If you’ve been a long-time fan of Voices of Wrestling, both the flagship podcast with Joe Lanza and myself as well as VoicesofWrestling.com, you’re well aware that one of our favorite times of the year is Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame season.
To some, arguing the merits of pro wrestlers for a fake Hall of Fame where the wrestlers receive no ceremony is a waste of time. While I’ll grant you it’s probably a waste of time, it’s a hell of a lot of fun for those who get involved, who care about the history of wrestling or those of us who just like a good Hall of Fame argument.
Some of you may not know this but one of the reasons this site exists is because of Hall of Fame arguments. No, it wasn’t the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame but rather the Baseball Hall of Fame. At the website where Lanza and I first crossed paths (MaddenMania which later morphed into VirtualSportsNetwork) featured a very active community of sports fans, baseball in particular. Every year we’d convene in the MLB subforum to argue the merits of Jack Morris, Bert Blyleven, wonder why Phil Rizzuto was in the Hall of Fame but Lou Whitaker and Tim Raines weren’t. Sure, this Hall of Fame actually has a building and a ceremony and the guys who go in actually care but it was the same basic argument, discussion and intrigue.
That’s why we so heavily cover the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame at Voices of Wrestling. It’s apart of our very being, the lifeblood of what began this crazy site many years ago. In previous years, we’ve had numerous columns and podcasts discussing the Hall of Fame and we plan to do the same this year. An added bonus, I can actually vote this time around! Yes, after waiting around for what seemed like an eternity (two years), I’ve finally received a Hall of Fame ballot of my own. I now join Bryan Rose, Rob McCarron and Joe Lanza as ballot-carrying members of this website. We also have some contributors with ballots including Dylan Hales who will likely be around for some of our coverage throughout the month.
This article will serve as a kickoff to that coverage. The goal is to give a quick background on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, explain the rules, who votes, how they vote and then most importantly, the contenders for the 2015. Throughout the month we’ll have podcasts and columns exploring individual candidates, regions and much more. As with last year, we are accepting guest submissions as well so if you’re interested in writing something about the Observer Hall of Fame, please shoot us a line at voicesofwrestling.com/contact, we’d love to have you.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 by Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer. As mentioned above, the HOF isn’t “real” in the sense that there is no physical building and the inductees don’t get a ceremony. Unlike most sports Hall of Fames, joining the Observer Hall of Fame doesn’t suddenly open up advertising and marketing opportunities for pro wrestlers, that’s left for the WWE Hall of Fame.
Which allows me to bring up a huge distinction between the Observer Hall of Fame and WWE Hall of Fame. Though the WWE Hall of Fame has a ceremony, the wrestlers themselves benefit from the exposure and at some point, there will be a physical Hall of Fame building — the WWE is much more “fake” than the Observer Hall of Fame.
One man determines who goes into the WWE Hall of Fame. He can enter a guy based on a number of criteria but with almost no set of standards. It’s led to guys like Koko B. Ware finding their way into the Hall. Whenever it’s advantageous to Vince McMahon, the WWE or they simply just feel like putting someone in, they do.
The Observer Hall of Fame is much different. After Meltzer began the Hall of Fame in 1996 by choosing a monstrous list of 122 entries, inductees has been chosen via secret ballots sent to members of the wrestling industry, historians and wrestling journalists. To be eligible, a performer must have reached their 35th birthday and completed ten years since their debut as a full-time performer, or be someone who has been a full-time pro wrestler for at least 15 years.
Anyone who finds their name on 60% of the ballots from the geographical region (United States & Canada; Mexico; Japan; Europe; and Hawaii/Australia/New Zealand) and time frame (Historical) will be added to the Hall of Fame.
Wrestlers/performers who receive nominations on 10%-59.9% of the ballots returned from their specific geographical region or era will not be added to the Hall of Fame but will however stay eligible for future ballots.
Anyone who receives less than 10% of the vote in their region or era is dropped by the ballot. The only way they can return is significant feedback from voters who say they will vote for him — you’ll see a few guys who we re-entered later as we break down 2015’s candidates.
A new controversial rule was added last year, using the Baseball Hall of Fame as a model, the 15-year-rule. This rule applies to candidates who have been on the ballot since 2000 that have less than 50% of the vote in their region or era. Unlike previous years where wrestlers could stay on seemingly forever, those wrestlers will be removed as candidates.
The criteria for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame is a combination of drawing power, being a great in-ring performer and having historical significance (in a positive manner). The ideal candidate should have something to offer in all of the three categories or be outstanding in either one or two of the categories. Meltzer has also specified that longevity should be a prime consideration rather than a hot but short run, unless, of course, that short run is so significant it cannot be ignored.
Each candidate is listed under the category for which they are housed. The % next to their name is the percentage vote they received last year (special thanks to Chris Harrington for collecting this data)
I FOLLOWED THE HISTORICAL PERFORMERS ERA CANDIDATES
- The Assassins (Joe Hamilton & Tom Renesto) – 48%
- Red Bastien – 34%
- June Byers – 14%
- Cowboy Bob Ellis – Dropped from the ballot in 2010 but recieved enough support to return in 2015.
- Bob Geigel
- Pepper Gomez – 10%
- Dick Hutton – 13%
- Rocky Johnson – Dropped from the ballot in 2009
- Kinji Shibuya – 14%
- John Tolos – 13%
- Enrique Torres – 25%
- Von Brauners & Saul Weingeroff – 10%
- Johnny “Mr. Wrestling II” Walker – 21%
- Tim “Mr. Wrestling” Woods – 24%
- Ron Wright
I FOLLOWED THE MODERN PERFORMERS IN U.S/CANADA CANDIDATES
- Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan – First year on ballot
- Junkyard Dog – 16%
- Edge – 36%
- Curt Hennig – 23%
- Ivan Koloff – 48%
- Brock Lesnar – 56%
- Randy Orton – First year on ballot
- C.M. Punk – 19%
- Big Show
- Sgt. Slaughter – 22%
- Sting – 33%
- A.J. Styles – Dropped from ballot in 2013 but added enough in recent years to be re-added.
- Ultimate Warrior – 20%
I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN JAPAN CANDIDATES
- Jun Akiyama – 29%
- CIMA – First year on ballot
- George Gordienko – 25%
- Volk Han – 51%
- Masahiko Kimura – 23%
- Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan – 17%
- Yuji Nagata – 37%
- Shinsuke Nakamura – First year
- Mike & Ben Sharpe – 46%
- Minoru Suzuki – 22%
- Kiyoshi Tamura – 23%
- Akira Taue – 16%
I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN MEXICO CANDIDATES
- Perro Aguayo Jr. -Dropped in 2012, returned as a result of his death
- Brazo de Oro & Brazo de Plata & El Brazo – 16%
- Cien Caras – 54%
- Hector Garza – 15%
- Ultimo Guerrero – 24%
- Karloff Lagarde – 48%
- Blue Panther – 28%
- L.A. Park – 24%
- Huracan Ramirez – 27%
- El Signo & El Texano & Negro Navarro – 36%
- Vampiro – 11%
- Villano III – 33%
- Dr. Wagner Jr. – 24%
I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN EUROPE CANDIDATES
- Jim Breaks – 14%
- Big Daddy – 43%
- Horst Hoffman – 23%
- Billy Joyce – 27%
- Kendo Nagasaki – 15%
- Jackie Pallo – 27%
- Rollerball Mark Rocco – 32%
- Johnny Saint – 29%
- Ricki Starr
- Otto Wanz – 25%
I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN AUSTRALIA/PACIFIC ISLANDS/CARIBBEAN/AFRICA CANDIDATES
- Spyros Arion – 15%
- Johnny Barend – 10%
- Brute Bernard & Skull Murphy – 12%
- Carlos Colon – 56%
- Domenic DeNucci – 21%
- Killer Karl Kox – 32%
- Mark Lewin – 38%
- Mario Milano – 11%
- Bill Apter – 42%
- Dave Brown – 13%
- Jim Crockett Jr. – 23%
- Jim Crockett Sr. – 44%
- Gary Hart – 33%
- Jimmy Hart – 36%
- Howard Finkel – 29%
- Jerry Jarrett – 44%
- Larry Matysik
- Gorilla Monsoon – 33%
- Gene Okerlund – 36%
- Don Owen – 30%
- George Scott – 19%
- Stanley Weston – 31%
Stay with us for the next two months as we’ll continue to have podcasts, columns as well as discussion on our forum related to the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame culminating with a VOW panel podcast where we’ll reveal our final ballots. Again, if you’d like to contribute to Voices of Wrestling’s Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame coverage, please contact us at voicesofwrestling.com/contact, we’d love to have you!