When it comes to voting for the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, the non-wrestlers section of the ballot holds unique challenges. Evaluating wrestlers is fairly straightforward; they have to meet a pretty clear criteria involving drawing power, quality of performance, and historical significance.

For the non-wrestlers, things are less clear. We can’t use the exact same standard used for wrestlers, so they have to be adjusted in some way. In general, we should look at if someone was a promoter, we can see if they drew a lot of money as a promoter, if they booked a high-quality product, or if they had historical significance. For a manager, we can see if they were involved in a lot of successful angles, or if they were a great promo.

However, the more abstract we go with the roles on the ballot, which include TV announcers, historians, and journalists, musicians, and belt designers, the more difficult it becomes to build a consistent criteria that can span across everyone on the ballot. At the end of the day, you mostly just have to toss out logic and go with your gut.

Bobby Bruns

Last week, Dave Meltzer cited Bobby Bruns as the most obvious candidate in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Bruns is best known for being the original trainer of Rikidozan, and he helped promoter Rikidozan during the early stages of his career. Because of this, Bruns played a crucial role in developing wrestling in Japan. Bruns was not successful enough as a wrestler or as a promoter to justify a Hall of Fame spot, but it is easy to argue that he deserves to be in thanks to his historical significance.

Lord James Blears

A similar candidate is Lord James Blears, who was a wrestler who bounced between the mid-card and the main event throughout his career, but is on the ballot due to his role identifying and booking foreign talent for the JWA and later All-Japan Pro Wrestling; helping bring Dynamite Kid, Don Leo Jonathan and other wrestlers to Japan. In a lot of ways, Blears is like a poor man’s Bruns, so it’s hard to see him getting in.

George Scott

George Scott is arguably the best-known promoter/booker on the ballot, being the head booker of Jim Crockett Promotions in the 70s and 80s, and then being a pivotal booker in the WWF during the early days of Vincent K. McMahon’s leadership, guiding the national expansion and building the angles leading up to the first two WrestleManias, as well as Saturday Night’s Main Event. As a booker, it is hard to argue against that level of success.

Roy Welch

Roy Welch was the predecessor to Jerry Jarrett in Tennessee, starting out booking in Nashville with his partner, Nick Gulas, in the late 1940s and running it up until the 60s. Neither Gulas nor Welch have ever appeared on the ballot before, to the best of my knowledge. The Tennessee territory wasn’t the biggest, but has punched well above its weight class when it comes to historical significance, and one could argue that starts with the efforts of Welch.

Sanshiro Takagi & Rossy Ogawa

There are two Japanese promoters on the ballot. The first is Sanshiro Takagi, who helped found DDT, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, and now oversees a small empire of puroresu through his role with Cyberfight. Gerard Di Trolio wrote an article advocating for Takagi, giving his unique place in wrestling history in being a promoter of such a variety of promotions. Rival joshi promoter Rossy Ogawa is also on the ballot. Ogawa has been around wrestling for years, but his Hall of Fame candidacy starts in 2010 with the foundation of STARDOM, which in recent years has seen strong growth. Both Ogawa and Takagi are still crafting their cases as very active promoters, although Takagi has a much longer track record than Ogawa.

Morris Sigel

The promoter with the best case for election is Morris Sigel. Sigel is alleged to have been the promoter in Houston from the late 1910s until his death in 1967, when the promotion was turned over to his second in command, Paul Boesch. Sigel is not only one of the longest-tenured promoters in history, but he was phenomenally successful, turning Houston into one of the biggest cities in wrestling and along with St. Louis, the capital of pro wrestling during the 1940s, as the home for wrestling’s biggest drawing card of the time, Bill Longson, and drawing some of the largest crowds of that era. The territory also helped popularize blading and was one of the earliest “blood” territories, and also created the Texas Death Match, the predecessor to every No Disqualification match used today.

Bobby Davis

There are two managers on the ballot. Bobby Davis, who died last year, leading to his first appearance on the ballot, is likely long overdue for induction. Davis’ career was not very long, but his role as the motormouth heat magnet in the late 50s and 60s, pioneered the managerial profession and it’s obvious he influenced future legends such as Bobby Heenan (who adopted the same first name) and Jim Cornette. His most notable feud was his work as Buddy Rogers’ manager leading up to the record-setting Comiskey Park match against Pat O’Connor in 1961.

Grand Wizard

Grand Wizard (Ernie Roth) would come a generation later, and is best known for his work in the Northeast as the colorful leader of various challengers in the WWWF. The interesting thing about Roth is that before he was the Grand Wizard, he was Abdullah Farouk, the manager for The Sheik, and as such was involved in many of The Sheik’s massive performances at the box office. There are probably voters who do not know that Roth was also Farouk, and that hurts his candidacy.

Dave Brown & Bob Caudle

Several announcers are available for election, some of whom have been stalwarts on the ballot for years. Dave Brown was Lance Russell’s partner for the peak of wrestling in Memphis, and that team largely pioneered the modern wrestling broadcast team. Russell tends to get a bulk of the credit, but fans of Memphis wrestling will readily stump for Brown’s contributions as well. Bob Caudle was more of an old-school announcer, the main play-by-play man for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Jim Crockett for 40+ years.

Tony Schiavone

Building momentum in recent years is Tony Schiavone, whose unforeseen return to national relevancy due to his work in AEW has landed him on the ballot. Schiavone was not considered a Hall of Fame guy before his return to AEW, but his role in the company has led to a closer re-examination of his prior work.

The challenge with announcers is that there are very few of them in the Hall of Fame, only seven total. It’s the best of the best with Russell, Dick Lane, Gordon Solie, Jim Ross, Kent Walton, Alfonso Morales and Gene Okerlund in. Only Ross, Walton, Morales and Okerlund were voted in. The bar is very high, so most of the announcers left on the ballot are going to fail to reach it for a majority of voters.

Stanley Weston & James Melby

Bill Apter is currently the only journalist in the Hall of Fame, with Apter getting inducted in 2018. We don’t have much historical precedent, especially since there haven’t been any real “modern” journalists put on the ballot. Stanley Weston was the magazine publisher who started Pro Wrestling Illustrated and while he wasn’t directly involved in wrestling all that much, if Apter, who led the magazine for decades got inducted, it’s reasonable to assume Weston stands a chance. James Melby was a historian and author who also did the programs for nearly every major wrestling promotion in the US during the second half of the 20th Century. Weston and Melby’s candidacies are solely down to how historically significant voters will feel their work was, which is difficult to quantify.

Larry Matysik & Mike Tenay

One of the difficult things with the Hall of Fame is that it doesn’t necessarily reward people who have spent a lifetime in the business excelling in different roles. Voters like to see someone be outstanding in one particular thing, while being merely good at different things doesn’t get the same kind of consideration. Larry Matysik and Mike Tenay are both notable announcers, journalists and historians. In Matysik’s case, he was also a prominent booker. Yet neither man has seemed to excel in one field enough to generate much support on the ballot.

Joe Higuchi

This brings us to candidates that are in true uncharted territory. Joe Higuchi aims to become the first referee to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Higuchi was THE referee in AJPW from 1972 to 1990, and worked as a go-between for the office and foreign talent. If a referee is ever to go in, he would be one of the best candidates.

Jim Johnston & Reggie Parks

Jim Johnston was the composer behind nearly every memorable piece of WWE music composed during Vincent K. McMahon’s time in the company, and is certainly by far the most successful composer in the history of the wrestling industry. One could also argue that through the sales of his music, Johnston actually “drew” millions for the company. Reggie Parks is similar in that he designed nearly every memorable title belt in wrestling. Through replica sales, you could argue he too “drew” money.

The issue with fringe performers like Higuchi, Johnston and Parks is that while their contributions are notable, it’s hard to compare them with the other names in the non-wrestler category. It’s great to have a great referee, great music and cool title belts, but that can’t replace having a great promoter running the show, or having a great manager drawing in the main event. In a lot of ways, it is like special teams in football; yes, it matters but it’s hard to consider the people outstanding in that field for the NFL Hall of Fame. Franchises would much rather have an All-Pro Tackle or pass rusher than the greatest kick returner in history; and a wrestling promotion would rather have a great booker than the greatest composer in wrestling history.

Ted Turner

Lastly, we have Ted Turner, the media tycoon who had a soft spot for wrestling, and gave it a place to flourish for decades on his networks, even going as far as to purchase JCP, turn it into WCW, and for a time make it the most successful promotion in the world. With Turner, the debate is always if he was “hands-on” enough to warrant consideration for the Hall of Fame. Certainly, he played an important role, but he really didn’t involve himself in wrestling personally and it wasn’t something he was THAT concerned about, all things considered. There isn’t anyone else like him on the ballot, and voters can range pretty wildly in how they feel about him.

There is a limit of five candidates any voter can vote for in the Non-Wrestler section, which makes it VERY difficult for candidates to get in. Depending on the voter, ballots can vary greatly in who they prefer to vote in and it’s nearly impossible to get to a consensus, and less than two dozen Non-Wrestlers have been voted into the Hall since balloting began in 1997.

My ballot this year is going to be Bobby Bruns, Bobby Davis, Morris Sigel, George Scott and Grand Wizard. Bruns is the most historically significant candidate, Siegel and Scott were by far the most successful promoters and blow past the established Hall of Fame standard, and Davis and Wizard were both top managers who pioneered aspects of the act and drew big money through their work.

These are not necessarily “fun” people to vote for. I think a challenge in getting the votes necessary to induct people like Bruns, Sigel and Scott is that they are not well-known figures and were not that public. They peaked long ago, with basically no video evidence of their work existing. Fans might have more direct attachment to very public figures such as Tony Schiavone, Dave Brown or even Ted Turner, but I think that those five names are the most worthy of induction.