The 8-Ball 02.09.13: Top 8 Worst WWE Hall of Fame Picks
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 8-Ball. My name is Ryan Byers, and, as always, I am your party host, back to count down random topics in professional wrestling because apparently that’s what gets hits these days.
For the last two weeks, I’ve written columns that a lot of people have been pretty vocal in their distaste for. Two weeks ago, I did a column on trademark weapons that people thought there were a lot of key omissions from because, frankly, they didn’t read the criteria I had set out for the column. One week ago, I wrote a humor-based column that (though some people enjoyed) many folks just flat-out didn’t “get” or care for.
This week, I decided that if people have been tearing me apart in the comment section, I may as well go for the hat trick. So, to kick off the month of February, I’ve decided to write on a topic that I thought about a while ago but avoided doing just because I was a bit afraid of the pure, unadulterated rage that it would unleash in some segments of the readership. Now that I’ve gotten raked over the coals for two weeks, though, I really don’t care.
Late the hate flow through you, youngsters.
The WWE Hall of Fame has gotten a lot of talk in recent weeks, in part because it always generates discussion as new inductees are announced headed into Wrestlemania, but moreso because perhaps one of the biggest “gets” in the history of the HOF, Bruno Sammartino, has finally agreed to be inducted.
Much of the discussion every year focuses on some of the less credible choices that are made for inductees. My personal opinion is that the WWE Hall of Fame should no longer be considered a legitimate Hall of Fame and instead should just be viewed by fans for what it really is: a chance for WWE to market itself and make more money while simultaneously honoring former wrestlers who may or may not be worthy of induction into a “hall of fame” as that phrase is understood as it relates to baseball, football, or other legitimate sports.
However, if I were to try to establish my own “legitimate” WWE Hall of Fame – even though I want to make it perfectly clear here that I understand that this is not WWE’s goal – I would definitely clean house and remove several names that have been enshrined in the HOF. So, here are what I consider to be the eight worst choices for WWE Hall of Fame inductions.
Note that I am NOT including the “celebrity wing” of the Hall in my analysis, as that just makes things too easy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Eddie Guerrero as a performer. I first became familiar with him when he was a part of the cruiserweight division in WCW, after which I started watching tapes of him in Japan and Mexico from before his WCW run, after which I followed him to the WWF and watched him develop into not only a great in-ring performer but also a hugely entertaining personality. With all of that said, Eddie Guerrero is NOT somebody that I would induct into a legitimate professional wrestling Hall of Fame. I do not think that he had the requisite longevity as a top-level performer (i.e. main eventer) and draw in the professional wresting industry to qualify as one of the absolute biggest names in the history of the pseudo-sport. Despite his popularity and his level of talent, I see his untimely and unfortunate death as the main reason behind his induction, and I do not think that passing away early should qualify you for a hall of fame. So, no matter how much I may enjoy his work on a personal level, objectively speaking I would not induct Eddie Guerrero.
Okerlund I feel is in the WWF Hall of Fame mainly for purposes of creating warm, nostalgic feelings in fans and also because, despite his defection to WCW for a period of time in the 1990’s, he truly was a loyal, longer-term employee of Vince McMahon and company who the promotion has been able to bring back into the fold in recent years. However, I don’t think that loyalty and warm fuzzy feelings should be enough to qualify a person for a hall of fame. Was Gene Okerlund good at his primary job of backstage interviewer? He was damn good. In fact, I would go as far as to say he was one of the best – if not the best – wrestling interviewers of all time. My problem with his induction, though, is that the role of backstage interviewer is a relatively unimportant one in the world of professional wrestling. Having a good interviewer is more of an “icing on the cake” than it is a necessary element of a successful promotion. Regardless of how good you are at the interviewer’s job, you’re not going to make a major impact on the wrestling industry in solely that role, and I feel that a significant impact on the industry is necessary to be truly HOF-worthy.
Speaking of impacts on the professional wrestling industry, my opinion is that Sunny’s impact on the wrestling world has been significantly overstated for many years now. The WWF for a period of time was marketing her as the “original diva” and talking about her as though the modern WWE women’s division wouldn’t exist without her. That’s ridiculous. There were already many women in professional wrestling (most notably Missy Hyatt) who had done the exact same thing that Sunny did in the WWF before she got there. Furthermore, given her look and the fact that she was hanging around WWF employee Marc Mero, Sable probably would have debuted regardless of Sunny’s involvement of the Fed, and she did much more to launch modern “divas” wrestling than did the former Bodydonna. And, yes, I know that Sunny was the “most downloaded celebrity on America Online,” but AOL was relevant for what, three years? Two? Bragging about how popular you were on AOL is like saying you were one of the most beloved users of ham radio.
I think most modern pro wrestling fans assume that Mae Young must have accomplished something in her professional wrestling career because she’s been around for so long, but the fact of the matter that she really hasn’t done much of note, aside from becoming the answer to a couple of trivia questions about the oldest person to compete in a match and the wrestler to compete in the most decades. Prior to becoming a comedy character in the WWF in the late 1990’s, Mae was just a journeywoman wrestler who was never particularly popular nor noted to her performances. She just had the good fortune of developing a very strong, long-lasting, ahem, “friendship” with the Fabulous Moolah and capitalizing on it by getting a WWF/WWE deal as a result of Vince McMahon’s undying loyalty to Moolah, which goes back to her being one of many wrestlers that his father made him promise to “take care of” when Vince Jr. picked up the WWWF ball from his old man. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that should be the basis of a hall of fame induction.
For some reason, Koko B. Ware has become the stereotypical example of a bad WWE Hall of Fame induction that everybody on the internet brings up when they want to bash the WWE Hall of Fame. In a way, I agree with that sentiment, because Koko was a perpetual underneath guy in the big leagues and, even in the smaller territories where he competed (e.g. Memphis), he didn’t exactly have protracted runs as a top guy. That’s not a hall of fame level career, no matter how you slice it. HOWEVER, I will defend Koko a little bit and say that his reputation as the worst WWE Hall of Fame choice ever is NOT deserved, hence why he’s number four on this list and not number one. Koko might have been relegated to the second or third match in the World Wrestling Federation, but at least he was typically somewhat protected in that second or third match position and could be seen as a viable tag partner for main eventers, in addition to getting some mainstream publicity through “Piledriver.” So, is Koko B. Ware a bad Hall of Fame pick? Yes. Is he the worst Hall of Fame pick? Hardly. Those are still coming . . .
Johnny Rodz is in many ways similar to Koko B. Ware in terms of what he accomplished in wrestling. He was part of the WWF roster and was confined to the second or third match on the card throughout most of his career. The difference between the two men that results in Rodz being one spot “worse” than Koko on this list is that, while Koko was always protected and relatively popular, Rodz was a flat-out jobber and not portrayed in any way as a star. Rodz has been in the hall of fame for seventeen years now, and sitting here today I can still not think of one single valid reason to put him in aside from him being well-liked by the decision makers. The only reason that I think modern fans give him a bit of a “pass” and label Koko as the worst inductee of all time is the fact that Rodz was inducted in 1996, during a time when the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were not televised and not nearly as closely followed by the fans as they are today.
In the first entry on this list, I stated that it was my opinion that Eddie Guerrero probably wouldn’t have gotten into the WWE Hall of Fame if not for his death and that dying alone shouldn’t be a qualification for being inducted into a hall of fame. Well, Mike and Chris Von Erich (inducted as part of the “Von Eric family” group induction a few years back) are a far more egregious example of being inducted simply as a result of your death than Eddie Guerrero is. David, Kerry, and to a lesser extent Kevin Von Erich were legitimately major territorial stars and I could almost justify putting them into a hall of fame (though I still don’t think that I would quite get there). Mike and Chris were nowhere close to their level. Mike may have had a promising career at one point but had it severely hampered by his battle with toxic shock syndrome (leading to his exploitative billing as the “Living Miracle”), while Chris was almost embarrassingly undersized and unathletic, with his most notable feud being with manger Percy Pringle III in the dying, dying days of Texas wrestling after it had been taken over by Memphis’ promoters. I do not mean to downplay the tragedy that befell their family and I deeply feel for those who survived them, but these guys are not hall of famers.
This is an induction that there is a lot of misinformation out there about. When they inducted James Dudley into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1994, the Fed billed James Dudley as “the first African American to run a major arena,” implying that he was a promoter or high ranking executive within the company and also claiming that he was a manager of many WWF wrestlers. Aside from the WWF’s own claims in publications related to his Hall of Fame induction, I have never seen any source whatsoever confirm that Dudley had significant power within the company, much less to promote or run its arenas. Also, though he was a kayfabe manager of wrestlers for a limited period of time, his run as manager was very brief by all accounts and hardly on par with the Heenans, Albanos, Grand Wizards, or, heck, even the Slicks and Harvey Whipplemans of the world. The reality of the situation is that James Dudley was a limo driver and bodyguard to Vince McMahon, Sr. who also did a variety of other odd jobs. Yes, he may have been a very important and loyal employee to the elder Vince, but there’s no real indication that he made any particularly noteworthy contribution to the world of professional wrestling.
That’s it for this week’s 8-Ball. If you can’t get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.