s Hall of Fame when you compare it to say, Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. First, you can’t visit the WWE Hall of Fame. Despite starting with Andre the Giant as its lone inductee in 1993, there isn’t a city or town synonymous with the HOF because it’s merely a list and a concept. Mention the word Cooperstown and everybody knows you’re talking about baseball’s Hall of Fame and until people can visit a brick-and-mortar celebration of wrestling’s best, it will never be considered legit in many people’s eyes. Next is the selection process. There is none. In baseball, hundreds of sportswriters vote once a year and a player must get 75 percent of the writers’ votes. It’s a process that has left some of the best behind, but it’s also a process that ensures only the best of the best are enshrined. The WWE’s Hall of Fame roster is decided by one man, Vincent K. McMahon. Inductees need not be vetted because the buck stops with McMahon, no questions asked.
But there are questions about many inductees, questions McMahon probably doesn’t want to answer because it would be embarrassing to try to explain what he was thinking at the time. Some of his choices have left wrestling fans scratching their collective heads for year, but it’s his Hall, not ours. Still, we’d like some kind of acknowledgement that these 16 entries leave a bad taste in his mouth since they leave such a bad taste in ours. Just admit you make some decisions you regret, Vince.
16 Drew Carey
The WWE’s “Celebrity Wing” of the Hall of Fame has always been a sticking point with a lot of wrestling purists who don’t believe a non-wrestling personality belongs in the WWE Hall of Fame. Nobody who sang the National Anthem or performed the Halftime Show at the Super Bowl can claim a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame, so why should anybody who wasn’t dedicated to wrestling be allowed in the HOF? The answer is simple and it’s the two things that drive Vince McMahon’s decisions: Money and Attention, something mainstream entertainers have always brought to the WWE. If celebrities must be inducted, there are worthy names such as Donald Trump, Pete Rose, Snoop Dogg and Mike Tyson who have all played a substantial role in WWE history. And then there is The Price is Right host. Carey did little more than make a throwaway cameo as an entrant in the 2001 Royal Rumble. Why the induction? The WWE got a nice check for plugging an improv pay-per-view special Carey was producing. When celebrities get mentioned in the same breath as the HOF, Carey’s name is one that is almost always absent.
15 Ivan Putski
One six-month reign as a tag-team champion, almost permanent mid-card status and a finishing move (The Polish Hammer) dopier than anything John Cena or The Rock has attempted: Welcome to the Hall of Fame career of “Polish Power” Ivan Putski. He was inducted in 1995, only the second year of WWE holding an induction ceremony. Instead of selling out arenas, being broadcast on WWE Network live and getting a USA Network special, the induction ceremony was a non-televised dinner held in a ballroom at the Marriott in Philadelphia. Fellow inductees that year included groundbreakers like The Fabulous Moolah, Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd and Antonino Rocca. Putski was a legitimate strongman without an ounce of fat on his body who participated in many posedowns and arm wrestling challenges with the likes of “Superstar” Billy Graham and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Once his tag team reign with Tito Santana was over in 1979, Putski floundered, being fed to wrestlers like Roddy Piper and Sgt. Slaughter to help build them into main eventers. How this is a Hall of Fame career, and how he got in so early in the life of the HOF is beyond us.
14 Koko B. Ware
Should both members of the first match ever on Monday Night Raw be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame simply based on their historic, yet unremembered by most, match? No matter your answer, they’re both there. First, and deservedly so, is Yokozuna. There’s no debate he belongs among the immortals but his Raw debut dance partner? Koko B. Ware. The same Koko B. Ware who ran to the ring with a blue and yellow macaw, flapped his arms and sang “Bird, bird, bird. Bird, bird, bird.” He never held a title in the WWE, nor worked close to the top of the card. When he wasn’t beating a jobber, he was fed as steady enhancement talent to wrestlers who themselves were a couple of notches below the main event. An attempt to breath a little life into the end of his career by teaming him with Owen Hart as “High Energy” went nowhere, leaving the Birdman to fade into obscurity until the WWE dug him up in 2009 for his HOF induction. There was no reason for this to happen and he is often pointed to as how low the bar can be set for a Hall of Famer.
13 Baron Mikel Scicluna
Fans of mainstream sports and their respective Hall of Fames can likely recognize every entry as one of the best in their business whose legacy lasted long after they hung it up. Most of the WWE Hall of Fame entries fall into that category as well. And then there is Baron Mikel Scicluna. Who? Exactly. Scicluna had two tag team championship reigns in the late 60s and early 70s (with the equally unrecognizable Smasher Sloan and King Iaukea as his partners) and performed in Madison Square Garden main events with fellow HOFers Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales, but there are quite a few well-known wrestlers who can claim that honor yet haven’t been inducted into the Hall. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Scicluna was mainly used at enhancement talent, scoring few meaningful victories. His most notable claim to fame was as Gorilla Monsoon’s opponent in a match where Muhammed Ali was sitting at ringside. Ali was promoting his wrestler vs. boxer match with Antonio Inoki and ended up in an airplane spin from Monsoon. By that point though, Scicluna had long left the ring.
12 Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Along with Hulk Hogan, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is one of only two men to have their Hall of Fame career erased by the WWE on the HOF section of its website. He didn’t make any racist comments like Hogan, but he allegedly killed somebody. Allegedly is good enough for the WWE to take a big step backward and ask “Jimmy Who?” The incident in question took place in May 1983 when Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argento died under mysterious circumstances. Snuka’s story was that Argento banged her head at a rest area on their way to a TV taping in Pennsylvania and died later in their hotel room later that night. Officials pointed a finger toward Snuka, but couldn’t establish enough of a case to push forward, although the inquiry was never closed. Following a series of conflicting accounts by Snuka, a grand jury indicted him in mid-2015 on a charge of third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Appearing in court in a wheelchair and confused, Snuka was found unfit to stand trial last June because he now suffers from dementia. A month later, he filed a lawsuit against the WWE claiming his mental incapacity was the company’s fault that is still pending. It’s safe to say we’re unlikely to see anything about Snuka on WWE’s website for a long time.
11 Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
One of the youngest inductees when she entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011 at the age of 38, there is no denying the true “Divas Revolution” began when Tammy Sytch arrived in the WWE with real-life boyfriend Chris Candido as the manic workout-loving duo Skip and Sunny, the BodyDonnas in 1995. While not quite yet the Attitude Era, Sytch’s in-your-face sex appeal married with the Internet explosion shot her to stardom as America Online’s most popular woman in its early years as the first to reach a half million downloads for her thong-heavy photos. While never a wrestler and never a manager/valet of a relevant talent, she set the standard for sexy, yet talentless women of the day such as Sable and Stacy “The Kat” Carter. While her professional resume isn’t stellar, WWE’s recognition of her as the first diva was worthy of her induction. However, since 2011, the only headlines Sytch, who has gained a lot of weight since her heyday, has made have been for multiple arrests, including being arrested five times in a four-week span in 2012. Sytch, who once turned down an offer to pose for Playboy, has also worked as a camera model, performing nude solo sex acts over Skype for fans willing to pay her price.
10 Rocky Johnson
In 2008, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had shut the door on his full-time wrestling career because his mainstream celebrity exploded over the previous couple of years. Unlike so many wrestlers who try to make it in Hollywood and fail, The Rock has been more successful than anybody could have ever guessed. Getting the legend to appear on WWE programming was a doubly positive event as he appealed to both wrestling fans and the average American. The WWE concocted a plan to get him back on television for a segment he couldn’t refuse, inducting his father and grandfather into the WWE Hall of Fame. Now, an argument can be made The Rock’s grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia was a bit of a stretch for the Hall, but even wrestling purists had to dig deep to rationalize Rocky Johnson’s inclusion. His only claim to fame was as part of the first African American tag team with Tony Atlas (see his listing for more) but he was hardly the first African American to hold a wrestling title and many appeared higher on the card than Johnson ever appeared. Rocky Johnson can thank the WWE’s desire to get The Rock on TV one more time for his spot in the Hall of Fame.
9 The Blackjacks
The WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2006 was arguably the strongest there has been with such notables as Eddie Guerrero, Bret Hart, Verne Gagne, Mean Gene Okerlund and Sensational Sherri Martel as inductees. Gagne fit the “old school” position they always seem to like to represent and Martel was obviously that year’s token female. And whether it has been The Four Horsemen, The Bushwackers or The Fabulous Freebirds, the WWE has always felt the need to induct a tag-team or group every year. So why was the cowboy-themed tag team of Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan inducted ahead of tag teams like The Road Warriors or The Brisco Brothers or The Von Erich family? They’d never go on record admitting it, but we suspect for Lanza, it was the best thank you for a lifetime of service Vince McMahon could imagine. Lanza had a longer career as a backstage agent than he did in front of the crowd and was well respected among his peers. Blackjack Mulligan, whose real name is Bob Windham, was the father of Barry and Kendall Windham. He was also the grandfather of Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt, not mention the father-in-law to Mike Rotundo. Putting the patriarch of the Windham clan into the hall was a sign of respect toward one of wrestling’s “under the radar” families and went miles toward cementing its relationship with them. But really...ahead of The Funks or the Wild Samoans? It’s unacceptable.
8 Hulk Hogan
Like Tammy Sytch or Jimmy Snuka, the embarrassing moves of Hulk Hogan came after his induction and we’re not talking about his less-than-reality TV show “Hogan Knows Best” that aired on VH1 for several seasons. Nor are we referencing his nasty divorce, horrific car accident that was his son’s fault or the infamous sex tape showing Hogan having sex with his then-best friend Bubba “The Love Sponge” Clem’s wife that sparked a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Despite being called “The Babe Ruth of Wrestling” ever since his historic WrestleMania match with The Rock, the WWE has removed arguable the most famous person in the history of the business from their HOF website for an unforgivable public sin: Making racist comments. He was also fired from his judging role on Tough Enough, released from his Legends contract and all of his merchandise was pulled from WWE’s shopping website. In July 2015, a tape surfaced with Hogan allegedly making racist comments about his daughter dating black men. Despite many African-American wrestlers coming to his defense, he’s as visible as Chris Benoit in WWE productions since The National Enquirer released the tape.
Jacqueline Moore was a solid worker who blended both the talent of a wrestler with the sex appeal of a diva, but her celebrity never gelled like those of Lita or Trish Stratus. Since both of those divas are in the Hall of Fame, does it make sense for Jacqueline to be there? Looking at the rest of the crop of divas at the time like Ivory, Candice Michelle, Sable, Molly Holly, Stacy Carter, Torrie Wilson or Stacy Keibler, it’s hard to say Jacqueline was head and shoulders above her contemporaries. She was the first African American WWE Divas Champion and actually held the Cruiserweight Title at one point as well. She was good, just not great, and if you’re a fan of these kinds of lists, you likely know Jacquline more for her topless ride on the shoulders of referee Tim White than for any of her matches. Once known as Miss Texas. she fully embraced the Attitude Era bra-and-panties mentality, but let’s be honest: The 2016 HOF induction ceremony was a tribute to Texas wrestling and she was the one woman who fit the role. Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Jacqueline has an HOF ring to prove it.
6 Superstar Billy Graham
Talk to wrestling fans over the age of 45 and the name Superstar Billy Graham almost always comes up. The tie-dyed muscleman with bleached blonde hair’s influence is seen all over the personas of Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Randy Savage and others. In a time when wrestling was still more sport and less entertainment, Graham changed how people viewed wrestlers as personalities. His charisma was so strong, the heel became a face in a time when switches rarely occurred. Following his retirement, Graham was vocal about his steroid use and how he believed it played a part in his long-term health issues, subtly inferring he had little choice if he wanted success. Following his 2004 induction, Graham became even more vocal about his distaste with his life in wrestling. He sold his induction ring on Ebay and even asked to be removed from the hall in 2013, not long after he vocally disapproved of Abdullah The Butcher entering the Hall. Most recently Graham has apologized for many of the things he said in the decade following his entry, but it’s easy to believe the WWE would never had let Graham join if they knew the vitriol he was going to spew moving forward.
5 William “Refrigerator” Perry
In the mid-1980s, there was no more popular football team than the Chicago Bears and its cast of colorful - and accomplished - roster including the likes of Jim McMahon, Walter Payton and William “Refrigerator” Perry. The defensive lineman was the second celebrity inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. At Wrestlemania II’s Chicago segment, the main event was a battle royal with WWE wrestlers and NFL players. The biggest name among the gridiron grapplers was Perry and the event was sold on the premise that he had issues with Big John Studd. In the match, Studd managed to dump Perry over the top rope, eliminating him from the contest. Appearing to take it all in stride, Perry offered his hand to Studd in congratulations. Suckered in, Perry pulled Studd over the top rope from the floor, eliminating the giant. The two jawed and shoved a bit at ringside following their mutual oustings from the match. Decades later Perry’s celebrity faded deeply by the time WWE put him into the Hall, clearly still figuring out what the celebrity wing would represent. It’s hard to believe if they hadn’t put the football player in back in 2006, he would have had a chance in future years.
4 Tony “Mr. USA” Atlas
There are people who Vince McMahon clearly pulls for and they are given chance after chance and Tony “Mr USA” Atlas appears to be near the top of that list. Atlas, whose only WWE title run was as a tag-team champion with Rocky Johnson has made several returns to the WWE over the years including stints as African Zulu Warrior Saba Simba, as Mark Henry’s manager as laughing sidekick on the Abraham Washington Show, an interview segment on WWE’s short-lived ECW television show. He has the kind of physique Vince McMahon was looking for out of his wrestlers in the mid-80s and was even considered for a run at the Intercontinental Title, but an admitted drug problem made him unreliable. Since his last regular stint ended with WWE in 2010, he has made cameos and appeared on the WWE Network show “Legends’ House.” It’s clear McMahon still has a soft spot for “Mr. USA.” There’s no other way to explain his residency in the WWE Hall of Fame.
3 Johnny Rodz
It would be interesting to get into the mind of Vince McMahon and find out exactly what his internal criteria was for deciding who would get into the Hall of Fame during its early, less glamorous years. The role of enhancement talent, known as jobbers, has returned to both RAW and Smackdown recently. If fans can’t understand why stars are crushing guys with no chance of winning, they should know before “competitive” matches with all stars was presented on RAW, TV matches were nothing but superstar vs. enhancement talent. If you wanted to see stars fight, you had to go to the local show. The king of the enhancement talent pool was “Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz. The nickname is a bit of a joke since the outcome of his matches was nothing but predictable. Credit needs to be given to Rodz for training some of the biggest names in the business like Tommy Dreamer, The Dudley Boyz and Big Cass, but trainers don’t get into the Hall of Fame, wrestlers do. Credible wrestlers. The most unpredictable thing about Rodz's career was his induction into the HOF and 20 years later, there are probably people in Titan Tower wondering what Vince was thinking at the time.
2 Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher was a free spirit, wandering from territory to territory leaving a wake of destruction in his path. His career-long feud with Bruiser Brody ended only because of Brody’s death. A rotund man who carried around multiple foreign objects in his red parachute pant-like trunks, fans could almost always count on one of Abdullah’s match falling out of the ring into the crowd and that the “Madman from Sudan” would shed blood. There’s an urban legend that Abdullah bladed his forehead so many times that he can stick poker chips into the divots that remain. As far as technical wrestling goes, he was bankrupt and on the mic he never spoke. Mainstream fans probably only remember him as the wrestler “electrocuted” in an ill-conceived WCW cage match. WWE received a lot of flak from many wrestlers, especially Superstar Billy Graham over the inclusion of Abdullah into the Hall since many believe he didn’t inform other wrestlers about the Hepatitis he had at the end of his career. There was no upside to putting Abdullah in the Hall and it’s still a question mark why it ever happened in the first place.
1 The Valiant Brothers
Much like The Blackjacks being inducted into the Hall of Fame in its early years, one has to wonder how The Valiant Brothers managed to be inducted before groups like The Four Horseman or Road Warriors. Unlike the Blackjacks, The Valiant Brothers, Jimmy and Johnny, were a very successful tag team in WWE holding the record for the longest reign as tag team champions for 370 days in 1974-75 before Demolition beat it 14 years later. A third “brother” came along in later years, but Jerry wasn’t part of the brothers’ 1996 induction into the Hall. The duo spent a combined time in the then-WWWF of less than three years and Johnny is known more to fans under 50 as the one-time manager of Brutus Beefcake before his WrestleMania III transformation into “The Barber”. It’s not that they don’t belong, but we’d wager that even Vince McMahon would have a hard time explaining how this mostly forgotten tag team deserved its quick induction.
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