Although it doesn’t exist in a physical building, a strong argument can be made that Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame is the most prestigious, hotly debated wrestling Hall of Fame in existence.
What sets this version apart from other wrestling halls is that its members are voted on by a large panel of current wrestling stars, former wrestlers, reporters, and historians. It’s also the most international in scope with its inductees representing the geographical regions of U.S./Canada (modern and historical), Japan, Mexico, Europe and the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico.
A candidate must gain at least 60% of the vote from their region to be inducted. Wrestlers and non-wrestling personalities become eligible to be on the ballot either 15 years after they’ve started their full-time careers with a major promotion, or when they reach the age of 35 and it has been ten years since their full-time debut. A new rule was instituted last year where a candidate who has been on the ballot for 15 years will need to get at least 50% of the vote or else they will be dropped from the ballot.
There is already an abundance of excellent material on this website breaking down the merits of the various candidates on this year’s ballot. What I’d like to do is take this moment to share some unique bits of information about the Hall of Fame that you may not be aware of:
- There are currently 200 inductees consisting of a combination of wrestlers, managers, trainers, promoters, bookers, and announcers.
- The late Chris Benoit is the only inductee to be subject to a recall election. The election was held in 2008 following the aftermath of his grisly 2007 double-murder suicide. He needed to receive at least 60% of the vote to be removed. He only received 53.6%, thus he remains in as arguably the most controversial inductee in history.
- Ever since open balloting started in 1998, only a handful of performers have been elected in their first year on the ballot. The only ones to achieve this noteworthy feat are Dos Caras (1998), Jushin Liger (1999), Akira Hokuto (2000), Steve Austin (2000), Kenta Kobashi (2002), Manami Toyota (2002), Kazushi Sakuraba (2004), Kurt Angle (2004), The Rock (2007), John Cena (2012), and Takashi Matsunaga (2013).
- Kenta Kobashi holds the record for garnering the highest percentage of votes at a whopping 98%. Jushin Liger is second with 95% followed by Kazushi Sakuraba and The Rock, both at 86%.
- Every WON Wrestler of the Year award winner is in the Hall of Fame with the exception of Mistico (the original Sin Cara who currently competes in CMLL) and Shinsuke Nakamura. Mistico won’t be eligible until 2017 while Nakamura debuts on this year’s ballot.
- Every Best on Interviews award winner is in with the exception of Arn Anderson, Chael Sonnen, and C.M. Punk. I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing Sonnen on the ballot any time soon.
- Every Most Outstanding Wrestler award winner is in with the exception of Koji Kanemoto, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Davey Richards, and A.J. Styles. Joe and Danielson debut on this year’s ballot while Styles makes his return.
- Every Most Charismatic award winner is in with the exception of Bob Sapp and Shinsuke Nakamura.
- The only Rookie of the Year award winners who have gone on to be inducted are Steve Williams, Road Warriors, Jushin Liger, Steve Austin, and Rey Mysterio Jr.
- Bret Hart, Vincent K. McMahon, Eddie Guerrero, El Hijo del Santo, Dory Funk Jr., and Terry Funk are in a select class as being the only members whose fathers are also in the Hall of Fame.
- The only brothers in are Stanislaus & Wladek Zbyszko, Joe & Tony Stecher, Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr., and Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras.
- Current CMLL promoter Paco Alonoso, who was inducted in 2008, is the son-in-law of fellow Hall of Fame promoter and EMLL founder Salvador Lutteroth.
- 1998, 2001, 2008 and 2013 are the only years with no North American inductees.
- Dave has yet to write a Hall of Fame bio for Rey Mysterio Jr., John Cena, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Takashi Matsunaga, and the Rock & Roll Express. I guess he’ll get to them someday.
- The only tag teams to be inducted as a unit are the Fabulous Kangaroos, Dusek Family Riot Squad, Road Warriors, Fabulous Freebirds, Midnight Express, and Rock & Roll Express. However, many legendary teams—Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka, Dump Matsumoto & Bull Nakano, Bruiser Brody & Stan Hansen, Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens, Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr., Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsurata, Gori Guerrero & El Santo, Akira Maeda & Nobuhiko Takada, The Sheik & Abdullah the Butcher, Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras, Antonio Inoki & Tatsumi Fujinami, Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi, Stevens & Bockwinkel, and Dick the Bruiser & The Crusher—have both members inducted as individuals.
- A death bump occurs in every Hall of Fame, including this one. While it’s true that a person’s death could cause voters to take a closer look at their candidacy, it could also cause that candidate to be inducted purely based off sympathy. The following posthumous inductees were inducted not too long after they passed away:
Wahoo McDaniel: Died in 2002 and inducted that same year.
Eddie Guerrero: Died in 2005 and inducted in 2006.
Curtis Iaukea: Died in 2010 and inducted in 2011.
Steve Williams: Died in 2009 and inducted in 2011.
Hans Schmidt: Died in 2012 and inducted that same year.
- Any wrestler who receives less than 10% of the vote will be removed from the ballot. They can be brought back in two years if their careers have gone forward to they would be considered stronger candidates, or if return if voters ask for them to be put back on. Although it’s rare, there are cases of candidates who have fallen off the ballot only to return and eventually be voted in. These individuals include Atlantis, Curtis Iaukea, Bill Miller, Masa Saito, Steve Williams, Lou Albano, Masahiro Chono, Masakatsu Funaki, and Konnan.
- Mildred Burke is the only American woman inducted. However, there are 10 Japanese women in.
- There are several non-ballot inductees who were selected based on being overlooked historical figures in the industry. These individuals include Bill Longson, Sandor Szabo, Frank Sexton, Black Shadow, Diablo Velasco, Jack Curley, Martin Burns, Earl Caddock, Francisco Flores, Tarzan Lopez, Paul Bowser, Evan Lewis, Tom Packs, Martin Karadagian, Everett Marshall, Wladek Zbyszko, Gus Sonnenberg, Henri Deglane, and Ray Fabiani.
- The size of the electorate has greatly increased over the years. For example, only 38 votes were required for a U.S./Canada candidate to gain induction in 1999. Compare that with the 198 votes that were required for a modern candidate from the same region in last year’s election. I guess bigger is better.