So I started sending in reports for New Japan shows to the Wrestling Observer site last year. I noticed no one was doing them, and I enjoy writing reports (as you see every week during Raw, as well as on the occasional New Japan show and the four times a year TNA does their PPVs) so I started to send them to Dave Meltzer to see what would happen. Amazingly, he posted them on the front page! Cool! I got some positive feedback, so I continued to send them in, even getting name-dropped a few times in the Observer. Sure, sometimes it was credited to a Barry Rose, which I’m kind of sure he was referring to me in those instances, maybe, but it doesn’t matter — most of the time my shoot name was there and it was pretty cool to see.
Then one day last month, I got an email from Dave. It was regarding one of the Fantasticamania show reports that I sent back in January. Perplexed since this was, you know, September, I opened the email to realize he had sent me a Hall of Fame ballot. At first, I thought this was pretty cool. I get to vote for who I thought should be in the hall of fame! Maybe my vote will be the one who gets someone in, causing adulation and merriment for all.
As I saw the annual Hall of Fame thread go up on the Wrestling Observer forum not too long after, and as I continued to read the excellent coverage going on here at VOW, I realized that it wasn’t going to be an easy task, at all. Simply just voting for whoever I thought was cool was not going to cut it. No, this required actual thinking on my part. Every vote had to count. I couldn’t just vote for Sting and Big Daddy and call it a day — no, voting for them required looking deep into their track record and realize why they haven’t been voted in if they are such locks as people often claim they are.
So, I buckled down. Read people’s thoughts on the matter, people who have been voting for years with these same people on the ballots. Listened to all the audio here, on the Wrestling Observer site, anywhere coverage was available.. And after a month of mulling it over, making my list several times, I picked seven guys who I thought deserved to go into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. It wasn’t an easy choice, and several guys have been dropped and added on in the last day alone, but finally I’m ready to talk about who I voted for and why I did. Maybe this late in the game, I can get someone to change their mind at the last minute, just like Vince McMahon on a Monday afternoon!
First off, let’s look at the honorable mentions. These are the guys that have some plusses to them, but in the end I don’t think they cut it.
- Big Daddy: A lot of people on THE BOARD (Wrestling Observer forum), primarily the European contingent, have begged for years for him to be voted in, including one who actually sent a letter to his parliament representative asking to do something about this travesty. In the end, I just don’t know about him or British wrestling enough to vote for him. I heard he was a big deal and was very popular during his run. But it’s one of those instances where, if that’s the case, why isn’t he in after all these years?
- Sting: He was a pushed guy in WCW from 1989-2001. He can easily be considered the franchise player, a pushed guy for a lot of those years. But the years he was “the guy” in WCW, he didn’t draw. 1989-1993 he was either not the top guy, injured, or just plain didn’t draw. 94-96 was Hogan and the nWo, with Flair and Savage bringing life back to the house shows. 1997-98 doesn’t count. Everything was hot then, and while Sting did draw the biggest buyrate in WCW history against Hogan at Starrcade 97, it didn’t sustain. This is always a controversial one as he’s one of the biggest names in wrestling because he was a part of the biggest money making promotion at it’s peak. But he wasn’t the cause of it. He lost all drawing power when WCW became cold, and the less spoken about his TNA run the better. Everything else about him is middling. It’s a unique case, but in the end giving him a hall of fame vote isn’t justifiable.
- CM Punk: I think by the standards of who should go in this post-2001 wrestling landscape, he’s in. But I would like to wait one more year before voting for him, because you never know. Stay tuned.
- Jun Akiyama: Really, really good at a young age. Exceptionally good, even. But there’s more to a HOF career than just that, and to put it bluntly, was never a top guy, and when he was he was never a draw.
- Brock Lesnar: Same. A lot of people will vote for him because of his amazing UFC run, but then that brings the question if you want to incorporate that into his HOF credentials since it has no relation to pro wrestling. For me, I won’t include it. Looking at just his pro wrestling career, I have to take a wait and see approach. He’s a very good, even great worker. He wasn’t that big a draw in his first WWE run, and in his second I think he’s making strides in bringing extra PPV buys, something few people can do in this environment nowadays. I’d like to wait another year and see what he does and how he affects business, because if it’s good I’ll probably vote him in.
- Gene Okerlund: I accidentally didn’t vote for him and only realized I didn’t vote for him like ten minutes after sending in my ballot. OOPS.
- Fabulous Moolah: lol, right.
So yes, those are the people who just missed making my ballot, or I just had thoughts on in general. And now, after promising for weeks I would exclusively reveal my picks here on Voices of Wrestling, here are MY EXCLUSIVE HALL OF FAME BALLOT. The seven people I voted for is as follows:
Junkyard Dog: He made the Mid South territory into something huge for a good part of the eighties. He was a big star there and there’s no question that he drew people to watch him preform. He was super charismatic. He was also a very awful pro wrestler, and while was a big star in the WWE for a while, was not a big as a draw and the less said about his career post 1988 the better. But I look at what he did for Mid South and I think that’s enough for me to vote for him. He took a promotion that was doing no business to a business that was thriving, and it was there that so many future stars go their due, maybe thanks to his run. It’s that reason I think he’s worthy of a vote, even if his work in the ring truly earned him the moniker of the Junkfood Dog.
Edge: I was on the fence for this one for a while, and now while I’m writing this article I’m not sure if I made the right choice. That’s the problem with making choices you can’t take back, especially for something like this. Now that I’ve done it, I don’t know if Edge is so strong of a candidate he should get in. He was a top guy in WWE and was a big part of the Smackdown brand when he was on there. He held various WWE titles numerous times. Had some excellent matches. I don’t know if he was ever a genuine headliner in the sense like Batista or John Cena, though. I always bought him as a main eventer, and as a PPV main event heel, but never a guy that I see being promoted and go “Ok, yeah, they’re building this show because they want you to see Edge in action”. But in the end, I think he’s done enough to warrant a vote on my end. What constitutes a top name in the post 2001 North American era of wrestling is different. If you are a top guy and are excellent, chances are you’ll get in. Edge is slightly below excellent so it’s tougher for him to get in. Being an exclusively WWE guy for most of his career might not help matters much either, but again, I have a good feeling he’s going in soon.
Rock and Roll Express: There aren’t many tag teams in the hall of fame. RnR’s main rivals, The Midnight Express are in. I think if you compare the two, the Midnight Express are better. But the Rock and Roll Express in the eighties were awesome. They were innovative, they were fantastic in their era and drew people in not only in Memphis but in the NWA as well. They kind of tapered off in the late eighties but a few years before that they were definitely the top team in the United States back when that mattered, so I feel pretty confident in voting them in.
Carlos Colon: He’s the biggest name ever in Puerto Rico. His stuff with Abdullah the Butcher is legendary. A lot of people through him went to Puerto Rico and at times the WWC was huge in the area. I’m not sure why he’s not in. Well, ok, that whole Bruiser Brody thing probably soured a lot of people when it came to voting for Colon. For very good reasons, mind you. So I don’t think it’s not warranted that he’s not in the hall of fame yet. But if you look past that, he’s a clear cut candidate.
Jimmy Hart: His feud with Jerry Lawler in Memphis is legendary and he, for sure, helped draw big houses with him, Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler. He was a great promo and made Memphis into a hot promotion for a few years in the early 1980s. In the WWE, he wasn’t nearly as good but was still memorable. Anything after that’s not worth mentioning. But I think his Memphis stuff is really overlooked as the Kaufman feud was one of the most memorable feuds in Memphis history. Lawler was a top guy before he became associated with Hart, but their association made him a legend in Memphis, and he was such a draw for so many years there it’s hard to argue why Jimmy Hart wouldn’t get a Hall of Fame vote.
Jerry Jarrett: Promoted in Memphis for many years, years in which the promotion was very successful and had many legendary stars and angles make their mark there. This is a baffling one as he should have been in ages ago. No idea why anyone hasn’t voted him in now, other than maybe people don’t value Memphis as much as others do? But if we put in Lance Russell and Jerry Lawler, without a doubt Jimmy Hart and Jerry Jarrett are in.
Jesse Ventura: He innovated the heel announcer role, something that’s still done in pro wrestling today, thought not even remotely as interesting as Jesse used to do it. He also was probably the best at it. While Heenan was excellent in his role (at least during his WWF tenure), Jesse had something not many heel announcers after him possessed- credibility. If something didn’t make sense, Jesse would call it out. If a babyface did something that would perceive to be heelish, he’d ask why he did that. Explaining the logic holes that WWF and WCW programing always left the face announcers flustered, and I always got a kick out of that. His innovations in that role I think are extremely influential, so yes, vote.
And there’s my seven! Even after casting my vote I have my doubts about some of the candidates I actually voted for, but in the very least all of them have a case. All the talk, all the discussion about all the various candidates can be extremely daunting, especially on someone like me who has never thought about the Hall of Fame extensively until now. But this was a fun learning experience, even if I didn’t have an exorbitant amount of time to do research. I picked guys I felt were worthy to go in, or at the very least at least have a strong case. Here’s to hoping my picks get in. Here’s also hoping I get a ballot next year. If I did perfectly alright for myself this year (like I think I’ve done) then next year will be even better. If I do get a ballot next year, I promise to look over my ballot once before sending it in (SORRY MEAN GENE).