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.
20 Harley Race
19 Stan Hansen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 Jack Brisco
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.
6 Bob Armstrong
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.
4 Gordon Solie
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.
2 Verne Gagne
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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