Hall of Fame Wishlist

With the announcement of Shawn Michaels on Raw last night kicking off the WWE Hall of Fame Induction season, I’m taking a moment to look at 10 names whom I feel are quite deserving to be in the Hall of Fame themselves.

10. Yokozuna
Some might argue that Yokozuna did not do enough or was not as skilled in the ring to warrant entry into WWE’s Hall of Fame.  I would point to the likes of Koko B. Ware and Rocky Johnson as signs that it’s not just the ring techniques that make a Hall of Famer, but the contributions to the sport and the memorableness of the character.  Few fans at the time could probably ever forget the massive 600+ pound Yokozuna, for not only his size, but for his accomplishments.  He won the Royal Rumble in 1993, becoming the first to earn a WrestleMania title shot from the match, then defeated Bret Hart for the championship.  Though he lost the belt quickly to Hulk Hogan, he regained it in their rematch at King of the Ring, effectively ending Hulkamania in the WWE for 9 years.  He went on to hold the title for nearly a year, running through all the company’s good guys until finally falling to Bret Hart at WrestleMania X.  Though Yoko’s tenure in the WWE was short, he made a large enough impact to be posthumously awarded for his accomplishments.

9. Rick Rude
Rick Rude was never a world champion, but he hardly needed to be.  Like his best friend Curt Hennig, Rude was a key piece of the upper-midcard wherever he worked.  Known for his chisled physique and features, Rude was a natural heel, playing his ‘Ravishing’ role to perfection.  Even when his in-ring career was cut short due to injury, Rude remained a key player as a manager, involved as a founding member of D-Generation X and a key factor alongside Hennig in the nWo.  Holding numerous titles in both WCW and WWE (amongst other companies), Rick Rude has a very good argument for a Hall of Fame honor.

8. Jim Cornette
Though managers have faded from the realm of wrestling over the past decade, they once were a major factor and few were better than Jim Cornette.  Weilding his signature tennis racket (always within its protective cover), Cornette was a valuable asset to whomever he was working for and a pain in the ass for anyone he was working against.  But his strongest skill was (and actually still is) his gift of gab.  Cornette has a ridiculously fast, yet articulate speaking voice.  He could come up with some of the most infuriating, yet clever things to be said, and he never missed a beat when saying them.  Cornette could easily cover for any heel lacking promo skills in a way that not only got his “client” over, but himself as well.  Though Cornette and the WWE did not exactly part on the best of terms, Cornette has as good of an argument as any for entry into the Hall of Fame.

7. Owen Hart
There are few tragedies in wrestling that have been as horrible as the accident that took Owen Hart’s life in May of 1999, and sadly that will likely forever be what he’s best for.  But that does not give the man credit for the incredible talent and human being that he was in his life.  Owen was a likable guy, yet he pulled off the heel role perfectly.  He was the longtime nemesis to his brother Bret and as many would say, the better in-ring talent of the two of them.  Owen could have a good match with absolutely everyone, and from accounts in numerous wrestlers’ memoirs, would go out of his way to have a good time doing so.  Owen was excellent in both singles and tag team wrestling, having numerous successful teams with the likes of Koko B. Ware, the British Bulldog, Yokozuna and Jeff Jarrett.  The likelihood that Owen will ever be inducted is slim, based on the incidents of his death and the subsequent relationship with his widow Martha, but he has every right to stand with the elite of the company.

6. Vader
Though his 3 year WWE run was less than memorable, Vader was a huge deal in WCW.  A numerous time world champion, Vader was one of the top heels in the company, only comparable to the likes of Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen.  Vader not only looked dangerous with his massive frame and his crazy mask, but what he did in the ring looked like it hurt…because as many have said, it did.  Vader made the jump to the WWE in 1995, but the changing climate of the company didn’t lead to the success of WCW, but he again found success when he began competing in Japan.  Vader is known for being one of the most agile big men in the business (go find a video of his moonsault) and his accomplishments make him more than worthy for entry into the Hall of Fame.

5. Ultimate Warrior
Oh, come on.  It’s the frickin’ Ultimate Warrior!  How can you even try to disagree with this one?  He wasn’t a mat technician?  Neither was Hulk Hogan.  But the Ultimate Warrior had an energy and a nonsensical promo style that endeared him to fans young and old.  He remains one of the most recognized figures in wrestling and he’s not been relevant for well over a decade now.  He was the only fan-favorite with a following strong enough to go into a program against Hulk Hogan without needing to go heel, and their epic clash at WrestleMania VI remains perhaps the greatest face vs. face feud ever.  And contrary to popular rumor, there would only need to be one entrant, as there has only been one Ultimate Warrior.

4. The Rock
The nickname “The most electrifying man is sports entertainment” landed on the Rock for a very good reason.  With his shift from “Rocky Maivia” to “The Rock”, the era of the overly happy, smiling babyface ended with an overly elaborate elbow drop.  No longer would someone get over with the fans because they looked clean cut, smiled a lot, and did the right thing.  The Rock began referring to himself in the third person and created a cocky persona that the fans quickly warmed up to.  Within a year of dropping the Maivia from his name, the Rock had established himself as one of wrestling’s greatest performers ever, and the rest is history.  He was also the first person to earn the WWE Championship for a sixth title reign, which doesn’t mean much now, but at the time it put him over the likes of Steve Austin, Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan.  Why the WWE has not inducted him yet is beyond me, but he’s a surefire entrant.

3. Sting
There’s a lot of argument over whether Sting has any business being inducted into the Hall of Fame for a company he never worked for.  WWE set the precedent for it when they inducted Verne Gagne into the Hall, so that settles that.  If you need a better reason, WWE owns the entirety of WCW and has since 2001.  Sting’s match on WCW Nitro’s final episode technically had him working for the WWE.  But details aside, Sting was the face of WCW for the entirety of its run as a company independant of the NWA.  The top babyface, Sting was a key player in all the major angles of WCW, and especially during the run of the nWo that made him a household name.  In that angle, Sting also successfully transitioned himself from the good guys vs. bad guys eras of old into the shades of gray era of the late ’90s.  If WWE is inducting talents from outside of their own history, Sting should be the first one let in.

2. Randy Savage
Whether you were a wrestling fan or not, chances are you would have known the Macho Man Randy Savage.  With his colorful outfits, signature voice and excellent ring skills, Macho was one of the biggest stars of his time.  Thriving as both a beloved babyface and a despised heel, Savage kept himself in the midst of the spotlight throughout his career.  He won his first world title at WrestleMania IV by winning a tournament also having the likes of Ted DiBiase, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan in it.  His list of memorable moments – from his wedding to Miss Elizabeth, to his betraying Hulk Hogan to split the Mega Powers, to his tenure in the nWo – Savage remained one of the biggest names in wrestling for over a decade.  There are few people who will disagree that the WWE and Savage need to get over any issues and put the man into the Hall of Fame.

1. Bruno Sammartino
Because his age was before the era of Hulkamania or Attitude, many younger fans won’t recognize the name of Bruno Sammartino, or simply won’t care to learn of him.  But more than any other name on this list, the man deserves a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.  The second ever WWE Champion (then the WWWF), Sammartino held the title for seven years before finally losing it.  In just two title reigns, he held the championship for over 11 years.  That’s longer than the total reigns of John Cena, Bret Hart, Triple H, Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels COMBINED.  Sammartino was the definition of a draw in his era, though he did not take well to the changing atmosphere of wrestling, and has long since alienated himself from the WWE.  He is the only thing keeping himself out of induction, not wanting to associate his name with company.  But that doesn’t change that he’s more deserving than any other to be known as a Hall of Famer of the WWE.

Regarding Chris Benoit
I know that many people would argue for and against the induction of Chris Benoit.  And from looking at just his wrestling career, he certainly does appear to be deserving of it.  Multiple title wins from numerous promotions, J-Cup winner, Royal Rumble winner, member of the Four Horsemen and one of the best ring technicians ever to compete.  Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be up for consideration.

But one can no longer associate anything with Chris Benoit without tying it to his death and the killings of his wife and son.  If the WWE were to announce the induction of Benoit, they would have to face scrutiny from many mainstream sources on glorifying the man who did these terrible acts.  But why can’t you just dissacociate the wrestling part with the end?  Celebrate his accomplishments but not the tragedy?  Sadly, that’s not how the world of public perception works.  To induct Chris Benoit into the Hall of Fame, you’d be associating with everything he was.  And in many people’s eyes, that means a murderer.  Had Benoit not ended his life and been imprisoned for his actions, it would not be a consideration to induct him into the Hall.  The only difference is that with his death, we didn’t get a direct explanation of what happened and why he did what he did, and thus many fans keep their memory of him as the man they loved in the ring.

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