The Piledriver Report 01.05.13: Hall of Fame Bound
On December 27th, the WWE put the upcoming Hall of Fame induction ceremony tickets on pre-sale. The pre-sale was very strange. Usually, when the WWE does a pre-sale, the first day of the advanced ticket sale is only a couple of days before the general public ticket sale event. Instead, the general public tickets do not go on sale until January 12th. Another strange factor thrown into the equation was the time that the pre-sale started. Instead of the usual 10:00am, the WWE put them on sale at 10:30PM! It turned out that was because the WWE wanted to give the fans who attended the Madison Square Garden house show the first crack at getting tickets to the upcoming event. Fair enough.
Regardless of when tickets go on sale, the WWE always announces the main event Hall of Fame inductee on the Monday Night RAW before tickets go on sale. They do this with the hopes that a big name will help push ticket sales. According to the rumors, the WWE was going to announce that first name during the MSG house show. Unfortunately, those reports were wrong, because the fans are still in the dark as to who will go into this year’s Hall of Fame class. The WWE usually likes to throw in a couple of guys that have ties to the region that WrestleMania is held in that particular year, and they like to have that one big name to put on the marquee. Who will go in? I’m sure we will find out in the next few weeks. Until then, here’s who I would put in if I was in charge of the nominees.
I think Cyndi Lauper is the perfect person to be named the first female Hall of Famer in the Celebrity wing. It was Lauper’s ties with Captain Louis Albano that allowed Vince McMahon to use her to launch his “Rock n’ Wrestling Connection” concept. I was a fairly new fan to the business at the time, and remember having Cyndi Lauper involved in the WWF was huge. The World Wrestling Federation got a huge amount of publicity thanks to her being the centerpiece of the initial “Rock and Wrestling” angle. If it wasn’t for Cyndi Lauper, the WWF NEVER gets on M-TV for the first time. When they got on M-TV, you knew that it was cool to watch wrestling again. From the success of Wendi Richter vs. the Fabulous Moohla on M-TV, the WWE was able to secure another special in February 1985. The match featured Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper. Paul Orndorff and celebrity Mr.T got involved in the preceedings. Their involvement gave us the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania event of Hulk Hogan and Mr.T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. The very first “Road to WrestleMania” was born, and it all started with Cyndi Lauper’s initial involvement in the summer of 1984.
When you look at the history of the company, CM Punk currently has the sixth longest title reign. His current title reign is over four hundred and ten days. The title reigns that rank number one, two, and three, and four each were held in reigns that lasted OVER ONE THOUSAND DAYS EACH. Number five was just under 1,000 days. Two of these title reigns were held by Bruno Sammartino, one was by Hulk Hogan, and one was held by Bob Backlund. As much as people believe that Bruno Sammartino needs to be in the WWE Hall of Fame, the same can be said of Bob Backlund. He held the title for over five years straight in a time when being World Champion meant that you were the leader of the company. The only blemish on his long reign was when there were controversial title switches that were ruled invalid and not recognized by the WWE. After he dropped the title to the Iron Sheik, Backlund pretty much dropped off of the face of the wrestling earth. He returned to the WWF in mid-nineties. After a brief run as a face, Backlund turned heel as the mentally unstable Mr. Backlund. On November 23rd, 1994, almost eleven years after he last held the WWF World title, he beat Bret Hart for his second WWF championship. This would set a record for the longest any wrestler would go between WWF World title reigns in the company history. His second stint as champion would only last three days as he was a transitional champion until Diesel took the title. However, this short reign with the title has to be looked at in a positive manner. Backlund came back to the WWF, and saw a land far different than when he left in 1984. He made the adjustment. He reinvented his character, and was put in a position where the company gave him the belt again. Combine that with his first title reign in the late seventies-early eighties when he carried the company, and Bob Backlund is a true Hall of Famer. The only question is would he accept the invite, as he has declined once before.
After the name Bruno Sammartino, the one performer that has worked for the company that every fan feels belonged in the Hall of Fame for the last few years is Randy Savage. Throughout his career, Randy Savage did just about everything you could ask any wrestler to do. He had everything. He had the build that Vince likes, but wasn’t too huge. He could fly off the top rope. His athleticism made him a tremendous worker. He could even deliver a good promo if you got past his weird interviews and constipated sounding vocals. Not that this is a criteria for the Hall of Fame, but he ranks #2 in my all-time favorite wrestlers list. The “Macho Man” held the Intercontinental title once, and the WWF World title twice. In WCW, he held their World Heavyweight Championship four times. Savage seemed to be the Robin and at other times the Joker to Hulk Hogan’s Batman, as they were friends and enemies multiple times throughout their careers and behind the scenes as well. Ever since WCW folded, there was an air of mystery surrounding Randy Savage. While Vince McMahon made amends with almost every one on his “hate list” over the years, Randy Savage was the one wrestler that he would never bring back. What was the reason for this black balling? Some rumors suggest that Savage slept with a teenaged Stephanie McMahon. However, if that was true, I think Vince would have had Savage arrested instead of black balled. Upon Savage’s death in May of 2011, many felt that the grudge that Vince had against Savage would be over, and he would finally earn his rightful place in the WWE’s Hall of Fame. However, Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo has put a monkey wrench into the whole thing by saying that Randy Savage told him that he would only go into the Hall of Fame IF the WWE inducted the Poffo wrestling family, as opposed to just Savage. Whether the WWE believes this request or not, they should still reach out to the Poffo clan to induct Randy Savage. He should have been inducted before his death, and should be now. He was extremely popular in the Northeast, as he was everywhere, and there would be no bigger honor than in putting him in at the Garden.
OK, this selection was probably actually hurt by the fact that Paul Heyman came back to the company in 2012. He first got into the business as a teenager when he scammed his way into the WWF lockerroom as a “photographer.” From there, he sold pictures and articles to such publications as “Pro Wrestling Illustrated.” He made it big on the national scene, first in the American Wrestling Association as a manager and then in 1988, he debuted in World Championship Wrestling. He originally managed the Original Midnight Express in their feud against the current version of the team at the time. He transitioned to an announcer for WCW. However, his most high profile run as a manager came in 1991 when he led a stable of Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zybyszko, Arn Anderson, and female wrestler Medusa as the “Dangerous Alliance.” His next big managerial run came in Philadelphia where he was brought in by Eddie Gilbert to Eastern Championship Wrestling. After a falling out between Eddie Gilbert and Todd Gordon, Paul Heyman was instituted as the company’s booker. Eventually, Heyman would own the company outright. With Heyman’s vision, not only did ECW create some of the most memorable storylines at the time, but they revolutionized the business as both WCW and the WWF raided their talent and, in the WWF’s case, their adult “attitude” direction. Following the closing of ECW, Heyman moved on to the WWF, where he was an announcer, a manager, a “General Manager,” and part of creative at different points in his WWE career. While the WWE and Paul Heyman ended things on a bad note, when Brock Lesnar made his WWE return last year, it was only a matter of time before Paul Heyman was back in the WWE’s good graces. Inducting Paul Heyman in the Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden would be the perfect setting for him. The only thing better would for him to be inducted in Philadelphia. Inducting Heyman is a no brainer. However, having Paul Heyman as an on air character will probably delay the envitable from happening this year.
If you ran a poll asking what wrestler most belongs in the WWE Hall of Fame, the majority of your answers would be Bruno Sammartino. Bruno deserves the honor more than anybody else that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. In the company’s first twenty years, Bruno Sammartino WAS the most important figure in the company. His two WWWF World title reigns equaled a total of over eleven years! If you add John Cena’s ten title reigns, Triple H’s eight, The Rock’s seven, Randy Orton’s six, and Steve Austin’s six reigns, and together they only equal 2,843 days compared to Bruno Sammartino’s 4,040. It isn’t until you calculate Hulk Hogan’s six title reigns into the equation that you reach a combined mark of over 4,040. When listing the greatest of the great WWWF/WWF/WWE performers, in any given order of Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin. Two of those three are already in the Hall of Fame. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances in the fact that Bruno hate Vince McMahon. However, Triple H is trying to smooth things over with Bruno, and hopefully that means we will see Sammartino inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in the “House that Bruno Built.”
As much of a legend as Bruno Sammartino is, the “living legend’s” last meaningful match was in the early eighties. While the hard core fans want to see Bruno in the Hall, many casual or younger fans wouldn’t care so much. The WWE needs a “name” that would appeal to the masses. That name is Long Island’s own Mick Foley. Mick Foley has a very important place in the history of the company. Mick Foley, as Cactus Jack, was not your typical “WWF” wrestler. He was hardcore before hardcore was cool in the mainstream national wrestling scene. In perhaps the most memorable match of his career, Foley took two insane bumps off of the Hell in a Cell against the Undertaker at the 1998 King of the Ring. By the end of the year, Mick Foley single-handedly helped the WWF beat WCW in the ratings. When he captured his first WWF World title in a taped “Monday Night RAW” episode, Tony Schiavonie announced to the Nitro audience that Mick Foley won the WWF title and proclaimed “that will put asses into the seats.” Well, it definitely put fingers on the remote controls as hundreds of thousands of people switched from Nitro to RAW that night. Later, the former hardcore wrestler found comedy in the form of a sock that helped revitalize his career even further. In the house where Mick Foley once saw Jimmy Snuka leap off of a fifteen foot high steel cage, the former Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love should receive his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.