Momentum is everything.
In this column, we will take a look at the biggest risers in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame aka those who gained the highest percentage of votes in last year’s ballot. While these rises are not always a guarantee of future inclusion they do help us get a sense of who has momentum on their side. In a follow-up later this week I’ll look at the biggest falls on last year’s ballot but for now, let’s look at those hoping to the ride a wave into the 2019 WON HOF.
One of the four pillars of AJPW’s tremendous run in the 90s, Taue is the only member of the illustrious crew not in the WON HOF. Taue’s first foray on the ballot (1998) saw him fall off the ballot with less than 10% of the vote. Taue was back on in 2014 and has seen a steady rise starting with 16% in 2014 and moving all the way up to 52% last year. Taue’s 34% jump from 2017 to 2018 was the highest on last year’s ballot. Overall, Taue has seen a 26% jump over the last three years. The AJPW legend is now on the cusp of the 60% entry threshold and seems like a good of a pick as any to make it into the Hall this year.
A year doesn’t go by without an impassioned plea for the Junkyard Dog to make the WON HOF. In my history with the ballot, only Sting has elicited more discussion. Those who vote Junkyard Dog each year cannot fathom a HOF without Dog as part of it, his critics cite several reasons he doesn’t belong and the cycle continues each and every year. Or, could this be the end? Dog re-entered WON HOF ballots in 2014 debuting with just 16% of the vote. A large jump in 2015 was met with stalled momentum in 2016 and 2017. Last year, though, Dog saw a 17% year-over-year jump getting him all the way to 48%. He may not be knocking on the door quite as much as Taue but a 19% jump over the last three years gives Junkyard Dog voters some hope that 2019 could finally, mercifully, be the year for JYD.
When your nickname is “Mr. TV”, it kind of feels like you should probably be in the WON HOF, right? Well, unfortunately, for Pallo—who passed away in 2006—that hasn’t been the case. The 60s and 70s British wrestling star has been unable to gain the momentum needed to get himself into the WON HOF and has had a bizarre rollercoaster ride on the ballot. Pallo debuted on the ballot in 2009 with 30% of the vote. Pallo would get as high as 46% in both 2012 and 2013 but drop to 27% in 2014 as the number of voters in the Europe region plummeted. In 2016, the WON HOF combined Europe with odds and ends countries and regions across the world to create the “Rest of the World/Europe” voting pool. Pallo wasn’t affected by this change as he maintained the 40% he had from the year prior in the old “Europe only” pool. Then, mysteriously in 2017, Pallo dropped to 10% as Europe once again received their own region. Last year, Pallo was up 15% year-over-year as the region welcomed 28 more voters to their ranks in 2018.
This is all so weird. The fluctuations in European voters, the changes in regions and Pallo’s rollercoaster ride. Regardless, Pallo is up 15% year over the year but that momentum may not mean enough as he’s overall down 15% from where he was three years ago.
Just as methodically as he slides around the ring, “The Viper” Randy Orton is sneaking up on people and now has a legit chance of making the 2019 WON HOF with a 12% rise year-over-year and a 20% rise over the last three years.
Right on the cusp of falling up the ballot in his first two years (15% and 17%, respectively), Orton jumped to 23% in 2017 and 35% in 2018. While he’s still a ways away, it’s not hard to see Orton making the HOF… seemingly out of nowher…nope, I can’t do it.
Slaughter’s WON HOF career is one of steady momentum gains over the last decade hopefully culminating in the American wrestling star finally getting into the Hall. Slaughter first appeared on the ballot in 1998 and grabbed 29% of voters. Inexplicably, Slaughter fell below the 10% threshold the following year and wouldn’t appear back on the ballot until 2006. From there, Slaughter has seen big jumps, a five-year span of consistent numbers and now finally some HOF entry trajectory with a 9% year-over-year jump getting him all the up to 50%. Big picture, that’s a 27% rise from where Slaughter was just three years ago. Next to Taue, Slaughter is another favorite to finally find his way into the HOF in 2019.
Ultimo Guerrero’s pedestrian rise of 5% from 2017 to 2018 does not tell the full tale of the man who found himself as low as 21% in 2015. While 5% may seem modest it’s more momentum for Guerrero who is now up a staggering 34% over the last three years. Sitting at 55% going into 2018, the time seems right for the lucha legend to enter the Hall.
Last but certainly not least is Jun Akiyama. Yes, somehow, someway Jun freaking Akiyama isn’t in the WON HOF yet. Ugh. Don’t get me started. Anyway, Akiyama saw an 8% jump year-over-year getting him all the way up to 55%. After falling off the ballot completely in 2008 (absolutely inexplicable), Akiyama returned in 2014 and has built solid momentum since then. Uncle Jun is up 22% over the last three years and dear god people, it’s JUN AKIYAMA. WHAT ARE WE DOING?!
Check back later this week for my piece on the Biggest Falls on last year’s WON HOF ballot.