With WrestleMania season still a few months away, there is already talk about who should go into the WWE Hall of Fame in the Class of 2016. Once I started going through the number of wrestlers NOT in the WWE Hall of Fame, I couldn’t just narrow down the choices to only ten.
So beginning with 30 and counting our way down to 21, here are my first ten picks for performers who should definitely be in the WWE Hall of Fame…
Ax and Smash were created I order to make a WWE version of the Road Warriors. The team was originally made up of Randy Colley (formerly Moondog Rex, as Smash) and Bill Eadie (formerly Masked Superstar & Super Machine, as Ax), pictured at right. This was quickly changed as it was believed that Rex would be easily identified by fans, even with make-up on. At this point he was replaced by Barry Darsow (also known as Krusher Khruschev and Repo Man) to portray Smash. It was this combination that picked up tremendous momentum and eventually captured the WWE tag team titles in 1988 and held them for a record 478 days (a record that still holds up today). Because of their ability to define their own personality and not be just “Road Warrior clones”, their record title reign, and their other successful gimmicks…there is no reason why Eadie and Darsow (as Ax & Smash…no, I don’t include Bryan Clark as Crush to be part of this group) should not be included in the WWE Hall of Fame.
If you want to talk about versatility within sports entertainment, you need not look any further than Charles Wright. After joining WWE in 1991, he entered the ring as his first successful gimmick…Papa Shango…in early 1992. I remember watching him at the time and thinking it was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen. After a year or so, the gimmick was dropped and considered a bomb. After some time off, he returned to the ring as Kama, the Supreme Fighting Machine. When that gimmick didn’t work, he was put into the Nation of Domination as Kama Mustafa in 1997. He ran with The Godfather gimmick as a singles performer in 1998 and continued with it, successfully, for the next two years. He then turned heel and became The Goodfather in the Right To Censor stable. After another short return to The Godfather gimmick, he retired from the ring in 2002. With so many gimmicks and a decade in a WWE ring, Wright deserves to be in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Want to talk about an unappreciated career? Theodore Long started out as an ERRAND BOY for Tommy Rich and Abdullah the Butcher before being eventually promoted to a member of the ring crew and then, ultimately, referee in 1985. By 1989, he began to turn into a “heel referee” before becoming a successful manager in WCW, leading superstars such as Doom (Butch Reed & Ron Simmons), The Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious, Mark Callous, & Dan Spivey), 2 Cold Scorpio, and Bobby Eaton…even winning Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Manager of the Year in 1990 (pictured at left). Long returned to refereeing when he went to WWE in 1998. He proceeded to eventually manage wrestlers again (such as D’Lo Brown, Rodney Mack, and Mark Henry) before becoming General Manager of Smackdown. He was eventually released in 2014, capping off a highly successful 30 year career in the wrestling business.
What can you say about one of the toughest men to ever compete inside of a WWE ring? Beginning his career as King Tonga in Canada and Puerto Rico, Tonga Fifita (his real name) entered WWE and became Haku, one half of the tag team The Islanders (with Tama). They were not able to become WWE tag team champions under the management of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and eventually split after a run that saw them feud with the British Bulldogs and the Can-Am Connection. Heenan rechristened him as King Haku in 1988 and teamed him with Andre the Giant, eventually defeating Demolition to become WWE tag team champions. Haku left the WWE in 1992 and moved to Japan and Mexico before eventually joining WCW in 1994 as Meng. He competed there until returning to WWE in 2001 and 2002. While not the most stellar career in terms of championships, my feeling is that if Koko B. Ware and Bob Orton are in the Hall of Fame, why isn’t Haku?
Scott Levy had a pretty darn good career and one that is worthy of being recognized. Debuting in 1988, he went by the name Scotty The Body and learned his trade in Continental Wrestling, Florida Wrestling, All Star Wrestling in Vancouver, Pacific Northwest Wrestling, and Texas-based Global Wrestling Federation before making his way to WCW in 1992. He wrestled as Scotty Flamingo, which was a surfer gimmick (apparently, the Dynamic Dudes were so over WCW decided that they needed to head back to the well one more time). When that gimmick went nowhere (and he had disagreements with booker Bill Watts), he moved on to WWE, where he worked as Johnny Polo. He wrestled ocassionally, worked as a color commentator, and also managed The Quebecers to three reigns as WWE tag champions before leaving in 1994. At this point, he created the iconic character of Raven and entered ECW, where he achieved the majority of his success as ECW World Heavyweight champion (twice) and ECW tag team champions (4 times). After creating a legacy in ECW, he went back to WCW in 1997 and spent two years there before returning to ECW for a “pit stop” right before heading back to WWE one more time in 2000. At this point he was a TWENTY-SEVEN time WWE Hardcore champion (this, of course, was during the “24/7 Defense” rule period). After a pretty good 3-year run, he went to TNA (which doesn’t matter in reference to his WWE Hall of Fame induction). Sure, Levy tried suing WWE back in 2010 for “cheating him out of health care and other benefits” (the case was dismissed) so he may not be in the highest of regard with Vinny Mac at the moment. But if Ultimate Warrior can return and make amends after what they went through, then surely Raven can, too.
To me, this is a no-brainer. Whether he eventually gets inducted as a member of D-Generation X or the nWo, or as an individual…Waltman is a perfect example of a performer who overcame the “size odds” during a time when size meant everything. He originally made his name as Lightning Kid on the indy scene from 1989 to 1993. He went under the monikers of The Kamikaze Kid, The Cannonball Kid, and eventually just The Kid before his famous “upset pin” of Razor Ramon, at which point he was given the name of “1-2-3 Kid”. He was a WWE tag team champion with both Marty Jannetty and Bob Holly before moving on to WCW in 1996. He joined the nWo as Syxx (1+2+3-6…duh) and won both the WCW Cruiserweight championship and WCW tag team titles (with both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in a “Freebird Rules” situation). When he returned to WWE, he joined DX and went by the name (and the one most people refer to him as now) X-Pac. He ended up winning the European championship (twice), the WWE tag team titles (twice with Kane), the WWE Light Heavyweight championship (twice), and even the WCW Cruiserweight title again (during the Invasion angle). He left WWE in 2002 but has been wrestling ever since, even overcoming demons enough to be welcomed back into the WWE fold, appearing in this past year’s WrestleMania match between Triple H and Sting as a member of DX (along with the New Age Outlaws). As the last member of The Kliq (other than the still-wrestling Triple H) to still not be in the Hall of Fame, I think this one is really a “gimme”.
Beefcake has long been known as a “Hulk Hogan flunky”, but let’s take a look at his career for a moment. Born Ed Leslie, Beefcake started his career as Ed Boulder and then Dizzy Hogan (i.e. the “brother” of Terry Boulder and, later, Hulk Hogan). He was a journeyman before entering WWE in 1984 as Brutus Beefcake, managed by “Lucious” Johnny Valiant. He became WWE tag team champion with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (known as The Dream Team) before going solo with “The Barber” gimmick in 1987. Whether it was because he was a Hogan flunky or because he was genuinely over with fans (I was a big-time fan of him back during this time, regardless of his “rub” from Hogan because I hated the Hulkster), Beefcake had a number of career highlights against the likes of “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and the Honky Tonk Man. He was twice scheduled to win the Intercontinental title, but the first time (at the first SummerSlam in 1989) he was deemed not over enough (WWE ended up going with Ultimate Warrior instead). The second time he was scheduled to beat Hennig for the IC belt, he had a horrific parasailing accident prior to the event that ended up crushing his facial skeleton and putting him out of action for two years. He had a “talk show” on WWE television called The Barber Shop and continued being a pretty popular mid-card babyface. He followed Hogan to WCW in 1994 and had a pretty underwhelming five-year run there under a number of different gimmicks that just never “clicked” with fans (Brother Bruti, The Butcher, The Man With No Name, The Zodiac, The Booty Man, and The Disciple). To a guy who was a fan of Beefcake during the height of his popularity in the late 80s, I see him in the Hall of Fame next to other 80s icons like Nikolai Volkoff and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
The originator of the 5-count had two runs with WWE and, to me, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame just as much as former tag team partner “Big” John Studd or other memorable 80’s icons like Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The first four years of Bundy’s career saw him dominate the territories, primarily in WCCW, the AWA, and Mid-South. He joined WWE in 1985 and had one of the most memorable WrestleMania matches of all time by obliterating S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones in a then-record 9 seconds at the original event (that record lasted until 2008). Bundy then joined Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s stable (i.e. The Heenan Family) and tagged with Studd on numerous occasions, including the highly rated Saturday Night’s Main Event program, in a continuous feud with Andre the Giant. At this point, Bundy “injured” then champion Hulk Hogan on television, which set-up the main event WWE title match for WrestleMania II inside of a steel cage. For that reason alone, the fact that Bundy isn’t already in the Hall of Fame is a travesty. Bundy was a big-time heel and became world famous during the late 80’s.
Billed at 6’9”, the Gang was quite the spectacle when he debuted at a time just before the 80s-era wrestlers that were all larger than life. After debuting in 1977, One Man Gang traveled the world and territories like WCCW and Mid-South before being a top heel in the UWF, having won their “world” title in 1986 and wrestling all of the top performers from a stacked roster including Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy, Ted DiBiase, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. The Gang debuted with WWE in 1987 and was managed by “The Doctor of Style”, Slick. He was a member of Andre the Giant’s team at the inaugural Survivor Series PPV, he was one of the final two participants of the inaugural Royal Rumble (won by Duggan), and event made it to the semi-finals of the WWE World Title tournament at WrestleMania IV. In late 1988, WWE inexplicably had OMG go into a bizarre direction as Slick helped him “re-embrace his African roots” and become Akeem, the African Dream. The gimmick itself was mired in controversy as Akeem would promo with and extremely stereotypical black accent and mockingly danced around to Slick’s song, “Jive Soul Bro”. The gimmick actually worked as he teamed with Big Bossman to become The Twin Towers, and they had very high-profile feuds with Demolition, the MegaPowers, and the Rockers. He also (briefly) joined WCW and was United States champion in 1995. He had a very successful high-profile run in WWE and deserves to be in the Hall.
Where he is currently a WWE road agent and has effectively retired from wrestling, it’s baffling to me that Rotunda hasn’t yet been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Why? Well, he started off wrestling in Florida (after graduating from Syracuse University) as a tag team partner of brother-in-law, Barry Windham in the early 80s. They joined WWE in 1984 as The U.S. Express and were 2-time WWE tag team champions, feuding with the teams of Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine & Brutus Beefcake. After Windham left the company in 1986, Rotunda tried re-making the team with “Golden Boy” Dan Spivey, but that didn’t work out. He then moved on to the National Wrestling Alliance and won the Florida championship before being a part of Kevin Sullivan’s Varsity Club faction. He won the NWA TV title from Nikita Koloff and teamed with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams to unseat the Road Warriors as NWA tag team champions. Rotunda tried turning babyface again in 1990 with the “sailor” gimmick (seriously) Captain Mike, but quickly turned heel again and joined The York Foundation as Michael Wallstreet. In 1991, he returned to WWE as Irwin R. Schyster, or IRS. Somehow, Rotunda made the “tax collector” gimmick actually work and get over. He had a 4-year run there which included winning the WWE tag team titles three times with Ted DiBiase (as Money Inc). He again returned to WCW in 1995 as VK Wallstreet (a spin on Vincent Kennedy McMahon) before returning to the Michael Wallstreet moniker a year later. He eventually left in 1997 and finished up his career in Japan for both New Japan and All Japan, before retiring from in-ring action in 2004. He has been a road agent for WWE since 2006 and, surely, has cemented his place in the WWE Hall of Fame…especially where his two sons (Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas) and his daughter (Mika Rotunda) would be able to induct him.
But what are YOUR thoughts? Obviously, I’ve still got 20 more to list over the next couple of weeks but I’m curious about who YOU think should be in the WWE Hall of Fame. Sound off in a comment below or via social media and let me know!
TWITTER – @_ZAH_
FACEBOOK – The World According To ZAH