A couple of days before Wrestlemania each year, the past, present and future of World Wrestling Entertainment get together to honor those lucky few legends of the industry for their contributions to the sports entertainment business.
This year’s class has received a bit of unwarranted scrutiny for seeming a bit lacking in big name star power. Outside of Sting and Stan Hansen, The Big Boss Man, Jacquline, and The Godfather (who I’m still surprised is being inducted as the godfather and not Charles Wright) don’t exactly receive the respect from present day fans, espeically when some many other deserving candidates remain on the outside looking in.
With next year’s selection process primed to include some big names, here’s a short list of possible candidates for next years WWE Hall of Fame class who could add some needed star power.
Not everyone can make the short list for next year’s WWE Hall of Fame inductions, so here are a few names who, in their own ways, are deserving of a hall of fame induction, but for some reason or another will have to sit out another year before they get their call.
Jim Cornette and his tennis racquet were staples of the manager scene in the World Wresting Federation during the mid 90’s where he managed some of the biggest names of the era. Behind the scenes, Cornette spent the better part of his 14 years in the WWF/E as a backstage player, most notably as a member of the booking team. Arguably, Cornette’s biggest impact in wrestling came during his time as head booker of the WWE developmental product, Ohio Valley wrestling, where he helped mold stars like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.
Jim Cornette’s career spanned 30 years in six different promotions including WWE, TNA, ROH and the defunk Jim Crockette Promotions. He was also the owner of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, which gave a multitude of a future WWE stars like Road Dogg, Kane (then known as the Unabomber-good lord…), D’Lo Brown, and probably the biggest name on Smoky Mountain’s alumni list, Chris Jericho.
Despite Cornette’s achievements, he’ll more than likely remain out of the Hall of Fame due to his infamous series of shoot interviews completely ripping the current quality of the product and his disdain for a certain, corporate ladder climbing son-in-law. Not to mention his suspension and subsequent release stemming from an physical altercation with Santino Marella following an alleged incident of no-selling.
Few wrestlers have made as quick an impact as Kurt Angle did after debuting at the 1999 Survivor Series. A true ring technician, Angle mixed his near perfect ring work, with undeniable charisma throughout his eight years in the WWE. Angle was a staple of the Smackdown’s main event scene during the ruthless aggression brand split era.
Angle would already be in the Hall if it weren’t for his 10 year tenure in Total Nonstop Action. However, now that he’s free from his contract and has remained on pretty good terms with the WWE, a hall of fame nod seems all but certain.The WWE will probably like to let a few years pass to allow for a bit of distance between the Angle and his association with TNA though, making a 2017 induction unlikely.
Nevertheless, Considering the WWE’s love for any wrestler who adds legitimacy to the brand, it wouldn’t be a shock if Kurt Angle and his Olympic gold medals snuck their way onto the 2017 list of inductees, but don’t hold your breathe.
When the day comes that Kurt Angle is named an Inductee into the Hall, hopefully he’ll show a little more enthusiasm than he displayed at his TNA Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014.
The New Age Outlaws
The New Age Outlaws were fixtures of the attitude era as the faithful goons of D-Generation X leader, Triple-H. Consisting of Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, the New Age Outlaws entertained arena’s with their trademark entrance routine, and unique connection with the crowd. Whether they were playing the role of face or heel, it was almost guaranteed that the pair would receive one of, if not the biggest crowd pops of the night.
The Outlaws weren’t exactly Steamboat and Macho Man in the ring, but fostered one of the purest organic connections with the fans since Dusty Rhodes across three promotions. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn captured the WWF tag team titles five times between 1997 and 2000, and won the WWE tag team championship once after reforming briefly in 2015.
Billy Gunn’s suspension due to a laundry list of human growth hormones will more than likely put the brakes on any Hall of Fame plans, and inducting Road Dogg without Billy Gunn would only lead to inquires as to why Gunn was omitted in the first place. The fact that Gunn and James spent so much time in TNA after leaving the WWE in 2000 won’t speed up the process either.
8. Bruiser Brody –
Bruiser Brody was the type of old school wrestler who’s every step could spring a thousand rumors. One of the legit bad asses of professional wrestling , Brody cultivated a following throughout the regional territories thanks in part to his notoriously brutal matches with Abdullah the Butcher, and across the seas in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Brody helped develop the brawling style of pro wrestling that have helped to get larger, less technically gifted stars over for the better part of 50 years.
Brody didn’t spend much time in a WWWF ring, his biggest match-up was a losing effort against Bruno Sammartino in 1978, but if Sting can be inducted after just two matches, I’d like to believe the match count requirement can be thrown out the window when it comes to future inductions.
Sadly, the amount of violence surrounding Brody’s career and death keeps him low on this list. Brody, real name Frank Goodish, was murdered by Jose Gonzalez before a match in Puerto Rico in 1988. The WWE product has been fully PG for quite some time now, and i doubt the WWE brass are jumping at the chance to spotlight a man who’s biggest impact in the eyes of a lot of wrestling fans was his unparalleled brawling ability, and the severity of blading involved in his matches.
Despite the amount of blood in Bruiser Brody’s story, the WWE should take a long hard look at one of the overlooked innovators of today’s WWE product, and give Brody a place next to his longtime rival Abdullah the Butcher in the Hall of Fame.
Its almost crazy how quickly fans associate a wrestler on an unstoppable winning streak with Bill Goldberg. Winning streaks have been used by booking crews to get wrestlers over since well before Goldberg’s WCW streak, so it speaks volumes as to how big a mental impact Goldberg left in the minds of wrestling fans.
Goldberg’s biggest accomplishments came during his monumental 155 match win streak from 1997 to 1998 in which he went from squash match machine to…squash match machine with the big gold belt around his waist. Starting with Hugh Morris and ending with (good god..), Kevin Nash, Goldberg was as hot as they came, eclipsing the popularity of some of the biggest stars of the period.
Goldberg eventually made his way to the WWE after WCW closed their doors, but his run was forgettable, and nowhere near as Hall of Fame worthy as his time in WCW. He was able to capture the World Heavyweight Championship at the 2003 edition of Unforgiven during his feud with Triple H and Evolution, before dropping the strap back to The Game at Armageddon just three months later. His final match with the company against Brock Lesnar is still talked about for all the wrong reasons, but Goldberg has remained on pretty relatively cordial terms with the company, recently engaging in a sit down with a certain COO.
The WWE has been on a kick of involving at least one former well-known WCW guy at each years induction ceremonies, making Goldberg’s chances of receiving the honor that more likely.
Growing up watching the WWE, Christian was always a point of contention for me and my brothers. While teamed up with Edge, he was in his element- an above average tag team performer, who’s promos with Edge set the standard in the tag team division during the later parts of the attitude era. They captured the World Tag team championships 7 times over the course of partnership, and their weird, over-the-top pseudo surfer gimmicks, were one of the best parts of WWE programming.
He, alongside his tag team partner, the Hardy Boys, and The Dudley Boys helped to reinvent the ladder match at Wrestlemania 17, and turn an entire generation of WWE fanatics into high-flying spot junkies.
But, he was clearly less charismatic than his tag team partner, and was always perceived as the Marty Janetty of an eventual E&C split up. Its an on-going rumor that Vince McMahon never saw much of anything in Christian, with his time in TNA only adding to the notion. So, it’s that much more impressive that he was able to overcome his perceived short comings in the eyes of the WWE brass, and forge an admirable career post E & C, culminating in a World Heavyweight Title run in 2011.
Forgetting his success in TNA, because we all know the WWE will do the same when it comes time for Christian to get his time in the sun, Christian is unsuspectingly one of the most decorated superstars of the last 15 years. His Hall of Fame resume is lined with championship gold, and he has the underdog connection with the crowd, making his induction an easy pill to swallow for fans. He’s defiantly a guy that needs to be on the short-list, and could help add a bit of modern star power to the 2017 class.
For a large section of wrestling fans across the country who possibly couldn’t see raw on cable for any reason during the mid 2000s, John Bradshaw Layfield was the smuggest piece of perfect heel headlining SmackDown as its WWE Champion.
It’s often said that the best gimmicks are simply the wrestlers real personalities, kicked up to 11, which defiantly could be said about the stock market watching Layfield. A member of both the triple crown, and grand slam club, JBL has racked up almost 20 years with the company seemingly transitioning from an in-ring role, to his current role as color commentator.
Emulating other great WWE Champions of the past, Layfield has become one of the better WWE announcers in an admittedly thin field. His contributions as both an in-ring competitor, and an announcing personality to the newer generations of fans gives the Texas native a few good reasons to be inducted into the hall in 2017.
4. Mark Henry
If reports are true, this year’s Wrestlemania might be the last time we see the world’s strong man competing in a WWE ring. Henry has been used on WWE TV less and less over the years in favor of other talent, which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing considering how poorly the product was aging. Henry does however deserve a shower of gratitude when he finally does retire following a list of accomplishments any wrestler would be grateful to boast.
One of the longest tenured WWE stars to still lace up their boots for the company, Vince and crew owe it to Sexual Chocolate for his constant devotion to the company despite some pretty weak creative direction over the years. Henry overcame a relationship with the then 70 year old Mae Young, in which he, in Kayfabe (wink), helped give birth to a severed hand.
I know…It was the 90s.
Despite his characters wayward direction Mark Henry spun his actual title as one of the World’s Strongest men into a very successful gimmick, propelling him to the World Heavyweight Championship and a pretty respectable role as the monster heel of a depleted SmackDown roster in 2011. Henry also captured the ECW Championship, making him one of the few WWE superstars to hold both the ECW and World Heavyweight championships at one time in their careers.
Currently regulated to the role of stepping stone for up and coming stars, Henry will more than likely help bolster next years retirement class, if and when, he finally hangs up his singlet, and rightfully so. If his speech is anywhere near as convincing as his 2013 fuax retirement speech, it’ll be worth a listen and a booming round of applause.
3. The Rock
When I was brainstorming a list of names for this list, their was only one name which made me stop, and double check to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake and overlooked an induction sometime in the past. But after double…and triple checking, I can without doubt say that The Great One is not a member of the WWE Hall of Fame as of 2016’s ceremony.
That is insanity. The Rock is without a doubt the biggest crossover star the company has ever had the pleasure of having under contract. Not to mention, the Rock has kept an excellent connection and affinity for the place that made him a household name, which makes his absence from the Hall even stranger in retrospect. A semi-retired wrestler since 2006, The Rock has since went on to make a name for himself as the highest grossing movie star of 2015, with no signs of slowing down in 2016.
A genuinely great guy, Dwayne Johnson is a perfect example of what Vince McMahon saw as the perfect main event star following the onset of the new millennium-Unmatched on the mic, passable in the ring, and physically imposing in stature.
(I mean, have you seen him recently? You can park a motorcycle on his shoulders)
With next year’s Wrestlemania set to take place in Orlando, Florida at the Citrus Bowl, The Rock’s home state, its a safe bet that The Rock will be one of the lucky inductees at next years event. The only thing I could imagine could place a wrench in those plans would be if Vince and the WWE chose to bypass the Rock in favor of another possible 2017 inductee as a way to keep the spotlight on a single massive career at next year’s. But with the location, The Rock’s Hollywood super stardom, and the his continuous working relationship with the company, the Great One has one of the highest chances of making it into the hall in 2017.
2. Owen Hart
Everything about Owen Harts final moments with the company was tragic: The fact that Owen was rumored to finally be in line for his big main event push, the rumors that Triple H’s, “The Game” nickname was indeed intended for Owen, and the possibility of another 5-10 years of excellent in-ring work from one of the best to ever lace his boots, all rolled itself into a huge ball of heart wrenching, “what-ifs?”
His accidental death and the subsequent legal battle with his widow, Martha has cast a dark shadow over the entire situation, and has held up any likely Hall of Fame induction plans the company has planned. I commend the WWE for respecting the wishes of Martha, who has on numerous occasions voiced her disapproval of any connection with the company, but if rumors of a future Owen Hart DVD are to be believed, than I can only image a Hall of Fame nod is in the near future.
It will no doubt be a controversial decision for Vince and the WWE, but with the amount of deserving Hall of Fame candidates dwindling with each passing year, the elephant in the room that is Owen Hart will only grow larger. Here’s hoping the WWE and Owen’s family can work something out to give Owen the honor, and spotlight he truly deserved.
1. The Undertaker
The number one entry on this list needs no further introduction, as fans young and old have had the opportunity to watch Mark Calloway spin magic in the squared circle for the last astounding 25 years.
The Undertaker has amassed a treasure chest full of championships along his career, but his greatest accomplishments transcend championships, although seven world championships is nothing to scoff at. Whether it be as the American Bad Ass, or The Phenom, The Undertaker was the type of wrestler an entire program could be planned around in full faith an honestly.
A Paragon of loyalty, The Undertaker stood firm with the WWE in the face of WCW’s talent raid, kicking off the Monday Night Wars, and forcing the WWE to produce some of their best wrestling in years. Gaining a reputation as the last “old-school” wrestler in the WWE, it can be guaranteed that The Undertaker will do whats best for the promotion, both in the ring, and behind the curtains earning the respect of three generations of wrestling talent.
If the Shane goes over at this year’s Wrestlemania and manages to retire The Deadman, its a lock that we’ll be seeing the Phenom’s somber trek to give his induction speech as the headliner of 2017’s Hall of Fame class. His speech has the chance of being one most moving, and gut wrenching speeches since Daniel Bryan spook on Connor the Crusher at 2014’s ceremony.