The WWE Hall of Fame, by nature of its visibility through Vince McMahon’s media saturation, has become one of the best known shrines of professional wrestling history, eclipsing those in Wichita Falls, Texas and Waterloo, Iowa which are intended to have no proprietary affiliation. However, on the flip side of its incredible visibility, the WWE’s annual induction of sports entertainment greats into its hallowed hall, the selection process seems to be the most debated as well.
By virtue of its name along, the title implies that wrestlers considered for inclusion in the WWE’s Hall would have arguably created a lasting legacy while working for the McMahon family. Perhaps some of the most contentious honorees to be inducted are those with very short or negligible WWE careers in comparison to where they achieved their greatest success or fame. The following list looks at those wrestlers who are immortalized as a WWE Hall of Famer who had very short (or non-existent) careers for the sports entertainment super power. Keep in mind that not everyone on this list has actually been featured as a signed talent of WWE, but rather can be found on the WWE Network in some fashion.
What do you think about this list, should there be others that we didn't mention here? Let us know in that comments section.
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20 Harley Race
There is no doubt that Harley Race should own a significant piece of real estate in the annals of professional wrestling history. Widely regarded as one of the toughest competitors to ever lace a pair of wrestling boots, Harley Race held the NWA World Heavyweight Title on eight occasions before he landed in the WWE in 1986 to wind down his active career as a performer. In the WWE, Harley saw very few main event matches, relegated to mid-card feuds with the likes of the Junkyard Dog and Haku. Harley spent only three years in the WWE at the tail end of a glorious career, but his time in the company was really without any career milestones or highlights that would cement his legacy. Don’t believe it? Check any of the highlight reels of iconic matches or interviews done by Race shown on the WWE Network – they are all from his time as an NWA headliner.
19 Stan Hansen
If you exclude Stan Hansen’s role as “Neanderthal” in the WWE’s 1989 movie No Holds Barred, Stan Hansen wasn’t seen in a WWE ring for 35 years at the time of his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2016. In two separate runs, 1976 and then 1980-81, Hansen spent less than two full years in the WWE. In fairness, Stan did create headlines during his first run in ‘New York’ when he allegedly broke Bruno Sammartino’s neck and hospitalized him for several months, setting up one of the most highly anticipated return matches of that era. Hansen saw success in the AWA as World Champion, in WCW as United States Champion and is best known for his lengthy career overseas where he is one of the top North American stars of all time to wrestle in Japan. Hansen’s WWE legacy, by comparison, is hardly a blip on the radar of his otherwise legendary career.
18 Bill Watts
“Cowboy” Bill Watts is recognized as an innovator with a sharp mind for professional wrestling. Many of the greatest stars and future Hall of Famers in the sport learned the ropes in his Mid-South wrestling territory and ascended the ranks to become major stars in the WWE. Among them are Ted DiBiase, The Ultimate Warrior, Jim Duggan, One Man Gang and more. However, for Watts himself, his in-ring career with the WWE occurred prior to becoming a promoter in the mid-1970s and didn’t really produce any milestone moments during his two years as a wrestler here. Despite his football background and barrel-chested stature which was a staple of the 1970s WWE roster, Watts’ contributions to the industry while in the territory are largely forgettable.
If anything, Watts should be in the WWE "Hall of Infamy", as we still think he’s partially to blame for unleashing his son Erik onto the airwaves in possibly the worst WWE tag team in the history of the organization – Tekno Team 2000.
17 Terry Funk
When you see Terry Funk’s name turn up on this list, many may be opening a second browser window to open Wikipedia to do some fact checking. How could it be possible that Terry Funk, a wrestler that we have come to know more by reputation than his actual in-ring performances could only have been in the WWE for two years over the course of his stored career? But that is the case. Funk first made history in the mid-1970s when he won the NWA World Title, following his brother in that success – becoming the first brothers to both hold the world championship.
Terry had eyes on branching out from wrestling into recording and movies in the late 70s and probably holds the record for most retirements from the ring of all time. Terry spent less than a year with the company in 1986, paired with his brother, then returned for another short run in the 1990s alongside Mick Foley.
16 Alundra Blayze
Madusa Miceli’s inclusion into the WWE Hall of Fame was met with mixed reviews from loyal fans. Sure, we remember that in 1994 and 1995, the WWE Women’s division was re-introduced and built around Alundra Blayze, who turned away foes from all corners of the globe. But what we remember her most for is turning up on the rival WCW’s television program and denouncing her body of work in the WWE and throwing the title belt she held with the company, into the garbage can on live TV. It could be argued that this was the true first shot fired in the Monday Night War.
This year, in an interview with JBL, Miceli defended her actions at the time as saying she was simply doing what she needed to do to survive and that if she had to do it over again, she would probably do the same thing. What does that really say about how much she values the opportunities given to her by Vince McMahon?
15 Carlos Colon
Carlos Colon may sit as the patriarch of one of wrestling’s most celebrated families and be regarded as a national hero in Puerto Rico where he has ruled the island as the country’s premier wrestling aficionado for decades, but that fame doesn’t translate into North American success. Colon wrestled in the WWE in 1967 and '68 at the outset of his career after learning the ropes at a wrestling camp in New York. However, his early career in Montreal and Calgary were really just opportunities to build relationships to help create his World Wrestling Council empire in Puerto Rico later on.
While Colon may deserve a nod for contributing a second generation of stars that have enjoyed careers in the WWE, there are some that will still push back, somewhat resentful that Colon would hold any place in a Hall of Fame. While he was not directly responsible, many in the wrestling industry still tie Colon’s name to the death of Bruiser Brody in a Puerto Rican locker room in 1988.
14 The Sheik
In Detroit, Toronto and Japan, few men in wrestling history have generated the level of notoriety that Ed Farhat enjoyed as The Sheik of Araby from the 1950s through to the 1990s. What was different about this character as opposed to many of his peers who sat as the head of their own wrestling territory – Gagne, Watts and Graham - was that The Sheik was the circuit’s top villain instead of the top hero. His infamy generated a lot of media attention in the wrestling magazines and contributed to him getting a shot in the WWWF during the Bruno Sammartino era – challenging for the Heavyweight Title on a handful of occasions.
The Sheik will never find himself on a list of the company’s top superstars of all-time, despite a career that saw him still competing in brutal death matches overseas while many of his contemporaries were enjoying their golden years in a much more relaxed setting.
13 Peter Maivia
The stage has been set for Dwayne Johnson to become a third generation Hall of Famer and cement the legacy of his entire family in the annals of wrestling history. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when, as Johnson has transcended wrestling to become the highest paid attraction in Hollywood. Yes, we can understand and acknowledge his father’s inclusion into the WWE Hall as a history-making icon with Tony Atlas as the first African American tag team to hold the World Tag Team Titles.
However, in the case of The Rock’s grandfather, Maivia’s WWE career was relatively short – wrestling for less than a year in the northeast in 1978. Sure, Maivia was a huge star in San Francisco and was the preeminent promoter and ambassador for wrestling in Hawaii during his career, but his recognition in the WWE’s Hall feels more strategic than warranted for his time in the company.
12 Dory Funk Jr.
Wrestlers and fans that witnessed Dory Funk Jr. in his prime during the 1970s have no hesitation in throwing praise at Dory as one of the smoothest wrestlers of his era and one of the greatest technicians of all time. The business is in his blood and that was apparent from early on. In fact, Dory can still be found in the ring competing and training in Florida at age 75. However, as a WWE Hall of Famer, this feels a little out of place as Dory was only in the ring with the company for less than a year in 1986.
First of all, he was dubbed “Hoss Funk”, not even acknowledged by his own name, and second – he was relegated to tag team action in the middle of the card. The one notable difference for Dory, though, is his work as a mentor and trainer for incoming stars to the company – at one time serving as a trainer to prepare incoming stars such as Edge, Christian, Val Venis and others of that era.
11 Mad Dog Vachon
There is a little added irony that Mad Dog Vachon is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame while other members of his family, who enjoyed lengthier and more colorful careers with the company have not. Mad Dog’s brother, Paul was a part of the WWE environment as the company was transitioning from a regional to a national entity. He was even showcased in the company’s magazine after staging a wedding in the middle of the ring, years before Randy Savage and Elizabeth did the same on pay per view.
Mad Dog’s niece Luna Vachon had multiple runs with the company as both a wrestler and valet in the 1990s. Maurice, on the other hand wrestled for the company for less than a year in 1986, incidentally his retirement tour from the sport. Mad Dog is best remembered in the WWE as a prop when Kevin Nash used his prosthetic leg as a weapon at an In Your House pay per view.
10 The Von Erichs
The inclusion of the Von Erichs in the WWE Hall of Fame stands as the greatest example that the money and momentum behind the WWE’s Sports Entertainment empire have given them the creative license to claim indirect ownership of any achievement that occurred in wrestling. It's almost as if “WWE” is synonymous with wrestling and they can take credit for the successes of even their fiercest rivals. Aside from Kerry Von Erich, who enjoyed a brief but visible WWE career, you’ll have to search hard through the archives of the WWE to find a record of Kevin, David, Mike and Chris Von Erich – if you can find them at all.
Yes, the Von Erichs deserve recognition for the success of World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas and their achievements internationally – but almost none of that success was found in a WWE ring. Not inducting Kerry as an individual, but instead recognizing the family would be the same as not inducting Randy Savage solely in favor of just generally acknowledging the Poffos.
Few wrestlers have generated as much hype for their announced debut as Sting did when he finally appeared in the WWE. Long considered the franchise player of WCW, he is commonly (falsely) regarded as the only WCW star to have never jumped to the WWE, so when he arrived it appeared that it would be the catalyst for the dream matches that so many had debated over the years. However, the wrestler that arrived, in the twilight of his career, described by former WWE Champion Billy Graham as “emaciated” was hardly a shadow of the legend he had become in WCW.
Sting was active in the company for only six months – and wrestled in four matches. Take time to process that for a second … four matches! When wrestlers with years in the company and multiple memorable storylines and title runs are overlooked – Rick Martel, Davey Boy Smith, Ken Patera, Rick Rude – and Sting has a place with only four matches? Argh!
8 Jack Brisco
In 2008, “The Brisco Brothers” were inducted as a pair into the WWE Hall of Fame. How many reading this list today can even recall seeing Jack Brisco between the ropes for the company? The former NWA World Champion enjoyed only a five month association with the company – in any capacity, briefly teaming with his brother Jerry in 1984-85. In fairness, what fans may not realize is that the Brisco Brothers did have a significant impact on wrestling history. As stakeholders in Georgia Championship Wrestling, they sold their shares to Vince McMahon, allowing him to take control of the WTBS time slot in Atlanta and push out his growing brand nationwide. While Jerry has enjoyed a lengthy career with the company as an agent and administrator behind the scenes, warranting his own Hall of Fame inclusion – Jack Brisco’s WWE contributions as a performer are almost non-existent.
7 The Fabulous Freebirds
It is thanks to the WWE Network and the footage that is available from various wrestling territories that ensures many fans will have the opportunity to witness the tag team mastery of The Fabulous Freebirds trio of Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. However, the lines get blurred frequently when the discussion of the team’s place in wrestling history gets discussed. Yes, they did spend some time in the WWE, hired at a time when they could have factored heavily into the Rock 'n' Wrestling culture that Vince McMahon was cultivating. However, the Freebirds as a tag team, were only in the company for two months. No title reigns, no pay per view appearances, no LJN wrestling dolls, no tracks on either of the Wrestling Albums.
One could argue that The Fabulous Freebirds were a bust in the WWE … but they have a place in the WWE Hall over Demolition, The Killer Bees, The Rougeaus and The Rockers.
6 Bob Armstrong
The Armstrong wrestling clan is one of the most under-recognized by the industry today, despite that fact that Bob Armstrong and his four sons have all enjoyed decorated careers. However, in the case of Bob Armstrong, while all four of his sons have enjoyed stays with the WWE, he himself was not one of them. Arguably, his most successful son to make it to Vince McMahon’s roster was his youngest son Brian, aka Road Dogg, who was a charismatic addition to D-Generation X. Brad, best known for his work in the UWF and WCW had a brief stay following the demise of WCW, Steve had a forgettable run as Lance Cassidy in 1992 and Scott has enjoyed a lengthy run with the company as a referee in recent years. Still, it’s not an Armstrong family induction, but instead a Hall of Fame nod for “Bullet” Bob, who was never there.
5 Stu Hart
Interestingly, while Stu Hart is commonly acknowledged as the founder of Stampede Wrestling and the patriarch of the Hart wrestling clan from his home in Calgary, Alberta, Stu’s career in pro wrestling actually began in New York. After completing his service in the Canadian armed forces in World War II, Stu travelled to New York and launched his pro career in 1946, debuting in Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 13 of that year. However, the last match we can find on record for Stu in the northeastern United States took place in 1950, 13 years before the WWE was even created.
While Stu never competed under the WWE banner, he is credited with launching the careers of a number of future Hall of Famers including Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Nikolai Volkoff, and others. Ironically, while Stu is often connected with his sons, he didn’t train his most successful son Bret. Bret was instead schooled for his debut by Kazuo Sakurada and Mr. Hito.
4 Gordon Solie
It’s safe to say that as WrestleMania is destined to be held in the fair weather climates where open stadiums are situated that a number of southern wrestling legends will be acknowledged in the WWE Hall of Fame even though their careers and legacies have no connection to the WWE. Such is the case of Gordon Solie, the long-time broadcaster at ringside for the televised matches in Florida and Georgia. Recognized as “The Dean” of wrestling announcers, Solie set the standard for all who followed and his greatness was recognized in 2008. It would be a fair assumption to identify that Solie, whose voice provides the soundtrack for many of the biggest matches to take place during the rise of future World champion and Hall of Famer, Dusty Rhodes, that the “American Dream” had a hand in ensuring Solie’s inclusion in the Hall. While widely respected, his career is unconnected to the McMahon wrestling empire.
3 Nick Bockwinkel
An articulate antagonist on the microphone, Nick Bockwinkel was a second generation wrestler whose success stands alone. A former AWA World champion on multiple occasions, as well as an outstanding tag team wrestler, Nick Bockwinkel wrestled internationally, but he is best known as one of the mainstays for Verne Gagne’s AWA in the 1970s and 80s. His battles against the future Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig over the AWA title still stand today as some of the finest exhibits of wrestling prowess on video. Bockwinkel did serve briefly as a road agent for the WWE following his official retirement from the ring, but that role was very short-lived.
The only connection of Bockwinkel to the northeast U.S. was in 1961 when he competed as Roy Diamond for the Buffalo wrestling office, not associated with the McMahons.
2 Verne Gagne
In Vince McMahon’s global takeover of professional wrestling in 1984, few situations became more personal than the rivalry between Verne Gagne and Vince McMahon. In fact, it has been alleged by The Iron Sheik that Gagne had called him prior to the title match where Sheik would pass the torch to Hulk Hogan and had offered a cash incentive for Sheik to break Hogan’s leg. Verne Gagne was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a gesture to placate the ego of the founder of the American Wrestling Association as part of a deal that gave the WWE access to Verne Gagne’s video library. Even Gagne’s acceptance speech was awkward, openly acknowledging that his feelings toward Vince hadn’t been overly warm during the time that he had known him. Verne tops the list of stars that the AWA created and promoted that have been adopted by the WWE’s Hall.
1 Abdullah the Butcher
Probably the biggest head scratcher in all of the names associated with the WWE Hall of Fame is that of Abdullah the Butcher. First, one must recognize that Abdullah the Butcher never wrestled for the WWE. His 2011 induction may have been partly considered because the ceremony and WrestleMania that year were being held in Atlanta where Abdullah continues to have a presence as a local restaurateur. It was more startling as his placement was occurring at a time when he was being sued for knowingly infecting an opponent with hepatitis, killing the rising star’s chances of a WWE career.
In the years since, Abdullah publicly auctioned off his Hall of Fame ring, declaring that the WWE had never done anything to help him build his career or contribute to his livelihood. Still Abdullah is in there while many others – like the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, The Honky Tonk Man, remain overlooked.
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