With WrestleMania 31 and the WWE Class of 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony now behind us, we have a long year ahead of us before the next batch of inductees. So, while we wait for the first of next year’s class to be announced, let’s take a look at some wrestlers, promoters, and celebrities who are worthy of the honor of a WWE HOF induction.
Yes, don’t worry, The Undertaker is on here…
28. Rey Mysterio Jr.
There came a day where a man standing 5’6” and weighing 175 lbs. Became the World Heavyweight Champion and no one batted an eye. Rey Mysterio went from being a highlight in Monday Nitro‘s first hour to one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen. Though his time with the WWE has come to a somewhat contentious end, and recent tragedies have brought him undesired attention, Mysterio stood for over a decade as one of the WWE’s hottest commodities.
Luchador, High Flyer, and World Champion, Rey was and is the David to the Goliath that is professional wrestling.
27. Vince McMahon
The father of “Sports Entertainment,” Vince McMahon is looked at both as a genius promoter and as the killer of professional wrestling. From taking over his father’s company, buying and closing down major wrestling territories in the 1980s, and turning the profession into a sort of sports soap opera, he’s hated by many old school wrestling fans.
But without his genius marketing and creative risks, “the business” most definitely wouldn’t have blossomed into one of the greatest forms of entertainment there is. He’s created the stars we’ve loved for over three decades, gave us “The Grandest Stage Of Them All” in WrestleMania, and he’s the reason we still suspend disbelief every week. Love him or hate him, we owe him our gratitude.
26. Haystacks Calhoun
One of the greatest “big men” in the business, Calhoun, noted for being 6’ 4” and 640 lbs, was a huge (no pun intended) draw in the 1960s. Not only did he have his large frame and fierce strength to his advantage, but he was a decent technical worker in the ring. Calhoun travelled throughout the territories in North America during his career, not settling in one place for too long. Fans not only wanted to see him because of his ring presence, but they appreciated him as he was always the babyface.
Although he wasn’t ever a world champion for any company, he was a multiple-time tag champ in different companies, including the WWWF.
25. Keiji Mutoh (Great Muta)
The Great Muta is Keiji Mutoh’s most famous wrestling persona. He was a mat technician with an incredible arsenal of acrobatic moves and devastating attacks. And let’s not forget the green mist he would spit into an opponent’s face.
After a good feud in WCW against Sting, he went to Japan and became a huge superstar, working for both New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Wrestling. His matches overseas became legendary because of how awesome and brutal they could be at times. A match against Hiroshi Hase is widely considered to be the bloodiest match of all time because of Muta’s deep blading. Even with very little exposure on TV, The Great Muta is a figure deserving of the HoF.
24. Bruiser Brody
So dangerous inside of the ring that even some of his competitors were afraid of what he was going to do to them (let alone what the audience thought he was going to do) Brody was a scary wrestler. He was a brawler who didn’t mind getting really violent with his opponents. Sometimes thought of as being hard to work with behind the scenes, he still had a good career.
His most famous matches are probably those against Abdullah the Butcher. Even though he made a name for himself in the US, he became very popular in Japan for his brutal style. Unfortunately he was murdered after a show in Puerto Rico under suspicious circumstances.
23. Sam Muchnick
One of the founding members of the National Wrestling Alliance(NWA), Sam Muchnick started out as a sports reporter who also covered wrestling, writing about it respectfully as a sport. After a three year stint in the Air Force, Muchnick came home and started running his own wrestling events.
While not wildly successful, Muchnick and a group of other promoters got together and formed the National Wrestling Alliance, where he became well-known for his ability to book wrestlers throughout the territories. He was also elected NWA President in 1960 and led them for a decade while the NWA experienced its peak.
22. Don Owen
Another of the founding members of the National Wrestling Alliance(NWA), promoter Don Owen ran Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PWN), which later became more widely known as Portland Wrestling thanks to the TV show of the same name.
Owen is often described as the nicest, most honest promoter in the business because he didn’t ever cheat any workers and was said to have always given good paydays. His reputation was so well known that wrestlers wanted to work for him, and his promotion made names of Jimmy Snuka, Curt Hennig, and Roddy Piper.
21. Jim Crockett, Sr.
In the 1930s, Jim Crockett, Sr. created Jim Crockett Promotions, which became one of the original big wrestling “territories” in North America. It was based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but also ran shows in Virginia. The company ran shows under different names, but the one most people would recognize would be Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.
When the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was formed, Crockett, Sr. joined and was an important member as his territory had a huge wrestling fan base. If it weren’t for Jim Crockett, Sr., we wouldn’t have had the company that eventually became World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
20. Honky Tonk Man
“The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time,” Honky Tonk Man was a character that you loved to hate. Even his rockabilly theme song, which he sang himself (written by Jimmy Hart), made you dislike him.
The longest reigning IC Champ ever at 454 days, Honky Tonk Man held onto the title many times by count out or disqualification. Some of his most famous feuds were with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. He eventually lost the title to the Ultimate Warrior in 31 seconds at SummerSlam 1988. A good worker and a great character, he deserves the recognition.
Between New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, WWE, and WCW, Vader is one of the toughest big men in the business. At over 400 pounds, he was more than just a great brawler: you weren’t seeing a super heavyweight do moonsaults fluidly until he came along.
Even though when most people think of Vader they blame him for Mick Foley losing his right ear or Stan Hansen popping his eyeball out, Vader was a beast in the ring and you would be afraid for his opponent after seeing how stiff some of his moves were. Whether winning world titles here or in Japan, Vader was a brutal competitor.
For nearly 20 years, the Devil’s favorite demon has been haunting the WWE. Much like his “brother” The Undertaker, Kane has been able to maintain his relevance through a constantly shifting persona. Kane from 2011 isn’t Kane from 1997, not 2002, nor 2015.
In recent days, Kane has fallen comfortably into his role of enforcer and Director of Operations for The Authority. While one might think this role strange, it works. Kane is the establishment in the WWE and one of its most decorated competitors. With 12 Tag Team Championships, 2 Intercontinental Championships, and 2 World Championships (we’ll ignore the length of one of those), no one can deny the Big Red Machine.
17. Jim Cornette
Easily one of the greatest talkers in the business, and manager of some of the best tag teams ever, you didn’t want to be on Jim Cornette’s bad side. Whether he had whoever he was managing take care of you or he would just bury you in a promo himself, it hurt.
Probably best known for managing The Midnight Express, he’s managed over a dozen teams over the years, with many tag titles between them. Even though he is semi-retired now, with three decades in the business, he is as smart about it as they come.
Just don’t induct him the same night as Vince Russo. Yikes.
16. Owen Hart
While we may not ever see him inducted into the Hall of Fame due to his wife’s continuous litigations against the company, Owen Hart was an incredibly talented wrestler that deserves induction because of his work. Even though his career was cut short, he had great runs in tag team and singles competitions and was an incredible antagonist. His feud against his brother Bret is probably his most widely recognized one since they had great matches that were also very emotional because of the family connection.
The two-time Slammy Award winner wasn’t ever a world champion, sadly, but could easily have been one had he been with us longer.
Here comes the Ax, here comes the Smasher. And then later came the Crush. Let’s get the Road Warriors comparison out of the way. Both making clear references to the Mad Max aesthetic, both featuring big, brutal competitors, Demolition could have been written off as clone of the hottest Tag Team in the country.
Thankfully, they weren’t.
With the legendary “Masked Superstar” Bill Eadie as Ax and journeyman Barry Darsow as Smash, The Demolition would soon become something unique. Possessing an adaptive and versatile in ring style, Demolition could have a good match with anyone who was put in front of them.
They would also go on to add a third member (see: The Freebird Rule), the then young gun Brian Adams as Crush. With the longest single and combined WWF Tag Title reigns, The Demolition deserve to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as much, if not more, than those already there.
14. Danny Hodge
An amateur wrestler, Hodge went to the Olympics twice, and won the silver medal in Men’s Middleweight Freestyle Wrestling in 1956. Before wrestling professionally, he won Chicago’s Golden Gloves Tournament. He quit boxing, though, because he felt he wasn’t getting paid enough, so he called Leroy McGuirk and began wrestling for his promotion.
Hodge won the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship seven times, and would travel throughout the NWA territories defending it. Some of his most famous feuds over the belt were with Hiro Matsuda and Angelo Savoldi. Unfortunately Hodge was involved in a car accident where his neck was broken and he had to retire from wrestling.
13. Lou Thesz
Considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers of the 20th century, Thesz started wrestling at a time where it was, for lack of a better term, “real.” This wasn’t rasslin’; this was a time when sometimes to beat a guy you had to damage his body by breaking a bone. He could twist and turn you until you cried.
When the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was created, Lou became a big draw for them and won multiple titles, including their World Championship four times. He became the first undisputed World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion in decades by uniting World Titles from all around the territories. Thesz was an old school wrestler that helped pave the way for technicians of later years.
12. “Toots” Mondt
Joseph “Toots” Mondt was a wrestler in the early 1900s when Greco-Roman wrestling was losing its popularity. So along with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and Lewis’ manager Billy Sandow, they developed a style of wrestling with newer holds and moves and faster action, along with choreographed match endings.
Business for this new type of wrestling grew, but the relationship between the trio crumbled. Toots began promoting in New York with Vince McMahon, Sr. and taught him about booking, promoting, and marketing his style of wrestling. In 1963, they formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation.
Mondtz is credited as the man who convinced Vince, Sr. to push Bruno Sammartino as a top guy. Mr. Mondt eventually had money problems and was bought out by partner McMahon.
11. The Fabulous Freebirds
Michael “P.S.” Hayes, the late Terry Gordy, the late Buddy Roberts, and later Jimmy Garvin, were a heel stable that had incredible feuds across the major territories. Their biggest, and arguably best, feud was with the Von Erich family in World Class Championship Wrestling in Fritz Von Erich’s Texas-based territory.
While NWA Tag Team Champions, they created the “Freebird Rule,” which meant that any two members of a 3-man team can defend the titles. They are also thought to be the first group to come out to their own entrance music. After using Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” for a while, Michael Hayes wrote and sang “Badstreet U.S.A.”, and that became their new theme. They are multiple-time Tag Team champions.
10. Paul Heyman
Despite his time as a manager in WCW and WWE, Paul Heyman was the man who made ECW a contender in the world of wrestling, and that’s enough for an induction. He took a small company with a limited budget, indy workers, a late Saturday night TV slot, and a bingo hall that they called home, and turned it into a gritty, new age “wrestling” company that WCW and then WWF started to steal ideas and lure workers from. Where else could a drunk smoker be over as a multiple time World Champ as a face?
Paul Heyman gave wrestling attitude before it became a buzzword.
9. Andy Kaufman
Even though it didn’t take place in the then-WWF, older WWE fans still know about the legendary feud between Andy Kaufman and Jerry “The King” Lawler. The well-known actor/comedian facing off against a popular wrestler became huge news and is arguably the greatest “work” in wrestling history.
From filming cheap heat promos on the people of Memphis, to wearing a neck brace in public to keep up the storyline of Lawler breaking his neck, Andy wasn’t even in the business and still didn’t break kayfabe. He was a heat magnet and could have been one of the greatest mouthpieces in wrestling history, on par with “Classy” Freddie Blassie and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Without a doubt, Andy Kaufman deserves a spot in the Celebrity Wing.
8. The Hart Foundation
Even though the name was used to build a stable later on, here we’re talking about the team of Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. The latter part of the 1980s in the WWF was the perfect time for them as tag team wrestling was really starting to pick up in the company, and these guys were incredible…especially since they were both trained by the legendary Stu Hart. They had some of the best chemistry you’re ever seen in a tag team.
Feuds with The British Bulldogs, The Rockers, and Demolition cemented them as one of the best tag teams in the business…and in history.
7. Cyndi Lauper
“Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” sure. But apparently some girls in the 1980s thought that “fun” was standing up to bullies like “Captain” Lou Albano and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The moment that started this whole wrestling thing moving in the 1980s was the “Rock ‘N Wrestling Era,” of which Cyndi was a building block.
With Hulk Hogan and Wendi Richter by her side against baddies like The Fabulous Moolah and Piper, Cyndi’s participation and popularity did more for wrestling than most main event guys have done in the past 10 years. Cyndi helped make wrestling part of pop culture.
6. Kurt Angle
What other man can go from winning a gold medal for wrestling in the Olympics to being a multiple time WWE, TNA, and even WCW World Heavyweight Champion? Kurt Angle is a wrestling machine. Within a year of his in-ring debut in the WWE, he won the Intercontinental Title, European Title, King Of The Ring tournament, and the World Heavyweight Championship.
And he only got better from there.
Angle could make the weakest of “sports entertainers” look like good wrestlers and always impressed the hell out of you. Against great workers like Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and Brock Lesnar, his matches would steal the show constantly. Today’s young stars are all pupils of Kurt Angle in one way or another.
5. The nWo
All three of these superstars, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash are deserving of their individual inductions and are arguably three of the biggest stars in the history of the business. It is for that reason they must also be inducted as the nWo. T
he New World Order didn’t just use the popularity of its members, but initiated a creative synergy that far outweighed the value of its parts. The New World Order is more important than just Hulk Hogan and The New Generation. Hulk Hogan changed wrestling with Hulkamania, but it was the power of three that changed it again.
4. Miss Elizabeth
“The First Lady of Wrestling.” You could have hated Randy Savage, but you loved his manager, Miss Elizabeth. She was always there with Randy, even if he did most of the talking. She got Hulk Hogan to keep Randy from getting beaten up by The Hart Foundation and Honky Tonk Man, which helped Randy get over with the fans. Who can forget when Randy and Miss Elizabeth were “married” on television? Despite whatever roles she played in WCW, WWF was the true home of Miss Elizabeth, and she has earned a spot in their Hall of Fame.
A mainstay in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) for a decade, Sting was a fan favorite. His first run with his brightly colored facepaint and attire, he made a name for himself with incredible matches against Ric Flair, Vader, and Lex Luger. Flair still praises his matches with Sting.
After the arrival of the nWo, Sting updated his appearance with a style similar to “The Crow,” and became WCW’s silent watcher as the company was taken over by the stable, and vowed to protect WCW from them. He was the WCW World Heavyweight Champion six times, even defeating Hulk Hogan twice.
2. The Rock
From being booed for being too much of a babyface at the start of his career, to international superstardom in and outside the ring almost two decades later, no fan can dispute that “The People’s Champ” is one of the biggest stars the business has ever seen. Even when he was a heel, fans respected him, not only for his intensity and determination in the ring, but because he could command the crowd while on the mic.
Despite being a main cog in the Attitude Era, The Rock could have existed in any era of wrestling and gotten as over. Even though he retired from a full-time schedule over a decade ago, the man who now stars in blockbuster Hollywood hits can still come back and draw crowds for WrestleMania.
“The Most Electrifying Man In All Of Sports And Entertainment”, indeed. If you smell what he’s cooking.
1. The Undertaker
Between having one of the greatest gimmicks in the business, to the respect he’s earned from over two decades in the WWE, to his (unfortunately broken) WrestleMania “Streak”, The Undertaker has faced them all and he’s beaten them all. From wars with his brother Kane, to an unforgettably brutal Hell In A Cell match with Mankind, and dozens of other matches where you can pick one randomly and enjoy it. This man’s body has been beaten badly over the years, yet he will still appear once a year and risk that body to show his love for the business and the fans. One day this multiple time World Champion will retire, but the legend of The Undertaker won’t ever die. – Jesse
I suppose a lot of people are waiting for The Undertaker to retire, because with his presence still looming over WrestleMania, it will be hard for anyone to become as popular. Much like Sting in WCW, The Undertaker was a near weekly attraction in a volatile time. Unlike Sting, The Undertaker wasn’t always the good guy. Going through numerous personae and moral alignments, the most consistent trait of ‘Taker is his threatening nature. The character of The Undertaker has been the biggest dog on the block since the early ’90s, and hasn’t lost the reverence of the crowd. In an industry where even the best rise and fall, perhaps the greatest of all time is the one who kept on going. – Vinny